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.

The Daily Grind: When was the golden age of MMOs, or has it happened yet?

A year ago, we all tackled an Overthinking topic on the golden age of MMORPGs — whether there ever was one, and when precisely it might have been. One thing we didn’t much discuss? Whether the golden age hasn’t actually happened yet.

That idea bubbled back up in my brain this past week, when Microsoft exec Phil Harrison told GI.biz that the golden age of games — “democratisation of platforms, democratisation of technology to make content” — is yet to come.

“When I started out, 80% of your development budget would be writing your 3D engine, and you’d have to throw that way every time you make a new game. It’d almost be like a filmmaker throwing away the Panavision camera and reinventing another one each time they went to make a film. We’ve got to the point where the reach is there, the tools are there, the distribution is there, the ability to stand up an online service is there. And we can now start thinking about what happens when you have very believable worlds, very believable graphics, very sophisticated AI, what happens when those things co-exist? That’s a very interesting future.”

Harrison is talking about the gaming industry on the whole, of course, but we can drill down — MMOs are all about believable worlds and AI. What do you think? When was the golden age of MMOs? Or is our golden age yet to come?

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Wisdom of Nym: What happens next in Final Fantasy XIV?

It’s pretty clear that the Final Fantasy XIV team (and the localization team specifically) are pretty huge fans of Hamilton, to the point that I’m surprised that the Emperor didn’t specifically burst into a song from the musical in the ending sequence. Especially because it’s… kind of a relevant question at this point, once you’ve seen the end of the MSQ.

So what does come next?

Obviously, this column will feature spoilers, so consider yourself fairly tagged. But I think this is a relevant question to ask because this expansion is, in its own way, a very different animal from its two predecessors right out of the gate. The relaunch ended its story in a place so open that it could really go wherever without a problem, while Heavensward ended the 3.0 MSQ with obvious points for continuation. (It helped that the obvious thrust of the expansion took a sharp left turn around level 55.) In the case of Stormblood, though…

Yes, I’m avoiding saying more before the cut. Spoilers down below, people.

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The Soapbox: The disastrous Pokemon Go Fest was just Niantic being Niantic, and that has to stop

I know I complain a lot about Pokemon Go in my articles here, but there’s a reason for this. I’m a huge fan not just of the Pokemon series but of what Niantic is trying to do with its game on a basic level. The idea of getting games outside with the rest of the world instead of hidden in our rooms and offices is hugely appealing. I’ve even applied to work at Niantic before (though obviously I wasn’t selected), so for me especially it’s frustrating to see a company I want to succeed repeatedly making the same kinds of mistakes. These are mistakes that plagued the game’s launch, several events, feature reworkings, and now not one, but two birthday celebrations within the same year. 

I actually got sucked into the hype recently and even said that the events surrounding the festival might give people a reason to come back. I’ve finally removed my foot from my mouth after previously downing some crow, but I’ve realized that, now more than ever, Niantic needs some tougher love, and here it is.

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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: How do you feel your first MMO influences your current playstyle?

I can tell you what my observations have been about how people act based on their first MMO, but I can only guess at the ways having Final Fantasy XI as my first game have influenced my subsequent play choices. I know that after that game I’m far more leery of any game requiring me to group up with others just to level up, often times eschewing the “fastest” methods of grouping and grinding just out of a deep-seated distaste for that. I’m also eager to dive into lore and world details, sometimes to the point of seeing depths in hints and suggestion that turn out to not be there on closer inspection.

So today, we turn the question over to you. How do you feel your first MMO influences your current playstyle? Part of it depends on what your first MMO is, of course, but the analysis from there is all you. Does having World of Warcraft as your first MMO make you gravitate toward raiding or specifically avoid it? Does listing Anarchy Online as your first MMO lead you to be more social or less social? Share your self-analysis with us! We’re curious.

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The Game Archaeologist: EverQuest II East

Publishing a video game globally is a monumental task, more so if it is a live online game such as what you’d find with MMORPGs. With different countries and regions come various traditions, prohibitions, language barriers, government restrictions, playstyle expectations, and financial models that must all be sorted out and overcome for these games to come out.

One of the most famous examples of adapting an MMO for use in another country is how World of Warcraft had to make significant graphical changes to its death-themed imagery (including its Forsaken race) in order to get approval to operate in China. Censorship aside, many studios have adjusted their games to include elements appealing to a certain country in order to get more fans (such as WildStar’s panda explosion).

Today we’re going to look at a short-term oddity in EverQuest II’s history, when SOE attempted to expand the game into the east — and how that rebounded back to impact the west.

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The Daily Grind: What’s the appeal of tanking in MMOs?

Do you live the tank life? Do you suit up in your oversized, overpowered, overprotective armor and strut out onto the front lines of combat every day in game? Do you lead your dungeon group with vision and confidence? Do you feel like you’re babysitting a group of eccentric toddlers who can barely keep from wetting their own pants, nevermind pull it together to take down the next boss?

Then we want to hear from you today!

For the tankers out there, what’s the appeal of this role in MMORPGs? Why do you assume the mantle of one of the more difficult and less flashy positions in a group? Is it for the leadership? The power trip? The fact that you’re always in demand? Let’s hear from you burly bashers today!

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MMO Burnout: Nintendo’s ARMS and the Switch in public and private

It won’t surprise anyone who reads our WRUPs that a lot of my free time gaming has been mobile-based as of late, especially if it has local multiplayer. While I still prefer PC gaming for the most part, it’s hard for me to bring a mouse and keyboard with me to a convention and play while the line is moving. MMOs with local multiplayer are even harder. Recent conventions have made jumping into traditional MMOs harder, as has the summer heat that magnifies the heat I feel when playing on ol’ lappy (although that could just be a result of the airless storage space I call home!).

At any rate, I decided to bust out my Nintendo Switch a bit more, bringing it with me to try to recreate Nintendo’s questionable marketing ploy and so I can play in a room where open windows don’t pose a risk to my papers and electronics. My weapon of choice? ARMS.

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No, exploitative gacha mechanics are not a good idea for western devs

We’ve been talking about exploitative gacha games and related business models on Massively OP for a long time, most recently and notably in depth earlier this year when we covered how Japan, Korea, China, and Singapore have all passed laws to take the model down a peg. In fact, China’s newest anti-gacha laws have since been used to target MMOs, card games, and even Overwatch’s skins. So given all the crackdowns, you’d think that the trend would be to avoid it, right? That industry analysts and watchers on this side of the pond would be wary?

But no. Bizarrely, there’s a new GamesIndustry.biz article this week in which AppLovin Managing Director Johannes Heinze advocates that western developers start including gachapon mechanics, even citing Pokemon Go as a good example of how well it works. He argues that gacha requires:

  • A large, varied set of content
  • A strong desire from the player to collect as many items as possible
  • A game where gacha content is necessary for players to progress
  • An effective mechanic for duplicate content (to prevent player churn from pulling too many duplicates)

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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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Massively Overthinking: Building a better MMORPG economy

We are on a roll with the epic questions for Overthinking lately! “The recent article about monetization got me thinking about just how much most modern MMOs are still trying to replicate real-world capitalist economies,” MOP Patron Avaera begins.

“Virtual currency is usually earned proportional to various measures of virtual effort that are intended to be wealth-generating activities – selling loot earned from skillful PvE hunting, selling crafted goods made from resources gathered over time, owning items or land that generates tradeable material over time. However, virtual effort doesn’t have the quite the same limitations, scarcity, and creativity as real-world effort, and these systems seem prone to exploitation by users/bots that can easily outmatch casual players in terms of how much virtual effort and time they can expend, leading to various RMT problems and artificially distorted economies. How would you go about avoiding this problem, if you had the god-like powers of a game designer? Is there a way to set up a virtual economy so that it isn’t prone to exploitation by bots or gold-farmers, and will we ever see a virtual game currency that can truly be exchanged with a real one?”

I posed Avaera’s question to our staff to mull over.

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Choose My Adventure: Two approaches to whining about DC Universe Online

Dear readers, today I am going to try something different for all of you. And it’s predicated on the fact that I’m not just fond of video games; I’m also fond of comic books. This means that when I sat down for my most recent play session in DC Universe Online, I found myself of two minds about why I wasn’t super-duper happy with the content I was experiencing… and both of them could easily fill in a good chunk of words by themselves.

So this week, you get to choose the column you want to read. There are two spoiler warnings below: one covering my thoughts of playing the game from a strictly game-based perspective, the other one being my thoughts of playing the game from a comic book fan’s perspective. Read one! Read the other! Read both! Theoretically you could read neither, I suppose, but then you would have clocked out before you were done with this introduction.

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