Culture & Community Category

The softer, gentler side of MMORPG life. [Follow this category’s RSS feed]

The Daily Grind: What’s the best MMO customer experience you’ve ever had?

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, before I worked for Massively, I called up SOE. I wanted to move my Star Wars Galaxies characters around my accounts and servers in a complicated chain of actions, enough that I wrote it down and ran through it mentally multiple times to make sure it would work. It was going to cost a pretty penny and take time and effort from customer support for sure, so I was concerned the whole thing would be a clusterfudge, especially once SOE realized that when we were done, we’d probably be closing down half of the accounts semi-permanently.

Instead, the customer service guy was super nice. He sat on the phone with us, making each move one by one, chit chatting and telling jokes. He didn’t actually play the game, but he treated us like people and our characters like precious babies. And honestly, he really turned around my poor impression of SOE in that post-NGE time period.

Most of us are accustomed to telling and hearing MMO customer service horror stories, but I think it’s refreshing to hear about the good eggs too. So what’s the best MMO customer experience you’ve ever had?

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EVE Online enlists community aid in real-world scientific research

EVE Online is warping into a sector where hobbies and scientific research intersect. CCP Games announced that it’s partnering up with The Human Protein Atlas to help provide some much-needed crowdsourcing muscle for an important project.

The Swedish research group needs human eyeballs to comb over new protein images to look for anomalies and assign each image to a certain classification. Since this can’t be easily done by computer but can be handed off to an average person with minimal training, this seemed like a good project with which to include a large group of people (i.e., an MMO community).

To incentivize players to participate, CCP is giving ISK and LP to those who help out. The feature is currently on the test server and will come to the game proper on January 28th.

Source: EVE Online


One Shots: The zen of jumping puzzles

Even my most casual acquaintance will always know two things about me: that I have more hair than is healthy for a human male and that I hate jumping puzzles to the core of my being. It’s probably a good thing that there are players like reader Matt, then, otherwise jumping puzzle designers would be out of a job and ostracized from society in less than a week.

“I love it when I find random things hidden in the world,” Matt writes. “I stumbled upon this Aetherblade headquarters and also a jumping puzzle (because I guess Aetherblade troops love to train their ability to jump?) in Gendarran Fields. It was by far the hardest jumping puzzle I had ever done in Guild Wars 2, I even raged logged out after an hour of dying, but I did complete it later that day.”

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever had an in-game MMO romance?

I got my wife into MMOs by volunteering to buy her a copy of World of Warcraft. At the time, we had been best friends for years – since we had met back in college, in fact – and we were moving in the direction of romantic involvement. So we started playing together on a nightly basis, and that formed a big part of our relationship before we moved in together. It started some nicknames and traditions that we still observe now, a decade later.

A lot of online romances end badly, but not all of them do. Not all of them are even what springs to mind with the term “in-game romance.” What about you? Have you had an in-game romance? Has playing games together significantly impacted your romantic life? Or do you prefer to keep your online gaming and your romantic life entirely separate from one another?

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Blade & Soul impressions from around the MMO blogosphere

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Blade & Soul managed to rope in a lot of excited fans and curious casuals this past week. I mean, in the east it’s been a popular and successful hit, and in the west its release has been hoped for and anticipated for literally years at this point.

MMO bloggers are always on the front line of any charge into a new game release, especially with one boasting this high a profile. So I’ve been keeping track of some notable first impressions of Blade & Soul from around the blogosphere, with the end goal of sharing them with you.

So if you’re still on the fence even after reading our first impressions piece, then here are some additional perspectives, opinions, and recommendations from your fellow gamers!

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WRUP: Marvelous true facts about something other than bees edition

Today, we’re going to reveal some marvelous true facts about – wait, what the heck is going on with that header? What is this? I specifically said that this week was supposed to be about something other than bees. I am tired of writing this column to try and compete with Weekly Bee Talk. Just once I want to reveal some facts about something other than bees.

No, I can’t just “work around it.” I can’t ignore that header image. It’s bees. It’s covered in bees. Everything there is visibly affected by bees. I have other interests! None that I want to talk about here now, though, because apparently when I try to do something other than reveal more facts about bees, everyone loses it and I have to still talk about bees.

Forget it, I’m done. Someone else can write the What Are You Playing intros from now on. Good luck finding someone to be your automatic bee-fact monkey. Leave your own astonishing bee-related facts in the comments or tell us what you’re playing, I don’t care. Whatever.

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The Daily Grind: What were MMOs like back at their launch?

I was reminded this week that Dungeons and Dragons Online is hitting its 10-year anniversary in 2016, which amazes me because I don’t think of this title as being that old.

In fact, I was there when DDO first launched, having been lured in by its promise of replicating the D&D experience with dungeon dives and a more thoughtful, calculated approach to gameplay than what had become the standard in the MMO industry. My first month involved running through the tutorial along that beach boardwalk and then starting to explore the city of Stormreach. Back at launch, you couldn’t even access the entire city until you overcame a certain slime-ridden sewer early on (if memory serves correctly).

I’m betting that you were present at one or more MMO launches back in the day. Today I’m opening up the floor for you to share your memories of what particular games were like on day one, so unearth those memories!

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War Thunder fan creates a full virtual reality cockpit

Flight sim fans are often on the cutting edge of technology and peripherals, usually more so than the rest of the gaming crowd. After all, when your goal is to replicate the complete flight experience, you’re going to need some serious hardware.

One gamer has put together an impressive virtual cockpit that combines the Oculus Rift headset with a detailed instrument panel and flight chair to bring him as close as possible to the real thing. He’s very effusive in his appreciation of the detail and combat of War Thunder as his game of choice, and shows it compared to flying an actual small-engine plane to demonstrate how well it does its job.

So what does War Thunder look like with all of the (ahem) trimmings? Prepare to be impressed after the break!

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Launch impressions of Blade & Soul: Combat, story, questing, and flow

Every time I play Blade & Soul, I’m really playing a different game, which I dub Why Don’t I Like You More? The object of that game is to figure out why you like all of the pieces of something while not liking the thing in and of itself, like figuring out why you don’t like spaghetti but do love pizza when they both share the same overall ingredients. (For the record, it comes down to pasta-based trauma when I was younger. I wish I were kidding.)

Logging into Blade & Soul‘s launch version kept prompting new rounds of this game in my head, without any definitive answers. I could point to niggling issues like the lack of a borderless windowed mode or weirdness with the game’s subscription time, but those were just issues, not enough to really reduce or remove my enjoyment of the game. Even the server queues shouldn’t have done that. So keep in mind as I present my thoughts that all of this is coming from someone who really wants to like this game quite a bit.

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WoW Legion makes major changes to specializations and transmog sets

Are you tired of dealing with dual specs in World of Warcraft? It was revealed at BlizzCon that the existing spec system was going to change so that players could freely switch between specs, a feature that has been added in the most recent build of the Legion testing. As it stands, switching specs costs 100g a round, with a free swap back to your primary specialization. The developers have stressed that this cost is a placeholder, with ongoing discussion about whether or not there should even be a cost.

Being unable to freely switch between two specs would break up the gameplay for several players, but another change coming in the expansion might break up appearances more thoroughly. Armor types will no longer change for Warriors, Paladins, Shaman, and Hunter players at level 40; all of those classes will use the appropriate armor from level 1, which means that several old Mail pieces are being upgraded to Plate. That means that existing transmogs for Shaman and Hunter may well become unwearable and unusable, something worth considering as you determine your character looks going into the expansion.


Firefall’s update is live and servers are up, but old characters are still offline

The most recent Firefall patch faced some pretty significant downtime due to issues with its implementation; players were updated on the state of the patch yesterday with a full rundown of the technical issues facing the team. The good news is that as of this morning, the game’s servers are online and the patch is running. Bad news? Existing characters aren’t ready for play as the team runs through the remaining issues with character migration. Community manager FadedPez continued to keep players updated:

The update is now live, but without migration. Characters created prior to the start of the maintenance are currently hidden. Don’t worry, they aren’t gone! We’re continuing to work on our migration script. We’re getting really close with it and once it’s completely done and tested we will deploy the script and pre-existing characters will be visible again (with no changes to them). At that point, you may step through your character migration and get back to playing your character.

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The Daily Grind: Do MMO graphics influence your immersion?

This past week, in the hubub surrounding Smed’s new OARPG, Hero’s Song, we interviewed bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss, who’s building the lore of the game’s world. I asked Rothfuss about storytelling immersion in 2-D vs. 3-D worlds, and he argued, quite vehemently, that graphics have nothing to do with immersion. “The truth is, storytelling becomes more immersive and more inclusive the more abstract the art is,” he said.

Take the most recent Fallout game, for example. It was an amazingly graphically intensive game, but half the time I was thinking things like, “God, her teeth look really weird when she talks.” or “Why the hell is that guy hovering five inches off the ground.” How is that immersive? People might play Fallout 4, but they don’t get lost in it. There’s no graphics at all in novels. But people get lost in a book. That’s immersion.

I do agree that novels are deeply immersive, possibly moreso than games, but I say that’s because novels simply ask you to imagine. Games show you a world and then ask you to imagine, which is a different sort of challenge when those graphics are stylized.

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Massively Overthinking: The MMO dev brains we’d like to pick

This week’s Overthinking question comes to us from longtime Patron Roger.

“If you guys could magically open a connection to any dev team, which team would it be? I’ll assume this power includes their answering you as well.”

Sometimes we have this power already! More often than not, however, the devs are piloted by well-intentioned PR machines, and if there’s a question they don’t want to answer, they pretty much don’t have to, which is why so many MMO interviews are a waste of air and time and pixels.

I posed Roger’s question to our staff. Let’s say you have carte blanche to interrogate anyone or any team in the industry. Whom would you want to talk to, and what would you ask if you knew you could get a true and straight answer?
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