the daily grind

No, it’s not a slow news day; it’s just The Daily Grind, a long-running morning feature in which the Massively Overpowered writers pose gaming-related questions to the MMORPG community. [Follow this feature’s RSS feed]

The Daily Grind: Where are the spots you most identify with in MMOs?

It’s going to be most relevant next week, but honestly I’m not even a little bit sad at the thought of Darnassus burning in World of Warcraft. Seriously. I’ve hated that city and the tree it’s sitting on since the game launched, and if Battle for Azeroth delivers me nothing else I like I’ll consider it a net positive because Darnassus has burned. But if something happened to Ironforge? I’d be sad. I already was sad when my beloved Wetlands got pretty trashed back in Cataclysm.

Any MMO you play for a while has certain locales you get more or less attached to. After years in Final Fantasy XIV there’s a whole lot of feelings for me attached to Mor Dhona and Ul’dah; by contrast, I wouldn’t really miss chunks of Gridania. I have never cared about the faction stations in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I loved Dromund Kaas and I want to live on Voss in real life, much less in the game. What about you, dear readers? Where are the spots you most identify with in MMOs?

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The Daily Grind: How should MMO studios handle game reboots?

Over the past several years, we have witnessed several MMOs being rebooted and relaunched, including Final Fantasy XIV, Secret World Legends, and, most recently, Defiance 2050. There are various reasons why studios would want to do this, including addressing key flaws in the original game, switching over to different business models, and benefiting from a new round of publicity and review ratings.

Looking at the above titles as case studies (and more if you can pull up examples), we see both positives and negatives of these experiences arise. Not many players are keen on starting over in MMOs after investing dozens or even hundreds of hours on their characters, and because of this, there is a heavy price to be paid if the relaunch isn’t significantly different and improved from the original.

How should MMO studios handle game reboots? What would you recommend be the steps that studios should take in handling existing accounts, upgrading the game, and starting everything all over again?

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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: Have you ever been a creative fan for an MMO?

It will never cease to amaze me how artists for MMOs can come up with costumes that require no actual adherence to physical laws whatsoever with ornate overlapping armor plates and such, and then determined fans will figure out a way to make those costumes a reality. Walk down the hall at any convention and you’ll see people in perfect World of Warcraft armor, spot-on Final Fantasy XIV artifact sets, and sometimes even some shockingly realistic Minecraft outfits.

But that’s just focusing on the amazing fan creations that you see walking beside you; there’s amazing fan art for characters from Star Trek Online to Star Wars: The Old Republic, fanfic that covers personal adventures or just filling in narrative gaps in settings like City of Heroes, and so forth. So our question today is whether or not you’ve ever taken part. Have you ever been a creative fan for an MMO? Have you made art, told stories, even just compiled lore dictionaries and research on the basis for bits of lore for those who want it? Or are you content to admire fan works without producing any yourself?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO system or feature is needlessly complex?

Probably one of my greatest and ongoing criticisms of the MMORPG genre is how developers populate these games with systems that are often cumbersome, complex, and needlessly obtuse. And what frustrates me is that they apparently can’t see it, because they’re often working with these systems day in and out (and have created them), so the systems are second nature to them.

MMOs already have a lot of moving parts and continually add on systems, so there is absolutely no need to make any of it harder than it has to be with bizarre progression mechanics, indecipherable statistics, and other game systems that some dev loved but makes players scratch their heads in confusion.

Have you experienced this? Which MMO system or feature — and feel free to list more than one — is stupidly complex and poorly designed?

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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 MMO would benefit from a character creator upgrade the most?

It’s a pity that World of Warcraft hasn’t really updated its character creation in a long time, because the game direly needs it. The fact that every single Night Elf has the same height and build is kind of shameful, and the only thing that makes it slightly better is the fact that it used to be even worse. But it’s still bad, especially when you consider that this is a wildly popular game with plenty of money to improve this.

Of course, it’s hardly alone in having a not-great character creator; Star Trek Online has long suffered from having only a couple of hairstyles that look good on any given race, while I’ve never been able to make a character I’m totally happy with in RIFT. So what do you think, dear readers? Which MMO would benefit from a character creator update the most? Is it an older game with a sadly out-of-date creation tool, or is it a newer game that could just offer more or better options?

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The Daily Grind: Has flying hurt or helped MMORPGs?

Not every MMO has flying, and those that do tend to add it post-launch as a major selling point for an expansion or patch. Still, in 2018 there’s plenty of online games that permit and encourage flight and gliding.

Flying certainly opens up a world and adds a dimension of movement and perspective that players can’t get from running on the surface. It is a boon to the Explorer-type gamers who would rather see all of the nooks and crannies than fight through a world. Flight also is a boon for those of us who are time-crunched and don’t want to spend all day trying to get to where we want to be in an MMO.

But I’ll admit that flying hasn’t always been the best feature for MMOs. There’s that age-old argument that flying negates a lot of the challenge and danger of the world, and to a point, that’s true. It’s a lot more difficult to design a game world in which your players have the ability to land and take off on the spot, and several MMOs come up with flight limitations and restrictions as a reaction to this.

What do you think? Overall, has flying hurt or helped MMORPGs?

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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: Which MMORPG deserves way more hype than it gets?

According to Friday’s Daily Grind on hype cycles, a lot of folks think they begin way too early for most games. But what about games with the opposite problem – hype that just isn’t loud enough?

I’m thinking of games like Project Gorgon here. It saw a flurry of activity when it crowdfunded, and again when it went into early access on Steam, but because it’s such a small studio, it doesn’t really generate much hype on its own, being reliant on word of mouth. It’s a wondrous little game with really unusual and unique ideas, but it mostly flies under the radar.

Which MMORPG deserves way more hype than it gets?

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The Daily Grind: What’s the worst fit for a seasonal event for an MMO?

Let’s be real here, I am a sucker for Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, so you would think I was over the moon about it being included as a seasonal event. And I usually am, but somehow in World of Warcraft it always feels… off, somehow. Just like Q’s Winter Wonderland in Star Trek Online never seems quite right to me, something that just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the game world. Like it’s being added because, well, it’s a real-world holiday and people love holiday events.

It’s not just a matter of lore, either; you can always write the lore to justify these events if you want to. But it’s just something subtly wrong about the whole affair, something that makes things feel like the holiday just doesn’t quite belong. So what do you think, readers? What’s the worst fit for a seasonal event for an MMO? Are there Neverwinter events that just feel like they don’t make sense in the game, or Skyforge celebrations that just turn you off right away?

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The Daily Grind: What is the most impractical MMO mount ever devised?

There seems to be a bizarre competition going on between MMORPG developers to one-up each other’s games with progressively impractical mounts. I guess when you’ve seen one horse done a million times, your heart yearns for something, anything different.

But then we start getting things like roller beetles, giant bees, and racing snails, the limits of credulity become strained. I’ve spent way too much time as a grown man trying to figure out how, in these fictional universes, these creatures were flagged as tamable transport when there were so many better and tried-and-true options available. Even my incredible imagination can’t summon up an explanation.

In your opinion, what is the most impractical MMO mount ever devised? What about it is just ridiculous to you?

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