Massively Overthinking: The problem with MMO ‘dailies’

    
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Longtime MOP Patron and friend of the site Avaera recently posed us an intriguing questions about daily login rewards in MMORPGs.

“Recently my game of choice, Lusternia, switched to a model of giving out free cash-shop currency to players who complete a set of dailies. The stated intent is that it should take any player on average two hours of effort, for which they can earn up to about $10 of item store credit per day. This general concept of incentivising ‘dailies’ for rewards, or even just logging in over consecutive days, is also increasingly common across the genre more broadly. Personally, I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea that players are encouraged to commit anything even approaching multiple hours a day, seven days a week of their time to repetitive gameplay activities or else ‘miss out’ on significant character rewards. Even the consecutive daily login systems seem to reinforce behaviour which to me could be considered borderline addictive. What are your thoughts on the ethics of so directly rewarding players who commit significant time every day to a game? What makes these systems a positive model of rewarding constructive engagement with a virtual world, as opposed to exploiting consumer psychology or reinforcing unhealthy player behaviour for commercial gain?”

Let’s tackle the topic of dailies pushed to abusive extremes in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Is this a problem you’ve noticed, a pet peeve you despise, or no big thing? Is this gonna be the next problem we face, or has it always been there? And what are the best and worst examples you can think of?

Andy McAdams: Dailies, as in tasks I can complete once a day I actually generally enjoy. Doing my Cooking dailies and Jewelcrafting dailies in WoW’s Wrath of the Lich King always felt fun to me and I enjoyed it. I also don’t really mind the just “login and get a reward” deal like Elder Scrolls Online runs, and Guild Wars 2 system is generally OK too. But aggressive extremes trends in dailies is concerning definitely. And I said in my Lawful Neutral piece on Stadia, based on the business models for streaming services where developers are paid per-minute that you are in game, developers are going start using more draconian methods to get you to log in and keep you logging in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see things happen like cutting the rewards in half for dailies, and making dailies happen twice a day to incentivize people to log in more than once a day to get both “opportunities” on the dailies and increase the general feeling of FOMO.

I think it’s going to get worse, and once gamblingboxes are regulated into the oblivion they rightly deserve, less reputable developers will be looking for ways to capitalize on time played. There’s not a doubt in my mind that adapting abusive practices to the concepts of dailies is something that’s going to come up for us again and again. We could eventually see things like content unlocked through total /played on a character, or requiring X consecutive days of login. Or random drops that get better the more consecutive days you login. Like most systems, it’s ripe for abuse, and if the industry continues its march toward “pay based on time-played,” I think it’ll be our next gamblingbox moment.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): It seems to me that dailies have morphed into something they were never really meant to be. The first dailies I really remember weren’t quests but rather “power hour” in Ultima Online – you got bonus skill gains your first hour logged in every day, so of course everyone did just that. I remember terminal missions in Star Wars Galaxies being capped at 10 a day, sort of reverse dailies, to stop people from flooding the economy with cash. And then I remember that style of content taking off even more in WoW-like themeparks where the daily content was really meant as something fresh to do every day when you’d run out of other stuff to do, when the “real” questing and dungeon content was spent. Dailies didn’t start out as the thing you logged in for, though that’s eventually what they became as everyone started focusing on doing “the” battleground and “the” dungeon of the day.

Since then, they’ve spun out into (at least) two categories: daily logins (log in for your reward, or play an hour doing anything for your reward) and daily content like what Avaera is describing. I don’t mind the former at all, and I don’t mind the latter when it’s as it is in Guild Wars 2: there if you want it, but no big thing when you don’t. I do mind the type of dailies that require absurd time investments with such major rewards that the dailies are basically the core of the game. It does prey on addictive personalities, but I think my principal objection is to the pathetic, low-effort nature of that type of game design.

I will say, separate from that, that “consecutive login dailies” are obnoxious and studios should stop doing that. Stop making your game an overt checklist and chore ffs.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I was almost sure this was an easy question for me, but the longer I ruminate, the stickier this wicket becomes. I kind of feel like I maybe was manipulated in keeping up with login rewards and doing my dailies in plenty of games, but is it really manipulation if you enjoy yourself?

I guess that’s the question that has to be answered, and of course that idea of enjoyment is wholly subjective. I don’t stress about hitting weekly caps or clearing dailies in Final Fantasy XIV, but the Dauntless Battle Pass definitely keeps me chasing those juicy carrots. In both cases, I adapt my enjoyment based on what I want from my time in-game, and even those urges change day to day; we’ve all had days when every launcher icon on the desktop just doesn’t appeal.

I guess it’s a manipulation that I agree with, but then I also am the person who likes pre-flight checks in Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen or finds enjoyment in Farming Simulator 19, so maybe I’m the worst person to ask.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): I really don’t mind dailies in any form, as long as they’re optional. Things like time-gated rep grinds required to progress are really frustrating, but if the game wants to give me daily goals and then reward me for meeting them, I don’t see that as that as that different from the typical MMO “do quest, get reward” gameplay loop.
I’ll admit that it gives me a certain amount of anxiety when I can’t log in to The Elder Scrolls Online and get my daily login reward or event tickets. But it’s no different from the anxiety I get from not being able to log into a game that I’m subscribed to. I’m effectively throwing money away if I don’t play this game today! Yet you don’t see many people talking about the subscription model reinforcing addictive tendencies.

I think that just about anything can become an addiction for someone, and dailies certainly don’t discourage those tendencies. I don’t want to belittle that. But I don’t see dailies as being more problematic than a lot of other things in MMOs that we don’t tend to view as bad.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Like many things in life, dailies can be fine — and even fun — in moderation. If they’re giving you a helping hand toward a goal you want to achieve (i.e., a reputation level with goodies or unlocks that would be difficult otherwise) or have a hard stop on them at some point (i.e., a series of event dailies or dailies that culminate with a single reward without any need to do the dailies past that), I’m generally OK with them. But when dailies spiral out of control, consuming players’ limited time every day with a bunch of “DO ME FIRST” objectives, then they can drain your interest, enthusiasm, and patience for gaming. They can quickly turn into a burden that will sour you on a game or even trigger the dreaded burnout. Because of this, I keep any personal daily interaction as limited and necessary as possible, usually only cropping up during even seasons.

Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): I appreciate daily login rewards – low effort, but it is enough to get me in game for a moment. The typical dailies I am usually fine with as well. Albion Online has a pretty good system where you will get rewarded basically by doing whatever task you want. That type is perfect to me. The reward for completing the daily is a nice bonus but I don’t feel it’s a “must do.”

So, hearing about the daily reward from Lusternia kind of makes me shiver. “Only” two hours for cash shop currency, yikes. As Avaera says, they are basically requiring a minimum commitment of two hours of the game per day. Then if you actually wanted to play the game to do x, y, or z, you’d be spending several hours of the day, every day, in the game. That would burn me out so fast. It’s no wonder we see legislation overseas to curb gaming addiction.

I can easily see this as something that more and more studios will pick up and do as well. I might not like it, but if it keeps the games running and cash flowing without impacting the game’s balance, I suppose I can’t complain too much. It certainly isn’t a way I would spend my available game time, though.

Tyler Edwards: I have nothing against daily login rewards, but I do find them surprisingly ineffective at getting me to log in regularly. Either they’re not good enough to be worth the trouble, or they’re too good and logging in every day starts to feel like a chore, hastening burnout.

I look more fondly on daily quests, but those have to be handled carefully. I have some serious mental scaring from some of World of Warcraft’s daily grinds. Dailies work best as an optional way to grind out some extra rewards. They should not be a path to exclusive rewards, and they should definitely never be required to advance the story or remain viable at endgame.

I think my favorite daily incentive is the “first win of the day” bonus you see in games like StarCraft II or Heroes of the Storm. Give me a quick, fun task to complete and a juicy bonus for doing it, and I’ll come back every single day.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!

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tiltowait

Best dailies ever: Archeage: Server-wide events (pvp, red dragon, Kraken, etc).

The designers behind Archage, despite whatever problems the current game version has, are the cutting edge. Server wide dailies makes everyone get together into a social experience, vastly more fun than… most anything sold as dailies.

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Schmidt.Capela

Dailies, for me, are very much a two-edged sword, and in the long run reduce my engagement with the game.

On one hand, if the dailies are content I legitimately, but moderately, enjoy they can extend how long I play a game and how engaged I am while still playing.

On the other hand:

– If there are rewards that can only be obtained through doing dailies for a long time then I’ll often leave the game as soon as those are revealed. Between my hate of exclusivity and how committing to a game is usually frustrating to me, this situation kills my enjoyment.

– The same goes for content locked behind dailies if the dailies are the only (or best) way of unlocking it.

– If I dislike the gameplay in the dailies, then I absolutely won’t do them. If this makes me feel handicapped — for example, when the dailies are by far the most effective way of obtaining an important resource — then I will stop playing the game.

– Conversely, if I really like the gameplay behind the dailies, they will often frustrate me due to their daily nature preventing me from engaging that content as much as I want, and frustrating me is a sure way to make me stop playing sooner.

– If the content done in the dailies feel just right, and the rewards are non-exclusive but worthwhile, this can make me feel left behind if due to circumstances beyond my control (AKA real life) I can’t do them for a while, which can frustrate me enough to stop playing. With dailies there is no catching up, contrary to most other content.

– Even if the dailies are just the way I prefer them and I never feel left behind, the extra engagement will make me stay away from the game for a longer period when I finally leave. This, in turn, makes it less likely I will ever return.

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Toy Clown

I don’t like dailies, so I try to work in what dailies I can into actual gameplay. There is a point I’ll get burnt out and don’t want to play anymore. If it affects progression too much, I know it’s not the game for me. I don’t like being forced to play a certain way and that’s what dailies do: They take the freedom away of how I really want to play if I fall into the daily trap.

Even “sandboxes” are falling into dailies and they go so far against what a sandbox is supposed to be that it’s ridiculous.

Developers need to stop creating even more monotonous and tedious ways to punish us into doing boring content, causing us to ignore the gameplay we actually find fun. Do these people even play their own games? It’s mind-blowing how they come up with this stuff.

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Axetwin .

I like GW2 dailies…….to a certain point. I kind of wish they had them separated better between the various content packs, and offered a much high variety of things to choose from per day. However, I like that they’re good enough to help those with low incomes, but low impact enough so that if you don’t do them, you’re not missing out.

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Alatar

It goes to monetization, I think, and we can’t have it both ways. We can’t say that MMOs shouldn’t require a sub to play, then complain when they do things to incentivize us logging in, and/or showcasing the cash store.

Scott Hartsman once noted that the goal of a f2p mmo with a cash shop is different. With a sub game, the goal is to keep you playing (or at least wanting to play, enough so that you don’t cancel your sub). But a f2p mmo with a cash shop has the goal to keep you BUYING. Very different approach to the game.

All mmo games have dailies (at least all the ones I’m aware of do). The ones in WoW are either used to help you advance your professions or make it possible for the solo player to grind out rep or gear up. Remember how it was before dailies and world quests? You had to run dungeons or raids for gear, and as for professions, well, good luck with those!

Dailies are necessary. They’re a lot harder to get balanced when they need to feed the cash machine, though.

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styopa

I generally avoid daily tasks because they’re so much like chores; got enough of those in my life, thanks!

The last time I did something like that was probably the What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been achievement in WoW years ago…which by the end I actively resented and has left me disliking seasonal mmo events generally (something I used to enjoy). Like Kamikazes, something else I enjoyed until I … Overindulged…and now avoid, it permanently changed my preference landscape.

But for all that, to assert they encourage addictive behavior is a little histrionic. If you’re so weak-willed a game causes that, well, maybe it’s better that you get hooked on doing mmo dailies than that nicotine/gambling/alcohol/sex/opioid/heroin addiction that was almost certainly in your future?

I’d agree that repetitive daily tasks – particularly if the rewards/bribes are so substantial that you can’t ignore them – is really fucking lazy content, and should be called-out as such. I do admit that I appreciate the Gw2 login system: it’s non resetting, so you don’t have to compulsively login daily, the rewards are fairly trivial (more of a “thanks for being here!”) And day 30 is a widget that iirc is needed to make some great gear that otherwise takes a shit ton of grinding in game. So if you’re patient, you’ll get them, even if your gameplay is not about grinding for those shards.

I *do* wish they were (in all games) a little less immersion-smashing. A giant flashy cosmic advent-calendar of login rewards might be more in-context if it was a mail in your in box (some games do this already) or a gift from a friendly npc, etc.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Dailies in moderation are fine. It’s just another goal to achieve.

However, anything that requires a certain amount of time before you get it, or a certain number of consecutive days if logging in/ completing, and that reset each month are crap.

Let me log in when I actually want to play the game so it doesn’t feel like a chore and I actually enjoy the experience and work my way slowly to the prize at the end. That’s the way it should be. I’ve gotten burned out on games and special events rather quickly when I am forced to be in game every single day for weeks at a time just to get to the end prize. I certainly am not compelled to spend any money in the store while doing so.

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Utakata

I think it’s pretty good idea…if the game’s business doesn’t want to venture beyond it’s cash shop and/or lootbox models. As it offers the alternative ways to earn stuff walled off to the player otherwise ingame.

However, I can’t vouch for what it will do to players with poor obsession control issues. Beyond suggesting they may want to drop the game for awhile, so they can sort those issues out personally and/or professionally.

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Utakata

PS: BTW and for the record, I love dailies for the most part. But that doesn’t guarantee that they are done right or will be actually good. :)

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Randomessa

Dailies only bother me when I try to do them, so I do my very best to ignore them as much as possible. If I happen to have some time and I’m already doing what I wanted to do in that moment and a little progress bar on the side says I’m 60-80% completed one dingaling, ok, fine, sure.

But usually that dingaling is merely one of five (see: doing A quest in SWL and finding that the daily is to do an entire MISSION), and then I say, fluff that, and go back to ignoring.

Awww, so I won’t get the shiny at the end of the battlepass season? Sad. Uwu.

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Sarah Cushaway

I hate dailies with a passion. I do chores all day long in my real life– I don’t play a game to do more chores.