The Daily Grind: How much does optimization affect your MMO play?

When I feel like lying to myself, I tell myself that I don’t care about optimizing my characters in MMOs. I even sometimes convince myself that it was true for a while; I did play a Retribution Paladin in World of Warcraft back before Crusader Strike was even in the game. But the reality is that even then, when I happily shot myself in the foot to avoid raid utility, I still worked overtime to optimize my character. I will gladly walk into an awful build with eyes open, but I will then do everything in my power to make that awful build work.

I have a Red Mage build on Final Fantasy XI that comes as close to being a functional melee attacker as any I’ve seen. I made a DPS Gladiator in version 1.0 of Final Fantasy XIV. The list goes on. But I know there are people out there who will only play with optimized builds, like a friend of mine from City of Heroes who had seven Shield scrappers to optimize AoE farming. And then there are people who hate any hint of utility and choose character builds solely for aesthetics. What about you, dear reader? How much does optimization affect your playing of MMOs? Do you play to optimize your build, do you avoid it, or do you enjoy making terrible builds the best they can be?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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33 Comments on "The Daily Grind: How much does optimization affect your MMO play?"

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quark1020
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quark1020

Oh yes, I optimize my characters in ALL games RPG. Its part of the fun for me, researching the abilities of a particular class and see how I can make it better, either by figuring it out on my own or following some suggestions from other players. Its especially nice when I manage to get an unpopular build or class and then build them in such a way that I am able to out perform average players with popular, cookie cutter builds.

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steve

I’ll do whatever I can to maximize my effectiveness, particularly in games where I can farm and hoard enough consumables to make them a part of my regular strategy or rotation. If I can squeeze an extra second of play out of some minor healing potion I’ll stack them and bank enough of them that I don’t need to think twice about using them at every opportunity.

If I have to worry about running out of a consumable then I’m not going to train that button into muscle-memory and it becomes pretty useless.

I don’t like to switch characters just to chase the flavor-of-the-month, though I will do it if my past character/build is nerfed into obscurity. I didn’t have to worry about that in EQ, since the cleric was always the premier healer, but in WoW I’ve switched from holy priest (Vanilla) to resto shaman (Late TBC) to discipline priest in Wrath.

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Robert Mann

I tend to like how something plays more than whether the build is the ultimate performance (so long as it does well enough.) The only things I will go out of my way to do are those things that the elitists of a game state as impossible. So you might find me on a class that “can’t tank raids” tanking raids. Or topping tank healing meters with a class that “can’t tank heal.”

I agree with the many who don’t consider ‘optimization’ the proper terms for min/max. I very nearly wanted to say something much like Dug From The Earth did… although I am not quite as strict about a few hitches here and there (but game experience is far more important that graphics quality, agreed.)

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adri

I like the builds that are the most effective ones. When I have to play a group build because of special reasons I try to follow the rules as good as possible.
Trying to force your character to do something it’s not made is a waste of time imho.

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Dug From The Earth

I care more about optimization than how good the graphics look. If I cant run a game smoothly, without hitches and glitches, I most likely wont play at all, even if it looks amazing in screenshots.

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Iridescence

Usually I get in mind a build concept I like “big slow two handed axe wielder” or “fast agile dual dagger user” then go looking for advice on how to build the best character within those parameters. I do like character building and games that allow you to build different character concepts. Just copying the FOTM build is boring.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Right now? not much, i play games where there isn’t much space for that, class/gear based games does not have space for making different builds, skill-based games give you a chance to build a character they way you want even if the build does not give you enough power … what i care about is fun, is it fun? can i play more than one role?

That’s why i like WoW’s druid-like classes, playing support is DPS+healing is fun, and i wish support means more than that, i would not mind a class with so much utility for groups but not enough DPS for itself.

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Tobasco da Gama

I mean, it really depends on whether the content I’m interested in is too tedious (or impossible) to clear without optimisation.

That said, I try to put together effective builds given my understanding of the game mechanics, because that’s part of what I consider fun. So I generally pay attention to “meta” builds just so I can learn more about how the game’s mechanics work.

But if the meta build isn’t something I consider fun to play (hi, GW2 Chronotank), I don’t use it. And if not using it means I don’t get to do content, then I move on to a different game.

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Veldan

The term “optimization” confused me, I thought that was only used for improving the game client’s performance on certain hardware etc. What happened to “min-maxing”?

That said, it’s somewhat important to me. I’m not someone who goes on the internet and copies a meta spec/build. If the game gives me the freedom to do it, I’ll always create my own, but I’ll make it strong. I never understand people who insist on some weird, completely useless spec just because they “like it”. Is it fun to make yourself weak? Do you find the game so easy that you want to handicap yourself?

Now if you can answer that last question with “yes”, that’s perfectly fine with me. But please, stay out of LFG dungeons then. Other people do not want your self-imposed handicap to carry over to their group play.

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Robert Mann

Yes, it was poorly phrased, and my first thought was “This is why I stopped playing certain games very much.” Then I realized it was the “Are you a min/max elitist?” that was the real question!

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Utakata

I think I get to the point where my toons are hitting hard enough I stop worrying about it. And move forward from there instead.

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Mark

I generally start off picking whatever race, class, etc. combo I like, avoiding FotM and sometimes specifically picking less-played classes, but as I play I like to optimize and improve through research and trial and error. So I guess I do a bit of both.

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Yoshi Senpai

It can turn me off of an entire aspect of the game which is normally raiding, but that is normally due to lazy boss designs like enrage timers which are balanced around meta build DPS.

In FFXIV I’m cool with it because there is no builds, but in GW2 and ESO it ruins raiding for me since my choice in class and build is never good enough.

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Robert Mann

Yep, I absolutely detest thing being balanced only around the meta builds, (along with similar stuff anywhere in the game such as gold sinks aimed at those with the most gold.)

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ogged451

I try to find an equilibrium between “I like to play this build” and “this build does its job”.
In TSW I guess I was the only scenario junkie (3-9 scenarios/day for years) who used rifle/shotgun. Most people used (past tense since it’s dead now) some combination of chaos/blade/hammer for scenarios, but I don’t like playing melee builds and so I refined my ranged build (and strategies) to make it work.
Therefore, optimisation is important, but the gameplay resulting from this process is equally important.

P.S. SS/fire brute > any shield scrappers for farming.

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Darthbawl

So is optimization the new PC term for min/maxing? :P We were talking about this a bit the other day over EQ2.

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Alex Malone

Its sad, but optimisation (i call it perfection) is one of my greatest joys when playing any video game. I constantly challenge myself to improve, be it improving my minute-to-minute gameplay, or optimising builds, or optimising stats. I get real pleasure out of knowing that, as a direct result of my actions, I have gotten better at the game.

That said, sometimes optimisation gets in the way of fun and in those cases, optimisation loses out. For example, for a long time in LotRO, the best build for a captain was to go the healer route. I found that boring – it wasn’t fun to play, nor was it fun for groups, it was simply “safe”. So, I stayed focused on a DPS build for the majority of my time and optimised that build. For 99% of the content, it wasn’t a problem, but a few raid bosses did require me to go healing.

This mentality does also extend to the rest of my life. Every time I drive my car, clean my house, cook a meal, do some gardening….basically any activity I have to repeat regularly, I seek to optimise.

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Tandor

I neither PvP nor do competitive PvE, and I have absolutely zero interest in optimisation of builds or gear etc, as well as having no interest in what builds or gear other players use.

For me a large part of the fun in MMOs is developing multiple characters in different ways, adopting appropriate skill and gear sets as I unlock/find them, as part of the overall exploration of the game. In that sense I would no more use a build because someone else says I should than I would use an addon because it shows where features like harvest nodes, lorebooks and skyshards etc are, for me those sorts of shortcuts are simply taking out half the point of playing the game in the first place.

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Melissa McDonald

I’m only used to hearing “optimization” as a diss about a game that runs poorly on (insert critic’s name) machine.
“optimal builds” of a character to me remind me of the slap in the face I received in The Secret World, where the community let me know in no uncertain terms that JOATs were not welcome in dungeon runs. Made me sad that the community trumpeted and celebrated the “learn any skill” system of TSW, which I also thought was awesome, but then turned around and bit anyone who dared to think beyond Tank/DPS/Heal.

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Modrain

I have a lot of fun optimizing non-optimized characters (underdog classes) or using non-standard means (underdog builds), trying things different than usual on characters, to make them go as far or ideally further than what people usually consider to be the top-notch of the “optimized”.

Being optimal is usually going through the process of acquiring that one build that everyone has/want… And while I’ll still go after it to not risk viability with teammates, I can’t say that I find that process as interesting as my own goals.
Well, to be honest, more often than not my custom builds end up in failure, so it’s a very welcome backup. Still a good time anyway!

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agemyth 😩

I only care about optimizing my build and gear until it gets to the point where I need to measure my dps on target dummies or constantly compare myself to people in dungeons with dps meters.

I don’t mind going out of my way to find out which stats are optimal for which build/spec/play style. Knowing that, if given the choice, Haste takes priority over Mastery in a specific case is fine and makes getting the right secondary stat drops more interesting.

As Dantos said below, “good enough” is pretty much what I aim for.

This is something I miss about having unique “Utility” specializations like the Enchanter or Bard in EQ1. Their usefulness isn’t really measured with math. Getting that clutch AOE mezz off that saves the group or charming the mobs that you know hit the hardest to use as a pet is way more interesting then builds+rotations+gear.

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Hirku

For the optimization you’re talking about, not at all. Based on the forums and guides, every class/weapon/skillset I’ve chosen in every single game I’ve ever played has been sub-optimal or flat-out terrible. I don’t care…they’re fun for me.

For the optimization I THOUGHT you were talking about when I read the headline, it affects everything. Any juddering/stutter and anything less than a rock solid 60 fps and I’m gone.

Dantos
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Dantos

“good enough” is my go to rule. I dont need to be optimal, but I need to be at least a B.

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thickenergy

If a game I play has any sort of character builder app then I will spend almost as much time using it as I will playing the game. A lot depends on how deep the game mechanics are and how much of that depth that you can manipulate.

As far as MMORPGs go, City of Heroes and Mid’s Hero Planner were the pinnacle of this kind of synthesis for me, both in mechanical depth and a player’s ability to manipulate that depth through their character build. It’s kind of all been down hill from there. :P

That’s not to say that I’m always making super optimized builds. Just that I really like to get into planning my beautiful mistakes as well.

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Katriana

I don’t generally give two pins about how optimal or not my build for a given character is. Partly because I’m utter fail at figuring such things out and partly because I simply don’t care. As long as the build is viable enough that I’m not dying in every other fight and it suits how I want to play then I’m good with it. I do sometimes look up and use builds others have come up with, but it’s far more from being too lazy or clueless to figure one out myself than from giving a crap about how good or bad she is.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i thought this would be about performance optimizations in mmorpg’s, but it being about playing the meta game for an optimal build i’ll offer something other than thoughts on technical aspects of the sort of app that mmorpg’s tend to be and what kind of hardware is your best options in various ways to get the best performance and lowest loading times in games from the genre.

i typically at some point reference build guides and such to see how i can improve my character in terms of the rpg ruleset of a given game. tho i often strike out on my own to begin with even with minimal real world data available, just dicking about with beta derived spec builders and such.

i generally build my characters for group play, or whatever sort of activities i’m primarily engaged in, and i have to say multispeccing is rather handy but often end up doing builds that work in most situations well.

often times my own homebrew specs aren’t too far off from the agreed upon optimal for the current meta for my class, and i’d argue where i deviate from them is better for my role in my guild groups and other activities. tho i am happy to change up my spec for a specific encounter as needed as well.

gear kit wise it’s harder because i’ve been pretty over the never ending power/number creep gear treadmill for ages now. and even worse than that is when my existing good gear is arbitrarily made worthless for my class based on some mindless change, such was the case in rift about 4-6 months in when they changed what stats did because vocal rogue players didn’t like the idea that a class named warrior might buy armour labeled as leather off vendors to wear based on what stats actually did in the game vs what they were called. which instantly rendered that toon worthless for even grinding out the new correct gear assuming i cba to do so when i couldn’t. so i quit.

wildstar was another fun one for gear that looked good in conventional sense vs what was actually good. with early on crafted blue gear was the best gear going short of 40man loot that no one would even see until long after the first itemization rehaul, let alone the easier to obtain purples. ofc rather than disenfranchise loads of people carbine did alright with their itemization rehauls that kept my gear kit in a good spot while making non crafted gear worthwhile and worth the effort if you liked the content it came from. in both the itemization overhauls.

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Jeremy

I won’t play if there is any stutter and I get below 60fps on a regular basis in a game.

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Modrain

Waaaaait, I thought that people who commented without reading the article were some kind of mythical beasts invented to scare children o_o

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Veldan

I have to admit, on daily grinds I usually skip straight to the comments. I went back to read the article here though, after I saw the comments were not about client performance :)

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Utakata

…actually stuttering would affect your ingame performance. So mini/maxers would want their machines working optimally for their games as well as optimizing their chosen specs and classes. So it’s not all the way off the mark. :)

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i find that i’m generally pretty good from 40~fps to 60fps in most mmo’s. some mmo’s are still pretty smooth at teen fps all things in the scene considered and still quite playable.

some games do have some pretty epic fps spikes that are hard to deal with at times tho.

tho this isn’t what this topic is about XD

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H. D. Harris🏳️‍🌈

I care about optimizing my characters for /me/ and what I find fun primarily, not what i’m told to play, if what I like turns out to be what is raid or dungeon friendly, that’s gravy.

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BalsBigBrother

All of this for me too. As long as I am having fun couldn’t care less otherwise

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