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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite non-awful gaming subreddit?

I want to flip the tables on the whole toxicity/Reddit thing a bit. Earlier this week, we talked about some of the problems Reddit has. But not every gaming subreddit – or every subreddit, for that matter – is a cesspit of drama. I can never write off the whole platform because I’ve had really enjoyable experiences on the subs for some of my other hobbies, for single-player games, and even for niche groups for MMOs.

For example, have you ever checked out /r/GuildWarsDyeJob/? You guys, it’s basically a fashion show in there. It reminds me of the old Guru forums where people would post up their awesome outfit/dye combos for classic Guild Wars, only this one’s got much more Guild Wars 2. People are super creative, and the commentary is constructive too.

What’s your favorite non-awful gaming subreddit? Which one truly deserves an epic shout-out?

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The Daily Grind: How can we solve Reddit’s gaming ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem?

In dealing with the ArenaNet fallout over the last couple of weeks, I started giving serious thought to the Reddit problem in gaming, and I’m not just talking about the overt hate groups allowed to fester there. You know how one of the rules of thumb for MMORPG communities for the longest time was never go to the official forums because you’d come away feeling depressed and dejected, believing the game community was a hot mess and your class was most assuredly the most broken? Reddit is like that, only nobody there cares enough about fixing it to see it through, and so we’ve got a tragedy of the commons problem playing out in cyberspace.

When game companies owned their own discussion spaces, most of them at least made some modicum of effort to keep them respectable. Oh, sure, some took that way too far and deleted criticism, but most, barring the very biggest, tamped down on toxicity because that space reflected on them. They cared. This is how I feel about our own comment section, incidentally, because our team owns this site and cares about the conversations we have here, unlike many other sites owned by corporate groups that don’t even care if comments exist at all.

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The Daily Grind: Which online game has suffered the most from its own hype?

I’ve still got hype on the brain. We’ve talked about the length of hype cycles and under-hyped MMOs. Now I want to talk about games that have actually suffered from their own hype specifically.

No Man’s Sky and WildStar pop to mind immediately for me as games we cover that were grievously wounded by hype. Both games effectively promised and teased far more features and more interesting features that they actually delivered, causing hype for the game to turn into venom post-launch. And in both cases, the game studios have made considerable effort to turn it around, but the grudges linger.

PUBG strikes me as another game that was heavily hyped last year but quickly succumbed to a prettier, cheaper, more accessible, and more polished game.

And howsabout Destiny 2? A contender, right?

Which online game has suffered the most from its own hype?

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The Daily Grind: What exactly defines an ‘indie’ MMORPG studio?

Earlier this week, I happened to see a mainstream website refer to ArtCraft as an indie studio, and it jolted me. ArtCraft, as anybody reading MOP knows, is working on Crowfall, which at least in my estimation is a high-quality, graphics-intensive MMORPG from hardcore MMORPG veterans who’ve been in the business as long as anyone alive. The game has raised at least $12M or maybe $15M, at least counting up what we know about.

When I think of indie studios, I think of the tiny outfits working on games like Project Gorgon, Ever, Jane, and Ascent the Space Game. But of course Crowfall is also an indie, right? It’s not running a $500M budget; it’s not ensconced under a cozy AAA publisher umbrella. It crowdfunds.

Then again, aside from the budget/wealth, its profile looks like a bit like Epic Games’ – it even has an engine to vend now. So is it really just about money? Is Star Citizen, with its multiple studios and AAA budget, an indie because of crowdfunding? Camelot Unchained studio CSE has multiple studios – does that factor in?

I’m curious what you folks think. What exactly defines an indie MMO studio? What characteristics must an indie studio have or not have?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG has the most complex character development?

Over the weekend, I was reading a makeup subreddit (don’t judge me – I swear there is a gaming point to this) and the lads and ladies were discussing what they would do if they had to start over with $200 and an empty makeup bag. As I’m flipping through the suggestions for how to maximize your budget with palettes and multi-use products, what floated up unbidden in my mind was that it looked exactly like the way City of Heroes players used to give build advice. Oh sure, every game with talents or whatnot has this, but City of Heroes was extremely complicated at its most extreme end and there was an absolutely epic program called MIDS to help you plan your character down to the tiniest mathematical equation. Put simply, whether you wanted to just have a vague clue which level to take which skill or you wanted to mix-max your every IO set, you needed MIDS, and so people would go on the forums and get into long discussions/arguments about those builds.

Path of Exile has always seemed to me another extreme example of detailed, maybe too-detailed-for-most-people, character development. I wish we had more games like this!

Which MMORPG has the most complex character development? And, as a bonus question, which MMORPG has the niftiest character development tool?

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The Daily Grind: How early should an MMORPG’s hype cycle begin?

GIbiz put out an interesting piece this week looking 10 years into the past to see where the buzz was in the game industry back in 2008. It’s worth a read overall (that was the year some rando company called “Riot Games” snagged $7M in funding for something called “League of Legends” – pff, that’ll never go anywhere, amirite), but the segment I want to highlight this morning is the one about the industry hype cycle.

The long-ago author wonders just when the hype cycle for video games should begin, at least in terms of maximizing profits (and presumably not annoying consumers). He compares the Assassin’s Creed franchise to Prince of Persia, noting that the former’s hype cycle was twice as long as the latter’s – and performed significantly better. After all, we’re still talking about AC here in 2018!

It seems a fair topic for MMORPGs as well; for example, World of Warcraft expansion announcements and hype lulls, the difference in buzz lead-up between Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire, and the seemingly interminable Kickstarter MMO dev/hype/funding cycles are perennial subjects here.

How early should an MMORPG’s hype cycle begin? How long before the planned launch of a game or an expansion – or even a Kickstarter – do you actually want to hear about it?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG has the best user interface?

In the comments of my last Daily Grind about Star Wars Galaxies, there erupted a lively debate about the game’s user interface in the particular. I was surprised to find that some folks are convinced the game’s interface was lacking, given that it’s basically the same minimap-plus-hotbars-plus-unit-frames-plus-chat interface that every other MMORPG since has cribbed, just a bit more Star Warsy, glowy and minimalistic.

Then again, if you hate the stock minimap-plus-hotbars-plus-unit-frames-plus-chat interface setup that most MMORPGs boast, then yeah, hating SWG’s too makes sense.

Which MMORPG has the best user interface? And how does it deviate from the (at this point) completely standard World of Warcraft template?

(Note: The screenshot above isn’t actually SWG’s; it’s Otherland’s. You should check out The Repopulation’s too.)

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The Daily Grind: Would you play Star Wars Galaxies if it relaunched today?

Star Wars Galaxies is 15 years old now, and it was just about seven years ago that SOE announced it was slated for execution. Naturally, it’s been a big topic for us this week; several of our staff even joined together on the largest emulator to stream it on Tuesday. Smed even dropped by to show his support for the game and the emu.

At the end of our stream, MJ and I were chatting about why we don’t really play the emulator more. For MJ, it was the lack of a strong social environment, and if you saw how many people were botting in the cantina, you’d understand why the emu is superficially lacking in that area. For me, it’s the lack of permanence for that server, as well as the lack of features and the lack of what I’d consider a functional economy in its current state.

And yet, if a company legally released Star Wars Galaxies again right now, with all the features it had at its sunset and a clean economy and enough players to make the server ecosystem work properly, I would pretty much head right on over and get busy living, and there’d be a big fight on Massively OP over who got to helm the weekly column on the game. To this day, it’s still the MMORPG experience I am searching for, and I am clearly not alone.

Would you play Star Wars Galaxies if it relaunched today?

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The Daily Grind: Do you want to see a battle royale mode in any live MMORPGs?

Literally nothing is sacred, and no video game franchise seems capable of escaping the pull of the battle royale, as my trip to a kiddie arcade proved this weekend. Not even PAC-MAN is safe.

Strange to me, however, is that so few existing MMORPGs have sidled up to the subgenre. We see MOBAs and shooters tacking it on left and right, and yeah, games like Maverick are working on bridging the genres, but nothing in existing MMOs. It’s weird, right? It seems like it would be super easy to just whip up a new battle royale battleground or arena in MMOs with PvP sidegames. They’re made for this sort of enclosed PvP minigame.

Battle royale does nothing for me, but dang, it’d be nice to see some MMOs get a cut of that easy money, which I’m sure they’d reinvest back into the RPG part of the game. Right, guys? Guys??

Do you want to see battle royale in any live MMORPGs? Which one might best be suited for it?

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The Daily Grind: Are you an impulse buyer in MMO cash shops?

During last week’s podcast, Justin and I were discussing MMOs that seem to make it hard for us to give them money, which led us to talk about a cash shop tactic that drives me nuts: limited-availability items. I understand why MMOs put these types of items in the cash shop; as MOP reader TomTurtle noted, in Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet’s “limited availability tactic works better for impulse purchases” because “a good number of players make purchases that they probably wouldn’t have made otherwise.”

I know he’s right. But I am so not one of those people! As I was saying, I am a lister. I made endless lists of things I want to buy and do, and I let them stew a while before acting on them. I try to avoid impulse anything, and I have a system and a hard budget so that I can plan everything to avoid waste and regret. Guild Wars 2’s system of rotating things in and out of the store to try to get me to buy them just in case doesn’t work for or on me.

So because I cannot plan very well for Guild Wars 2’s sales and (more specifically) which costumes will be available at any given time), I spend far less on the game than I otherwise would. If the thing I want isn’t for sale, I’m not gonna just buy something else, and I’m not gonna buy something I didn’t plan on either. I guess enough impulse buyers make up for my particular type that ArenaNet doesn’t care, but it’s still annoying to me.

Are you an impulse buyer when it comes to MMORPG cash shops? Or do you plan your purchases? And what’s your stance on limited-availability items in cash shops?

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The Daily Grind: How much dough have you dropped on Steam in its lifetime?

VentureBeat noticed this week that it’s possible to figure out just how much money you’ve blown on video games, at least through Steam, by using Valve’s “account spend tool.” A lot of people clicking that tool are about to get a sobering reminder that they’d better stay on Valve’s good side if they don’t want thousands of dollars’ worth of games whisked away into an account black hole.

My own number… well, let’s just say that it’s not nearly as bad as I was fearing. I’ve spent far more money on World of Warcraft than I’ve spent on Steam. But that’s probably because most MMORPGs I’ve paid into for so many years aren’t there, and most of what I do buy on Steam is deeply on sale. And my husband and I have our accounts linked too, so we don’t double buy much. I escaped easy – less than the VentureBeat writer!

How about you? How much dough have you dropped on Steam in its lifetime? Does the number give you pause about just how inured to digital distribution we’ve all become?

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The Daily Grind: Do you prefer ‘work’ simulation MMOs to more fantastic game worlds?

In the comments of my piece on Raph Koster’s book last week, a commenter brought up the idea that mimicking the real world in MMOs was a “sad” sort of “obsession” – why would we want to work in a video game in our spare time, he was essentially asking, when we could do something fresh and creative with our video game spaces instead?

I took a stab at answering the question, supposing that just because we can theoretically do a job in real life doesn’t mean we are realistically or physically able to do it, and exploration of the unreachable can be fun. A post on the Psychology of Video Games blog answers it even better: Author Jamie Madigan writes that games like Farming Simulator 17 and Euro Truck Simulator do so well precisely because people like to explore those types of jobs in a low-stress, who-cares-if-I-run-my-semi-off-the-virtual-autobahn environment. “These games remove the worst of the uncertainty, helplessness, ambiguity, and consequences for failure that come with those real world jobs and turn them into game systems that are interesting and fun to interact with,” he argues. “They give players clear goals, unambiguous feedback, winnable challenges, and predictable rewards. All things that most jobs sadly don’t consistently provide.”

That certainly explains it: I really hate thinking about money in real life, but I love playing around in MMO economies where my market mistakes simply don’t matter.

How about you? Do you prefer simulation MMOs to more fantastic game worlds? Or something in between? And is there an activity that you love in MMOs but hate in the real world?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your biggest ever MMO splurge?

Ever since Trove launched its superhero-themed expansion Heroes, I’ve been hemming and hawing over buying the big mama upgrade package for the Vanguardian and the gobs upon gobs of currency that comes with it. You guys, I want it, but I have such guilt over spending that much dough on a single class and the costume fluff I’d probably buy with the rest of it. For the same stack of cash, I could buy five or ten whole games on Steam.

It’s silly. I’ve paid way more for dumber things; ask me how much I paid to move a bunch of toons across accounts in Star Wars Galaxies back in the day when that kind of cash was far dearer to me. So I should just get it while the fam is still into the game. And yet… I keep stalling.

How about you? What MMO have you splurged on lately, and what’s the biggest MMO splurge you’ve ever made?

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