Massively Overthinking: MassivelyOP, five years in

Now with helicopters


Five years ago, we flipped a switch, let the site go live, and published our first article as Massively OP. It was from Justin, in fact, and it was about, of all things, Firefall, a game that’s come and gone in the interim. We, however, are still here, with well over 30,000 articles online, thanks to all the people who believed in us so much on Massively that they Kickstarted and Patreon-ized Massively OP. And we’ve come a long way since then: 2019 was our biggest year ever, and we were able to almost double our team size too.

In this special celebratory edition of Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked a few of our staff who were here for those weird and wild early days to chime in with some reminiscing. And don’t think that’s all we’re up to today; our Stream Team has several event streams planned with fun prizes too, one at 2 3 p.m. EST and one at 8 p.m. EST!

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): When I started writing the EVE Evolved column back in 2008, I had no idea I’d still be playing the game over a decade later, let alone still writing about it. It started out as just a bit of fun and a way to reach a bigger audience than I’d hit with a forum post or blog. I didn’t even bother giving details to get paid for the first few months, and they had to pester me to get them.

The whole site was a great deal less developed back then too. We didn’t even have a full-time editor and just muddled through by proofing each other’s work, which is probably why the early site was crammed full of errors!

The things I remember most about all these years are the big industry-wide shifts that we got to see evolve in slow motion. We started the Not So Massively column rounding up all the MOBA news when the genre was just starting to blow up, and I fondly remember the collaborative “Redefining MMOs” opinion column we did back in 2009 touching on trends such as the rise of free to play games and microtransactions.

My favourite memories, though, are probably of the time spent speaking to EVE Online players at EVE Fanfest or being the unofficial EVE translator for the press room (you try explaining why a room full of spaceship nerds just gave a standing ovation to a search bar feature). Through last year’s EVE World Tour, I also had the opportunity to meet inspiring players such as legendary explorer Katia Sae and to delve into the Russian and Australian playerbases for the first time, which I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s been a crazy almost 12 years!

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’ve mentioned before that I kinda had to be talked into MassivelyOP – I was willing to do the podcast with Justin forever, but I didn’t think people would actually back indie MMO journalism, actually put money down to make it happen. You all proved my fears were for nothing, and I’m incredibly glad the team and readers countermanded my internal risk-aversion to get us to where we are right now. (Fun fact, Eliot talked me into it more than anyone – when even Eliot is optimistic about something that sounds nuts, it sways me. Second fun fact: The first website we had designed for us failed so spectacularly that we were up literally all night cobbling together a new version from scratch so we could at least launch on time!)

That is not to say that we’ve had no hardships because we have. Working out the kinks in workflow and tech and funding and legal – none of it was easy. I mean, not having anyone barking orders at us is wonderfully freeing, but it also means there’s no safety net at all. It’s just us here, doing our thing. This is one of those jobs that is different every single day – a new spectacle, a new clownshow, a new delight – and worth every minute of “overtime” spent to put something good back into the genre. I’ve been at it 10 years now, and even when it’s exhausting, it never gets old!

Also I should explain the “now with helicopters” thing. A couple of times every month, we used to get these War Thunder ads, and god love them, the original versions were all animated, so if you hit just the right spot in the site, you’d get like three ads all with synchronized spinning helicopters. It’s still a running joke with the writers, even when the ads have no animation. :D

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): The biggest thing I remember about the early days is technically before the early days, when Bree and I were talking and wondering what the hell we were going to do now, and she was… pretty sure a Kickstarter was going to flop.

I was a voice in favor of it, of course. I figured that in the worst-case scenario, we’d try and fail; best-case scenario, we could actually pull things back together. A 50% shot was better than a 0% shot, or so went my thinking. When it finally actually happened, I expected that we’d get a little headway, but it still felt very up in the air to me up until the money started rolling in. It was at that moment that I remember feeling like we’d made the right call, like my 50% shot had actually been a much bigger shot than expected, and we might actually be able to pull this off because we all knew our jobs cold by that point.

Of course, I was wrong. We didn’t all know our jobs cold then. We knew some of our jobs, but we also had a lot to learn, and we’ve done a bunch of learning over the course of the past several years. Even as we’ve dealt with challenges we couldn’t have anticipated, we’ve kept on putting things out and working on this site, day after day. Somehow, that’s what always comes back to me… that after all this time, we keep coming back to do this, day after day, year after year, and every day is a new day of doing what we’ve done. We can’t do it without our readers, though, and whether you’re a long-time visitor or a first-timer, whether you read everything or just specific columns, you’re part of what made this journey so rewarding.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): As upset as the community was at the abrupt closure of Massively-That-Was, it was triply devastating to those of us who had poured thousands of man-hours into creating the best MMO news and opinion site that we could. I was in shock for the first week after hearing that news, trying to process the end of five years of my writing career and the dissolution of this site with many of my online friends.

And that’s when a genuine Movie Moment(tm) happened in our lives, one where the team that is knocked down and considered out rallies in the third act for one last, valiant try. I don’t think a lot of people know how many other ideas we bandied about to keep Massively going — somehow — but in the end we decided to swing for the fences by raising enough capital to start a full-fledged site of our own. The handful of us involved in the early effort flat-out scrambled to put together a Kickstarter campaign, encourage all of our followers to switch over to a new Twitter handle, start up a new podcast, and construct the shell of a new site… all within a week or so.

I don’t know what response we’d hoped to see, but the now Massively Overpowered fanbase roared to life and channeled $75,000 to get this crazy project started. It felt crazy, to be honest. It felt like we were flying without any sort of safety net into unexplored territory — but we also knew we could do this. We had the team, we had the experience, and we had the passion. We also had the money and the community.

Seeing Massively Overpowered go live on that first day felt wildly vindicating. AOL couldn’t keep us down — we were still flying. Those first posts, seeing the first page of news come together, it was all amazing. Rolling back the podcast counter to episode one? OK, that felt like a blow, but I soon realized that we had moved on to a new era.

The subsequent five years of live operation have been, in my opinion, far more enjoyable, more smooth, and more exciting than old Massively. Our team has grown, our expertise deepened, and our ability to field massive stories (such as Columbus Nova and Blitzchung) proven.

I might never publish a book in my life, as much as that’s a secret dream of mine, but I am satisfied that so much of my work — written and podcast — has been published on MOP for the world to enjoy. We have an incredible readership that’s supportive, engaging, and insightful, and it’s powered our personal enthusiasm for our day-to-day operations.
Thank you for letting me be part of your online MMO experience, and thanks to my MOP teammates for making this such a terrific place to work every day.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): Everyone else is talking about the early days, but I want to chime in with a personal favorite memory! During PAX West 2016, I want to say, I sat in on a panel with multiple community managers including Linda Carlson, better known as Brasse to those who played any SOE or Trion games. She recognized that I was wearing a Devilian T-shirt that I received the day before and called on me to ask a question. Frankly, I don’t even remember the question that I asked, but she instantly recognized me when I mentioned that I was from MassivelyOP, and she asked me to talk to her after the panel. Of course, I did. I never met Linda in person before, and I had always admired her as a community leader back in the early MMO days. I actually ended up meeting two of my MMO heroes that day – not just Brasse, but a name infamous on this website: Raph Koster, the creative director for Star Wars Galaxies.

I did as I was asked and met Linda after the panel, and we talked as she was headed to lunch. Then Raph stepped up to talk to Linda, too. Even though I am clearly a grown man, it was extremely difficult not to fangurl all over Raph. Of course, as the two of us walked Linda to the restaurant, we talked about SWG, both had been involved in its creation. At one point in his blog, Raph talked about the inner failures of SWG, but during that conversation, I was able to see that he was truly proud of what he and the team did with the game and the innovative features of it.

There we were outside the restaurant talking about our favorite things to talk about: MMORPGs, when Linda suggested to me, “Why don’t you join us for lunch?” I agreed that I would never print any of the conversations we had during that meal, but I will never forget it. The famous adage warned that we should “never meet our heroes,” but I don’t necessarily agree with that when your heroes are people like Linda Carlson and Raph Koster.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Back when we learned that the old site was being shuttered, I couldn’t let us disappear. I knew that we were something special, so I lobbied hard and passionately for the birth of MOP! No one else offered what our little band did, and if we poofed, it would be quite a loss. No way I would let this go without a fight. I was ready to fight too — bonk folks over the head if necessary. Sure, it was a scary prospect, but I knew it would be worth it.

Worth it, it was. It was a stressful yet rewarding time as we watched support voiced from so many corners of our gaming world. Those were moments that affirmed that yes, integrity is noticed and does count! It does matter. That’s pure gold, my friends (and we added it right to the yacht!). And that moment we went live again? Giddiness. Exhilaration. (Exhaustion, too. We all put so much into it!)

Look at us today. I wasn’t wrong, was I? We’ve grown, our little family has grown, and we’ve grown together. We’ve shared so much. I couldn’t pull out any one story or memory from the past five years to try and exemplify this experience. There have been countless times staff has supported one another through life behind the scenes. We laugh, we cry, we cheer, we shake our heads… and through it all we care. We care about our genre, we care about our readers and fellow gamers, we care about each other. This was the legacy I was so proud to be a part of and wanted so much to preserve. We did it! And we did it with all of you.

A most fitting way to celebrate MOP today is go (re)read some Sword and Bored. If you haven’t seen it, please treat yourself.

Have you been here since the beginning – or even before that? We’d love to hear from you too!

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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