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 do you want out of a space sim MMO?

Watching the whole development and phenomenon of Star Citizen from a slightly detached perspective, I’ve often wondered (as I’m sure you have) what this game will actually end up being in the end. Certainly, many grand and impressive-sounding statements have been put out there, but we’ve all been hurt by unfulfilled promises before.

What’s really got me thinking is how everyone interested in this project seems to project their own desires into it. Ain’t none of us want the same things for a space sim MMO, unless you’re one of those mad players who wave your hands around and say “EVERYTHING!” like you’re a kid at a toy store who can’t focus on a few important purchases.

So assuming that you’re interested in space sims, what do you want out of MMORPGs in this field? Is it narrative? Trading? Planetary exploration? Combat? FPS boarding action? Weird aliens? Your own starbase? Janitorial simulation? Hardcore survival mechanics? Softcore space visuals?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMOs would you include among the greatest RPGs of all time?

Massively OP reader Francois recently pointed us to IGN’s Top 100 RPGs of All Time, which we thought was worth a nod since unlike many such lists, it includes several early MMORPGs: including EverQuest (100), EVE Online (81), Phantasy Star Online (63), and of course, World of Warcraft (5), plus other multiplayer games we’ve covered in the past, like Diablo II, Titan Quest, Torchlight II, Stardew Valley, Neverwinter Nights, and more Ultima, Elder Scrolls, and Final Fantasy franchise games than you can shake an ancient console cartridge at.

But I can’t help but feel as if the MMOs that were included were added more for their saturation and fame and ubiquitousness during a certain time period than for their actual quality as RPGs, especially once you apply IGN’s rubic, which mentions requirements like story, combat, and presentation. I bet gamers with more experience in the breadth of MMOs could come up with a few more examples — maybe even a few made sometime after 2004 too, yeah?

Which MMOs would you include among the greatest RPGs of all time?

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The Daily Grind: Is there an MMORPG you find too daunting to return to?

Last week, Blizzard Watch published a post discussing the problem with grinding — but maybe not the problem you’re thinking. Matt Rossi explained that he had returned to World of Warcraft, or tried to, anyway, but felt overwhelmed by the amount of catch-up required in the grind department, from rep grinds to artifact knowledge. Blizzard is pretty good about helping returnees get caught up on experience, but not so much on the rest — and the experience is the fun part!

And boy do I know this feeling. There are so freaking many MMORPGs I enjoyed once, but going back… well, there’d be the compelling part of re-absorbing all the game knowledge, but that enjoyment would be totally wrecked at the realization that the economy, cosmetics, and meta had long since passed me by, never mind the grind itself. I’ve found that those are the kinds of MMOs I just don’t go back to.

How about you? Is there an MMORPG you find too daunting to return to?

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The Daily Grind: Do you think useful MMO tools get misused by the community?

DPS meters, in theory, are a really great tool for players who want to push the envelope in content. That is, however, just in theory. World of Warcraft has made them more or less ubiquitous bragging mechanisms. Heck, even if they could be useful, they lack a lot of useful data; simply knowing that someone is doing lower DPS doesn’t necessarily provide a lot of information as to why. And since they’ve become almost constant bragging tools, most people who aren’t interested in that side of gameplay react negatively to meters no matter how important the meters might be.

Of course, it’s hardly the only example of a useful tool becoming less useful via implementation. Players can turn lots of things into ego manipulation. Do you think useful MMO tools get misused by the community? Does it seem that good tools wind up being used either for unintended purposes or find their useful elements get sidelined? Or do you think it’s more a matter of emerging uses that are equally as valid as the intended use?

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The Daily Grind: What would you like to see done with MMO pets?

A little while ago, I was amused by a story about how a sort-of pet for World of Warcraft’s sort-of housing was able to be moved to the current city hub via effort on the player’s part. It struck me as funny, as that game has more actual vanity and combat pets than you can shake a stick at, yet some players would put in the effort to bring Dog “home.”

Eh, who am I to judge? I love my pets in MMOs, even though most of the time all they do is trot alongside of you and clutter up dungeon runs. I enjoy the virtual companionship and being able to show off a little. I do wish they’d do a little bit more, whether it be trot around my house (in games with housing), go sell my vendor trash (Torchlight-style), or fetch me the occasional critter and drop it dead at my feet.

What would you like to see done with MMO pets? How could they become more interactive and engaging? Would you want a pet that grew up, that could be taught tricks, or one that responds to commands?

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The Daily Grind: Do you seek out MMORPG leaks?

Over the past couple of months, the MMORPG community has worked its way through massive leaks of top-secret info: first for Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind, then for The Secret World’s morph into Secret World Legends, and most recently for Guild Wars 2’s upcoming expansion. The latter two events in particular provoked long discussions among our staff and commenters about when and whether to cover leaks that are already in the wild and how to approach news we’ve never agreed to withhold. And with The Secret World and Guild Wars 2, at least, the studios’ excessive secrecy and elitist invitation-only testing helped propel a masochistic community desire to see leaks manifest, leading to a perfect storm.

And now it’s ruined for everybody… or at least for people who couldn’t resist clicking past the spoiler warnings. I’m bummed that we’re going to miss out on the fun of unwrapping all those presents one at a time, in Guild Wars 2’s case anyway – it’s more fun and better hits to get to roll out a little at a time. But I’m also hopeful the studios might take alpha tester NDA betrayal as a sign to be more communicative and transparent too and not keep everyone in the dark as long as has gone on here. (Or maybe even just stick to paid testers from the start and give no regular player any temptations.)

How do you feel about MMORPG leaks personally — do you seek them out and click on them, or do you stay away?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO should have its own toy line?

This will come as no surprise to regular readers, but I like Transformers. I like Transformers a lot, including the toys. There are lots of toys on my desk and in my office. But why aren’t there toys based off of MMOs?

We’ve had lots of games get the occasional “collector” toy here and there; both World of Warcraft and Destiny have had those styles of figures, usually marked by a lack of articulation, a sculpt that emphasizes details and ink washes over play value, and higher price tags. But that’s not I want. I want toys. I want to buy a WildStar action figure and then buy all of the little tanks for her to pilot.

And it’s not like WildStar is the only option in the batch; Star Wars: The Old Republic seems like a shoo-in for some good action figures, and I would kill for some good Crowfall playsets. What about you fine people? Which MMO should have its own toy line? (And yes, I’m aware that WoW also had a few Mega Bloks sets.)

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The Daily Grind: How can MMOs better incorporate challenge and difficulty?

This past weekend I was watching a new video by The Hive Leader in which he was discussing some lessons that MMOs might learn from the wider video game industry. Of particular interest was a segment in which he compared the extreme difficulty of Demon’s Souls against the cakewalk progression of most modern MMORPGs. He bemoaned that we had lost the risk and challenge of old school games.

The kneejerk reflex, I think, is to say that we need to go back to the design of those old days with hardcore elements (full-loot PvP, XP loss on death, long travel times, etc.), which is certainly what some indie projects are attempting right now. But many of those things were hated and proved to be exclusive back then, which is why I’m hesitant to return to them.

Instead, are there better and more forward-thinking ways to incorporate challenge and difficulty in MMORPGs without making them appeal to an incredibly narrow and masochistic segment of gamers? How would you like to see your game get “hard” while still being fun?

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The Daily Grind: Are you Kickstarting Ashes of Creation?

Well, congrats, Ashes of Creation. You did it: You made your $750,000 Kickstarter goal in less than 24 hours, which means we’re going to spend the next 30 days watching you climb ever higher as you dangle stretch goals in front of us.

You also got half my damn guild to back you. “You know I have more money than sense, and there is a lifetime sub out there,” one of them joked to me last night while picking my brain on the game. AoC seems to have something old school MMORPG players actually want and will pay for: an actual full-scale MMORPG with plenty of investor backing and demo reels to instill confidence.

Personally, I kicked them the smallest pittance that’ll get me into the beta — those $10,000 packages are a bit too rich for my blood. The promise to return Kickstarter contributions should the game fail to launch is enticing too. How about you? Are you Kickstarting Ashes of Creation? Or are you holding firm on your resolution not to back MMOs in 2017?

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The Daily Grind: Are MMORPGs better off without stories?

Last week, Massively OP community veteran BalsBigBrother pointed out — rightly! — that while Trove is amusing, it’s very much lacking in prepared story or even lore, which could be a turn-off to gamers seeking that from their online games.

The topic dovetails nicely with one of the key mainstream gaming conversations from last week on whether video games are even a good medium for storytelling to begin with. “The best interactive stories are still worse than even middling books and films,” The Atlantic declared last week, setting off gamers everwhere. “To use games to tell stories is a fine goal, but it’s also an unambitious one.”

“To dream of the Holodeck is just to dream a complicated dream of the novel. If there is a future of games, let alone a future in which they discover their potential as a defining medium of an era, it will be one in which games abandon the dream of becoming narrative media and pursue the one they are already so good at: taking the tidy, ordinary world apart and putting it back together again in surprising, ghastly new ways.”

Yeah. So. I can think of terrible examples of storytelling in games as well as excellent examples. I’m sure you can too. But I have yet to watch a movie that provided me a sandbox to tell my own stories, so there’s that. What do you think? Should video games stop shooting for narrative elegance? Are MMORPGs better off without stories?

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The Daily Grind: How many MMOs have you played this year?

We’re a quarter of the way through 2017 thus far, more or less, and I’ve actually played more MMOs for a substantial length of time than I usually do. If you take my various adventures for Choose My Adventure out of the mix, however, that number falls a fair bit; I’ve been playing three, and one of them has been receiving the lion’s share of my time and attention (Final Fantasy XIV) while the other two (World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI) have mostly been brief diversions and vacations.

Looking forward to the rest of the year, I honestly think I might play two more before the year is out just for personal purposes (to the extent that someone who writes about MMOs can ever play them just for personal purposes). But I know some people who have already cleared a dozen titles this year, and others who have been playing one game since January with no sign of moving on. So what about you? How many MMOs have you played this year? Do you expect to play several more before the year is out, or is this about where you expect to stop?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the most fun you ever had in an MMO tavern?

Ah, the RPG tavern! To me, it’s the cornerstone of what role-playing games are about: The chance meetings, the preparation for adventure, the gallery of rogues, and the relaxed welcome that paves the way into this different world.

MMORPG taverns come in all shapes and sizes, and I am fascinated with many of them. I hate it when a well-designed inn or pub is barely used for anything in a game, because that feels like a waste to me. Kicking back at a tavern and enjoying conversation and activities is a wonderful way to pass an evening.

What’s the most fun you ever had in an MMO tavern? Was it a roleplaying session, a guild meeting, a drinking contest, a good-natured brawl, a clever questline, or something else entirely? Bonus points for sharing your favorite MMO tavern and why that’s your preferred hangout of choice!

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The Daily Grind: Why is MMORPG server downtime still a thing?

Massively OP Kickstarter donor John has a very simple question to kick off our morning: Why the heck is server downtime still a thing?

“How can any modern MMO still have server downtime after something like Guild Wars 2? Are we bad consumers? Do we not care? Obviously doable and I work for a company with a web frontend and plenty of places easily have the same without (planned) planned downtime.”

I’ve always found that curious too. I can understand why pre-Guild Wars 2Guild Wars 1, really — games would be locked into their server downtime/uptime paradigm, but new MMOs? What’s your excuse? Why don’t all MMORPGs have a rolling patch system like GW2’s? Why is MMORPG server downtime still a thing?

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