roundtable

Massively Overthinking: The City of Heroes Master X Master debacle

On Tuesday, NCsoft announced that it plans to introduce Statesman, from the long-sunsetted City of Heroes, as a playable character in its MOBA, Master x Master.

Complications ensued, as anyone familiar with the history of MMORPGs can probably imagine.

For this week's Overthinking, I asked our team of writers -- both those who loved CoH and those who never much played it -- what they think about the whole ordeal. Are gamers right to be angry? What exactly is NCsoft thinking? Have we seen the end of any hope of the game being resurrected or sold, or should we infer just the opposite?

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Massively Overthinking: When social play in MMOs is predatory by design

Blogger Tobold recently wrote a provocative piece on social play in MMOs, as pointed out to us by our dear tipster Sally. In a piece cheekily titled "Why I can live without other players in my games," he writes that far from being the foundation or glue of MMOs, guilds are actually one of the worst bits of the genre, being platforms for selfishness and drama.

"Guilds were never designed for positive social interaction, they were always a means to an end of individual character progress. You needed those other people to get the most powerful gear in the game. And the way there wasn't exactly a constant stream of friendship and happiness. Look at what MMORPG blog posts have been mostly about when talking about their guilds: First people complain if others aren't investing as much as they do and become a hindrance to killing raid bosses, and then when the raid boss is finally dead they complain that somebody else got the loot."

"The people most loudly complaining about the lack of other players being forced to play with them," he finishes with a zinger that resonated most for me, "are the kind of people with the most predatory play styles."

I've presented Tobold's piece to our writers for this week's Overthinking. Do they -- and you -- agree with his thesis? Let's Overthink it.

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Massively Overthinking: That moment when your MMO looks like a 'fire sale at an exotic pet store'

Massively OP Podcast listener John recently sent us a really great question that saw Justin and me sharply divided in terms of our responses, so naturally, we decided to kick it to the whole team and the readers too.

"When you walk through a city in WoW, you very rarely see two adjacent characters riding the same species of mount," he wrote. "I just walk by, thinking, 'Unicorn, griffin, dragon, wyvern, skeleton of a horse, motorcycle, floating-on-a-cloud, mammoth, turtle, rocket, sparkle pony, rancor, miniature TIE fighter,' and so on. Once there’s a cash shop, special instance rewards and PvP mounts, a flood of new (and increasingly implausible) mounts hit the scene. It makes it hard, for me at least, to imagine that I am in any kind of a coherent setting. Why not add an optional checkbox for 'Traditional Mounts' that would cause other people's mounts to render as normal mounts for their race? Everybody else would be able to see what they want to see, and cities wouldn't look like a fire sale at an exotic pet store. I also propose the same solution for people who find female gear too revealing and impractical: Give me a 'Sensible Armor' checkbox as well!"

Why not indeed? Let's hear it!

(With apologies to Trove, whose screenshot I just had to use above but is actually wholly justified in being wacky.)
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Massively Overthinking: Mainstream misconceptions about MMORPGs

Massively OP reader Arsin Halfmoon pitched the team a great question this week, poached straight from the podcast list:

"As someone deeply invested in the MMO genre, I find our reputation as a playerbase just as important as the games we play. I've heard people say MMORPG stands for 'Many Men Online Role Playing Girls' or something derogatory. And the mainstream media loves news story about players dying from excessive MMO playing. I've even watched a documentary about people addicted to our genre -- let's just say that didn't really put a good spin on us either. Overall, the media doesn't shine a positive light on us. But I know we're more than that. If the staff could dispel any misunderstandings about the MMO community to the mainstream, what would they be?"

I posed Arsin's question to the staff for Overthinking this week. How does mainstream news -- and mainstream gaming -- get our genre wrong?

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Massively Overthinking: Is the MMORPG genre taking a much-needed breather?

Massively OP donor and commenter Tibi sent this epic question to our podcast and kindly allowed me to share it here instead for maximum impact! Tibi wants us to consider the state of the genre and consider that maybe we're taking a much-needed breather from the hectic chaos of a few years ago.

"Much has been said and written about the decline and even death of western AAA MMOs, but assuming that New World and future games end up coming out, I am actually happy with this quiet period. It can give already launched games the time to mature and grow into what was originally promised. I doubt that if we were still getting the onslaught of games from a few years back, Elder Scrolls Online could have thrived the way it does today or that The Secret World could have kept its smaller but constant playerbase. There are so many good games out there and it's great to see them able to keep the lights on and welcome new players who would otherwise have gone chasing the new shiny and miss out. What do you think?"

I posed Tibi's question to the Massively team for this week's Overthinking, but they were all too busy playing quiet MMOs! Just kidding. Batter up!

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Massively Overthinking: Are MMOs designed for 'low-skill gamers'?

Ages ago on the MMORPG subreddit, a player made a bold statement: MMORPGs are designed for low-skill gamers.

"I remember being dazzled by EverQuest and Ultima as a child," he wrote, reminiscing about his memory of high difficulty old-school games. "I recently loaded up [Star Wars: The Old Republic] again, and I'm shocked. Piss easy. Everything. XP falling from the sky. Mobs dead in one GCD. Brainless. The same reason I quite every MMO. I never meet people, I never feel challenged. I just feel bored. 'Wait till endgame' isn't gonna cut it anymore. I'm over it. I'm done. I feel like I'm just hitting the 'Reward' button again and again and again, solitary and alone, like a stupid little rat in the cage." He then basically blames the perceived shift of the genre on people who don't want games to be "like a job": "The genre just seems to be fueled by mediocre, anti-social "consumers."

I wanted to pull this back out to see whether our staff and writers agree with the claims -- and whether we all have some advice for this fan, who concludes his rant by asking people to change his mind. Howsabout it, Overthinking fans?

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Massively Overthinking: Unholy MMORPG hybrids

Massively OP reader and frequent tipster Gibbins wants us to play match-maker.

"I love the wonderful world that Bethesda created with the Fallout franchise, not too bleak but very post apocalypse with a very kitsch '50s feel from the time of duck and cover educational films, but I wish it were multiplayer. The huge volume of mods for Fallout is also is a massive bonus, giving the game great variety and replayability. On the other hand, I also love the satirical in your face style of GTA Online and its no-holds-barred multiplayer experience, but I wish there were more to the story and more support for mods. Both games offer so much, and I would love to see how each studio would add to the other's game. Which two development teams would you like to see married... and which game would be their love child?"

Let's complicate Gibbins' request and say that the love child game must be an MMO! I've posed his question to the team for this week's Massively Overthinking.

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Massively Overthinking: Breaking your immersions in MMORPGs

Veteran MOP reader and tipster Nordavind is going to break your immersions. Just kidding. He does have a question for us all on that topic, however:

"After the discussion about the recent Worlds Adrift article, I started to think about what my limit is when it comes to plausibility in games. I do not need a game to be realistic; I can easily accept no fall damage 'because strong,' shooting flames from your fingertips 'because magic,' and faster-than-light travel 'because sci-fi,' but things like those serial turbines in the article's image [shown above] just utterly shatters the little immersion I bring to games. Don't mess with the physics! Where do you guys draw the line? What odd things do you accept 'because' and what pet peeves can break your immersion in even the most fantasy world of them all? (And the answer "other players" does not count!)"

We're gonna hold you all to that! We posed Norda's question to the MOP staff for this week's Massively Overthinking.

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Massively Overthinking: Death and dying in MMORPGs

In March of last year, MOP's Justin wrote a detailed guide to the most common death penalties in MMORPGs. Last September, Gamasutra pulled seven game developers together to discuss the most effective gaming "fail states," several of which involve death. Both articles came rushing back to me this week when Crowfall revisited the subject of its own death penalty, which involves a brief ghost period and a fast-track trip to the temple for resurrection.

This week, I've asked the MOP writers to consider MMOs and non-MMOs and propose their own favorite death penalty. Is it an old one, a new one, or one no one's done at all? What's the best way to implement death in a modern MMORPG?

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Massively Overthinking: The future of a global MMORPG industry

Massively OP Patron Duane's done the math on what is becoming, more and more, a truly global MMORPG industry. His question for Overthinking this week is a simple one:

"Devs in over 27 countries have released MMOs as of 2017. What country which is NOT your own would most excite you with a future MMO release?"

Now this is an unusual one! I posed his query to the team, and when we're done, we'd love to hear from the rest of you.

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Massively Overthinking: Tab-target vs. action combat in MMORPGs

Massively OP patron Duane is kicking the new year off right: with a brawl over combat types in MMOs.

"Tab-target, action, or hybrid combat, for many MMO gamers the combat system, regardless of whether it is a well-made, is a deal maker or breaker," he writes -- I like to imagine he wrote it with a mischievous glint in his eye. "What is the superior combat system, and why is it superior (please give examples)? Let the battle-lines be drawn!"

I posed his question to the MOP writers for this week's Overthinking. Here we go!

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Massively Overthinking: Hopes and wishes for MMORPGs in the new year

One of the frustrating bits about our end-of-the-year content rollouts is that sometimes predictions and story roundups can come across as negative. It's way too easy to assume that if someone is predicting game X will flop, she wants it to happen and is gleefully steepling her fingers and cackling madly over its future demise. Which is just not so! I never steeple my fingers.

But all the same, for tonight's Massively Overthinking, we'd like to take a moment to set aside our fears and expectations and just talk about our hopes and wishes for 2017 in an MMORPG context. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams.

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