community discussion

The Daily Grind: Do you swear by any urban legends in MMORPGs?

When I first began playing Ultima Online as a newbie way back at launch, I remember watching everyone around me summoning ham with the Create Food spell and then eating it. The myth back then was that having an empty stomach caused everything from magic fizzles to combat whiffs to slowed experience gain. Over the years, multiple developers have examined the code and said no such factor exists — filling your stomach does nothing in the game and never has.

But that has never stopped players from believing the urban legend. I recently saw some players discussing what level of stomach fill was best. They know devs have denied the existence of any such code, but they insist either that the devs are mistaken (confused by 20 years of spaghetti code!) or that the food somehow plays into a “broken” RNG system, so better to be safe than sorry. Nothing will ever dissuade them. Ham ham ham.

Do you swear by any urban legends in MMORPGs?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best launcher?

Launchers! They’re stupid, they’re boring, they exist primarily as a gateway between you (the player) and what you actually want to do (play an MMO). And yet I find myself sometimes having a weird nostalgia for some of these programs. PlayOnline is a pretty terrible and unnecessary piece of software, but that opening tune always gets me, and I remember browsing around it even aside from just jumping into Final Fantasy XI.

Heck, I miss the old World of Warcraft launcher from the game’s inception. I far prefer it to Battle.net or the Blizzard App or The Impediment To Playing Destiny 2 or whatever it’s called at this point. That might just be me getting old and cranky, though.

Then again, that’s part of the thing about launchers – they’re transparent until they aren’t, and for better or worse they have a long history with MMOs. So which MMO has the best launcher? Is it the best because it’s lightweight? Familiar? Reliable? Or just because it hits you just right and you love it despite its many flaws?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the right length for an MMO event?

Is it just me, or is the latest fad among MMORPGs to stage incredibly brief in-game events? Like blink — or have a 12-hour shift — and you’ve missed it. Well, maybe not that short, but events of just a small handful of days seem to be popping up here and there.

To me, a good in-game event knows exactly how long to be around to allow everyone to participate and accomplish their goals without overstaying its welcome. Like a welcome houseguest, I suppose. Events that blip right by me, especially ones that had desirable rewards, can be frustrating, but so can those events that never seem to leave. Ever. Maybe we should start charging them rent or something.

How long do you think is ideal? What’s the right length for an MMO event? For a bonus credit, point to an MMO event you’ve done in the past year that met your timing criteria!

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The Daily Grind: Are you willing to reroll for Secret World Legends?

“I can’t help but think that I’d rather see a single-player adaptation of The Secret World than to lose it forever if Funcom truly does collapse,” MOP’s Justin Olivetti wrote way back in 2015, when the studio was dealing with financial turmoil. Little did he know that eventually The Secret World MMORPG would be turned upside down and rebooted as Secret World Legends. It’s not a single-player title, but it’s arguably a bit less an MMORPG than it used to be, to the point that even Funcom is hedging its bets by calling it a “shared world action RPG” (but also not admitting it has given up on MMORPGs).

Immediately after the announcement in March, almost half of the readers we polled said they were former TSW players who’d try the reboot come relaunch. But since then, we’ve learned much more about what’s coming for the game, including the sobering reality that TSW players won’t get to keep their characters and will instead have to reroll, in spite of the fact that the studio told us it “could have made [character ports from TSW] work given enough resources and time.”

And that brings me back to Justin, who earlier this week questioned whether he has the energy to do it all again — to start from scratch in a gameworld he already knows by heart. “I’m sure for some, it’s a dealbreaker,” he says, sorting through his anxiety, excitement, and frustration. How about you? Now that you know more about what TSW’s relaunch entails, are you still planning on coming back, even though you’ll have to start anew?

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The Daily Grind: How much does optimization affect your MMO play?

When I feel like lying to myself, I tell myself that I don’t care about optimizing my characters in MMOs. I even sometimes convince myself that it was true for a while; I did play a Retribution Paladin in World of Warcraft back before Crusader Strike was even in the game. But the reality is that even then, when I happily shot myself in the foot to avoid raid utility, I still worked overtime to optimize my character. I will gladly walk into an awful build with eyes open, but I will then do everything in my power to make that awful build work.

I have a Red Mage build on Final Fantasy XI that comes as close to being a functional melee attacker as any I’ve seen. I made a DPS Gladiator in version 1.0 of Final Fantasy XIV. The list goes on. But I know there are people out there who will only play with optimized builds, like a friend of mine from City of Heroes who had seven Shield scrappers to optimize AoE farming. And then there are people who hate any hint of utility and choose character builds solely for aesthetics. What about you, dear reader? How much does optimization affect your playing of MMOs? Do you play to optimize your build, do you avoid it, or do you enjoy making terrible builds the best they can be?

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The Daily Grind: What makes an MMO community toxic?

I sincerely do not envy the task of MMO studios and community managers when it comes to wrangling their crowd of diverse, fickle, and often very loud-spoken players. Trying to communicate and guide passionate fans is a neverending task, with the accomplishments of one day being instantly erased at a perceived slight the next.

(As an aside, I love it when a dev refers to the community as “passionate,” because it’s almost always code for “more hot-tempered and irrational than a badger in a paint shaker.”)

Lately I’ve been thinking about how some studios seem to do a better job encouraging their playerbase to be civil and friendly (comparatively), while others seem to reign over a prison riot full of flaming posts, incomprehensible swears, and sheer contempt for fellow gamers.

We all can think of a game that seems to fall into the latter category, so my question is, what makes an MMO community toxic? Are there certain types of games that seem to attract malcontents? Is it a failure on the part of the CM team? What do you think?

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The Daily Grind: How much of your MMORPG play amounts to ‘work’?

The latest SMBC comic is going to have my fellow MMO fans nodding enthusiastically: In response to the first man, who says we need to find the “next big thing” after gamifying work, a second man suggests workifying games — something the author dryly remarks was obviously the catalyst for the first MMORPG.

And I’m not sure he’s wrong at all. A tremendous amount of my MMO gameplay consists of activities I suspect an objective observer would classify as work rather than a game. Unpaid work. The only real difference is that some of it is work I enjoy — like crafting in a sandbox with an immersive and rewarding economy. Quest hubs, though? I’m over that.

How much of your MMORPG play amounts to “work”? Has that changed since you first began playing MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: Which multiplayer survival sandbox is the most like an MMORPG?

A week or so ago, I took an ARK: Survival Evolved post out of our newsroom to write up, expecting something mundane. I’m an MMORPG player, after all; survival sandboxes look cool, but most give off the same non-persistent, ephemeral, could-fail-at-any-time vibe as emulators, especially the player-hosted ones for games in eternal early access, so I’ve always stayed away. But ARK has put a lot of effort (and cash) into cultivating incredibly high-quality mods, and that’s what got my attention and made me glad I’d taken the post: An auction house mod in the game seems like exactly the sort of thing that helps this subgenre turn the corner from “everybody haplessly running around naked killing dinos and each other with crappy axes” to genuine persistence and social tools and server anchors. Far more than construction projects that you’re really only building to function as content for somebody else to tear down, anyway.

Let’s say I’m looking for a good multiplayer survival sandbox — MJ’s put together several lists for her new column already to choose from. But which one do you think is the most like an MMORPG and would most appeal to an MMORPG-first type of gamer — and why?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO zone would be the worst place to live in?

There are parts of every MMO that look lovely, like the sort of place you’d love to live. But that’s definitely minority. I mean, let’s look at Final Fantasy XIV’s Mor Dhona, a blasted hellscape literally filled with void energy and ice over everything. Or World of Warcraft’s Outland, which is both a warped nightmare land and a collection of continents which people still mistakenly call “Outlands” or “the Outlands” despite the fact that the game’s package made it clear that was wrong years ago. Heck, there’s Taris in Star Wars: The Old Republic, where the Republic is actually trying to form a colony despite the fact that it’s a puddle of diseased sewage.

And this is just off of the top of my head; there are lava zones, places covered in lightning, probably a least a few midway through a robot revolution. Trove takes place in an exploding neon nightmare, it’s probably not fun to live there however you slice it. So which MMO zone would be the worst place to live in? And are some of those places still locales where some of your characters might make a home despite the awful conditions?

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The Daily Grind: Was The Sims Online a good idea done badly?

As a gamer, I have many regrets that certain projects never came to fruition or the ones that did ended up not being quite as advertised. And in the field of MMORPGs, I definitely regret the flop that was The Sims Online, because I think it was an actual good idea done really, really badly.

On paper, such a game has so much going for it. The Sims was and still is a very popular franchise with a lot of name recognition among players. It stresses creation and creativity over destruction, and opening the franchise up to massively multiplayer seemed like a logical step. Yet TSO stumbled with its antiquated graphics, characters that had no “free will” of their own, and incredibly dull gameplay. Also, too many brothels.

I think it’s an idea that’s worth another go, maybe as EA looks at The Sims 5 and thinks about connecting players to each other more than in the past. I’d be all over an MMO that’s 80% player housing and 20% making virtual characters piddle their pants because I removed the door to the toilet. What do you think?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the most painful bug you’ve ever encountered in an MMORPG?

I’ve been playing a bit of Ultima Online lately, and the other night as I was working on my skills, I remembered a horrible bug that afflicted the entire game for weeks way back in the very beginning. UO back then had an interesting system whereby you could actually learn skills by watching other people doing them — if somebody swung a sword or strummed a lute or cast a spell within a certain distance from you, there was a small chance you’d get a skill-up yourself, assuming you had room left in your template, which was capped at the time at 700 skill points. It was neat!

The problem came about when a bug allowed skilling-by-watching to actively subtract points from skills you didn’t want to drop. That, combined with the fact that low-level skills raised very quickly, meant that griefers could run around banks spamming skills people were unlikely to have or want, thereby causing everybody to lose skills they’d spent months working up to the cap. My best friend and I lost dozens of points in our favorite skills before realizing what was going on and logging out for our own safety, and nope, EA didn’t restore anyone affected. How we ever kept playing after that, I’ll never understand. If something like that happened to me in an MMO today and the studio did nothing, I’d probably walk away.

What’s the most painful bug you’ve ever encountered in an MMORPG?
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The Daily Grind: What seemingly unrelated things make you want to return to old MMOs?

Lately, I’ve been feeling a very explainable pull back to Final Fantasy XI. It’s easy to explain because, well, it’s the game’s 15th anniversary and I’ve been reading a lot of vintage FFXI humor. What’s not so easy to explain is why there’s a certain time of year, every fall, when I get perfectly nostalgic for killing things in Gustaberg. That specific region. I don’t even like Gustaberg, but every year, like clockwork, September rolls in and I think I should go back to visit.

Why? I couldn’t tell you; I also know there’s a certain point of summer that always makes me want to play World of Warcraft, and playing Mass Effect 2 always makes me think of Star Trek Online fondly. These things don’t line up to the same timeline, I don’t have strong associations between the two, but these seemingly irrelevant experiences line up in my memory. What about you? What seemingly unrelated things make you want to return to old MMOs? Is it a time of year? Certain movies or songs? Or even just hearing the right turn of phrase?

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The Daily Grind: What do you want out of a space sim MMO?

Watching the whole development and phenomenon of Star Citizen from a slightly detached perspective, I’ve often wondered (as I’m sure you have) what this game will actually end up being in the end. Certainly, many grand and impressive-sounding statements have been put out there, but we’ve all been hurt by unfulfilled promises before.

What’s really got me thinking is how everyone interested in this project seems to project their own desires into it. Ain’t none of us want the same things for a space sim MMO, unless you’re one of those mad players who wave your hands around and say “EVERYTHING!” like you’re a kid at a toy store who can’t focus on a few important purchases.

So assuming that you’re interested in space sims, what do you want out of MMORPGs in this field? Is it narrative? Trading? Planetary exploration? Combat? FPS boarding action? Weird aliens? Your own starbase? Janitorial simulation? Hardcore survival mechanics? Softcore space visuals?

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