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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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The Daily Grind: What’s the best old-school MMORPG feature that has never made a comeback?

A couple of weeks ago, Justin and I fielded an epic podcast question from a listener (heya Josh!) about guild systems, specifically about the Asheron’s Call monarchy system. As far as we know, that specific system — a pyramid-like system of patrons and vassals whose social interactions created experience and benefits for everyone without the formal hierarchical structure of a stock guild — has never been fully duplicated. It’s a damn shame because it was amazing. Turbine solved the guild problem in 1999: Instead of dumping people into military-style guilds to be just another worker bee for the queen, it incentivized individual, personal relationships, upward and downward.

That got me wondering what else hasn’t ever been duplicated. It seems like it could be a pretty short list, as so many retro MMORPGs have popped up in the last few years promising to resurrect a ton of old-school features, good and bad. So you help me fill in the gaps: What’s the best old-school MMORPG feature that has never made a comeback?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the most boring MMORPG around?

I’ve mentioned in a previous Daily Grind that I once fell asleep in the middle of an incredibly boring raid in EverQuest. It wasn’t even that late and I wasn’t overly tired; I was just super bored of the whole pull-fight-inch-forward ordeal. My friends had to call me to wake me up so we could continue on. Embarrassing? At the time, yep. Now I realize it was just one more reason to hunt for more interesting types of gameplay — for me.

I wouldn’t say, however, that EverQuest was the most boring MMORPG I’ve ever played. In fact, as I contemplated how to phrase this question, I remembered that there are plenty of MMORPGs — EVE Online, for instance — that seem extremely exciting while you’re reading about their highlights, though the day-to-day is fairly mundane. And I’ve got to take into account different tastes; I guarantee most of you would find my resource spreadsheet obsession in Star Wars Galaxies dreadfully dull, yet even just typing about it gives me a pang of regret that it’s gone.

What do you think is the most boring MMORPG around, and why?

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The Daily Grind: What gaming mouse do you use for MMORPGs?

A couple of months ago, I went on a tear desperately trying to find a new mouse both for work and for MMOs and general gaming. My mouse was great in its day as it’s the perfect size for my hands (they’re small) and my wrists (they’re prone to serious pain). But it’s old now, the drivers don’t function properly with Windows 10, the plastic is eroding away, and the replacement model is terrible. And honestly, it wasn’t a gaming mouse.

I ended up with a Roccat Lua, which basically falls into the “cheap and good enough in a pinch” category, but it’s still too long for my hand, and it doesn’t have extra buttons, which I reaaaaaalllly want back — they’re indispensable when playing MMOs. There’s no way I could play, say, a respectable healer in an MMO without at least a thumb and top button.

I thought I’d make today’s Daily Grind pull double duty: I want to hear all about the mice you guys use for MMO gaming — brag away! — and hopefully get some ideas for other brands and models I might try. What gaming mouse do you use for MMORPGs? What makes it so great?

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The Daily Grind: How important are player economies to MMORPGs?

One of the more alarming trends in MMORPGs from the past few years, to me anyway, is the weakening of in-game economic systems, and not just from themepark shortcuts.

My first MMORPG was Ultima Online, where personal trading and vendor malls were ubiquitous, where you could drop dead and see everything you’d held looted and carted away by players and mobs alike. And I remember the MMO community outage when EverQuest introduced “no drop” and “no trade” items as, it was understood, an attempt at combating gold and item farmers. Most of you probably know that concept better as “soulbound.” It’s commonplace now, but at the time, it was the kind of decision that literally forks genres.

We’ve come a long way down that themepark fork since then, it seems to me: We now have many MMOs where you can’t drop stuff, games where you can’t hand items directly to other players except by mail (if at all), games whose devs cap item values to interfere with the market, games that refuse to consider an auction hall, and games whose auction halls are basically toys for well-connected guilds and no one else, never mind the multitude of MMOs where corpses can’t be looted or crafting exists as a useless minigame to keep crafter types from noticing they’ve been demoted to second-class citizens.

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The Daily Grind: Do you ever take vacation (or sick) days to play MMOs?

Every time there’s a big video game launch, MMORPG or otherwise, I see people joking about calling in sick or taking vacation time to play it. And I always wonder: Do you really? Or are you just teasing?

Maybe I’m boring, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it. Skipped some classes back in the day, maybe, but I don’t think I’ve skipped out on work. Then again, maybe that’s because I’m knee-deep in MMORPG stuff all day long anyway.

How about you? Do you ever take time off of work or school — legitimately or otherwise — to play MMOs? What was the last game that provoked you to do it? And most importantly, was it worth it?
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The Daily Grind: Does multi-guilding hurt MMORPGs?

Massively OP reader Josh wrote into the podcast recently — in fact, we’re answering his whole email on this afternoon’s show — about the state of guilds in MMORPGs. A fan of Asheron’s Call’s monarchy system, he posited that far from creating tight bonds in MMOs, modern guilds seemed designed to encourage “flitting around” as you can very often join multiple guilds at a time.

“But this seems to also result in far less expectation of investment in a particular guild,”  he observed.

I wanted to use that part of his question as a springboard about multi-guilding in today’s Daily Grind. I personally think that multi-guilding has helped a lot of social and roleplay guilds stay alive in an era when game developers are hell-bent on gamifying guild systems with achievements and perks that drive so many players into the arms of power-centric guilds. But I also see the investment issues Josh does, which inarguably affects the communities, just in a different way.

What do you think — does multi-guilding hurt MMORPGs?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO is the worst for ‘trash pulls’?

A week or two ago, Blizzard Watch had a post up polling its readers about which trash pulls in WoW they hated the most. I’m willing to bet a small number of our readers may not even have much experience with trash pulls to begin with, depending on the types (and ages) of MMOs they’re familiar with. But I remember the days of early World of Warcraft and being frustrated because it was so obvious that the trash mobs were just there to clutter up our path, prolong the duration of the dungeon, and waste our time.

I also remember the days of City of Heroes, when the trash pulls of swarms of baddies were the most entertaining part of group encounters, and in fact bosses were what always annoyed me. (Freakin’ purple triangles.) Pull every room! All the rooms! More mobs! More exp! More loot! More particle effects!

That tells me the problem isn’t so much the existence of trash mobs but their execution and rewards.

Which MMO is the worst for trash pulls in 2017? What about the best?

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The Daily Grind: How much do you really care if your MMORPG is super successful?

Earlier this week, we reported on a SuperData revenue ranking report that showed World of Tanks pulling in more cash than World of Warcraft’s western division. At some point after that piece ran, as The Ancient Gaming Noob noticed, SuperData revised its chart and merged WoW East and WoW West back together again, putting it ahead of World of Tanks in the aggregate.

Now, I don’t really have a problem with this; that’s how it should be since none of the other games was ever split by region that way, as we’ve been arguing since February. But clearly someone — SuperData? Blizzard? — cared enough about WoW being #4 and not #5 to change it after publication.

But I wondered whether any players actually care. I suspect most of us care only that it’s successful enough to keep online first and keep the entertaining content coming second; whether it appears in a top 10 revenue chart on some analyst’s site isn’t going to be of much interest to regular players, except when they’re busy throwing shade on some other game, of course.

How much do you really care if your MMORPG is super successful?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the most stable MMORPG (besides WoW) right now?

Massively OP reader Gail made an interesting observation in one of the City of Heroes Master x Master drama threads about what she called “corn flake games.” A family she knew that ran a grocery store quibbled over how to stock it: One sister “always wanted to cram the cereal aisle with the latest cartoon character high sugar high profit fads.” The other sister’s refrain?

“‘Corn flakes. People in this town buy corn flakes.’ Corn flakes, while not hugely profitable, were steady dependable sellers. In the MMO market, CoH was a corn flake game. It wasn’t going to magically turn into WoW overnight. It wasn’t going to suddenly break out and take the gaming world by storm, though with the huge surge in superhero movies I wonder what some good advertising would have done. But it had a sizable group of steady customers who provided a stable profit. That’s nothing to sneeze at.”

That’s precisely why the sunset was so baffling when most games would kill for a subscription playerbase of 100K: It was a steady earner. And it was and is surely not alone. What else do you think is a “corn flake” MMO? Or to put it another way: What’s the most stable and dependable MMORPG (besides WoW) right now?

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