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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: 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 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: 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: Which MMOs would you include among the greatest RPGs of all time?

Massively OP reader Francois recently pointed us to IGN’s Top 100 RPGs of All Time, which we thought was worth a nod since unlike many such lists, it includes several early MMORPGs: including EverQuest (100), EVE Online (81), Phantasy Star Online (63), and of course, World of Warcraft (5), plus other multiplayer games we’ve covered in the past, like Diablo II, Titan Quest, Torchlight II, Stardew Valley, Neverwinter Nights, and more Ultima, Elder Scrolls, and Final Fantasy franchise games than you can shake an ancient console cartridge at.

But I can’t help but feel as if the MMOs that were included were added more for their saturation and fame and ubiquitousness during a certain time period than for their actual quality as RPGs, especially once you apply IGN’s rubic, which mentions requirements like story, combat, and presentation. I bet gamers with more experience in the breadth of MMOs could come up with a few more examples — maybe even a few made sometime after 2004 too, yeah?

Which MMOs would you include among the greatest RPGs of all time?

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The Daily Grind: Do you seek out MMORPG leaks?

Over the past couple of months, the MMORPG community has worked its way through massive leaks of top-secret info: first for Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind, then for The Secret World’s morph into Secret World Legends, and most recently for Guild Wars 2’s upcoming expansion. The latter two events in particular provoked long discussions among our staff and commenters about when and whether to cover leaks that are already in the wild and how to approach news we’ve never agreed to withhold. And with The Secret World and Guild Wars 2, at least, the studios’ excessive secrecy and elitist invitation-only testing helped propel a masochistic community desire to see leaks manifest, leading to a perfect storm.

And now it’s ruined for everybody… or at least for people who couldn’t resist clicking past the spoiler warnings. I’m bummed that we’re going to miss out on the fun of unwrapping all those presents one at a time, in Guild Wars 2’s case anyway – it’s more fun and better hits to get to roll out a little at a time. But I’m also hopeful the studios might take alpha tester NDA betrayal as a sign to be more communicative and transparent too and not keep everyone in the dark as long as has gone on here. (Or maybe even just stick to paid testers from the start and give no regular player any temptations.)

How do you feel about MMORPG leaks personally — do you seek them out and click on them, or do you stay away?

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The Daily Grind: Are you Kickstarting Ashes of Creation?

Well, congrats, Ashes of Creation. You did it: You made your $750,000 Kickstarter goal in less than 24 hours, which means we’re going to spend the next 30 days watching you climb ever higher as you dangle stretch goals in front of us.

You also got half my damn guild to back you. “You know I have more money than sense, and there is a lifetime sub out there,” one of them joked to me last night while picking my brain on the game. AoC seems to have something old school MMORPG players actually want and will pay for: an actual full-scale MMORPG with plenty of investor backing and demo reels to instill confidence.

Personally, I kicked them the smallest pittance that’ll get me into the beta — those $10,000 packages are a bit too rich for my blood. The promise to return Kickstarter contributions should the game fail to launch is enticing too. How about you? Are you Kickstarting Ashes of Creation? Or are you holding firm on your resolution not to back MMOs in 2017?

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The Daily Grind: Are MMORPGs better off without stories?

Last week, Massively OP community veteran BalsBigBrother pointed out — rightly! — that while Trove is amusing, it’s very much lacking in prepared story or even lore, which could be a turn-off to gamers seeking that from their online games.

The topic dovetails nicely with one of the key mainstream gaming conversations from last week on whether video games are even a good medium for storytelling to begin with. “The best interactive stories are still worse than even middling books and films,” The Atlantic declared last week, setting off gamers everwhere. “To use games to tell stories is a fine goal, but it’s also an unambitious one.”

“To dream of the Holodeck is just to dream a complicated dream of the novel. If there is a future of games, let alone a future in which they discover their potential as a defining medium of an era, it will be one in which games abandon the dream of becoming narrative media and pursue the one they are already so good at: taking the tidy, ordinary world apart and putting it back together again in surprising, ghastly new ways.”

Yeah. So. I can think of terrible examples of storytelling in games as well as excellent examples. I’m sure you can too. But I have yet to watch a movie that provided me a sandbox to tell my own stories, so there’s that. What do you think? Should video games stop shooting for narrative elegance? Are MMORPGs better off without stories?

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The Daily Grind: Do you believe MMO studios release overpowered new classes on purpose?

Yesterday’s Elder Scrolls Online press embargo drop allowed us to talk a bit more about the overpowered state of the Morrowind Warden class — in fact, Larry flat-out called it a Mary Sue. What surprised me about the ensuing discussion was how incredibly cynical our readers were in response to that (and to the general community uproar over the class). Quite a lot of you (and other highly engaged gamers) seem to believe that ZeniMax is releasing the Warden totally overpowered intentionally as part of its marketing strategy, and to some extent, it makes sense — you want to create hype for your game and get people to buy it, so make sure to pack in a badass, solo-friendly class that encourages fence-sitters to make that leap.

On the other hand, you risk ticking off a couple million existing players who don’t want their characters falling to the bottom of the heap or who don’t want to feel as if they have to reroll.

Do you believe studios like ZeniMax, Blizzard, and ArenaNet intentionally release overpowered new classes, planning to nerf and balance them later? And if so, is it the smart call?

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The Daily Grind: Where do you stand on Dota 2’s plan to require phone numbers for competitive play?

Last week, Valve announced that in order to compete in ranked play, Dota 2 players will be required to register a unique phone number.

“Players using multiple accounts create a negative matchmaking experience at all skill brackets, so our goal is to add just enough friction to this process that the number of players doing this will be noticeably reduced,” Valve wrote. “Having more players using their primary accounts will have a positive effect on both Ranked and Unranked Matchmaking.”

Security-conscious players are probably thinking “RealID” right now, while others are thinking that they’re getting off easy if all they need do is pay a few bucks for a number — at least no one has to cough up social security numbers to play video games. Yet.

Is this a good idea on Valve’s part? And more importantly, will it work?

(With thanks to Joseph!)

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The Daily Grind: If you could live in an MMO world, which one would it be?

As much as we complain about MMORPGs, with their grinds and their boredom, even the most kill-or-be-killed ganker paradises would probably be better to live in than the real world with all its troubles and highly inconvenient implementation of permadeath. With rare exceptions, most MMOs let you return over and over to keep on trying forever, and you can always grab a mining pick or kill some trolls to make money and survive.

Me, I’d pick Glitch: Not only was the cutesy Tiny Speck game devoid of conflict, but I spent most of my time creating quests for players, wandering around, and stuffing my face with delicious food so I wouldn’t die. It was a good life. And if I did die? No biggie; hell was actually kinda fun — and critically, not permanent.

How about you? If you could live in an MMO world, which one would it be?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG has seen the most improved graphics over the years?

In each of our articles about Black Desert’s upcoming graphics upgrade, there have been a slew of comments about how the game doesn’t really need it, puzzled remarks that the game is already pretty enough, and hopeful requests for Pearl Abyss to tone down the lens flares or at least allow us to turn off all the bells and whistles. It’s been interesting to witness — I know we’re still in the middle of a massive renaissance for retro graphics, but in general, hardcore MMORPG players are total graphics snobs, to the point that many older games, from Ultima Online and Anarchy Online to World of Warcraft and EVE Online, have all taken a stab at improving their graphics (and in some cases, adjusting their art styles too).

Not all of them have done so successfully, of course; many City of Heroes players, for example, couldn’t make use of the upgrades, and Ultima’s Kingdom Reborn was plagued with issues.

For today’s Daily Grind, I’m wondering: Which MMORPG has seen the most improved graphics over the years?

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