community discussion

The Daily Grind: Do you play MMOs with expiration dates?

It’s not a new phenomenon, because I recall seeing it back in Final Fantasy XI, someone saying proudly that he was happy to be with the current linkshell… until World of Warcraft launched, then he would leave. That isn’t me recounting; that was exactly what he said at the time. He was playing the game, but he was literally as committed as it took for him to keep playing until something else launched.

This hasn’t gone anywhere, either. I see people loudly saying that they’re only playing a game until something else launches. “Oh, I’m in Elite Dangerous until Star Citizen is out.” “I’m just playing Guild Wars 2 until Crowfall launches.” You get the idea.

This has never made a whole lot of sense to me. Playing an endless game with a self-imposed end date just strikes me as weird. It clearly strikes a lot of other people as perfectly normal, though, and perhaps for a lot of people it is. So what about you, dear readers? Do you play MMOs with expiration dates? Do you already plan to leave but want to play an MMO until then just the same?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO’s music brings back all the feels?

One of the reasons that I love and listen to MMO music so much — other than it rocks, obviously — is that it has this incredible power to trigger nostalgia and latent memories of time spent in-game.

It’s amazing: I might have been away from a game for years or haven’t even thought about it since it went offline ages ago, but the second I hear the main theme or an iconic track, it is like I never left. Occasionally I marinate in City of Heroes’ score or the vanilla World of Warcraft soundtrack just to be transported back to around 2004.

Which MMO soundtrack brings back all the feels for you? Is there a particular theme that makes you close your eyes and gives you goosebumps as you are transported back in time?

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The Daily Grind: Does teaching toxic MMO gamers what they did wrong actually help?

As RPS reported this week, Valve has taken the relatively unusual step of making your Dota 2 and CSGO report cards semi-public – that is, players can see reports made against their accounts, and the rationales given, even if Valve took no action on them. The author was bemused to find that he’d been reported for “intentional feeding” when in fact, he just sucked that match. Hey, it happens.

But I wonder whether the reports are useful to actual toxic players who’ve been actioned to teach them where they went wrong; it’s certainly an idea League of Legends clung to for years. MOP reader TomTurtle recently suggested something similar in terms of forum moderation too. “I’d like to see how viable it’d be to have moderators give an infractor a chance to edit their post to be constructive in an attempt to have them learn why their initial language was against the rules” in the service of “informing players why they were infracted in the first place,” he wrote to us.

Even if we agree that moderators’ and gamemasters’ jobs should include not just protecting the community from toxicity but actually attempting to – as Raph Koster puts it in his new book – “reform bad apples,” I wonder whether it’s even worth the trouble, never mind the expense. Does knowing what they did wrong actually help toxic players become less toxic? Or does it just cause them to double down to save face? Is the industry just wasting time and money trying to reform players who aren’t just poorly socialized or clueless but willfully destructive?

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The Daily Grind: What obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment?

There’s some interesting stuff to be unpacked in a recent analysis of Conan Exiles that characterizes it as replete with griefing, racism, sexism, and general unmoderated player garbage. Equally interesting is the official response from Funcom, which is essentially “this isn’t an MMO so we’re under no obligations to moderate this stuff.” You can read that as any mixture of “we don’t want to hire moderation staff” and “we want money more than we want players to be happy” as you desire.

It’s true that Conan Exiles isn’t a full MMORPG. It’s also true that there are official servers with Funcom’s name on them, which means that there’s a legitimacy there. And it raises the interesting question of what obligations studios have to the players in this particular environment.

What qualifies as “griefing” can have a wide scope and cover a lot of things, and some of that is part of the game at its core; after all, there’s plenty of griefing behavior beyond PvP that makes a game like EVE Online what it is. And that’s not even counting servers that aren’t officially run by the development team. So what obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment? Does it apply only to official servers? Only to MMORPGs? Only to sufficiently large servers? When is moderation no longer the problem of the game’s owners?

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The Daily Grind: How do you handle content lulls in MMORPGs?

MOP reader Joel recently wrote into us with a link to a Dark Legacy Comic (#634) that succinctly captures the problem of content lulls in MMOs. It features a bored World of Warcraft hero character staring at his friends list full of buddies who haven’t logged on in weeks (“wake me for prepatch,” one friend’s tag reads); he then becomes super excited at a newly delivered mail, only to find out it’s an automated brew-of-the-month club missive telling him to share his drinks with his friends. Womp womp.

“I can’t speak for everyone but this episode really spoke to me as there have been a lot of times I’ve felt exactly this way in quite a few MMOs that have hit a lull,” Joel wrote.

I thought it was particularly relevant this summer for MMORPG players; World of Warcraft is in a bit of a lull right now ahead of the launch of its expansion, while Guild Wars 2’s next big patch has been delayed so significantly that I heard the word “drought” being kicked around yesterday.

So how do you handle content lulls in MMORPGs? Do you stick it out, play alts, grind cash? Or do you wander away to play something else?

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The Daily Grind: Will Fallout 76 be a griefer’s paradise or a gamer’s dream?

On Sunday night, the Massively OP staff gathered in our virtual office to watch and discuss the Bethesda conference. There really was a little something for all of us, including reveals and enough cheesiness to mock. But for me, I was there to hear more about Fallout 76 and to get a feel for the vision that the studio has for its next installment of this post-apocalyptic franchise.

I’ll be up front about this: I was cheering so hard when I heard that the studio was taking the game to an online multiplayer setting. It’s been something I’ve wanted to see happen for ages now, and I can’t wait to comb the wasteland as a scavenger and hang out with others.

That said, there’s a lot of concern over the PvP angle, including the decision to hand over nuclear warheads to players to launch. For those of us who want to play with others and build structures without harassment, it does raise some concerns. While we need to hear a lot more in terms of specifics of how this game will function, let’s get your gut reaction. Will Fallout 76 be a griefer’s paradise or a gamer’s dream — or something else entirely?

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The Daily Grind: Will you sub to EA’s new ‘Origin Access Premier’ service?

During EA Play this weekend, EA announced Origin Access Premier, its attempt at a subscription service on PC. For $100 a year, you’ll basically get a service pretty similar to what already exists on Xbox: You’ll be able to play all the big new games, like Anthem, plus other titles within the Origin Vault, for that flat fee.

Subscriptions rise again, right? Is this a good thing for games outside the service?

“As always, I want to Bree to win the lottery, buy up some MMOs and take them to the Island of Misfit MMOs where $200 per annum gets you sub/pref access to all of RIFT, LOTRO, STO, SWTOR, et al.,” MOP tipster Sally wrote to us, urging us to write about the sub. “But picture that you are a hard-working indie dev. You already have the issues with dealing with Steam. Now a customer has to decide whether to buy your game or just play something like Anthem for no additional cost.”

Will you be subbing to EA’s new Origin Access Premier service? Do you think it’ll have a catastrophic impact on indie games or MMOs with subs?

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The Daily Grind: Is zone-wide chat a good thing for MMOs?

The first MMO I ever played was Final Fantasy XI, which meant that I got used to the idea of having no zone-wide chat. If you needed to get the attention of everyone in the zone, you used the /yell command, and that was considered intensely rude. It was only when I started playing City of Heroes (my second MMO) that I started getting used to the idea of zone-wide chat… which meant it seemed noisy at first. Going back to FFXI and then later in Final Fantasy XIV, it seemed downright quiet.

On the one hand, having a zone chat feature means that you get to talk with more people on a regular basis, so in some ways it helps with socializing. But it also means socializing that you might not want; Barrens Chat in World of Warcraft was legendary for being awful, and there’s a running meme in FFXIV to just turn off /shout when people are using it heavily. Plus there are people who prefer not to have it for immersion or the sense of immediacy. So what do you think? Is zone-wide chat a good thing for MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: What MMO celebration do you never miss?

The first year that any MMORPG that I’m playing launches a new festival or holiday, I’m usually all over it. Sometimes I get too much into it, spending so much time farming rewards or digging through the activities that it sours me for future years.

But there are always those celebrations that I make a point to check in and see. The allure of a free Tier 6 starship in Star Trek Online usually brings me out for its summer holiday event, and I am a huge fan of the haunted burrow in Lord of the Rings Online’s fall festival. And it wouldn’t be Christmas if I wasn’t logging into World of Warcraft to see what awaited me under the tree!

What MMO celebrations or holidays do you never miss? Which ones pull you back to the game, if only for a day or two, even if you’ve been away for months?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the best MMORPG vet reward you’ve ever gotten?

CCP Games rolled out a pretty sweet veteran reward for EVE Online vets this week ahead of the game’s anniversary: Everybody who’s been playing since the game went free-to-play in 2016 picked up a tier one Abyssal Filament.

That got me thinking about vet rewards in general. It’s actually become a pretty rare concept in MMORPGs, largely because they were originally intended to reward people for being loyal subscribers, but of course, fewer and fewer MMOs have subscriptions anymore.

I’ve picked up some really good rewards over the years that actually made me want to keep my sub going. Remember the vet reward resource crates in Star Wars Galaxies? My favorite might be my ethereal mounts in Ultima Online, or maybe my seed box (it holds hundreds of gardening seeds to cut down on the inventory mess).

What’s the best MMORPG vet reward you’ve ever gotten, and what did you have to do exactly to earn it?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite non-combat ability in an MMO?

Combat abilities in MMOs are big, flashy, and usually leave a mangled corpse. That’s why they’re there. But sometimes you wind up with non-combat abilities that are just plain fun to use. Everyone always loved White Mage teleports in Final Fantasy XI, even when there were faster ways to get from place to place; they just look cool, a bit intense spell. Mage portals and tables in World of Warcraft are fun to drop, and everyone loves a Death Knight with Path of Frost.

Today, we want to celebrate non-combat abilities. Travel powers in Champions Online, mounts in Guild Wars 2, little things that exist to offer some extra utility and flavor. What’s your favorite non-combat ability in an MMO? Is it something that made you pick your character build just so you could play around with it, or does it just look and feel neat?

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The Daily Grind: Would you play a new Guild Wars 1 expansion?

With all of the talk and revival of interest in classic Guild Wars, it’s certainly been a great time to celebrate this beloved MMO (yeah, I’m calling it an MMO, what are you going to do about it?). I’m certainly happy that the game is still providing a fun playspace for fans and is even getting improvements in 2018.

So here’s a pie-in-the-sky question: What if ArenaNet decided that there was enough of a community for Guild Wars 1 that it commissioned an actual new expansion or campaign for the game? I know, I know, it will never happen. For all I know, it can never happen because of technological limitations and whatnot.

But… what if it did? Would you play it? Since we’re dreaming here, what kind of classic Guild Wars expansion would you love to see made?

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The Daily Grind: Do you feel pressure to play MMOs for daily bonuses or experience events?

On Wednesdays, we farm gems.

In Trove, that is. That’s because ever since Trion revamped the daily login system, players get a daily bonus for doing a specific type of gameplay, with an even bigger bonus for subbers. It’s on a fixed weekly rotation, meaning every Monday is the same, every Tuesday, and so on. Wednesday is gems, so everybody in the game is farming gem boxes because they are just that important to character power.

The bonuses are extremely generous, and objectively, I can say it’s a great system. Buuuuuut I find myself being mildly annoyed by the compulsion to go do that one thing, knowing I’d be missing out if I didn’t. Anybody remember old-school Ultima Online and power hour, when your skill gains were accelerated for the first hour you were logged in every day? It’s even worse than that because at least that was over after an hour and people could relax and go back to ganking miners or shuffling bags of regs around their houses. This one basically never ends. It’s a weird sort of pressure to go forth and achieve, constantly. And on Wednesdays, when I feel like working on our guild map instead of farming gems, I spend the whole time feeling guilty, and then feeling foolish for feeling guilty.

First-world problems, sure, but still something I think about. I’m pretty sure the system is a net positive for game retention, but I don’t love the extra pressure. And in a way, I can understand some of the complaints about even shorter-term events, like the one Elite ran two weekends ago. Do you feel pressure to play MMOs for daily bonuses or experience events? And does it work?

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