Perfect Ten: Pet peeves of doing MMO journalism

    
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In many ways, Massively Overpowered is a dream (side) job for us. We get to write about something we love and have it published for crowds of people to read. Every day is interesting, as you never know when a big surprise will pop out of the news feeds. Every day is filled with behind-the-scenes chatter with friends and engagement with our incredible community.

That said, it’s not always a non-stop party. Having been in the MMO industry for a decade now as a journalist, I repeatedly encounter annoying facets of this job that aren’t always apparent to those who visit us to read. In fact, we have many bizarrely specific pet peeves around the Massively OP office, and it’s time to clear the air and share those with you so that we can all get on with our lives.

Ever wonder what it’s like to write MMO news on a daily basis? This list might just warn you off… or intrigue you further.

I'm not him! I don't even look like him!

1. MMO websites that post screenshots smaller than a postage stamp

This is now (checks) the year 2020. That means that we’re no longer in the Geocities era of the late 1990s; computers have large resolutions and websites have to resize to fit these screens. It makes no sense for some MMO studios to stick with fixed, tiny pictures in their posts. That will always get us grumbling because if a picture is smaller than 800 pixels wide, we can’t really use it for a news post unless we want to make readers think that they’ve got glaucoma.

2. Websites that make it impossible to find news

I know we’ve complained about MMO websites in the past, but seriously, some of them are so bad, guys. If you’re a writer trying to access the latest news or dev blog quickly because you have a huge pile of other stories to write, you don’t want to be playing a scavenger hunt with the site’s menus.

3. MMOs that tuck important news away in weird places

I don’t care where you put your news, MMO studios, as long as the main site and Twitter account has a link to it. But to tuck big announcements or important developer engagement deep in forums, on Reddit, or on your mother’s Pinterest board and nowhere else should give me a license to hunt you for sport. And I don’t have time to go hunting; I’ve got more news to write!

4. PR statements that randomly capitalize words

I would think that working public relations for a studio is a fairly cushy job, all things considered. Since communication is a major part of what these people do, you’d assume that they are good at writing.

They are not. Hoo boy, they are so not.

Oh, some are, but many have fallen prone to this odd PR disease of Randomly Capitalizing various words in their releases as if that confers proper noun status to ordinary things, such as the words “class” or “subscriber” or “event.” I’ve spent about 2% of my life so far un-capitalizing words to bring balance to the Force once more.

5. PR statements that sound like they were originally written in Martian

I’m not done picking on PR people yet. I could mention the ones that send releases in impossible-to-copy-and-paste PDF, but much more endemic are the folks who send us paragraphs of words that are not ordered in any way as to be comprehensible. Sure, this is usually due to translations and English not being the writer’s first language, but sometimes it’s so bad that you have no idea what they’re actually trying to say. I can only correct PR announcements so much before I’m doing the full job of that department.

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6. Studios that wait until end-of-business on Fridays to release negative announcements (or positive ones, for that matter)

When a studio — I’ll pull a random one out of a hat, say, um, Daybreak — knows that it absolutely must release some bad news, one common tactic that it can employ is to wait until the very last moment on Friday afternoon to do so in the hopes that media (a) won’t pick it up at all or (b) will bury it under all of the news that comes out over the weekend. It should go without saying that we do not truck with such tactics here at Massively OP.

7. Seeing studios fail to learn from history

Hey, maybe this time your hardcore PvP gankbox with a mandatory subscription is going to be a massive hit! And why not roll out genderlocked classes, since your eastern studio has done so much homework on what western players expect! Might as well come out with effusive praise for lockbox gambling while you’re at it!

We’ll just be over here beating our heads on our keyboards and wishing that devs would read our backlog of posts about the other million times such approaches didn’t work.

8. Studios and developers that get gross

Let me say that there are actually lots of really great, sincere, and upstanding developers in the industry. But there are bad eggs too, and it’s always very uncomfortable when we have to report on the gross behavior or decisions that come out of studios or from specific devs. Covering oppressive work environments, lolita-style races, or devs that turn their game into a fraudulent endeavor bring us no joy here in the office. It’s kind of why we had to invent a specific category for super-gross stuff.

9. Spin-heavy press releases

It’s part of the job that we dig through a lot of press releases. Like, a lot a lot. The good ones are informative, to the point, and offer assets for us to repackage into useful posts for our readers. The bad ones tend to lean heavy on spin to attempt to manipulate the media into being a wing of their publicity department by focusing on the good news instead of the full picture.

We have to approach each PR statement with a critical eye, looking for the real story instead of the one that the studio really wishes that we would say. If subs and profits are down, a studio might spin that player engagement is up in the first paragraph and bury the bad stuff in the third or fourth paragraph. Extracting the truth from the spin is a necessary if annoying part of what we do.

10. Diving into super-long rants and videos

Before I go into this last item, I really want to emphasize that covering MMO games is, by and large, a fun and engaging activity. We all love what we do, and this list shouldn’t make you think that we sit here moaning and complaining over a million pet peeves. These are usually the exceptions rather than the commonplace rules.

That said, there’s just about none of us on staff that leaps out of our chairs with joy when we pull up a news story that ends up being a 10,000-word treatise or a two hour-long video that must be consumed in full before we can get to writing the post. Ninety-five percent of the time, the key information for a news post could have been relayed in a paragraph or two and saved us all a lot of time. After all, there are always more news to be written; we can’t spend hours on your stream-of-consciousness ramblings.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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Benjamin Sinnamon

Speaking of websites, why are the MOP drop-down menus for Columns showing games and Games showing columns?

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

The columns drop-down includes all of our game-specific columns, while the games drop-down includes all of our multi-game/generalist columns. This comment doesn’t really go here.

Reader
Bryan Correll

I suggest changing “Games” to “Gaming.” It is intuitive to expect the category “Games” to be of specific titles.

Reader
Minimalistway

MMOs websites need more posts about them, why do i have to use a search engine to find your game client? many websites don’t show the homepage but a landing page asking you to sign up and make an account, even before you know what the game is, i’m here to see what the game, let me do that, some of them redirect you to this landing page without a link to skip it to the main site.

Random MMO fan
Reader
Random MMO fan

7. Seeing studios fail to learn from history
Hey, maybe this time your hardcore PvP gankbox with a mandatory subscription is going to be a massive hit!

Funny you should say stuff like this. What is not funny is seeing, for example, a guild of 163 people with 4-5 people logging in during the evening hours because most are already done with story and dungeons released in latest expansion few months ago and decided to cancel the sub to not waste money since there is nothing else to do other than “grind for glowy weapon and armor” which not everyone is interested in or grind the crafting professions “just to max them out” (which most have already done) or do some RP event at the housing which, while I personally enjoy those, most people do not enjoy.

And yet developers continue to churn out generic PvE grindfests where you are still mostly dependent on content that developers release, such as expansions which happen every 2 years and which most players go through in a 2-3 months, or content patches which many people finish in an even shorter amount of time. And where mechanics reduced to very basics, such as crafting where you craft absolutely redundant weapons and armor which can never be looted by even NPCs and which become outdated once new expansion is released which requires weapons with different stats. And which still gate A LOT of content through dungeons which cannot be soloed (which is unfair to anyone who simply does not have a time due to real life events to wait for a competent group to finish those or who has a phobia about his/her own poor performance which may be judged by other people in dungeon group or who prefers to just play alone for many other PERFECTLY VALID reasons). And where you do pointless quick PvP battles in an instance, the kind of PvP you can simply get from games like CS:GO, BF5, Planetside 2, Overwatch, TF2, World of Tanks, Fortnite, PUBG and dozens of other games. Making all of those generic PvE MMOs feel like a “co-op game” where people occasionally log into to play for a couple of days together then log off for a few months, instead of trying to make a game which would actually feel like a living MASSIVE world with various user-generated content to keep people logged in.

Funny how you do not mention THIS kind of bad design and kind of “not learning from history” and only select a very specific kind of bad design ;-)

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Jim Bergevin Jr

You kind of answered your own point in your first paragraph. Most people simply do not enjoy those open world sandboxes. They simply want content that they can enjoy in bite sized chunks without having to rely on a bunch of other people.

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

Number 1 made me laugh as it is SO true. How many times do we see tiny images and frequently they have “click on for full size” somewhere close, and you do so and ta da… the full size image is the same size thumbnail you just clicked on lol

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Aiun Tanks

I’ve spent about 2% of my life so far un-capitalizing words to bring balance to the Force once more.

The hero we need, not the hero we deserve.

Reader
styopa

Back in my day we barely HAD “gaming websites” that aggregated stuff, hell, we had to find that stuff ourselves.
Just about all we had was a weekly box delivery of a crapton of games we didn’t have time to play through and then “write something about”.

#getoffmylawn
LOL I just realized I quit writing game reviews YEARS before Youtube was even a thing. OMG I feel old.

Reader
Jeremy Barnes

1. Sites that post pictures in a ‘general’ article and don’t tell you what game it is *cough* *cough*
2. Labeling things MMOs that are not MMOs, but multiplayer games possibly with an online element.

Random MMO fan
Reader
Random MMO fan

Hey, everything is an MMO if it has more than one player online and there is nothing else to write about ;-)

Reader
Leiloni

One thing I’ve learned in my many years at a large company is that despite how many jobs require a lot of writing, the only ones that are really good at the details is the editorial department. So when you are talking about small companies that don’t have that (most game studios), you never know what you’re gonna get. Same goes for terrible websites and a lot of other stuff on you’re list. I’m not at all surprised that people aren’t good at these things. I’ve seen first hand how bad experienced, educated people are at a lot of things.

The only way anyone manages to get stuff that looks polished, whether it be PR releases, websites, or honestly most of your list, is having a LOT of different people involved (and sometimes, hiring large third parties that specialize in that one thing). Otherwise, have much lower expectations and you won’t be disappointed lol.

Ririrawr
Reader
Ririrawr

so many things am nodding in agreement with

slight tangent
this is why i lump my rants behind spoiler tags because they are like a long ramble-y ramble of rambling… dialogue, and smacking passing by readers with that in the face would make me feel bad for all the reasons in the article :P

also also, my head canon has a number 11 for you guys: when you send them twenty interview (that they agreed to) questions and they answer like five (but really three with repetitions)

Reader
Sorenthaz

“7. Seeing studios fail to learn from history”

Is probably the most frustrating one as an MMO enthusiast since it’s like, we’ve been through that song and dance so many times with PvP gankboxes that have no rules. “Don’t worry guys, this time we’ll get it right.” It’s a lot like certain ideologies that almost always fail to account for human nature because they assume the best case scenario which looks great on paper, but rarely/ever works in execution, especially on larger scales. And then the devs are stuck with a choice of doubling down or trying to go back on it to broaden their reception which often doesn’t work too well as the damage was already done.

Reader
Leiloni

A lot of people are strangely unable to accept reality and human nature for what it is and like living in their dream worlds.

Reader
Aiun Tanks

This is also the problem with the idea that devs should develop the kind of game that they personally would like to play, instead of worrying what the broader gaming audience wants, while still expecting the broader gaming audience to pay for it.

This shit is probably a big part of why Bethesda’s first co-op Fallout game was conceived as an always-online, NPC-free, forced public originally free-for-all gankbox (until initial reveal reactions resulted in the ham-fisted ‘slap’ band-aid). They were probably working on what everyone REALLY wanted (2-player Fallout 4), and in prototype testing, the devs all had a great time shooting each other in the face and forming little rivalries and factions out of it, that was really cool.
Y’know… something that would never happen with the broader gaming audience.