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: Is there a ‘youth’ stigma in online gaming?

A couple of nights ago, my husband was playing Overwatch when I heard a pair of high-pitched voices coming across his headset. “Oh cool, two women in one match,” I said. “No,” he said. “They’re boys. They can’t be older than 12. And they already chased everyone else on the team out of voice chat.”

And then? It was the only game he won all night.

Setting aside my instinct that pre-pubescent kids probably shouldn’t be playing a shooter under Blizzard’s relatively toxic environment umbrella in the first place, I still felt really sorry for the kids. Even before age demographics in online gaming started skewing into 30-somethings, I lost count of how many serious MMO guilds wouldn’t even consider picking up members under 18 or even under 21 or 25. Maybe they had a point that kids don’t belong in adult groups, but without anybody to mentor them – to sit in team chat and patiently explain the way to a win and how to control their language to avoid a ban – they wind up guided by the dregs of gaming, and toxic culture continues long after those voices mature.

Is there a “youth” stigma in online gaming? How do you handle younger players in your MMOs and gaming guilds?

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The Daily Grind: Is Destiny 2 an MMO?

Massively OP reader Sray suggested we open a can of worms today, and I just happened to have a can opener handy.

“Is Destiny 2 an MMO?” he wondered, noting correctly that “this argument is going to keep happening as we approach the PC launch” in October. We’ve already had people telling us we shouldn’t cover it for – as sure as we’ve had people telling us we ought to cover it more – all on the basis of its MMOness or lack thereof.

Destiny 2 is candles and breakfast food, that I know – but an MMO? It seems to me as much an MMO as classic Guild Wars, another borderline online title whose MMO status people to this day fight over, never mind that the darn thing’s lodged in maintenance mode.

Without having played D2 yet on PC, I’m willing to be convinced by consolers one way or another. Is it an MMO or not, and critically, why?

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The Daily Grind: How much do aesthetics impact your playstyle choices in an MMO?

How your character looks affects your enjoyment of an MMO. This is almost a tautology; you spent time in the character creator, obviously, so you have some investment. But I think it goes beyond even that. Some of our playstyle choices come down as much to what looks cool and feels neat from a visual standpoint as it does with any other considerations. Give the exact same mechanics to a different set of visuals and people will often feel differently, even if the actual play is the same; witness the number of people in World of Warcraft with strong feelings about which Hunter spec got a gun and which one got a bow, even when the mechanics are functionally identical.

Every game has certain choices that look particularly cool – enormous capital ships in EVE Online, Red Mages in Final Fantasy XIV, several Elite specs in Guild Wars 2. There’s an obvious effort to make these things look cool, first and foremost, often to the point of enticing people who otherwise might not play with these particular options. So what about you, dear readers? How much do aesthetics impact your playstyle choices in an MMO?

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The Daily Grind: Which NPC would you like to see more of in your MMO?

I think I speak for a majority of Secret World veterans when I say that we need 100% more Hayden Montag in this MMO. The odd headmaster of Innsmouth Academy is endearing with his ill-fitting clothes, complete lack of social tact, and his macabre backstory. He could totally hold up a spin-off of his own.

Sometimes MMO writers (and the characters’ voice actors, if there are any) can strike gold with a particular NPC. These characters become more than placeholder names and faces to us; they make a connection with players and are fleshed out to a greater depth. And when that happens, you naturally want more.

So which NPC would you like to see more of in your MMO? Who needs to come back for more missions and stories?

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The Daily Grind: Which two MMOs should totally hook up?

Yeah, we’re shipping MMOs today, giving new meaning to the Daily Grind! MOP reader Leiloni recently pointed us to an old but still relevant thread over on the MMORPG subreddit about unholy MMORPG unions. Specifically, the thread asks players to mix two MMOs to make the perfect game.

Leiloni proposes TERA plus Guild Wars 2, which seems like it would make a pretty solid themepark. Me, I would use Guild Wars 2… but I’d mix it with City of Heroes. Both have the level-flattening conceits that I like, so they’d mesh well. I’d love to see City of Heroes with GW2-style graphics and a more elaborate crafting system, and I’d love to see Guild Wars 2 with CoH’s attention to cosmetics, power customization, and player-generated content.

Which two MMOs would you mix?

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The Daily Grind: What would an old MMO have to do to win you back?

Something odd hit me recently. As I was sitting and planning my MMO play schedules, I realized that whatever announcements about expansions we get from World of Warcraft, I’m really not sure if I’ll go back. I only went back for Legion for very specific reasons after Warlords of Draenor really failed to impress, and looking at it now… boy, I don’t know what the developers could do to win me over.

Well, no, that’s not true; I know exactly what they could do. A full housing system in multiple locations, better character customization, no level cap bump, continued artifact weapons, reintroducing more esoteric systems… I’ve got a whole list. So the problem is less that I don’t know what could win me back and more that I don’t expect it will actually happen.

This is not, in and of itself, unique. I think we’ve all got a game or two on our lists that we still have fond memories of, but we’re not going to play it again unless something happens which, let’s face it, isn’t going to happen. So do share, dear readers. What would an old MMO have to do to win you back, and are you pretty certain that’s never going to happen?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO would you like to (re)visit before the end of the year?

Every time we come around to fall, it hits me that we’re on the downhill slide to the year’s end. Fewer months are left in 2017 than we’ve seen, and while you can insert “thank goodness because of world events” comment here, it does make me feel a little pressured to get in some more quality game time in MMOs.

There are always more games than I have time to play, so I’ve become more casual in my approach to visiting certain games for a period of time and then moving on to a different title. Maybe I just want to see what’s changed since last I visited, or perhaps I’m secretly hoping that I’ll be roped back in by all of the wonderful things I’ve forgotten. And that isn’t even mentioning the MMOs that I would love to try out but haven’t gotten around to experiencing yet.

Which MMO would you like to (re)visit before the end of the year? If you don’t have time right now to play them, what games are you hoping will welcome you in before the clock runs out on 2017?

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The Daily Grind: Where do you stand on the Fortnite-vs.-PUBG feud?

Ever since Bluehole threw down a gauntlet at Epic’s feet over the similarities between PUBG and Fortnite’s battle royale mode – or more specifically, over Epic’s conflicts in regard to the Unreal Engine it furbishes and on which both games run – I’ve noticed the mainstream narrative is about whether it’s “illegal to rip off” a game mode that’s existed for decades. I suspect MMO players may see it differently.

See, Bluehole isn’t some new studio to MMO players; it built TERA in Korea. It was also the studio that was sued civilly and prosecuted criminally (successfully) for ripping off NCsoft years ago. Multiple Bluehole employees were accused and convicted of stealing trade secrets, “copious amounts of confidential and proprietary NCsoft information, computer software, hardware, and artwork relating to Lineage 3” from NCsoft.

Moreover, MMO players have already seen how conflicts just like this one between studios and engine developers can absolutely sink games. At the end of 2015, the MMORPG sandbox community watched helplessly as it appeared the studio behind Hero Engine held The Repopulation studio hostage, ultimately forcing the game offline and then buying out the game from its original developers in what seemed an unwelcome, hostile takeover acceded to in desperation.

So with all that in mind, this morning’s Daily Grind is multifold: Where do you stand on the Fortnite-vs.-PUBG feud? Who’s in the right, legally and morally, and does it concern you for engine/game relationships in the future?

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Age of Conan (finally) adds 720-day loyalty rewards

In one of our recent Daily Grind discussions about MMORPGs that might make it to 20 years of live operation, some of our commenters pointed out that despite Age of Conan continuing in maintenance mode, Funcom had ceased to honor its ongoing subscription loyalty reward program for players pushing two years or more.

The same day, Funcom (purely coincidentally, we have no doubt) posted its 720-day loyalty reward information. The good news for loyal subbers is that the two-year mark will net you five royal treasure chests and a free character boost to level 80.

Age of Conan was officially put into maintenance mode back in February as Funcom chose to instead pursue Conan Exiles, Secret World Legends, and other upcoming projects.

Source: Age of Conan

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The Daily Grind: Should MMOs get rid of levels?

I would like to say that when I was a kid playing my first MMORPGs, I was impervious to the grind, that I embraced taking many months to level a skill or hit a level cap. But that would be a lie. I stuck a rock on my keyboard to AFK macro overnight in Ultima Online, and a friend of mine would log into my EverQuest account sometimes while I slept to catch me up in levels. I hated it. I have always hated it. Oh, I’d spend hours per day in those early games, but I wanted to chill with friends, make stuff, run dungeons with people without worrying about level discrepancies and gear and all the obnoxious mechanics designed so transparently to slow me down and make me pay to grind. And I’ve felt this way for 20 years.

This is why a recent tweet of Raph Koster’s, quoting Elder Scrolls Online’s Matt Firor, resonated with me:

“Removing levels as a gameplay factor was the best decision for retention ever made in Elder Scrolls Online.” -Matt Firor

It’s affirmation that I’m not alone: A huge portion of the MMORPG playerbase will pay for content that pushes us together by invalidating level grinds rather than keeps us apart. Is it not time? Can we just be done with the old canard that people “need” leveling make-work to feel achievement or investment in a game, when metrics prove otherwise? Should MMOs get rid of levels?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite small act of kindness from a stranger in an MMO?

At one point in Final Fantasy XI, I was stuck in Ordelle’s Caves. A friend had been helping me get my RSE deep within the caves, and then he had to log off… and I was stuck without a map or any guidance, far too low-level to get out. But then a high-level Thief saw me, partied with me, and helped guide me out while I kept myself in Sneak and Invisible behind her.

I never saw her again, or if I did, I didn’t recognize her and she didn’t recognize me. But she still did something really kind for me, and I’ve never forgotten that.

Today, let’s be good about that. The best MMO experiences are built upon a thousand small acts of kindness. The Warrior in World of Warcraft who doesn’t roll on the armor piece you want because it’s a bigger upgrade for you. The Inquisitor who stops and helps you fight off a group of enemies in Star Wars: The Old Republic while you’re on your Trooper. Even just the nasty-looking cruiser in EVE Online that could demolish your mining ship but chooses to let you go by. So what’s your favorite small act of kindness from a stranger in an MMO?

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The Daily Grind: Do any MMO monsters creep you out?

I can’t say that I’ve ever encountered truly disturbing and creepy MMO mobs. I think it’s by the virtue that they are in an MMO means that they’re usually all over the place, and any initial disturbance grows lessened with familiarity.

However, I’m sure there are exceptions. The Bogeyman in Secret World is pretty creeptacular, especially his appearance in the spin-off The Park. I know that some of my friends who suffer from acute arachnophobia are all “nope nope nope” when giant spiders scuttle across the screen.

Are there any MMO monsters that creep you out? What is it about them that gives you the heebie-jeebies?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPGs will make to to 20 years?

Unless it mysteriously shutters between now and Monday, Ultima Online is turning 20 next week. Our Game Archaeologist will surely object to an assertion that UO is the first MMORPG to turn 20, but even if you do count pre-MMORPG titles as MMOs or include non-continuous or non-graphical games, UO is still among the very few MMOs to get there alive.

I’ve started thinking about numbers like that in light of Black Desert studio Pearl Abyss’ assertion a few weeks back that online PC games and MMOs have “an extremely long life cycle” on average between 10 and 11 years, implying that PA intends to support its games with those lifespans in mind.

There are a few MMOs coming up on 20 years now other than UO, including classic EverQuest. Alas, others, like Asheron’s Call, were sunsetted before they got close. Consider the MMOs you’re playing now: Which of those MMORPGs have a hope of making it to 20 years?

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