the daily grind

No, it’s not a slow news day; it’s just The Daily Grind, a long-running morning feature in which the Massively Overpowered writers pose gaming-related questions to the MMORPG community. [Follow this feature’s RSS feed]

The Daily Grind: What is your favorite MMO magic system?

While there are plenty of similarities among magic systems in MMOs (hey, how about you cast another fireball? There you go, champ!), there is a lot of variety as well. I'm always attracted to systems that put some though into their design, such as Guild Wars 2's illusion-based Mesmers, the mix-and-match Necromancers of Vanguard, and Lord of the Rings Online's wordy Rune-keepers.

At the very least, I have to applaud developers who at least put in the effort to gussy up the same mechanics in a new outfit. But when a team eschews the tired magic tropes and starts to get imaginative with spellcasting? That's when I perk up and pay attention.

What's your favorite MMO magic system and why?

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The Daily Grind: Is in-game advertising the MMO genre's post-lockbox future?

Massively OP reader Sally Bowls pointed us to a fun piece on Frankengadget this week about Final Fantasy XV and its overt product placement. "Final Fantasy XV tricked me into buying Cup Noodles" through a "beautiful, devious combination of empathy and nostalgia," the author laments. The story content promoting the noodles seems like the sort of cheesy fake marketing you'd get out of a Mass Effect game -- I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite X on the Citadel! -- only it's real.

Sally suggests that we're all still fighting the lockbox gambling battle -- and losing -- while the marketing departments of online game studios are already dreaming up their next trick, which might just be an old trick that never took hold in MMOs, at least not yet. "I think the next outrage is going to be ads and product placement," Sally writes. What do you think? Is in-game advertising the MMO genre's post-lockbox future? And if it is, do you prefer that to lockboxes?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO is doing the worst job of pretending it's in beta?

I respect the fact that Revelation Online is in beta right now. It's closed testing and there's going to be a character wipe. I respect that a lot. That's a pretty significant difference from, say, H1Z1, which has been asking for money for quite some time now if you want to play the game and functions as a live game, but still technically squeaks into the "Early Access" wheelhouse.

Of course, it's not always cut-and-dried. Shroud of the Avatar is a game that many people point to as being functionally launched, but it's also a title that has been visibly in development and hasn't pretended otherwise at any point. It's been a little while since the game's final wipe, though, so you could argue that it really should have pushed that big red "Launch" button then rather than several months later.

And let's not get into the many, many free-to-play games which are in open testing for a year or more while claiming to be in beta, despite the lack of any sort of wipe. So what do you think, dear readers? Which MMO is doing the worst job of pretending it's in beta?

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The Daily Grind: Are contemporary settings underutilized in MMOs?

We all know that fantasy is by far the most popular setting for MMORPGs -- but what is the least? While not completely unrepresented in the genre, the contemporary setting seems to be on the low end.

Maybe it is because we want to be transported to a far-away world, not invited to a place that's practically next door. Perhaps it's just more difficult to figure out how to meld MMO mechanics with cell phones, the internet, and drive-thru Starbucks. But it can and has been done, most notably in The Secret World and now in the upcoming Identity.

What do you think? Are contemporary settings underutilized in MMOs? Could they bring something new and interesting to the table? What would get you to play in such a game world?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO do you most regret Kickstarting?

With Pathfinder Online, The Repopulation, and TUG all back in the news this week either hunting for money, being acquired, or undergoing a total do-over, Kickstarted MMOs are getting more side-eye than usual from the MMO playerbase.

It isn't as though MMOs never crowdfund and launch successfully; Elite Dangerous, Ascent, and Guns of Icarus are just a few of the ones that have done just that. But I'm willing to bet that any of you who've ever Kickstarted a game have a regret or two. I sure do.

Which MMO do you most regret Kickstarting, and why?

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The Daily Grind: Will you give The Repopulation another chance?

The after-hours Friday revelation that The Repopulation is relaunching early this year took a lot of our readers by surprise. The much-wanted sandbox MMORPG had been offline for over a year, and though updates had been scarce, we'd been told Above & Beyond was using Fragmented's profits to re-home Repop in its new engine, so there was grumbling at the lack of transparent progress, but not panic.

Now we know more of the story: that Fragmented wasn't making enough to make Unreal-based Repop a reality, and in order to get the MMORPG to market and make original backers happy, A&B says the clear choice was to offload the game to Idea Fabrik, the maker of Hero Engine.

Some folks seem OK with this unusual turn of events; they wanted the game either way, and Idea Fabrik does have a vested interest in seeing a solid game come of its engine (and is apparently in good financial health now). Other readers? Let's just say that there's been a lot of ranting from all corners -- people who feel they were lied to about the nature of the games, people who don't believe Idea Fabrik can finish the game properly, and people who are just soured on the whole experience of watching A&B give up its dream.

Where do you stand on it, once Idea Fabrik actually gets it out the door? Will you give The Repopulation another chance under its new owners?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best races?

The other night I had the opportunity to play Asheron's Call for the first time (and most likely, the last time). It was a surprising blast of originality wrapped up in the visuals of a game from two decades ago.

One of the features that deeply impressed me was the game's imaginative roster of races. Absent were the boring stock fantasy races of Elves, Dwarves, and the like, and instead there was a wild assortment of well-thought-out species that included sentient bugs and a guy whose lower half of the body was magical smoke.

Maybe that's far from the best MMO when it comes to racial representation. If you had to pick -- and you do -- which MMO has the best races?

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The Daily Grind: What's your biggest MMORPG inventory pet peeve?

I was surfing the Guild Wars 2 Reddit (because I'm a glutton for punishment) yesterday and bumped into a thread mocking some of the game's inventory problems. Actually, one specific problem: A whole bunch of identical items in the game just will. not. stack. Why do a whole bunch of identical reward bags have different item ID numbers? Because of reasons. It doesn't matter. It drives people bonkers because not only do you waste a ton of inventory space -- which costs actual money to increase, mind you -- but you waste a ton of time repeatedly clicking and trying to make stuff stack that never will.

That got me thinking about other inventory pet peeves, like the lack of gridification in The Elder Scrolls Online. So tell me: What's your biggest MMORPG inventory pet peeve? I won't even make you turn it into a gif!

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The Daily Grind: What defunct MMO would you like to play that you never tried?

It's easy to look back at games we loved in the past and sometimes wish we could go back to old favorites that have left us. I know there are times when I'd really love to jump back into City of Heroes and make a new character or two. But there are always games that we never quite got around to trying, games that we meant to give a real shot, the ones we have no memories of that still seem peculiar and interesting.

I never played The Matrix Online or Asta before both were shut down, but I was always interested in both of them. My time in Auto Assault was entirely limited to its early beta, yet I love the idea. Obviously, I'm never going to have a chance to try Asheron's Call before it waves farewell, and any consideration I had been giving to roleplaying in Landmark with my wife has been thoroughly killed.

So today's question isn't about what MMO you played and wish were still around. Instead, we're talking about the memories that never were. What defunct MMO would you like to play that you never tried? Not an old favorite, but an old title that was gone before you had a chance to fall in love with it.

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The Daily Grind: What's the hardest-working MMO team out there right now?

The other day we ran a story on Villagers and Heroes' plans for 2017, and those of us in the Massively OP office were murmuring about how impressed we are at this scrappy team and its ambitious content and feature rollout. Sometimes we see games like this that put the headliners to shame with their production quantity and quality, and it feels like it's a bummer that they don't get more attention from gamers.

If you had to pick one or two MMORPG teams to single out for praise, which ones would you say are the hardest-working in the industry right now? Which are the most agile, the most ambitious, and the best at delivering on promised content?

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The Daily Grind: How often do you claim refunds on MMOs?

Chargebacks were a big deal in 2016: Black Desert, ArcheAge, and No Man Sky were all embroiled in community drama thanks to perceived chargeback abuse. PayPal even ended its chargeback protection for crowdfunding donations, making it harder for gamers who hand over cash to abuse the credit card system to get that money back.

But some games are offering you your money back and you're still not taking it.

Hero's Song, for example, recently went under, but John Smedley pledged to refund any Steam and Indiegogo purchasers who asked for their money returned. Yet there are folks in our comments who said they wouldn't take him up on that -- they feel they got their money's worth or don't feel it's right to take back what was intended as a gift, risks fully understood. That reminded me of when Glitch sunsetted after a couple years in operation and Stewart Butterfield offered everyone all of their money back from years of play and a lot of players said no way.

How about you? Do you claim refunds on games when available? How often do you do it?

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The Daily Grind: What's the most intellectual MMORPG?

We got a wonderful "deep thoughts" email from reader James earlier this week that serves as the backdrop for this morning's Daily Grind.

"It could be the whiskey talking, or the newness of coming back to a game after a year, but I am finding Final Fantasy XIV much more intellectual and meditative than World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic, etc. What MMO makes you think the hardest while playing?"

I'm going to resist the urge and say EVE aka Spreadsheets Online and instead give my nod to Lord of the Rings Online, which always makes me feel like I'm plodding through an intentionally archaic historical novel -- and I mean that in the nicest possible way. How about you folks? What do you think is the most intellectual MMORPG, the kind you can't just faceroll your way through because it really makes you think?

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