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: 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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The Daily Grind: How many tries did it take you to get into your favorite MMOs?

I remember the first time I ever launched City of Heroes. I fired it up, made a character, started the early tutorial… got bored, rolled my eyes, sighed, and shut the game down. No, really. It actually wasn’t until my third go at the game that I really got into it, after several changes post-launch. And it’s not alone; while I talk about having played World of Warcraft right at launch, I actually stepped away from it for a while for a few months and only fell head-on into it for an unbroken period several months later.

Of course, as soon as I started playing Final Fantasy XI I was pretty well hooked, and my first go at Guild Wars got me into the game and committed to seeing it through. I was even one of the rare souls who stuck it out in Final Fantasy XIV before the relaunch. So sometimes the first try was what stuck for me… but sometimes it took a few goes before my favorite games actually hit home for me. So what about you? How many tries did it take you to get into your favorite MMOs? Which games just didn’t click for you until you were resubscribing for the second or third time, and which ones had you hooked right out of the gate?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best nighttime aesthetics?

I am a creature of the night. No, not like Batman, because I could never pull off the cape or brooding anger. But I do love walking around at night and soaking in the change to the world that occurs when the sun goes down. There’s a beauty and isolative quiet that emerges.

Not ever MMORPG night is created equal, of course. Some games don’t even have one, while others slap on a pale blue filter and call that a night even as players can see to the far borders of the zone. There is the occasional game that goes pure black, while the rare MMO features different mobs and visuals for nighttime romps. And there are always the stars, right? Got to love that night sky.

When the sun goes down in an MMO, which game would you prefer to be in? Which MMO has the best aesthetics, from visuals to creatures to sound?

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The Daily Grind: Do you believe MMO studios release overpowered new classes on purpose?

Yesterday’s Elder Scrolls Online press embargo drop allowed us to talk a bit more about the overpowered state of the Morrowind Warden class — in fact, Larry flat-out called it a Mary Sue. What surprised me about the ensuing discussion was how incredibly cynical our readers were in response to that (and to the general community uproar over the class). Quite a lot of you (and other highly engaged gamers) seem to believe that ZeniMax is releasing the Warden totally overpowered intentionally as part of its marketing strategy, and to some extent, it makes sense — you want to create hype for your game and get people to buy it, so make sure to pack in a badass, solo-friendly class that encourages fence-sitters to make that leap.

On the other hand, you risk ticking off a couple million existing players who don’t want their characters falling to the bottom of the heap or who don’t want to feel as if they have to reroll.

Do you believe studios like ZeniMax, Blizzard, and ArenaNet intentionally release overpowered new classes, planning to nerf and balance them later? And if so, is it the smart call?

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The Daily Grind: Where do you stand on Dota 2’s plan to require phone numbers for competitive play?

Last week, Valve announced that in order to compete in ranked play, Dota 2 players will be required to register a unique phone number.

“Players using multiple accounts create a negative matchmaking experience at all skill brackets, so our goal is to add just enough friction to this process that the number of players doing this will be noticeably reduced,” Valve wrote. “Having more players using their primary accounts will have a positive effect on both Ranked and Unranked Matchmaking.”

Security-conscious players are probably thinking “RealID” right now, while others are thinking that they’re getting off easy if all they need do is pay a few bucks for a number — at least no one has to cough up social security numbers to play video games. Yet.

Is this a good idea on Valve’s part? And more importantly, will it work?

(With thanks to Joseph!)

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The Daily Grind: What would motivate you to try an MMO on a mobile device?

There are two things that have kept me away from mobile ports of MMOs for the longest time. The first is the fact that I only recently got a tablet, and quite frankly my phone is not where I want to be playing a game over the long term. The other thing? Honestly, I have so many games to play off of mobile that it’s hard to motivate myself to play something on mobile as well.

Despite that, I love that mobile ports are becoming more common, especially for games which allow you to play on mobile clients or desktop versions. That just strikes me as worthy, and it has my appreciation. So today, we ask you the related question: What would motivate you to try an MMO on a mobile device? Would it need to be a mobile port of a game you already play? Something very different from existing MMOs which requires a mobile device? Or would it take a different sort of device than the ones you currently have?

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The Daily Grind: Do you want weekly MMO quest releases?

In the next week or so, Lord of the Rings Online will be kicking off its 10th anniversary with a new “scavenger hunt” that will come in the form of three quests every week. It make me think of how the game experimented with weekly quests from 2015 to 2016 with the 52-part Bingo Boffin series. I’m just now going through those, but I love the idea of having a quest chain gradually unlock on a weekly basis. Gives you something to look forward to playing and makes the game feel a bit like anticipating the next episode of your favorite TV show.

It’s not a terribly common thing in the industry, but there are examples of teams that attempted something like this. Asheron’s Call faithfully put out fresh story content on a monthly basis for most of its run, and the first season of Guild Wars 2’s living story revolved around a two-week update schedule (which would’ve been great except for no way to replay episodes you missed).

I’m curious if anyone else would want weekly MMO quest releases in addition to big content updates and expansions. These wouldn’t even have to be major quests, just something small and new that comes out on a frequent basis. What do you think?

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The Daily Grind: If you could live in an MMO world, which one would it be?

As much as we complain about MMORPGs, with their grinds and their boredom, even the most kill-or-be-killed ganker paradises would probably be better to live in than the real world with all its troubles and highly inconvenient implementation of permadeath. With rare exceptions, most MMOs let you return over and over to keep on trying forever, and you can always grab a mining pick or kill some trolls to make money and survive.

Me, I’d pick Glitch: Not only was the cutesy Tiny Speck game devoid of conflict, but I spent most of my time creating quests for players, wandering around, and stuffing my face with delicious food so I wouldn’t die. It was a good life. And if I did die? No biggie; hell was actually kinda fun — and critically, not permanent.

How about you? If you could live in an MMO world, which one would it be?

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The Daily Grind: Do you prefer safe strategies or fast strategies in MMOs?

There’s an interesting discussion which pops up on the Final Fantasy XIV Reddit from time to time regarding the differences between American and Japanese players. For this topic, the most pertinent discussion is one of strategy. The American community, as a whole, prefers to have static groups of players who will often undertake risky but fast strategies; if the strategy works, it’s a quick and solid clear, but as soon as someone screws up it’s all down the tubes. By contrast, the Japanese community prefers strategies which are safer and more reliable, giving everyone more leeway… and possibly resulting in a slow clear when you get the group together.

Obviously, this applies to other games. From World of Warcraft to Black Desert, you always have the option of playing it safe or going big. Pulling one enemy at a time to farm for drops means you’re unlikely to ever get overwhelmed, which can certainly happen if you pull half a dozen… but if you succeed, that half a dozen can probable be minced faster than pulling them one by one. So what about you, dear readers? Do you prefer safe strategies or fast strategies in MMOs? Are you happier with a sure-fire win, or would you rather risk losing in exchange for a big victory?

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The Daily Grind: Which is the best MMO to start in right now?

Here’s the situation: It’s April 2017, and you have a friend approach you who is open to the idea of playing MMORPGs, although he or she has never touched one. After looking down the list on Massively OP’s games page, your friend feels overwhelmed at the choices and has no idea where to start or which game to try first.

Knowing that some of these MMOs have been out for a while and being a little aware of the waning and waxing nature of the games, your friend asks you which MMO or MMOs would you recommend as an ideal starting point.

How would you respond? Would you encourage your friend to wait for an upcoming release so that he or she can get in on the ground floor? Would you pick one of the more popular titles that has a large crowd? Or would you recommend an MMO that is the most newbie-friendly game in town?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG has seen the most improved graphics over the years?

In each of our articles about Black Desert’s upcoming graphics upgrade, there have been a slew of comments about how the game doesn’t really need it, puzzled remarks that the game is already pretty enough, and hopeful requests for Pearl Abyss to tone down the lens flares or at least allow us to turn off all the bells and whistles. It’s been interesting to witness — I know we’re still in the middle of a massive renaissance for retro graphics, but in general, hardcore MMORPG players are total graphics snobs, to the point that many older games, from Ultima Online and Anarchy Online to World of Warcraft and EVE Online, have all taken a stab at improving their graphics (and in some cases, adjusting their art styles too).

Not all of them have done so successfully, of course; many City of Heroes players, for example, couldn’t make use of the upgrades, and Ultima’s Kingdom Reborn was plagued with issues.

For today’s Daily Grind, I’m wondering: Which MMORPG has seen the most improved graphics over the years?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the best old-school MMORPG feature that has never made a comeback?

A couple of weeks ago, Justin and I fielded an epic podcast question from a listener (heya Josh!) about guild systems, specifically about the Asheron’s Call monarchy system. As far as we know, that specific system — a pyramid-like system of patrons and vassals whose social interactions created experience and benefits for everyone without the formal hierarchical structure of a stock guild — has never been fully duplicated. It’s a damn shame because it was amazing. Turbine solved the guild problem in 1999: Instead of dumping people into military-style guilds to be just another worker bee for the queen, it incentivized individual, personal relationships, upward and downward.

That got me wondering what else hasn’t ever been duplicated. It seems like it could be a pretty short list, as so many retro MMORPGs have popped up in the last few years promising to resurrect a ton of old-school features, good and bad. So you help me fill in the gaps: What’s the best old-school MMORPG feature that has never made a comeback?

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The Daily Grind: What option do you wish showed up in more MMO character creators?

There are a number of issues that I have with the character creator for Black Desert, but I greatly enjoy and appreciate the fact that I can actually have tattoos. Not just a little thing on the side of my character’s face, either; my characters can have scrawling marks along their bodies if I so desire. It’s a little thing, and there are many games in which it would be rarely, if ever, actually seen by others… but I like it. And it makes me sad how few games actually offer that option.

It is not unique in this regard, though. I will never stop appreciating the fact that we get new hairstyles in Final Fantasy XIV on a regular basis, usually at least two per patch, and they always offer new options for characters. I feel like Star Trek Online has something really nice in both allowing you to slide your character’s proportions around within constrained rules, and I also like the option to choose between your idle poses. Many of these features aren’t as expanded as they could be, but they’re still options I wish more games had. So what about you? What option do you wish showed up in more MMO character creators?

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