Massively Overthinking: Our favorite MOP articles of 2023

    
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Every year, we pick out a bunch of narrative arcs and stories that dominated the headlines and emotions of the MMORPG genre, and it gets an award. Actually a couple of awards, if you get creative about it. But whatever that story turns out to be, it’s just one among thousands that we write every single year, and very few people on this earth have time to read all of them. So it’s become one of our annual traditions for us to gather ’round in Massively Overthinking and talk about the articles we actually enjoyed the most on the site.

I’ve asked our writers – and readers – to choose their favorite pieces of the year; for writers, I’ll make them self-promote and pick one they wrote as well as one somebody else did, and then tell us why it was important, poignant, or just plain fun. Tell us: What was the best work we did on MOP in 2023?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): We had a lot of good content this year, and I’m not just talking about Eliot’s wild ride in the WRUP. I do want to give Andy a shout-out for his piece on freedom of speech in MMOs, but Justin did one on his son’s first experience with the death of an online game that really hit home. Part of it is because we’ve all been there, though I was an older teen when my first MMO, Asheron’s Call 2, was cancelled. I don’t have kids, but hearing about how Justin’s son took things made me feel good that he’s raised a kid who can accept this kind of thing, but at the same time, it sucks. That games still get shut down like this, with little to no way for players to preserve their worlds, is so disheartening. My adult friends worry about the day some of our games may go offline, and while most of us will probably handle it with quiet dignity, it would be nice if devs had a kind of Plan B should things fail.

As for my own work, there’s one coming out before the end of the year that I really like, but from what’s out as of this writing, my Why I Play on Pokemon GO is a very personal favorite. For those who don’t read my column, I have an extreme love/hate relationship with the game, mostly because of the developers/PR. Unlike some other games, though, it’s not one that’s easy to replace, so every time I start thinking about moving on, I look back at that piece and go, “Oh, yeah, it’s hard to find all those things in one game right now.” I really hope we get more MMOARGs/mobile MMOs with an exercise slant, but POGO feels like the genre’s World of Warcraft, and it may be a while until someone else can recreate that level of recognition, especially without also endangering its players.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I’ve always loved Justin’s LOTRO pieces. I was introduced to Massively-that-was via his extensive coverage of my all-time favorite MMO. It’s amazing to me that he’s been able to keep the content rolling on a game with such an extended lifespan. This year, his LOTRO Legendarium on Nine LOTRO secrets worth discovering was a personal favorite. It was both nostalgic and informative!

As for my work, I enjoyed uncovering the many ways World of Warships generates revenue as a free-to-play game. I was also a bit surprised by some of the ardent defenders who popped into the comments section! I guess this business model has become much more accepted within the wider gaming community than I’d realized.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Eliot’s piece on aging in the MMO space homed in on one of those topics I don’t really want to think about too hard; nobody wants to get old or be reminded that our genre’s demographics skew a lot older than they used to. But because of that, both the genre and the way many players interface with it are dysfunctional. We need to say it, and people need to hear it.

Of my own pieces, most of my best work made me angry this year, not because it was bad but because I wind up doing a lot of the long-form digging on trashfire news happening in the genre, which is nearly always wall-punch-inducing. Instead, I’ll point back to my retrospective on Star Wars Galaxies when it turned 20 years old this past June. It’s about Star Wars Galaxies, yes, and it’s about the history the big sites leave out in their eagerness to talk about the NGE, but it’s also about me and my own journey through those early years of MMOs.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): Can’t go wrong with our listicles! In particular, the top 25 text based MMOs worth playing in 2023 was my favorite article. I know I certainly didn’t get FOMO for these OMMOs (Original MMOs) because when Justin posted the list in the halcyon days of April 2023, I went through a few of them and found a favorite in Procedural Realms. Video game history is important and MMORPGs are such an important milestone in the industry’s development that it’s always worth looking back at the games of yore and giving them a spin. Having a nice neat list of these games is very helpful, especially since it comes from Justin, who we all know has impeccable taste in the finer things in life such as cars, salted meats, MMORPGs, and walnuts. I encourage everyone to give this article a read and pick at least one to play for the upcoming year. I’ve found playing them therapeutic, especially when I can’t decide on what to play or if I feel like I just want to read something.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I guess one of the favorites that I wrote would have to be the one about MMOs as Saturday morning cartoons, primarily because I ended up providing what I felt were surprisingly solid arguments for the choices in what started mentally as a “goofy” article, but also because I loved reading the comments from people who had similarly great ideas and shared some memories.

As for a favorite column that was written by our staff, I’ve got to give it up to Eliot’s thoughtful piece about making a fair FFA PvP sandbox. Not just because I was nodding my head in agreement, but also because he really did seem to try to answer what seems like an impossible to solve problem.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I was genuinely impressed with Tyler’s defense of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. This wasn’t a popular position to take — kind of like swimming upstream against the long-held perception of this derided expansion. But I think he did a very good job extoling some of the virtues of this pack and why it deserves a second look. I know he changed my mind!

As for myself, I did a pair of LOTRO Legendariums last spring in which I combed through every corner of Minas Tirith to document some 33 notable vistas. It took me a long, long time, and as the joke among writers goes, the article that you sweat blood over nobody cares about, while the one you zip off in five minutes is the one that goes viral. But hey, I’m still proud of it.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’m not a big self promoter. If anything, I’m self deprecating and likely because writing is not one of my strongest skills (somehow I tricked Bree though and she’s too nice to rescind). Regardless I’ll push forth my piece on Harry Potter Magic Awakened’s home instance and housing feature. It’s not even a PvP thing, and it’s not something I even care about, but I know how important it is for so many MMO gamers out there. It’s a feature that is so well done that it’s a real shame it’s lost on players. I think there are a lot of gamers here who are looking for the ability to RP and do what HPMA offers, but they have no idea that it exists. Of course, I’m not into it so maybe there are good reasons from a gaming POV that it lacks, but what I hear around the bend in the office chat makes it sound like something that they’d like if played. What do I know, though.

For another piece I really liked, I’ll have to point to Eliot’s attempt to design a fair, full loot open PvP system. How could I not, right? He really tries to walk through goals for the players and how it could be balanced so that the attacker isn’t all reward and no risk. Eliot also openly admits that there are likely loopholes and issues he’s overlooking, but he is putting it out there, and it’s an interesting thought experiment. A game like the Crowfall of my original dreams could have actually experimented with these ideas. But alas, all we have instead are great ideas and concepts – something Eliot always delivers in spades.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I quite liked Andy’s piece on free speech in MMOs, although I feel this is one of those cases where the people who most need to absorb its information are those least likely to.

I feel pretty good about my New World coverage this year, and in particular I’m pleased with my interview with Scot Lane. Being the first to break the news of New World getting a dungeon finder was a bit of a thrill.

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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