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: Is it time to move on from PvP ‘factions’ in MMORPGs?

I’m think I’m over factions in MMOs. I get why RvR games need them, and I’ll grudgingly concede that the average player is far better off joining an arbitrary NPC faction for PvP than wading through the morass of player gangs and protection rackets that pass for guilds in some sandboxes. But for MMO themeparks where the PvP is minimal or walled off or without any impact on the world, I’m kind of sick of them.

That feeling’s come to a head the last few weeks thanks to World of Warcraft’s cheesy attempts to rile up the playerbase and make us shout down the “other side” like sports hooligans. One reader pointed out how these kinds of factions still functionally divide friends from playing together for no reason. Another called faction jabber “forced propaganda.” I wouldn’t be sorry to see factions go away in most MMOs. The whole thing feels so fake and exhausting.

Is it time to move on from PvP “factions” in MMORPGs? Am I missing some vital and necessary function for this type of design?

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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: 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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The Daily Grind: Are you actually using Steam’s new chat and group features?

Last week, Steam pushed live the changes to its social features it first announced back in June. As we wrote at the time, its claim to fame was a significantly overhauled group discussion system, which surely not coincidentally looks an awful lot like Discord, complete with the new voice chat.

A guildie of mine and I gave the new stuff a spin last week, and while it’s nice enough, we couldn’t see a good reason to switch away from what we use, which is Slack, chiefly for security (and the fact that many of us already used Slack for work). Without Slack, we’d use Discord like so many other gamers. Steam’s new tools still seem a tad clunky, and the lack of persistent chat when you log in seemed like a deal-breaker.

I have to wonder whether we’re alone. Are you using Steam’s new community chat features? And if not, what do your MMO guilds use?

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The Daily Grind: Do you care more about an MMORPG’s playerbase or revenue?

SuperData put out a couple of reports and analyses last week that suggest Fortnite is “cannibalizing” other games, specifically in terms of revenue and Twitch viewership. It’s pretty obvious from Steam tracking that some games have taken a hit in terms of active/concurrent playerbase too. After all, “where you spend your game time” is very much a zero sum proposition. If you’re playing Fortnite, you’re not in something else, and not everyone in Fortnite is playing his or her first game ever.

Obviously, as an MMO player, you probably care at least a little about both revenue and playerbase in your chosen genre, as one is dependent on the other. Even if you don’t watch streams – and a lot of MMORPG players do not – you probably care about viewership on Twitch a little bit too because if nothing else, Twitch is advertising, and MMOs without successful promotion go nowhere.

I thought it was interesting, though, that other mainstream sites were far more focused on revenue than players. This is a very corporation-first mentality, right? They want huge revenue numbers. Duh. But my brain is looking at the Steam numbers. The body count is what I worry about, not whether they made eleventy-billion or eleventy-one-billion. Low and crashing pops kill online games, and we’ve seen it snowball before – and not every game is lucky enough to have a console launch up its sleeve to save it from doom.

Do you care more about an MMORPG’s playerbase or revenue?

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The Daily Grind: What do you think about themed MMORPG guilds?

Kotaku did a recent piece on “girls only” Overwatch groups that got me thinking about themed guilds. (As it turned out, the writer found that most of the groups claiming to be girls only were actually some type of troll.) But it struck me that in true MMORPGs, the themed guild might actually be dying out.

Years ago, it was completely possible to run a guild around some pretty strict themes, like an all-gnome guild, an all-crafter guild, or even an all-Star-Wars-fan guild. As MMOs have changed to focus on endgame combat – and as social circles inside games have drifted outside them and vice versa – those types of guilds don’t seem as prevalent anymore. Now you’re far more likely to find guilds centering on Winning Endgame, holding territory, zerging, or family-friendliness rather than on a creative theme that ties into races or classes. Moreover, in an era when some games put your whole account into a guild rather than just one character, gamers seem to be more inclined to join multi-purpose guilds rather than enter unique guilds with each toon.

What do you think about themed MMORPG guilds in the modern era? Have you ever been in one, or are you in one now, and are they still viable in some MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG boasts the best space gameplay?

Over the past week or so, I’ve been tinkering with Star Wars Galaxies Legends, an NGE emulator for SWG that’s actually pretty polished and has some new bits and bobs too. I’m having fun, although it feels sort of small and the economy is rough. And unlike a lot of other emulators, it has most of the game’s space content in and playable. I took a crappy newbie ship out with my mouse – I’ve got to fish my joystick out of storage still if I want to get serious about it – but even with that terrible setup, it was a blast. I had forgotten how glorious space flight in this game was. Lots of MMOs have that “fleet commander” or “bridge captain” or “on rails” feel, but not a lot offer that visceral dogfighter feel – and SWG does it. And that’s before you get to multiperson ships!

Say you’re hunting for a modern (or living) MMO with this kind of combat. Where would you go? Which MMORPG boasts the best space gameplay?

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The Daily Grind: Do you still have ‘passion’ for MMORPGs?

Over the weekend I saw an interesting Twitter discussion about how much game-playing game-designers actually need to do, and whether those passions are even the same to begin with. One of the MMORPG genre’s founding fathers, Raph Koster, argued that it’s as different as playing music vs. listening to music, and that for MMOs, the passionate player’s pickings are slim anyway.

“Certainly no one has ever accused me of being non-passionate about online worlds or non-innovative with MMOs… and yet I don’t enjoy most of them these days. My inspirations for better ones mostly comes from outside what has become a stagnant field…”

Yikes, a stagnant field. But he’s not wrong. I certainly feel passion for the genre, but more for what it once was and what it could be, not necessarily for what it is this very moment, and far more as a chronicler and journalist than as a modern hardcore player. I spent this past weekend playing a dead MMO’s emulator, for example, not a modern MMO in all its modern lootbox/endgame/themepark glory.

Do you still have “passion” for MMORPGs? Is it the same passion you’ve always had, or has it changed over the years, and is it as a fan of the genre or as a gamer specifically?

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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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