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: Have you picked up any bad habits from MMORPGs?

Star Wars Galaxies came close to wrecking my typing skills. Because semicolons functioned as linebreaks in macros and in chat in SWG, I got in the habit of not using them, replacing them with commas. This is a terrible habit to pick up for a writer, as those of you up on your grammar skills know that commas and semicolons do not serve the same function in a sentence. Using commas where semicolons go creates run-ons of doom.

Fortunately, I’ve managed to restrict this bad habit to casual chat and keep it away from my formal writing — like here! — so it only looks ugly when I’m “off the record” in texts or Slack or whatnot. But it’s still a bad habit I picked up for logical reasons in an MMO, and one I wish I could abandon.

Admittedly, this is not the world’s worst habit to have. Can you top me? Have you picked up any bad habits from MMORPGs?

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The Daily Grind: What leveling experiences do you dread in MMOs?

If you talked to Final Fantasy XI players, the Valkurm Dunes were the most dangerous place to be in the game. Really, it was just where everyone went to level from 10-20 or so… but that level band was where you’d find yourself with players who still knew little to nothing about the game, bored people just putting in their time, no option to Raise dead party members… lots of bad things, in short.

That is not, however, the only dreadful experience band in MMO history. I always dreaded bringing alts through the 80-85 band in World of Warcraft, simply because it meant some decently designed zones that were all part of a very disappointing expansion. (And they never really linked up or flowed nicely.) For that matter, I hate bringing classes through the 40-50 band in Final Fantasy XIV, and 10-20 in City of Heroes always struck me as kind of dreadful.

But that’s just a small sampling, and I have no doubt you have your own examples. What leveling experiences do you dread in MMOs? When do you feel you really have to steel yourself to get through the blander portions of the leveling process?

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The Daily Grind: Do we deserve better damage models in MMOs?

For all of the changes, iterations, and evolutions that MMORPGs have undergone over the years, it still feels like we’re back in the 1990s when it comes to combat visuals. Other than mobs jerking or falling down when you hit them and the occasional game that throws in a puff of red blood, there’s little to show for our efforts until that seemingly fit and healthy mob abruptly falls down, dead.

I’m not a bloodthirsty gorehound by any means, but sometimes I wouldn’t mind if MMOs would go a little further in developing damage models for their mobs. It feels kind of ridiculous that I can be swinging away with my lightsaber in SWTOR and never even dent that droid that I just hit six times in a row. I sometimes prefer bow-users, just because some MMOs keep the arrows persistent when you hit a foe with them.

Do you want better damage models in MMOs? Would you like to see more happening in combat as you attack and perform spells?

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The Daily Grind: Has a soundtrack ever inspired you to try out an MMORPG?

Massively OP reader Andrea has a fun question for us today. “I’ve been perusing through different MMO soundtracks these past days and some of them are so beautiful and atmospheric that they make me want to actually try the game although I had no intention otherwise,” she writes. “Has an MMO soundtrack ever inspired you to try out the game itself?”

You folks know we love our MMO soundtracks here on Massively OP — we keep Jukebox Heroes and Battle Bards’ Justin Olivetti trapped in a tower with nothing but a keyboard and an iPod, after all — so I’m guessing a lot of you have heard more scores than played games, and this question has a high chance of scoring hits. I’ve found some gorgeous music thanks to Justin for games I’ve never played, for example — I’ve been completely obsessed with The Repopulation’s released music tracks. (I’m a sucker for marimbas.)

Has a soundtrack ever inspired you to try out an MMORPG?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite unorthodox MMO weapon?

I’m never going to fail to be amused at the weapon of choice for Medics in WildStar. “Medic” is an odd class choice anyway, but the fact that they wield shock paddles as a weapon just tickles me in the right way. I’m also fond of the scythes used by Dervishes in Guild Wars and Dark Knights in Final Fantasy XI, and everyone who has been able to listen to me ramble about it knows how much I loved Staff Fighting in City of Heroes.

Basically, I like unorthodox weapon choices. I like swords and guns too, but I also like it when games let me pick up something rather unusual and rampage around with violent intent. So what about you, dear readers? What’s your favorite unorthodox MMO weapon? Is it something listed above, or a normal weapon that just looks inherently odd or silly? And is it a weapon you love in actual play, or just one that you find conceptually fun?

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The Daily Grind: Are social hubs and chat windows enough for your MMO needs?

The other day I was reading up on how the upcoming Dauntless will feature a social hub where players congregate en masse and do their business before heading off for much smaller co-op missions on instanced maps.

It’s certainly not the first game to do this sort of lobby multiplayer setup; Destiny, Hellgate London, and Guild Wars are just some of the other online games that use this format. Heck, Secret World Legends is about to reshape and reboot the game to be just that.

It got me thinking: Is this enough for my MMO needs? If I have a social hub and a chat window wherever I go, do I really need maps with dozens of random players possibly crossing my path? Honestly, I kind of like that massively multiplayer world experience, but as long as I’m connected to other players in some respects, I can still enjoy these more limited multiplayer games.

What do you think? Are social hubs and chat windows enough for your MMO needs?

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The Daily Grind: Do you make a point of watching or skipping MMO cutscenes?

During this week’s podcast, Justin jokes about how Final Fantasy XIV literally has an interface pop-up to warn you before it deluges you with an extremely long series of cutscenes, on the order of half an hour of basically watching the game rather than playing it. That cracked me up because I admit I am not much of a cutscene-watcher to begin with. My instinct is to click through them in a lot of MMORPGs, especially when I’ve seen them before, but even sometimes when I haven’t. So let’s just say that while I appreciate that FFXIV reminds us to take a potty break before it goes all exposition monster on us, I probably still wouldn’t watch it.

Howsabout you? Do you still watch MMORPG cutscenes? Did you ever? If you skip them, do you do it out of habit or lack of time or anti-story principle?

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The Daily Grind: Who’s the best villain ever in an MMORPG?

The past few weeks while I’ve been sick, I’ve been doing a rewatch of a couple of old favorite shows and fell into a TV tropes black hole while trying to sort out which trope best suited a particular villain in one of them: an antagonist who turns out to be far surpassed by (and excommunicated by) several far more evil antagonists over the course of the show’s run, to the point that he becomes an ally of the protagonists. I think he’s a combination of a Demoted to DragonDragon with an Agenda and The Starscream, and possibly also the Starter Villain turned Ex-Big Bad turned Token Evil Teammate. Turns out figuring out which trope a character fits is as hard as writing a good villain.

And that leads me to today’s Daily Grind, which is about MMOs, I promise. If villains are hard to do well in a medium that is explicitly designed to favor narration, what hope is there for online games? The best villains I’ve ever seen have been player villains (the actual roleplaying type, not the murderer-slash-con-artist type), but I bet you folks have some good ideas for PCs and NPCs alike. Who’s the best villain ever in an MMORPG — and what TV trope does he or she fit?

(Extra bonus points if you can figure out the show and character I’m talking about!)

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MMO Mechanics: Making healing interesting in MMORPGs

I was reading a recent Daily Grind article on the topic of unique healing classes and it prompted me to think about the variety of mechanics on offer for healing in MMOs that go beyond the World of Warcraft model. There are few MMO mechanics that run the risk of being diluted down by mods and add-ons in the way healing mechanics can be, which makes the area a fantastic area for a thought exercise in keeping healing interesting in MMORPGs.  Pair the lack of immersive interaction with the mechanics presented by the existence of click-heal and other ‘easy-heal’ overlays with many people’s general wish to be the more extroverted hero character instead of the less flashy but also very much needed party healer and it’s easy to see the need for more incentives to be presented by development teams.

In this edition of MMO Mechanics, I’ll take a look at some of the class suggestions from the Daily Grind article mentioned and will attempt to summarise what makes those classes so unique and interesting, hopefully in order to find a commonality between some that goes beyond the basic healing mechanics we know from more traditional MMOs.

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The Daily Grind: What’s the worst MMO for doing things as a group?

I have nothing against Guild Wars 2 on a whole, but the group content in that game is a disconnected mess. Dungeons, when I stopped playing, were cluster of people running around and soloing while at the same time maintaining an air of “every man for himself” that makes the whole experience something less than pleasant. I’m sure that there must be more going on once you get into the raiding scene, because the alternative is too depressing to contemplate, but I’m certainly not motivated enough to find out.

But that’s just within my experience. I’ve never really grouped in Blade & Soul, so for all I know it could be better or worse. Heck, the original Guild Wars had its own issues with grouping up and doing stuff for everyone who wasn’t a healer. So today, we ask you: What’s the worst MMO for doing things as a group? Is it one of the examples listed above or something else? And what makes the game so bad for group activities?

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The Daily Grind: What is the most unique MMO healing class?

It’s a mistake to assume that if your job is refilling green bars in MMO dungeons, then you’ve got the same tools and techniques available as every other healer in the genre. Healing classes have grown quite diverse and interesting over the years, with some professions offering unique twists on how they keep their party alive.

So what is the most unique MMO healing class? Is it one that heals while doing DPS? A class that marshals a posse of pets to assist in battlefield surgery? What about shielding healers, or ones that have to hurt themselves to aid others? Maybe it’s the blood magic of The Secret World that gets your interest or the high-tech healing fields of WildStar’s Medic that keep things interesting. Sound off in the comments!

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG studio is the most generous to players?

Longtime MOP community contributor deekay posed us an interesting question in the context of Marvel Heroes this week: Is it a good thing when developers are too generous to players?

Marvel Heroes, for example, was once well-regarded for delivering a steady stream of free content, like free character unlocks and boosters that dropped like candy and updates coming so fast folks couldn’t keep up. If I understand right, the idea is that as the studio behind the game has shifted gears to work on a console version, PC players conditioned to receive lots of free stuff and dev love and patches are grumpy that it’s slowed down. Moreover, you could argue that studio generosity can undermine the game and its perceived value, a bit of a reversal of the prestige pricing effect.

So let’s consider deekay’s musing. Is it a good thing when developers are too generous to players? Which MMO studio is the most generous?

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The Daily Grind: Do MMOs go overboard with particle effects?

There was an old joke among myself and some of my friends playing World of Warcraft about how it was convenient that bosses are all big so you can see them through the spell effects. Of course, there’s some truth to that. Even in a dungeon, it’s easy to lose sight of a boss under the effects of a few people hitting the same target; in content with large groups, you can often lose sight of the boss completely beneath an explosion of special effects.

It’s neat to have effects to go along with your abilities, of course; seeing the flare of something happening to your targets is part of how you know you’re doing something. But City of Heroes in particular had people claiming they couldn’t even see what was happening half of the time, and there are certain bosses in Final Fantasy XIV with facing-reliant attacks where it’s hard to not just pray you’re avoiding where the blob of spell effects is facing. What do you think? Do MMOs go overboard with particle effects?

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