The Daily Grind: Do you grade MMO studios on a curve?

Here’s a non-surprise that came out of a discussion between Bree and me: We totally grade MMO studios on a curve. That curve is determined by giving a damn. All else being equal, we tend to be a bit more forgiving of studios that give the impression of at least caring about what they’re doing, even if it’s care in horribly misguided directions or in service of awful design choices.

It makes a lot of sense to me; a lot of my own fondness for Funcom comes from a sense that even while the studio was struggling and/or making awful decisions, it’s still a team of people who care about what they’re doing. By contrast, there are companies that really don’t seem to give a toss about anything beyond the current big ticket. Part of my own uncomfortable feelings about World of Warcraft come from the sense that Blizzard has long since stopped giving a damn.

That doesn’t mean that we’re unwilling to be harsh when studios we like screw up badly; it just means that the sense of effort and genuine care gets a bit more leeway. What about you, dear readers? Do you grade MMO studios on a curve, and if so, what determines the adjustment?

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!
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

38 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Do you grade MMO studios on a curve?"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
Schmidt.Capela

My “curve” is mostly based on how greedy I perceive the studio/publisher to be. For example, I will be far less forgiving with studios that double-dip (for example, by having both a box price and a subscription) than to a studio that goes with just one monetization strategy.

I also consider openness in development. I’m willing to forgive a lot more if I can see which steps are being done to fix the flaws. But then, I don’t implicitly trust studios or publishers; until a studio has earned my trust — a process that takes many years — I will not believe any promises it makes, but seeing a solid plan for fulfilling the promise can allay my concerns.

This often goes hand in hand with the article’s “care” metric; a development studio that cares about its game is often willing to talk about the future of the game, and tends to avoid monetization strategies that could make players dislike the game.

BTW: I don’t usually care about customer support per see, as in helping individual customers with their problems. I don’t use customer support, after all; I worked as a computer technician for a while, and before that I was the unofficial tech in my extended family, so I’m usually able to solve any issue that customer support could tackle in less time than it would take to get to the top of the support queue. The kind of customer support I care about is fixing bugs.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

I always form my own opinions of games and studios and my opinions are always formulated based on two main criteria. 1. Quality of games and 2. Quality of customer care. Without these you are not likely to get my time, attention or money.

If number 1. is missing that isn’t always a deal breaker provided the company is making an effort to improve it, games development is not fast and I can be patient but there as noted has to be some display of intent and proactivity on theri part to fix the games.

However no number 2. And I am done, I am out, I am not wasting my time. A company that does not value the people that pay for it can go whistle in my books. First time they are dismissive, untrue, unsupportive or disparaging towards me or any of thier customers and they are canned and im gone. No customer who is pay for a product should EVER fell like the people they are giving the money too just don’t give a damn about them. That crap I will not tolerate.

Reader
Chris Brown-DeMoreno

I don’t play enough MMOs to have any sort of particular opinion on any given studio. I might play a particular game and think that it’s bad (e.g. Age of Conan, which I wasn’t exactly fond of) but that doesn’t scare me away from future games by the studio (e.g. Conan Exiles, which is rough but I think has promise). Even if I continue to criticize a previous title that I disliked for whatever reasons, I won’t go into every new game made by that studio and think the same. I mean, Capcom burned me so many times with the RE series I swore never to touch another one but I still gave RE7 a chance because it impressed me in the demo (and turned out Fantastic) and I don’t hold what they did to RE against other games like Dragons Dogma or MvC.

Reader
Robert Mann

Nope. I grade them on their effort, design, and customer relations. The game gets marks for fun, cool ideas, neat mechanics, and things that aren’t just combat… because I can get combat anywhere right now.

Reader
Sally Bowls

I think “studios care” is just a fiction people invent to explain their beliefs. I think they all care; gaming has long since ceased being where you go to make easy money; devs are certainly paid below industry wages. But studios are far from equal; they vary greatly in terms of the resources they have, their competency, and their “internals” (if you have a not well written/documented single-thread code base designed for generations-ago graphics/operating systems, you are at a productivity disadvantage, regardless of how much you care.)

At the end of the day, I don’t care if they care. Who would you rather do your open heart surgery or vasectomy – a kind generous but not very competent doctor who tithes and has a low carbon footprint or a mean abusive doc who yells at everyone, cheats on his wife and mistress and taxes and is the best surgeon in the state? God and/or performance reviews are for judging the people; I am judgemental enough already and should try to just judge what they produce.

———-

As always, I am baffled by Elliot vs WoW. His personal opinion is his own and he is entitled to whatever he wants to believe. But this one? WoW has not shrunk the team; after all the “content drought” they have an expansion with all the significant patches being exactly 77 days. IMO, Blizzard’s has a problem that they overcorrect problems in the last expansion. IMO, it is clear that WoW is more strategic to ATVI than GW2 is to NCSoft. While not as strong a case, but looking at SE’s console and mobile revenue, one could make the case that the FF MMO is less relevant to SE. Certainly, SWTOR is not strategic for EA. Funcom does not care about or make MMOs and DBG is now a H1Z1 studio (I resisted the “and who cares what DBG thinks” jibe) But WoW is indisputably mass-market. A product with 50,000 customers is not going to be of interest to ATVI (or Apple or GM or Ford or Microsoft) – it’s the nature of large companies.

Reader
Armsbend

He may be confusing WoW with Diablo.

Reader
Tim Johnson

I think it’s more a case of bias against the game that is normal among a few of the different groups of Non-wow player. It’s the same people that spend the first few months of a new MMo spamming any channel about how “Amazingly better” this game was then Wow. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to be critical of a company, but I also think there are people that are too into ignoring the good things because they enjoy complaining about the bad things too much.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mysecretid

Generally speaking, yes, I am more forgiving of game studios whose people appear to care about the games they make.

Of course, I tend to be that way in life, also. You don’t have to be the best, or even succeeding, to gain my support, but I have to see signs that you’re genuinely making an effort.

Reader
Zen Dadaist

Yes, I do have weighted biases when it comes to dev studios based on my experiences with them. Hindsight can also play a part. I have a lot more time and forgiveness for a weird design decision that’s stood in, say, Anarchy Online for 10 years than a recent change in a much newer game. I’m still terribly critical of Funcom when it comes to business decisions, community communication and such but I’ll cut the former staff of the silly old game a lot of slack that I would not afford to other current developers. See: not touching the lockbox-infested reincarnation of Secret World.

I can’t really comment on Blizzard, but another studio I have absolutely no time for these days is Cryptic. Even Trion for Rift gets more slack out of me (sometimes).

Speaking of Trion and Rift, my level of ire seems to vary depending on how the most recent patch series has affected my enjoyment of the game. Towards the end of Nightmare Tide I hated everything about the company and its decision-making. Jump to 4.1 and a lot of good stuff had been done, so I was less critical and more forgiving. Then 4.2 landed and… well… *glares*

Polyanna
Reader
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Polyanna

Funcom still has a positive bank of karma in my book for ever daring to make AO. Even as they screw the hell out of every single thing they do, including neglecting AO to death. I may not play their games, but I’ll never not have a nice thing to say about them.

Reader
Utakata

I grade studios on how the curves of my pigtails is accented and animated in a given situation (ie, in combat) within their games. The higher the *complexity the said pigtails yield on variety of circumstances (ie. they dance when I dance) and emotions (ie: the “oh shit” moment) the more love and forthright has gone into the game. Conversely, if they remain stiff and rigid during the above mentionables (ie, well that’s janky) then the opposite must be true. Or something like that…

*Note: It should pointed out this really isn’t true with older games as the engines that produces the said appendages may not of been technically there yet. So this is more of a gage for recent MMO’s or MMO’s that had significant upgrades to their graphical wears.

Reader
Utakata

“I don’t think anyone understood a word you said, Uta.”

…yeah. It’s probably because I didn’t really know what I was saying. :(

Reader
Dušan Frolkovič

No.
As i do not know the developers personally, it boils down to the skill of the PR/Community managers and whatever feelings the human brain comes up with (remember, our brains love to see intent and patterns where there are none), so there is no way to know if the devs care or not.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Serrenity

You know, I think I do. As below, I tend to give Funcom more leeway because I like them as a company and I feel that while I don’t like all of their decisions, they legitimately have a field of f*cks to give about their games. And I respect that.

WoW for a while felt like they didn’t care. They were all Hearthstone and Overwatch and eSports and WoW was this cash-cow after-thought. It feels like they are turning that around as Hearthstone doesn’t seem to be pulling in all the cash that it was before (or maybe costs are higher with increased visibility? I dunno) but I definitely feel like they are starting to add some TLC to WoW that just hasn’t been there over the last few years.

I like ArenaNet and for as far away from Developer Manifesto that GW2 is nowadays, I still give it a pass. It’s a game that I want to love, but the reality just … doesn’t ever get me there. But I still tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. The cash shop is (mostly) fair, and the lock-boxes are annoying, but easy enough to ignore in that game.

On the otherside of the fence, SWTOR gets almost no leeway from me because EA is a terrible company. STO and it’s obnoxious all-the-lock-boxes-in-your-face-all-the-time mentality mean that I tend to judge it more harshly as well. I stopped playing EQ2 because Daybreak pretty explicitly doesn’t give 2 sh*ts about the game and just wants my money.

So tl;dr… yes?

Reader
TheDonDude

It’s such a night and day comparison between WoW and other games in terms of content output and those little touches that, to me, imply that they care a lot.

To answer the question, tho: I only grade on a curve for graphics. Old game? No problem if the graphics aren’t super. But game systems ought to be top notch regardless of its age.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

I assume that nearly all of the teams care. Making games is definitely an industry of passion, not “because it’s a job and I need a job”. But that doesn’t mean they are supported or budgeted by their company to a degree where they can be effective…

Reader
Bryan Turner

Seriously Blizzard doesn’t care, Legion was a love letter to the fans, quite frankly it was the greatest expansion ever made for WoW, definitely in the top 5 of all time; keep in mind I hold GW2 in higher regard as my main MMO?

Reader
Tim Johnson

I’m the opposite, I think Blizzard cares about what they are putting out, but it feels like alot of time they take a “we know whats good” approach and don’t listen to feedback as well as they may need to.

Funcom is a company that doesn’t care. i feel they are very quick to rush a product to market, and then start to do the minimum work needed to keep it running. I’m sure the individual teams on the games care, but the company on a whole doesn’t.

Reader
Witches

WOW must be a nightmare, not cool for the players but i don’t see anyone seeing that game with love and enthusiasm, except maybe those emulator guys, Blizz should just hire them.

The norm for gaming studios/companies is making a great original game or two and then spending millions making a copy of WOW/CS/LOL or whatever is popular at the moment and eventually alienating their fans completely, transforming into something that is barely recognizable and eventually being absorbed by some megacorp.or just dying out.

So i care more about games themselves than the makers of the games.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Btw, speaking of Funcom giving a damn.. Anyone else has huge sceptism for this?
Lets check history.

AO and AoC are pretty much completely abandoned.
TSW was almost completely abandoned for years, then they just made relaunch with minor improvements without adding any new content. They obviously didnt put much effort into this relaunch and they didnt care to hire more people to the team which is laughably small.
They released The Park which is 2 hour game made with TSW assets.
Now they are making Conan Exiles which is just another survival game.

I feel like after Ragnar left Funcom, their “giving a damn” meter dropped to zero, at least for MMO genre.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Serrenity

I interpreted most Funcom’s actions very differently. Anarchy Online is (lovingly) ancient when it comes to MMOs — one of the first really. Moving it to maintenance mode isn’t really all that surprising and it’s hard to fault them for it. Same with AoC. The alternative is shutting these games down completely. I think most other studios would have.

TSW being abandoned for years – that’s a bit of an overstatement. They released issues on a pretty steady clip (every few months) for a long time. Only in the last few months before the conversion did the pace of content really stop. The relaunch was an architecture thing. I don’t think you are giving enough credit to how huge of an under-the-scenes architectural change that was, combined with a revamp of several key systems. That was a monstrous amount of work.

The Park was small, but successful and made them money — more money than they were expecting. I fail to see this as a negative.

Conan Exiles is making them money. Again, more than they expected. Most reviews come back with a positive impression of the game. They continue to develop and iterate and adjust to feedback.

Granted, as to the point of the article, Funcom holds a special place in my heart because AO was my first MMO and so I give them some leeway. But when I look at their actions, it doesn’t really speak to me of “not giving a damn.”

Reader
rafael12104

On a curve? Hmm. No. Not really. And, I’m not sure about using a curve as an analogy. Who sets the curve? Lol.

I understand what you guys are trying to say, but really, it is just a way to avoid bias, isn’t it? It’s fine, we all have biases based on our own experiences and preferences. I will give certain studios more leeway because I like what they have done or how they have treated their customers. But I don’t really set a separate standard or accept a lesser product because I like the devs.

Take Camelot Unchained, for example. I love what Mark and his team are trying to do. I love that he comes here to interact with us and give us some insight. I certainly will allow CU devs to take the time they need to do things the “right way”. But at the end of the day, I’m am still a potential customer and expect great things in the final product. If they don’t deliver, I won’t be their customer. I have faith, but that doesn’t mean CU gets a pass.

Ideafabrik on the other hand burned me. There is no way I will support Repopulation any further. But this isn’t based on bias or a curve. This is based and the shady crap they pulled with their engine and how they suddenly took over a project and team I fully supported. In my view and judgement this isn’t a personal preference. They actually did strong arm a group of devs to submit and then took over.

So, bottom line for me, the end result and how a company delivers that result is what matters most. My standards don’t change even though my opinion of studios may.

Reader
Hirku

No. The quality of the product is the only thing that matters, and I’m all out of participation trophies.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Jack Pipsam

Sure, if a studio has shown a lot of good will in the past and makes a slip up, more likely to give them a pass if they acknowledge the mistake than a company who has shown nothing but constant contempt.
Of course how much I like the game has a huge part in it too, if I want to like a game I might be more biased in either being more angry at little things or more forgiving at big things.

Reader
CMDR Crow

I’m not certain I “grade” dev houses, because that’s a little too overarching for my point of view. However, I certainly have opinions and reactions.

Though I’d say I tend to give benefit of the doubt to most studios as well as keep front-and-center in mind the fact that devs always want to do the best they can regardless of the outcomes effected more by outside forces than internal desire. I can’t stand the meme’d idea that “those devs are lazy” or that devs intentionally take paths and actions that harm their world. They don’t. They’re just not superhuman and are fallible like everyone else.

Funcom is a great example of a company I have loved since pre-AO that currently is in the pits with SWL’s complete embrace of microtransactions and cash-shop assisted grind. Even so, it is a solid game with a great backbone which the devs are doing their best to make into something that actually moves forward again. On that front, they just opened the first bit of actual new content on SWL in the form of the never-added-to-TSW Tokyo lair.

At the end of the day, if a company doesn’t hit the bar for what I, myself, want there’s rarely a reaction aside from putting the game down and trying something in a different direction. I do my best to save my energies for when I feel positive and swept-up in a MMO instead of constantly blowing up over things I have no control over.

And these days it is easier and easier to just ignore things that aren’t what I want, specifically. So I try my best to do so. Negativity in any form just breeds negativity. I don’t have time to be mired in launching criticism and causing strife.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Legion is widely considered to be the best WoW expansion ever. The WoW team expanded and now is bigger then it ever was. Such a clear evidence that Blizzard not giving a damn /rolleyes

Im not grading companies by giving a damn metrics, Im grading them by how capable they are at making good games.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Jack Pipsam

I got the gist people were lukewarm on Legion now the dust settled.

pepperzine
Reader
pepperzine

“Widely considered”, where is this poll you are speaking of (I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that there is at least some sort evidence for your statement). If it’s purely anecdotal, my rebuttal is none of the people I have talked to would agree with that statement.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Ive seen plenty of polls on mmo-champion and other forums. I think WoTLK is overal mentioned more often as being the best, but at any poll Legion is ranked very high and many call it the best.

Reader
Robert Mann

Yet to counter there’s a ton of claims of it as the worst expansion on forums, MMO sites, reddit, twitter, etc. Just to play devil’s advocate here, why are your polls on those spots more relevant?

pepperzine
Reader
pepperzine

So it is not widely considered to be the best expansion to WoW ever, WotLK is. Got it. As for it being ranked high in general, the recency effect can’t be disregarded just yet.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

I might have misused term “widely considered” since I didnt mean vast majority. But lets agree Legion was a success and shows that Blizzard in fact is giving a damn. I have a feeling next expansion reveal will be pretty awesome as well.

pepperzine
Reader
pepperzine

Fair enough. I can definitely agree that legion was a financial success for blizzard, though I’m still not sold on them giving a damn as no matter what they put out it would sell.

Reader
CMDR Crow

Did Blizzard ever STOP giving a damn?

Fact of the matter is that post-WotLK WoW is a totally different game every xpac. You’re hard-pressed finding any company with the drive and resources to completely up-end the status-quo gameplay/theorycrafting in such a meaningful way every other year.

Reader
CMDR Crow

I’m a little interested in the source for this, also, as it is pretty established that a plurality of players believe WotLK to be the pinnacle of WoW. That said, Wrath is coming up on a decade, soon, so perhaps it is a function of the “recognizable” expansions for current players being Cata+?

Reader
starbuck1771

I only care that they care about the community they made the rest is second banana.

Reader
Rheem Octuris

Not really. I think if a developer really cares enough, it will show in the game.

Reader
Sally Bowls

IMO, as a genre that is not near as true for MMOs. When Funcom might have 4 devs on a project and WoW has 600, then no matter how much they care, they are not going to get what AAA customers would regard as significant content out.

wpDiscuz