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: Are you excited about Secret World Legends?

I quite like the setting behind The Secret World, and the game had some very neat ideas about progression and character builds. For my money, that didn't make up for atrocious combat and somewhat lopsided balance issues, but it meant that I was quite excited to hear about Secret World Legends back when it was just "the relaunch for The Secret World."

Now, though? I don't know. The announcement seems like it lacks a lot of substantive statements like what the future is for The Secret World or what precisely differentiates the two; is Secret World Legends built more like a single-player game where you can invite friends? How much is shared online by default? Is content only coming to this version from now on? Yes, I've read the press releases and interviews multiple times, but there's still a lot of vagueness and implications that don't really deliver much in the way of firm answers.

I'm still cautiously optimistic, of course, because the idea of the base game with better combat is appealing, but there's a lot that is unfortunately unclear and offers space to worry and be confused. What about you, readers? Are you excited about Secret World Legends?

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The Daily Grind: What anticipated MMO expansion turned out to be a disappointment?

It's with a heavy heart that I have to admit that RIFT: Starfall Prophecy kind of let me down. I was really, genuinely looking forward to playing this expansion last fall, especially since I would get in on the ground floor at release. And while there were some great aspects of the release, such as the concept and some of the quest lines, the overall product felt half-baked and the combat became such a slog that I gave up three zones into it.

I'm sure this has happened to all of us at some point. We get really hyped and excited for an MMO expansion, drinking in all of the promise that the devs feed us... and then that anticipation is deflated by the actual release. It just doesn't live up to our standards or it has some major issues. You look at it and say, "Son, I am disappoint."

When you look back at your MMO gaming career, what expansion turned out to be a disappointment to you? What could have been done better by the dev team?

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The Daily Grind: What's the most stable MMORPG (besides WoW) right now?

Massively OP reader Gail made an interesting observation in one of the City of Heroes Master x Master drama threads about what she called "corn flake games." A family she knew that ran a grocery store quibbled over how to stock it: One sister "always wanted to cram the cereal aisle with the latest cartoon character high sugar high profit fads." The other sister's refrain?

"'Corn flakes. People in this town buy corn flakes.' Corn flakes, while not hugely profitable, were steady dependable sellers. In the MMO market, CoH was a corn flake game. It wasn't going to magically turn into WoW overnight. It wasn't going to suddenly break out and take the gaming world by storm, though with the huge surge in superhero movies I wonder what some good advertising would have done. But it had a sizable group of steady customers who provided a stable profit. That's nothing to sneeze at."

That's precisely why the sunset was so baffling when most games would kill for a subscription playerbase of 100K: It was a steady earner. And it was and is surely not alone. What else do you think is a "corn flake" MMO? Or to put it another way: What's the most stable and dependable MMORPG (besides WoW) right now?

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The Daily Grind: Where do you stand on depictions of animal cruelty in MMORPGs?

Last week, when Guild Wars 2 revealed its latest minipet, there was a minor squabble on the forums as some players objected to it. The minipet depicts a fish flopping around gasping for air, like, y'know, dying fish do. Worth pointing out here is that this fish doesn't die; it just follows you around suffocating eternally because minipets are magic.

The original poster wasn't screaming for PETA or anything, just raising the question for feedback. "While I know it’s not real, it does give me an 'Ick feeling' as I watched it lie there gasping for air, so I would vote for a change in animation," the player wrote calmly, asking for other opinions. The replies started out well, but it didn't take before the insults started: the OP was "ruining a gag" with "political correctness" and "whining" and "safe spaces," the usual. Oh, MMORPG forums.

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The Daily Grind: Do you like the idea of limited-time MMOs?

One of the things that I find neat about games like Rend, Crowfall, and Chronicles of Elyria is that all of these games are by their very nature meant to be short-term affairs. The game only lasts so long. In some cases it's a scheduled thing, in other cases it's more an organic result, but all of them wind up in an end state. Nothing lasts forever, and eventually it's time to count the victor and move on.

This isn't actually a new idea in the MMO space, of course; A Tale in the Desert has been run using this structure for quite some time, The Matrix Online was in part based on the idea that every bit of the story would only last for so long, and progression servers like the ones EverQuest runs are meant to slowly catch up to the present until, well, they're caught up. But it's definitely reaching the point of being a full-on trend for these games in development to be time-limited.

What's nifty about this approach is that no one gets to stay on top forever, and it gives a certain point to start and stop without missing out on things. Of course, that also means it's easier to just stop playing after a certain point without feeling as if you're missing things, turning the game into shorter-term play by its very design. What do you think? Do you like the idea of limited-time MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: What long-term MMO tech issues still annoy you?

The other day in Massively OP office chat, Eliot and I were reminiscing about World of Warcraft's launch period and in particular a bug that would lock your character down into a looting pose for minutes on end, even as you scooted around the world. It was a particularly annoying issue that persisted for a long time before the game engineers finally squashed it.

In LOTRO right now, there is a mind-boggling amount of lag and rubberbanding going on in the high-level areas as a majority of the playerbase crowds into these areas. There have been nights that I logged out due to frustration overwhelming my desire to play, and I sincerely hope it gets sorted out soon.

That's one of the caveats of playing online games, which is that there are always tech issues that need fixing. Some of these prove to be more troublesome to fix or are ignored by the dev team in favor of working on other projects. When they significantly disrupt your play experience, it can sour your time in a game or even push you away for good.

So today's topic is a bit of a gripe session as I invite you to share long-term tech issues in MMORPGs that greatly annoyed you (or continue to annoy).

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The Daily Grind: How do you channel your anger in MMOs?

I don't get super angry in MMORPGs anymore -- if something really upsets me, there are 20 other solid games waiting for my attention. But I can think of specific instances that really upset me over the years, like when I spied exploiters I'd reported half a dozen times continuing to exploit, or when I realized a dev studio still hasn't fixed basic problems like ganking the opposite faction's spawn point a decade later, costing me hours of time waiting for wackadoodles to get bored and leave. I definitely still shout at my screen when I see terrible players fighting on the road and not the node, lemme tell ya, but I've probably been the most angry at people I thought were friends who turned out to just be using me or my guild for some benefit.

I have not, however, ever been so angry that I rammed my head into a monitor causing it to shatter and my friends to have to extract my bleeding face from its shards. Like this guy.

Nope, nowadays, I just walk away, find something else to do or play. My time is too precious to waste on leisure activities that tick me off. Plus, I like my monitor. And my face.

How about you? Have you ever become extremely angry in an MMO? Why? And how do you channel your anger in MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: How do you balance MMO playtime with single-player playtime?

Much of my time during a given week is devoted to playing MMOs. That probably makes sense, considering that understanding these games and writing about them is my job. At the same time, it also occupies a different position in my mental space from single-player games. Playing an MMO is part game, part project, part work, and part tinkering-based hobby; playing a single-player game is primarily just about playing a game, with added thoughts about game design serving more as a bonus than anything.

I am, however, painfully aware that this is not the case for everyone. I imagine that for many of our readers, an hour of gaming is an hour of gaming, whether you're playing Final Fantasy XIV, Overwatch, or NieR: Automata. Or perhaps one is your "primary" focus, with the other one fit into the corners as you have time. So tell us about that today. How do you balance MMO playtime with single-player playtime? Do you consider both to just be gaming, do you give priority to one or the other, or is it something you've never even thought much about?

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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 tangented 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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