PAX West 2017 has come and gone, and though MJ is still feverishly working on her last few articles, we wanted to pause a moment to reflect on everything we’ve seen and read and recapped so far. So for today’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our writers to tackle three topics from an MMO player’s perspective: the biggest surprise of the show, the most disappointing bit, and the games that grabbed them and won’t let go.
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]
One of the reasons I gravitated to and stick by the MMORPG genre in spite of its many ups and downs (oh, so many downs) over the last two decades is the fact that I can play more or less exactly the character I want to play, which is usually female characters. Other genres, even RPGs, have been relatively slow to catch up to what we’ve had here in MMO land right from the start. The idea of a serious MMORPG launching without female toons of some sort is almost unheard of.
I bring this up because of Quantic Foundry’s latest blog post, which delves its Gamer Motivation Profile for data on how gamers feel about being able to play female protagonists. Unsurprisingly, three-quarters of female gamers and a third of male gamers, irrespective of age, consider that option very or extremely important!
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our mixed-gender staff three questions: what they think about Quantic’s findings, whether they stick to the gender they personally identify as when rolling toons in MMOs, and whether the lack of gender options — or in MMOs’ case, things like gender-locked classes — drive them as nuts as they drive me.
A few weeks ago in Massively Overthinking, the team discussed the resurgence in popularity of small-scale co-op games and whether that has impacted the MMORPG genre negatively or positively — if at all. This week, I’d like to aim that same question at the survival genre, so everything from ARK: Survival Evolved to Citadel Forged With Fire.
The question was sparked in part by a VentureBeat piece that points out SuperData’s numbers: Non-massive survivalboxes pulled in $400 million in the first half of the year. This is a lot of money that is not going into MMOs and MMORPGs that could be, which was the same thing we suggested about online co-op RPGs — only this subgenre is attracting builders and PvPers. Is it attracting them away from MMOs directly? I’ve asked our writers to reflect on the rise of survivalbox games: Do we play them? Do we prefer them, and when? How can we learn from them? Is the popularity of smaller-scale co-op hurting MMORPGs?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that everyone has at some point seen the xkcd called Isolation, but if not, there it is. No matter what the age and era, someone’s always preaching that people were more sociable in the long long ago. In this comic, however, Randall Munroe isn’t even contesting that. His point is basically no duh and so what. Yes, we become less sociable with random people in our immediate vicinity as we gain more and more access to ideas, entertainment, and people not in our immediate vicinity thanks to technology. Ultimately, replacing impromptu stranger interaction with the amusements of our choice appears to be what a lot of people wanted all along.
MMORPG players surely see where I’m going with this because we have the same eternal struggle when it comes to in-game socializing, grouping, community, and stickiness, the tug-of-war between the people who want to play alone together and the people who think that forced grouping is the only true path to enlightenment.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff to reflect on the alone together vs. forced grouping spectrum, to talk about where they stand on it, whether that position’s changed through the years, which games are addressing the divide the best, and how the two sides can move forward in a dynamic MMO genre.
Gamasutra has an unusual piece from an Ubisoft developer this week arguing that co-op gameplay is the industry’s rising midcore trend, one that he believes will ultimately outstrip team competitive games. “It’s all about all the big data and stats that are finally available and can be mined,” author Andrii Goncharuk says, “and no surprise that it’s showing that players who played co-op mode have much more play hours, and players who played co-op with friends have even more play hours.”
He may be right, though first you’d have to believe co-op ever went anywhere to begin with (and console players would probably tell you nope!). But as I read the article, I couldn’t help but see MMOs in most of the arguments he’s making about what makes co-op games sticky, and yet MMOs are being edged out all the same. And while I don’t like to think of the MMO genre’s space in the industry as a zero-sum situation, the reality is that when people tire of MMORPG baggage but still want social play, co-op is exactly the sort of game they retreat to.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our writers to reflect on the rise of co-op PvE games outside the MMO label. Do we play them? Do we prefer them, and when? How can we learn from them? Is the popularity of smaller-scale co-op hurting MMORPGs?
This week, the dominant story has become Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion, which is coming our way far sooner than a lot of folks had guessed. For this edition of Massively Overthinking, I’ve touched base with some of our writers to measure their reactions to the big announcement, asking them to gauge what’s in it, whether it was worth the wait, what they’re disappointed about, what they think of the pricing, and whether they’ve felt sufficiently enticed to play. Let’s dig in!
Earlier this week, MOP’s Justin expressed frustration over lockboxes, feeling especially provoked. “As both a player and a journalist, I find it insulting when an MMO studio wants me to get excited about its lockboxes,” he tweeted. “They are poison.”
MOP reader and gamer Iain (@ossianos) wants to hear more about poison! “I’d be interested to read an article on your thoughts, and those of the MassivelyOP staff, on how MMOs could otherwise make money,” he tweeted back.
Challenge accepted! And perfectly timed for this week’s Massively Overthinking topic. Imagine (or just remember) a world without lockboxes. How would MMOs and other online games survive without lockboxes here in 2017? What should they be doing instead, and what might they have to do when the inevitable gachapon regulation comes westward?
We are on a roll with the epic questions for Overthinking lately! “The recent article about monetization got me thinking about just how much most modern MMOs are still trying to replicate real-world capitalist economies,” MOP Patron Avaera begins.
“Virtual currency is usually earned proportional to various measures of virtual effort that are intended to be wealth-generating activities – selling loot earned from skillful PvE hunting, selling crafted goods made from resources gathered over time, owning items or land that generates tradeable material over time. However, virtual effort doesn’t have the quite the same limitations, scarcity, and creativity as real-world effort, and these systems seem prone to exploitation by users/bots that can easily outmatch casual players in terms of how much virtual effort and time they can expend, leading to various RMT problems and artificially distorted economies. How would you go about avoiding this problem, if you had the god-like powers of a game designer? Is there a way to set up a virtual economy so that it isn’t prone to exploitation by bots or gold-farmers, and will we ever see a virtual game currency that can truly be exchanged with a real one?”
I posed Avaera’s question to our staff to mull over.
Veteran Massively OP reader Miol says he’s exhausted by a recent string of stories in which MMO companies screw gamers over, one after another: ARK Survival Evolved, Albion Online, Skyforge, and now Black Desert all figure into his list, just from the last week.
“I want to ask what more can gamers do to protect themselves and everyone else as consumers than speak up? It feels exhausting to always stay vigilant and feel upset all the time, since games, as an everchanging medium, give devs so many opportunities to screw us over with every single patch or update. And the worst immediate consequence seems many times a meek apology for what they’ve done, only for them to try out something different that maybe could go over unnoticed.
“You guys have reported about this UK watchdog group ASA, who investigated No Man’s Sky, but even they dismissed the tons of complaints about false advertising. Steam did declare some changes to advertising on their platform, but I still don’t see them taken place. If even those big negative stories don’t have that much of an impact, what hope is there for all the smaller communities, spread thin globally? There was a recent wave of gamers imploring each other to not pre-order, but that ebbed away fast enough, when the next shiny pre-order advantages over other players were presented. But even so, this still can’t protect you from what may happen after the launch!
“As said by Bree many times: Merely quitting won’t help either, as the studio will never know why most of the times. But also sending feedback for nine whole days didn’t help Skyforge players to make its devs to scramble! So what else could we do? Or should we just take rotating shifts to call them out?”
We’ll take the first shift right here in Overthinking.
Ragequitting. Most of us have probably done it once or twice from groups or single-player games or even MMO sessions in our time. My husband ragequit (disgustquit?) an Overwatch match the other night where his own teammates were spewing toxic slurs in voice chat, leading to a rating hit for him rather than the people poisoning the game (another problem for another column).
But what about ragequitting an MMORPG altogether? A game where you have time and money and friends and loot and achievements, sometimes years’ worth? Have you ever up and just walked out on an MMORPG? If so, what prompted it, and did you ever regret it or change your mind? I posed these questions to the Massively OP team for this week’s Overthinking roundtable!
Massively OP reader and Patron Avaera has a thoughtful question for the team and readers this week. “I wish more virtual world games thought deeply about what impact they can have for the better,” he writes.
I posed Avaera’s question to the whole team for an intriguing Overthinking.
Massively OP Patron Jackybah has a question for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s probably going to kick up some dust. He wonders whether MMO developers recognize and “serve” a particular subgroup of their players enough — specifically, the group of players that do not want to actively participate in social grouping (for dungeons) or social banter (in guild chat) but still want to contribute to and participate in an online world.
“In quite a number of games I feel that the game forces a player to group up to be able to see content and/or get higher-level gear,” he writes to us.
There’s a lot of layers to unpack here — non-social gamers in social spaces, the current state of MMO group content, and even the fundamentals of MMORPGs. Is our Patron right, and if so, is it a problem studios should be addressing? Let’s get to it.
Botched MMORPG expansion launches are nothing new to veteran MMO gamers, so the roadblock issues of Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood this weekend won’t surprise anyone, though I can think of at least one MOP writer frustrated out of his mind! The good news is that Square-Enix is working on the congestion problems. The bad news is that headstart for preorder players is only the beginning.
Meanwhile, E3 drew to a close, and while its traditional MMORPG offerings — Black Desert, Elder Scrolls Online, and Final Fantasy XIV — were slim, there was plenty on display for multiplayer online gamers, including Sea of Thieves, Skull and Bones, and Destiny 2. We’ve got a bit more E3 to publish this week, but in the meantime, read on for the very best of this week’s MMO news and opinions.