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Leaderboard: How much input do you expect to have into a developing game you’ve paid for?

Last week, a developer from Parisian developer Dreamz Studio posted about how early access was the best thing that happened to his game, specifically because the early access playerbase acted a sort of extra pair of hands for developing the game.

“I believe that there’s no need to be a former Chef to make innovating pretty little tasty meals,” he writes. “Indeed, you just have to know the basics and then let you guide by the taste of your customers, right?” The studio basically retooled everything from the main character and the world to visuals and level customization based on eight months of feedback, even adding multiplayer because people begged for it.

This is basically how early access is supposed to work, right? This was the whole point of letting people buy their way in early, either with early access or Kickstarter or preorder packages, and then help test and guide the game as superfans. We’ve just seen it go wrong over and over, either because studios abuse the early access tag to make easy money and then abandon the title and the loyal players, or because early testers abuse their input to guide the game into becoming something nobody but them wants to play and causing it to flop hard. I bet you can name games for each group.

How much input do you, as someone who buys in during a game’s development, expect to have in the game’s ongoing design? To the pollmobile!

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Leaderboard: What’s the ideal way for an MMO studio to handle toxicity?

MOP reader BulletTeeth pointed us to a piece on The Verge this week about an incident in online shooter Battalion 1944. A highly placed e-sports team member, SUSPC7, apparently went off on Discord about the studio’s slow rollout of skins meant as prizes, trollishly threatening to shoot up the studio. It got back to the devs, who decided to “teach [him] a lesson about comedy” by proposing to reskin his weapon, not with his earned prize but with a hand-drawn penis icon. Yeah, they pranked him.

“I thought you were kind of being a dick,” the studio rep tweeted, going on to tell the player he wanted him to become an “ambassador” for the game.

As The Verge writes, it’s an unusual tactic for a game studio to take against a toxic player in this day and age. While it might be nice to think that studio have the time and money and resources to hand-hold every lost boy and talk him down to being an ally, it’s not particularly realistic, and it creates a perverse incentive system whereby toxic players mop up studio attention that ought to go to non-toxic players.

I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what we think studios ought to do when disciplining players. Does this sort of reverse-prank actually work, or would it be better for companies to just boot the problem children and move on?

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Leaderboard: How do you decide whether to refund an MMO or wait it out?

I’ll be happy if I never have to type the phrase “Steam refunds” ever again, after this week of Bless Online coverage. Nevertheless, the idea of trying out a game and taking it back to reclaim your money if and when that game sucks is a relatively modern invention for MMORPGs, and it’s probably here to stay, which honestly is a good thing, at least for the consumer.

Still, I’ve never actually refunded an MMO before. Part of this is because I have plenty of access to try things out (or watch staff try them out) ahead of time, so I know better than to go swipey-swipey with the credit card. I also have seen so much shit go down and so many “preorder exclusive” shenanigans that I rarely buy anything at launch anyway. I am probably not a good test case here. Clearly, a lot of MMO players buy first and think second. That’s how I am with mobile games and apps; I’ve refunded probably a dozen apps over the years when I realized they’d been misrepresented somehow. But it’s never come up with MMOs.

How and when do you decide whether to refund an MMO or wait it out? (There’s some overlap in the answers, so you can choose all that apply.)

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Leaderboard: What type of multiplayer do you think Fallout 76 will have?

After what was nearly an interminable teaser stream, Bethsoft finally announced this morning that it’s working on Fallout 76, another entry in a beloved franchise and another chance to trot out retro-futurist Pip-Boy iconography. At first, I shrugged – it’s neat, and a lot of us will buy it, but seeing as how Fallout is traditionally a single-player sandbox RPG, it’s not something we’d normally cover.

But then the rumors started flying. Kotaku floated the claim that it’s an “online game of some sort.” Polygon said it “heard the game will feature multiplayer.” The Twitterverse is chirping about battle royale. Nobody seems to know (or be allowed to say) for sure, and barring leaks, it’ll be another week and change until Bethsoft spills its post-apoc can o’ beans. [Update: Kotaku has another piece out since this one went live, with anonymous sources claiming it’s an online post-apoc survival game a la RUST and DayZ.]

So why not speculate? What type of multiplayer do you think Fallout 76 will have? Are you spotting any clues in the trailer? Place your bets – and yes, you get multiple choices here.

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Leaderboard: How much time should you put in to become a great player in the typical MMO?

Earlier this week, GIbiz put out a piece on the Shanghai Dragons, the Overwatch League e-sports team representing China. In a letter to fans, the team appears to have inadvertently revealed that it’s grotesquely overworked; in bragging that the team has the “most intensive training scheme among all the teams,” the team manager admitted that the group trains 12 hours a day, six days a week. That’s 72 hours a week.

As GIbiz points out, not only does this “seem to fly in the face of Blizzard’s goals for a sustainable league that supports its players,” it also doesn’t seem to actually be working, as the Dragons haven’t won a single game in 32 matchups. It’s almost as if hustle/crunch culture exhausts and drains people rather than beefs them up!

Most of us are never going to be, or even aspire to be, professional e-sports gamers to the degree that someone will pay us thousands of dollars per year to train and play. But I bet most of us do aspire to be decent or even great at the games we invest the most time in. So for this week’s Leaderboard, I thought it would be fun to explore just how much time you think you need to put in to be a great player of the typical MMORPG?

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Leaderboard: Does the Daybreak fiasco affect whether you play its MMOs?

Over the last couple of days, we’ve been covering the Daybreak scandal – specifically, how concerns over the impact of government sanctions on Daybreak’s parent companies would affect the games, which spiraled into Daybreak publicly denying that it was ever owned by the company it said repeatedly bought it in 2015 and scrubbing its website and wikipedia of references to Columbus Nova’s acquisition. We’ve all watched on, eyes wide, dutifully recording gaslighting in progress.

But then I have that luxury: I don’t play any Daybreak games and haven’t played any of them seriously since SOE shuttered the best MMORPG ever made. So I can look at the whole situation as the dumpster fire it is, and not as the doom of my favorite MMO, since it already killed that.

Many of you are not in my position. You play DCUO, EverQuest II, PlanetSide 2, even EverQuest. You might even be playing H1Z1, although that’s less likely if you’re reading Massively OP. Or maybe the Standing Stone games Daybreak publishes, LOTRO and DDO, are your thing, and you’re not convinced by yesterday’s vague Twitch sidenote that everything’s probably fine. You are watching on in horror, wondering what will happen to your MMO homes if Daybreak implodes. You might even be pretty sure the games will be OK but aren’t so sure you want to put your own money into the mess.

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Leaderboard: Are you still playing Secret World Legends?

I’ve always been curious about you folks who forgave Funcom for 2017. I’m not sure that, were I a hardcore old-school Secret World player, I could so easily let slide that whole “yeah so we’re gonna reboot the game and you can’t bring the toons you spent the last five years building” thing. But given the reboot’s apparent success last year and the ongoing attention on the game by the MMORPG community, a lot of you did forgive the studio and jumped right back in, including our own Secret World vets here on staff. Wherever their breaking point is, that wasn’t it.

Massively OP reader Pepperzine is wondering about that breaking point too and where the game stands in the community since the relaunch nine months ago and the new content that’s finally launched. “Now that around nine months have passed since The Secret World Legends has launched, I think it would be interesting to do a follow-up poll on if the community here at MOP is playing it, quit playing it, or returning for the Africa content!”

Great idea! Let’s do it.

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Leaderboard: Are you giving Ultima Online’s Endless Journey F2P conversion a try?

With the launch of Ultima Online’s Endless Journey free-to-play conversion this week, a whole lotta old-school MMORPG players are turning their attention back to the 20-year-old MMORPG that started it all. If you could make or connect to your account – easier said than done, as our own writers and streamers found out – then you were treated to a Throwback Thursday to end all Throwback Thursdays.

I’ve actually had my old account running on a sub for the better part of the past year, and while I’m happy that the game is moving forward (and still getting love!), I’m also a little bit exhausted from the anticipation – as well as skeptical of the relatively pay-to-win new offering in the cash shop. I’m sort of looking forward to the game getting back to normal after the influx of visitors is done!

How about you? Are you giving Ultima Online’s Endless Journey a try? Let take it to the polls!

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Leaderboard: Do you speculate on WoW Tokens or other legal MMO RMT currency?

Is Call of Duty the next Activision franchise to migrate to Battlenet? Very likely. As Eurogamer broke earlier this month, players are now able to link their Call of Duty accounts to Battle.net – no doubt in anticipation for Black Ops 4.

I bring this up to MMO players because of the potential impact on World of Warcraft – specifically, token prices – as WoW players buy and sell their tokens to spend down their Blizzard balance to buy up the new CoD title (or cash in on the flurry). Redditors are current speculating about the incoming speculation, arguing that tokens prices have been relatively stable over the past few months, spiking for the Battle for Azeroth hoopla but ultimately settling back down. In fact, just covering the potential for a spike can cause a spike, one poster points out. Gamers will recall a similar situation last year when Destiny 2 landed on Battlenet, sending the token to record heights.

And that leads us to some Leaderboard fun. Do you speculate on WoW Tokens or other legal MMO RMT currency (like PLEX, C.R.E.D.D, etc.), or do you stay the heck away from that noise? Multiple responses are allowed!

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Leaderboard: Do you use built-in voice chat systems with strangers in MMOs?

I’ve been playing a lot of Monster Hunter World when time permits, and while I’m enjoying the game, I’ve noticed it’s been, well, oddly silent. Initially, I thought maybe it was just a PlayStation 4 thing. Then a friend who roped me into playing with her told me she felt the Overwatch PC crowd was much worse than the console crowd, but since she’s not much of an online gamer (and lacks a PC), I shrugged that off too.

However, as I’ve spent more time in online games that aren’t MMOs lately, I’ve noticed that don’t really use voice chat with strangers, even when it’s built into the game – maybe even especially when it’s built into the game, depending on how I feel about the community. I didn’t bother in World of Warcraft, and apparently EVE players aren’t into it much either, yet Heroes of the Storm is going to get it years later despite uproar. It’s not that I dislike voice chat; I’ve just been around the internet and feel that most randoms can’t be trusted with unmoderated chat.

What about you, readers? Do you use default voice chats? Maybe only with fellow PC users or to help keyboardless console users? Let’s take it to a poll…

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Leaderboard: What kinds of MMORPG purchases do you consider pay-to-win?

I know I’m not alone in noticing that MMO gamers of late seem to have become sharply divided on how to define the term pay-to-win – indeed, the debate raged last week in threads about Black Desert’s player protest, Elder Scrolls Online’s cash shop prices, and the general consensus that ArcheAge is whale heaven. Recently Massively OP commenter Pepperzine recently wrote to us suggesting that we address it and try to sort it out.

“While there are proponents for all sides of the argument, I think it would be interesting to see where the bulk of people draw the line,” he wrote. “At the end of the day, individual perceptions are important but what is most important when it comes to this topic is what the majority perceives as pay-to-win.”

So let’s turn his proposal into the requisite Leaderboard poll, shall we? And yes, you can click as many as you want!

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Leaderboard: Did you preorder WoW’s Battle for Azeroth expansion?

Last week was a flurry of excitement over World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth’s preorders – and the news that the game will probably launch that expansion in September. In fact, so many people were lining up to buy it (and get immediate access to perks) that many players, including some of our writers, were put into multi-hour wait queues.

Were you among them? Are you sold on the expansion’s features? Did you preorder WoW’s Battle for Azeroth expansion? To the polls!

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Leaderboard: Are you playing on Age of Conan’s new ‘saga’ server?

Age of Conan’s Saga of Zath server officially launched yesterday, drawing fresh attention back to the game that Funcom maintenance-moded by proxy last year but apparently just isn’t done with. Zath has a ruleset similar to the base PvE server’s, only you have to create a new toon to zip through a “saga quest,” which will give you special rewards that you can then take with you back to Crom when the time limit is up.

According to the comments on our articles so far, Age of Conan hasn’t got quite the traction RIFT (to say nothing of WoW) has with the expansion-progression server or vanilla server idea, but then, this isn’t exactly like those; it’s a little bit more like Diablo III’s seasonal servers, right down to keeping all your loot at the end, but it’s still something new for fans of the original Conan MMO. Future saga servers, Funcom has said, will come with ruleset tweaks.

Let’s take it to the polls for another Leaderboard: Will you be playing Age of Conan’s new server?

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