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The Daily Grind: What’s your biggest pet peeve about early access MMOs?

Early access is kind of a garbage system for the vast majority of gamers. Yes, yes, I know, some games and game types just wouldn’t be made without it, and this is probably better than having no options at all. But the whole system is saddled with bullcrap, from unpaid testing and exploits and wipes to scope creep and content cuts and delays and outright abandonment. And, ahem, charging for expansions and housing plots and cosmetics while supposedly still in a test phase. It feels like perpetual amateur hour and I’m sick of it.

And yet for all that, there are a couple of things that really bug me more than anything else, and one of them is putting paid demos out there without female characters, with extra frowny-faces for making female avs a stretch goal. Even if a team says the male character is just a placeholder and that it’s working on the ladies, it still bugs me, as if we’re afterthoughts. Sure, non-transparent, non-early-access games do this (or related sins), but somehow it seems more obnoxious when gals are left out (and men are treated as generic/default) in tandem with the studio asking us for cash upfront.

That’s just one frustration among many, however, and obviously those of you who don’t play primarily women aren’t going to care quite as much as those of us who do. So what’s your biggest pet peeve about early access MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your ideal ‘retirement’ MMORPG?

Wednesday, my husband and I were chatting about the big stories of the day, including the Star Citizen piece that racked up a bajillion comments, not counting all the deleted ones. I was explaining that some people have put thousands of dollars into this hope of a game, which skews how setbacks are perceived, when he remarked, “Oh, it’s their retirement.”

He didn’t mean people were investing their retirement savings into CIG, of course, although I’m sure somebody is doing just that. He meant they’re investing their retirement dreams in virtual spaceships. Those future players don’t really care that the game isn’t finished now and probably isn’t going to be feature complete for many more years. They’re thinking long-term: This is the game they want to “retire” to in a more vague and distant future, and it’ll be ready for them when they’re ready for it. Star Citizen is their cabin by the lake, their shack by the sea, their tent on Tatooine.

I’m most of a lifetime away from retirement, so I’ve never really thought about what I might want to play if I ever get to be a kid again only with money, outside of joking about wanting VR in the old folks’ home. But I have my weak spots: If someone promised me SWG 2 would be ready in a couple decades, I’d start planning my character now.

Have you got a “retirement MMO” picked out? What’s your ideal retirement MMORPG?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG is the worst for duos?

As I’ve been playing Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind the past week or two, my husband has been watching me from the depths of his Overwatch games, toying with picking up a Morrowind copy for himself to join me. The thing is, we both know that the game experience in ESO is sometimes hindered by the addition of more people, as the throngs of people plunging past me into my sneaky missions demonstrate on the daily.

It reminded me of something blogger Syncaine wrote earlier this year about ESO: “It’s very obvious a huge chunk of the game is aimed to be played solo, and not only do you not benefit from bringing someone else, in many cases you are punished or annoyed.”

I can think of a lot of MMOs that are great for duoing, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought about the absolute worst MMO for bringing a friend along for basic leveling and questing, and for all its petty annoyances, I suspect ESO isn’t that far down the list. Which MMORPG would you argue is the worst for duos?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO IP should Disney themeparkify next?

Following Disney’s announcement of the Star Wars Hotel in the Galaxy’s Edge Disney subpark this weekend, my MMO guildies were joking about using the location for a guild meet-up in a few years. (Well, they were joking; I was serious! Teenage Bree would literally be shrieking incoherently over this thing. I practically still am.) The new bit is basically a Star Wars LARP hotel where you walk around in costume (and presumably in-character).

“It’s unlike anything that exists today. From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100 percent immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”

So basically, it’s an MMORPG that skips right past VR and into real life. Will it be awesome? It’s going to cost a fortune, so probably — although if Westworld is any guide, people will still pay fortunes to show up and be idiots. My guildies will probably just spend all their time playing sabacc in the cantina, so we may as well just stay home and save the dough.

But Star Wars is my particular obsession; I’m sure you folks can think of other IPs, specifically MMO IPs, that would work even better for a bajillion-dollar vanity LARP. Which MMO IP should Disney themeparkify next? (Points to whoever says Revival first!)

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The Daily Grind: What’s the worst minigame in an MMORPG?

Sure, Gems is up there for obnoxious MMO minigames, but for me? It’s Polymock.

I had almost forgotten Polymock existed until a WoodenPotatoes video put it back in my field of vision. It was a minigame in Guild Wars 1 that somehow managed to be excruciatingly frustrating and unnecessarily latency-based as well as tied into the game’s valuable faction system. I remember playing it before everyone had figured out the optimal way to win, and by the time the strats were common knowledge, I just wanted to throw all my virtual Polymock pieces across the room and get back to playing the great MMO I’d actually signed up for.

What do you say is the worst minigame in an MMORPG?

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The Daily Grind: How long does it take you to know an MMO’s not for you?

During my long car trips a few weeks back, I filled some of my hours in the passenger seat testing mobile games. Ahead of time, I downloaded something like 40 or 50 new-to-me games that looked interesting, then on the ride I just started logging into each one, thumbing around to get a feel for whether I thought it was something I’d like for a minute or two, then logging back out again. I’d say nine out of ten I then immediately deleted, having snap-judged they didn’t make the cut. Call it speed dating for mobile app testing, but I feel like when I know, I know.

For MMORPGs, I don’t do this so much. For starters, the barrier to play is usually much higher, so I wouldn’t download 50 iffy-looking MMOs to begin with. And while my personal threshold for “how long I need to play to give anything like a legitimate review” is much higher, I suspect I probably “know” whether it’s something I will want to keep playing myself after 20 minutes, not one. The difference is I’ll probably try that same MMO again in the future after some iterations just in case my first judgment is wrong (because hey, MMOs usually improve with age!). Mobile games, not so much.

How long must you play an MMO to know for sure it’s not currently for you?

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The Daily Grind: How do you solve a problem like Maria (in MMOs)?

OK, so there’s no Maria, but I’m pretty sure everyone has that one guildie who is basically a goofball, screw-around, flibbertigibbet Leeroy. And yes that’s how you spell flibbertigibbet. I looked it up!

My guild has a guy — no names because I adore him anyway, and he knows who he is — who is famously fond of stopping a whole raid dead in its tracks by jumping into lava just to see what happens. I was in World of Warcraft one time helping his character and AFKed while following him to go make tea… only to come back and find he’d run me off a cliff in Horde territory. (I deserved it, he joked later, because I copped to boiling my tea water in the microwave. This is apparently a serious offense in England.)

But that time he took his mage and rushed straight into a raid boss to pull it, forcing us to abandon our carefully laid plans and wing it? I was laughing, I admit, but some of our more uptight raiders weren’t amused.

Does your guild have a Maria/Leeroy, and how do you keep him or her in check, enjoying the antics and spontaneous fun without going totally bonkers? How do you convince a prankster guildie to take anything seriously in a video game?

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The Daily Grind: How would you define an MMO gankbox?

A couple of weeks ago, our own Justin wrote a Daily Grind wherein he suggested that EVE Online was a gankbox, earning him some argument from another blogger and sparking an interesting debate about just what a gankbox is.

I’m not sure who first used the term — maybe a commenter, maybe a writer — but it took off like wildfire in our columns and comments years ago and hasn’t died down. I’ve seen people use it to mean everything from any MMO with PvP to survival sandboxes and MOBAs, but in our tags, we’ve defined it thusly:

“Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.”

Personally, I’d probably amend that to be even more nuanced; it’s not just ganking but the threat of constant ganking should you drop your guard that really defines such a game. For example, the majority of my time in classic Ultima Online — definitely a gankbox — was not spent ganking or being ganked, but it was spent protecting myself in a ganker’s culture, whether that was by hiding my keys under a trapped reaggie box, using safe runes everywhere I went, or stockpiling extra equipment to get back on my feet in a hurry. Accordingly, an exorbitant amount of developer time also appeared to be devoted to balancing “freedom” and thwarting the gankers driving customers out of the game.

How would you prefer to see it defined — and which MMORPG do you think best typifies this style of game?

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The Daily Grind: What kind of MMO achiever are you?

Yesterday’s post on Richard Bartle’s new unplayer matrix got me thinking once again about my quibbles with the original Bartle quotient, which won’t surprise anyone here, least of all Bartle himself, who’s expressed similar sentiments about his early work (and specifically the test it subsequently spawned).

One thing that always bugged me is how your score masked why you picked what you picked — why you do what you do in the game as presented to you. That wouldn’t matter if people treated Bartle’s theories as descriptive, but developers apply them prescriptively (for example, in WildStar) and tailor games to attract achievers, indeed turning most game content into achiever content. As I wrote a few years ago, a player who explores every last inch of a game map would be an explorer in a game without achievements, but in a game like Guild Wars 2, she’s far more likely to be an achiever on a quest for achievement points. An old-school World of Warcraft PvPer was just as likely to PvP for twink gear and titles as for an actual drive to slay other players as a “killer.” And so on.

All of this is to suggest that in a world where most games reward achievers with the best stuff, most of us are achievers. Are you? And if so, what kind of MMO achiever are you — were you born to competition and leaderboards and prestige-acquisition, or do you “achieve” to meet your goals in other parts of the game, like a roleplayer who raids for the best cosmetics?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG craft skills can you do in real life?

I’ve just gotten back from a family trip during which I bumped into various family members with some interesting craft skills, from gardening to jewelcrafting — yep, one of my brothers-in-law makes jewelry (and it’s pretty nifty too!). That got me thinking about traditional RPG and MMORPG crafts and which ones we’re likely to actually have in our repertoires. I mean, how many of you are really adept blacksmiths?

Me, I’ve got a little bit of furniture crafting and intermediate sewing under my belt, and my riding skill is pretty good, but I’m betting most of you would kick my butt at cooking!

How about it — which MMORPG craft skills can you do in real life?

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The Daily Grind: Do you want to see a Guild Wars 3?

At this point, everybody who cares even a little about Guild Wars 2 knows that it’s getting an expansion later this year; even most of the details have leaked out. But every time we talk about Guild Wars 2 — and indeed, earlier this year when I commemorated Guild Wars 1 — people come out of the woodwork to talk about the franchise in a way most games will never know. Most MMORPGs never get a sequel, after all, and a sequel is often seen as a way for a good game to become even better, a chance to start over and fix mistakes.

I think Guild Wars 2 did that, truthfully — the auction hall, the wardrobe UI, the dye system, and the open world are all huge improvements over classic Guild Wars. But there will always be areas where I think Guild Wars 2 dropped the ball, like cosmetics, heroes, guilds, and endgame. There’s room for improvement, the kind an expansion may or may not ever tackle.

So that leaves me dreaming about a possible Guild Wars 3. Do you think the franchise deserves it? What would you want to see in a third installment?

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The Daily Grind: Do you appreciate timed content in MMOs?

The last thing you want to worry about when you’re playing a video game, especially an immersive one like an MMORPG, is a damn clock, right? Massively OP reader Rick thinks so — he’s not a fan of time limits (or even timer lockouts) on completing dungeons, boss fights, or other content.

“Are timers a challenge or simply a lazy dev device to make existing content re-usable?” he asks. “I personally HATE them but I know that people enjoy beating the odds and working under pressure.”

In pondering this reader mail, MOP’s Andrew pointed out that passive timers can be just as bad — like timers encountered when sending minions out to tackle away missions you never even see. That’s not even content — it’s nothing but juggling timers!

So let’s talk about the many (annoying) ways MMOs try to tie us to clocks. Do you appreciate timed content in MMOs? Is there one type you do or don’t like versus the others?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the best MMO daily quest you’ve ever done?

My husband and I are in the process of introducing the concept of household chores to our five-year-old son. Not yet having realized life is basically a never-ending sequence of mundane and tedious chores, the kiddo thinks these chores are amazeballs. He loves running through his little checklist of making his bed and cleaning up his clothes, he loves marking off his accomplishments, and he especially likes getting his reward at the end of the week.

In short, we’ve given him daily quests. And he’s thrilled.

I can’t really recall the first daily quest I ever did in an MMORPG — it was probably Star Wars Galaxies mission terminals back when they were on the 10-per-day-bonus-exp daily timers, but of course it was World of Warcraft that truly made them a thing every online game adds and then repeats and exploits ad nauseam. And I can’t say I’ve ever truly found them entertaining, not the way my son seems to find his new to-do list. I do them sometimes for the shiny at the end, but I kinda wish I could get that “dailies refreshed, yay!” feeling back.

Help a girl out here: What’s the best MMO daily quest you’ve ever done?

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