During this week’s Massively OP podcast (live this afternoon!), Justin and I tackled a detailed question about MMO group makeup, the trinity, and combat, and we took the opportunity to tangent a bit into praising City of Heroes, which not only managed to smash the trinity but did so in a way that increased the number of combat roles in a group over the standard, provided flexible difficulty modes at a time when that was unheard of, and scaled content to group size, meaning that you didn’t really need to take a full group of eight into most of the instanced content. You took what you had and that was enough. It was brilliant.
And while I’m not much of a fan of huge, methodical raids anymore, that’s more because I dislike them as the Only Thing To Do At Endgame. I do love massive group sizes, however, which is why I lamented the loss of the 20-man group in Star Wars Galaxies and adore the casual swarms of Guild Wars 2. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the formal group size is four or five or six; my guildies always seem to be one body short of what we need, and I constantly find myself wishing for City of Heroes’ ruleset.
What do you think is the ideal group size in an MMORPG? And do you base that on social balance or typical class configurations or something else entirely?
Be you press or player, one of the advantages of going in person to a convention (or any other gaming event!) is surely the chance to actually meet and talk to individual developers. You can get a partial read on developers from their written words and even their speech on streams, but nothing beats actually talking one-on-one with a dev, looking him or her in the eye, asking tough questions out of PR handlers’ hearing, and chasing a conversation down unexpected paths. I’ve been wowed by devs and community leader whom I didn’t expect to be so amazing — and similarly, I’ve been let down by veteran designers I thought were much more impressive on paper than in person. Sometimes both at the same event!
Which MMORPG developer would you most like to meet in person?
(That’d be Camelot Unchained’s Ben Pielstick in the header working on polearm animations, by the way!)
During his interview with Gamasutra last week, Elder Scrolls Online’s Matt Firor told the publication, “I really think MMO is a technology. It’s not a game type anymore.”
Specifically, he means the megaserver structure of MMORPGs that allow thousands of players to more or less game together. “We have an interesting server structure in ESO that is unique in this generation of online game. What we do is we have what we call megaservers, where we instance all of our zones,” he explains. “Once you’re on the North American server, you never pick another server. The game kinda figures out how many instances of each zone to spin up, and which one to put you in….those are the kind of cool things that are happening behind the scenes, in game development, where it takes all of the decision-making out of the player’s hands.”
Someone could probably contest the “unique” part, given how many MMORPGs have employed versions of layered instancing and megaservers over the years, including modern ones, but I wouldn’t argue at all with “cool” — it still seems bizarre to me that any MMORPGs in 2017 are still stranding gamers on smaller servers, to the detriment of the game itself. So: What MMORPG needs megaserver tech the most but still doesn’t have it?
I was writing a post earlier this week with a pair of screenshots labeled sequentially — “eso1.jpg” and “eso2.jpg” — which mentally startled me because, you know, Elder Scrolls Online II doesn’t exist. And it struck me that out of the core AAA MMORPGs — and even the big up-and-coming crowdfunded indies — only a tiny handful are sequels. Maybe more importantly, none of the major MMOs right now has given any hint that a sequel might be incoming, which you might consider a sobering thought or a relief that studios are leaning toward supporting what they’ve got instead of splitting their playerbases.
Put aside what’s been rumored (or not rumored) and tell us: Which MMORPG do you think deserves a sequel?
Star Wars Galaxies came close to wrecking my typing skills. Because semicolons functioned as linebreaks in macros and in chat in SWG, I got in the habit of not using them, replacing them with commas. This is a terrible habit to pick up for a writer, as those of you up on your grammar skills know that commas and semicolons do not serve the same function in a sentence. Using commas where semicolons go creates run-ons of doom.
Fortunately, I’ve managed to restrict this bad habit to casual chat and keep it away from my formal writing — like here! — so it only looks ugly when I’m “off the record” in texts or Slack or whatnot. But it’s still a bad habit I picked up for logical reasons in an MMO, and one I wish I could abandon.
Admittedly, this is not the world’s worst habit to have. Can you top me? Have you picked up any bad habits from MMORPGs?
Massively OP reader Andrea has a fun question for us today. “I’ve been perusing through different MMO soundtracks these past days and some of them are so beautiful and atmospheric that they make me want to actually try the game although I had no intention otherwise,” she writes. “Has an MMO soundtrack ever inspired you to try out the game itself?”
You folks know we love our MMO soundtracks here on Massively OP — we keep Jukebox Heroes and Battle Bards’ Justin Olivetti trapped in a tower with nothing but a keyboard and an iPod, after all — so I’m guessing a lot of you have heard more scores than played games, and this question has a high chance of scoring hits. I’ve found some gorgeous music thanks to Justin for games I’ve never played, for example — I’ve been completely obsessed with The Repopulation’s released music tracks. (I’m a sucker for marimbas.)
Has a soundtrack ever inspired you to try out an MMORPG?
During this week’s podcast, Justin jokes about how Final Fantasy XIV literally has an interface pop-up to warn you before it deluges you with an extremely long series of cutscenes, on the order of half an hour of basically watching the game rather than playing it. That cracked me up because I admit I am not much of a cutscene-watcher to begin with. My instinct is to click through them in a lot of MMORPGs, especially when I’ve seen them before, but even sometimes when I haven’t. So let’s just say that while I appreciate that FFXIV reminds us to take a potty break before it goes all exposition monster on us, I probably still wouldn’t watch it.
Howsabout you? Do you still watch MMORPG cutscenes? Did you ever? If you skip them, do you do it out of habit or lack of time or anti-story principle?
The past few weeks while I’ve been sick, I’ve been doing a rewatch of a couple of old favorite shows and fell into a TV tropes black hole while trying to sort out which trope best suited a particular villain in one of them: an antagonist who turns out to be far surpassed by (and excommunicated by) several far more evil antagonists over the course of the show’s run, to the point that he becomes an ally of the protagonists. I think he’s a combination of a Demoted to Dragon, Dragon with an Agenda and The Starscream, and possibly also the Starter Villain turned Ex-Big Bad turned Token Evil Teammate. Turns out figuring out which trope a character fits is as hard as writing a good villain.
And that leads me to today’s Daily Grind, which is about MMOs, I promise. If villains are hard to do well in a medium that is explicitly designed to favor narration, what hope is there for online games? The best villains I’ve ever seen have been player villains (the actual roleplaying type, not the murderer-slash-con-artist type), but I bet you folks have some good ideas for PCs and NPCs alike. Who’s the best villain ever in an MMORPG — and what TV trope does he or she fit?
(Extra bonus points if you can figure out the show and character I’m talking about!)
Longtime MOP community contributor deekay posed us an interesting question in the context of Marvel Heroes this week: Is it a good thing when developers are too generous to players?
Marvel Heroes, for example, was once well-regarded for delivering a steady stream of free content, like free character unlocks and boosters that dropped like candy and updates coming so fast folks couldn’t keep up. If I understand right, the idea is that as the studio behind the game has shifted gears to work on a console version, PC players conditioned to receive lots of free stuff and dev love and patches are grumpy that it’s slowed down. Moreover, you could argue that studio generosity can undermine the game and its perceived value, a bit of a reversal of the prestige pricing effect.
So let’s consider deekay’s musing. Is it a good thing when developers are too generous to players? Which MMO studio is the most generous?
A discussion with my guildies this past holiday weekend illuminated a universal truth for us: We love Elder Scrolls Online but strongly dislike its crafting and economy. I thought I was alone, but even those guildies of mine who muck around with the crafting parts of the game criticize the auction hall situation as well as the pay-to-win craft bag shenanigans.
That led me to consider the field of live MMORPG, not so much for their economies (doesn’t EVE always win those run-offs anyway) but for their crafting specifically. My favorites are long-gone now, as is the winner of last year’s crafting award, in a sad twist of fate. Set aside the economy and trading mechanics and consider crafting specifically, and then set aside games that have sunsetted. Which live MMORPG has the best crafting system? Where should a die-hard crafter set up camp?
World of Warcraft Community Manager Ornyx sparked a bit of a wildfire on the game’s forums this past week as in response to a player criticizing Legion’s lack of content, he snarked, “I assume you’re trying to make a joke about content, because, looking at your Armory, it appears you’ve only engaged with about 25% of Legion.” In his follow-up, he said that his role is about “engagement and community-building,” not customer service, and characterized the exchange as “a bit of fun.”
The thread erupted, with some people arguing that the player who dared insult Blizz’s expansion got what he deserved and others expressing shock that a Blizzard employee would treat its players that way. I come down on the side of “enabling elitism is exactly why armory profiles shouldn’t be forcibly public to begin with.” I thought the comment in extremely poor taste for an employee. It’s the kind of low-effort ad hominem I see in bad arguments, not good ones. I expect better from community managers, certainly, in the service of “engagement and community-building” than to model dismissing opinions based on gearscore and not on their merits. Seeing that attitude promoted by a bluename disappointed me deeply, even if it didn’t surprise me.
So this morning’s Daily Grind is two-fold: Where do you stand on comments like this from studio employees? Is so-called “armory shaming” OK? And just how much of an MMO must you play to issue good criticism?
I’ve been playing a lot of Ultima Online the past few weeks, but so many times I’ll be doing something that is objectively tedious (like taming or shuttling boxes of junk loot to the community trash box to turn in for points) and realize it and think to myself there is no freakin’ way that anyone who started playing MMOs in the last decade would put up with some of the quirks and conventions of the game. That’s no judgment on gamers, just the realization that it’s probably way too late to get into now if you’ve grown up under altogether different game design systems.
It’s not the only MMO I feel that way about; I’ve often felt that EverQuest II was too opaque and convoluted to return to, and oddly enough World of Warcraft has felt that way to me since Draenor.
Are there any MMOs you think are just too late to start playing?
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?