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Ask Massively: The beginning

Mike Schramm

Ask Massively is a brand new feature here on Massively-- it's your chance to take control of the little conversation we've got going on, and ask us MMO experts whatever you want. Want to know what MMO you should be playing, or why something in your favorite MMO is a little strange? Have a question about the site, or need an MMO standby explained? We're here to explain and elucidate the answers to all your queries, whatever they be.

To ask a question of Ask Massively, you can either put it in the comments on this post (for next week's edition), or drop us a note on the tipline. And this column will run entirely on your questions, so please let us know if there's something you want to know, no matter how complicated or how silly.

Click the link below to check out the first edition of Ask Massively! A warning: for the first edition, I cheated a little bit-- these are all questions from my friends. But next week, you'll have the chance to get a question of your own answered.

Massively, I just want to know-- why do you guys play MMOs?

-Christina W.

I figure this would work great as a first question-- it'll give us a chance to tell you all why we're here in the first place on a site all about Massively multiplayer games.

I can't speak for everyone here at the site, but I think the reason most people play MMOs is that they're looking for not only a way to define themselves (by creating an avatar of some kind and outfitting it with phat lootz), but they're looking for a social environment to show that avatar off in.

Of course, people also do this to have fun, and yes, there's the good old element of escapism in it as well. But both of those things are present in almost any media you consume (whether it be watching television, playing videogames, or even reading). MMOs allow you to interact with many people on a wide scale, not only in the way that they act towards you, but in the way that you act and appear towards them, and that's what draws us and many other players to the genre.

Dear Massively:

Just recently, my friend introduced me to World of Warcraft. I played on his computer for a bit, and thought it might be something I'd like to get into (I've never played an MMO before). But then I learned about the fee you have to pay every month, and I'm not sure I'll like it enough to commit to something like that. Is there something free I could try that plays like World of Warcraft?


There are quite a few free fantasy, orcs and elves MMOs out there at this point-- I've played Dungeon Runners (which is pretty similar to WoW) and Mythos, and even if games aren't free to begin with, there are also games that go free-to-play, and, as you probably know, games that don't require a monthly fee-- Guild Wars is probably the closest to WoW at this point.

But in my experience (and this is just in my experience), there really is no WoW replacement right now. There are other fun games out there, and there is probably a whole lot of great free MMO gaming around. But none of it has the ease of use, population, and just plain polish of WoW. It sounds like a commercial, I know, and if you really don't want to commit to something, then definitely give all the other free MMOs a try-- you could probably play for years on the free content available nowadays, and even longer if you jumped into the free trials of pay-to-play MMOs. But in my opinion, WoW is still the king of fantasy MMOs, and so nothing you substitute for it will be as good.

Dear Ask Massively:

Why does every MMO require an assload of running?


I once heard someone say his father called his MMO "that running game," because the character he was playing was always running somewhere. It's true-- even though running and travel time in MMOs used to be even worse, it's still pretty bad. The reason you spend hours playing at a time is because, as least when you first start out, it takes you hours to get anywhere in the first place. Fortunately, flight paths and fast travel help, and there is an encouraging trend in gaming nowadays to let you instantly travel back to anywhere you've already been. But it's true-- MMOs require, to put it bluntly, "an assload" of running.

Why? It's all about vastness. Developers don't just want their worlds to look (and be, in most cases) vast-- they want them to feel it, too. And so they make you run 30 miles from the starting point to the next town, and then run back, and then run 60 miles to the next town. Ever cheated in a game and gotten a really powerful item you weren't supposed to get? That's how it would feel if you got to instantly travel wherever you wanted in an MMO world. In fact, that's kind of how all the instanced missions in the upcoming PotBS feel-- there's no connection between where you are and where you're going, and you can't get a good sense of where things are in the world.

Now, of course this is all a design decision-- surely there are programmers out there that can show off vastness in a game without making you run around for it (and EVE's "warp to 0m" system is both a good and bad example of this-- it's good because you can hit a button and just go, but it's also bad because they could definitely transport you to that base instantly if they wanted, but instead, they make you watch the vastness of space go by). But at this point, that's the genre-- you make players run around a lot to both learn the world and make it as big as possible.

Hey Massively,

Just recently, your RSS feeds for all of Massively stopped sending the full story.
I can understand the 'read more after the bump' for the main webpages, but to cut off the RSS feeds seems a bad idea.
I work behind a firewall for example that lets me get RSS feeds just fine, but will not let me go to the website to read a full story, and having it cut off the RSS feed means I can't read your stories.
Any idea how to fix this, or maybe you could point me towards a feed that contains the full story?


Hey Misao. Unfortunately, we've heard about this from a few people-- the fact at this point is that the full feeds were a mistake. Our network honchos, Weblogs, Inc., don't allow full RSS feeds for any of their sites, and one of the main reasons for that is that we are one of the main targets of RSS scraping-- people will take the free feed of our content, and place it on a public site where they'll also charge advertising, in essence, making money off of our content. All the bloggers on Massively and all the Weblogs, Inc sites are paid for their work, and so when RSS scrapers sell ads next to our content without paying for it, they're making money off of our work. There are other reasons Weblogs, Inc. chooses not to release full free RSS feeds, but that's the main one.

However, there is good news. Our feed will only cut off the content at the jump, which means that for a large majority of our articles, you get the full content anyway (not this one, unfortunately-- hopefully you're reading this at home. And any RSS reader worth its salt (I'd recommend the Newsgator readers-- FeedDemon for Windows and NetNewsWire for Mac) will allow you save your favorite articles, sync them to another PC, and then read them at home, where you're not behind a firewall. Sorry for the inconvenience, but our RSS feed is above-the-jump only for the foreseeable future.

And that's it for Ask Massively this week. Remember, to ask a question here (any question at all about any MMOs, the genre at large, or something on this site specifically), all you have to do is put it in the comments below, or drop us a note via our tipline. Thanks for reading, and have a good week.

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