The technical term depends on how much of a fan you are and whether or not you want to be a jerk. The only term that has been officially used with any regularity is "combiner," which describes nicely what's going on but isn't terribly evocative. "Gestalt" is always a popular fan term, but it's also clearly the sort of term that bored 20-year-old psych student comes up with when talking about a cartoon online instead of doing homework.
You know what? Let's just say we're a supergroup, like Asia. That's easier.
So while you're queueing up "Heat of the Moment" and cursing me for getting that song stuck in your head for the next four days, it's time for Ask Massively, which this week features questions about the staff's opinions on games past, present, and future. Fun for everyone! And of course, you can send in your question to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can just leave it in the comment field.
Valadmar asked: What single gameplay feature would each Massively staff member like to see in forthcoming or current MMOs that isn't being catered for by existing games?
Beau Hindman: Real death mechanics. Wurm Online does it well, but I would like to see death become a process if it does happen. Wounds stick around, need to be healed. I would love to see scars and wounds that would actually change your character. Possibly even wounds that effects stats when using certain limbs.
Brianna Royce: True player-driven economies. Few mainstream MMOs dare to have them and instead substitute NPC vendors and no-trade loot drops where crafting and markets ought to be... boo!
Eliot Lefebvre: Roleplaying support. I've harped on it before, but the fact that player housing is now a rarity rather than the default strikes me as intensely depressing. But it's not just housing, it's player customization and supportive tools and a focused community. Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 both give me hope in this regard.
Justin Olivetti: Better or different user-created content that allows us to showcase and share our creativity.
Jef Reahard: I can't narrow down a single most important missing gameplay feature, but I'd have to say non-combat gameplay in general. Sure the Wurm Onlines and Minecrafts of the world scratch that itch, but it's an itch that cries out for an AAA budget. Crafting, housing, entertainer, storytelling, and roleplay options are all grossly underrepresented in favor of the ol' ultra-violence.
Patrick Mackey: I'd like to see dynamic combat. I don't mean like DC Universe Online, either; I'd like to see a Jedi Academy or Power Stone-like combat system, where positioning and movement are really important, where moment-to-moment combat really means moment-to-moment. Too many games have 1.5-second skill activation times or skills that have no response other than taking the hit and dealing with the damage afterward. I want to see timing differences of ~0.2 seconds matter in an MMO.
Shawn Schuster: I've always wanted to see the cloning system in Tabula Rasa used again in a future MMO. Basically, it allowed you to use clone tokens at major milestones for your character. So before you made a new class advancement (at levels 15 and 30), you'd clone your character, making a second character. That way, your original character could progress through the next tier of classes while the clone could pursue the other side of that tier's branch of classes. It allowed you to have several alts without running through the first 15 or 30 levels all over again.
Jeromai asked: What non-traditional/not-so-popular MMO do Massively staffers feel is their favorite, and why?
Beau: This is very hard, because I have seen how popular even some of the non-popular ones are. A tie between Vanguard, Ryzom and Zentia. And Wurm Online. Oh yeh and Alganon. SEE?!
Bree: This question is rough, because "traditional" and "popular" and "populated" are so subjective. Can I pick Star Wars Galaxies? SWG is one of the most palatable sandbox PWs around, and it's every hater's favorite thing to hate. It's still the best game to live in.
Eliot: Is there really any question with me? I adore Final Fantasy XIV, despite the game's flaws. It's not unique in its pseudo-sandbox nature, but it has the potential to take everything that I found so evocative about Final Fantasy XI to the next level, and for all its faults there are some flashes of real brilliance in there. Classes, races, and locations all blend while retaining unique flavors, and that matters to me. It's a very unique game that isn't for everyone, but I've never once regretted buying it. Your mileage may vary.
Justin: Definitely Fallen Earth -- you have one of the best crafting systems in an MMO that I've ever experienced combined with the apocalypse, mutated chickens, awesome weapons and an absolutely huge world to explore.
Jef: If you can consider anything with Star Wars in the title unpopular, I'd have to go with SWG. It's also non-traditional I guess, given how the industry has been steered in the opposite direction of almost everything SWG set out to accomplish.
Patrick: World of Tanks. I feel like World of Tanks puts back the G in MMOG. Too many online games require no actual effort, no skill or execution to play, often even in PvP. In WoT, I feel like even if my opponents are tougher than I am, I can outplay them -- either strategically or with skill.
Shawn: Definitely Wurm Online. I would even consider it my favorite MMO at this point.
Valadmar asked again: We all know how important our first MMO was -- how it was the foundation for our opinions of all the MMOs that followed -- what was the very first MMO that each Massively staffer played? Do you still play it sometimes? If not, what made you quit?
Beau: Ultima Online was my first one, in '99. I just played it a month ago, with the same character. What made me quit? More games. Always more games.
Bree: Ultima Online was my first. I do still wander back every year or so to see how it's going, but the original reason I left was that all my friends had moved on to the shiny but joyless grind that was EverQuest.
Eliot: Final Fantasy XI. I still play, albeit without the regularity I used to have. I've taken several breaks from it over the years, but they've never been with bitterness, and I've always come back.
Justin: Anarchy Online: Shadowlands. I liked it well enough and the fact it was online was a huge thrill at the time, but I never plugged into the community or really figured out the game. I returned to it during my Game Archaeologist series (right here) and found it a solid, if somewhat aging, title.
Jef: Technically Ultima Online was my first, but I only played it for a summer break before going back to school and forgetting about MMOs until Anarchy Online grabbed me in 2001. I haven't been back to UO; the 3-D revolution spoiled it for me. I did check out AO again for a few months in 2007 or 2008; I forget which. I quit because I couldn't get SWG out of my system (and still can't).
Patrick: EQ, around '00 or '01. I never play it anymore; I gave away my account when I quit. I was in the USMC at the time, and I had a lot of time commitment in terms of saving the world and stuff. It was hard to keep a raid schedule and a work schedule and even worse post-9/11. Something had to give, and the USMC isn't fond of giving.
Shawn: I had some things going on in my life that didn't allow me to experience the first five or so years of MMOs, so my first was Guild Wars. I still go back and play that game often.
Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!