daily grind

See: The Daily Grind

The Daily Grind: Are there MMOs you play on different platforms from your normal gaming?

When I’m playing an MMO, I’m playing it on my computer. My PC may be getting a bit older, but it’s still a very good machine, and there’s the benefit of familiarity and hardware. Heck, these days I do most of my gaming on my PC; console exclusives often just wind up being things I straight-up don’t play, so games like Destiny wind up in the ralm of vague curiosity.

But I don’t know if I’m the usual or the outlier. Sure, for a long time MMOs were pretty firmly limited to PC players, but these days you can get a number of games on console as well; part of me thinks that games like SMITE would actually work better on console than on PC anyhow. And that’s not counting games which you might play on the PC even when you play most of your games on other platforms, which is how I started with Final Fantasy XI. So what about you, dear readers? Are there MMOs you play on different platforms from your normal gaming? And if so, why?

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The Daily Grind: Does an MMO’s reputation keep you from playing it?

If I could shed a lot of cynicism and years, I think I could’ve been an EVE Online player. I’ve always loved sci-fi more than fantasy, and the thought of exploring a galaxy in a ship that I customized is a powerful one. Yet every so often when the urge comes over me to install the game and play it — the other week, in fact — I am checked by the game’s reputation.

Maybe it’s completely unfair, as some EVE players adamantly tell me, but I can’t get past the seeming gankbox culture that exudes from every story I hear about this title and the notable personalities that are promoted in it. From the studio on down, there’s this attitude, this reputation that is anathema to me. And that’s regrettable, because I think there’s a part of me that would’ve liked to play it, even casually.

Does an MMO’s reputation ever keep you from playing it? Have you ever pushed past that to give a game a try on its own merits?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the ideal group size for an MMORPG?

During this week’s Massively OP podcast (live this afternoon!), Justin and I tackled a detailed question about MMO group makeup, the trinity, and combat, and we took the opportunity to tangent a bit into praising City of Heroes, which not only managed to smash the trinity but did so in a way that increased the number of combat roles in a group over the standard, provided flexible difficulty modes at a time when that was unheard of, and scaled content to group size, meaning that you didn’t really need to take a full group of eight into most of the instanced content. You took what you had and that was enough. It was brilliant.

And while I’m not much of a fan of huge, methodical raids anymore, that’s more because I dislike them as the Only Thing To Do At Endgame. I do love massive group sizes, however, which is why I lamented the loss of the 20-man group in Star Wars Galaxies and adore the casual swarms of Guild Wars 2. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the formal group size is four or five or six; my guildies always seem to be one body short of what we need, and I constantly find myself wishing for City of Heroes’ ruleset.

What do you think is the ideal group size in an MMORPG? And do you base that on social balance or typical class configurations or something else entirely?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG developer would you most like to meet in person?

Be you press or player, one of the advantages of going in person to a convention (or any other gaming event!) is surely the chance to actually meet and talk to individual developers. You can get a partial read on developers from their written words and even their speech on streams, but nothing beats actually talking one-on-one with a dev, looking him or her in the eye, asking tough questions out of PR handlers’ hearing, and chasing a conversation down unexpected paths. I’ve been wowed by devs and community leader whom I didn’t expect to be so amazing — and similarly, I’ve been let down by veteran designers I thought were much more impressive on paper than in person. Sometimes both at the same event!

Which MMORPG developer would you most like to meet in person?

(That’d be Camelot Unchained’s Ben Pielstick in the header working on polearm animations, by the way!)

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever had free-to-play buyer’s remorse in an MMO?

A friend of mine who doesn’t really play MMOs asked me recently about buyer’s remorse for free-to-play games. It’s a good question, I think; with subscription games, failing to make use of something is mostly the equivalent of not going to the gym despite having a membership. Awkward and unpleasant, but not really outright remorse. But dropping $10 on something and later wishing you hadn’t is another story altogether.

I do, in fact, have my own story of that; I bought some cartel coins on Star Wars: The Old Republic and was using them to unlock parts of a stronghold, but one part deducted several coins repeatedly without actually unlocking until I relogged. (The customer service staff, I’m sorry to say, was entirely unhelpful in resolving the issue.) It’s not a major problem, and it certainly wasn’t enough for me to make an undying issue out of it, but I did wish in hindsight that I hadn’t bothered.

So what about you, dear readers? Have you ever had free-to-play buyer’s remorse in an MMO? If so, what did you buy and why do you wish you hadn’t? And even if you don’t have such a story, do you think it’s probably more common than we hear?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the most pleasing aesthetics to you?

I’ve found that there are few areas that dwell almost completely with the realm of subjective judgment than the looks and art style of various MMOs. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, and what might be highly attractive to one person is visual filth to another.

For example, I’ve always been highly taken with WildStar’s designs. The bright colors, the cartoonish characters, the expressive animations, and the Dr. Seussian landscapes make this a game that is a joy for me to behold. Yet I know that the look really bothers some others, who have said things like it is “cluttered” and “garish.”

It’s OK to splash around in the shallowness of eyecandy and art design today, so let us know what you think. Which MMO has the most pleasing aesthetics?

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The Daily Grind: What MMORPG needs megaserver tech the most?

During his interview with Gamasutra last week, Elder Scrolls Online’s Matt Firor told the publication, “I really think MMO is a technology. It’s not a game type anymore.”

Specifically, he means the megaserver structure of MMORPGs that allow thousands of players to more or less game together. “We have an interesting server structure in ESO that is unique in this generation of online game. What we do is we have what we call megaservers, where we instance all of our zones,” he explains. “Once you’re on the North American server, you never pick another server. The game kinda figures out how many instances of each zone to spin up, and which one to put you in….those are the kind of cool things that are happening behind the scenes, in game development, where it takes all of the decision-making out of the player’s hands.”

Someone could probably contest the “unique” part, given how many MMORPGs have employed versions of layered instancing and megaservers over the years, including modern ones, but I wouldn’t argue at all with “cool” — it still seems bizarre to me that any MMORPGs in 2017 are still stranding gamers on smaller servers, to the detriment of the game itself. So: What MMORPG needs megaserver tech the most but still doesn’t have it?

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The Daily Grind: Do you alter your sleep schedule for major MMO releases?

Friday is when Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood comes out. It’ll be early on Friday, too, at around 5:00 a.m. EDT. And that’s not too far from when I normally wake up, which means that the temptation to wake up a few hours earlier and take part in what will no doubt be a mad rush on the servers is… significant, let’s say.

Of course, I remember when World of Warcraft would launch an expansion and my wife and I would actually stay up past midnight to take part in the launch and the first moments of live service. We’d usually try to nap the day before, rearrange our entire schedules crudely around the servers being up. It was only for a couple of days, but it was notable.

At this point, I won’t do that, but I could live with getting up a couple of hours early. What about you, dear readers? Do you alter your sleep schedule for major MMO releases? And if so, what do you consider “major” enough to qualify?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO housing system disappointed you?

We’ve had many chats here on Massively OP concerning the best and most flexible player housing systems in MMORPGs — and lamented games that lack such systems entirely. But today I would like us to discuss housing systems that ultimately let us down.

Last weekend I jumped through a ton of hoops to finally get a small apartment in Final Fantasy XIV, only to find myself let down by the end product. The prerequisites were annoying, the cost prohibitive, and the decoration tools basic and weirdly difficult to use. Although perhaps the biggest let down in this category came with Guild Wars 2’s home instances, which during the lead-up to launch I had envisioned as being a much larger housing system. Now I know the truth, that the only customization I can put into these areas is a big hunk of candy corn to mine.

Which MMO housing system disappointed you? For a bonus topic, would you rather a lackluster housing system over no housing at all?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG most deserves a sequel?

I was writing a post earlier this week with a pair of screenshots labeled sequentially — “eso1.jpg” and “eso2.jpg” — which mentally startled me because, you know, Elder Scrolls Online II doesn’t exist. And it struck me that out of the core AAA MMORPGs — and even the big up-and-coming crowdfunded indies — only a tiny handful are sequels. Maybe more importantly, none of the major MMOs right now has given any hint that a sequel might be incoming, which you might consider a sobering thought or a relief that studios are leaning toward supporting what they’ve got instead of splitting their playerbases.

Put aside what’s been rumored (or not rumored) and tell us: Which MMORPG do you think deserves a sequel?

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The Daily Grind: Have you picked up any bad habits from MMORPGs?

Star Wars Galaxies came close to wrecking my typing skills. Because semicolons functioned as linebreaks in macros and in chat in SWG, I got in the habit of not using them, replacing them with commas. This is a terrible habit to pick up for a writer, as those of you up on your grammar skills know that commas and semicolons do not serve the same function in a sentence. Using commas where semicolons go creates run-ons of doom.

Fortunately, I’ve managed to restrict this bad habit to casual chat and keep it away from my formal writing — like here! — so it only looks ugly when I’m “off the record” in texts or Slack or whatnot. But it’s still a bad habit I picked up for logical reasons in an MMO, and one I wish I could abandon.

Admittedly, this is not the world’s worst habit to have. Can you top me? Have you picked up any bad habits from MMORPGs?

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The Daily Grind: What leveling experiences do you dread in MMOs?

If you talked to Final Fantasy XI players, the Valkurm Dunes were the most dangerous place to be in the game. Really, it was just where everyone went to level from 10-20 or so… but that level band was where you’d find yourself with players who still knew little to nothing about the game, bored people just putting in their time, no option to Raise dead party members… lots of bad things, in short.

That is not, however, the only dreadful experience band in MMO history. I always dreaded bringing alts through the 80-85 band in World of Warcraft, simply because it meant some decently designed zones that were all part of a very disappointing expansion. (And they never really linked up or flowed nicely.) For that matter, I hate bringing classes through the 40-50 band in Final Fantasy XIV, and 10-20 in City of Heroes always struck me as kind of dreadful.

But that’s just a small sampling, and I have no doubt you have your own examples. What leveling experiences do you dread in MMOs? When do you feel you really have to steel yourself to get through the blander portions of the leveling process?

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The Daily Grind: Do we deserve better damage models in MMOs?

For all of the changes, iterations, and evolutions that MMORPGs have undergone over the years, it still feels like we’re back in the 1990s when it comes to combat visuals. Other than mobs jerking or falling down when you hit them and the occasional game that throws in a puff of red blood, there’s little to show for our efforts until that seemingly fit and healthy mob abruptly falls down, dead.

I’m not a bloodthirsty gorehound by any means, but sometimes I wouldn’t mind if MMOs would go a little further in developing damage models for their mobs. It feels kind of ridiculous that I can be swinging away with my lightsaber in SWTOR and never even dent that droid that I just hit six times in a row. I sometimes prefer bow-users, just because some MMOs keep the arrows persistent when you hit a foe with them.

Do you want better damage models in MMOs? Would you like to see more happening in combat as you attack and perform spells?

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