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 the most important feature of MMO inventory systems?

A couple of weeks ago, we ran a story on ARK Park that included the image above, which just cracked me up. I mean, I get that VR games have an extra challenge when it comes to how they’re going to display your inventory in a believable and immersive way, but I was figuring that would manifest as a bag you can virtually rifle through, or store shelves at the merchant. I didn’t figure on a 3-D view on a panel within your field of view — it seems like a step backward for immersion.

That got me thinking about what I want out of MMO inventories in general. I’m playing Guild Wars 2 right now, and I have to say that the basic inventory right out of the box with even just a few option tweaks is one of the best in the genre, full stop, thanks to good color coding, a wallet, sorting bags, a “one bag” feature, the automatic compact option, and above all else, that “deposit all materials” clicky. I have to use several mods in top-end MMOs like World of Warcraft or Elder Scrolls Online to get my character inventory to this level, and even then this is just slicker. And that’s before I get to the shared bank and crafting — for me, the ability to craft without hauling crap out of my bank or bag is the number one thing I look for when it comes to MMO inventories (and I’m so glad to see it becoming more and more common!).

How about you? What’s the most important feature of MMO inventory systems?

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The Daily Grind: What was the funniest group you ever had in an MMO?

There are lots of things that I love about dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV, but one of the many is the way that you can often get groups willing to be flat-out hilarious. At one point, I had a group with a Roegadyn Summoner who helpfully informed me “I GOT U BAE” when he used Mana Shift on my Paladin. Another time we were grouped with a character dressed up as what I can only describe as the Lalafell Pope, prompting a number of jokes through the dungeons about His Holiness the Lalafell Pope. I’ll never forget my group with someone named Viewing Catscene. And so forth.

Of course, this is not unique to that game; I have also had funny groups in World of Warcraft, and City of Heroes seemed tailor-made for people to kvetch and be dumb in chat whilst laying waste to city blocks. But today, it’s not about my stories, it’s about yours. Share with us, dear readers. What was the funniest group you ever had in an MMO? What anecdote of good-natured humor do you still share years later?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best fashion design?

Don’t pretend you’re all about the stats and are above venal preening over your looks in games. You secretly spend hours grinding dungeons, scouting through outfit blogs, and loitering over paint samples in the hardware store to assemble the best possible outfit for your MMO character.

But as we all know, not every MMO is created the same or has the same sense of fashion. Some games’ armor and cosmetic design are lacking while others only frustrate by giving you so many great options that you don’t know which to choose first.

Which MMO has the best fashion design? Which is easiest to reach that point where your character looks less like a hobo rooting through thrift store castoffs and more like he or she is ready to star in an action movie alongside Dwayne Johnson or Charlize Theron?

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The Daily Grind: Are you a fan of character-obscuring morphs and modes in MMOs?

When ArenaNet went through Guild Wars 2’s upcoming Path of Fire specs on Tuesday, I was super bummed about the Ranger, the class I’d been toying with switching to as my main this time around. During the stream, ANet made it sound as if the Ranger’s Soulbeast spec would literally be a polymorph. Fortunately, as details came out this week, it became clear that the player will retain his or her own look and weaponry while joined with a pet, so I heaved a sigh of relief.

See, being transformed into something else is one of my huge pet peeves in MMORPGs, pun intended. I don’t want to be a bear and fight as a bear with bear moves. I don’t want to be a dragon, or a turret, or a vehicle, or a glowy blur, or anything other than the character I’ve spent gazillions of hours leveling, building, and designing exactly as I want her. Trying to keep me interested? Great! Give me more customization options for my appearance and my skills’ appearance, City of Heroes-style. Do no negate all the work or time or money I put into my chosen spec, my collected gear, or — especially! — the cosmetic stuff I’ve spent my cash on.

Am I alone here? Are you a fan of character-obscuring morphs and modes in MMOs, or does it drive you as mad as it does me?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your unhealthiest real-life habit brought on by MMOs?

I’ve always had a hard time going to sleep at a reasonable hour. MMOs, though, have helped make that functionally impossible for me. It started when I was playing Final Fantasy XI on dial-up and could only play later in the day, at which point I decided that it made more sense to stay up late and be tired (or take a nap in the middle of the day) than to go to bed early and lose out on playtime. Then there was the period of my life when I was working second shift and had a World of Warcraft expansion to play with…

Long story short, my sleep schedule has always been bad, but MMOs have certainly made my sleeping habits worse. And I don’t think I’m entirely alone; I think all of us have bad habits that MMOs can exacerbate. Eating poorly or not enough, not getting enough sleep, getting too competitive, things like that. So what about you, dear readers? What’s your unhealthiest real-life habit brought on by MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO zone offers the worst questing experience?

Generally, I like to pride myself on being a quest completionist in MMORPGs. I don’t like leaving a zone before wrapping up all of its missions, even the piddly ones that are little more than busy work created by third-tier devs. But there’s a limit to how much I can take when it comes to truly terrible areas.

For example, as much as I love Secret World Legends, I could never force myself to appreciate — nevermind enjoy — City of the Sun God. The gritty visuals, the lack of human NPCs, the endless canyons, and that headbangingly frustrating Black Pyramid quest make this a place that I can’t wait to leave. Therefore, I don’t feel bad doing the bare minimum to advance through it and skip ahead to Transylvania.

Which MMO zone offers the worst questing experience for you? Which area do you avoid like the plague or speed through as quickly as possible because of the subpar visuals, the missions, and the lore?

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The Daily Grind: Is lore super important to you in MMORPGs?

So the other day, the Massively OP staff is hanging out in Slack while we work, and Justin says, “Bree, you know Guild Wars 2 a lot, so I have a question: Orr was submerged for a while and all of the zombified animals and people were too, right? Well my question is, if that’s the case, why didn’t the chickens float away? They’re pretty light and all.”

And I roll my eyes at Justin because that’s just what we do and I tell him I’m totally going to email ArenaNet with his Very Important and Serious lore question. And then Tina comes in like, “The post-cataclysm chickens were missed by Zhaitan when he culled creatures from the unsunken peripheries to join his Risen, lol. Who wants a Risen chicken?”

All of this silliness reminded me that I am not a lore person in MMORPGs. It’s not that I dislike lore; it’s that I like very specific chunks of lore that contribute to my immersion and the feel of the game. Most lore doesn’t do that, so it kinda goes in one ear and out the other. The Elder Scrolls series, for example, always manages to take root in my brain, but World of Warcraft? I don’t remember much or even feel I need to.

Is lore super important to you in MMORPGs? Or is it something you could do entirely without?

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The Daily Grind: How would you solve the housing server merge problem?

When ArcheAge launched, I was one of those who was brutally harsh about its mind-numbingly stupid housing system, a more or less open-world system that incentivized land rushes, greed, gold sinks, and cheating. As far as I could tell, even back in 2014, the game’s handlers had learned absolutely nothing from the previous 17 years of MMORPG housing buffoonery. One of my complaints? Not thinking ahead to server merges.

“Balance your server populations carefully and never add more servers than you’ll need after the three-month slump because if you think server merges spell doom for themeparks, know that they’re even worse for open-world housing sandboxes (Vanguard, SWG), only slightly worse an option than ignoring the problem and expecting your players to pay to move themselves and lose their land in the process (UO, LOTRO).” [This was before LOTRO’s free transfers.]

And now here we are again, seeing server merges so bad MOP’s MJ Guthrie, whose pixel home narrowly survived the last round of merges, intimated she was done this time once her house is nuked and she’s forced into yet another land rush. It’s too late for ArcheAge, I fear, but there has to be a way out of this — maybe it’s not too late for the next MMO with housing. How would you solve the housing server merge problem?

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One Shots: The one where we mention Michael Bay

Warning: This column will contain GRAPHIC and EXPLICIT references to film auteur Michael Bay. You may find yourself cutting away in excitement every two seconds and subject to unnecessary explosions and pixelated cleavage. Try to remain calm.

Siphaed had “super fun” in Citadel: Forged With Fire lately and wanted to share a vista from his new house. But what’s the best part? “Explosions!” he wrote. “Michael Bay would be jealous of the graphical fidelity of Citadel. And yet still aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”

Now that we’ve gotten our gratuitous Michael Bay reference out of the way, let us push forward and try to forget the man who single-handedly ruined two 1980s franchises. We are not bitter.

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The Daily Grind: Have people ever kept you away from an MMO?

There are a few times in my life where I’ve stopped playing MMOs not because I’m tired of the game, but because of the people in the game. Specifically, people I have not wanted to see. There have been times when I don’t want to randomly run into an ex in World of Warcraft, for example (although that’s hypothetical, seeing as how I’ve only dated one person in WoW). Or I don’t want to log in and see former guildmates and have things just be awkward. Just… it’s better not to go there, you know?

It’s the great irony of MMOs, that as much as we tout them as social spaces that also means inheriting the awkwardness that can come with those spaces. So what about you, dear readers? Have people ever kept you away from an MMO? Was it a case where you just didn’t want to see someone or there was some bad drama left alone? And if not, has it ever crossed your mind as a possibility?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO chat channel offers the best advice?

Here’s an odd confession: I like to have global chat (or the equivalent thereof) running in my MMORPGs most days. Most days. While it can get eyerollingly awful with the immature arguments and casual racism, world chat helps to keep me appraised of what’s going on with the game and its community. Sometimes I even learn something important or find out that an issue that I’m suffering is widespread.

But I probably wouldn’t throw out an actual question in world chat unless I had no other recourse. There always seems to be more people waiting to attack you for being a know-nothing scrub than to help on the wider scale. So for assistance, I’ll turn to more specific channels or my guild. I’ve found that many MMOs have great advice channels and that it’s worth staying tuned into them, even if they’re supposedly only for “newbies.”

So which MMO chat channel would you recommend as one that offers the best advice? If you need some feedback or opinions right then and there and had no friends on hand to offer it, where would you turn?

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The Daily Grind: What do you think of half-size MMO subs?

One of the things that’s always intrigued me about games like Trove and RuneScape is their willingness to experiment with different kinds of sub models. Most AAA MMORPGs that have a sub go for the stock $15-per-month fee standardized back in the early aughts. A month is a nice clean chunk of time, but it’s just as arbitrary as anything else, and in a world with lots of MMOs to play, sometimes I just want to dabble for a week or two rather than commit to an entire month in the currency of time or money.

Trove enables that urge: It offers a 15-day, $8 sub, which feels like less of commitment psychologically. The game also cleverly hands out as in-game rewards smaller sub passes in the 1- to 3-day range to give people a tiny taste of the sub perks — another thing I’ve never seen in a AAA title.

Personally, I think offering short-term options like this is a really good idea for a free-to-play title, to the point that I am not sure why other games don’t follow suit. What’s the downside here? What do you think of half-size MMO subs?

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The Daily Grind: What would make you stop playing your current MMO?

There are a lot of things that Final Fantasy XIV has done over the years that I’m less than enthusiastic about. Heck, some of them (like the badly designed housing system) have made me start really questioning the direction of the game. But at this point I’ve been playing for seven years, and it would take a major and sudden course swerve for me to really consider just up and leaving. I like the game.

Of course, we all have different levels of commitment. Maybe you’re just dabbling in Guild Wars 2 until Crowfall releases, for example. Or maybe you make even my commitment look shaky, because you are going to be playing Anarchy Online until the servers turn off. So today I’d like to know about that. What would make you stop playing your current MMO? Major mechanical shifts? A change in content delivery? Or would it just be a matter of time?

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