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 do you go about picking a new MMO to play?

You sit down at your computer one evening and your mouse hovers indecisively over the oh-so-familiar icons of your regular MMORPGs. But that night, you’re just not feeling it. You want something new, something different, something that feeds a desire that’s currently going unsated. You want a different MMO… but which one should it be?

How do you go about picking a new MMO to play? Do you peruse the comments of recommendation threads and posts? Do you finally pull the trigger on that MMO everyone’s been talking about lately? Do you play roulette with our games page? Do you poll your friends to see what they’re enjoying and go there?

Walk us through the process of picking a new game to play. Do you have a method to your madness?

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The Daily Grind: Which live MMORPG has the best crafting system?

A discussion with my guildies this past holiday weekend illuminated a universal truth for us: We love Elder Scrolls Online but strongly dislike its crafting and economy. I thought I was alone, but even those guildies of mine who muck around with the crafting parts of the game criticize the auction hall situation as well as the pay-to-win craft bag shenanigans.

That led me to consider the field of live MMORPG, not so much for their economies (doesn’t EVE always win those run-offs anyway) but for their crafting specifically. My favorites are long-gone now, as is the winner of last year’s crafting award, in a sad twist of fate. Set aside the economy and trading mechanics and consider crafting specifically, and then set aside games that have sunsetted. Which live MMORPG has the best crafting system? Where should a die-hard crafter set up camp?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO deserves a second chance from you?

Sometimes we are not very fair to MMOs when we try them for the first time.

Maybe we’re not in a good mood or don’t really want to take the time to learn new systems. Perhaps some petty slight turned us off, or we failed to make a connection in the first 10 minutes. It could even have been that there was too much else on our plates, so our hearts were not into it.

There have been several times in my gaming career where I gave a less-than-fair attempt to try a new MMO and, unsurprisingly, it failed to stick. Yet when I came back later on, perhaps when the game improved, it clicked with me and I was happy that I made the decision to give it a second chance.

Which MMO deserves a second chance from you? What titles have you been keeping in the back of your mind when you think of games that you really should try again at some point?

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The Daily Grind: Do you like sharing player rage stories in MMOs?

We’ve all partied with them. The people who could take the simplest mechanic and screw it up. Players who think that “don’t stand in the bad” means “grab every bit of bad for myself and myself alone.” In Final Fantasy XIV, it’s the Bard who stacks when targeted by an AoE but runs away from the group when finally targeted by one where stacking is required. It’s the Death Knight who provokes after queueing as DPS in World of Warcraft. The Sniper who never enters cover in Star Wars: The Old Republic. You get the idea.

If you’re grouped with them, you probably will complain to your friends. But will you share it on a larger stage?

A subreddit I browse semi-regularly is in the middle of having a discussion about precisely that, whether posting these sorts of “look at this awful player” threads do more harm than good. Personally, I tend to think that they’re ultimately a negative thing, reinforcing an attitude of elitism and shaming instead of trying to teach people or just moving on. At the same time, I can understand people putting it forth as a cathartic exercise or just for a few moments of humor. So what about you? Do you like sharing player rage stories in MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: How much of an MMO must you play to issue good criticism?

World of Warcraft Community Manager Ornyx sparked a bit of a wildfire on the game’s forums this past week as in response to a player criticizing Legion’s lack of content, he snarked, “I assume you’re trying to make a joke about content, because, looking at your Armory, it appears you’ve only engaged with about 25% of Legion.” In his follow-up, he said that his role is about “engagement and community-building,” not customer service, and characterized the exchange as “a bit of fun.”

The thread erupted, with some people arguing that the player who dared insult Blizz’s expansion got what he deserved and others expressing shock that a Blizzard employee would treat its players that way. I come down on the side of “enabling elitism is exactly why armory profiles shouldn’t be forcibly public to begin with.” I thought the comment in extremely poor taste for an employee. It’s the kind of low-effort ad hominem I see in bad arguments, not good ones. I expect better from community managers, certainly, in the service of “engagement and community-building” than to model dismissing opinions based on gearscore and not on their merits. Seeing that attitude promoted by a bluename disappointed me deeply, even if it didn’t surprise me.

So this morning’s Daily Grind is two-fold: Where do you stand on comments like this from studio employees? Is so-called “armory shaming” OK? And just how much of an MMO must you play to issue good criticism?

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The Daily Grind: Are there any MMOs you think are just too late to start playing?

I’ve been playing a lot of Ultima Online the past few weeks, but so many times I’ll be doing something that is objectively tedious (like taming or shuttling boxes of junk loot to the community trash box to turn in for points) and realize it and think to myself there is no freakin’ way that anyone who started playing MMOs in the last decade would put up with some of the quirks and conventions of the game. That’s no judgment on gamers, just the realization that it’s probably way too late to get into now if you’ve grown up under altogether different game design systems.

It’s not the only MMO I feel that way about; I’ve often felt that EverQuest II was too opaque and convoluted to return to, and oddly enough World of Warcraft has felt that way to me since Draenor.

Are there any MMOs you think are just too late to start playing?

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever lost touch with an MMO friend when you wish you hadn’t?

I do not move between games with a full entourage. I have one person who comes with me from game to game, maybe two, and the most likely person to come along is my wife. This means that there are many people I have met over the years from Final Fantasy XI onward whom I have just lost touch with. There are friends I made in Guild Wars who I no longer speak with, people I knew in World of Warcraft who have drifted away, even some people who have subsequently left Final Fantasy XIV and whom I just… don’t talk with any longer.

And yes, some of these people are folks I miss. It’s not exactly surprising that we’ve lost touch, but at the same time, these were cool folks and I hope they’re doing all right. Of course, there are also people I’ve lost touch with whom I probably wouldn’t really care much about even if I could find them again, so everything is variable. What about you, readers? Have you ever lost touch with an MMO friend when you wish you hadn’t?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO offers the best dungeon crawling experiences?

Dungeons are deeply on my mind as of late, mostly because I’ve been missing doing them in MMORPGs. It’s odd: In particular MMOs, I run dungeons all of the time, while in others, I hardly ever touch them. The latter situation might be due to a lack of useful grouping tools, unrewarding instances, and games that have failed to develop an active dungeon crawling culture.

But which MMO offers the best dungeon crawling experience? That’s a tough one. I’ve certainly enjoyed plenty of World of Warcraft and RIFT’s instances, and I’ll admit that Final Fantasy XIV did a great job incorporating dungeons into its core gameplay. The Secret World had some awesome boss fights (and very little in the way of trash mobs), and I loved skirmishes in Lord of the Rings Online for a good while there.

What do you think? Which MMO has the best dungeon experience and why?

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The Daily Grind: Do you swear by any urban legends in MMORPGs?

When I first began playing Ultima Online as a newbie way back at launch, I remember watching everyone around me summoning ham with the Create Food spell and then eating it. The myth back then was that having an empty stomach caused everything from magic fizzles to combat whiffs to slowed experience gain. Over the years, multiple developers have examined the code and said no such factor exists — filling your stomach does nothing in the game and never has.

But that has never stopped players from believing the urban legend. I recently saw some players discussing what level of stomach fill was best. They know devs have denied the existence of any such code, but they insist either that the devs are mistaken (confused by 20 years of spaghetti code!) or that the food somehow plays into a “broken” RNG system, so better to be safe than sorry. Nothing will ever dissuade them. Ham ham ham.

Do you swear by any urban legends in MMORPGs?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the worst tech annoyance in MMORPGs?

Massively OP reader Minimalistway recently wrote to us with a rant about how bizarrely hard it is to quit MMORPGs and delete your account. “Jagex asks for a copy of a driver’s license or a passport sent by mail (not email!); Square Enix makes you jump between websites to disable your account,” he says. “If Google allows people to delete their accounts easily, there is no excuse for MMO developers to make the process hard!”

I suppose that’s because they don’t really want us to leave, right? They want to give us the option of returning. I’d rather know my account is still there; I remember back when studios would delete old characters, and there are games I never went back to once my toons had been wiped from inactivity. But still, really, a driver’s license?! And here I thought Steam’s insistence that I boot it up on my phone to hunt down an ever-changing authentication key in order to sell a trading card for 4 cents was the height of dumb.

So for today’s Daily Grind, let’s broaden the topic: What’s the worst tech or account annoyance in MMORPGs?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best launcher?

Launchers! They’re stupid, they’re boring, they exist primarily as a gateway between you (the player) and what you actually want to do (play an MMO). And yet I find myself sometimes having a weird nostalgia for some of these programs. PlayOnline is a pretty terrible and unnecessary piece of software, but that opening tune always gets me, and I remember browsing around it even aside from just jumping into Final Fantasy XI.

Heck, I miss the old World of Warcraft launcher from the game’s inception. I far prefer it to Battle.net or the Blizzard App or The Impediment To Playing Destiny 2 or whatever it’s called at this point. That might just be me getting old and cranky, though.

Then again, that’s part of the thing about launchers – they’re transparent until they aren’t, and for better or worse they have a long history with MMOs. So which MMO has the best launcher? Is it the best because it’s lightweight? Familiar? Reliable? Or just because it hits you just right and you love it despite its many flaws?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the right length for an MMO event?

Is it just me, or is the latest fad among MMORPGs to stage incredibly brief in-game events? Like blink — or have a 12-hour shift — and you’ve missed it. Well, maybe not that short, but events of just a small handful of days seem to be popping up here and there.

To me, a good in-game event knows exactly how long to be around to allow everyone to participate and accomplish their goals without overstaying its welcome. Like a welcome houseguest, I suppose. Events that blip right by me, especially ones that had desirable rewards, can be frustrating, but so can those events that never seem to leave. Ever. Maybe we should start charging them rent or something.

How long do you think is ideal? What’s the right length for an MMO event? For a bonus credit, point to an MMO event you’ve done in the past year that met your timing criteria!

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The Daily Grind: Are you willing to reroll for Secret World Legends?

“I can’t help but think that I’d rather see a single-player adaptation of The Secret World than to lose it forever if Funcom truly does collapse,” MOP’s Justin Olivetti wrote way back in 2015, when the studio was dealing with financial turmoil. Little did he know that eventually The Secret World MMORPG would be turned upside down and rebooted as Secret World Legends. It’s not a single-player title, but it’s arguably a bit less an MMORPG than it used to be, to the point that even Funcom is hedging its bets by calling it a “shared world action RPG” (but also not admitting it has given up on MMORPGs).

Immediately after the announcement in March, almost half of the readers we polled said they were former TSW players who’d try the reboot come relaunch. But since then, we’ve learned much more about what’s coming for the game, including the sobering reality that TSW players won’t get to keep their characters and will instead have to reroll, in spite of the fact that the studio told us it “could have made [character ports from TSW] work given enough resources and time.”

And that brings me back to Justin, who earlier this week questioned whether he has the energy to do it all again — to start from scratch in a gameworld he already knows by heart. “I’m sure for some, it’s a dealbreaker,” he says, sorting through his anxiety, excitement, and frustration. How about you? Now that you know more about what TSW’s relaunch entails, are you still planning on coming back, even though you’ll have to start anew?

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