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See: The Daily Grind

The Daily Grind: Which MMO gave you the longest honeymoon period?

We all know how delightful that "new MMO smell" is, particularly when it's a particularly exciting title that you were anticipating for a long time. Finally getting into the live game, creating your first character, and celebrating with everyone else rushing into release is a heady experience.

After that comes the honeymoon period, in which you continually discover great features about the game and easily devote most of your gaming time to exploring. It's fresh, it's new, and it could be "The One" you were waiting for your whole life. But sooner or later, the honeymoon must end and either an ongoing relationship is formed or you find yourself disillusioned and wander away.

Looking back at all of the MMORPGs you've played, which one provided you with the longest honeymoon period? From release until whenever you stopped being enamored with that game, how much time did you have?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Creating a better balance in Guild Wars 2 raiding

One of the major concerns aired by the Guild Wars 2 playerbase regarding raid content is the risk of juicy raid-only story details being gated away from the bulk of players. In comments found on part one of my breakdown of Bastion of the Penitent, the most recent raid wing, many of you again discussed this problem and brought up other issues with how ArenaNet presents raiding to players in the game. Although I had planned to run my second installment in the Bastion of the Penitent series to cover the lore found in the raid, after seeing the content of your comments, I thought that I should give space to some of these complaints to see if we can perhaps come up with some suggestions for improvement in future.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I'll take a look at the most pressing gripes players have about how raiding has been implemented in GW2 while examining how this could be built upon to create larger appeal for the content that's being created without alienating diverse sects of the game's community.

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The Daily Grind: What one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?

Zubon at Kill Ten Rats recently spied a lovely tidbit over on Dr Richard Bartle's blog. Bartle, I shouldn't need to type, is considered one of the founding fathers of the MMORPG genre, having inspired through his research the infamous Bartle test. So it should be no surprise at all that he sees online worlds in everything: As his piece explains, he examined a document intended for advising universities on how to improve their student retention rates -- and Bartle realized it read like an "MMO newbie-retention handbook."

"A place where people can hang out between teaching events and make friends? Check. Organised groups led by experienced students that you can join? Check. A communication channel for students just like you? Check. A method of finding other people who are interested in the same things you are? Check. Fun tasks for people with different skills working together ? Check. Easy challenges with small rewards to get you into the swing of things? Check."

It's worth a quick read, especially for the cake joke, but I want to focus your attention on retention and stickiness specifically for the purposes of today's Daily Grind. Do you agree that developers should be spending more time on retention? And what one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?
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Leaderboard: The Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind 'chapter vs. DLC' fee debate

In the comments of a Daily Grind last week, a few commenters tangeted into debate about The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind pricing.

See, the original "ESO Plus" deal for ESO subscription holders granted them full access to all future downloadable content (DLC) forever and ever, as long as they were subscribed to the game. Morrowind, however, has been marketed not as DLC but as a "chapter," meaning it will not be subject to the Plus promises, and so everyone will have to pay for it. Grumbling ensued.

"Suppose I paid BMW a monthly fee to drive [BMW] cars," commenter Odin wrote. "I could drive whatever I want as long as I paid. They announce a great new car I want to drive. I cant wait, but they tell me, "This isnt a car; it's an automobile. You have to pay extra.'"

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The Daily Grind: Do you roll multiple MMO characters of the same class?

I'm closing in on "done" -- my own peculiar version of done, anyway -- on my ninth character in Guild Wars 2. I've rolled one of each class and put off actually leveling and learning my least favorite classes to the very end. As I've been playing my unloved Thief and Revenant upward, I can't help but think about characters and classes I prefer and wonder whether my time wouldn't be better spent on them... or maybe even on another version of the same class with a different race.

I seldom do this in MMORPGs, but in Guild Wars 2, leveling is easy and options are many, so why not? I'm apparently not alone in considering this; here's one thread from a few years ago where people are admitting to rolling dozens of characters -- some for different regions, some for cultural armor, some for different builds and armor setups, some for roleplaying, and some just because they love the leveling process. Plus: Buying a new character slot is the most efficient way to expand an account's storage.

Do you roll multiple MMO characters of the same class in the same game?

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The Daily Grind: Will World of Warcraft hold its 7.2 patch until June?

On October 24th, World of Warcraft launched patch 7.1, which contained a lot of not-quite-ready-for-launch Legion features and a bit of content. Since then, the game hasn't really launched any content. Sure, patch 7.1.5 launched in early January, but that just added the Brawler's Guild back to the game for content (which, admittedly, has a lot of new boss fights). We're looking at a content gap that's starting to spread out a fair bit already, and patch 7.2 is coming out... well, eventually?

Of course, MOP's Bree and I are in pretty close agreement about when it's coming out: June. Because that's when a new Final Fantasy XIV expansion and The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind both launch, so they're going to want to try to kneecap both of those launches.

At least from this side of the fence, that's a pretty dumb plan. It's the same plan that was in place for patch 6.2 of Warlords of Draenor, which wound up with lots of complaints about the delays, and it doesn't seem to have really crippled the launch it wanted to "intercept" there, either. Still, it's the sort of plan that Blizzard has used in the patch, and with two big competing releases in the same month it seems almost absurd to think it wouldn't be tried. So what do you think, dear readers? What do you think the odds are of WoW holding its next patch until June? And how much grousing do you expect if people are waiting that long for more content?

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The Daily Grind: What do you do when an MMO dungeon run goes bad?

While I am generally for quick and fun group dungeon runs in MMORPGs, what I dread are those runs that end up going sour and "trapping" me in the experience.

Let me explain. When you start a dungeon run, either with a PUG or a group of friends, you enter into a social contract of sorts to stick it out and get the job done. At least, that's how I see it. And that's fine for when things are going well, but there are always those runs that result in wipe after wipe, or slow down to an eye-twitching crawl, or have you waiting on one member who went AFK to apparently do his taxes, or what have you.

And when this happens, I start screaming inside because I feel trapped and locked into this dungeon run of the damned without an easy way out. Do I stick it out to the bitter end? Do I bail with or without an excuse? Will I ever get to know the comforts of my bed as the hours tick on?

What do you do when an MMO dungeon run goes bad? Do you have some sort of criteria for determining when it's OK to ditch your group? Do you feel more compelled to stay in a bad run if it's your guild?

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The Daily Grind: Should MMOs ever retire classes?

Last week, I asked the Massively OP readers whether World of Warcraft needed another class (I want the Bard, obviously). But one Facebook fan proposed something different entirely: Why not "retire a few classes" to "keep it fresh?"

I suspect that nearly everyone reading is recoiling in horror at the thought of deleting classes from MMOs, which is exactly why I wanted to stare the concept full in the face to sort out why. MMO developers seem to have few qualms about retooling classes -- your characters -- to be almost unrecognizable from their original versions, applying band-aid after band-aid to make them functional and keep them around. Would it really be so bad to nuke them entirely and start from scratch with something built from the ground up?

Yes, say thousands of Star Wars Galaxies Bio-Engineers and Creature Handlers. I hear you. But what if they'd done it more gracefully and replaced them more immediately with something, as the commenter put it, "fresh," as opposed to nuking them overnight and replacing them with nothing?

Should MMOs ever retire classes? Can you think of acceptable circumstances for such a thing?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMOs have the best combat feedback?

I'm quite fond of 20XX, but I really hate the upgrades you can pick up in the game that eliminate hit stun. Sure, it means you don't get knocked back by things, but it also means you can easily overlook when you're taking damage until you explode. I consider that slightly less than a desirable outcome, you know?

MMOs, in general, do not have the same sort of combat feedback as platformers, but they can have similar problems. One of the problems I found in early versions of The Elder Scrolls Online was combat feeling floaty and devoid of impact, making it hard to tell if my attacks were actually making a difference. (That's no longer the case, I should note.) Similarly, I've always found Final Fantasy XI with its slow pace to give you a pretty clear picture of whether or not your attacks are landing and doing something; the answer might be "no," but at least you have an answer.

Of course, there are lots of different games with many different combat styles; TERA has excellent feedback about whether you're doing well in combat, with everything feeling like it has a solid impact, but the similarly designed WildStar sometimes feels devoid of a strong sense of impact. So let's turn the question over to you. Which MMOs have the best combat feedback? Which games are great about making you feel like you're hitting something and causing an impact, and which ones leave you unsure?

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The Daily Grind: How should MMOs repurpose older content?

Recently World of Warcraft introduced Mists of Pandaria timewalking dungeons, which allowed me (believe it or not) to experience these dungeons for the very first time. What can I say? I wasn't there for this era.

I actually think that the whole timewalking concept is pretty neat because it always bugs me that MMOs seem to abandon older content when they keep adding new zones, new dungeons, and new expansions. There's so much potential to reuse areas and systems, and one would think that such repurposing would be cost-effective for the dev team as well.

What do you think? How should MMOs repurpose older content? What would you like to see happen with the long-neglected areas in your game?

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The Daily Grind: What were you disappointed to not hear about from PAX East?

As the man on the ground at PAX East this year (and every year), I bear the brunt of your displeasure if there was something I straight-up did not attend or cover. If you were really hoping to hear about Quake or Mass Effect: Andromeda or Whatever Other Non-MMO Games Were On The Floor I Wasn't Keeping Close Track from me, all I can do is shrug and apologize for disappointing you. I had the appointments I had, and I did the best I could with what I could actually be told.

Of course, this is more about what you were disappointed about that specifically swirled around the soul. Were you disappointed by the lack of an on-hand demo for TERA's console version? The non-presence of DC Universe Online? A dearth of new announcements for Conan Exiles or The Secret World? What were you disappointed to not hear about from PAX East? Were there specific games or studios that you feel didn't offer enough if anything to convention-goers?

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The Daily Grind: How many MMOs are you currently playing?

After a long time of fighting my habits, I have finally figured out that I just need to stick to one MMO, maybe two, at a time. I have tried and tried to mimic Justin's system for rotating through MMOs -- all games, really. I always feel that I should be playing a little bit of everything, no matter how absurd that is. And his schedule-centric system should be great for playing seven or more games and never getting bored. Clearly it works for him.

But I lose interest long before the rotation starts over again. I far more enjoy being single-minded and almost obsessive about a game in chunks longer than one session or day. I can sometimes get away with two games if they're very different, but it turns out I like the idea of variety a lot more than I like actually playing that way. In short: I prefer to binge-MMO.

Does this happen to you guys? Can you rotate through half a dozen MMOs, or do you like to focus on one at a time -- or somewhere in between? Take stock of your current situation: How many MMOs are you currently playing?

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The Daily Grind: How often do you play outside your comfort zone in MMORPGs?

During the first couple of years I played MMORPGs, I was a pretty timid gamer in terms of my comfort zone for actual content. It took me a good while (and a lot of pressure from guildies) to mentally gear up to kill people and cut off their heads for my collection in Ultima Online. In EverQuest, I picked an alt to force myself to practice pulling (pulling was more of a skilled thing back then). In Camelot, my puller was my main. And by World of Warcraft, I was main tanking for my guild. (She's up in the screenie above, circa 2004. D'awww.)

It seems like a silly progression now, I'm sure, but I had to force myself to play out of my comfort zone to get good at new things -- and to appreciate them. Now, in my two main MMOs, I'm playing up-close-and-personal tanky melee as a matter of habit, when as a teenager I would have made a beeline for the nearest healer class to hide. (Although I still like healers too!)

How about you? How often do you play outside your comfort zone in MMORPGs?

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