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: 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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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: Are you less inclined to enjoy an MMO in beta testing?

Writing is not a matter of having no bias, it’s a matter of being aware of your bias and attempting to correct for it. That comes up for me when I write about MMOs in betas, because my default assumption is to do less and have a slightly harsher view. Considering my love of persistence in MMOs, this is probably not a surprise. I don’t want to play the lesser version of the game when all of my progress is going away! Save me for launch, please. Especially for expansions for World of Warcraft, which I have no doubt I am going to actually play anyhow.

This is not a universal feeling. Some of my friends prefer playing in beta titles, simply because while the game is in beta you can test things freely without worrying about spending your points wrong or anything similar. It’s like friends who used to play on the City of Heroes test server most of the time, partly because everything got reset every so often and thus never got stale. So what about you guys? Are you less inclined to enjoy an MMO in beta testing? Do you actually prefer it?

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The Daily Grind: Which expansion helped out an MMO the most?

We have talked a lot about great and terrible MMO expansions in the past, but most often, we approach such conversations from our personal enjoyment. However, there’s another way to look at expansions, and that’s to evaluate them in hindsight and point to ones that gave their titles the greatest boost and added the most value and useful features to the game.

Now that we have the advantage of being able to look at expansions over time, which would you say helped out an MMO the most? Which gave that game a great bump in population, interest, and long-term success?

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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: 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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