The past couple of weeks has been wild as we dispatched writers to GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston to gather up and bring back everything they could on the MMORPGs large and small on the spring convention circuit. In fact, as I type this, we’ve got Brendan in Reykjavik for EVE Fanfest too! So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re rounding up our coverage and then reflecting on the best and worst as we pick out what most excites, surprises, and disappoints us: First the roundups, then our thoughts. Read on!
Massively Overthinking is a weekly feature in which the Massively Overpowered writers take turns weighing in on a particular MMO-related topic before turning the discussion over to the readership. [Follow this feature’s RSS feed]
Kotaku put out a piece this week on how to game without wrecking your body, something that’s probably bound to come up in the average MMORPG player’s life. It’s filled with basic tips like “drink water, ya moron” and “sit up straight” and “don’t eat garbage” and “look at stuff other than the screen” but there are also some useful tips in there like “stretch before you binge” – including your hips and wrists, which you might otherwise overlook.
For this week’s Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to expound on two things: first, the most unhealthy video gaming moment or habit they’ve ever had, and second, one specific thing they do to keep themselves from completely destroying their bodies when their hobby has become their career.
Several conversations I saw after our report on the new RMT mounts in Guild Wars 2 got me thinking about how the MMO community uses the word whale. I had used the word to refer to the kind of person who buys a ton of RNG-based lockboxes to get every last one of the shiny bits and bobs within, but the reality is that anyone who pays a respectable flat fee for a purely cosmetic upgrade has also been hooked on some sort of fishing rod or other, even if it’s not a harpoon.
So let’s consider the numbers behind the terminology in this week’s Massively Overthinking. How much money spent makes you an MMO whale? Does it apply only to cosmetics or lockboxes? When does the “whale” term kick in for people who buy early access, collector editions, or 10 expansion boxes over the course of an MMO’s life? Are most gamers more properly dolphins or something in 2018?
MassivelyOp reader Bryan recently wrote to us with a fun question about emulators, a topic that will simply never die as long as MMORPGs do.
So let’s tackle the emulator question in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Have you ever played on an emulator? Under what circumstances? Which ones are you OK with, and which ones do you stay far away from? Are you OK with emulators raising money, and for what purpose? And have you ever donated money to or spent money on an MMO emulator?
Let’s talk game preservation. We’ve been covering MADE’s attempt to convince the government to tweak its interpretation of the DMCA to basically allow museums, academics, and institutions of learning to bypass laws against reconstituting the tech infrastructure necessary to get old dead online games back into playable (and therefore researchable) format. The law and its collected exemptions already essentially allow the preservation of everything but MMOs, leaving our specific genre screwed. MADE’s proposal was met with what I can characterize only as a melodramatic and inflammatory paper from ESA lobbyists opposing it on copyright grounds and suggesting that MADE is basically a party house planning to profit off throngs of gamers who will show up to play games closed down 15 years ago.
As we wrote yesterday, honest MMO developers roll their eyes at the idea that games which were sunsetted because of insufficient players ages ago are suddenly going to pose a financial threat if resurrected for academic purposes.
I wanted to open the topic up for discussion for the writers and readers. A lot of the MMO playerbase, I know, already supports emulators, whether or not they’re legal, and will gladly hop on board the “it belongs in a museum” train if it helps get us closer to a world where companies can’t sit on game code forever. Do MMORPGs belong in a museum? How far should the law go when it comes to protecting copyrights for shuttered games?
Last week, a reader named Chris, who is writing a paper on the MMO industry and revivifying sunsetted games, dropped an intriguing question into my inbox. It’s about bots – but not the sort of bots EVE Online is constantly fighting. The good kind.
“Do you think people would be interested in coming back to ‘closed’ MMO games if they were populated with AI bots instead of real players (to make them feel alive/populated)?” he asked me.
Let’s ponder that for today’s Overthinking. Certainly we’ve seen bots put to work in games like Camelot Unchained, which uses them to test massive numbers of players on the battlefield. Would you want to see them in live play? Would they help the feel of the world in ways that default NPCs simply would not? Is the AI even doable? Could AI bots take our place to make MMORPGs even better – or even to keep them viable and save them from destruction?
Legacy, vanilla, classic, progression – call them what you like, but alternative server rulesets, particularly of the nostalgia-driven kind, are all the rage in 2018. Just since the dawn of the new year, we’ve gotten a new server type for Age of Conan, with RIFT’s on the way – not to mention World of Warcraft’s looming in our future. And those are just the new ones! Games like RuneScape, EverQuest II, and Ultima Online already run similar servers.
That said, does every MMORPG need one? Aren’t some MMORPGs already in pretty good shape without needing a spin-off for nostalgia’s sake? Is it in every MMO’s best interests to prioritize, on some level, the very older ideas it intentionally left behind? That’s the question I’ve posed to the writers this week: Are there any MMORPGs that should stay far, far away from legacy servers, and if so, why?
Last week, we got a well-intentioned email from a reader named Rick, who proposed a column in which readers tell us what they are looking for in an MMO and we offer up suggestions for just the right MMO. It’d be like Guild Chat, we imagine, only instead of dispensing guild advice, we’d be telling you folks what to play.
The email prompted some discussion among the MOP staff about whether that would be an effective column to write (or to read). We do answer some questions like that for the podcast from time to time, for example, but I seldom get the impression we’ve actually helped. Most times, the listener has already tried everything and is hoping for a game that simply doesn’t exist yet, so we’re destined to fail. And even then, it’s really difficult to recommend MMOs to people without really knowing their full history with every studio and game. Some of us can’t even find an MMO we want to play!
So we thought we’d open that discussion up for everyone. How do you go about recommending MMOs to other people? What are your criteria? When your sister says she’s done with WoW, your co-worker requests input around the watercooler one day, or Some Dude On Reddit asks for pointers – where do you start?
MOP reader and commenter Sally Bowls recently sent along a link to an insanely awesome 34″ monitor that costs more than a lot of PC rigs in their entirety. “UltraWide For A Gaming Advantage,” LG’s sale page says in a huge font. It even touts a pro e-sports team using the monitor to “get an edge on the competition.” The idea is, shell out for expensive gear, and you’ll dust those scrubs still peeping through their tiny 16:9 portholes – that’s if they can see at all between the screen-tear, stutter, and input lag! You sure showed them, and it only cost ya $900!
Sally is not amused and wonders why people aren’t enraged at pay-to-win coming from this angle of the market. “This is not subtle. More expensive mice trying to justify their price with more buttons/resolution/tracking has been a thing. As Dr. Bartle points out, it is not that people don’t like P2W; it’s that they dislike other people being able to buy power. Is this a new trend or have I not been hanging out in the competitive end of the pool?”
So what do you think? Is better hardware pay-to-win, or is this just overblown marketing fluff? Why don’t people discuss this more? Have you ever taken advantage of pay-to-win hardware and peripherals? Should this be a thing modern gamers worry about? Where do you stand?
By coincidence, two articles in my feeds this past week both centered on video game hoarding – not hoarding the actual games but hoarding stuff inside of them. Blizzard Watch posted a piece on what makes people stop hoarding things like currency in Blizzard’s games, while Gamasutra published an article about how game designers can stop turning us into hoarders in the first place.
For this week’s Overthinking, I thought it would be constructive for the staff and readers to reflect on hoarding in MMOs specifically. Do you hoard, and if so, is it primarily consumables? Currencies? Event items? Something else? Do you think it’s a problem, or only when it’s encouraged as part of a microtransaction loop that ends with your buying more storage?
A comment on Reddit about the current size and viability of Kritika Online got me thinking about MMO playerbases in general lately. We all know that there’s a stigma attached to little games; the big games with big servers and millions of players feel safer, and nowadays people just assume a small MMO has one foot in the grave. But it isn’t always true. We could also rattle off some smaller MMOs that seem to be moving along just fine, with bills paid. Sure, they’d like to be bigger, but they’re holding steady and know how to work the playerbase they do have rather than constantly alienate their current customers in search of new customers. And some MMO gamers actually prefer those sorts of titles. After all, if the game has just a few thousand people, it’s much easier to get to know a large slice of them, plus have your voice heard by the developers and actually influence the gameworld.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to reflect on the smallest MMOs they have played, and then consider how big an MMO has to be in terms of playerbase that they’d consider playing it now. What’s the smallest MMO you’re willing to play, and why?
One of the frustrating bits about our end-of-the-year content rollouts is that sometimes predictions and story roundups can come across as negative. It’s way too easy to assume that if someone is predicting game X will flop, she wants it to happen and is gleefully steepling her fingers and cackling madly over its future demise. Which is just not so! I never steeple my fingers.
But all the same, for tonight’s Massively Overthinking, we’d like to take a moment to set aside our fears and expectations and just talk about our hopes and wishes for 2018 in an MMORPG context. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams.
I have never been one to make specific resolutions in my gaming. I might plan from month to month, but mostly I go where the wind blows me. But some folks on our team do have a map and a plan, so this week for our last Massively Overthinking of 2017 (as last year!), I’ve asked the Massively OP writers to share their own gaming resolutions or just basic MMO goals for 2017. Won’t you join us?