opinion

Opinion pieces are by definition neither neutral nor subjective. Massively Overpowered’s writers’ editorials reflect their own opinions, not necessarily the opinions of the site or company.

Wisdom of Nym: Deep-diving Final Fantasy XIV’s leveling structure

I do a lot of leveling in Final Fantasy XIV. This is, in part, because I am stupid; for several dumb reasons I have my main character and six alts, which is not seven only because Balmung is currently locked. (As soon as that changes? Seven.) I also have a spreadsheet tracking my progress across every character that currently has me finishing up – as in, bringing a single job for each alt and every class for my main – in early November. So I spend a lot of time thinking about leveling. And I think the game is better than it’s ever been in Stormblood, in leveling as well as other departments.

Of course, there are people who aren’t as happy about it, for understandable reasons. There are dead spaces for every job in the current leveling setup, levels where you get either nothing or no impactful additions. (A trait boosting your primary stat is definitely important, but it doesn’t really change what you’re doing.) It’s even prompted some people complaining about how late certain jobs get their core mechanics and how the level sync works.

So let’s talk about all of this. And more to the point, let’s start by explaining why a lot of the staggering of abilities amounts to, in fact, a good thing.

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The MMO Book Club votes between Guild Wars 2, Secret World Legends, DCUO, EverQuest, RuneScape, ArcheAge, and WoW

Hey, remember the MMO Book Club? That’s the Reddit-and-Discord group that allows members to vote on a game to play, then organizes a guild and events inside that game over the allotted time period, ensuring that folks who want to try out an MMORPG have a ready-made community of likeminded casual people who aren’t going to immediately scamper off to greener pastures. You scamperers, you.

To date, the Club has dipped into Lord of the Rings Online (which we streamed!), WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online, and TERA, the reigning champ. As the group enters its second half-year, it’s opened the voting once again; that takes place in Discord to avoid brigading.

“The shortlist of games you can vote on to play with the Bookclub now are: Guild Wars 2, Secret World Legends, DC Universe Online, EverQuest, RuneScape, ArcheAge, World of Warcraft and TERA.” (Voting for TERA extends the current cycle another month instead of moving the crew to a new game.)

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RuneScape’s RuneFest features mobile clients, 2018 content plans (including the bank rework)

At this weekend’s RuneFest event in London, Jagex homed in on RuneScape’s promised mobile client and its upcoming content.

First, let’s tackle mobile. Fans in attendance were able to play the game on mobile — both the latest version of RuneScape and the Old School version, which might surprise you. The latter will be available first, in fact, coming later in 2017, while the core game will launch on the new platforms “shortly after” in 2018. Jagex has promised more details of device compatibility “over the coming months.”

Old School RuneScape is looking ahead to 2018 as well, as in January, devs will patch in the Dragon Slayer II GM quest, and in June, the game will see a new raid called Theatre of Blood.

In “real” RuneScape, players will be treated to a special competitive PvE event next month that combines two of gaming’s favorite tropes: “Transported to an alternate dimension where the dead walk across Gielinor, players must battle against the zombie horde and see who can survive the longest!”

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Happy 20th birthday, Ultima Online! Here’s how to get caught up on the OG MMORPG

Just about 20 years ago, my boyfriend and I were wandering through Media Play (heh) when he picked up this box for some new online subscription video game with a cheesy Hildebrandt cover. I was skeptical. He bought it anyway. The next morning, after I’d played all night and totally bogarted his new game, we figured we should probably get a second account. And so we did, in spite of being clueless teenagers who could barely afford one sub, let alone two.

That game was Ultima Online, and it’s the game that birthed the term MMORPG and quite literally dragged me into the realm of virtual worlds. Without it, I wouldn’t be right here where I am talking to you today, having married that dude in the interim. And as of yesterday, that game is 20 years old.

Last autumn, when the game was turning 19, I did a fairly in-depth video on the coolest parts of UO, the parts you can still play today, as I do frequently dive back in and am playing this month too! It’s Massively OP’s best-performing video to date, proving that the game is very much not dead and done. Pretty much everything in the video is still accurate, except for the part on the business model (spoiler: UO is kinda going free-to-play), so I’m going to include it below, but then I’ll recap some of the important bits from the last year and answer a few questions anybody reading is sure to have.

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Age of Conan (finally) adds 720-day loyalty rewards

In one of our recent Daily Grind discussions about MMORPGs that might make it to 20 years of live operation, some of our commenters pointed out that despite Age of Conan continuing in maintenance mode, Funcom had ceased to honor its ongoing subscription loyalty reward program for players pushing two years or more.

The same day, Funcom (purely coincidentally, we have no doubt) posted its 720-day loyalty reward information. The good news for loyal subbers is that the two-year mark will net you five royal treasure chests and a free character boost to level 80.

Age of Conan was officially put into maintenance mode back in February as Funcom chose to instead pursue Conan Exiles, Secret World Legends, and other upcoming projects.

Source: Age of Conan

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The Daily Grind: Should MMOs get rid of levels?

I would like to say that when I was a kid playing my first MMORPGs, I was impervious to the grind, that I embraced taking many months to level a skill or hit a level cap. But that would be a lie. I stuck a rock on my keyboard to AFK macro overnight in Ultima Online, and a friend of mine would log into my EverQuest account sometimes while I slept to catch me up in levels. I hated it. I have always hated it. Oh, I’d spend hours per day in those early games, but I wanted to chill with friends, make stuff, run dungeons with people without worrying about level discrepancies and gear and all the obnoxious mechanics designed so transparently to slow me down and make me pay to grind. And I’ve felt this way for 20 years.

This is why a recent tweet of Raph Koster’s, quoting Elder Scrolls Online’s Matt Firor, resonated with me:

“Removing levels as a gameplay factor was the best decision for retention ever made in Elder Scrolls Online.” -Matt Firor

It’s affirmation that I’m not alone: A huge portion of the MMORPG playerbase will pay for content that pushes us together by invalidating level grinds rather than keeps us apart. Is it not time? Can we just be done with the old canard that people “need” leveling make-work to feel achievement or investment in a game, when metrics prove otherwise? Should MMOs get rid of levels?

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MMO Mechanics: Material storage and the Guild Wars 2 economy

Guild Wars 2 launched its second expansion, Path of Fire, a few days ago, and as you might expect, a new expansion means some immediate priority shifts will deeply affect the game’s economy. New materials are added, which are required by the newest recipes and are thus highly sought after, and other materials will fluctuate in value depending on their usefulness within the new content’s scope. Players typically react to this short period of market turbulence by keeping the materials that they farm until they are absolutely sure of their uses and worth: There’s nothing worse than selling a big pile of a rare material you thought you didn’t need only to realise your error later.

However, ArenaNet decided to temporarily keep a “handful of items” off the list for the game’s material storage system in an attempt to force players’ hands: The company is attempting to combat the shockingly high prices seen for expansion materials back at Heart of Thorns’ launch by discouraging player warehousing of valuable yet abundant materials. The news has caused quite a splash in the game community and it’s exceptionally interesting mechanically speaking, so I just had to dedicate an edition of MMO Mechanics to the topic.

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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite small act of kindness from a stranger in an MMO?

At one point in Final Fantasy XI, I was stuck in Ordelle’s Caves. A friend had been helping me get my RSE deep within the caves, and then he had to log off… and I was stuck without a map or any guidance, far too low-level to get out. But then a high-level Thief saw me, partied with me, and helped guide me out while I kept myself in Sneak and Invisible behind her.

I never saw her again, or if I did, I didn’t recognize her and she didn’t recognize me. But she still did something really kind for me, and I’ve never forgotten that.

Today, let’s be good about that. The best MMO experiences are built upon a thousand small acts of kindness. The Warrior in World of Warcraft who doesn’t roll on the armor piece you want because it’s a bigger upgrade for you. The Inquisitor who stops and helps you fight off a group of enemies in Star Wars: The Old Republic while you’re on your Trooper. Even just the nasty-looking cruiser in EVE Online that could demolish your mining ship but chooses to let you go by. So what’s your favorite small act of kindness from a stranger in an MMO?

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LOTRO Legendarium: Six places LOTRO could go after Mordor

It always seems a bit unfair, a bit impatient, and a bit premature to be asking that eternal question of an MMO: “What’s next?” This, perhaps, is doubly true when a recent meaty expansion is still providing an (exploded) mountain of content with an instance cluster on the way. You can almost hear the developers’ eyes roll and their exasperated sighs as they say, “Can’t you be content with where you are right now?”

No, not really. Speculating about the future is one of the exciting hallmarks of MMO fandom, and I feel it’s entirely possible to be both content with where you’re at while wondering what’s to come. So with that caveat out of the way… what’s next for Lord of the Rings Online when Mordor is said and done?

Before we dig into the possibilities (six of them, to be precise), we should acknowledge that Mordor itself will no doubt be the central focus of LOTRO through the end of this year and probably most of 2018 as well. There is a great deal of landscape left undeveloped and unexplored, and I have no doubt that the Black Book of Mordor could be expanded into a fat volume when all is said and done.

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The Daily Grind: Do any MMO monsters creep you out?

I can’t say that I’ve ever encountered truly disturbing and creepy MMO mobs. I think it’s by the virtue that they are in an MMO means that they’re usually all over the place, and any initial disturbance grows lessened with familiarity.

However, I’m sure there are exceptions. The Bogeyman in Secret World is pretty creeptacular, especially his appearance in the spin-off The Park. I know that some of my friends who suffer from acute arachnophobia are all “nope nope nope” when giant spiders scuttle across the screen.

Are there any MMO monsters that creep you out? What is it about them that gives you the heebie-jeebies?

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Massively Overthinking: How will Star Citizen make money after launch?

During this week’s Massively OP Podcast, Justin and I attempted to tackle a question sent in by commenter and listener Sally Bowls – specifically, she wanted us to speculate on what a post-launch monetization plan for Star Citizen might look like.

“Assuming they have a lot of overhead and expense, are they going to fire most of their employees at launch? Keep them and support them with subscriptions? DLC? Cosmetics? A stream of new ships would be my first guess – but new ships good enough that people spend $50M-$100M per year withouth causing old customers to think the new shiny invalidates their previous purchase? That seems to me a non-trivial tightrope to walk.”

Put away your instinct to joke that it won’t matter because Star Citizen is never coming out. Let’s just reasonably assume that it does eventually launch into something the studio will call more or less ready. How do you think Star Citizen will make money after launch? That’s the question I’ve posed the Massively OP team for this round of Massively Overthinking.

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Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire has launched; get caught up on the expansion here!

Update: It’s live now! Have fun!

Guild Wars 2 officially launches its second B2P expansion, Path of Fire, today. In just two hours in fact. And if our polls are any judge, quite a lot of our audience is hyped for the release!

We’ll be streaming the fun later today (with special guests if we can pull it off), but in the meantime, ArenaNet has a pre-show on Twitch beginning at 10 a.m. EDT this morning, leading up to the noon launch when we all go charging into the desert.

Personally, I’m aiming to finish chapter one and then head straight for drinks on the Lily of the Elon. Who’s with me?

We’ve also rounded up all of our Path of Fire coverage to date, including our columnist’s impressions of the preview weekend, our look at mounts, our deep-dive into the new elite specs, and our team’s thoughts on the expansion as a whole. Happy expansion day!

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPGs will make to to 20 years?

Unless it mysteriously shutters between now and Monday, Ultima Online is turning 20 next week. Our Game Archaeologist will surely object to an assertion that UO is the first MMORPG to turn 20, but even if you do count pre-MMORPG titles as MMOs or include non-continuous or non-graphical games, UO is still among the very few MMOs to get there alive.

I’ve started thinking about numbers like that in light of Black Desert studio Pearl Abyss’ assertion a few weeks back that online PC games and MMOs have “an extremely long life cycle” on average between 10 and 11 years, implying that PA intends to support its games with those lifespans in mind.

There are a few MMOs coming up on 20 years now other than UO, including classic EverQuest. Alas, others, like Asheron’s Call, were sunsetted before they got close. Consider the MMOs you’re playing now: Which of those MMORPGs have a hope of making it to 20 years?

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