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’s your favorite type of grind in an MMORPG?

Grind is not a thing people generally love in MMORPGs, but what’s actually considered to be grind varies wildly from player to player. You might be OK with leveling that takes months but find wandering around harvesting flowers and ore too grindy. You might not mind working your way up a PvP ladder but draw the line at running the same raid every week on a gear treadmill. Some people don’t want to grind mobs; other people see quests, even quests that aren’t dailies, as a unforgivable rote thing that they will avoid at all costs.

I tend to be better at handling grinds when they aren’t so opaque that I can’t help but see and ponder them. World of Warcraft’s questing grind, for example, didn’t bother me much because the leveling was so quick. The same was true of Star Wars Galaxies’ grindy missions, especially post-NGE, because they were so lucrative in terms of experience and resources. I find myself getting into comfortable grinds in clickers like Diablo III and Marvel Heroes because they keep me moving from place to place.

I think it’s the “hell levels” of grinds that can make me give up, not the grind itself; my favorite type of grind is a grind that’s repetitive with rewards — be they in-game or mental — that aren’t. How about you? What’s your favorite type of grind in an MMORPG?

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The Daily Grind: Do you prefer smaller or larger servers?

I have joked, not entirely without seriousness, that part of what I like about being on an underpopulated server in Final Fantasy XI is the simple fact that it destroys any temptation I might have to get involved in the serious endgame. There’s no doubt that I do not need to get involved with it, obviously, but it’s very easy to get my attention by waving a pretty piece of armor or two in front of me. But without the crucial number of people around to make getting into it easy, I lose momentum and go back to focusing on other things. A bullet dodged, there.

Of course, the other side of things is that a smaller server can feel more empty, more barren, and generally lacking in several of the aspects which make a massively multiplayer game… both of those things. I play on one of the largest North American servers for Final Fantasy XIV, so I get all of those advantages there… along with server queues, crowding, and all of the downsides of having tons of people in a contained space. Both variants have positives and negatives, in other words. Which strikes you as better, dear readers? Do you prefer smaller or larger servers, and why? (If your answer is “I prefer no servers,” that counts as a vote for larger servers, since you can’t get much bigger than 100% of the game’s population.)

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The Daily Grind: Is change in MMOs a blessing or a curse?

Lately I’ve been dwelling on the topic of change in MMORPGs. It’s one of the foundational principles of the genre, that these titles aren’t fixed in stone but change and evolve over time. The game you play today might be incredibly different than the MMO you played three years previous, even though they have the same title.

Depending on my perspective, this could be a blessing or a curse. I mean, I love that MMOs keep adding new content, are constantly refined by developers, and hold the promise of more adventures in the future. It definitely keeps the games from getting stale and too predictable. Yet change can also be scary, with patches and expansions that can fundamentally alter what you used to like about a game, break classes, or otherwise rob an MMO of the identity and personality it used to have.

Maybe it’s just like life, in that you can’t ever keep things stuck in time at an exact point but have to roll with the changes and learn to appreciate the new while holding on to the good of the old that still exists. What do you think?

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The Daily Grind: Should MMO studios be involved in modding their games’ subreddits?

Reddit is a complicated place with more than its fair share of drama, and that drama spills over into the gaming space from time to time. This week, a regular Massively OP tipster, Cramit, pointed us to a now-deleted Reddit thread accusing an MMO studio of abusing Reddit by setting up its own employees as moderators who then allegedly used their new powers to moderate and ban malcontents.

I’m not going to link to it because frankly, I can’t substantiate it, and I also know how sour grapes on Reddit work. This isn’t the first time that a company running a game has been accused of overstepping its bounds on Reddit anyway. You might recall that accusations of overt Reddit corruption swirled in the WildStar and ArcheAge communities last year too, and we got a similar unsubstantiated complaint about yet another big gaming sub supposedly being in cahoots with the game studio just last week.

Where do you think Reddit should stand on the issue? Should gaming companies be involved in the moderation of subs about their games?

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The Daily Grind: What elements tend to endear classes to you in MMORPGs?

It’s not difficult to find a unifying theme through my main classes in various games. I mainline Enhancement Shaman and Retribution Paladin in World of Warcraft; I strut about with Ninja, Machinist, and Dark Knight in Final Fantasy XIV; and I cut things up with RDM/DNC and RUN/SAM in Final Fantasy XI. My mains in Star Wars: The Old Republic were a Jedi Sentinel and a Sith Assassin; I ran around as a Dervish in Guild Wars and a Thief in Guild Wars 2. I like dual-wielding, I like flexibility, I like sporting utility, and I like classes that don’t adhere to the strictest possible role selection.

We’ve talked a lot, of late, about archetypes that people don’t enjoy playing, but sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. It’s about little traits, like having a ranged playstyle, having a pet, or focusing heavily on casting. So today, dear readers, answer us this: What elements tend to endear classes to you? With all else being equal, do you tend to go for the class with a fire theme? The one with multiple weapons wielded? Or the one that everyone says is crazy complicated?

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The Daily Grind: Have you revisited an old MMO character lately?

The Gnome Warlock you see in the above header is the original Syp, created pre-Burning Crusade in October 2006. She’s probably one of my oldest surviving characters in an MMO, although it’s possible that there are other abandoned toons out there that I’ve forgotten. I recently returned to World of Warcraft and dusted off my army of alts, including Syp, to see how life’s been for them.

It’s been strange, to say the least. So many class changes, not to mention the fact that Syp is still at the entrance to Northrend because that’s where I parked her right when Wrath of the Lich King came out. I cleaned up her inventory, did her little Gnome dance, and otherwise felt awkward at the reunion. With the game’s evolution since 2008, she doesn’t feel the same as she did before. This is usually why I create new characters when I come back to MMOs after a long absence.

Have you revisited an old character in an MMO lately? What was it like?

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The Daily Grind: Do your MMO choices actually reflect your playstyle?

Massively OP reader Leiloni tipped us off to a great blog post by MMO blogger Ethan “Isarii” Macfie, in which the author questions his understanding of his own playstle. “I’ve recently come to realize that my self-identification as a PvP focused player might not be entirely accurate,” Isarii writes. “I certainly enjoy PvP a lot – the more of it, the better, really, but when I think about my favorite MMO of all time, Star Wars Galaxies, it’s hard to reconcile how little PvP I did in the game with identifying primarily as a PvP player.” He ultimately concludes that the dichotomy might be faulty — that above all else, he’s a community player, and that FFA PvP games tend to offer the most opportunity for community — akin to the one experienced by so many MMORPG gamers in Star Wars Galaxies.

Personally, what I loved about SWG was the freedom players had to embrace critter-hunting, PvP combat, economic PvP, and socializing as their whims dictated from moment to moment. It was a special game specifically because it attracted people from traditionally oppositional playstyles. It doesn’t surprise me at all that a hardcore FFA players, hardcore crafters, hardcore dancers, and hardcore rangers would all think the game was all that and a bag of bofa treats.

And on the other end of that, I tend to think of myself as a hardcore economy MMO gamer, but some of my favorite MMORPGs — like City of Heroes and classic Guild Wars — had comparatively stilted economy play.

Think about the games you play — do they actually reflect your playstyle?
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The Daily Grind: Are you ever sad when you levelcap in an MMORPG?

I recently levelcapped another character in Guild Wars 2, my Asura Guardian, and yet as soon as she dinged, some of the spark of playing her went out, and I wanted to play another character who would continue accruing experience. It’s a weird sensation, especially for someone who usually hates level-oriented games, because we’re so used to the idea that “the game starts at the cap” thanks to themeparks like World of Warcraft. But in this particular case, I just don’t see myself playing her much now that she’s essentially done — I have several other characters I like more for playing at cap. And that made me sad.

I used to bump into this same let-down in City of Heroes. I would sometimes intentionally stop leveling hard in the mid-30s (the spot where you’d secured most of your core class-defining skills), just so that I’d have a lot of characters to pick from to play who would still accrue meaningful experience. When I got beloved characters to the cap, I just wound up not wanting to play them, even though I could easily sidekick down. I just hated knowing I was doing that rather than playing an alt who’d get experience, knowing that I could be broadening my account better on another character. I could never shake that feeling of “waste.”

Am I alone in this weird, counterproductive hang-up? Are you ever sad when you levelcap a character in an MMORPG?

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The Daily Grind: What could get you to love a MOBA?

I am very admittedly not a fan of MOBAs, despite the fact that I quite liked the map type that birthed the genre in Warcraft III. Even ignoring the toxic culture that surrounds League of Legends, though, I find that most MOBAs have lots of things keeping me from loving them. So I was happily surprised that Master x Master showed me that it might, in fact, be possible to love them; I just need some PvE flexibility, more than one character, and a different control scheme.

Of course, that’s just me. Maybe what you need is to have team play be more thoroughly integrated a la Heroes of the Storm. Maybe you need a tighter third-person perspective as found in SMITE. Maybe you need several of these things together, maybe all of the above, maybe some of the above and something completely different. Share with us today, dear readers: What could get you to love a MOBA? And if you already do, what was it about your particular MOBA of choice that attracted you?

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The Daily Grind: What MMORPG has the best personality?

A while back I came to the realization that, for me, a game’s personality can be just as much of a make-or-break factor as its feature points and popularity. I don’t even think I was consciously aware that games had personalities until I started looking at them in that way, after which I saw that each could fit into many categories of attributes.

I guess that’s why I’m so sensitive to how a game looks, sounds, handles, and delivers narrative. If I’m not getting a sense of a strong, attractive personality out of a game, then I’m far less likely to get into it and bond with it. Bland fantasy coating on upcoming MMOs might as well be projecting a personality that isn’t even worth a first date with me, while those games that take the time to find a unique approach and come up with a defined identity have me salivating.

If MMOs do have personalities, then which has the best one in your view? What kind of personality do you look for in an online game?

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The Daily Grind: How would canceled MMOs be doing right now if they were still operating?

Many of us have our private (or not-so-private) sorrows regarding shuttered MMORPGs. Yes, we wish that they were still alive and often opine that if only they hadn’t been closed, life would be in full color right now instead of depressing monochrome.

Illegal emulators and spiritual successors aside, we can’t wish MMOs back into existence, but we certainly can engage in some bizarre group therapy by imagining what it would be like if they were still around. Would Star Wars Galaxies have been hit hard by the Daybreak transition or would we be seeing a Force Awakens expansion pack right now? Would Glitch be a cult classic on browsers, recently announcing a mobile version? Would City of Heroes reveal its long-awaited “five fingers” visual upgrade? Would the WAAAGH! be going strong in Warhammer Online?

For today’s thought exercise, pick a couple of canned MMORPGs and try to speculate what they’d be up to if they were still alive and kicking in 2016!

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The Daily Grind: What MMORPG would you like to play that would appeal to no one else?

Who else here is excited for Transformers Online, the upcoming three-faction MMORPG that runs in an alternate direction from IDW’s continuity and challenges players to rebuild Cybertron as representatives of the Autobots, the Decepticons, or the NAILs? The answer is no one. Partly because it doesn’t actually exist (we would have covered it before), and partly because it’s a game that I want because it is an entirely fictional construct made specifically to appeal to me. It’s a game that I would love, and I would play it, and I would be the only person who did.

I do not believe I am alone in this, really; I think we all have games that appeal to us and us alone. In our minds, we consider what the ideal game would be while freely acknowledging that it is meant for no one else. You might want a game in which everyone is a disembodied elf butt or the only hairstyles are various sorts of pink pigtails, even as you recognize that it appeals only to you. So let’s share those today. What MMORPG would you like to play that would appeal to no one else? Would it be similar to another game (“It’s The Division but with cat people”) or just something that doesn’t exist at all (“Front Mission 5 but an MMORPG”)?

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The Daily Grind: Would you play Blizzard’s idea of a ‘pristine’ WoW server?

Yesterday’s big news in the ongoing Nostalrius saga was a message from Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack, who suggested to players that in lieu of some form of vanilla or class servers for World of Warcraft, the team has kicked around the idea of “pristine” servers.

“Over the years we have talked about a ‘pristine realm,'” he wrote. “In essence that would turn off all leveling acceleration including character transfers, heirloom gear, character boosts, Recruit-A-Friend bonuses, WoW Token, and access to cross realm zones, as well as group finder. We aren’t sure whether this version of a clean slate is something that would appeal to the community and it’s still an open topic of discussion.”

One might suppose that the end result of a pristine server would be the current game world, minus the cash shop nonsense, looking-for-group tools, and easymode leveling schemes. The proposal has been met with opposition from players who say that’s not enough — that they want the classic classes and landmasses too.

Would you play Blizzard’s idea of a “pristine” realm?

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