daily grind

See: The Daily Grind

The Daily Grind: What's the most stable MMORPG (besides WoW) right now?

Massively OP reader Gail made an interesting observation in one of the City of Heroes Master x Master drama threads about what she called "corn flake games." A family she knew that ran a grocery store quibbled over how to stock it: One sister "always wanted to cram the cereal aisle with the latest cartoon character high sugar high profit fads." The other sister's refrain?

"'Corn flakes. People in this town buy corn flakes.' Corn flakes, while not hugely profitable, were steady dependable sellers. In the MMO market, CoH was a corn flake game. It wasn't going to magically turn into WoW overnight. It wasn't going to suddenly break out and take the gaming world by storm, though with the huge surge in superhero movies I wonder what some good advertising would have done. But it had a sizable group of steady customers who provided a stable profit. That's nothing to sneeze at."

That's precisely why the sunset was so baffling when most games would kill for a subscription playerbase of 100K: It was a steady earner. And it was and is surely not alone. What else do you think is a "corn flake" MMO? Or to put it another way: What's the most stable and dependable MMORPG (besides WoW) right now?

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The Daily Grind: Where do you stand on depictions of animal cruelty in MMORPGs?

Last week, when Guild Wars 2 revealed its latest minipet, there was a minor squabble on the forums as some players objected to it. The minipet depicts a fish flopping around gasping for air, like, y'know, dying fish do. Worth pointing out here is that this fish doesn't die; it just follows you around suffocating eternally because minipets are magic.

The original poster wasn't screaming for PETA or anything, just raising the question for feedback. "While I know it’s not real, it does give me an 'Ick feeling' as I watched it lie there gasping for air, so I would vote for a change in animation," the player wrote calmly, asking for other opinions. The replies started out well, but it didn't take before the insults started: the OP was "ruining a gag" with "political correctness" and "whining" and "safe spaces," the usual. Oh, MMORPG forums.

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The Daily Grind: Do you like the idea of limited-time MMOs?

One of the things that I find neat about games like Rend, Crowfall, and Chronicles of Elyria is that all of these games are by their very nature meant to be short-term affairs. The game only lasts so long. In some cases it's a scheduled thing, in other cases it's more an organic result, but all of them wind up in an end state. Nothing lasts forever, and eventually it's time to count the victor and move on.

This isn't actually a new idea in the MMO space, of course; A Tale in the Desert has been run using this structure for quite some time, The Matrix Online was in part based on the idea that every bit of the story would only last for so long, and progression servers like the ones EverQuest runs are meant to slowly catch up to the present until, well, they're caught up. But it's definitely reaching the point of being a full-on trend for these games in development to be time-limited.

What's nifty about this approach is that no one gets to stay on top forever, and it gives a certain point to start and stop without missing out on things. Of course, that also means it's easier to just stop playing after a certain point without feeling as if you're missing things, turning the game into shorter-term play by its very design. What do you think? Do you like the idea of limited-time MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: How do you channel your anger in MMOs?

I don't get super angry in MMORPGs anymore -- if something really upsets me, there are 20 other solid games waiting for my attention. But I can think of specific instances that really upset me over the years, like when I spied exploiters I'd reported half a dozen times continuing to exploit, or when I realized a dev studio still hasn't fixed basic problems like ganking the opposite faction's spawn point a decade later, costing me hours of time waiting for wackadoodles to get bored and leave. I definitely still shout at my screen when I see terrible players fighting on the road and not the node, lemme tell ya, but I've probably been the most angry at people I thought were friends who turned out to just be using me or my guild for some benefit.

I have not, however, ever been so angry that I rammed my head into a monitor causing it to shatter and my friends to have to extract my bleeding face from its shards. Like this guy.

Nope, nowadays, I just walk away, find something else to do or play. My time is too precious to waste on leisure activities that tick me off. Plus, I like my monitor. And my face.

How about you? Have you ever become extremely angry in an MMO? Why? And how do you channel your anger in MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: How do you balance MMO playtime with single-player playtime?

Much of my time during a given week is devoted to playing MMOs. That probably makes sense, considering that understanding these games and writing about them is my job. At the same time, it also occupies a different position in my mental space from single-player games. Playing an MMO is part game, part project, part work, and part tinkering-based hobby; playing a single-player game is primarily just about playing a game, with added thoughts about game design serving more as a bonus than anything.

I am, however, painfully aware that this is not the case for everyone. I imagine that for many of our readers, an hour of gaming is an hour of gaming, whether you're playing Final Fantasy XIV, Overwatch, or NieR: Automata. Or perhaps one is your "primary" focus, with the other one fit into the corners as you have time. So tell us about that today. How do you balance MMO playtime with single-player playtime? Do you consider both to just be gaming, do you give priority to one or the other, or is it something you've never even thought much about?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO gave you the longest honeymoon period?

We all know how delightful that "new MMO smell" is, particularly when it's a particularly exciting title that you were anticipating for a long time. Finally getting into the live game, creating your first character, and celebrating with everyone else rushing into release is a heady experience.

After that comes the honeymoon period, in which you continually discover great features about the game and easily devote most of your gaming time to exploring. It's fresh, it's new, and it could be "The One" you were waiting for your whole life. But sooner or later, the honeymoon must end and either an ongoing relationship is formed or you find yourself disillusioned and wander away.

Looking back at all of the MMORPGs you've played, which one provided you with the longest honeymoon period? From release until whenever you stopped being enamored with that game, how much time did you have?

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The Daily Grind: What one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?

Zubon at Kill Ten Rats recently spied a lovely tidbit over on Dr Richard Bartle's blog. Bartle, I shouldn't need to type, is considered one of the founding fathers of the MMORPG genre, having inspired through his research the infamous Bartle test. So it should be no surprise at all that he sees online worlds in everything: As his piece explains, he examined a document intended for advising universities on how to improve their student retention rates -- and Bartle realized it read like an "MMO newbie-retention handbook."

"A place where people can hang out between teaching events and make friends? Check. Organised groups led by experienced students that you can join? Check. A communication channel for students just like you? Check. A method of finding other people who are interested in the same things you are? Check. Fun tasks for people with different skills working together ? Check. Easy challenges with small rewards to get you into the swing of things? Check."

It's worth a quick read, especially for the cake joke, but I want to focus your attention on retention and stickiness specifically for the purposes of today's Daily Grind. Do you agree that developers should be spending more time on retention? And what one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?
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The Daily Grind: Do you roll multiple MMO characters of the same class?

I'm closing in on "done" -- my own peculiar version of done, anyway -- on my ninth character in Guild Wars 2. I've rolled one of each class and put off actually leveling and learning my least favorite classes to the very end. As I've been playing my unloved Thief and Revenant upward, I can't help but think about characters and classes I prefer and wonder whether my time wouldn't be better spent on them... or maybe even on another version of the same class with a different race.

I seldom do this in MMORPGs, but in Guild Wars 2, leveling is easy and options are many, so why not? I'm apparently not alone in considering this; here's one thread from a few years ago where people are admitting to rolling dozens of characters -- some for different regions, some for cultural armor, some for different builds and armor setups, some for roleplaying, and some just because they love the leveling process. Plus: Buying a new character slot is the most efficient way to expand an account's storage.

Do you roll multiple MMO characters of the same class in the same game?

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The Daily Grind: Will World of Warcraft hold its 7.2 patch until June?

On October 24th, World of Warcraft launched patch 7.1, which contained a lot of not-quite-ready-for-launch Legion features and a bit of content. Since then, the game hasn't really launched any content. Sure, patch 7.1.5 launched in early January, but that just added the Brawler's Guild back to the game for content (which, admittedly, has a lot of new boss fights). We're looking at a content gap that's starting to spread out a fair bit already, and patch 7.2 is coming out... well, eventually?

Of course, MOP's Bree and I are in pretty close agreement about when it's coming out: June. Because that's when a new Final Fantasy XIV expansion and The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind both launch, so they're going to want to try to kneecap both of those launches.

At least from this side of the fence, that's a pretty dumb plan. It's the same plan that was in place for patch 6.2 of Warlords of Draenor, which wound up with lots of complaints about the delays, and it doesn't seem to have really crippled the launch it wanted to "intercept" there, either. Still, it's the sort of plan that Blizzard has used in the patch, and with two big competing releases in the same month it seems almost absurd to think it wouldn't be tried. So what do you think, dear readers? What do you think the odds are of WoW holding its next patch until June? And how much grousing do you expect if people are waiting that long for more content?

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The Daily Grind: What do you do when an MMO dungeon run goes bad?

While I am generally for quick and fun group dungeon runs in MMORPGs, what I dread are those runs that end up going sour and "trapping" me in the experience.

Let me explain. When you start a dungeon run, either with a PUG or a group of friends, you enter into a social contract of sorts to stick it out and get the job done. At least, that's how I see it. And that's fine for when things are going well, but there are always those runs that result in wipe after wipe, or slow down to an eye-twitching crawl, or have you waiting on one member who went AFK to apparently do his taxes, or what have you.

And when this happens, I start screaming inside because I feel trapped and locked into this dungeon run of the damned without an easy way out. Do I stick it out to the bitter end? Do I bail with or without an excuse? Will I ever get to know the comforts of my bed as the hours tick on?

What do you do when an MMO dungeon run goes bad? Do you have some sort of criteria for determining when it's OK to ditch your group? Do you feel more compelled to stay in a bad run if it's your guild?

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The Daily Grind: Should MMOs ever retire classes?

Last week, I asked the Massively OP readers whether World of Warcraft needed another class (I want the Bard, obviously). But one Facebook fan proposed something different entirely: Why not "retire a few classes" to "keep it fresh?"

I suspect that nearly everyone reading is recoiling in horror at the thought of deleting classes from MMOs, which is exactly why I wanted to stare the concept full in the face to sort out why. MMO developers seem to have few qualms about retooling classes -- your characters -- to be almost unrecognizable from their original versions, applying band-aid after band-aid to make them functional and keep them around. Would it really be so bad to nuke them entirely and start from scratch with something built from the ground up?

Yes, say thousands of Star Wars Galaxies Bio-Engineers and Creature Handlers. I hear you. But what if they'd done it more gracefully and replaced them more immediately with something, as the commenter put it, "fresh," as opposed to nuking them overnight and replacing them with nothing?

Should MMOs ever retire classes? Can you think of acceptable circumstances for such a thing?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMOs have the best combat feedback?

I'm quite fond of 20XX, but I really hate the upgrades you can pick up in the game that eliminate hit stun. Sure, it means you don't get knocked back by things, but it also means you can easily overlook when you're taking damage until you explode. I consider that slightly less than a desirable outcome, you know?

MMOs, in general, do not have the same sort of combat feedback as platformers, but they can have similar problems. One of the problems I found in early versions of The Elder Scrolls Online was combat feeling floaty and devoid of impact, making it hard to tell if my attacks were actually making a difference. (That's no longer the case, I should note.) Similarly, I've always found Final Fantasy XI with its slow pace to give you a pretty clear picture of whether or not your attacks are landing and doing something; the answer might be "no," but at least you have an answer.

Of course, there are lots of different games with many different combat styles; TERA has excellent feedback about whether you're doing well in combat, with everything feeling like it has a solid impact, but the similarly designed WildStar sometimes feels devoid of a strong sense of impact. So let's turn the question over to you. Which MMOs have the best combat feedback? Which games are great about making you feel like you're hitting something and causing an impact, and which ones leave you unsure?

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The Daily Grind: How should MMOs repurpose older content?

Recently World of Warcraft introduced Mists of Pandaria timewalking dungeons, which allowed me (believe it or not) to experience these dungeons for the very first time. What can I say? I wasn't there for this era.

I actually think that the whole timewalking concept is pretty neat because it always bugs me that MMOs seem to abandon older content when they keep adding new zones, new dungeons, and new expansions. There's so much potential to reuse areas and systems, and one would think that such repurposing would be cost-effective for the dev team as well.

What do you think? How should MMOs repurpose older content? What would you like to see happen with the long-neglected areas in your game?

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