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: Should MMOs offer open-world challenge modes?

This question is not about World of Warcraft’s upcoming PvP mode switch. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a cool option; you either explore the world safely, or you open up the possibility of danger. That’s a cool trick. But that got me thinking about what other tricks you could use to create a similar environment.

For example, imagine if you had a mode in which you didn’t actually receive loot or other rewards until you successfully returned to a certain point on the map. Sure, you might get more rewards, but if you died on your way back somewhere that would be it. Or imagine if you had a higher chance of gathering rare resources but less chance of successfully gathering in a game like Final Fantasy XIV.

Of course, some people would argue that these start stretching the definition of “challenge modes” and mostly would provide the possibility of intense frustration. What do you think, readers? Should MMOs offer open-world challenge modes? And if so, what should they consist of?

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The Daily Grind: Do you get grumpy over MMO events on repeat?

I’m a huge fan of Guild Wars 2’s Super Adventure Box, even if I am not the best jumper in the world. My kid loves it, I love the graphics, the rewards are fun – really, it’s something we look forward to every year since it became a permanent event fixture. On the other hand, when the update doesn’t change much from year to year aside from QOL fixes, some of the shine does wear off. I definitely felt that way in World of Warcraft in the years when Blizzard just put the annual events on repeat (it’s gotten better about giving those events refreshes in recent years, I’ve noticed!).

Still, I hate to look a gift sparklepony in the mouth. It could be worse: I could be one of those Secret World players who are practically begging for the return of some of the events they miss from the old game in the new game because they’ve been cut off while Funcom slowly rolls them back out.

Do you get grumpy over MMO events on repeat? Would you prefer them to see a refresh every year, or are you just glad to see any annual events at all in your MMO of choice?

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The Daily Grind: What do you consider ‘meaningful’ MMO content?

Massively OP commenter DK went on a Twitter tear last week that caught my eye. He was criticizing the way some MMORPG players use the word “meaningful” as a sort of a dog whistle for hardcore or elite.

“Meaningful progression” – from these gamers – “means being able to play more hours and day and make everyone who pays less have no chance against you in PvP or PvE or economically,” he wrote. “Meaningful PvP is being able to loot the corpses of the people you facerolled due to meaningful progression leaving them with nothing at all – no gear/weapons/anything. Meaningful PvE means WoW-style raiding.”

I thought it was a good observation. It’s not what I mean by meaningful, but in retrospect, I realize that it’s what many of the people I’ve argued with over the years sure meant, and the disconnect between visions for the genre suddenly became clear to me. It’s also made me a lot less eager to use the word.

Do you agree with DK? What do you consider “meaningful” MMO content?

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The Daily Grind: Are there MMO mobs you feel bad about killing?

Call me a softy, but I always cringe when I am sent in to slaughter the small, the fluffy, and the cute in MMOs. Sure, I’ll do it, because the quest log rules my life and removes all free will from my system, but I don’t have to feel good about it.

In RIFT, there’s a special pet you can get if you kill a wide variety of helpless, defenseless critters and loot their corpses for certain artifacts. I have gotten this pet before, but I didn’t feel particularly good about doing it. And don’t even get me started on World of Warcraft’s critter cannon…

Anyway, our discussion topic today is concerned with mobs that you feel bad about killing. Are there any? Has an MMO’s artists and animators done a particularly good job in pinging your conscience and making you regret unleashing your skills on something you’d rather be your best friend on a cross-country road trip?

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The Daily Grind: How do you deal with muscle memory when playing multiple MMORPGs?

I’ve been playing two games that focus a lot on jumping lately: Trove and Guild Wars 2, specifically Guild Wars 2’s Super Adventure Box content. And it’s been the hardest time I’ve had playing multiple MMOs at a time specifically because of jumping. Jumping in Guild Wars 2 is a one-click, last-second leap into the void, right? You take off and hold your breath that you land, especially in SAB or jumping puzzles, where the visible landing area is actually smaller than the real landing area.

But in Trove, double-jumping is life, and you can even boost your jump skill. You’re pretty much jumping all the time. And I’m seriously struggling moving between the games. Ask me how many times I’ve fallen in SAB this week because my brain wants me to double- or triple- or duodecuple-jump as if I’m in Trove. It’s not pretty!

How do you balance muscle memory for playing multiple MMORPGs? Do you drag around the same keymaps to help out? Is there a particular pair of games that you find butt heads more often than not?

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The Daily Grind: We’re headed to PAX East – what do you most want to see?

Yes, it’s that time again, time to drive up to Boston and take part in the annual collection of games and poorly laid-out convention halls that makes up PAX East. There are panels to be attended if you can get in line early enough, merch to be bought, and most importantly for our purposes, interviews to be had. Are you excited?

Well, maybe not! Sometimes it feels like the best information about MMOs comes out of small conventions devoted to specific games (like EVE Online, Final Fantasy XIV, and World of Warcraft, although that last one is arguably not small in the least). Yet there’s always a bunch of MMO stuff at the various booths just the same; the convention is just more often a time to reach out to players and press who may not follow MMOs studiously, so that tends to be the focus for presentation.

But enough explaining the situation; let’s turn the microphone over to you, as it were. Is there anything about MMOs you hope to see at PAX East? A game or two that you hope will have a good showing? Or does it not really matter much to you either way?

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The Daily Grind: What alternate MMO server rulesets would get you excited?

Seeing as how MMORPG legacy and progression servers have served well to rally the playerbase and general enthusiasm as of late, my mind has turned back to the topic of server rulesets.

Changing the rules and structure of a server can have a dramatic effect on a game, and such changes are pretty standard when it comes to smaller multiplayer private shards. To me, alternative server rulesets are a cost-effective and low-effort way to make a dramatic difference in a game world and possibly drum up easy publicity.

So if you could call the shots on a new server ruleset, what would you do? What kind of MMO ruleset would get you excited for a game that you already play or have played in the past?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG offers the best ‘spiral’ gameplay?

Last week, in his Ready Player One piece from GDC, MOP’s Andrew paraphrased something from Darewise’s Randy Smith that stuck out to me.

“[T]hemepark development is also more segregated. While it’s good for spreading players out into the world, it also tends to make your content linear, sending people into different zones that you’re constantly having to create. Instead, [Smith] suggested a focus on more ‘spiral’ style gameplay, where you revisit and redo things in a different way. Think of sandbox games where all your supplies are scattered around the game world. You start off with what you need, have a reason to go out and explore, but also a reason to come back.”

I loved this phrase – spiral gameplay – and was thinking about the MMOs that do this best. The one that popped immediately to mind was actually classic Guild Wars, even though it’s not a sandbox. I was always a big fan of how the game would send you through a map on an instanced mission, and then set you free in an explorable version of the same map with a much looser goal, giving you a chance to experience the same area with slightly different content.

Where else have you seen this philosophy in play? Which MMORPG offers the best “spiral” gameplay?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG has the best April Fools’ Day prank this year?

April Fools’ Day this year has been pretty weird, given that MMO studios started rolling out their pranks and events in the middle of last week, and here we are on a holiday and a Sunday too. We’ve seen everything from Guild Wars 2’s sitting in chairs to the real-life theme park teased Black Desert. Pokemon teamed up with a noodle company. Elder Scrolls Online’s been running its Jester’s Festival for four days already!

I’m pretty fond of Path of Exile: Royale myself.

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO NPC do you love to mock?

Hell hath no sarcasm like MMO gamers who find a particular NPC to be a little too annoying, repetitive, or otherwise goofy. Then the memes crop up, ire is unleashed, and no one from that point onward can take that character seriously.

Some of the more notable MMO NPCs that I’ve loved to mock include Guild Wars’ boneheaded Prince Rurik (and his nutcracker mouth), the oh-so-very-very-slow Sara Oakheart in Lord of the Rings Online, and as of late, the “there’s much to be done” Khadgar in World of Warcraft.

Let fly your quips and quibbles today by ripping on one or more NPCs from MMORPGs that are completely mock-worthy. Why do they annoy you and what have you and your friends said about them?

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The Daily Grind: How do you deal with your anger in MMORPGs?

Earlier this month, Overwatch made headlines when a player posted up a behavioral therapy chart his wife – who happens to be a therapist – made him fill out after he complained about his game losses. The idea is that you write down your “negative thoughts” about the game experience, then reflect on that to see how your temporary emotion has distorted your opinions, then craft a positive frame instead. It’s funny – but also pretty useful, and even Overwatch Redditors were asking for a blank sheet so they could try it themselves.

That brings us to today’s Daily Grind: How do you deal with your anger in an MMO? Do you complain to guildies, log out, bang your desk, go work out to burn off some steam? Are you handling it as well as the Overwatch Redditor and trying to learn from what went wrong? What do you do, exactly, when your teammates turn out to be “hot garbage”?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO does the best job of honoring fallen players?

Online games are shared spaces, and for some players they’re particularly important spaces. That means honoring and remembering those who pass in the game in some way. Several games have done this in various ways, ranging from several World of Warcraft memorials to Guild Wars 2‘s subtle and touching tribute to an excellent blogger. It’s the sort of thing that makes you get misty when you know what the tribute is, and it also frequently stands through changes; even with an overhaul to the tutorial, City of Heroes kept Coyote in place as long as the game was running.

So today, we’re going to be a little bit sad and ask you to point out which of these tributes is most relevant to you. Which MMO does the best job of honoring fallen players? Are there games that you feel should do more to erect memorials for community members who are no longer among us? And as something of a morbid bonus, are there any games you would like to immortalize you when you’re gone?

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