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 neglected MMO sandbox features do you crave?

Every time I see a new sandbox title cross the news feed, I could probably close my eyes and rattle off a fairly accurate list of what features it will tout. It’ll be skill-based, feature player towns, have tons of crafting and gathering, and of course, 100% full-loot PvP. Because someone somewhere — probably in the New World Order — gets a nice kickback whenever full-loot PvP is shoehorned into a game.

Frankly, I’m tired of this list. Most of those bullet points aren’t bad, per se, but they aren’t inspirational or exciting. Sandbox MMOs are supposed to be about open-ended possibilities and emergent gameplay and features that aren’t married to the combat system. I have a sad face when I see games that neglect, say, roleplay tools, player music systems, and pig racing.

What neglected sandbox features do you crave in your MMOs? These can be infrequently repeated systems or brand-new ones!

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG offers the best healing experience?

In light of the epic reveal of Revival’s graphic healing system this week, I thought Massively OP reader Fenryr Grey’s recent question to our community was on point:

“In my opinion, MMO players, especially the ones coming from action games have a huge emphasis on DPS, and since those people are the majority in most modern MMOs, the market shifted toward DPS mechanics. But healing and support mechanics have come to seem rather dull or basic by comparison. Is healing an outdated role? Are there MMOs with engaging heal or support mechanics?”

A few years ago, I argued that the loss of “mezzer” ground to the “deeps” and the trinity shift from tank/healer/mezzer to tank/healer/deeps was partly a result of improving AI and partly a result of solo-friendly gameplay, but I’m with Fenryr in missing support classes. Healers are usually all we can look forward to, and even if you do enjoy making the bars go up, it’d be nice to see something a bit more engaging.

So which MMOs offer the best healing (and support) experience in 2016?

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The Daily Grind: Is there anything that could get you to enjoy free-for-all looting PvP?

Some of you out there already like free-for-all PvP in which all of your stuff can be taken by whosoever chooses to kill you and loot your corpse. You’re excused from this round of questioning. For the vast majority of MMO players, however, the idea of being constantly flagged for PvP and then losing all of your stuff when someone kills you is somewhat less than appealing. But it’s not hard to understand why you might not care for it; the question is, instead, what might make you enjoy it.

Despite my general dislike of open PvP, I’m certainly watching Crowfall with interest; that’s a game which seems to be built around the idea from the ground up, along with adding several systems to make random confrontations lessone-sided. But that’s not really meant to offer the full looting experience, and I don’t know what could make me look at that sort of gameplay with more than a dejected sigh. But what about you, dear reader? Is there anything that could get you to enjoy free-for-all open-loot PvP?

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The Daily Grind: What unpopular opinion do you hold about MMOs?

I saw this question posed to Reddit the other day and thought it sufficiently interesting enough to want to post it to MOP’s community with some clarification. The question is, what unpopular opinion do you hold about MMOs? In other words, what is something that you feel or believe that seems to go against the apparent majority opinion?

I always get some flak when I espouse my firm belief that story is not only important to MMOs but essential to it. I love MMOs with talented storytellers behind the scenes — and I also appreciate games that give players the adequate tools to create their own stories. Stories are such an integral part to the play experience that it weirds me out to see backlash against their very existence in MMOs.

What about you? Do you like a game that gets a lot of hate? Are you a fan of a system that gets spat on by the crowd? Are you totally OK with lockboxes? Spill!

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The Daily Grind: If an MMO has a cash shop, when should it launch?

Massively OP reader Leiloni pointed out to us something unusual about Black Desert: Its much-talked-about cash shop wasn’t originally going to open until March 10th, a full week after the official launch, never mind the headstart.

This means that whatever advantages an early player with a credit card might have hoped to glean were nullified, and it also probably means Daum wouldn’t have made as much money as it could’ve (although as we reported over the weekend, Daum relented and will now launch the cash shop on the 3rd; headstart players still can’t access it).

While some players didn’t really care and looked at this move as akin to Blizzard or ArenaNet holding raids back until players have progressed through regular content, others — particularly those who preordered — are ticked that they thought they were getting an early advantage here and aren’t.

What do you think? If an MMO has a cash shop, when should it launch?

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The Daily Grind: Is MMORPG voiceover/voiceacting worth the cost?

Last week, Justin and I answered a podcast listener question about voiceover localization in MMORPGs, and I thought it dovetailed nicely with a question Massively OP reader loyheta sent us ages ago:

“Is voiceover/voiceacting worth the resources? For the price of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s VO budget, how much time and money could be focused on the world and additional content? How many text quests and how fleshed out can you make it and the quest compared to one voice acted quest? Do you guys feel that VOs are becoming a staple in larger-budgeted MMOs? I know they can add a lot of immersion, but is it truly worth it? Especially when most people listen to it once or not at all?”

I am largely indifferent to voiceovers, as I mentioned on the podcast, and would nearly always those resources go into paying for something else. SWTOR might be one of the very few games that really needs those voiceovers, but most MMOs aren’t really saying anything I need to hear that couldn’t be delivered by text in a way that wouldn’t break my immersions in the slightest.

But voiceacting has come a long way, and a lot of modern gamers don’t even remember what it was like to not have full voiceovers in everything. So I’m keen to hear your opinions too. Is MMORPG voiceover/voiceacting worth the cost?

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The Daily Grind: What kind of MMO cities do you like?

I might be the very odd man out on this, but a large urban area (fantasy or otherwise) in an MMO is not a selling point for me. On the contrary, I really dislike big cities in MMOs and RPGs because I hate having to spend the first hour or so getting my bearings and trying to shrug off the feeling of claustrophobia. So my preference for towns in-game tend to lie with smaller villages and scaled-down metropolises, such as RIFT’s Sanctum. Give me all of my services in a compact area and then let me head out exploring, and I’m happy.

When it comes to cities in MMOs, what do you like? Big or small? Organized or sprawling? Do you like cities that feel alive with small details or do you only view them as centralized facility platforms? What about verticality, style, and secrets? What MMO city best exemplifies your preferences?

Lots of questions — and I bet you have lots of answers to this as well!

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The Daily Grind: Should MMOs provide in-game player performance metrics?

Today’s question is inspired by a question sent into us ages ago by reader Camelotcrusade, and it centers on damage meters and their ilk.

“Should MMOs have accessible, in-game metrics for player performance? What are the pros and cons of building it right into the game, so everyone can be exposed to the same information should they choose to access it? Should it be private, public or optionally shareable?”

A lot of people will object to the idea of damage meters or other player-accessible metric tools simply because they think plugins are akin to cheating, but what if, as Camelotcrusade suggests, they are built right into the game, something everyone can access and learn from?

I tend to favor more information over less when that information can lead to better decision-making. On the other hand, I’ve seen some online video game tyrants equipped with fight parse logs really wreck the game experience for everyone else. It’s one thing when everyone thinks a class is underpowered; it’s another when the numbers prove it and lend credibility to class discrimination, and that’s just one example.

Where do you stand on in-game metrics for performance?

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The Daily Grind: What MMO had the best revision to an existing system?

There have been very few total relaunches in MMO history, so marking Final Fantasy XIV as having one of the best isn’t exactly disputed. There’s also not much room to debate on whether or not the relaunch was a success. But some of the systems the relaunch has changed up have been made either no better or actively worse on the conversion; cross-class skills, for example, are not in a good space. By contrast, Star Trek Online is in the middle of revamping its skill system yet again, and while that might have issues, it certainly looks to be a positive change.

Revamping systems can always be tetchy, of course – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and there’s always the issue of players who liked how things were rather than how things will be. But the revamps happen just the same. World of Warcraft revamped its entire talent system, Star Wars: The Old Republic revamped its stats and companions, and the list goes on. So what MMO have you played that had what you see as the best revision to an existing system? What major changes did you find made the game not only as good as it was before but even better?

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The Daily Grind: What is your favorite memory from the EverQuest franchise?

It’s interesting to note that the EverQuest video game franchise, as a whole, is quite large — perhaps bigger than you realized. There’s the original EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Online Adventures, Lords of EverQuest, Champions of Norrath, Champions: Return to Arms, EQMac, Legends of Norrath, Landmark, and (hopefully one day!) EverQuest Next. Whew!

With all of those titles, chances are that many of you have visited Norrath at some point in your gaming career. Today’s Daily Grind is all about sharing favorite memories from those experiences.

Personally, I only dipped into EverQuest II for any length of time. While I found the graphics questionable, I was deeply impressed with the feature set and the warm, welcoming community. What about you? Do you have any EverQuest-related memories?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the greatest MMO innovation of the last few years?

Last week on the Massively OP Podcast, we tried to answer a question from long-time listener Spagomat, who told us he keeps going back to older MMORPGs because newer ones just feel like the same design tropes playing out, over and over again. “It feels as if the genre has discovered a collection of design boundaries over time and can’t figure out how to surmount them,” he lamented.

“So I was wondering if you could lay out, say, a list of the top-10 design innovations of the past 3-5 years. Whether well-known and influential or tried in some small game and mostly undiscovered, anything you could say has changed the landscape, or could be a seed for change in the future.”

While Justin and I came up with a few, some of them were definitely older than five years, like level-nullification, and others aren’t catching on as well as we might want, like co-op harvesting nodes. Can you guys do better? What’s the greatest MMO innovation of the last few years?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite MMORPG boss fight?

World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade was very definitely not my favorite WoW expansion, but it had some fantastic dungeons. Karazhan leaps to mind as being a superb small-raid experience, and of the many boss encounters it offered, the Opera Event stands in my memory as being one of my favorite boss fights ever.

While it’s a bit of a cakewalk for the modern character (as evidenced by the fact that Eliot got this screenshot for me last week, solo — thanks Eliot!), back then the Opera Event was challenging, randomly offering your group one of three encounters as part of the play: spoofs on Romeo and Juliet, Little Red Riding Hood, and my favorite, The Wizard of Oz. The last was a boss fight that rewarded exceptional crowd control as you took out Dorothee, Tito, Roar, Strawman, Tinhead, and The Crone. The loot was themed to match too.

So there’s my favorite, or at least most memorable, MMORPG boss fight — a boss fight with multiple bosses. What’s yours?

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