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: Would you play a new Guild Wars 1 expansion?

With all of the talk and revival of interest in classic Guild Wars, it’s certainly been a great time to celebrate this beloved MMO (yeah, I’m calling it an MMO, what are you going to do about it?). I’m certainly happy that the game is still providing a fun playspace for fans and is even getting improvements in 2018.

So here’s a pie-in-the-sky question: What if ArenaNet decided that there was enough of a community for Guild Wars 1 that it commissioned an actual new expansion or campaign for the game? I know, I know, it will never happen. For all I know, it can never happen because of technological limitations and whatnot.

But… what if it did? Would you play it? Since we’re dreaming here, what kind of classic Guild Wars expansion would you love to see made?

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The Daily Grind: Do you start over in MMOs when your character or account is maxed out?

Over the last year or so, my six-year-old has been making his way through LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga on our old PS3. Yes, I know it’s not an MMO, but bear with me a sec. Last week, he broke 4B studs in the game, completely legitimately, which is apparently as high as it goes. We didn’t even know there was cap, but there it is. And my son was despondent. He wanted to nuke everything and start over because, as he put it, there was no point to playing if he wasn’t getting a score and racking up studs. He’d rather start over with nothing as long as it meant he had goals to work toward.

This is not at all how my husband and I play games, especially MMOs: Life is too short to worry about scoring; we play for fun, and if it’s not fun, we quit and find something that is. We don’t delete characters who hit the level cap and max out their gear, or abandon maxed out accounts, because the point wasn’t the characters but what we can do with them. And yet somehow, our kid has come to the opposite conclusion, which was an eye-opener to me.

Then again, I can see the appeal. I used to start over on fresh servers in Star Wars Galaxies just to see how far I could get with nothing but knowledge. There’s definitely amusement and challenge to starting over. (We did talk him out of deleting his saves entirely, at least!)

Do you start over in MMOs when your character or account is maxed out?

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The Daily Grind: Do you feel pressure to play MMOs for daily bonuses or experience events?

On Wednesdays, we farm gems.

In Trove, that is. That’s because ever since Trion revamped the daily login system, players get a daily bonus for doing a specific type of gameplay, with an even bigger bonus for subbers. It’s on a fixed weekly rotation, meaning every Monday is the same, every Tuesday, and so on. Wednesday is gems, so everybody in the game is farming gem boxes because they are just that important to character power.

The bonuses are extremely generous, and objectively, I can say it’s a great system. Buuuuuut I find myself being mildly annoyed by the compulsion to go do that one thing, knowing I’d be missing out if I didn’t. Anybody remember old-school Ultima Online and power hour, when your skill gains were accelerated for the first hour you were logged in every day? It’s even worse than that because at least that was over after an hour and people could relax and go back to ganking miners or shuffling bags of regs around their houses. This one basically never ends. It’s a weird sort of pressure to go forth and achieve, constantly. And on Wednesdays, when I feel like working on our guild map instead of farming gems, I spend the whole time feeling guilty, and then feeling foolish for feeling guilty.

First-world problems, sure, but still something I think about. I’m pretty sure the system is a net positive for game retention, but I don’t love the extra pressure. And in a way, I can understand some of the complaints about even shorter-term events, like the one Elite ran two weekends ago. Do you feel pressure to play MMOs for daily bonuses or experience events? And does it work?

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever tried to start fresh in a familiar MMO?

I have, on three occasions, tried to start Final Fantasy XI completely fresh. Ironically, this time it’s working out very well; the past two attempts didn’t work at all and ultimately led to me spending an extended time on the phone with Square-Enix customer support, unlocking my original account with the aid of a years-old expansion code. But it got me thinking about how I rarely head back to familiar games to start fresh.

That’s not to say I don’t head back to old games frequently, but in most of those games I stumble a bit and pick up where I left off. Coming back to my favorite characters is part of my motivation in the first place. Starting up Star Trek Online again meant jumping back on board with the captain I had at launch, or making alts that still get full support from my leveled mains.

So today, I’m wondering if that’s normal or an outlier. If you’ve returned to familiar MMOs, have you ever tried to start fresh? No help from old friends or max-level characters, just you playing with only knowledge as a bonus over any other new player?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite MMO story you like to tell?

MMORPGs are story machines. I don’t just mean that they’re games in which the writers tell you a bunch of tales, although that is certainly true. But they’re also games where the crazy multiplayer environment creates emergent and personal stories.

I always like to tell the story of how, during The Burning Crusade, I had a guildie put me on follow as she went to the kitchen for a snack break. I was on my Druid at the time and absolutely in love with my ability to transform into my insta-flight mode. So I ran her character over to a cliff and jumped off, turning into a bird as I did so. Over Vent, I heard her returning right then to see her character plunge to her doom. I think our entire guild was laughing about that for a week straight.

What’s a favorite MMO story that you like to tell? What memorable moment from your time in-game can you share with us today?

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The Daily Grind: What are some useful alternatives to the term ‘pay-to-win’?

Deep into the Relay article on whether Star Citizen is pay-to-win that we covered a while back, the author, Commander Llama, said something I thought deserved illumination.

“I’m also sorry the very term Pay2Win is a bit of a misnomer. It’s often read literally, and it’s also used as a sort of slur. All of this stunts any discussion from the start. Maybe we do need a new term, although we don’t need twenty different terms, each individually defined.”

He’s not wrong that there are lots of definitions of pay-to-win, and each one is dependent on interpretations of the words “pay” and “win,” which sort of makes sense – plus you’ve got the folks who use it for every game ever, or who apply it only to PvP, or who insist that winning faster or winning stylishly doesn’t count, and on and on. That’s no doubt why some folks have proposed other terms, like pay-to-play or pay-to-convenience or pay-to-cosmetic, to provide some clarity.

Let’s imagine for the morning that we’re going to collectively abandon the term and replace it with other terms that are more specific and helpful to genre debates. What are some useful alternatives to the term “pay-to-win”?

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The Daily Grind: Do you have your profanity filter on in MMOs?

You may not realize this from reading what I write on this site, but I curse a lot in real life. It’s not appropriate to be dropping four-letter words of every description in articles, so I do so rarely, but outside of these contexts I curse a lot. Thus, I tend to turn off the profanity filter that every MMO tends to feature, because it doesn’t bother me and it prevents some of my sentences from looking like a game of Mad Libs.

But there are also lots of reasons to leave the filter on. You might just not like cursing, for example, or you might not want to see the particularly awful stuff that you see in lots of text chat even though you’re fine with curse words. Or you might have kids watching you. Whatever the reason, today we’re asking if you have your profanity filter on in MMOs. Do you tend to keep your words on the clean side, or do you open up the floodgates to new and exciting curse words?

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The Daily Grind: What kind of superhero do you want to make in an MMO?

While City of Heroes is long gone, you can’t keep a good cape down. With a couple of superhero MMORPGs out on the market right now and a trio of them on the way, there are at least five titles for players to live out their heroic fantasies.

For those among our readers who have boundless ideas for superhero characters, from the majestic to the goofy, there is nothing stopping any of them from planning out what kind of powered-up vigilante they want to create.

So if you had all options available to you, what kind of superhero would you want to make in an MMO? What would be your character’s powers, theme, name, and backstory? Would you be a flier, a jumper, or a web-slinger? As a bonus question, do any of the five MMOs we’re tracking look to be the best arena for you to create your dream character?

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The Daily Grind: How important is person-to-person trading in an MMORPG?

Earlier in May, Neowiz clarified that the western version of Bless Online, like Black Desert, would eschew player-to-player trading, sticking instead to just an auction hall. It brought up all the old arguments over whether or not this is a good thing for online worlds.

Those in favor of kicking personal trading to the curb claim that it helps the studio crack down on goldsellers and spammers. Those opposed say it definitely doesn’t and that even if it did, the place of those goldsellers will just be taken up by the studio’s own cash shop anyway, such that the net effect on the economy is negligible.

My own line in the sand is clear: I side with those who say even if it does cut down on goldselling and spam, it’s never worth the loss to the fidelity of the game world and player community. MMORPGs have already been stripped of so much of what made them unique; I hate to see even more paved over just for the convenience of the customer service team employed to clean up chat, and I reserve a special set of side-eyes for all the studios “saving” us from goldsellers just so they themselves can corner that market.

Where do you stand? How important is person-to-person trading in an MMORPG to you?

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The Daily Grind: When was the last time somebody recommended an MMO you actually wound up liking?

Across the MMORPG universe, gamers are always asking, what should I play? It’s in our comments, on Reddit, in every guild and global chat channel, and surely in every Discord chat that’s ever seen the letters “MMO” uttered. We get so many podcast emails asking for advice on what to play that I fear we’re repeating ourselves.

I’ve always kind of suspected that most of the time, when we get to the point that we’re asking strangers what to play, we already know there isn’t anything we haven’t already tried and we’re just casting about in hope and desperation. But I know it’s not true; sometimes, other people can point you back to a game you’d dismissed, giving you a new perspective or forcing you to rethink the one you formed ages ago. For example, reader recommendations that I give Trove another try got me back in there and loving it.

On the other hand, I wonder how many times I’ve recommended something only to have the person try it and hate it. I know I got a few people back into Ultima Online for F2P, for example, but I also know some folks who now think I am nuts, in spite of my million caveats. When was the last time somebody recommended an MMO to you that you actually wound up liking?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best in-game cosmetic options?

With the changes made in Legion, World of Warcraft wound up with a pretty great system for cosmetic outfits. Unfortunately, it also has some notable problems, starting with the fact that there is a fairly narrow range of different cosmetic options actually available in the game. Every robe, for example, has the same basic geometry as every other. The expansion helpfully adds a few more bits and bobs, but it kind of points to the fact that the best cosmetic system in the world doesn’t help if the game’s cosmetic options are lacking.

Of course, that simply raises the question of which MMO has the best cosmetic options. But more than that, which MMO has the best in-game cosmetic options? It’s all well and good if you love the costumes in Black Desert Online, but if you feel like all of the good ones are available only on the cash shop, it rather cuts down on your practical choices. So which game do you vote for the best options available just through the game, regardless of the cosmetic system?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best mount selection?

Lately my attention has been arrested by all of the news coming out about Battle for Azeroth’s mounts. I know it’s totally dorky, but I’m really intrigued by the notion of riding a giant bee. Seriously, I want that bee mount yesterday. Yes, it’s completely impractical and bordering on farce, but it’s right down my alley.

There have been many opinions over the years about mount selections and varieties in MMORPGs. Some people enjoy the diversity and creativity that these exude while others find them annoying and immersion-breaking. I can appreciate how LOTRO keeps its mounts somewhat more practical while still having a blast with RIFT’s eclectic array (racing snail, awayyyy!).

Which MMO has the best mount selection — and why?

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Leaderboard: How much time should you put in to become a great player in the typical MMO?

Earlier this week, GIbiz put out a piece on the Shanghai Dragons, the Overwatch League e-sports team representing China. In a letter to fans, the team appears to have inadvertently revealed that it’s grotesquely overworked; in bragging that the team has the “most intensive training scheme among all the teams,” the team manager admitted that the group trains 12 hours a day, six days a week. That’s 72 hours a week.

As GIbiz points out, not only does this “seem to fly in the face of Blizzard’s goals for a sustainable league that supports its players,” it also doesn’t seem to actually be working, as the Dragons haven’t won a single game in 32 matchups. It’s almost as if hustle/crunch culture exhausts and drains people rather than beefs them up!

Most of us are never going to be, or even aspire to be, professional e-sports gamers to the degree that someone will pay us thousands of dollars per year to train and play. But I bet most of us do aspire to be decent or even great at the games we invest the most time in. So for this week’s Leaderboard, I thought it would be fun to explore just how much time you think you need to put in to be a great player of the typical MMORPG?

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