MMO Week in Review: Smed prolly gets Amazon Prime for life now (February 19, 2016)

Were you too busy gaming this week to pay attention to MMO news? Get caught up every Sunday evening with Massively Overpowered’s Week in Review!

This week, eyebrows across the MMOverse lifted when John Smedley, just seven weeks after the cancellation of crowdfunded Hero's Song and the closure of his indie studio, was announced as the leader of a new MMO studio under the Amazon Games banner, with most of the Pixelmage studio intact. Smed has thus far not responded to request for comment, but we're sure he's a bit swamped right about now.

Meanwhile, it was Fan Festival weekend for Final Fantasy XIV; Massively OP's Eliot Lefebvre dragged himself outta bed at the crack o' dawn to report on the Red Mage, swimming, and how Naoki Yoshida literally came out on stage in full Samurai gear to announce the new job.

Read on for the very best of this week's MMO news and opinions.

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The Daily Grind: What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMORPGs?

Last week, MJ and I were discussing a stream she was planning on Conan Exiles where she planned to help friends capture "thralls" to bring back to their bases and put to work. The term "thrall" is the game's way of softening what it really is: slavery. The slaves are NPCs, mind you, not other players, but honestly, the idea creeps me out a little bit anyway, far more than, say, Revival's long-ago proposed NPC prostitution design.

(But the mechanic is cool. Wouldn't it be nifty if player modders found ways to replace human slaves with elementals or automatoi or summoned spirits? That would basically negate my squeamishness entirely.)

Interestingly, as I reflect on why I find it mildly unsettling, I am thinking back to folks who roleplayed slaves, usually twi'leks, in Star Wars MMOs, and while I might roll my eyes, somehow that bothers me even less: Even though they were human vs. AI, there was a voluntariness about those storylines, play-acting instead of making an uncomfortable social statement via NPC. Conan actually rewards people for enslaving NPCs -- if you opt out on a server with the mechanic, you're at a disadvantage.

I don't know. I'm conflicted. What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMOs? Are Conan Exiles' slavery mechanics something you enjoy engaging in?

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WRUP: This ham is your ham edition

Hello, reader. Hello, and good morning. Or should I say... good ham? That sounded clever before I typed it out. Look, the point is that I have your ham. This ham right here is yours, and if you ever want to see it again, you... well, you'll look at the header, but if you ever want to have your ham back, you're going to do exactly what I say.

First, go to the nearest Cumberland Farms. Assuming it's near you, anyway, I don't want you to be driving like fifteen miles out of your way. I guess you could just go to a regular grocery store, but... wait, they probably have ham. Depending on where you live. If you live in Israel, there's probably no ham in the grocery stores, right? That would be weird. Or is it weird for thinking that? If you live in Israel, let me know about the ham situation.

You know what, forget it. Just go get another ham and leave your comments on this week's What Are You Playing. I'll give your ham a viking funeral. It's what you would have wanted if you didn't mind me stealing your ham.

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever boycotted an MMORPG?

Blizzard Watch ran an editorial yesterday quoting former marine biologist and World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street on the subject of video game boycotts: "I would not advocate boycotting a game as a way to make a statement, especially if deep down you still love the game. You’re just not likely to drive change as a result."

It's not a new idea, but it's one worth revisiting whether we're talking about something as big as economic and political sanctions or something as small as quitting a video game with a big ol' flounce: Even if a whole crapton of people quit over something terrible in a game, it's unlikely to have much of an effect since the developers won't know why. There will always be exceptions -- like the NGE or monoclegate -- and they're such outliers that they have names. For the most part, games really can't react to a few thousand people quitting over a patch here and there. Boycotts just aren't specific enough.

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Massively Overthinking: Are MMOs designed for 'low-skill gamers'?

Ages ago on the MMORPG subreddit, a player made a bold statement: MMORPGs are designed for low-skill gamers.

"I remember being dazzled by EverQuest and Ultima as a child," he wrote, reminiscing about his memory of high difficulty old-school games. "I recently loaded up [Star Wars: The Old Republic] again, and I'm shocked. Piss easy. Everything. XP falling from the sky. Mobs dead in one GCD. Brainless. The same reason I quite every MMO. I never meet people, I never feel challenged. I just feel bored. 'Wait till endgame' isn't gonna cut it anymore. I'm over it. I'm done. I feel like I'm just hitting the 'Reward' button again and again and again, solitary and alone, like a stupid little rat in the cage." He then basically blames the perceived shift of the genre on people who don't want games to be "like a job": "The genre just seems to be fueled by mediocre, anti-social "consumers."

I wanted to pull this back out to see whether our staff and writers agree with the claims -- and whether we all have some advice for this fan, who concludes his rant by asking people to change his mind. Howsabout it, Overthinking fans?

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 104: WoW Token resistance

Financial nerds ahoy! On today's show, Bree and Justin talk about the economics of WoW Tokens and earnings reports, encouraging listeners to break out their accountant books to play along. There's a secret message encoded for those who balance their checkbooks correctly!

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Listen to the show right now:

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The Daily Grind: Where are all the sports-themed MMORPGs?

On those rare occasions when we mention EA's FIFA series, usually relating to court cases over online gambling, I'm always struck again by how few sports MMORPGs we have. We have fishing games and golfing games. We have racing games. But major team sports have never bridged the gap, in spite of their immense popularity -- though maybe that's because they're popular with self-identified non-gamers.

Indeed, even few MMORPGs include sports as something our characters would do -- it's a weird omission, right? Wouldn't it make much more sense for PvP to play out as sporting simulators, a la Star Wars: The Old Republic's Huttball, one of only a handful of examples I can think of from our 20-year history?

So where are all the sports-themed MMORPGs? Why aren't we seeing more of them, and how would you make them work? Read more

MMO Week in Review: Homestead, Head of the Snake, and piles of money (February 12, 2017)

Were you too busy gaming this week to pay attention to MMO news? Get caught up every Sunday evening with Massively Overpowered’s Week in Review!

It was a big week for video game company financials: We heard from Blizzard, NCsoft, Nexon, Kakao, Square-Enix, and even Funcom, which says it's already recouped its costs for Conan Exiles, so it's smooth sailing (and good news for the studio) from here on out. Now, if only we could get some Secret World news...

Meanwhile, both Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2 pushed out major content updates -- the former introducing the wildly anticipated housing-themed Homestead patch, the latter rolling out Head of the Snake, episode four of its third season of living story.

Read on for the very best of this week's MMO news and opinions.

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WRUP: Point of order edition

This installment of What Are You Playing will now come to order. We'd like to begin with a few points of order, starting with the most obvious one. No one - and this means no one - is allowed to park cars in Mrs. Orbison's living room. That wall is a load-bearing one and knocking out the scaffolding is really making her angry. Also, absolutely no one is allowed to offer to "comfort her" in the bedroom following the death of her husband, especially after you run over her husband by driving your car through her wall. We're talking about you, Eric. We all know it.

Next point of order: It turns out that sun-dried tomato pizza from down the street is actually really good, so we'll be ordering that after all. Also, no one is allowed to taunt the werewolves after eating it. It's got garlic, but the garlic thing is just vampires. Also, we need to stop smashing empty beer bottles against shopping carts; complaints are coming in. Last but not least, let's not have a repeat of last week's incident. You may now go about your normal WRUP procedures.

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The Daily Grind: Which no-housing MMORPG needs housing the most?

During our Elder Scrolls Online housing stream earlier this week, Larry and I joked about World of Warcraft's half-hearted and ineffective attempts to satisfy player demand for housing over the years, from farms to garrisons to order halls. I certainly wouldn't call any of these "player houses," no more than I'd consider Guild Wars 2's home instances to be housing.

Interestingly, most of the other games I'd say are in the top tier of MMORPGs have housing now, many of them having only just added it in the last few years, from Final Fantasy XIV to SWTOR. Even Lord of the Rings Online recently reinvigorated its housing (stay tuned for an in-depth look at that this weekend). In my mind, the best trend of the year so far has been this renewed emphasis on player domiciles, not just because I enjoy that type of content but because it's clearly a money-maker for the games that implement and monetize it well.

So for today's Daily Grind, I ask you: Which no-housing MMORPG needs housing the most, and why?

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Massively Overthinking: Unholy MMORPG hybrids

Massively OP reader and frequent tipster Gibbins wants us to play match-maker.

"I love the wonderful world that Bethesda created with the Fallout franchise, not too bleak but very post apocalypse with a very kitsch '50s feel from the time of duck and cover educational films, but I wish it were multiplayer. The huge volume of mods for Fallout is also is a massive bonus, giving the game great variety and replayability. On the other hand, I also love the satirical in your face style of GTA Online and its no-holds-barred multiplayer experience, but I wish there were more to the story and more support for mods. Both games offer so much, and I would love to see how each studio would add to the other's game. Which two development teams would you like to see married... and which game would be their love child?"

Let's complicate Gibbins' request and say that the love child game must be an MMO! I've posed his question to the team for this week's Massively Overthinking.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 103: Back to Morrowind

We apologize in advance. The news of the return of Bree's most favorite Elder Scrolls setting has jacked up her excitement levels to 11. Be warned that this episode may contain any and all of the following: gleeful giggling, spontaneous singing, half-hour recollections of the old days, readings of player-written poetry, and confetti thrown through your computer speakers.

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

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The Stream Team: House hunting in Elder Scrolls Online Homestead

Every adventurer needs a place to hang his or her hat... or helmet. This week, ZeniMax Online Studios gave all Elder Scrolls Online players an opportunity to find a hat rack and a home to go along with it. The Homestead update hit the live servers on Monday, and to supplement Bree's video from yesterday, the stream team will explore this new addition to ESO.

At 2 p.m. EST, our resident Elder Scrolls fans, Bree Royce and Larry Everett, will give you a first-hand look into setting up your own home in...

What: Elder Scrolls Online
Who: Bree Royce and Larry Everett
When: 2:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Enjoy the show!

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