Hither and thither

I feel kind of untethered when I log on to WoW these days. It’s both a good and a bad feeling. Good, because I have the freedom to do whatever I feel like doing on any character. Bad, because in the back of my brain there is this gnawing worry that I should be doing something organized and constructive in preparation for Legion, even though I know it is still months away. I suppose the feeling is just the price I pay for being a compulsive planner.

Completely off topic, but I love archaic English terms like hither and thither. They are a reminder of a time when the language was  quite prescriptive. Hither and thither were the motion equivalents of here and there. “Here I stand,” but “Come hither.” Or, “We wandered hither and thither, no destination in mind.”

Don’t get me wrong,  I love that English today is so malleable, I love the rapidity with which linguistic constructs appear and disappear. But archaic English gives us an intriguing look into the things our ancestors thought important enough to be linguistically precise about. Similarly, the things modern English is precise about today certainly reflect what is important in modern life.

There must somewhere be a PhD dissertation on this subject, I am going to look it up.

(If you have not guessed, this post will be pretty disjointed. I will wander hither and thither, stopping briefly here and there.)

I’ve become more appreciative of my garrison lately. I have remedied Blizz’s poor housing plan by commandeering the gardener’s cottage. I just wish I could put up a sign to that effect, it might keep the riffraff out. Still, it is a cozy place to retire for the night. Also, it is close to the fishing pond and a great view of the ocean. Consequently, I am doing a bit more fishing on all my alts, either as a way to pass the time while waiting for a queue to pop, or just as a relaxing activity while I listen to music.

I keep thinking soon I will not have a nice tidy place to call my own, that I will be expected to bunk with a bunch of smelly hunters or depressingly dark warlocks with their yammering minions. I know we will keep our garrisons, I just hope Blizz lets us also keep our garrison hearthstone so that we can easily get there. I will be annoyed if instead of the hearthstone they replace it with something like a portal in a capitol city.

(I would make yet another plea here for true player housing, but I think it is a lost cause.)

One of the things I just noticed as I was going about some basic garrison chores is the actual contents of the garrison resources pile. When you empty it, you get a quick glimpse of the inside of the bottom box, and it is — a box of rocks. Two, to be exact, two big old building stones. Which makes me wonder — what is  being built these days? Certainly nothing in my garrison. I am beginning to suspect one or more of my employees is dealing garrison rocks on the black market. Note to self: look into this.

I’ve been spending some time with my lock and my druid lately. I am to the point where I can bring my lock to our weekly alt runs, and I think I will start doing so. My main has nothing more to gain from normal HFC, and we always have a ton of hunters anyway.

I decided to pursue the ring on my druid, so I am just at the first abrogator stone (125) collection stage. Which means running the tier 1 raid — tedious. Though I am still a novice at resto druid healing, I find I enjoy it. There are so many instant heals that it almost feels like the hunter of healers because of the mobility. I finally overcame my phobia about 5-man healing on it and easily healed all the dungeons you have to run in the initial stages of the ring quests.

From what I read of balance druids in Legion, I think that also may be a viable spec. It seems clunky to me in WoD, but it is the spec I use for Tanaan dailies — would be good if resto had more than 2 offensive spells. Still, I am enjoying the class.

In terms of gold, I am frantically trying to make hay while the sun shines, to use one of my gramma’s favorite expressions. I think as soon as we get the Legion pre-event, the gold will stop flowing from our garrisons. Also, at that point very few will be interested in buying WoD mats, gizmos, or crafted gear. So I am dumping everything I can now, including whatever I can make with the hundreds of cd mats I have for every profession. I have outfitted a few guildie alts with crafted pieces, donated some still-useful stuff to the guild bank, am selling what I can on the AH or DE-ing it to sell the mats, and vendoring everything else. The gold crash is coming, and I don’t want to be caught with an inventory I can no longer move for more than a few coppers.

I still have to figure out the best disposition of the 200+ pieces of BoA Baleful gear in my banker’s bank. Suggestions are welcome.

Well, I warned you this would be kind of disjointed. It’s my birthday, and I am taking the rest of the day off. I think I saw the spousal unit sneaking a brightly wrapped box into the house, of a size to perfectly accommodate a cool electronic gadget. My inner child is hopping up and down with anticipation! (Watch it turn out to be a handheld mixer or knife sharpener, I will kill him.)

Starbucks and butts

I am writing and posting this today from Starbucks, on a mini iPad with a maddeningly small keyboard, because yes you guessed it, Comcast has struck again. I will not bore you with the sordid details, but I am in my third day of trying to find someone — anyone — there who understands troubleshooting beyond the level of “Reboot your modem” or “We can send a technician on Friday”.

Every time I get on the phone with those troglodytes, I feel like I am trying to explain a wrist watch to a chimp. The chimp appears interested, and there seems to be intelligence behind those eyes, but after I’ve explained and am nodding hopefully, the chimp thoughtfully takes the watch, shakes it, then tries to eat it.

There is no hope.

But while I am on the subject of not understanding, I will weigh in on the most recent Blizz sexism controversy, fraught with danger though it may be.

I am sure you can find the details if you want to, but apparently someone’s mother took exception, in Twitter, to a depiction of a female character in Overwatch, claiming that the pose — an over-the-shoulder angle clearly featuring a butt crack through skimpy clothing — was harmful to her (the mother’s, not the character’s) daughter.

There is a very persuasive argument to be made that, if the mother thinks such depictions could harm her daughter, possibly she should not allow her daughter to play the game, and for her to demand less “provocative” art is to impose her values on all the people who like the game as it is thank you very much. And that if the motivating values in her daughter’s life come from a game, there is a pretty serious parenting gap.

I see that.

On the other hand, there is an equally persuasive  argument to be made that every online game currently worth playing sends the message that the basic worth of female characters lies in their stereotypical sex appeal, that they exist mainly to serve as eye candy for male players as well as to cater to those females whose purpose in life centers around sexual teasing.

I see that, too.

I do not have children, but I am actively involved in the lives of several nephews and nieces ranging in age from 6-19. My siblings are doing a fantastic job of raising smart, independent, caring boys and girls with well-grounded values for the modern world. Some of them play MMO type games and some do not, and those who do play are just as sensible, delightful, and respectful of others as those who do not. I cannot see that playing these games has harmed either the boys or girls (well, “girl” actually, since only one niece plays) in any way.

But having said all this, I still think there are a couple of points to be made. The first is that current “serious” online games are without a doubt highly sexist. They have been created primarily by and for adolescent or adolescent-thinking males, at least so far as character art goes. (Only recently, there have also started to be strong female protagonists, but historically they were all male.)

Don’t believe me? All you have to do is look at the “armor” for female and male characters. Almost without exception, the male armor is thick and protective — sometimes ridiculously so — while the female armor looks like something from Victoria’s Secret: low-cut, cleavage-revealing chest pieces; and high-cut, thigh-exposure and butt-enhancing leg pieces, some of which even bear a strong resemblance to fishnet stockings.

The point is not that the game depicts sexuality, rather that it is all one direction: female characters are drawn for their sexual attributes, male characters are drawn to emphasize their strength and heroic virtues. And when young people are bombarded with this same message –that men are serious and important and women are for sex — from many aspects of society, even the games they play, it takes a toll.

If it is not directly and constantly recognized and counteracted by parents, it sends a strong subliminal message to boys that females exist primarily to serve their sexual needs, and any role other than this is secondary. It sends a message to girls that they have no inherent worth unless they have a cartoon-inspired impossible body, and that any aspirations they have beyond pleasing a male are really just kind of a cute endearing hobby. It makes it ok to value women’s work less than men’s, to dismiss women’s opinions as less important than  men’s, to treat women in some parts of the world as chattel, to even think there is such a thing as “legitimate rape.”

Yes, I have expressed the message in its most extreme form, and young players with good role models will not necessarily fall prey to it. But make no mistake, what I described is the message. I get that some males reading this think it is all over-sensitive “SJW” claptrap. After all, what’s wrong about appreciating the female body? Nothing, just as there is nothing wrong about appreciating the male body. But when your gender is the constant recipient of such “appreciation” — at school, at work, at the mall and grocery store, walking down the street, even in a lousy computer game for cryin’ out loud — it begins to seem less like appreciation and more like creepy stalking and voyeurism.

Many males, especially younger ones, simply cannot comprehend this, because the idea of “unwanted sexual attention” just does not exist for them. For a couple of years during my Army service,  one of my many extra duties was to present the required annual Sexual Harrassment training. It was a horrible duty, because I just could not get the whole “unwanted sexual attention” across to the males in the class, so they tended to giggle and chortle (until I shot them a withering look).

However, I finally figured out how to make them understand. I am not proud of this, because I had to exploit an inexplicable military phobia, but I set up a scenario of someone in their unit was constantly ogling them, she would think up reasons to touch them, kept trying to be alone with them, and so forth. This scenario evoked snorts of laughter and comments like “Oh well, you know sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do,” and “Oh yeah, gimme some of that unwanted sexual attention, baby!” Then I would add, “Now suppose this soldier was male.”

Shocked silence, then comments like “I’d punch his blankety blank lights out!”

Unwanted sexual attention was now a concept they could understand.

Most educated and sensitive adults, no matter how trivial they personally may think these allegations of blatant sexism in online games are, can at least understand they are not trivial to some. And if you are Blizzard or ATVI, you must take this seriously, because if you hope to increase your profits, if you hope to make eSports The Next Really Big Thing, you must expand your customer base beyond adolescent-minded males. You must capture the dollars of more women. You must persuade fathers that they are not setting a bad social example for their sons by playing these games, and you must try to make a game that men will not have to apologize for if their daughters, sisters, nieces want to play.

Online games cannot fix the world’s problems, they cannot mend all of society’s ills, nor should they be expected to. But they do not need to contribute to them, either, they do not need to pander to and perpetuate our nasty side. They can set an example of fair play and respect for all. It is not only good business, it is good humanity.

 

 

Look out for that flying pig!

imageWell, clearly pigs are flying through a snowstorm in hell while monkeys are flying out of a personal orifice, and you can add whatever other adynata you can think of, because —

Get ready….

Are you sitting down?

I got my 4-piece tier set last night.

Now, those of you all decked out in heroic or mythic gear probably won’t see what all the fuss is about, me giddy over getting the 4-pc normal set, but you have no idea how momentous this is for me. I did not get a full tier set in either Cata or Mists, and it was beginning to look like WoD would be my third tierless expansion. It has been a combination of stupendously bad luck and start-and-stop raiding. But my current guild — which I joined only a couple of months ago — runs weekly HFC-N alt runs, so I have been joining those on my main so as to dust off my raiding skills that were unused for about 9 months, and also hoping I might pick up some tier gear.

I got two pieces relatively quickly, one each of the first two weeks I ran, but the other two pieces have eluded me. Got a third piece a couple of weeks ago, but just could not get lucky enough to complete the set. Until last night. We were doing the upper level of HFC. I got a second set of tier gloves from Socrethar, which actually was not useless because they were socketed. But no love from Xhul’horac on the shoulders. After wiping once on Mannoroth, we decided to give him a final try even though it meant extending our raid time by a few minutes. We killed him, and I was disappointed to get the non-tier cloak on the personal loot roll. Figuring what the hell, I threw a bonus roll, and THERE IT WAS, THE TIER CHEST PIECE.

I spent a couple of hours after the raid adjusting and upgrading my gear. Equipping the tier head meant I could use another crafted piece, and my non-legendary ring was the Conquest PvP one, so I had my JC make a 6/6 ring with the appropriate secondary stats. I had been saving my valor on my main, so I was able to do 2/2 upgrades on the new ring as well as the two new tier pieces.

Then I spent a few minutes with a target dummy testing out the MM tier bonus, which  gives you an instant Aimed Shot, on the GCD.

O.

M.

G.

!!

It is sooooo sweet. Since the demise of SV more or less caused me to switch specs to LW MM in 6.3, I have never really liked it. It just seemed clunky and slow, and even though MM hunters are highly mobile, the loss of DPS if you constantly move made me feel un-mobile. Add to that the fact that the only instant non-talent shot was the signature shot, which has a relatively long cd, and I always felt like I had my feet mired in molasses and I was operating my bow in slow motion.

But the tier bonus suddenly made MM huntering fun for me again.

When I studied “modern” Russian poetry, we went chronologically, slogging our way through 17th and 18th century clumsy attempts to mimic Polish and other languages’ poetry. It was horrible, pedantic, forced. Then, finally, we worked our way up to Alexander Pushkin, and to me it felt as if the poetic chains were broken, and at last Russian poetry soared and sang in my head and on my tongue. It was glorious.

The MM tier set is Pushkin to me. From a design point of view, I think it is wrong to make a spec dependent on a set of gear to play the way it is intended to be played. But I can’t deny that it is a glorious feeling.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to continue my celebration. Have a great weekend.

 

Artifact suggestions

The closer we get to Legion, the more I become convinced that artifact weapons may be the change that could sink the entire expansion, but I also believe that a couple of adjustments could avert this.

DISCLAIMER: I have not played Legion Alpha (and I do not expect to be invited to the Beta), so everything I write is based only on official info from Blizzard, third party sites like WoWHead, and forum and blog comments from Alpha testers.

Why am I so concerned? As I have pointed out previously in this blog, the fundamental problem arises from three intertwining  aspects of the design: The weapon is mandatory, it is spec-specific, and making it maximally functional involves a long (months) process similar to previous legendary items like the cape and the ring. (In addition, its functionality can be enhanced by RNG drops, always a frustrating experience when applied to a mandatory item.)

It would be fine if this were a mandatory item obtained through a relatively short quest chain, OR if it were an optional item, such as a legendary, that required a significant effort to obtain. But when it is both, it has serious — and I think negative — implications for nearly every major aspect of the game. The two areas of most concern to me are its impact on spec-switching and on alt progress.

To date, Blizz has only vaguely promised they will “do something” to make acquiring an artifact weapon for an off spec somewhat easier. They have given no specifics, as far as I can tell they have not implemented anything in the Alpha, they have not said whether the easier path will involve anything more than the initial quest line, and they have pretty much indicated that any easier process will NOT apply to alts. For a change that will involve nearly every aspect of a new expansion, this fuzziness strikes me as either incompetent or deliberately misleading.

With what we know so far, chasing the artifact weapon and filling in its talent tree will consume the majority of our play time for every spec of every character we play in the game. We may well look back on the daily garrison grind as the Good Old Days. Blizz has said that filling in the artifact tree will take “months”. This may be engaging once or even twice, but to have to do it 10-12 or more times is just stupid. It effectively means that — despite Legion permitting you to play every spec of your class instead of being limited to two as you are now — you will still be bound in practice to playing only one or two specs. And almost certainly you will be limited to a single spec on an alt, if indeed you can find the time to play alts at all.

Now you may say that no one usually expects to gear alts like they do their main, and that is true. However, the artifact talent tree is exactly that — an additional source of spells, skills, shots, and effects that has as much impact on your ability to play your spec as filling your spell book or reaching the top level of your regular talent tree. In other words, you cannot hope to develop proficiency on any spec unless you have completed the artifact talent tree. This is a complete change from what we have now: you can improve your gear on an alt, but once you reach top level you have all the skills and abilities you need to be one proficient in playing it, dependent only on your willingness to practice.

I could go on about my vision of game life that forever chases artifact levels, but I would rather make two proposals for how Blizz should “make it easier” — as they have airily suggested — to obtain artifact sufficiency.

First, every spec of the class should automatically be equipped with the appropriate artifact weapon with a level matching the highest obtained on that character. That is, if my MM hunter has completely filled my artifact tree and I decide to switch to BM or even SV, I would have those specs’ artifact trees also filled, without spending months (again) grinding them out. Yes, I understand each spec has a completely different weapon, and I would even be willing to do a short, mostly trivial quest line to obtain the basic weapon, but once I got it, it should be at the same level as the one I obtained on my MM.

(A simpler idea, of course, would be to have artifacts class-specific instead of spec-specific, but I feel that train has long ago left the station. At this point Blizz would certainly not want to — nor should anyone expect them to — trash months of work on the dozens of spec-specific artifacts they have labored over, and which are intertwined with nearly every aspect of spec balance and play style.)

Second, once you have filled a spec’s artifact tree on one character, all other characters on that account should get a significant boost to the rate at which they accrue artifact power (basically the XP of artifact weapons). This would at least send a message to players with alts that Blizz respects that play style and is not punishing them for liking it.

Giving account-wide perks for achieving something on one character is certainly not unheard of in WoW. Look at garrisons and shipyards, naval vessel armaments, mounts, pets, titles, etc. Certainly in the past Blizz has recognized that players should not be faced with an endless cycle of Sisyfus-like tasks, that at some point the prospect of repeating the same endless grinds translates into players leaving the game.

At any rate, I do not delude myself into thinking artifact weapons will be abandoned at this late date. It really is too late for that, in spite of what appears to be a terrible implementation of a potentially good idea. But I do not think it is too late to improve the bad implementation, and I think my suggestions would go a long way towards doing so.

Here’s hoping someone at Blizz is re-evaluating the artifact plan.

 

The accordion game

Back in the day — you know this is going to be an Old Fart piece when it starts out like that, consider yourselves warned — when I was a soldier, most normal days started out with everyone gathering in the dark pre-dawn hours to do PT (physical training). By-the-numbers calisthenics were always followed by a formation run of from 2-5 miles. Usually these were pretty routine, involving a company-size unit (60-100 people), but on special occasions (payday, the Army birthday, whatever) we would have a battalion or brigade or even division run, with hundreds maybe even thousands of people. In formation. Double time left-right-left-right thundering down the street. Singing Jody calls at the tops of our lungs. With prescribed-by-regulation distances between parts of the formation.

At any rate, as the run progressed the prescribed distances would invariably get way out of whack. The huge body of soldiers began to oscillate back and forth — tightly compressed, then greatly stretched out, then compressed, then stretched, etc., with the oscillations getting progressively wilder. This was known as the accordion effect. The slightest variation in pace at the front of the formation was magnified 10 or 100 fold by the time it got to the back. If you happened to be assigned a position near the back of the formation, you would one minute be slowly shuffling, then sprinting, then double timing in place, then sprinting again, and so forth. It was horrible, because there was no possibility of getting into the kind of rhythm that made the miles melt away, but on the other hand it provided a certain fringe-y freedom from regimentation.

What does this have to do with WoW you may ask. Well, it occurred to me over the weekend that my experience with WoW has always been similar to running near the back of the PT formation. The people up front are the elite hardcores, the people at the tail end of the formation are the most casual of casual gamers. I am not at the tail end, but I am definitely towards the back.

When a new expansion goes live, the people in front pretty much have their course and pace laid out for them. They will have gotten a running start with the beta, they will level up very efficiently, will know how best to acquire expansion-appropriate gear, will have a plan to progress steadily through the raid tiers. When they are done, they will move into farm and alt mode or take a break until the next expansion.

But those of us in the back have a much more start-and-stop or shuffle-and-sprint experience. Some of this is a reflection or amplification of what happens up front, and some of it is just a function of life’s realities as well as our own approach to the game. (An example of how it may be an amplification of the pace up front is when there is a certain boss that stymies even the hardcores for a long time. Think Horridon or Ragnaros. By the time some raid teams further back in the formation get to such a boss, it becomes almost insurmountable for them, resulting in massive personnel turnover, cessation of raiding, skipping until a nerf comes in, or possibly even demise of a guild.)

The reason I was comparing my game experience to the accordion effect is that I spent most of the weekend madly running Timewalking dungeons and LFR clears on a couple of my alts. Not only was I trying to accumulate valor on them, but I was also really working to get more proficient with them. TW dungeons are an excellent way to practice, in my opinion, because class and spec mechanics actually count to a certain degree. Additionally, I was running them with a guild group that included our top masters for the alt specs I was on (balance druid  and destro lock), and they were very generous with their advice and help.

So, even though for about 9 months I was marking time and shuffling along, over the weekend I was in an alt sprint mode. I also feel I have been in a bit of sprint mode with my main, running weekly raids with my guild and furiously working on valor to upgrade my gear and ring. I now have three pieces of tier gear, and it seems possible I might actually get a full set if I have even mediocre luck. That would be the first time in three expansions that I would have a full set, not to mention I am chomping at the bit to see how the 4-piece affects my MM play style.

The fear now creeping into my brain is that Legion events might soon begin to move very quickly. Given that the movie comes out in June, that Blizz is introducing tie-ins with WoW and the movie and some of their other games, and that there are semi-believable rumors that the wider Legion beta will soon be out, I am starting to get a bit nervous. My big worry is that Blizz will feel compelled to do the Legion pre-event too early and we will be stuck with all the Legion class changes in a WoD world for several months. This is not a cheery thought for me.

Excuse me, the formation is way ahead of me, I have to run fast to catch up.

 

WOOHOO! Marks pets back for Legion!

This will be a fairly short post, but as I am sure many of you have already heard, Blizz has reversed its position on real hunter pets as an option for MM hunters in Legion.

A moment while I do my happy dance.

Still dancing.

Okay, finish move coming up here.

There. Done.

This. Is. Huge. It is so momentous that I quote Celestalon’s comment from the forum here in full:

Celestalon
Game Designer
Hey Marksmanship Hunters. Here are a few changes that didn’t make it into today’s build, but we’re planning for a soon upcoming build:

One of the most common points of feedback we’ve heard is that all of the specs are cool on their own, but none of them maintain the existing “Hunter + Ranged Weapon + Single Pet” archetype that people have grown attached to (Survival is now Melee, Marksmanship has lost its pet, and Beast Mastery has added a ton of additional pets).
Marksmanship losing its pet has been one of the most impactful, but contentious changes we’ve made this expansion. We’re going to try returning the pet to Marksmanship, baseline, along with Lone Wolf as a level 15 talent (and very competitively tuned), so that this is a choice again.
Exotic Munitions is being removed, and Black Arrow will be moving down to where it was, since the Lone Wolf + Black Arrow combination proved to be very popular and fun (the newest version of Black Arrow, where the minion reliably spawns and taunts the target, that is).
Keep those in mind for feedback on this build! Thanks!

I am (almost) speechless. This will, in my opinion, make MM an option for me in Legion. Hell, what am I saying, it will make Legion an option for me now.

Couple of comments on this bombshell, one pessimistic and one optimistic.

The pessimistic comment is that we still have no idea how MM pets will — or possibly won’t — affect the overall Legion MM spec balance. For the last couple of years, the devs doing class/spec balance have pretty much blown it, with wild over-corrections and pendulum swings affecting nearly every class. It is entirely possible that returning real hunter pets to MM in Legion will turn out to be mostly an empty gesture, because the balance with LW will turn out to be so OP that pets are not a real MM choice except for soloing. (However, Celestalon did say LW would be “very competitively tuned”. I don’t know if that was a hint that LW would be over-tuned, or if it was a hint that in fact either choice would be viable in raids as well as in solo questing.) For some more in depth comments about possible impact on MM, as well as an excellent summary of its current alpha imbalances and shortcomings, check out Delirium’s post today.

But the optimistic comment is that Blizz actually listened to, considered, and weighed the fairly intense hunter response to their decision for a petless MM spec. Celestalon’s comment indicates they understood the emotional attachment many hunters have for their pets, as well as the logical argument that there seemed to be no reason not to at least give MM hunters a true hunter pet option. I have to think that making such a change at this relatively late stage of class development will consume a lot of dev resources, and I give Blizz high marks for going ahead and doing it anyway.

This is now at least two instances of Blizz reversing itself on major Legion mechanics — the other one being the flap over the water strider mount. It is beginning to look as if there has been a significant change in Blizz’s attitude towards interaction with players with legitimate concerns. The nasty, confrontational attitudes — on the parts of players in forums as well as Blizz — seem to have changed for the better. We seem to be in a mode of legitimate debate, which I applaud. No one expects — nor should they — for Blizz to blindly change everything that players dislike about Legion. But it is satisfying and encouraging to see them truly weigh players’ arguments for specific changes.

If I had been told I could have only one wish for Legion hunters, the one I would have chosen is for MM hunters to have a true pet option. It looks like that wish has been granted. The devil will be in the details, but I am a happy camper for now. Thank you, Blizz.

What makes a great MMO?

I just read a Twitter exchange quoted on MMO-C between WoW dev Muffinus and a player, about what defines a good MMO. It was very short and, as all communications from Blizz these days, unsatisfying in terms of imparting any real information, but it did get me to thinking. Herewith the pertinent MMO-C post (And I confess I do not know what “undertale” means, or what it might be a typo of, and also I am not sure I have ever heard of a 5000 lb gorilla except possibly in monster movies…):

Misc
so you said dungeons, world bossEs and pvp make an mmo. But it’s more than that right?
Not to be too undertale about it but people make an MMO. Free hugs. (Muffinus)
The players grew up, and so has the game. is still the 5000 lbs gorilla in the MMO room.
every expac the game feels less like an mmo. What can you do to change this?

What makes an MMO? Good question. What sparks MMO memories for you? Dungeons, World Bosses, PvP? (Muffinus)
random matchmade groups. The one thing I miss from Vanilla and BC wow was my server community
.I don’t disagree, I miss the old Tichondrius forums. Is this viable in the current climate? (Muffinus)
what do you mean the old forums? Like the old layout?
.Nah like back in the day when people would post cascade memes during BWL progression  (Muffinus)

I will stipulate that what constitutes a “good” MMO is certainly different for every player. But given WoW’s longevity and the fact that at one point there were 12 million players, there must be some describable near-universal appeal, some unique formula with a magic mix of quantifiable factors, that have allowed this to happen. But I will be darned if I can list those factors. The answer to the question “What makes a good MMO?” lies in the frustrating realm described by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when confronted with legally defining hard-core pornography:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [hard-core pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

I suspect for most of us, we know a good MMO when we play it. And we can certainly list some of the attractions we find in any given game. But to step that up a level and come up with a meta-list of what makes a good MMO, even for ourselves? Very tough.

This is not just an academic exercise for me. I feel like I should be able to actually write down the critical factors I need in order to commit to an MMO for the long term. I was, after all, schooled in logic by Jesuits, trained to plan every detail of both large and small military operations, and spent several recent years enumerating factors that could contribute to computer network vulnerabilities. I should be able to do something as seemingly trivial as break down the components that make a game “good” for me, and then apply them as a formula to evaluate new games!

But of course — at least so far — I can’t. Here is my first stab at it, with which I am not happy, but which nevertheless is at least a starting place:

Factors that make a “good” MMO for me (not in any particular order)

  1. It must not be a first-person shooter, and it must not even default to that aspect in — for example — combat situations.
  2. It must allow a wide range of choices for game mechanics, for example player-designated keybinds and movement techniques.
  3. The characters and environment must be neither too cartoonish nor too real in their depiction.
  4. There must be a robust PvE component. That is, it cannot be a PvP-only game.
  5. Social play must be supported and widely available, but not mandatory.
  6. It must support a variety of engagement models and activities, such as solo questing, exploring, professions and crafting, social chat, economic/money-making activities, group raids or small instances, etc.
  7. It must allow for character progression, and there can be no avenue for progressing or getting an advantage through real-world buying of items, either directly or indirectly. (This is why I am always suspicious of free to play game models.)
  8. It must be playable within a wide range of time commitments, from an hour or two a week to many hours in the day. Basically, this means it can be neither turn-based nor real-time-based (where the game insofar as your character is concerned keeps progressing whether or not you are logged on.)
  9. There must be opportunity to experience every aspect and role of the game, either through multiple characters or through easily changing specialties on one character.
  10. It must be “big” enough and change frequently enough that you can never feel like you have completed everything it has to offer.

(Oh, and one other thing — don’t hate or judge — it must be playable on a Mac.)

See, I don’t ask for much!

What about you? What are some things you either have to have or will not abide in an MMO?