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 kind of reputation do you have in your MMO guild?

The way some players tell it, back in the olden days of MMOs, your reputation was everything. With fewer games, longer grinds, and more dependence on others for grouping, a player’s reputation could become well-known across an entire server, for good or for ill.

I’m not sure how true this is today. Oh, I think that players still foster a reputation, just in smaller circles than “their entire server.” In fact, when I think of my own reputation in games, it’s usually within the context of just my guild. They probably see me as a bit of an aloof snarker who loves light-hearted conversation and doles out encouragement but isn’t super-involved in the raiding scene and doesn’t go out of his way to group up very often.

If you just look at your guild, guilds, or smaller social circles in MMOs, what kind of reputation have you fostered? What would other people who know you say about you if we asked them?

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever taken drugs in an MMORPG?

Probably my favorite screenshot in an MMO is the one I took back in 2003 or so, when my Star Wars Galaxies character was selling handmade spice out of her backpack one by one, before anyone I knew even had factories. After buying a few Neutron Pixies from me, one of my customers whispered to me some advice. “You’re kinda small and adorable for a drug dealer,” he noted. “You may want to get a scar or something for the next transaction with someone.”

That conversation popped into my head this week when I read about the ESRB’s guidelines on the depiction of narcotics in video games, which have apparently been reinforced by a recent study on top-selling console games that found plenty include various drugs as boosters, some in combination with other drugs, some without any associated side-effects. SWG, of course, had really nasty side-effects, a long-lasting downer that often made the spices not worth using outside of critical fights or duels, but still, the whole thing was still very cartoony. With or without my scar.

But what about other MMOs? I can think of only a handful of true MMORPGs that touch this sort of mechanic; most just seem to skirt the question altogether, no doubt to avoid that ESRB M sticker. You guys can probably think of more examples. Which MMOs have “drugs,” did you think they were problematic, and have you ever taken drugs in an MMORPG?

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The Daily Grind: How important is roleplaying to MMORPGs?

It’s not exactly a secret that one of my first loves in any MMORPG is roleplaying. The whole reason I have multiple alts in Final Fantasy XIV (a game where no one ever needs any alts) is for roleplaying, I’ve spent more time roleplaying over the years than I care to admit, and one of the things that basically caused me to write off Star Wars: The Old Republic for future play options is the server merge eliminating roleplaying servers. That’s one of the things I’m here for.

At the same time, I also don’t think that it’s something that everyone is obligated to take part in. I would prefer that you be into that if you’re on a roleplaying server, but even there you have your own reasons, and as long as you’re not disrupting people it doesn’t seem like something you should be at all obligated to do. Some people don’t want to spend hours carefully crafting character backstories; that’s fine. We all enjoy our hobbies differently.

For something that is right in the name of the genre, roleplaying tends to attract a lot of passionate opinions about how important it is to the genre’s identity. Heck, there are even people debating what, precisely, qualifies as roleplaying compared to not roleplaying. So what do you think, readers? How important is roleplaying to MMORPGs?

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The Daily Grind: What MMO character customization options excite you?

I am one of those types of people who enjoys spending far, far too long on character customization screens fine-tuning my toon’s look. The more options, the better, although I am usually not that thrilled with sliders. MMOs that allow for a great range of creative expression in this department are ones that endear themselves to me right from the get-go.

That said, there are some options that are personally more exciting than others to me. Tattoos? I’ve tried them but only rarely been able to make them work, so I generally avoid them. Also, I find it kind of silly how a lot of games allow you to slap on tatts and glowy bits to arms, legs, and torsos that will no doubt be covered up by armor 99.9% of the time. And while I’m all about a great beard, very few MMOs can pull them off where they don’t look like they’re a hunk of melted plastic fused to your chest.

What do I love? Height and weight sliders. Really great hairstyles. Natural-looking faces that are neither insanely ugly or prepubescent. Eyepatches (arrr). What about you? What MMO character customization options excite you?

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The Daily Grind: Where did you Marvel Heroes players scatter to after the sunset?

A couple of months ago, after we learned about the sunset of Marvel Heroes but before it actually happened early, we asked our local Marvel fans which MMO they planned to play next to fill the hole left by the end of the popular MMOARPG. DC Universe Online and Champions Online were offered as contenders, of course, with the bigger crowdfunded games – Ship of HeroesCity of Titans, and Valiance Online – all getting mentions too.

But since many of those games aren’t actually out yet, and two of them are on the older side, I’m wondering where you actually went – and if it’s outside of the superhero world, what was it that made you trade in your capes and tights. We asked this same question when City of Heroes closed down, for example, and a lot of folks had scattered to some surprising destination rather than the superhero games – Secret World and Star Trek Online, as I recall, led the pack.

Me, I just logged into and swooped around in the City of Heroes Paragon Chat a few times and got it out of my system for another few weeks.

Marvel Heroes players, where did you actually go?

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The Daily Grind: Is ‘naming-and-shaming’ MMO cheaters a good idea?

Last week on Reddit, an EVE Online player begged CCP to organize a wall of shame for botters – essentially an online list of those caught cheating, with character names and corps to boot. This, he argued, would not only prove to the community that cheaters were being banned but allow players to “self-police” those corps “actively harbouring bots.”

You’re probably making a face right now imagining just what EVE players might do with such a list, but then again, we’re talking about botters here. I’m more curious whether you folks actually believe those are effective or a good idea in general. Several EVE players said it’d never happen because of European laws, but in fact we’ve written articles about multiple MMO studios naming-and-shaming cheaters: Guild Wars 2, Riders of Icarus, H1Z1, Tree of Savior, and Mechwarrior Online, just to name the first five I found by searching the last three years of our own site.

Is “naming-and-shaming” MMO cheaters with a “wall of shame” a good idea, or should studios that famously ban the wrong people maybe stay away from painting targets on customers’ backs?

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The Daily Grind: How often do you check your MMO playtime?

My main character in Final Fantasy XIV is fast approaching a year of total playtime. That isn’t entirely surprising, since she’s been in the game since version 1.0, but that’s still a lot of hours logged into a single character. I fear looking at the playtime stats for some of my older characters in World of Warcraft, to boot. It’s the sort of thing where just looking at it gives me a “holy crap, how long have I played this game” moment.

Most games give you some way of checking how long you’ve played a given character, and of course client services like Steam will often log your overall playtime. That means you can see how long you’ve been farting about. So what about you, readers? How often do you check your MMO playtime? Is it a regular event, or is it just whenever you have a vague curiosity about how many hours have been spent in a particular game?

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The Daily Grind: Are we due for a good cyberpunk MMO?

I am a generally big fan of the cyberpunk genre, especially when it works in a healthy dose of ’80s aesthetics for that clunky, neon flair. But when it comes to MMORPGs, good cyberpunk titles are extremely few and far between.

I think we have a bit of it in Neocron and Anarchy Online, and of course The Matrix Online was jacked into cyberpunk back when it was running. Now a-days there is a lot of excitement over CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, although we know very little about it other than it’ll have some sort of online functionality.

Are we due for a good cyberpunk MMO? Do you think that there’s a good audience out there for it and that it would appeal to a great number of gamers? For a bonus question, what would you like to see included in such a title?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO studio told the biggest fib in 2017?

Lies piss me off. I have had MMO developers look me in the eye and lie right to my face. I have had PR promise something and then intentionally break that promise with a shrug. I have had studios mail me statements that are not just playing loose with the truth but dropping it on the ground and driving their boot heel right into it. I’ve had studios claim they never said a thing right up until I produce the recording where they very clearly did (always save your recordings, folks). I’ve been doing this a long time, but nevertheless, just when I think I’ve seen everything, I’m confronted with even more shenanigans.

You folks see plenty too! Just last year, in the midst of what was apparently a furied license negotiation, layoffs, community team silence, missed patch dates, and sexual harassment scandal – some or all of which ultimately led to the abrupt end of Marvel Heroes – Gazillion reps claimed to us that “the company is functioning normally.” And don’t even start me on the “sense of pride and accomplishment” line.

Which MMO studio told the biggest fib last year, and what was it?

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever regretted funding a Kickstarted MMO?

Look, if you want to call me a doomsayer or a pessimist or whatever when it comes to Kickstarter and MMOs, you have every reason to do so. I’ve been saying unflattering things about it since back in 2012, at least. But when you back a Kickstarter, the explicit assumption is that what you are backing is an idea. It’s not an actual thing yet. Hopefully it will become an actual thing, but it is not one at the time you back it. And that means that some of the projects you fund will take your money and then never turn into actual games.

All part of the experience. But have you ever actually regretted funding a Kickstarted MMO?

In my case, I do genuinely regret a game I helped fund on Kickstarter, although it wasn’t an MMO (Mighty No. 9 had a different set of enormous problems). But sometimes I wonder if people might not just be looking at games like TUG or Embers of Caerus; I can understand someone who funded Shroud of the Avatar or Crowfall and now feels like the game is developing in a very different direction, one that makes the previous funding a source of regret. So what about you? Have you ever regretted funding a Kickstarted MMO, either because it didn’t happen or for other reasons?

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Game Theory explores the psychological exploitation at work in lockboxes

“It’s as easy as one, two, insert your credit card number here!” So begins the parody at the beginning of the first of two recent Game Theory videos all about 2017’s favorite-and-least-favorite topic, lootboxes. Rather than overtly picking a side, the vloggers attempt to sort out how lockboxes work – whether they’re just annoying business model glitches or deliberately manipulative end-runs around gambling laws, all by examine the science.

Now, contrary to the first video’s claim, lots of people are indeed talking about the science of lockboxes, but it nevertheless contributes a funny and clear-headed angle on the psychology of lockboxes from skinner boxes and dopamine to loss aversion, the sunk cost fallacy, and the illusion of control. The chilling idea is that we actually get our dopamine blast from opening the box – not from getting what we wanted. Lockboxes, like casinos, exploit the crap out of that, adding deadlines and exclusive loot to ramp up the pressure.

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The Daily Grind: What MMO zone biome puts you in an adventuring mood?

Two of my favorite MMORPG zones are World of Warcraft’s Mulgore and WildStar’s Algoroc. Both managed to catch some of the spirit and flavor of the American west that I absolutely loved when I lived there, including the vast views, the towering mesas, and the feeling of isolation and expanse. Whenever I find myself in an MMO region like this, I feel inflated with the spirit of adventure.

I think we all feel that. Some zones make us feel less enthusiastic about playing in them while others make us drag our feet because we never want to leave. Western zones, wintry biomes, and coniferous forests are among my favorites in games.

What about you? What type of MMO zone or biome puts you in an adventuring mood?

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The Daily Grind: How much worse could MMO business models get?

During the roundtable podcast a few weeks ago, when we had the whole Massively OP staff on to chat, we tackled a question from Teviko on the future of MMO business models. We’ve come a long way from free-to-play, microtransactions, and double-dipping sparkleponies, after all, to lockboxes. Indeed, he asked us to speculate on where we’ll be in 2023, looking back so fondly on 2018’s business models the way we look back on the relative quaintness of $25 flying mounts, and saying, “Instead of X, I’d rather buy a lockbox and take my chances!”

On the podcast, several of us agreed that big data will be our big problem: that business models will evolve further and further into monetized psych experiments as predictive algorithms dictate content, drops, and prices. And yes, lockboxes will seem quaint by comparison.

But maybe you have different ideas. How much worse could MMO business models get? Which games will be winning worst business model of 2023? What exactly will the bad MMO business models of tomorrow look like?

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