daily grind

See: The Daily Grind

The Daily Grind: How much of an MMO do you have to play before you feel you’ve got a handle on it?

MMOs are big. Really big. You wouldn’t believe just how mind-bogglingly big they really are. Although you probably would, since you’re here reading about them. And the sheer facet of scale means that it can be really difficult to establish a point when you’ve seen enough to have a good sense of the game.

Obviously, five minutes logged into an official World of Warcraft server won’t give you any idea about the game as a whole; pretty much anyone could agree on that. And at the other extreme, it’s unlikely anyone would expect you to play every piece of content in Star Wars: The Old Republic before you can decide on whether or not the game delivers on what you’re looking for.

Realistically, every game offers you a different amount of things in different combinations and in such arrangements that every game will require different amounts of time to evaluate. You could argue that a few matches in World of Tanks tell the whole story about the game’s mechanics, after all. But then, just playing and leaving means you miss out on the meta and the overall sense of what the game is like over the longer term, which can often be a pretty important element. So what do you think, readers? How much of an MMO do you have to play before you feel you’ve got a handle on it?

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The Daily Grind: How do you handle MMO alts when new content releases?

For those of you who only play one and just one character in any given MMO, today’s discussion is probably not for you. But for the rest of us who nurture and engage with a flock of alts, it can be a challenge when new content — whether it be a story scenario, update, or expansion — lands on the server.

How do you handle this? I used to focus solely on a single character until I finished up most of the new content and then would move on to other alts, although lately I’ve changed to more of a rotational model to give each character equal time spread out over multiple nights.

Do you go a step further with this and use spreadsheets and tracking charts, even? Let’s strategize together today!

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The Daily Grind: Did you go back to World of Warcraft for Battle for Azeroth?

Did they getcha? Did they suck you in again for another go-round?

I have a flurry of guildies in World of Warcraft right now thanks to Battle for Azeroth, and yet I haven’t been enticed to go back. In fact, Legion was the first expansion I didn’t buy or go back during, and now we’re at the next one and I’m still in exactly the same shruggy place. I’m not saying I’m over it forever. I’m not saying I’ll never go back. The game just isn’t doing it for me personally right now. There are things they could do that would make me whip out my wallet: new classes (bards!), real housing, a meaningful economy – maybe something that replicates the exploration amusement of vanilla, the dungeon joy of Wrath, or the questing and farm fun of Pandaria. Probably plenty of cool things I haven’t even thought of could get me in there; the truth is, I am a sucker for the idea of playing The Big One, secure in the knowledge that it’s a sure bet for longevity.

But this expansion isn’t grabbing me, and that’s OK. Not everything has to be for me. And I’m glad it’s grabbing some of you – who doesn’t love all the buzz and hoopla? So did you go back to World of Warcraft for Battle for Azeroth?

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The Daily Grind: Do you have an MMO backlog, and if so, what’s on it?

If you follow the mainstream gaming media meta at all, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of sites, spurred on by Polygon, have been mulling over the concept of the backlog – you know, that pile (or digital list) of games you bought and haven’t finished or even tried. Did we even have backlogs before online platforms like Steam? Because I don’t really remember having one back then – I just played what I had. But then again, I’m also primarily an MMORPG gamer. So I don’t fret tooooooo much about the non-MMOs I bought cheap for a rainy day. Occasionally I’ll blast through my non-MMO list and do a sort of 15-minute speed-dating game with some untrieds, but mostly, I’m content with just having some novelty waiting for me when I need it.

My MMO and online game backlog, though, eats at me. I bought Project Gorgon this summer, for example, and haven’t tried it. Staxel and No Man’s Sky too. These kinds of games have a time limit, and yet they require a certain presence of mind and concentration to dig into properly that I haven’t had this season.

Do you have an MMO backlog, and if so, what’s on it?

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The Daily Grind: Do you consider yourself an expert on your favorite MMOs?

Expertise is a funny thing; it’s the sort of thing usually best demonstrated by never claiming it but simply showing it. Most people confronted by someone claiming to be an expert at a given game like World of Warcraft are going to respond with eye-rolling and no small amount of exasperation, especially if that self-proclaimed expert immediately screws something up. For that matter, it’s almost always accompanying a blatantly incorrect statement. “You should listen to me, I’m an expert at this game, Enhancement Shaman is for healing.”

That isn’t to say that you necessarily aren’t an expert, even if you wouldn’t claim it. Sure, you might not happily shout about how you’re an expert at Star Trek Online, but you know most of the game’s traits cold and can figure out a ship build in three minutes flat; that’s pretty clearly expertise. So share with us, dear readers. Do you consider yourself an expert on your favorite MMOs? And, as a perhaps important corollary, do you generally inform strangers of that fact?

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The Daily Grind: Where have you gotten bogged down in MMO play?

Probably one of my biggest bugaboos (that’s a technical term) in MMO play is when I get bogged down trying to progress through a certain point in the game. Maybe it’s a difficult to navigate zone or a frustratingly tough area, but there’s nothing that kills my enthusiasm to log in than when I’m making slow-to-no progress in my gaming sessions.

Recently I had to make a concerted effort to push myself through Northern Mirkwood in Lord of the Rings Online. While it was spot-on with its dark, eerie atmosphere, the visual difficulties coupled with the challenging terrain made questing a plodding affair. At least I got out and saw the daylight again!

Where have you gotten bogged down in MMO play? Have you ever hit a wall that was difficult to pass? Did you make it through or just give up?

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The Daily Grind: How much time do you spend on aesthetics in MMOs?

You don’t want to know how much time I’ve spent carefully decorating my characters’ living spaces in Final Fantasy XIV. Or maybe you do; it is kind of on-brand. And the reality is that it’s about as much time proportionally as I’ve spent decorating strongholds in Star Wars: The Old Republic or assembling outfits in World of Warcraft or carefully choosing which sort of nacelle looks better on my ship in Star Trek Online. Let’s just round up and say that it’s a lot of time.

Keep in mind, many of these things aren’t just time spent arranging things. Decorating a house in FFXIV means time spent deciding on furnishings, figuring out where to get them, usually gathering a lot of items to craft and crafting tons of furniture, then placing all of it. A new outfit in WoW means having most of the look, but having to go run one dungeon or another a few times for the last necessary drop, then color-coordinating the bits that look almost right but not quite. So what about you? How much time do you spend on aesthetics in MMOs? Is it a big part of your playtime, or do you just focus on the functional and then move on?

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The Daily Grind: Is ‘god mode’ fun for MMO play?

Unlike some console and PC titles, online RPGs don’t typically offer “god mode” (despite what you may have heard about certain classes). We don’t get to flip a switch and suddenly be invincible and uber-powerful to rofflestomp all over our enemies.

Except… sometimes we do, thanks to over-leveling. The other night I had a great amount of fun revisiting World of Warcraft’s Northrend raids, steamrolling through these old endgame instances without any challenge. Seeing hordes of enemies die at a single spell while not being able to touch me at all was pretty amusing, but I enjoyed the ability to explore and experience these raids far more.

Do you think that god mode is fun for MMO play? If so, when and how should it work in games — and to what purpose?

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The Daily Grind: How do you define ‘hardcore’ gaming?

Quantic Foundry’s latest report from its gamer motivation study is well worth your time to read, but for this morning’s Daily Grind, I want to focus on one specific takeaway: the apparent gender divide over what constitutes hardcore gamer. As Nick Yee explains,

“For men, playing a game seriously means being able to beat other players at it. For women, playing a game seriously is more likely to mean having completed and done everything there is to do in a game, and to leave traces of your personal flair in the game while doing it. For Hardcore female gamers, playing a game seriously is more akin to patiently creating and curating a work of art. And it’s a powerfully evocative alternative to how we typically conceptualize what a ‘hardcore gamer’ is. [… ]This gender comparison between Hardcore and Casual gamers also highlights the difference in coverage of different motivations: Male Hardcore gamers are below average in Fantasy (being someone else, somewhere else) and Story (elaborate plot and interesting characters), whereas female Hardcore gamers are consistently above average across all gaming motivations.”

How do you personally define “hardcore” in the gaming context? Are you hardcore if you’re into blowing shit up with “guns and explosives” and “specializing into competitive gaming”? Or are you hardcore if you’re into “developing a broad interest in all aspects of gaming”?

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever had an MMORPG-related dream?

A real dream, not just a dream to top the raid leaderboard.

MOP reader CamelotCrusade submitted today’s whimsical Daily Grind topic. “The other night I had a dream where I was fleeing a tidal wave and I was riding away from it on a horse to escape it,” he wrote to us. “After watching a cinematic in my mind of the wave bearing down on me, I realized I was actually on an MMO-style horse, and I was in virtual reality. I was still anxious in the way you are when you’re trying to save your character, but I didn’t have much time to dwell on it because of what happened next. I rode my mount furiously towards a nearby town, shelter in view, aiming for a fortified looking inn. Almost there! But then – oh no! – I was forcibly dismounted, nearly tripped, and had to run, panting, for cover, as the air got wet and misty. There’s more that happened after that, but what really stuck with me? I woke up thinking: That’s a stupid rule! Damn near got me killed! Why can’t you ride your mount in town!?”

I am positive I’ve had MMO dreams in the past, but I can’t recall anything specifically. How about you – have you ever had an MMORPG-related dream?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite bragging rights reward in an MMO?

The title I display most often in Final Fantasy XIV is “Sidestepper.” It’s not a flashy title, but it’s a bragging rights reward because you can’t get it any more. It’s only available for people who were playing during the original version of the game. The same is true of the various bits of armor I have to glamour for anything that aren’t accessible unless you have the “dated” items. They don’t boost my characters at all; they just are a neat little reward from back in the day.

Bragging rights rewards are something that I’m generally in favor of; instead of creating issues of rewarding the best players with the best gear and creating a vicious cycle, clearing challenges in World of Warcraft awards you appearances that can be obtained no other way. Getting Legacy achievements in Star Wars: The Old Republic can give you emotes that don’t make your life easier, but sure do look neat. So what’s your favorite bragging rights reward in an MMO? Something that doesn’t make you any stronger, but shows off an accomplishment?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMOs are the best for occasional play?

As a longtime fan of MMOs, I struggle with one serious factor when it comes to playing them: time. It’s not just finding time to play, period, but instead considering whether or not an MMO deserves my time.

Unlike a lot of other video games, MMOs don’t often reward the occasional gamer. Their design and business model pushes hard for large, constant, and repeated investments of time. So it’s kind of difficult for me to just pick up a title and play it once to get much out of it. For most games, if it’s not something I can dedicate at least an evening a week to making progress, then it’s probably not worth “dipping” into.

Still, some MMOs are surprisingly friendly for occasional play. I find episodic titles like Star Trek Online and Secret World Legends perfect for this, since they have fewer content releases focused on a smaller amount of very defined and story-based experiences.

What do you think? Which MMOs are the best for occasional play if you’re not looking for a 100 hours-a-month investment?

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The Daily Grind: When was the last time you went sightseeing in an MMORPG?

Are you into stopping and smelling the flowers, literally or figuratively?

I started thinking a bit about this thanks to a tweet ZeniMax sent out about Elder Scrolls Online last weekend; the studio was promoting the work of @JXRaiv, who put together a website that allows players to explore all the wayshrines in the game. You don’t even need to log in to enjoy the view. And in fact, I bet most people wouldn’t either. Games seldom reward us for exploration, and when they don’t, we often don’t bother. Even when they do – I’m thinking about Guild Wars 2’s mapping – gamers often just skip past the cutscene to get on to the next one.

Long ago, I decided to go on a tour, by foot, of all the shrines in a different MMORPG; it was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had in an MMORPG. And none of it counted for anything except for my own joy and my own recollection all these years later.

When was the last time you went sightseeing in an MMORPG?

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