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 important are player economies to MMORPGs?

One of the more alarming trends in MMORPGs from the past few years, to me anyway, is the weakening of in-game economic systems, and not just from themepark shortcuts.

My first MMORPG was Ultima Online, where personal trading and vendor malls were ubiquitous, where you could drop dead and see everything you’d held looted and carted away by players and mobs alike. And I remember the MMO community outage when EverQuest introduced “no drop” and “no trade” items as, it was understood, an attempt at combating gold and item farmers. Most of you probably know that concept better as “soulbound.” It’s commonplace now, but at the time, it was the kind of decision that literally forks genres.

We’ve come a long way down that themepark fork since then, it seems to me: We now have many MMOs where you can’t drop stuff, games where you can’t hand items directly to other players except by mail (if at all), games whose devs cap item values to interfere with the market, games that refuse to consider an auction hall, and games whose auction halls are basically toys for well-connected guilds and no one else, never mind the multitude of MMOs where corpses can’t be looted or crafting exists as a useless minigame to keep crafter types from noticing they’ve been demoted to second-class citizens.

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The Daily Grind: What will you do for costuming in an MMO?

Yesterday, while talking to some friends in Final Fantasy XIV, I noted that 750,000 gil for an item I only wanted for cosmetic purposes was just a bit too expensive for me. Not that I didn’t have the money; that was just more than I was willing to spend for that particular bit of costuming. I have spent 500,000 at a go for certain pieces that were just too perfect, though, and I’d probably do so again.

Likewise, I would carefully time my weekly resets and character projects in World of Warcraft around old raids with valuable (to me) cosmetic gear. I spent most of my money in The Secret World on costume items and cigarettes for roleplaying purposes. I would say, without any real hyperbole, that my motivation for what I do in most games comes down to about 75% “what will look cool on my characters.”

So what will you do for costuming in an MMO? Will you do content that you don’t find super fun or actively dislike? Will you devote weeks of play to a single goal? Will you spend a lot of in-game money? Or do you consider it just a nice diversion not worth really upsetting your normal play time to pursue?

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The Daily Grind: What MMO ability makes you feel truly powerful?

A couple of months ago, I received a legendary in World of Warcraft that allowed me to shoot out this gigantic AoE fireball every 90 seconds. It’s since become one of my favorite abilities in the game, both for the visuals and the damage that it delivers. Using it made me think of how much of a sucker I am for skills that both look and feel powerful.

These kinds of abilities were always the ones that got my attention the most in City of Heroes. I didn’t care how practical some of the powers were; if they didn’t deliver a visceral punch, then they earned my scorn. The ones that did, however, were almost always first up in my rotation.

What MMO abilities, from skills or gear, make you feel truly powerful? Which ones will you never get tired of unleashing on your foes?

(The header image is from Elsword, in case you’re wondering!)

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The Daily Grind: Do you ever take vacation (or sick) days to play MMOs?

Every time there’s a big video game launch, MMORPG or otherwise, I see people joking about calling in sick or taking vacation time to play it. And I always wonder: Do you really? Or are you just teasing?

Maybe I’m boring, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it. Skipped some classes back in the day, maybe, but I don’t think I’ve skipped out on work. Then again, maybe that’s because I’m knee-deep in MMORPG stuff all day long anyway.

How about you? Do you ever take time off of work or school — legitimately or otherwise — to play MMOs? What was the last game that provoked you to do it? And most importantly, was it worth it?
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The Daily Grind: Have you ever snubbed someone in an MMO?

Ah, the dreaded snub. It can be so subtle, so carefully orchestrated that the person snubbed is barely certain that a snub was intended. But the sting is still there, that feeling of being rejected by the very friends you rely upon. A snub is an awful thing, from the group-based antics of old-school Final Fantasy XI to your World of Warcraft raid group “forgetting” you had signed up for the fifth straight raid. It’s the sort of thing that makes you just want to log off and, well, stay logged off.

But sometimes we all go down that route. I know there are people I’ve snubbed myself, for reasons ranging from “this person is intensely unpleasant” to “this person is grotesquely incompetent and will get the entire dungeon run repeatedly killed while also being intensely unpleasant.” So today, we ask you for your own stories. Have you ever snubbed someone in an MMO? Worse yet, have you done so when you really didn’t intend to send that message?

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The Daily Grind: Do you check out other characters in MMORPGs?

The other week on the podcast, Bree and I were arguing over the importance of cosmetic looks — not just in how you present yourself, but also in how others see you. She said that it didn’t matter to others, since most people never take the time to really look at other characters, while I differed and said that I do this all of the time.

I’ll admit that not every player character gets the close eyeball treatment from me, but if I spot a figure sporting a dashing outfit, riding a weird mount, or otherwise being engaging, I’ll take the time to saunter up and inspect them at point-blank range. I even have been known to take screenshots of such characters for my creepy and nefarious purposes.

Do you actually check out other players, or are they so much background art in a game that’s really all about you? Alternatively, what makes you sit up and take notice of how another character looks?

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The Daily Grind: Does multi-guilding hurt MMORPGs?

Massively OP reader Josh wrote into the podcast recently — in fact, we’re answering his whole email on this afternoon’s show — about the state of guilds in MMORPGs. A fan of Asheron’s Call’s monarchy system, he posited that far from creating tight bonds in MMOs, modern guilds seemed designed to encourage “flitting around” as you can very often join multiple guilds at a time.

“But this seems to also result in far less expectation of investment in a particular guild,”  he observed.

I wanted to use that part of his question as a springboard about multi-guilding in today’s Daily Grind. I personally think that multi-guilding has helped a lot of social and roleplay guilds stay alive in an era when game developers are hell-bent on gamifying guild systems with achievements and perks that drive so many players into the arms of power-centric guilds. But I also see the investment issues Josh does, which inarguably affects the communities, just in a different way.

What do you think — does multi-guilding hurt MMORPGs?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO is the worst for ‘trash pulls’?

A week or two ago, Blizzard Watch had a post up polling its readers about which trash pulls in WoW they hated the most. I’m willing to bet a small number of our readers may not even have much experience with trash pulls to begin with, depending on the types (and ages) of MMOs they’re familiar with. But I remember the days of early World of Warcraft and being frustrated because it was so obvious that the trash mobs were just there to clutter up our path, prolong the duration of the dungeon, and waste our time.

I also remember the days of City of Heroes, when the trash pulls of swarms of baddies were the most entertaining part of group encounters, and in fact bosses were what always annoyed me. (Freakin’ purple triangles.) Pull every room! All the rooms! More mobs! More exp! More loot! More particle effects!

That tells me the problem isn’t so much the existence of trash mobs but their execution and rewards.

Which MMO is the worst for trash pulls in 2017? What about the best?

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The Daily Grind: What MMO April Fools’ Day joke makes you sad it’s just a joke?

It’s not really difficult to tell when an announcement is an April Fools’ Day joke; they’re usually pretty obvious. Final Fantasy XIV‘s announcement of Tactics Alexander did not actually convince me it was going to exist. But I really want it to exist because I endlessly adore Final Fantasy Tactics and would play through an amalgam of the two games like it was my job. (Which, in light of FFXIV’s extant cues from the Ivalice games, it already kind of is.)

This is not the first time this has happened, though. Laugh all you want, but I would be thrilled if World of Warcraft had actually added the Bard. Heck, there have been some Star Citizen gags that I’ve found more interesting than the actual game itself. The mark of a good April Fools’ Day joke is not just whether the joke is funny; it’s also about whether or not you want the joke to be real despite knowing it’s not. So now that the most recent year is fading into memory, we ask you: What MMO April Fool’s Day joke makes you sad it’s just a joke? Which game gave you something ridiculous, only for you to mutter “wait, I actually want that”?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO podcasts do you listen to?

Obviously, quite a few of you tune in to the Massively OP Podcast every week as witnessed by our dramatically growing stats. It’s always gratifying to hear that people include us in their weekly routine, so thank you for that!

But we’re not so full of hubris that we assume that this podcast is the only one you ever listen to or watch. Whenever I get into an MMORPG pretty deep, I like to seek out informative and well-done podcasts on the game to enjoy while I’m playing the game. It kind of feels as if there are fellow gamers in the room sharing my interest.

What MMO podcasts do you listen to? Which do you recommend to others to check out? Maybe you can turn someone on to a new show that he or she wouldn’t have known about otherwise!

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The Daily Grind: How much do you really care if your MMORPG is super successful?

Earlier this week, we reported on a SuperData revenue ranking report that showed World of Tanks pulling in more cash than World of Warcraft’s western division. At some point after that piece ran, as The Ancient Gaming Noob noticed, SuperData revised its chart and merged WoW East and WoW West back together again, putting it ahead of World of Tanks in the aggregate.

Now, I don’t really have a problem with this; that’s how it should be since none of the other games was ever split by region that way, as we’ve been arguing since February. But clearly someone — SuperData? Blizzard? — cared enough about WoW being #4 and not #5 to change it after publication.

But I wondered whether any players actually care. I suspect most of us care only that it’s successful enough to keep online first and keep the entertaining content coming second; whether it appears in a top 10 revenue chart on some analyst’s site isn’t going to be of much interest to regular players, except when they’re busy throwing shade on some other game, of course.

How much do you really care if your MMORPG is super successful?

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The Daily Grind: Are you excited about Secret World Legends?

I quite like the setting behind The Secret World, and the game had some very neat ideas about progression and character builds. For my money, that didn’t make up for atrocious combat and somewhat lopsided balance issues, but it meant that I was quite excited to hear about Secret World Legends back when it was just “the relaunch for The Secret World.”

Now, though? I don’t know. The announcement seems like it lacks a lot of substantive statements like what the future is for The Secret World or what precisely differentiates the two; is Secret World Legends built more like a single-player game where you can invite friends? How much is shared online by default? Is content only coming to this version from now on? Yes, I’ve read the press releases and interviews multiple times, but there’s still a lot of vagueness and implications that don’t really deliver much in the way of firm answers.

I’m still cautiously optimistic, of course, because the idea of the base game with better combat is appealing, but there’s a lot that is unfortunately unclear and offers space to worry and be confused. What about you, readers? Are you excited about Secret World Legends?

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The Daily Grind: What anticipated MMO expansion turned out to be a disappointment?

It’s with a heavy heart that I have to admit that RIFT: Starfall Prophecy kind of let me down. I was really, genuinely looking forward to playing this expansion last fall, especially since I would get in on the ground floor at release. And while there were some great aspects of the release, such as the concept and some of the quest lines, the overall product felt half-baked and the combat became such a slog that I gave up three zones into it.

I’m sure this has happened to all of us at some point. We get really hyped and excited for an MMO expansion, drinking in all of the promise that the devs feed us… and then that anticipation is deflated by the actual release. It just doesn’t live up to our standards or it has some major issues. You look at it and say, “Son, I am disappoint.”

When you look back at your MMO gaming career, what expansion turned out to be a disappointment to you? What could have been done better by the dev team?

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