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: 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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The Daily Grind: Have you ever run a ‘solo’ guild in an MMO?

When housing first arrived in Final Fantasy XIV, a lot of people wanted personal houses but couldn’t yet get them. So they did the logical thing by forming a guild which was only meant to house that one player and maybe an alt or two, nothing more. All of the benefits of guild membership other than the, you know, camaraderie or support or friendship.

It’s hardly the only example I’ve seen. Any game with tangible benefits for a guild (such as World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic) will have people who want the benefits without the organizational headaches. It’s usually not too difficult to form these guilds meant to house just one person, and some games even let you get something nifty out of it on the exchange.

Of course, it also means that, again, you’re basically playing alone, including taking on group tasks by your lonesome. So what about you, dear readers? Have you ever run a “solo” guild in an MMO? Would you consider doing so?

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The Daily Grind: Is Fallout 76 an MMO?

We all know that the definition of “MMORPG” and “MMO” have been stretched, twisted, and interpreted in vastly different ways over the years based on who is talking. It’s not always the easiest label to apply correctly. Game worlds can be excessively instanced while the servers still hold thousands of players, some lack world persistence but have scads of people, and so on. Plus, we’ve long since entered into an era where studios are downright allergic to using the MMO label unless they’re doubling down on the genre.

What I’m getting around to is this: Is Fallout 76 an MMO? I mean, really? At first glance it seems not, what with world map instances holding only a small handful of players. But then when you consider world persistence and the way that servers allow for people to easily jump between instances to connect others, then it gets more tricky. Ever since the Bethesda Showcase, we here at MOP have soft-landed on the side that “yes, it’s kind of an MMO.”

But not all of us agree, and perhaps not all of you will either. Make your case and let us know if this upcoming post-apocalyptic survival game is, indeed, an MMO.

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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 would you do if you could reboot any live MMO?

It’s kind of crazy to me that Final Fantasy XIV is not only still running but is successful, has a thriving population and a third expansion being announced later this year, and managed to do what so many games would love to do with its successful reboot. Sure, some elements of the original game were lost in the transition, but a lot of what people loved was preserved, and a whole lot of new people came into the game as a result. It worked out well.

Of course, part of why it worked was because Square-Enix had plenty of money and basically could tear down and rebuild the game from the ground up. It seemed risky at the time all the same.

So today, let’s play a hypothetical. Let’s say that you can reboot any MMO currently live and operating, from Champions Online to World of Warcraft, and you don’t have to worry about budgets in the process. Which MMO would you pick, and what would you want to do to it?

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The Daily Grind: Do you tilt toward sci-fi or fantasy in your MMOs?

I always found it weird that bookstores always shoved science fiction and fantasy subgenres together, kind of like a “here’s a general section for geeks but we’re not going to try to differentiate between any of it.” I’ll acknowledge that there is a lot of crossover and flow between the two, even when it comes to MMORPGs.

Recently I’ve been searching for a sci-fi title to scratch that spacefaring burning in my soul. Elite: Dangerous has proved problematic without a joystick, and EVE Online is far too hardcore for my tastes. Maybe No Man’s Sky is finally ready to check out? Perhaps. At least there are more space sims and futuristic MMOs on the way!

Do you find that your tastes tilt toward sci-fi or fantasy in your MMO gaming, or are you balanced right in the middle?

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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: Whom should pre-expansion MMO events target?

There are lots of things I’m not crazy about when it comes to the World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth pre-patch event, but one of the big ones seems like it would be a little thing but is actually a pretty serious one. For Legion, the Legion invasions that came in hard were level-agnostic events that let everyone get in on the action and encouraged you to level up characters who had lagged behind. This, though? Aside from being something I’m not super happy about, there’s no leveling component. It’s just for people at the level cap, no one else.

You could, of course, argue that the expansion event is aimed at people who are already done with the expansion to get them excited, but I always thought that one of the goals of these events was to bring everyone up to the expansion. Back in the day, Final Fantasy XI expansions would include content for many levels, and the pre-expansion event for Treasures of Aht Urhgan drew in everyone gently. But maybe that’s just me. What do you think, readers? Who should pre-expansion events target in MMOs? Existing veterans? People coming back for the expansion? New players entirely?

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The Daily Grind: Rank the top three housing MMOs ever made

WildStar. RIFT. EverQuest II.

If I had to choose three MMORPGs that contained the best housing systems and then rank them, that list up there is probably the titles and order in which I would arrange it. All three of these games have hugely robust systems that offer a lot of flexibility and personal creativity. Of course, that list is heavily weighted toward my experience and personal observation in games, so I’m much less familiar with other touted housing systems found in, say, Star Wars Galaxies or Elder Scrolls Online.

For fun, come up with your own ranked top three and explain in the comments why you picked those titles and ordered them the way you did!

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