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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Armsbend

He may be confusing WoW with Diablo.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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. :(

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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.