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See: The Daily Grind

The Daily Grind: How should studios solve the gaming-while-rural problem?

If you’ve ever read any of MOP’s Andrew’s coverage of Pokemon Go, you’ve probably noticed a recurring theme: One of his biggest pet peeves is that Niantic privileges urban players over everyone else. If you live far away from a large city, you’ll not only struggle to attend events there; you’ll suffer from a lack of hotspots, gyms, raid opportunities, and other players on the daily, and you’ll have to drive between far-flung destinations just to play. A studio obviously can’t fix a population weakness, but it surely could work harder to stop making game opportunities and rewards effectively dependent on where you live.

The same problem’s apparently cropped up in Hearthstone as Blizzard has begun incentivizing what are essentially player-hosted LAN-party events with an ultra-rare Nemsy cards, ostensibly in the service of community. I plugged my current address in and came up with no less than six events over the next month within 20 miles of my home – triple that if I am willing to drive up to 100 miles. But I live in a large city (6M metro area) in the midst of even more large cities. If I plug in my address from back when I lived in New Mexico, there are no events within 100 miles of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Zip. Nada. They don’t even make the top 50 list for metro areas in the US, but they’re the biggest for 300 miles in any direction where they are. And still nothing.

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The Daily Grind: Are you a completionist in MMOs?

As I level up my many jobs on my main in Final Fantasy XIV, I feel compelled to take on all of the sidequests meant for leveling from 60-70. This is not, strictly speaking, necessary. Heck, it’s entirely unnecessary at this point; I can just do Alliance Raid roulettes and Kojin quests. But I feel as if I should close out these quests, pick up these little extra bits of story along the way before they become perfunctory.

Some games reward completionist tendencies, of course; Guild Wars 2 maps are designed to be cleared out, to use an obvious example. But none of that changes the simple reality of whether you’re into it or not. So what about you, dear readers? Are you a completionist in MMOs? Are there things you feel compelled to clear out in your game of choice? Or do you take a strictly utilitarian approach and assume that any quests/objectives/whatever that you’ve outleveled can just remain forgotten?

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The Daily Grind: What is the best MMO dragon of all time?

Let’s throw down today and have an all-out brawl in the comments, shall we? That should keep Bree busy for a few hours at least!

Today’s topic: dragons! No, not those adorable ones you tame, but the ones that you fight (usually with a whole posse of equally deranged adventurers). They’re a staple of MMORPGs and share top billing in D&D, but not all dragons can be the biggest, baddest, and bestest. One has to emerge as Top Dragon, and the question is… which one?

What is the best MMO dragon of all time? Which dragon has the fiercest of presences, the most diabolical of fight mechanics, the wickedest of looks, and the most iconic of personalities? If all MMO dragons entered an arena to go at it… which one would emerge triumphant?

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The Daily Grind: Are you a fan of ‘automatic helping behaviors’ in MMORPGs?

We’ve been complaining about lockboxes a lot lately as an unwelcome psychological trick in gaming, so this morning, I wanted to talk about a welcome one. To do so, let me invoke the wisdom of blog The Psychology of Video Games. Author Jamie Madigan discusses “automatic helping behaviors” that studios can take advantage of to combat toxicity; he notes that researchers have found your attitude doesn’t always control your actions – you can often be tricked into an attitude based on your actions.

So if a game like Guild Wars 2 finds a way to incentivize you into resurrecting other players and helping them in combat, you begin to perceive yourself as the kind of person who helps – and you might just begin reflexively helping elsewhere, even when you don’t have to. That leads to situations, at least in GW2, where people will actually stop fighting to rush over to res a stranger, perpetuating that warm fuzzy feeling.

In a game like Overwatch, it’s even more automatic, as your character fires off compliments when characters nearby perform well. See and hear “yourself” do that enough and suddenly, that’s the kind of player you are.

Are you a fan of MMOs that employ this “trick” to encourage cooperation and community building? Where else have you seen it used to good effect?

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The Daily Grind: Do you grade MMO studios on a curve?

Here’s a non-surprise that came out of a discussion between Bree and me: We totally grade MMO studios on a curve. That curve is determined by giving a damn. All else being equal, we tend to be a bit more forgiving of studios that give the impression of at least caring about what they’re doing, even if it’s care in horribly misguided directions or in service of awful design choices.

It makes a lot of sense to me; a lot of my own fondness for Funcom comes from a sense that even while the studio was struggling and/or making awful decisions, it’s still a team of people who care about what they’re doing. By contrast, there are companies that really don’t seem to give a toss about anything beyond the current big ticket. Part of my own uncomfortable feelings about World of Warcraft come from the sense that Blizzard has long since stopped giving a damn.

That doesn’t mean that we’re unwilling to be harsh when studios we like screw up badly; it just means that the sense of effort and genuine care gets a bit more leeway. What about you, dear readers? Do you grade MMO studios on a curve, and if so, what determines the adjustment?

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The Daily Grind: What PvP MMO would you play if it were PvE only?

Depending on where you’re sitting, we are either in an age of PvP sandboxes everywhere or starving for games with well-organized and meaningful PvP experiences. Maybe both? It’s a weird era.

I am not a PvP type of gamer. I’ve tasted it, I’ve tried it, and I have never found it to my liking. I don’t begrudge those who do, of course, but I do suspect there’s an Illuminati-level conspiracy about the purpose of it. Anyway! One thought that occasionally crosses my mind is that there are some PvP-centric MMOs that — PvP aside — look kind of cool and have interesting mechanics. And that I wouldn’t mind playing them, you know, if the player population wasn’t out to murder my face.

I’ve heard all of the arguments about how some of these games wouldn’t hold up if you removed the PvP portion, but even so… what PvP MMO would you play if it were PvE only?

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The Daily Grind: Why does EVE survive where other PvP sandboxes stumble?

MOP reader Tobasco da Gama pointed us to a recent Reddit thread about why EVE Online persists, even in a weakened state, where other hardcore PvP sandboxes fail. The thread OP posits that in spite of what he calls “CCP’s criminal level of mismanagement and incompetence,” EVE has outlasted other games of its ilk, from Darkfall and Mortal Online to Albion Online and pre-Trammel Ultima Online. The reason? He argues it’s because the vast majority of players who don’t quit outright never leave high-sec and aren’t actually playing the “hardcore” PvP game that New Eden is known for at all. In other words? Most people playing EVE are carebears.

Fightin’ words, right? It makes a lot of sense to me, frankly, and since my husband still plays EVE, I’ve seen the phenomenon in action, that the toxic part of the playerbase perpetually eclipses the majority of normal folks just happily space mining and killing pirates and watching their skill bars go up.

Why do you think EVE survives where other PvP sandboxes stumble?

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The Daily Grind: Is there MMORPG lingo that you just cannot stand?

In past articles, we’ve coined some MMO terminology neologisms and expressed confusion over obscure MMO slang, but it’s been a while since we talked about the terms we really do not like, the stuff that makes us cringe.

I started thinking about this after a Lifehacker piece that suggested slang like “ROFL” and “LOL” have long since been supplanted by “haha” and “lol,” though there’s apparently a cultural fight between purveyors of those two as some people look at one or the other and flinch in revulsion.

In the MMO world, I have to say I would be thrilled to never see things like “gg,” “carebear,” “gimp,” “dkp” – ironic usage, I suppose, notwithstanding. In fact, there are quite a few terms that I’d say have already begun dying since the early days, like “puller,” “medding,” “creep,” “oom,” “named,” “leech,” “PL,” “bank sitting,” “kiting,” “reds,” and so on.

Plus there’s toon, which I know drives some of you guys crazy.

Is there MMORPG lingo that you just cannot stand?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMOs do the best job with patch notes?

To the surprise of no one, working here involves reading lots of patch notes. Some games do a better job with this than others. Final Fantasy XIV does a pretty good job with the notes, but they’re still enormous and sometimes difficult to navigate; still, it’s better than the patch notes for Star Wars: The Old Republic, which always struck me as needlessly obtuse and unclear. World of Warcraft has gone back and forth over the years, although they tend to at least be readable (and the “fake patch notes” every April 1st are usually great).

By contrast, I quite like the trick that some games such as Eternal Crusade use, putting the biggest and most relevant changes front-and-center before launching into the detailed patch notes. And I would be remiss to not mention the old Final Fantasy XI patch notes, including such wonderful vagueness as “altered the drop rates on certain items.” That’s real clear. What do you say, readers? Which MMOs do the best job with patch notes?

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The Daily Grind: Do you have a hard time connecting with isometric MMOs?

Let’s talk perspective today. No, not your general outlook on life — which I’m sure is cheery and as non-cynical as can be — but the camera vantage point in MMORPGs. By and large, cameras trail our characters either behind them or over the shoulder, with the occasional first-person perspective thrown in to keep us on our toes.

But that wasn’t the default prior to EverQuest. No, graphical MMOs in the 1990s were all about 2-D isometric layouts, from Neverwinter Nights to Ultima Online. While the isometric perspective has been largely shoved aside in modern MMOs, we do see them persist in MMOARPGs like Path of Exile and the recently released Albion Online. Even RuneScape in its older incarnations drew the camera up and back during its gameplay.

So here is my question for you today: Do you have a hard time connecting with the world and your character in MMOs featuring isometric perspectives (or other similar camera setups)? Does the distance keep you from being as invested in what’s going on, or does it lend a unique charm to your gaming experience?

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The Daily Grind: Do MMORPGs still need traditional guilds?

In the game’s design docs and our interviews, Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs is positively adamant that multiguilding (that is, being able to join more than one guild at a time on the same character) is harmful and will not be possible in the game. Specifically, the doc argues that multi-guilding is “one of the things that has hurt the viability and attractiveness of guilds in modern MMORPGs” and that “multi-guilds have contributed to the decline of meaningful guilds in MMORPGs.”

My subsequent questions, you probably noticed, fought back against the idea that multiguilding is a problem. That’s because I’ve been a guild leader for a very long time, from hardcore to casual, and I’ve seen how strict and inflexible lines between guilds can actually cause massive rifts in communities and friendships, outstripping their potential for stickiness or society-building, and I’ve seen how blurring the lines, making the unit of play smaller teams or even larger factions or player cities, brings people together in ways structured, hierarchical guilds do not. Making people choose between my guild and somebody else’s was a friendship mistake, one I’d rather not be forced to make again.

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The Daily Grind: Do veteran gamers help or hurt MMOs?

You may recall that just yesterday, Justin was asking whether dinosaurs help or hurt MMOs. When I first saw the topic, though, my assumption was that he wasn’t talking about the animals that give ARK: Survival Evolved 80% of its appeal; I thought he was talking about, you know, players who are dinosaurs. Olds.

This doesn’t mean that they’re the evolutionary ancestor to birds; it means that they’ve been playing MMOs for a long damn time and thus have a whole lot of perspective on the genre. I have experiences and backstory that stretches back more than a decade. It’s hard for me to find major released titles that I’ve never played at all, and when most of my friends talk about playing a game, I can chime in with a “me too” and mean it.

The bright side is that we dinosaurs know a lot about the genre, but the downsides are many. We get calcified in our ways and can be inflexible, we can sometimes suck the air out of the room by having endlessly repeating stories, and we tend to have lots of opinions about MMOs. Not all of them might even be good ones. So tell us, readers: Do player dinosaurs help or hurt MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: Do dinosaurs help or hurt your immersion in MMOs?

My kids, being of a younger age, tend to find dinosaurs pretty darn awesome. They went bananas the other day when they saw a dino mount in Neverwinter and screamed at me for not getting it (“cash shop ploy” does not mean much to them).

Not every MMORPG tosses in dinosaurs, but they get slipped into fantasy worlds more often than you would think. From World of Warcraft’s Un’goro Crater to Trove’s Jurassic biome, there seems to be this thought that dinosaurs can punch up a title and pander to that young, impressionable kid in all of us (and I won’t even get started on the whole ARK phenomenon).

It might be a frivolous topic, but do you think dinos help or hurt MMOs? Are they just too immersion-breaking and bizarre to toss into most fantasy worlds? Does their scale hamper their inclusion? What do you say?

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