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 we due for a good cyberpunk MMO?

I am a generally big fan of the cyberpunk genre, especially when it works in a healthy dose of ’80s aesthetics for that clunky, neon flair. But when it comes to MMORPGs, good cyberpunk titles are extremely few and far between.

I think we have a bit of it in Neocron and Anarchy Online, and of course The Matrix Online was jacked into cyberpunk back when it was running. Now a-days there is a lot of excitement over CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, although we know very little about it other than it’ll have some sort of online functionality.

Are we due for a good cyberpunk MMO? Do you think that there’s a good audience out there for it and that it would appeal to a great number of gamers? For a bonus question, what would you like to see included in such a title?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO studio told the biggest fib in 2017?

Lies piss me off. I have had MMO developers look me in the eye and lie right to my face. I have had PR promise something and then intentionally break that promise with a shrug. I have had studios mail me statements that are not just playing loose with the truth but dropping it on the ground and driving their boot heel right into it. I’ve had studios claim they never said a thing right up until I produce the recording where they very clearly did (always save your recordings, folks). I’ve been doing this a long time, but nevertheless, just when I think I’ve seen everything, I’m confronted with even more shenanigans.

You folks see plenty too! Just last year, in the midst of what was apparently a furied license negotiation, layoffs, community team silence, missed patch dates, and sexual harassment scandal – some or all of which ultimately led to the abrupt end of Marvel Heroes – Gazillion reps claimed to us that “the company is functioning normally.” And don’t even start me on the “sense of pride and accomplishment” line.

Which MMO studio told the biggest fib last year, and what was it?

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever regretted funding a Kickstarted MMO?

Look, if you want to call me a doomsayer or a pessimist or whatever when it comes to Kickstarter and MMOs, you have every reason to do so. I’ve been saying unflattering things about it since back in 2012, at least. But when you back a Kickstarter, the explicit assumption is that what you are backing is an idea. It’s not an actual thing yet. Hopefully it will become an actual thing, but it is not one at the time you back it. And that means that some of the projects you fund will take your money and then never turn into actual games.

All part of the experience. But have you ever actually regretted funding a Kickstarted MMO?

In my case, I do genuinely regret a game I helped fund on Kickstarter, although it wasn’t an MMO (Mighty No. 9 had a different set of enormous problems). But sometimes I wonder if people might not just be looking at games like TUG or Embers of Caerus; I can understand someone who funded Shroud of the Avatar or Crowfall and now feels like the game is developing in a very different direction, one that makes the previous funding a source of regret. So what about you? Have you ever regretted funding a Kickstarted MMO, either because it didn’t happen or for other reasons?

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Game Theory explores the psychological exploitation at work in lockboxes

“It’s as easy as one, two, insert your credit card number here!” So begins the parody at the beginning of the first of two recent Game Theory videos all about 2017’s favorite-and-least-favorite topic, lootboxes. Rather than overtly picking a side, the vloggers attempt to sort out how lockboxes work – whether they’re just annoying business model glitches or deliberately manipulative end-runs around gambling laws, all by examine the science.

Now, contrary to the first video’s claim, lots of people are indeed talking about the science of lockboxes, but it nevertheless contributes a funny and clear-headed angle on the psychology of lockboxes from skinner boxes and dopamine to loss aversion, the sunk cost fallacy, and the illusion of control. The chilling idea is that we actually get our dopamine blast from opening the box – not from getting what we wanted. Lockboxes, like casinos, exploit the crap out of that, adding deadlines and exclusive loot to ramp up the pressure.

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The Daily Grind: What MMO zone biome puts you in an adventuring mood?

Two of my favorite MMORPG zones are World of Warcraft’s Mulgore and WildStar’s Algoroc. Both managed to catch some of the spirit and flavor of the American west that I absolutely loved when I lived there, including the vast views, the towering mesas, and the feeling of isolation and expanse. Whenever I find myself in an MMO region like this, I feel inflated with the spirit of adventure.

I think we all feel that. Some zones make us feel less enthusiastic about playing in them while others make us drag our feet because we never want to leave. Western zones, wintry biomes, and coniferous forests are among my favorites in games.

What about you? What type of MMO zone or biome puts you in an adventuring mood?

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The Daily Grind: How much worse could MMO business models get?

During the roundtable podcast a few weeks ago, when we had the whole Massively OP staff on to chat, we tackled a question from Teviko on the future of MMO business models. We’ve come a long way from free-to-play, microtransactions, and double-dipping sparkleponies, after all, to lockboxes. Indeed, he asked us to speculate on where we’ll be in 2023, looking back so fondly on 2018’s business models the way we look back on the relative quaintness of $25 flying mounts, and saying, “Instead of X, I’d rather buy a lockbox and take my chances!”

On the podcast, several of us agreed that big data will be our big problem: that business models will evolve further and further into monetized psych experiments as predictive algorithms dictate content, drops, and prices. And yes, lockboxes will seem quaint by comparison.

But maybe you have different ideas. How much worse could MMO business models get? Which games will be winning worst business model of 2023? What exactly will the bad MMO business models of tomorrow look like?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best camping system?

The first MMORPG I ever played had a camping skill. You chopped down some wood for kindling, clicked to build a fire, and then did exactly two things with it: cook (useless) food and log out instantly. What a waste of a skill. Five points if you can tell me which MMO that was!

So it’s safe to say that camping in video games has come an incredibly long way from then, all the way to the awesome system that just debuted in Black Desert, but even so, most MMOs still don’t have camps at all, which seems bizarre to me. Justin and I were reminiscing on the podcast last week about Star Wars Galaxies, whose camping system was fantastic for getting people to explore and organically stop murder-hoboing everything in sight to take a breather, entertain, heal, and chat. Sure, we didn’t plop down tents every minute, but they made for great break points.

What would you say is the best camping system in an MMO, and how does it compare to the best camping systems in non-MMO games?

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The Daily Grind: How important is your MMO circle of friends to enjoying the game?

I’ve been fortunate, over the past couple of years, to make some really good friends in MMOs. Those friends are not the reason why I play games, though. Honestly, if all of my friends in Final Fantasy XIV stopped playing the game, I would still enjoy playing the game, and I hope most of them would still be my friends even afterwards. But they aren’t the reason why I play.

That is not universal. Some of my friends have even indicated to me that they’re only playing certain games because I’m there; if I left, they would leave. That doesn’t mean they don’t necessarily enjoy, say, World of Warcraft; it just means that their primary reason to stay centers around the company.

And I am sure that there are people out there who overlook issues in Star Wars: The Old Republic or Blade & Soul specifically because of their groups of friends; the games would be fun without those groups of friends, but it’s easier to ignore the non-fun parts when friends are there. So what about you, readers? How important is your MMO circle of friends to enjoying the game?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO offers the best sky views?

I know it’s a simple and basic thing, but I absolutely adore a great skybox in my MMORPGs. There’s something about looking up at a majestic and vibrant sky in-game that puts me right in the middle of the world and immerses me in the environment.

Fallen Earth will always be remembered fondly by me for its gorgeous sunsets, and World of Warcraft definitely brought it with some of its painterly clouds and patterns in the latest expansion. Lord of the Rings Online and Final Fantasy XIV both have crystal clear nights full of twinkling stars that make one feel small and awed.

Which MMO offers the best sky views and which zone makes for the best gazing? Bonus points if you include pictures!

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The Daily Grind: What MMO will be the next to change up its business model dramatically?

You may not like it, but the vast majority of MMORPGs are free-to-play or buy-to-play as of 2018. EVE Online went free-to-play at the end of 2016, you’ll recall, and some of the last classic holdouts – Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot – will make the same move this year. That doesn’t leave many games to go free-to-play or alter their business models in a big way. World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV with their subscription-only models lead the way (and have been lauded accordingly).

Do you think any of the remaining sub-only MMORPGs – that are actually launched and live, that is – will yet go free-to-play? What MMO will be the next to change up its business model dramatically?

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The Daily Grind: Would you play a PvE game with full item decay?

One of the most insightful comments I ever saw about Darkfall (yes, Darkfall) was that, realistically, in a game with open PvP and full looting, it was inevitable that you’d lose all of the good gear you had on. That would always be a real risk, and it would always happen sooner or later. The real question was how long it would take you to rebuild to full power after such an event and how tedious it was to do so.

I’m not fond of that style of gameplay as it stands, but I still think about it, because it doesn’t need to be “full loot and free-for-all PvP” for that core principle to stand. A game with nothing but PvE could still have you lose gear as soon as you die, or it could ensure that your gear would eventually break and be unusable forever no matter how much you repair it.

On the one hand, this would kind of damage the very environment of a game like World of Warcraft with its emphasis on perpetual improvement; at the same time, it could also be seen as a way to break away from the game’s ever-upward treadmill, and it would mean that continued gear drops from world quests would still provide meaningful gear even if you have something better right now. So what do you think. Would you be interested in playing a PvE game where your gear decayed to nothing and you had to rebuild? Where you replaced a piece not because you got a stronger one, but simply because it was always time-limited?

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Perfect Ten: 10 tips for crafting a unique MMO character name

Tell me if you’ve ever been here: You just finished spending way too much time pouring over options in the character creation screen and have finally settled on a race, class, and visuals for your upcoming hero. But then you draw a blank on the character name field — or worse, your usual nomer has already been taken and you’re in the 98% of MMORPGs that don’t allow for duplicates.

What do you do?

Because I’m not one of those players who is content to slam my head on the keyboard and accept the letter soup as an acceptable name for the next 200 hours of my gaming career, crafting the perfect name is very important to me. I have roster of names that I typically use, but those aren’t always available, especially in older games that have witness the passage of thousands of players before me.

So I’ve come up with several tips and techniques to create a fun names that exude personality, charm, and style without falling into stale tactics. And because I am your oldest and dearest friend, I’m going to share these tips with you today.

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The Daily Grind: Which MMOs do you follow that you’re not playing?

It should be said that Massively OP’s site mission is nearly impossible, since we’re trying to keep tabs on and cover the news for hundreds of online titles. But with your tips and our various processes, we make a valiant effort to touch base across the wide spectrum of MMOs and other multiplayer titles. As a result, our umbrella is very large indeed, and on any given day we may be featuring dozens of different titles here on the site.

Of course, we never know exactly what game or games might be of personal interest to you, the reader. We have a good idea of which titles are more popular, to be sure, but one can never be sure if an article might pique a reader’s interest in a title or if readers enjoy keeping tabs on MMOs that they themselves are not currently playing.

So which MMOs do you follow here on Massively OP that you’re not playing? Do you read all of the news every day? What catches your eye when it comes to types of games and the stories about them?

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