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: How many of you are still playing Guild Wars 2?

As I type this, Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion has been out exactly a month. At the time, I remember making fun of the “rushers” who blazed through the whole thing in a couple of days, made their videos, and promptly declared that the game was dead and there was nothing to do. Personally, I’m still happily playing, slowly making my way in my usual duo across the desert, playing as a completionist even though that’s not really what I am. I’m in no rush. Rushing in a game like this one seems like a waste of money to me. I want to savor it (and also play some other stuff along the way).

But hey, if you’ve finished the expansion – all the maps, not just the main storyline – a month in, I’m not sure you’re a rusher. It seems like a legitimate amount of time to take to play an expansion – and it’s probably reflected in a one-month drop-off, too. Maybe ArenaNet isn’t as affected by that drop-off as an old-school sub MMO, since it got your cash already, but I bet it’s detectable.

So let’s take the pulse of our community: If you bought Path of Fire, did you “finish” it, and are you still playing?

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The Daily Grind: What one character option would you remove from your favorite MMO?

Good news, MMO fans! You’re getting to redesign your favorite MMO’s entire combat system. The bad news is that you’re doing so by removing one character option and that’s it. One class from World of Warcraft, one job from Final Fantasy XIV, one profession from Guild Wars 2, one ship type from EVE Online. You get the idea. There’s no adding; there’s just removing one thing and possibly giving some of its abilities to other classes.

And no, you can’t remove a role or drastically rearrange how roles work, either. If there are a dozen DPS options, you can remove one. That’s it.

So what would you pick and why? You can’t completely rewrite the game’s balance, but you can remove one thing from the game. What character option would you remove from your favorite MMO to revamp the combat? And do you think it would make enough difference for a major revamp to the game’s mechanics?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO rules at Halloween events?

I’m almost never happier in MMORPGs than when October rolls around. There’s so much moodiness and festivities revolving around Halloween, thanks to developers’ undying love for the holiday. Practically every MMO out there — even some of the ones which haven’t launched yet — are doing something pumpkin-related.

Of course, some games are much more serious about delivering a premium Halloween experience than others, and there’s a kind of escalating war of ghosts and goblins between MMOs. I’ve always loved LOTRO’s Haunted Burrow, and WildStar’s Shade’s Eve was quite excellent back when I was playing that game. But I can’t deny that some old timers like World of Warcraft and EverQuest II have built up a mountain of Halloween content over the years.

So… which MMO rules at Halloween events? Which always get you to come back, year after year, because it absolutely nails the theme, the fun, and the treats of the season?

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The Daily Grind: How can MMOs help you understand endgame gearing?

One of my simmering frustrations about practically every MMORPG that I play is that when my character starts to get to high levels, I am usually clueless as to how to properly gear up him or her. Sure, there are quest rewards and running dungeons, but what about past that? Am I supposed to run different types of instances in a particular order?

And it feels as though developers just stop explaining things to you once you get out of the starter zone. I keep getting special tokens and currencies in most of the MMOs I play at high level, but to find out where and how to use these, I almost always have to go out of the game to look up some guide for clueless idiots like myself. It’s not as though the MMO itself is going to point me in the direction of a particular vendor and say, “Right there, that guy will take your tokens and give you some nice raid-ready gear for your troubles.”

How can MMOs help us understand endgame gearing and progression better? For bonus points, which game do you feel does the best job at doing this?

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The Daily Grind: Have you done socially unacceptable things in MMOs?

There are two sorts of cheating in MMOs. One of them, which is outright hacking the game, is capital-b Bad. Back in the days when Final Fantasy XI was a bigger deal, Fleetool was one of the more popular hacks to the game, resulting in many people getting bans for hacking the game to move faster. That was not all right (the hacking, not the banning).

But then there were the groups who jumped ahead of other groups to get into Dynamis zones. This was definitely not a good thing, and it could be argued that it was cheating; the server community agreed about how to use Dynamis and these players were violating that agreement. But it was cheating entirely based upon a social contract, not an actual one; it was rude and indisputably wrong, but definitely not breaking the specific rules of the game.

I think a lot of our readers have done things like this in the past. Sniping resource nodes in World of Warcraft, intentionally standing in things to make healers work harder in Final Fantasy XIV, things like that. So have you ever done something socially unaccepted in an MMO? Do you feel like you were justified, and do you tend to ignore those social conventions most of the time or usually observe them?

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The Daily Grind: Do you think EA is pivoting into a Star Wars pseudo-MMO?

Yesterday’s surprise revelation that EA was canning Visceral Games and “pivoting” the design of its in-progress Star Wars linear adventure RPG clearly struck a nerve around here, as we received a flood of mail about it (thanks guys!), and not because that game was an MMO but because of how EA justified the closure.

“It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design,” EA VP Patrick Soderlund said. “Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”

If you read between the lines, the “market” has apparently told EA to scrap a single-player RPG in favor of something more persistent, more marketable, and very likely more multiplayer, especially since Soderlund name-dropped Anthem’s engine and then mentioned how Battlefront II “fuels [its] live service” in the franchise.

What do you think? Are we looking at another Star Wars pseudo-MMO in a few more years? And maybe more importantly, do you think EA’s implication that return-worthy – presumably connected, online games – are the only games worth building right now? Read more

The Daily Grind: Is PUBG finally the ‘WoW killer killer’ we’ve been waiting for?

Say the words “WoW killer” to a bunch of MMORPG players in 2017 and you’re bound to get eyerolls, for good reason: Even though we’ve been watching over the last decade as game after game chased the title, most folks don’t really believe that any MMORPG will ever truly “kill” World of Warcraft except possibly WoW itself, however slowly. Globally oriented, e-sports-centric games like MOBAs and shooters have long since surpassed the MMORPG market anyway, beating them at their own community game.

What I didn’t really expect to ever see was a game that killed the “WoW killers,” and that’s exactly what PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is doing. Oh, League of Legends, Dota 2, and CS:GO aren’t dead, and they’re not going to roll over and give up so easily, not when they’re still making money hand-over-fist (just a little bit less than before). But I have to admit that I didn’t see this coming. Battle royale is an old game type, and PUBG isn’t even the first to try to revivify it. I never expected this kind of dramatic sea change in online gaming. We’re watching a huge shift happening right before our eyes, and bizarrely enough, Daybreak is partly responsible.

Is PUBG a “WoW killer killer”? Is PUBG really worthy of all the fuss, or are people just sick of the old-school MOBA and shooter lineup?

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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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