Category Archives: Multiplayer Games

Gender Perception in MMOs

“I myself merely play female characters sometimes, and many times when I’m on those characters, people assume that I am a woman in real life,” he wrote. I blinked. It was a casual comment in an article that was about something else entirely, but it sparked a thought. You see, Larry Everett’s experience is very different from my own.

“That’s awesome!” I found myself thinking. “Seriously, you are playing a female character and you’re actually addressed as a woman?! People should realize how special this is.” I also thought (because I’m an imperfect human being, like everyone else): “Ha! Now you know what it feels like!”

All my characters are female. However, when typing to strangers in MMOs, 9 out of 10 times they (incorrectly) assume I am male. Now I’m not having sleepless nights over this (which is a good thing, or I’d have developed insomnia), but it does get old pretty fast. I asked other female gamers I know and they reported the same phenomenon.

Player avatars hanging out in the central hub in Star Wars: the Old Republic (SWTOR)

It is striking that Everett’s experience and mine are so different  – especially considering we play the same MMO, Star Wars: the Old Republic (SWTOR). It could be that this is partly due to our perception: we are more likely to remember instances in which other players guessed it wrong than in which they guessed it right. But perhaps there’s more to this.

Game scientists have conducted research on the perception of gender in virtual environments. Although there is no data on how often we address others with a certain gender, there is evidence that certain factors affect how we perceive others.

What we do affects who we appear to be

It is possible that gender perception varies depending on our choice of activities in-game. A study from 2010 shows that game genre influences our perception of other players’ gender (Eden et al. 2010). We are more likely to perceive players as male when they’re playing games that are competitive and aggressive (such as shooters) – traditionally masculine associated traits. On the other hand, players are more likely assumed to be female when playing games that are social in nature. It is interesting to note that no relationship between skill level and perceived gender was found.

Although this research focused on gamers playing different game genres, you could extrapolate that the same goes for in-game activities. Perhaps players are more likely to expect male players when taking part in competitive and more aggressive environments such as PvP MMOs and raiding endgames, while they are more likely to expect female players when taking part in social activities, such as role-play. If this is true, it would explain why I’m often assumed to be male – I spend the majority of my time in-game playing endgame.

What we look like affects who we appear to be

Another study found that the degree of masculinity or femininity of an avatar significantly influences perceptions of avatars (Nowak & Rauh 2005). While this study deals with web avatars rather than avatars within multiplayer games, I don’t think it’s unlikely that the same goes for the latter. Judging by his article, Larry Everett spends a lot of time role-playing on his characters (some of which are female) on the fleet, the central player hub in SWTOR. This could explain why he does get addressed as female from time to time. After all, when role-playing, people will be more attentive to character appearances than when you are rushing through hordes of mobs with a pug. In instances where little to no attention to character looks is given, we might be inclined to go with the male default instead.

A boarding party during a mission in Star Trek: Online

The nature of gameplay may affect assumed player gender. Screenshot from Star Trek Online (STO)

What we expect affects who we appear to be

Historically, gaming has been the realm of men. Indeed, gaming as a pastime is still associated with boys, violence and masculinity (Bryce & Rutter 2002). You could argue that the tendency to address all players as male is a relic of past times, wherein the vast majority of gamers were male. However, speaking from personal experience, most players seem aware that the MMO populace is more varied nowadays. (A heads up: recent research by Quantic Foundry (2017) found that 16-36% of MMO players are female – varying on the MMO’s setting.) When ten years ago I logged into an MMO and strangers found out I was a woman playing endgame, they were flabbergasted. Now it’s more like “Oh, okay.”

So if most MMO players are aware that both genders play, why do we tend to address strangers with “he”? My guess is that it has to do with the persisting perception of the male gender as the default in modern western culture. Let me explain with an example outside of the realm of gaming.

A couple of years ago, I took part in a university course. At one point, a classmate of mine took the stage and gave a fifteen minute presentation about a paper we had read. During, she constantly referred to the author as “he”. This was awkward, because I knew the author was, in fact, female. She had an foreign first name that I did not recognize, so I had googled her the evening before to check. When the student was done, our teacher asked how she would feel if she had published an article in a well known magazine and a reviewer wouldn’t even have looked up who she was.

The incident showed me how disrespectful it is to regard everyone as male, because it radiates disinterest. I realized it could just as well have been me making that mistake if I would not have taken the extra time to research the evening before. For me, this moment was an eye opener and I decided to never assume a gender when addressing someone I don’t know.

Female avatar in Guild Wars 2

Character appearances may influence the assumed gender of players. Screenshot from Guild Wars 2 (GW2).

Referring to strangers in MMOs

What about MMOs, though, where you can’t simply google a player’s gender? The only way to find out (apart from voice chat) would be asking. And asking can be intrusive because not everyone likes sharing their gender for various reasons (Fortim & De Moura Grando 2013).

Ever since the awkward class room experience, I’ve been more aware of prejudices regarding gender perception. Sometimes I notice I assume someone to have a certain gender because of the way they talk or behave in game. But then I remember my decision. When I write a blog post in reaction to somebody else’s and their blog doesn’t state their gender, I refer to them as “they”. And the same goes for MMOs, really. Chances are that when I use “they” when talking about someone else, somebody will correct me and then I know how to address them. And if they don’t and want to keep their gender private, that’s fine, too.

Some dislike the use of “they”. For them (har har), going by the character’s gender is a great alternative. It will mean that they’ll get it wrong from time to time, but hey, it might prompt gamers think about gender perception in MMOs for a bit.

Do other players generally assume you’re male or female in MMOs? How do you address strangers online yourself?

 

References

Bryce, J. and J. Rutter, 2002: Killing Like a Girl: Gendered Gaming and Girl Gamers’ Visibility, in F. Mäyrä (ed.): Proceedings of Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference, 243-255.

Eden, A., E. Malony and N. D. Bowman, 2010: Gender Attribution in Online Video Games, in: Journal of Media Psychology 22, 114-1124.

Fortim, I. and C. de Moura Grando, 2013: Attention whore! Perception of female players who identify themselves as women in the communities of MMOs. Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) conference publication.

Williams, D., M. Consalvo, S. Caplan and N. Yee, 2009: Looking for Gender: Gender Roles and Behaviors Among Online Gamers, in: Journal of Communication 59, 700–725.

Yee, N., 2017: Beyond 50/50: Breaking Down The Percentage of Female Gamers by Genre, on Quantic Foundry website (https://quanticfoundry.com/2017/01/19/female-gamers-by-genre on 3 November 2017).


Longevity of Gaming

Longevity is a funny thing. It’s feels great to dive into a game and really get your money’s worth. MMORPGs are certainly at the top of the heap when it comes to replayability and longevity. Not only is there a wealth of content for one character, but unique classes/races/factions can play quite differently. Is it a good thing though?

In an absolute sense, sure. Value is great. Who hates value? Not me. But there is a point of diminishing returns, and MMO games typically hit them faster than other genres. The loop of “level up, get new items, see new place” gets old quick, especially for genre vets. Now that’s not exclusive to MMOs. Other multiplayer genres like FPS, MOBAs, and RTS also offer a high quantity of repetitious gameplay for one price (excluding loot boxes I suppose). I’d argue only MOBAs really break that mold because different combinations of characters really throw each game on their head.

elder scrolls online new content

Clockwork City, new content from Elder Scrolls Online

Of course, unlike these other games, MMORPGs are in a situation where they can provide a lot of different types of content to alleviate potential boredom. One day you raid, the next you quest, then you craft, and finally you wander into some worldwide PvP. There’s still the benefit of familiarity but with less repetition. This adds longevity and provides players with a warm, comfy feeling to dive into after a long day.

The flip side of longevity is radically unique content that’s one and done. A good example is Pony Island. I promise it’s not what you think, and it’s a wholly interesting experience for 2 hours. The game is fantastic, but I can’t imagine playing it much longer than I did. There’s no longevity, and now I’m back seeking another unique experience. Unless I’m in the specific mood to compete, cooperate, or socialize, unique single player games provide pound for pound more fun than their multiplayer counterparts.  The problem is that after beating Pony Island, now I have to spend valuable time determining what to play next. My backlog scrolls down pretty far, but a lot of those titles turn out to be poor matches. And that’s where the worth lies in a familiar game.

If I decide to boot up Elder Scrolls Online, Neverwinter, or League of Legends I know more or less what I’m getting into. When I boot up a new single player game, I’m just not sure. I might know that I’m playing an FPS like Dishonored or a tactical RPG like XCOM, but I don’t know the intricacies. I have to learn – which can be a lot of fun. But it can also be tiring, frustrating, and ultimately not worth my time if I don’t enjoy it.

I think longevity in games comes down to risk vs. reward. MMOs, other multiplayer games, and some single player games (like Civilization) carry with them a certain sense of contentment. I won’t expect anything too crazy, but I’m also not going to be let down. The risk is low and the reward is moderate. When I load up a brand new game, I might find something that will blow my mind for 5 to 40+ hours (Witcher 3 comes to mind). Then I’m done. Sure, I might replay The Witcher 3 but then I’m just falling into that comfortable routine. Repeating anything will never match your first experience. Games are no different.

So how do you balance the allure of comfortable longevity vs. the desire to experience something new and fresh?

 


8 Good MMORPGs to Play With Friends

I’ve slowly come to an important realization. The time in my life where I could truly dedicate myself to a single MMORPG has past. It sounds like a bummer for someone bearing MMO Bro as a moniker, but it’s not so bad. My only complaint is the difficulty it presents when it comes to socialization. Spending time to build up friendships in a game I might not play in a few months is tough. Fortunately, many a gaming friendship has persisted throughout the years (both of the online and offline variety). For that reason I’ve been looking more into good MMORPGs to play with friends. These are either games I can start off soloing and bring friends in later or join an existing friend who’s really enjoying themselves.

Just like players who prefer solo vs. group content, what makes an MMORPG good to play with friends is highly subjective. The key aspects to me are some form of level scaling or horizontal progression, a focus on group content, alt encouragement, and bonuses to playing with a consistent group. The below list is roughly ranked from 8th to 1st, but I’ve avoided a true “top 8” this time around because of the inherent subjectivity.

Neverwinter

neverwinter good mmorpg with friends screenshot

Neverwinter is a Dungeons and Dragons inspired MMORPG. Thus, it unsurprisingly includes dungeons and dungeon offshoots called skirmishes as a primary method of advancement. These can be tackled by groups of five players and make for a fairly balanced challenge. Players can also create their own dungeons using the Foundry system so tabletop players may also enjoy making and sharing their scenarios with friends.

There’s also some form of downleveling for friends who want to play Neverwinter with their lower level pals. Unfortunately it’s only available for dungeons and not the shorter skirmishes, with the exception of a Call to Arms event. The Calls to Arms skirmishes allow players of practically any level to play together in a special event. They just don’t tend to run for very long. The level scaling isn’t super well balanced either as higher level players maintain their improved skill ranks. This can lead to the lower level player feeling somewhat useless. Nonetheless, the wealth of group oriented content in Neverwinter with some option for players of disparate levels earns Neverwinter a spot on this list.

Play Neverwinter for free here.

Elvenar

Elvenar playing with friends

The vast majority of city builders revolve around killing other players. These leads to two issues – paying to actually win and elimination of friends from the world. Elimination doesn’t really make for a very good MMORPG to play with friends. Elvenar solves these issues for players who want something casual to play from their browser but still enjoy the interaction with others. Elvenar is a purely PvE city builder with a multitude of options to assist other players.

Neighborly Help is one such concept that will reward you with gold for donating resources to another player. Of course that means others are also encouraged to donate to you. Moving outside of the city building and into combat, Elvenar recently added Fellowship Adventures. Players can assist each other in an asynchronous adventure where each player conquers challenges individually. The game’s turn based combat strikes a good balance between browser simplicity and tactical challenge. It is sadly missing any sort of real time cooperative element. Hopefully one day the developers will tack that on too. While Elvenar is far from perfect, it’s a good option for friends seeking a lower time commitment browser MMO.

Play Elvenar for free here.

Final Fantasy XIV

final fantasy xiv good to play with friends image

There’s no doubt that Final Fantasy XIV is a great game. However, most of that is geared towards story or playing with a consistent group of equally dedicated players. There is downscaling for dungeons, but I don’t find this as rewarding as other MMOs. The real reason that I think Final Fantasy XIV is a good MMORPG to play with friends is because of the game’s job system.

This is one MMO game that has basically eliminated the need for alts because players can change jobs (i.e. classes) at the drop of a hat. There are base job level requirements for many advanced jobs, which encourages players to “start over” with a lower level job. There’s a little more to it than that, but the system is easy to explain. More experienced players can dedicate a lower level job to playing with particular people. Eventually those jobs levels will manifest in usage either through subclassing or flexibility for higher level content.

Buy Final Fantasy XIV here.

Rift

rift good mmorig play with friends image

Rift has always struck an interesting balance between group and solo play. A lot of content revolves around the game’s titular rifts that require players to work together to close. They’re fun but can deliver a samey experience after a while. That community system has evolved over the years into instant adventures which provides level scaled quests for up to twenty players. It’s a very appealing feature when typical MMORPG group caps of 4 to 5 just don’t cut it.

In addition, Rift offers a mentoring and sidekick system. When enabled, this will scale grouped players up or down based on the zone’s content and the party members’ levels. Some will really appreciate that Rift allows for level scaling for those who want it without necessarily forcing it upon everyone. The ability to play with a large group of friends without relying on endgame raids is also fairly unique among MMORPGs.

Play Rift for free here.

Warframe

warframe mmorpg with friends image

What makes Warframe so good to play with friends is very similar to Final Fantasy XIV’s appeal. There is no level scaling in this game, but there is a plethora of warframes which play differently in a manner similar to MOBA characters like in League of Legends. Each warframe has it’s own level, but there are a number of factors that separate this approach from simple alt characters.

The biggest of these factors is the existence of mastery ranks. These are metalevels gained from ranking up companions, weapons, and warframes. Higher mastery ranks grant access to more tools, increases starting mod capacity, and raises many daily limits. It’s also a bit easier to increase mastery ranks with fresh warframes and weapons as they level up faster. Speaking of weapons, those also level up in this game, which increases mod capacity. If all of that isn’t enough, players can also reset a warframe’s rank to change polarities (which alters which types of mods can be slotted). These features can make Warframe feel like a grindy MMO at times, but on the bright side there’s a lot of flexibility for friends seeking an MMORPG to play with one another.

Play Warframe for free here.

Guild Wars 2

guild wars 2 mmorpg to play with friends image

Guild Wars 2 launched with a mission not to waste people’s time with grinding for items and levels. Though that’s arguably a core concept of the genre, Guild Wars 2 has largely succeeded in eschewing the common progression treadmill. Levels come fast and, thanks to zone downscaling, allows players to explore low level areas without sacrificing some semblance of challenge. But leveling up together in zones is just part of what Guild Wars 2 offers friend circles.

World vs World (WvW) is an ongoing massive struggle between three servers that resets weekly. Servers of players will rank up or down according to the results. Upon entering WvW all players are bolstered to max level. Small groups can often be effective in contributing to the war, but there’s plenty of reason for your small group to join a larger one. Now, GW2 is not only a very good MMORPG to play with friends who like PvE or PvP combat but is also great for those who like exploration. The lands of Tyria are littered with jumping puzzles that can be fun to solve together. There’s a little something for everyone to experience, and it can all be done as part of a team.

Play Guild Wars 2 for free here.

Eve Online

eve online good mmorpg to play with friends image

For the group of friends that would rather kill another group than kill AI controlled critters, I present Eve Online. This an MMO that’s great for friends because of the skill system and combat structure. It takes almost no time for a player to effectively pilot a baseline frigate. While these light ships can’t compare to cruisers or capital ships in terms of sheer firepower, they have their own roles in battle. They’re also speedy and make for great pirate ships or guerilla tactical strikes. A band of friends can easily have a blast as a group of frigates roaming the vastness of space.

Another core feature of Eve Online is that the skills train in real time. More casual players won’t fear the sensation of getting lapped by their more hardcore companions. For groups that can’t always play on the same schedule, it alleviates a lot of anxiety that can come with getting into a new MMO. Eve Online is all about an endgame that starts immediately and everyone is welcome to join in. The PvE features aren’t really the most exciting though so be prepared to fight against others sooner or later.

Play Eve Online for free here.

Elder Scrolls Online

elder scrolls online good for friends image

Late last year, Elder Scrolls Online made a huge change that’s completely altered the accessibility of the game. One Tamriel went all in on level scaling by adjusting lower level players up to the game’s soft level cap. This level scaling was in effect all the time and meant that with the exception of a few higher level dungeons, anyone could go anywhere at any time. In my opinion, the game shifted into a much stronger Elder Scrolls feel that rewarded exploration. At the same time, it opened the doors for friends with different interests and different time commitments to play with one another.

There is a ton of content to discover in Elder Scrolls Online: solo dungeons called delves, public dungeons, skyshard hunting, questing, instanced dungeons, three faction PvP, and more. And all of it can be played alongside one’s buddies and/or significant other. I’ve been able to attract a lot of people to ESO, and that’s largely due to One Tamriel. In my mind, Elder Scrolls Online is not only good, but is the best MMORPG to play with friends right now. But like I said before, it’s all subjective.

Buy Elder Scrolls Online here.

Friend Up!

Some of the above titles also offer refer a friend programs. If you find a new MMORPG that strikes your fancy, do a little research. You might find that inviting friends can bring rewards for both the inviter and invitee. And of course if you feel like there’s a game missing from the list, add it in the comments. We are talking about MMORPGs that are best played with friends after all. The more the merrier!

 


10 MMO Games to Play at Work

Being in front of a computer all day at work can really suck when you like relaxing in front of a computer at home. There is one advantage of such an office job though (depending on your company’s restrictions). Computers connect to the internet via browsers which have games accessible from anywhere. So that means you don’t have to fear “all work and no play” turning you into a dull boy who kills people. Basically, playing games at work prevents murder so tell that to you’re boss if you get caught.

Also, by reading this article and/or playing games at work, you may not hold MMOBro liable for any jobs that you are fired from. While we may think games at work are great, more conventional (i.e. lame) bosses may feel differently.

When writing up blurbs I highlighted what I felt were the most important aspects of a good browser MMO. For one, it needs to be easy to pick up and put back down. Requiring more than 5 minutes to get anything done just doesn’t work for work. Automated progression (either through an included bot or a real time component) is almost essential to fulfilling the sense of advancement. Bonus points if it looks like work in some manner. Finally, some browser MMOs tend to overly sexualize their females. That’s not good for work so I’ll make note of that for any games where I’m aware of it being an issue. But remember – no blaming MMOBro for anything bad. If you’re worried, play it at home first!

Throne: Kingdoms at War

Throne is a new strategy MMO that doesn’t add a lot of new features to the genre, but really improves on what’s already out there. It’s perfect for work because all of the activities in the game resolve automatically but not instantly. That means that while there are strategic considerations like troop composition (look at the variety in the screenshot), players never get bogged down by the minutiae. Additionally, Throne really emphasizes friendly play much more than Plarium’s past titles. While it’s possible to pillage others, there’s a big penalty for attacking someone much weaker. It’s actually more lucrative to raid neutral towns. This creates a cycle where everyone, not just paid players, get to gradually to improve their empire.

There is, of course, a big PvP element but it is completely optional. Players can join orders to take part in guild combat. This lets those who are interested, engage in and coordinate massive assaults on other players. There are still occasional griefers outside of guild play but it just makes more sense not to piss off the neighbors, you know? I will say that players interested in guild wars will probably want to shell out at least some cash to rebuild faster after a war.

Like other strategy MMOs, the core gameplay of “build structures to build units to get resources to build bigger structures” is here in full force. The differences in Throne are the customization options, the fantastic visuals/UI, and bigger rewards for neutral towns.

Click Here to Play Throne: Kingdoms at War

Forge of Empires

What stuck out to me about Forge of Empires is just how much of a Browser Civilization game this felt like. It’s certainly not as deep as Sid Meier’s PC offerings, but there’s war, technology, diplomacy, and city growth. Since buildings take a long time to construct and technology research can expand well past an 8-hour workday, it’s a breeze to “set it and forget it”. However, there are also enemies who will want to take your land. It’s worth logging back on occasionally to see what’s happening. Interacting with friends also gives bonuses, but that’s a quick few minutes in between real work.

There’s two main downsides to Forge of Empires. One, it’s pretty much a necessity to pay money to progress past a certain point. Two, it looks pretty good for a browser game so it would be obvious that you’re not working. You might be able to get away with saying you’re just looking at screenshots though. It’s worth a try, right? Either way, Forge of Empires is as close to a Civ game at work as one will find.

Click Here to Play Forge of Empires

Naruto Online

There are a lot of unofficial anime MMOs. I’m not sure about their legality, but they stick around. They’re also generally poor quality. So when Naruto, an anime I actually care about, went MMO I was skeptical. However, Naruto Online is actually an officially licensed game with a fairly good combat system and tons of Naruto cast members. Combat takes place on a tactical grid reminiscent of Heroes of Might and Magic. Like many other browser MMORPGs, auto combat can tackle the heavy grinding. This leaves only the real interesting combat for you to tend to.

The game is easily accessible for gamers of all skill level. It also includes a fairly long story to read through via questing. While that’s not great for work, it does add more to the game while remaining unnecessary if it’s an issue. Anime fans, Naruto ones especially, should really give this a whirl.

Click Here to Play Naruto Online

SAO’s Legend

SAO’s Legend is a skinning of Sword Art Online brought to life in MMO browser form. It’s unofficial so it may not last very long. It’s also not super original, but it does provide an unintentionally great feature – “Engrish”. You see, the translations in this game are bad enough that I’d watch Patton Oswalt run a Mystery Science Theater 3K on it. The game is easy to advance in as well because it can be played completely AFK.

For a game that’s easy to play, provides a good laugh, and involves some ties to Sword Art Online, SAO’s Legend is worth a go. There’s not a crazy amount of provocative images but it is anime so just be sure to pay attention. Let the silly times roll!

Click Here to Play SAO’s Legend

Elvenar

Elvenar differentiates itself from the slew of other city builders and strategy games on this list because of it’s focus on PvE. Cooperative elements are baked into the very essence of Elvenar and it makes for quite a different experience. Other players’ cities can be discovered which may lead to opening up trade possibilities. Players can also provide ‘neighborly help’ in the form of resources towards a building which also earns the helper some free coins.

The game is fairly easy to get into with only a handful of basic structures. These will form the backbone of your economy. This in turn leads to growing your city bit by bit as you acquire advanced resources like culture and knowledge points. Knowledge unlocks new technologies to build better units or buildings. These units are then used to explore locations, which creates decision based events. These decisions may lead to a turn based, tactical combat between your units and whatever monsters or opposing forces you discover. The tactical combat is especially impressive for a browser based MMO focused primarily on city building. However, an auto combat option exists when real life gets too busy. For a relatively stress free city builder, Elvenar is a great choice.

Click Here to Play Elvenar

Dragon Blood

For the gamer that has 20-30 minutes/day to play an MMO at work, Dragon Blood checks a lot of boxes. Now, it’s not fully automated like some other browser MMORPGs. Players actually need to put in some effort to advance. However, battles are about setup rather than tactical decision making. This makes it easy to put the brunt of the effort into one longer sitting and then play a minute here and there throughout the day. The developers make money by limiting how many dungeons/quests you can do for free in a day. This is actually great for work though as you could play for free without playing enough to get into real trouble.

The core element of Dragon Blood’s advancement is the NPC system. There are a ton of different characters to recruit, but they level up with berries instead of being used in battle like a typical RPG. That means that newer, more desirable characters can be leveled up quickly by holding onto these magical leveling berries. The translation is also pretty good, especially for a full fledged browser MMORPG. Don’t let the generic looks fool you. Dragon Blood is a solid casual MMO to play directly from your browser.

Click Here to Play to Dragon Blood

Vikings: War of Clans

In this strategy minded war game, Players take control of a clan of vikings to grow their fiefdom by taking resources from other players. Orders like building and recruiting (or even attacks) are not instantaneous. This gives players at work the chance to input moves throughout the day and do most of their progressing “offline”.

The world map is divided into six zones, which players can freely move between (though moving does have a cooldown). Inner zones hold more resources but are more greatly contested. Hence, It’s pretty easy for free and casual players to stay away from top dogs by just avoiding these highly contested zones.

Players can recruit and train heroes, which is another activity to occupy time. The only NSFW imagery encountered is with certain female heroes in the game, who can be avoided. Alliance discussions can also be pretty time consuming. That’s more of an inner zone activity too though, so if you are happy slowly growing but maybe never reaching elite status then Vikings: War of Clans is a great game to play at work.

Click Here to Play Vikings: War of Clans

League of Angels

The most appealing aspect of League of Angels is building a party of Heroes and Angels to take on more difficult challenges. In order to build the type of party you want, there’s a lot of mindless killing. Luckily, all of this can be handled via automated combat. Unfortunately, combat isn’t super deep for when you want to play manually. However, gradually building a party with powerful abilities is really satisfying. One thing to watch out for: League of Angels has a lot of scantily clad women. If you know what you’re doing you can stay safe, but play this at home first. It’s important to learn how to avoid the NSFW imagery.

Click Here to Play League of Angels

Mars Tomorrow

Mars Tomorrow is a pretty safe MMO to play at work. There’s no violence or scantily clad women to risk getting in trouble. People who like Railroad Tycoon will find Mars Tomorrow most appealing. This is a transportation simulator on a massive scale. Based on how the players optimize their routes, this will affect the growth of surrounding cities.

Actions rarely take more than 10 minutes at a time and then a several hour counter starts for those actions to resolve. This fits in perfect with work breaks without damaging overall performance. That said, true logistics fans will want to optimize future plans when not playing. Since there’s a good dose of math in that, players can pretend to be working by opening Excel. Are you working on a financial statement or Mars Tomorrow? No one will know but you! There’s also iOS and Android version so public transporters will really like it.

Click Here to Play Mars Tomorrow

Torn

The best part about playing Torn at work is that there’s no graphics. I mean it looks pretty boring from the screenshots so it’s doubtful to cause an issue. While there’s no aesthetics to speak of, don’t mistake this for a shallow game. Torn is a deep crime/real-life simulator. Players can level up in all sorts of physical, criminal, professional, and intellectual stats. The game limits play based on remaining energy and completing tasks can take as short as a few seconds. It’s a very easy game to jump in and out as energy allows.There’s not much strategy per say, but it’s great for actually developing and roleplaying a character.

There is a big social element too that can be important to join in on to reach higher standings. While that’s pretty cool, it’s a detriment to playing at work. At least if productivity really matters. If it doesn’t, you can probably just pretend you’re writing an email.

Click Here to Play Torn

 

I’ll try to keep this list updated so check back every once in a while. Hopefully you’ll find a game to play for many months before growing bored though. I know it’s not always easy to find a worthwhile MMO, especially one that can be played at work. When compared against AAA titles like World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online, these games can seem pretty underwhelming. They definitely have their place in the world though.

 


Heroes of the Storm 2.0 Isn’t that Different

If there’s one thing Blizzard seems to love, it’s revamping games. They never seem to be able to go very long without some sort of major overhaul to one of their titles. The most recent game to get this treatment is Heroes of the Storm, having recently been given a quasi-relaunch as “Heroes of the Storm 2.0.”

Opening a loot box in Heroes of the Storm

I used to be a big-time Heroes player, having been invited to the technical alpha and playing regularly up to the official launch and for some time after. However, I had started to lose interest in recent months.

2.0 seemed like a good opportunity to revisit the game, but would it reignite my love for Heroes of the Storm or drive me farther away?

What’s in the Box?

Most of the 2.0 changes focus on revamping the game’s progression and rewards systems. These changes are too complex to be declared entirely good or bad; it really depends on who you are and what you want.

2.0 is clearly taking a lot of cues from Overwatch, and while the two systems are not necessarily identical, you’ll definitely see a lot that’s familiar in Heroes if you’ve played Blizzard’s shooter.

Firstly, leveling has been redesigned. Account level is no longer its own thing but is simply the sum of your total hero levels across all characters. Whenever a hero levels up, you earn a loot box full of random cosmetic rewards, with certain level milestones offering boxes of a higher quality. And of course you can also buy boxes for real money if you so desire.

I may have argued in the past that the furor over lockbox mechanics has gotten a little out of hand, but I’m still not a particular fan of the idea, and it’s hard to celebrate when a game suddenly embraces them with open arms.

Tracer's Spectre skin in Heroes of the Storm

That said, for at least some people, this system can be seen as an improvement. Before, if you didn’t want to pay cash for cosmetics in Heroes of the Storm, you were simply out of luck. There were very few mounts or skins available for in-game currency, and they required a lot of grind to acquire.

Now, you can earn every cosmetic in the game without spending a dime. At least in theory. If you’re unwilling or unable to pay real world money, this update is bound to be a huge boon to you.

On the other hand, if you can pay, the news is much less positive. Whereas before you could get whatever skin or mount you wanted whenever you wanted (more or less — mounts tended to cycle in and out of the store, but they always came back eventually), now only a very small selection of cosmetics will be available for direct sale each week. If what you want isn’t available right now, your only choice is to gamble.

And while you can potentially get everything from loot boxes, the odds of actually getting what you want are not great. In a rather transparent attempt to keep people chasing the good stuff, Blizzard has clogged the game with reams of new items that I can’t imagine anyone really wants.

There are banners that only deploy under certain “blink and you’ll miss it” circumstances. There are announcers that are barely heard since they don’t cover map-specific call-outs. There are voice lines that are mostly just copies of the dialogue your characters are always saying anyway. There are tiny sprays no one really uses. And there’s a dizzying variety of emojis, for those who want to add a personal touch to the all-caps bile that is the chat in any MOBA.

Through various veteran reward systems, I received over fifty loot boxes when I first logged in after the update, and out of the all that, I got nothing that I actually wanted.

Purchasing a skin with shards in Heroes of the Storm

The new pyrotechnics for making a purchase are a tad… over-zealous.

Now, to be fair, there are some systems in place to limit the negative effects of RNG. As in Overwatch, if a duplicate of something you already own drops, it’s converted to a special currency (called shards in this case) that can then be used to unlock items directly, even if they’re not part of the current sales.

So while I didn’t get any drops I wanted, I did get enough shards to buy several several skins and a mount. It wasn’t everything I’d hoped to get, but it was something.

Progressing Progression

The loot boxes can be a positive or a negative depending on your perspective, but the other changes to progression skew more heavily toward the negative.

The leveling curve has been rebalanced to provide a much steadier curve. This means that higher levels are now earned much more quickly, which is a necessary change given we are now expected to keep leveling heroes indefinitely, but it also means that the lower levels go by much slower.

One of the best ways to earn gold in Heroes of the Storm has traditionally been to level as many characters as possible to level five, due to the 500 gold reward for doing so. The reward is still there, but it’s now much more of a time investment to achieve, so it feels much less worth it. This doesn’t seem like a good move for a game that derives so much of its appeal from constantly trying new characters.

Also, while high levels are earned more quickly, “quickly” is definitely a relative term here. Getting new loot boxes is going to become quite a grind after a while.

The new combined account/hero level in Heroes of the Storm

I’m also a little torn on what’s been done with master skins. Instead of being a mark of progression, they’ve now been thrown into loot boxes alongside all the other skins. Used to be if you saw someone with a master skin it meant something, especially if it was for a difficult or unusual hero like Abathur or Cho’Gall. Now it doesn’t mean anything.

That said, a hypocritical part of me is happy to be able to get master skins for characters I don’t play as much. I always loved Sonya’s master skin, but I don’t play her enough to justify the grind it would have required under the old system. Now I’ve just bought it with shards, which is simultaneously gratifying and demoralizing.

A Trying Challenge

Something else that deserves a mention is the recent Nexus Challenge 2.0 event. Like the previous Nexus Challenge, it sought to woo Overwatch players by offering rewards in both games for those who play a certain number of Heroes matches while grouped with a friend.

This event was a bit more rewarding than its predecessor, with four tiers unlocked over four weeks, each of which offered significant rewards for just five matches. However, the final three tiers all required that you play in PvP modes, whereas the previous Challenge only required versus AI games.

It’s a nice idea, but it didn’t work out so well in practice. The queues swarmed with inexperienced players, but what’s worse is that many of them weren’t interesting in learning how to play Heroes of the Storm and simply sought to throw games as quickly as possible. This was a miserable experience for veterans, and I can’t imagine it was a good introduction to the game for new players who are genuinely trying, either.

I don’t begrudge Blizzard’s desire for cross-promotion, but I have to believe they could have come up with a better system than this.

Status Quo 2.0

The Thunder-Guard Zarya skin in Heroes of the Storm

In the end, though, the bottom line is that Heroes of the Storm 2.0 isn’t as radical a change as Blizzard’s marketing department would like you to believe. When you get past all the pomp and pageantry of the new progression mechanics, the actual game isn’t much changed.

That can be good, and it can be bad. If you liked Heroes before, you’ll like it now. If you didn’t, I doubt lockboxes are going to bring you back.

I’m not really sure where I stand with the game. I’ve had a lot of fun with it in the past, and there’s still much about it I appreciate, but after so much time spent with it, I am a bit burnt out, and there are some things that have been driving me away.

All of my favorite heroes have been nerfed into uselessness or revamped into something unrecognizable. I swear the game was more stable back in alpha; now that it’s launched, I ought to be able to trust that my characters will maintain some kind of singular identity.

I’m also not thrilled with the direction the meta-game has been taking. Right now it seems dominated by increasing power creep, especially around burst damage. Heroes used to be a more laid-back take on the MOBA, but increasingly it seems to be the sort of game where a split second’s mistake will spell total doom.

I may find my passion reignites at some future date, but I don’t think the 2.0 update will be the cause.


Eight Reasons Your PvP Team Lost

PvP is a pillar of online gaming, whether it’s an MMO battleground, a MOBA, a shooter, or spreading gossip in Ever, Jane. The unfortunate reality of PvP, though, is that for every winner, there must be a loser. Sooner or later you find yourself not the pwner, but the pwnee.

Sometimes your best efforts just aren't good enough

As your virtual corpse decays on the battlefield, trampled by enemy mounts and teabagged by the opposing team, you find yourself asking, “Why? Why, o God, must I suffer so?”

I am not God, but perhaps I can offer some answers to that question.

The Lone Wolf

“There’s no ‘I’ in team” is a piece of advice we’re constantly bombarded with from childhood on, and it’s a good one. It deserves to be as ubiquitous as it is.

And yet, despite both its omnipresence and its fundamental logic, the concept of team above the individual is still somehow lost on a shockingly high number of gamers.

Thus, you see people charging eagerly into five-on-one confrontations (presumably whilst screaming “LEEEEEROOOY JENKINS” at their monitor) or simply camping the bottom lane while everyone else is contesting the map objective because SERIOUSLY RAYNOR DID NO ONE EVER TELL YOU THIS IS A *(@!ING TEAM GAME.

Ahem.

The Accidental Death Match

Team death match is a very popular PvP mode in many online games. So popular, in fact, that lots of people like to turn all the other modes into team death match, too!

Carrying the flag in a World of Warcraft battleground

This is why, while you do the boring but necessary work of guarding the flag, your teammates have charged off to some random field in the middle of nowhere to battle back and forth with enemy players for no other reason than the sheer joy of meaningless irrelevant slaughter.

They may cost you the match and your faith in humanity, but at least they’re enjoying themselves. And in the end, isn’t that the real victory?

No, no it isn’t.

The Learning Experience

Everyone has to start somewhere. You just hope it isn’t your team.

Alone of all the failures gracing this list, the newcomers are the only ones deserving any sympathy. They don’t mean to be bad; they just don’t know any better. They’re new to the game, and they’re trying their best, even as they make countless mistakes that seem glaringly obvious to your experienced eyes.

You can’t blame them too harshly, even if they sink your team like the iceberg did the Titanic. Try to take comfort in the fact that the loss will probably be a learning experience for them, and they’ll do better next time.

One would hope.

The Critic

A less than successful battle in DOTA 2

Everyone’s a critic, or so they say, and never is this more true than in online gaming.

If you play any online PvP — or really any kind of online gaming — you’ll find no shortage of people willing and eager to critique any and all aspects of your play, completely unsolicited.

If you’re lucky it’s only a critique, and their advice is actually useful. This can still be a bit annoying if you didn’t ask for it, but it’s preferable to the alternative, which is an endless string of all-caps profanity delivered by someone who boasts half your kills and twice your deaths.

The Saboteur

As we learned from Michael Caine, some men just want to watch the world burn.

As annoying as all the other mistakes mentioned within the hallowed paragraphs of this article can be, they’re mostly honest mistakes. But sometimes there is more at work, a dark malignancy at the heart of your team, a malice lurking in the heart of a teammate that is turned against his or her own.

Maybe something was said that caused offense. Maybe something went wrong early and they’ve decided a quick death is preferable to trying for the epic comeback. Maybe they don’t have any particular reason. Maybe they don’t need one. Maybe they can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with.

Whatever the case may be, they’ve decided to do everything in their power to make you lose. They’ll feed the enemy kills. They’ll sit in your base and refuse to fight. Heaven help you if the game allows friendly fire. One way or another, they’re going down, and they’re going to drag you and the rest of your team with them.

A PvP battle in WildStar

The Full Murphy

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will.”

Sometimes it is not one single factor that brings an end to your dreams of glorious victory, but a confluence of them. A perfect storm or chain reaction of horror and nincompoopery.

Someone charged in too soon and got themselves killed right away, leaving your team at a disadvantage as they contest an objective. The healer goes down and spends the rest of the match throwing out verbal abuse instead of heals. Someone else decides to just start feeding the enemy free kills to “get it over with.” And all the while Raynor is still camping the bottom lane and doing basically nothing because SERIOUSLY WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE RAYNORS.

There’s no coming back from a mess like this. Just pray it’s over quickly and your suffering can come to an end.

The Unthinkable

If you look across your team and cannot find fault with their play, despite your best efforts, and still find yourself losing, it may be time to consider the unthinkable: Perhaps you are the noob.

It is a terrifying thought. The mind rebels from the mere possibility. But think back and analyze your own behavior.

When the enemy team captured the lumber mill, where were you? Were you putting on a valiant if hopeless defense of the mill the likes of which would make King Leonidas himself weep manly tears? Or were you dueling the enemy team’s rogue approximately fifty miles away from anywhere relevant?

A match in the online PvP game For Honor

When your team’s healer was dog-piled and killed, were you doing everything in your power to defend them, or were you furiously typing a thesis on their rank incompetence without contributing anything yourself?

Look in the mirror. See yourself.

The Impossible

If all other possibilities are exhausted, maybe… just maybe… hear me out… you simply lost fair and square to a superior team. I mean, anything’s possible, right?

Nah, that can’t be it.