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 would the MMO world look like without WoW?

Here’s a fun question from an anonymous Kickstarter donor to kick off the morning:

What do you think the MMO world would look like if Blizzard had made Warcraft 4 as an RTS instead of World of Warcraft? (I think it would affect more than MMOs, myself — RTS titles and MOBAs too!)

Personally, I think that prior to WoW, we were already trending toward larger and larger MMOs that pulled from both the themepark and sandbox ends of the design spectrum. In fact, on yesterday’s podcast, I called it the magic zone, that period of really standout MMORPGs made in the 2003-2005 time block. Without WoW, we might not have made such a sharp left turn into themepark-ville for as long as we have, and I think our genre might have had a much slower — and more sustainable — growth period without the spike and the crashes and burns that followed in WoW’s wake.

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The Daily Grind: Should more MMOs include advanced classes?

One of the very first RPGs that I played was Final Fantasy for the NES. I remember pouring over the manual at my friend’s house and becoming fixated on the concept of how characters would transition from their starting class to an advanced one when they “grew up” in the game a bit.

Classes that evolve or change into entirely new ones is something that MMOs have dabbled in from time to time, including the old version of EverQuest II and the upcoming Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. It seems a tricky line to walk with established characters, because while a new build can be refreshing, it can also disrupt the satisfaction and stability that the class used to deliver.

Do you like the idea of advanced classes? Should more MMOs add them?

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The Daily Grind: How many MMOs are on your hard drive?

I got a new gaming computer last week, and I’m in the process of downloading a few MMOs. I’ve only got 300 GB to work with, though, thanks to Comcast, it’s godawful bandwidth restrictions, and the fact that it has a real live monopoly on internet service in my hometown.

I’ve already downloaded and installed GTA Online (60 GB), Star Citizen (25 GB), Lord of the Rings Online (20 GB), DC Universe Online (20 GB), Marvel Heroes (15 GB), Infinite Crisis (5 GB), and the Star Wars Galaxies EMU (5 GB). That’s half of my monthly allowance and it’s only May 4th!

Those titles will provide plenty of entertainment for the next 30 days, but there are several others I’d like to dabble in for both personal and professional reasons. Next month, I guess! What about you, MOP readers? How many MMOs are on your hard drive at the moment?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: What MMO has benefited the most from free-to-play?

Back in the day, it used to be a running joke among the staff about which game would go free-to-play next. We don’t make that joke any more, chiefly because it’s no longer a joke and there are barely any candidates left anyhow. Buy-to-play, free-to-play, anything other than the old standby of box and subscription prices. That business model just isn’t working for more than a handful of titles.

But here’s an interesting question on that same theme: What game has gotten the most out of the shift? We talk a lot about the idea that most games are not using subscriptions as the only options any longer, but which out of the many titles with a business shift has gotten something good out of it? Are titles that converted like Star Trek Online the big winners, or does that honor go to other MMOs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: Are you an obsessive MMO screenshotter?

I can’t help myself. I’m sorry, but I can’t. I have folders stuffed with screenshots that attest to my habit of always stopping to photo-document my journey. And, on occasion, to take a picture that proves that The Secret World contains a restaurant called Pam the Clam.

I know I’m not alone; I’ve met many gamers, including some who work here at Massively Overpowered, who jam on that screenshot key as if it delivered donuts and dollars to their front door. It’s a good thing that such players exist, because they keep One Shots in business.

Are you a fellow obsessive screenshotter? If so, what’s your reason for doing it?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: When should MMO devs just stop tweaking?

Yesterday’s reveal of Lord of the Rings Online’s legendary item imbuing system struck me as a promising show of faith from the devs but nevertheless a truly terrible idea because they’re just building a new house on top of a shaky foundation (LIs, not the game). It reminded me of something I once read from a very clever Ultima Online player a few years ago on the news that the veteran game was getting yet another item-fussing system intended to balance the last one:

“Why stop with Enhancing, Imbuing, Reforging, and Refining? They should add Improving, Spiffing, Refracting, Adjusting, Tweaking, and Twerking too, each with one or two hundred random items and math problems to solve. Just keep piling on crap until the system collapses under its own weight and we all end up in GM-crafted armor again because no one knows what’s good anymore.”

I am glad Turbine is doing something about LIs, I really am. But if LOTRO’s legendary item system is so broken, why not just gut it or delete it? Why create yet another potentially flawed system to patch its problems? Why do MMO devs, especially the ones working on older games, keep falling into that trap — why can’t they just stop touching it?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: When’s the last time you had a good PUG?

I’ve had some godawful pickup groups in GTA Online this week. There was the one guy who insisted on typing in Russian. Then there was the duo who quit a mission because — I kid you not — I was stealing all of their headshots. Number one, I’m not that good, and number two, isn’t the objective to finish the heist as quickly as possible and get payout bonuses?

Anyway.

Let’s focus on the positive. I’ve had some good pickup groups in my time, just not in GTAO (yet). What about you, MOP readers? Have you ever run with a really good pickup group? What was the game and what was the mission?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO biomes do you love and hate?

Environment is super-important to me, both in real life and in video games. My surroundings have a large impact on my mood, with my favorite places lifting my spirits and oppressive ones turning me into Oscar the Grouch.

Thus, I find myself gravitating to certain zones in MMOs. Pastoral settings such as Lord of the Rings Online’s Shire or welcoming woods like World of Warcraft’s Elwynn Forest are safe bets for a dose of Justin happiness, as are Christmasy-type winter wonderlands. But I find jungle zones irritating, lava zones tired, and anything with a sand motif to be only useful as a highway to better places.

Which biomes do you love and hate?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: Should MMOs eliminate ‘soulbound’ mechanics?

This morning’s Daily Grind arrives from Kickstarter donor jackfrost, who phrases his question in the form of a rant:

Why do almost all rewards in current gen MMOs have to be some form of soulbound? I hate it.

Me too, frankly. I suppose it got started back in EverQuest with the advent of “no-drop” items, but over the years, themeparks especially (but some sandboxes too) have adopted the mechanic as a way to stifle player trading and keep us returning to the well better known as the dungeon-and-loot-drop-grind (and in recent years, to the well known as the cash shop). It makes the economy easier to manage for the developers, but it also makes it far less fulfilling for the players. Plus it makes no sense! Not being able to pass down old gear to alts and newbies is beyond irritating.

What do you think? Do “soulbound” items and mechanics annoy you too? Should MMOs dump them post haste and return to more engaging and realistic ways of churning old gear out of MMO economies?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: What did you accomplish in your MMOs this weekend?

I didn’t get a whole lot of gaming time this weekend, but I did manage to log a couple of hours in GTA Online. I mostly ran heists with pickup groups, but I also bought my first aircraft and spent a fair few minutes flying around snapping screenshots and prepping video clips for use in Rockstar’s editor.

How about you, MOP readers? What did you do in your MMOs this weekend?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: What character look are you most proud of?

The image above was used as a header elsewhere, but other than the fact that I never fixed her belt (it was a placeholder belt since I knew I’d be replacing the gear there quickly) I’m still proud of how good that set looked on my Blood Elf in World of Warcraft. It feels like an archetypical sort of Blood Knight look, even though it’s assembled from bits and pieces of other sets. Just like my favorite looks in Final Fantasy XIV or Star Wars: The Old Republic, a collection of pieces that works right for the character and possibly no one else.

Obviously, some of you don’t care about this stuff, and that’s fine. But for those of you who do, what character look are you most proud of? What outfit made you stop, take screenshots, and nod in approval?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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The Daily Grind: Would you pay for MMO mods?

The entire internet (only a slight exaggeration there) exploded this week over Valve’s decision to work with selected game studios to allow modders to charge for their amateur game plugins on the Steam Workshop, cutting Valve and said studios a huge slice of the profit pie. Regardless of whether you think paid mods are acceptable, most people seem to agree that Valve hasn’t handled it very well at all, given the number of stolen mods and fraudulent DMCA take-downs flying around the Workshop right about now.

I’ve been modding video games a really long time, both creating my own and obsessively downloading, playing, and tweaking mods made by others. Half the reason I still play World of Warcraft is to tinker with UI addons, and I even created some housing retexes for the late great Star Wars Galaxies. I’ve also made money on some of my non-MMO mods — yes, made money on game mods, 15 years ago when it was a broadly accepted thing. Anyone who was gaming back then remembers Sims paysites, the bandwidth bubble, and the Skindex fiasco; in a weird way, this is all just a little bit of history repeatin’.

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best hybrid classes?

I didn’t know hybrid classes were a thing, really, until I picked up classic EverQuest way back in 1999. Most of the roleplaying games I’d played until that point, including pioneering sandbox MMO Ultima Online, were skill-based, and so I more or less picked skills that I liked without worrying about hybrid penalties. (In classic UO, pretty much everyone was a mage, after all!) EQ introduced me to those stock Dungeons and Dragons concepts, however, and the majority of subsequent MMORPGs have clung to classes to make life easy on the designers tasked with balancing player power.

Hybrid penalties or no, a lot of people really still love the idea of being a jack-of-all-trades, of having a variety of skills and playstyles all on one character, and penalizing players for picking non-pure roles has long fallen out of fashion. Skill-based sandboxes, of course, still allow players to pick up swords alongside their shovels, but themeparks like RIFT and Skyforge and Final Fantasy XIV also let you swap around your subclasses so much that pretty much everyone in the game is a hybrid.

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