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The Daily Grind: What constitutes a 'niche' MMO feature?

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Endgame, Opinion, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

In the wake of WildStar's rocky first half year, some players have defended the game's self-destructive gameplay decisions by declaring traditional gameplay tropes "niche." It's meant to be a niche game for that tiny niche of hardcore raiders, defenders argue, and therefore criticism is unwarranted. And in the sense that apparently a very small proportion of MMORPG fans actually participate in raiding (unless forced?), they're right. But that hasn't stopped most themepark MMOs since EverQuest from brandishing raids as a mostly inadequate talisman to ward off playerbase churn. Even if we outright refuse to raid, most of the MMOs we play are designed around raiders and raiding. It's easy to not raid, but raiding is hard to ignore because it's not being treated as niche by so many of the biggest titles and studios.

The disconnect between development plans and playerbase desires is reflected in this same disconnect between what we think of as a niche MMO feature and what actually is niche by the numbers. How would you sort it out? If raids, one of the core and defining features of so many themeparks, are niche, then what isn't niche? What exactly constitutes a niche MMO feature?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

The Mog Log: A primer for Final Fantasy XIV patch 2.5

Fantasy, Lore, Patches, Endgame, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log, Dungeons, Subscription

These preliminary patch notes are a blessing and a curse.
Ladies, gentlemen, and those who fall into neither category: The end approaches swiftly. Final Fantasy XIV's last pre-expansion patch is about to drop, and just like the bass, it won't be the same afterward. Tomorrow you've got a whole lot of new content to play through, enough to probably keep you well occupied for the next three months. The fact that the second portion of the patch will be dropping in about a month just makes it all the more occupying.

As we've done many times before, today's column is meant chiefly to take apart the patch elements we know of and get you up to speed so you can start playing without any issues once you can log in again. So let's start in on the first part of Before the Fall, complete with its new mystery trial and the promise of many revelations. Even if the big fireworks are coming in March.

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The Daily Grind: What's your gameplay-vs.-graphics bottom line?

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, New Titles, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Sandbox, The Repopulation

We've all heard the gameplay-is-more-important-than-graphics cliche, and I'm putting it to the test this week in The Repopulation. I'm quite enjoying the sandbox title for what it allows my character to do, but boy does he look janky doing it.

I know, I know, it's alphabetaearlyaccesswhatever.

In all seriousness, I'm hoping for The Repopulation's success, but the current game raises an interesting personal question and one that I'll ask you, the Massively readers. What's your gameplay-vs.-graphics bottom line? Will you play a game for its mechanics even if its visuals bother you?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

EVE Evolved: Rebuilding EVE's corporation tools

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Guilds, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

EVE Evolved title image
The MMO genre is defined by the online interactions of thousands of players, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the single-shard sandbox of EVE Online. While it's possible to play EVE solo, it's the players who make most of the game's meaningful content, and it's only in your emergent interactions with other players that I think the game truly comes to life. Some time ago, I wrote about the importance of CCP supporting EVE's power players, the corporation owners, fleet commanders, and event organisers who give the rest of us something fun to do. Now it looks like CCP is starting to deliver that support, with developers currently looking at updating EVE's archaic corp management tools.

CCP Punkturis recently asked corporation owners for a list of the most annoying "little things" they'd like to see fixed with the corporation management interface and was instead flooded with requests for big features and complete overhauls. Developers later confirmed on The o7 Show that at least one highly requested big feature is definitely on its way: CEOs will soon be able to switch off friendly-fire between corp members. The threat of corporate infiltrators attacking corp members has been a massive barrier preventing corps from recruiting new players, so its removal is good news for everyone (except spies). So now that corporation management is finally back on the drawing board, what other features do corp owners need?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at a few ideas for corporation tools and features that would make EVE a better place for everyone.

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WoW Archivist: 10 years, 10 amazing moments

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Opinion, Hands-On, Anniversaries, Subscription, WoW Archivist

Uldaman portal
WoW Archivist is a biweekly column by WoW Insider's Scott Andrews, who explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold? It first appeared on our sister site on January 1616, 2015, and is included here by permission.

In 2004, I bought a brown box with some discs inside it. On the cover was a close-up of a woman with crazy purple eyebrows and an angry bearded guy -- possibly Matt Rossi -- holding a gun. I didn't know anything about the Warcraft universe at the time. I'd watched someone play Warcraft III once (or was it II?). I remember chuckling at the peons' comments as they got to work. That was the extent of my experience.

I'd been playing Final Fantasy XI, and I loved the concept of an online world. I was hoping for a game that was more accessible than FFXI but with all the cool monsters, grouping, exploration, and loot. I never imagined the journey that I was about to take, the people I would meet, the opportunities that would become open to me as a result of that purchase. Many of us who played back then had no idea what was about to happen to the gaming world because of that brown box.

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The Daily Grind: What's your favorite EQII class?

Fantasy, EverQuest II, Classes, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, The Daily Grind

Welcome to another installment of Massively's Daily Grind where I give SOE -- and more specifically EverQuest II -- some free air time.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I recently returned to the game and am having a pretty good time of it. I'm not sure Coercer is the class for me, though, which is where today's question comes in. Help me out here: what's your favorite EQII class and why?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

The Daily Grind: What does Trove need to do to succeed?

Betas, Fantasy, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Daily Grind, Sandbox, Trove

This month I've made a point to dabble in Trove and check out how far the game's come now that it's in a semi-launched state. So far I'm somewhat pleased as it's running well, intuitive to handle, fun to play, and not half bad on the eyes.

I don't think anyone, Trion included, is under the impression that Trove is going to be some sort of breakout blockbuster. However, it could be a possible sleeper hit, especially if it keeps generating good word of mouth and doesn't overreach with its business model.

My question for you today is, what do you think Trove needs to do in 2015 to succeed? Should Trion throw more advertising out there? Does it need to go bigger? Are there cross-promotional opportunities here? Is it missing a key system that could put it over the top? Or is it on the right track and should keep on going as is?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Massively hands-on: Let's talk about The Repopulation

Betas, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvE, Opinion, Sandbox, Crafting, The Repopulation

Writing about early access games is the suck. I guess it's something I'll have to get over, though, given how early access is now launch, how alpha is the new beta, and how gamers are lining up to pay big money for ideas.

With that out of the way, let's talk a bit about my first steps in The Repopulation. It's an appropriately ambitious sci-fi sandbox from scrappy indie studio Above & Beyond Technologies. As you might expect, it's somewhat rough at the moment. I see it carving out a successful niche for itself in the future, though.

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The Daily Grind: How should hunger work in MMORPGs?

Betas, Game Mechanics, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Crowfall

This week's Crowfall character creation screenshot was pretty and all, but it was the unassuming "hunger resistance" stat down in the statistics panel that caught my eye. A huge fan of cooking and food mechanics in games, I was simultaneously excited and concerned over the inclusion. I have seen hunger (and other needs/survival mechanics) done so well in MMOs (Star Wars Galaxies, EverQuest II) and in mods for other games that they're genuinely fun to play; they add much-needed flavor and immersion as well as flesh out the economy and give meaning to crafting.

But I've also seen MMOs, RPGs, and player-made mods that make eating, resting, and traveling so arduous and chore-like and downright annoying that they actually distract from the core game, even when those activities weren't originally the point as they would be in an overt "survival" sandbox or roguelike (I'm not talking about those!).

How do you think Crowfall will handle it? How should hunger and similar mechanics work in MMORPGs?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

The Think Tank: The MMO server merge stigma

Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

Last week, Turbine announced that it plans to address Lord of the Rings Online's ongoing population problems. New executive producer Athena "Vyvyanne" Peters wrote, "We're taking measures to get everyone onto the more populous servers" and "working on [...] improved server transfer tools." And later, she clarified, "We are still working through the details, but part of our efforts here are to make the transition as seamless as possible for Kinship leaders to keep the players together. The idea is to bring you together, not spread further apart."

In our post, we called this process "server merges of a sort," but some loyal LotRO fans went ballistic at the idea that mass server transfers to, you know, merge players onto populous servers might be called "server merges." The term has such negative connotations and implications for a game's health that neither studios nor fans will dare use it even when it's a reasonable term to use and when it heralds good things for an aging game. The stigma might even make some studios leery of doing merges at all.

What do you think -- is there a better term for these sorts of faux-merges? Have you been through a merge and found it a worthwhile experience? Can we be done with the merge stigma already? We're talking server merges in today's Think Tank.

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Chaos Theory: Opening up Tokyo and why else I'm a Secret World fan for life

Horror, Real-Life, Opinion, The Secret World, Chaos Theory, Buy-to-Play

Chaos Theory:  Opening Tokyo and other reasons why I'm a Secret World fan for life
I may be a lifetime member of The Secret World, but more than that, I am a lifetime fan! Why? It's not because I live and breathe the game; I don't need to play daily for hours on end to truly appreciate its qualities and what it brings to the MMOverse. But there are plenty of reasons that TSW has earned my loyalty, not the least of which is demonstrated in Joel Bylos' recent game director letter. Tucked in between talk of the 2014 content and the upcoming improved new player experience is this little gem: The team intends to open Tokyo up to all players! Beyond the story and the events, it is how the team constantly focuses on bringing customers a genuine experience that remains true to the spirit of the game. Is everything about The Secret World perfect? Not at all. There's plenty of room for improvement and added content. But I feel confident in the direction, and the following reasons are why I will continue to champion this gem.

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Leaderboard: Are you playing H1Z1 this week?

Horror, Business Models, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, Opinion, Post-Apocalyptic, Sandbox, Leaderboard, H1Z1

SOE's zombie-flavored sandbox comes to Steam early access tomorrow, and despite the under construction warnings of CEO John Smedley, I'm betting that lots of people are going to buy it. The question, though, is whether or not you have bought it.

How about it, Massively readers? Are you playing H1Z1 this week?

Ever wish that you could put to rest a long-standing MMO debate once and for all? Then welcome to the battle royal of Massively's Leaderboard, where two sides enter the pit o' judgment -- and only one leaves. Vote to make your opinion known, and see whether your choice tops the Leaderboard!

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The Daily Grind: What is your favorite Marvel Heroes character?

Super-hero, Classes, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Daily Grind, Marvel Heroes

marvel heroes
I have to say, Marvel Heroes preys relentlessly upon the weaknesses of an altoholic like myself. I want to collect and play all of the title's (currently) 43 characters, even though I could spend countless hours working on just one superhero to get him or her up to spec.

Squirrel Girl is my current favorite toon because what is better than ordering a horde of rampaging squirrels to overrun your enemy? Plus, she's very peppy and has all sorts of upbeat quips, unlike certain dour heroes that I could name. But I'm starting to branch out by playing other characters such as Rogue and Cable, so I am a long way away from declaring a winner.

If you play Marvel Heroes, what is your favorite character and why?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Jukebox Heroes: Destiny's soundtrack

Sci-Fi, Opinion, MMOFPS, Jukebox Heroes, Music, Destiny

Is there any MMO soundtrack that arrived with such incredible expectations and baggage as Destiny? If so, I can't recall it. We have not only the legacy of Halo's scores (which are for some gamers the only soundtrack they know and revere) but also the saga of Composer Martin O'Donnell's firing and the boon of picking up (of all people) Paul McCartney -- because when you think "space epic video game," you of course think "former Beatles septuagenarian."

However, here on Jukebox Heroes, we do not give preference to a soundtrack's pedigree, the game's popularity, or how many members of the Beatles it boasts. We listen to the music for what it is. And what Destiny's score is... is above-average. It's a good, but not great, orchestral album that's heavy on action and Star Wars influences. I was hoping for a little more when I listened to it, but upon a second evaluation, I found myself appreciating more what it does as a whole to construct a solar system under siege.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Handling SWTOR exploits

Sci-Fi, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Handling SWTOR Exploits
On this week's Hyperspace Beacon, I'd like to discuss the exploit issues that have popped up in Star Wars: The Old Republic as of late. Admittedly, the widespread exploit that SWTOR recently experienced wasn't gamebreaking, and it certainly didn't fracture the economy as exploits in other games have. In fact, I don't even think that a rollback or anything severe was even considered for this particular exploit. However, the community team mentioned some things in its handling of the situation that made me wonder about exploits and cheats that violate the intent of the game designers.

I don't know that I will have all the answers in regard to how to handle specific situations, but I really intend for this to be a conversation starter. I want to read your thoughts in the comments.

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