Massively Overthinking: Our favorite MMORPG stories of the year
Earlier this week, we posted our award for the biggest MMORPG story of the year -- the one we thought had the biggest impact on our genre. But in tonight's Massively Overthinking, we're going to put aside the bigger picture and talk about just the stories we liked, the stories we're proud of, the stories that define us, the stories we wish we could write all day long. I asked our writers to pick one story they wrote and one story somebody else on MOP wrote and talk about why they matter. We'd love to hear what you folks think about our best work too -- it helps us decide what you want to hear about in the future.
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I really got to write some cool stuff this year, so it's hard to pick just one. I think my Chronicles of Elyria piece probably best shows what kind of MMO player/critic I am, but I'm going to go with my Morality and Online Griefing piece from our Video Game Debate coverage. I got to reference some really cool data, broad range of games, and bring up a topic I think we're all concerned about. I'm not sure if anyone took it to heart, but it's one piece I'm quite proud of.
I'm really tempted to pick Eliot's WRUP openings since, between the oddballs, he sometimes has some quite sagely advice. However, Eliot's Soapbox article on calling a launch a launch is still relevant to not only our genre but games in general. It's so frustrating to have games and other online services label themselves as a beta and stay that way for years. The fact that Eliot still had ammo to write about this issue in 2016 makes me feel like we haven't gotten very far, and as a gamer, it's affecting me. As Eliot mentions, avoiding the "L" word (launch!), companies are taking advantage of development culture. I've actually avoided a lot of betas these days because my initial reaction is "So it's paid launch" and the "launch" day registers as "They've lost too much money and want to attract me to the game to fix that."
Runner up is Bree's article on Westworld because that's the best our genre's going to get in terms of media recognition for a long time, and it's such a good show to use to describe MMOs to non-MMO fans.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): For my own work, I'm most proud of Busting up the MMORPG nostalgia party as a statement on emulators and old games, followed by The fate of the MMORPG genre, which I'd like to think was a note of comfort following the death of EverQuest Next.
I love all my children equally, so I am choosing one from each of them too!
- Eliot laid down the law in Being positive vs. being honest in games criticism, a piece that neatly addresses why he's a WoW fan rather than a fanboy and why fanboyism is bad journalism so stop asking for it.
- Justin's articles never fail to crack me up, but Messed-up aspects of MMORPGs we mindlessly accept is a favorite of mine for its wry identification of how objectively weird our MMO characters' lives really are.
- Brendan's recent M-OEE8 embedded reporting was excellent, but let me also praise his extended series on World War Bee earlier this year. Nobody cuts through EVE's propaganda spewage like Brendan.
- Larry has a singularly difficult job, covering two big games, one of which spent 2016 repeatedly alienating and frustrating its loyal playerbase. His most powerful piece, however, wasn't a slam but set of suggestions for improving that most contentious of business model quirks, the lockbox.
- MJ doesn't often dive into controversy, but she did so admirably in Let's lay the Landmark hate to rest, when she argued that holding Landmark responsible for EverQuest Next's demise was pointless, immature, and counterproductive.
- Tina's No Man Sky is mechanically genius nailed what it is that fascinates MMOers with the controversial space game and why procedural gen is so much more than an annoying catchphrase.
- The indefatigable Matt thoroughly and fairly investigated the Black Desert cash shop, which remains one of the sticking points with the big new MMORPG of 2016.
- In addition to being our resident science guy, Andrew is also one of our PvP zealots, making him the perfect writer to outline serious concerns over proposed sandbox PvP mechanics in Getting perspective on Chronicles of Elyria's planned PvP and PvE featureset.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): The reality is that I'm always terrible about these things because I forget almost everything I write and half of the things other people write about five minutes after the fact. But I'll do what I can here.
Matt Daniel is a friend of mine, so it might be a little nepotistic for me to praise him, but part of the reason why we're friends is that I'm always impressed by the stuff he actually does. Case in point: his two-part breakdown of Eternal Crusade. Rather than simply a knee-jerk "this is bad/unfinished," he put down a lot of ink calmly explaining and reasoning out why the game is kind of a mess and why it feels both unfinished and unsatisfying. I appreciate that. There's little hyperbole, but there's a lot to like, and there's a very solid dissection on display. Take notes.
Meanwhile, for my personal pick, I'm going with a piece I wrote nearly at the beginning of the year about being positive vs. being honest. I've always thought this was one of the most important distinctions that people often don't seem to make, the idea that being positive about something you love is actually detrimental when the thing in question isn't doing well. Critique is important, and sometimes that means taking your favorite works to task. But, y'know, going into depth about that is just writing the article again in paragraph form. It's relevant even if you don't care about World of Warcraft!
Of course, those aren't exactly news stories, but if I barely remember articles you can imagine how well I recall events.
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I always enjoy Tina's MMO Mechanics, and I'll single out her list of eight annoying MMO mechanics as an article that stuck in my mind. First of all, she used the phrase "I’m such a social little bunny," which I'm getting made into a bumper sticker. Second, because it was entertaining to read and showed insight into many design decisions that we don't always think about when we play games. Third, because there were a few points I disagreed with her on (I definitely appreciate tab-target combat), it kept me on my toes mentally and made me think of why I liked or disliked what I did. We don't always agree with each other on MOP but we do respect one another greatly.
For my own, I'll point to a recent interview that I did with the Ashes of Creation people. That piece was the result of a frantic afternoon of following up on a tipster, doing some moderately heavy research, reaching out to the company, and holding an interview that evening (all while taking care of four squirrely kids, natch). I was immensely pleased with the final result and the fact that MOP got the scoop on this game because of it, and I joked that that day, I actually felt like a real journalist. There's not always enough time to do stuff like that, so I'll take the win when we get it.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): This was no easy task! How do I pick one or three from all the great stuff here on MOP? It isn't possible. But I'll give it my best shot. There are a number of Eliot's WRUPs that just make me guffaw! Gems like the NaNoRiMo novel and Netflix editions top my list. Doritoh has a special place in my heart (probably because I literally stood on a lunch table in Jr. High and sang Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes" to a Dorito!). These bits of absurdity are an awesome part of my week! I also applaud Justin's 10 weapons needed in MMOs. I want to wave that piece all over so more devs get the hint and incorporate these ideas.
On a more serious note, I have to include Andrew's amazing series on The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games. He really took the bull by the horns here. These pieces delve deep and explore important questions while tackling important issues. Our games are fun and games, but they are also more. The most poignant to me, because of my personal fields of study and other profession, was the piece Exploring 'The Video Game Debate': Are MMO communities real or fake?.
For my own, I honestly think anytime I can sneak songs in is a total win. Be it just titles, lyrics, or full-on parodies, my goal is to make everyone sing! Sharing is caring right? And I have so much music always running through my head it would be a crime not to share. Hopefully the reason I cannot readily recall many to mind is that I simply did so many that I can't distinguish them all. (I don't think I can ever top my Aion Christmas Albums) But one example is a little new piece on Worlds Adrift. Read it, and try to refrain from singing along. (I also really like movies, music, and quips for headers, but Bree didn't ask for that. "Hold on to your Breeches" is a recent favorite!)
I don't know what could be considered my best pieces, but one that sticks with me quite a bit is Death becomes you in The Secret World. It's because of the subject matter -- exploring death as a viable mechanic. The fact of something being so far out of the box that you have to forget basically everything you have learned in gaming previously in order to move forward is just incredible. Other personally notable things throughout 2016 were suicide poop, attending a convention wedding, and Daybreak being in the right side of the legacy server debate!
Your turn! What do you think was our best or most important work in 2016?