Opinion pieces are by definition neither neutral nor subjective. Massively Overpowered’s writers’ editorials reflect their own opinions, not necessarily the opinions of the site or company.
Let me tell you a bit about me and how I play MMORPGs. Between two jobs and a family, my gaming time is relegated to the deep evening hours where peace descends upon our household. If it’s a good night, I can get in two full hours of adventuring through virtual worlds before I grow too tired to continue. Some nights it’s less.
It has been a long time since I was able to sprint alongside the pack when a new expansion or game launches, so you have to picture me as the slowpoke waaaay in the back who keeps getting distracted by small details, stops to read the quest text, and takes screenshots like I’m putting together an art book.
That’s me, the fluffy casual, and while plenty of folks have devoured vast swaths of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth this week (including our own excellent Eliot), I’ve been rotating through my roster of characters and experiencing this engaging expansion at my own tempered pace. Does that mean that I lack a perspective or any observational details? Absolutely not! In fact, here are some things that I’ve been thinking about and looking at this week from the position at the far back of the pack.
The other day when we reported how World of Warcraft had removed the auto-accept functionality from its group finder, Reader Kalech noted, “If people don’t want to be social, they’re not going to be social no matter how much Blizzard tries to strong-arm them.”
That made me pause and reflect, because over the long history of MMOs, studios are forever trying to influence, direct, and sometimes “strong-arm” players into engaging in certain activities or playstyles. It’s not always that overt or constrained, but once in a while you do see a studio try its mightiest to shove players into PvP or to make them socialize more.
So when have MMO studios tried to force you into changing your playstyle — and were they successful?
All right. Strap yourselves in, folks, because this is when we have to start talking about narratives and story and intended emotional reactions. In short, this is where World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth becomes a seriously messy piece of work, because this is an expansion in which the game posits that maybe colonialism is super great and native peoples are evil villains in league with dark powers.
Yes, that’s a thing that happens. No, we’re not going to leave it there, but I’m trying to minimize spoilers before the cut.
I’ve said on Twitter before today that the game feels like a $500 million movie with $50 spent on the script, and that still rings true. A ton of effort has been put into the presentation of this expansion, and there’s nothing to do but praise all of that; there’s honestly very little to fault in any part of the presentation of the story. The faults all arrive once you start examining the actual text of that story. And boy-howdy, that’s a mess.
Fair warning, people, there will be spoilers below.
Longtime MOP reader Agemyth recently brought to our attention a couple of bits of commentary that disturb at least my own fundamental sense of fairness. In one recent Waypoint piece, an ex-mod for a trading card MMO discusses how he witnessed staff allowing a toxic player to keep on being toxic because he was a whale, spending tons of money in-game. And in a Giant Bomb chat earlier this summer, a former MMO CS rep admitted to fast-tracking requests from big spenders. “When the email comes in, the first thing we see is how much money they’ve spent on the game,” he says. (Based on later comments from the same person referring to a $100 lockbox released in the middle of the Battlefront mess, the second company appears to be Trion. Incidentally, he also says the most money he ever saw stamped on someone’s account was $130,000. Let that sink in.)
Anyway. “It doesn’t surprise me that these practices exist, but actually hearing some details about it can still bring a grimace to my face,” Agemyth says. Mine too. Does this also gross you out? Should you be able to get away with being a toxic jerk as long as you keep the dollars flowing? Should how much you spend determine whether a company answers your help requests in a timely manner? If you look at it from the perspective of the company, does it change your answer?
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had some tantalizing rumors and teases that both Riot Games and Blizzard are building something new: Riot’s dangled some questions about maybe making an MMORPG – might it be a League of Legends MMO? – and Blizzard’s outright said it’s returning to the Diablo franchise for multiple projects (one of which is the Switch port announced this morning). Can we hope for an MMO from one of the big studios again – and should we?
That’s what we’re pondering in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Do you think either of these companies is actually working on a new MMORPG using an old IP, what might it look like if so, what are they working on if not, and what do you actually want to see happen? Read more
Hopefully, everyone saw the Elder Scrolls Online
presentation at Quakecon. If not, I’ll have that whole video just past the break. Game Director Matt Firor
and Community Manager Gina Bruno
stood on stage to give an overview of what ESO
has in store for the rest of the year. Of course, Wolfhunter launched a couple of days ago, but I was definitely more interested in the Murkmire presentation.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I believe that Black Marsh is the area of Tamriel that ESO will ultimately be known for, and that’s because no other game in the Elder Scrolls series has touched that area of Tamriel with any significance. Firor explained what we would discover in Murkmire, but I believe his last line explained it best: “Along the way you’re going to get a really deep dive into Argonian culture, philosophy, and religion — really, what drives them, and what makes them so weird.”
During the presentation, Firor and Bruno gave us our first look at the Murkmire DLC in game. During this one-minute clip, we didn’t see much, but I’ve pulled it apart. And I’m going to hopefully reveal some things that you didn’t notice.
The first part of this first impressions series yesterday was all about the mechanical changes made for this expansion. This time, I don’t want to talk about the mechanics of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth; I want to talk about the actual content. Not the narrative text, but just the actual moment-to-moment stuff you’re doing in the game. Which, I think, is what this expansion is going to be judged on at this stage by a lot of people.
Put simply, the game could have the best combat it has ever had with the best gear enhancement system conceivable, but if the actual things you had to fight were a boring slog, no one would like it anyway. Solid content covers a multitude of sins.
There are several people who would likely argue that Legion had some of the best content we’ve ever seen in WoW, and while there’s room to debate that, I think it’s definitely worth considering. So BfA started off on something of the back foot, and that was exacerbated by the fact that it has not one but two continents to fill out almost entirely separate.
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?
It’s time to boldly go where no podcast has gone before — by exploring MMO space themes! It’s perhaps the flat-out goofiest and silliest Battle Bards episode to date, so you’re going to have to excuse a whole lot of diversions, arguments, and giggles. Because that’s what space does to people? We do not know. This episode is also notable for Syl’s all-time greatest quote, “Planets are usually in space.” Usually.
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 126: Out of this world (or download it) now:
Thanks to the latest patch for the medieval survival sandbox The Black Death, all players will start their lives in the game in their underwear. It’s best to tap into those deep-rooted nightmares early, in our opinion.
The recent patch wasn’t just about roleplaying Captain Underpants and the Plague Doctors. The team said that the priority for the patch was to fix some LAN server issues and put an end to land claim exploits that were running rampant on PvE servers.
What else do we have here? Well, girls are starting to get their own clothes, although right now this is limited to a primitive vest. YOU’RE WELCOME, FEMALES. There are also new dagger animations, a “new potato procedural resource” whatever that is, and a sleeping bag for players’ tents. Truly, this is a patch to rival all others.
Hey, there’s a new World of Warcraft expansion, right? When did that happen?
There’s a bit of snark there, but perhaps less than you might think. The weird thing is that Battle for Azeroth kind of does feel as if it just dropped without warning; it was outside of the usual release schedule for expansions, with a long lead-in, as if the final product just showed up on our collective doorsteps one day. Assuming you were already logged on and had your pre-orders set, you could just jump right in and start the expansion, which hearkened back to the days of midnight releases after a fashion.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to talk about with the expansion so far. Now that it’s actually live we can see the mechanics and the story with all the polish that’s intended, with nothing left behind a curtain (other than Warfronts, anyhow). Coming off the well-received Legion, this expansion has some pretty big foot gear to fill, and it’s fair to wonder if any expansion wouldn’t feel like a bit of a downturn… but let’s not start there. Let’s just start in on one aspect of the game and go from there.
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!
Yes, just about every MMO blogger was sharing heated opinions about last week’s World of WarCraft WarCrime. “It’s such a sad event and I’m particularly mad at Blizzard at the way they chose to write this,” wrote Aeternus.
Moonshine Manor was equally appalled, saying that she was “not sad at the story, but at having to mourn my fandom.”
“The storyline strips players of agency, it’s not a good feeling,” wrote Mmosey.
And Leo’s Life couldn’t make sense of it: “The lore nut in me sees no logic in this.”
In An Age sympathized with the outrage but noted, “This cinematic short is amazing in isolation.” And Atheren doesn’t want this to be the beginning of the end of Sylvanas: “I hope she gets a redemption arc.”
And Wolfy felt that the community reaction was too much for an outsider: “The level of the freak-out was above and beyond what I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing as someone barely remotely associated with the WoW playerbase.”