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's your favorite part of MMO gaming conventions?

The last of the pre-Stormblood fan festivals for Final Fantasy XIV has come to a close, and as with the prior two fan festivals, the bulk of my interest was satisfied after the keynote. There were a lot of other things happening, of course, lots of cool cosplay contests and interviews with the developers about what leads to creating the world... but the reality is that I'm mostly just interested in the actual information about the game. You could say that it's because of my job, but it's been the case as long as I can recall; once we're done with the information, my interest goes down, despite my respect for cosplayers and the developers.

I know some of you are the same way, doing your best Joe Friday impression and asking for just the facts. But I also know that's not universal; there are people for whom seeing cosplay contests or developer interviews are the main draw. Heck, there are people who mostly go for social interactions, and that's just as valid. So where do you stand, dear readers? What interests you about conventions for MMOs? Is it information about upcoming patches and expansions? Celebrating your fandom? Finding out what went into making the game? Something else altogether?

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The Daily Grind: What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMORPGs?

Last week, MJ and I were discussing a stream she was planning on Conan Exiles where she planned to help friends capture "thralls" to bring back to their bases and put to work. The term "thrall" is the game's way of softening what it really is: slavery. The slaves are NPCs, mind you, not other players, but honestly, the idea creeps me out a little bit anyway, far more than, say, Revival's long-ago proposed NPC prostitution design.

(But the mechanic is cool. Wouldn't it be nifty if player modders found ways to replace human slaves with elementals or automatoi or summoned spirits? That would basically negate my squeamishness entirely.)

Interestingly, as I reflect on why I find it mildly unsettling, I am thinking back to folks who roleplayed slaves, usually twi'leks, in Star Wars MMOs, and while I might roll my eyes, somehow that bothers me even less: Even though they were human vs. AI, there was a voluntariness about those storylines, play-acting instead of making an uncomfortable social statement via NPC. Conan actually rewards people for enslaving NPCs -- if you opt out on a server with the mechanic, you're at a disadvantage.

I don't know. I'm conflicted. What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMOs? Are Conan Exiles' slavery mechanics something you enjoy engaging in?

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The Daily Grind: What's the most boring part of MMORPGs?

While MMORPGs are supposed to be these giant buffets of entertainment options available at our fingertips, the truth is that there are always parts of these games that are... less exciting, shall we say, than the others.

I can think of a few that are usually systems I avoid because they're pretty boring. Crafting is unfortunately one of these. In concept, I love the idea of making your own gear and forging your economic destiny, but in practice, most MMO crafting interfaces are so dull and repetitive that I can't ever stick with them.

What is the most boring part of MMORPGs to you? And for bonus points, how would you fix it?

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever boycotted an MMORPG?

Blizzard Watch ran an editorial yesterday quoting former marine biologist and World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street on the subject of video game boycotts: "I would not advocate boycotting a game as a way to make a statement, especially if deep down you still love the game. You’re just not likely to drive change as a result."

It's not a new idea, but it's one worth revisiting whether we're talking about something as big as economic and political sanctions or something as small as quitting a video game with a big ol' flounce: Even if a whole crapton of people quit over something terrible in a game, it's unlikely to have much of an effect since the developers won't know why. There will always be exceptions -- like the NGE or monoclegate -- and they're such outliers that they have names. For the most part, games really can't react to a few thousand people quitting over a patch here and there. Boycotts just aren't specific enough.

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The Daily Grind: Which games will be the big winners (and losers) from more MMOs on consoles?

I don't think that being one of the only fully featured MMOs on a console is what has made Final Fantasy XIV successful. I think there are a lot of other factors that have attracted and kept people playing. So I don't get worried for the title when, say, I see that Skyforge is heading to consoles. But for games like DC Universe Online, I do start worrying a little, because one of that particular title's biggest draws is "action-based combat MMO on a console," and every other title that checks those same boxes gives it a stiffer competition.

That's something we don't think about much, but as we're noticing more and more games moving to consoles in addition to their PC clients, I think it's worth considering. Which games will be the big winners (and losers) from more MMOs on consoles? We're no longer in the days when playing an MMO on a console meant you had two options at most, but which games will benefit from the console port and which ones will suffer when they are no longer one of only two options?

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The Daily Grind: Which substitutes would you recommend for dead MMOs?

One interesting trend that I've noticed is whenever an MMO shuts down or is about to close up shop, there are usually discussions popping up with the community looking for recommendations of similar online worlds to try. Sometimes these recommendations take the approach of finding the closest possible genre, art style, mechanics, or staying within the same studio's portfolio (if available). Other times it's all about encouraging players to seek out a game that shares the spirit in some way to the sunsetted title.

We have certainly seen many MMOs close down over the past few years, and behind each one, an uprooted community. Where would you recommend they go?

In today's discussion, list one or more shuttered MMOs and your opinion of what other games players should seek out to fill the void of those closures. If you can give you reasoning behind the recommendation, so much the better!

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The Daily Grind: Do you ever play MMORPGs against 'type'?

Perhaps owing at least in part to the charisma of its chief executive, Camelot Unchained is one of those rare in-production MMORPGs that seems to attract people who would normally flee from it in horror.

What I mean by that is the same people I see freaking out over any new MMO that proposes open PvP of one form or another are following Camelot intently. There's even a lot of resistance to games that are basically tame battleground PvP, like Crowfall -- but Camelot seems immune.

Camelot Unchained isn't against my type -- I'm a huge fan of three-way RvR and can't wait to see how a modern Dark Age of Camelot sandpark looks in practice -- but I'm super intrigued that it's something a lot of non-PvP players (and even some of our non-PvP writers!) are watching. Can you think of other examples? Do you ever play or follow MMORPGs against your type -- and which ones?

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The Daily Grind: Where are all the sports-themed MMORPGs?

On those rare occasions when we mention EA's FIFA series, usually relating to court cases over online gambling, I'm always struck again by how few sports MMORPGs we have. We have fishing games and golfing games. We have racing games. But major team sports have never bridged the gap, in spite of their immense popularity -- though maybe that's because they're popular with self-identified non-gamers.

Indeed, even few MMORPGs include sports as something our characters would do -- it's a weird omission, right? Wouldn't it make much more sense for PvP to play out as sporting simulators, a la Star Wars: The Old Republic's Huttball, one of only a handful of examples I can think of from our 20-year history?

So where are all the sports-themed MMORPGs? Why aren't we seeing more of them, and how would you make them work? Read more

The Daily Grind: What form of balance is best for MMOs?

I've been thinking about balance a lot. We all say that we'd like a balanced game, but there are a lot of different potential meanings behind "balanced." Final Fantasy XI, for example, is balanced around the idea that every single job has a roughly equivalent pool of tricks. That means that classes like Red Mage and Blue Mage are considered balanced because Red Mage is more flexible and has access to more tricks constantly... despite the fact that Blue Mage, in every practical sense, is better at doing everything and is far more desirable in content.

By contrast, World of Warcraft is fond of across-the-board balance changes wherein a given class or spec gets 20% higher damage or 20% lower damage. The problem with that form of balancing is that it doesn't really address tricks (or lack thereof), and a 20% damage drop just makes a spec 20% worse, while a 20% increase doesn't make a bad rotation any more fun to play. You could also balance things by trying to tune or adjust specific abilities... but that runs the risk of having a cascade effect or having no effect at all, and sometimes you remove or weaken an ability that isn't really at the heart of any power issues.

In short, any approach has issues. But what do you think, readers? What form of balance is best for MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: How young were you when you played your first MMO?

We were remarking in the Massively OP office the other day how weird it was that Club Penguin's shutdown was getting mainstream news attention in a way that many more important and long-running titles (Asheron's Call anyone?) were not. One reason why this might be, apart from its Disney connection, is that for some players, Club Penguin was their introduction to online worlds and they still retain a strong emotional connection because we tend to fondly remember our first everythings. Never underestimate nostalgia!

MMORPGs as we know them today weren't really around when I was growing up, but I have no doubt that many of our readers cut their teeth on titles at a much younger age. How young were you when you played your first MMO? Was it a kiddie title like Wizard101 or an all-ages pick like World of Warcraft? Were you one of those who picked up RuneScape because it was free and you didn't have access to your parents' credit cards?

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Star Citizen's Around the Verse on the ship pipeline and 'dead body tech'

This week's Star Citizen Around the Verse episode heralds the game's 2.6.1 update, which has gone live for the hand-picked special test crew of the Evocati. Following a brief check-in with the Austin studio, the video's highlight is an in-depth feature on the ship pipeline, so start at 06m20s if you're dying to learn about how the game's zillions of ships are rolled out.

Speaking of dying! This ATV includes a tease for "dead body tech," which is too amusing not to note. CG Supervisor Forrest Stephan explains: "A big part of the build up for 3.0, corpses are part of the set dressing. You know in the wrecks, the abandoned ships and we wanted a way to use our loadouts, our current characters instead of placing these temporary props so we developed a system to use a physics based approach to having designers place these dead bodies everywhere."

Festive. The whole episode, including bodies fallin' from the sky set to very solemn music, is below!

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The Daily Grind: Which no-housing MMORPG needs housing the most?

During our Elder Scrolls Online housing stream earlier this week, Larry and I joked about World of Warcraft's half-hearted and ineffective attempts to satisfy player demand for housing over the years, from farms to garrisons to order halls. I certainly wouldn't call any of these "player houses," no more than I'd consider Guild Wars 2's home instances to be housing.

Interestingly, most of the other games I'd say are in the top tier of MMORPGs have housing now, many of them having only just added it in the last few years, from Final Fantasy XIV to SWTOR. Even Lord of the Rings Online recently reinvigorated its housing (stay tuned for an in-depth look at that this weekend). In my mind, the best trend of the year so far has been this renewed emphasis on player domiciles, not just because I enjoy that type of content but because it's clearly a money-maker for the games that implement and monetize it well.

So for today's Daily Grind, I ask you: Which no-housing MMORPG needs housing the most, and why?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO is perfect for a snowed-in day?

There are places in the world where you never get a foot of snow dumped on you in the middle of winter. But for many of us, it's just the reality that sometimes your travel options are limited to wherever you're living. You will be snowed in, and that's just how things are going to be. So you can just settle in and read, or cuddle your pets, or (as is more pertinent for this site) you can just jump into an MMO.

Of course, the question of the day is just that. Which MMO is perfect for a snowed-in day? Is it a game filled with sunny locales and no sign of the frozen landscape outside? Is it a game that mirrors the outdoors? Is it something active and engrossing or slow and relaxing? Let us know your favorite choices today. Seriously, it's relevant to us, we're snowed in right now.

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