Massively Single Player, Part 1

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I played WoW solo.

All I wanted to do in that game was explore the vast and beutiful world.
Its just a shame to survive in some of those places I have to grind levels...

I don't know. Most of those revolve around loot, and I'm not much of a loot person.

I'd like to share my solo MMO experience in another game, City of Heroes:
CoH has a strong thread of story-driven missions going for it, most of which do not require teams until you're tasked with taking down a super-villain. When you're in a team, you tend to be doing other people's missions, and at a pace that makes it hard to get into the story or focus on the task of the mission besides "nuke everything in sight and keep the team alive." It's relaxing to solo in that game, and because you can get into and follow the story arcs the immersion factor goes up. It didn't deter me from teaming with friends and strangers, but every now and then it was fun to log in and kill a half-hour doing a few missions.

I fall under this category of liking to play alone in an MMO. There are quite a few reasons for it, some of which have all ready been mentioned by Shamus in his article and by other posters in this forum, and some things that haven't. I played WoW for a few months, but most of my MMO experience comes from playing Final Fantasy 11. When it comes down to brass taxes these were the three things that got me to the point of quiting.

1. Farmers- These guys all ways infuriated me. It's one thing to fight over a mob because you want the item to use for your character, but when you have these people who just spend all this time just constantly farming to sell the items in highly annoying. Also haveing mobs that only spawn once a day was ridiculous.

2. The Party System- This was a major problem I had with FF11. Once you made it past level 10 all your leveling was pretty well forced in party, that is unless you felt like spending a week or two grinding low level mobs. Once you made it to level 40-50+ you some times had to spend hours just looking for a party that you might be able to grind out a level in an hour or two. That is unless the party broke up during the hour it took you to finally meet up at the designated area.

3. "Noob Haters"- These people are what really turn me off to MMOs. These people that have been playing for so long and feel the need to call people noobs just because they don't know something about the game, or because that are new players. Many of these people easily forget that they them selves were new players them selves. Also they like slinging it around with out thinking that maybe they are calling someone a noob who has been playing a game linger then they have.

Exe. I played FF11 fro almost 4 years. I went almost 2 years without bothering to try out crafting because I didn't see it worth wild until I was high enough level to go and get crystals instead of buying them. When I started crafting I would ask around about what materials were needed to make items and one time I had a player who had only been playing for two months call me a noob and told me something on the lines that I should go back to the "noob area".

Now a I realize that much like in real life there are all ways going to be jackasses in MMOs, but it seems to me that the normal to jackass player ratio in MM0s is much more unbalanced then in real life. I may be wrong but I think this has to do with the anonymity of online gaming.

well, i dont know - i tend to play for content over who i'm doing it (or not doing it) with. If im playing an MMO, i want to do what ever will expose me to most content. And so i'll do solo quests if i think i can do them and complete them.. but i also love groups which dont spend hours accomplishing nothing and being annoying. I wont do either if i dont feel like im succeeding in something.

That's why the Elder Scrolls is so perfect, you get exactly that to a deeper extent

Shamus Young:

dogstile:
I got to the bit about hunters being a casual class and was just like O_o

I mean, i took out /warlocks/ with that thing, and warlocks are stupidly easy to play as in pvp.

I never said that Hunters SUCKED, or that they were over powered, or underpowered, and I can already see this thread is going to be nine miles of thin-skinned hunter hater / apologists. Sigh. Shoulda seen that coming. Honestly. This is why we can't have nice things.

It's simply possible to play a hunter while you're barely paying attention and they're the ultimate solo class. Yes, you can get more out of them if you learn to play them well, but they're forgiving in that you can get by with just the basics.

I meant it in the sense that you could really put some effort into that thing and get results, and that it required much more skill than most people realised.

But still, i agree that you can play while barely paying attention. Sorry for the misunderstanding there :P

EDIT: Having read through the thread, i see very little hate for that comment. You sure you're not just assuming?

ha i play some mmo's by myself and liek the last point.
i do usually have a guild that i chat to for advice or just for fun.
we join up for a group dungeon run and then go off to our solo grinds.

I'm sort of in this camp. When I play MMOs I'm always a little nervous about jumping into the pool. I guess I'm casual when it comes to MMOs- I've only started dabbling in them this past year and I'm usualy somewhat intimidated by all the special lingo people throw out- worried that if I join a group I'd embarass myself by breaking some of those laws of the land I dont know, ("You're not a tank, what are you doing, get back") So I go solo for a very long time in the begining. It's only when the solo experience gets taxing and feels like a grind that I dip my toe tentatively into the multiplayer side of things and try some grouping.

I will say that if there's no groups out there I usually get fed up- this happened to me with DDO. I was to the point where I'd kind of hit a wall and and progress was impossible without some very boring grinding, but nobody wanted to group with me (I have no gamer friends so I dont have a built in group).

Another reason people like soloing in MMOs is because they might like the fact that the economy is real in a way no single player game can simulate.

So anyway- I like the idea of soloing not being punished. However, I think that it's inherently very hard to ballance both. I mean, if players are well rounded enough to not need help, why should they group? Just for the social aspect I suppose.

The moment I read this the first game that popper into my head was Dofus, mainly because when I played it, I was almost always with a group. I'd still play it now but the free-to-play area is far too small, and I like my money where it is.

AgentNein:
I'd like to put forth something that may have been overlooked, and that's the people (admittedly like me) who enjoy the concept of playing multiplayer in theory, but have next to no comfort with the idea of initiating the multiplayer with other players. So I get this MMO, and end up hacking away at junk by my lonesome.

I'm an introvert at heart and find social interaction draining to a certain extent. Don't get me wrong, I'm not your stereotypical gamer shut-in, I go to parties and enjoy the company of other folks. It just drains me, and every once in awhile I feel the need to....well, shut myself in my room and read a book and avoid interaction completely.

Anywho, that's how I inevitably play my MMOs. Because playing with other people stresses me the hell out. It's fun, but it's stressful, and I eventually feel the need to recharge by just doing my own thing. Who knows, maybe I'm not alone?

I'm in your camp as well, although I attribute it to the fact that I deal with troublesome people and social situations at work all day, and when I get home, I don't want to have to deal with the same thing. Thus, I find I group up only occasionally, because I spent all day dealing with the stress of people management, and I don't want to experience that in my game and relaxation time at night. That doesn't mean I want to play a single player game either, necessarily....I like the auction house (possible only in an MMO), the guild chat (sometimes), and those fun occasional "random moments" that only happen when you bump into other players in the MMO and save their ass and vice versa. That's cool stuff, and its part of the multiplayer process.

One thing I don't like is an MMO that "breaks the suspension" by making some areas arbitrarily harder just to force grouping...why is ogre X tougher than all these other ogres? Because the designer decided they need areas specifically aimed at multiplayer? Whatever. I like Guild Wars with its bots, and DDO has certainly made an effort (sort of) with its solo options. WoW has done the best balancing overall, though, as the process of leveling is very rich, with thousands of quests before ever hitting 80....I fail to see the advantage of rushing to the end game, honestly, with so much cool stuff to do.

Now, with the Random Dungeons feature in patch 3.3 I've been doing more grouping in the last two weeks than I have in the last two years....the game now finds players for me, drawn from other servers, who are not going to diss me because I want to do a DPS arms warrior and not tank. I love it! I've found this process less stressful now, as grouping is now something that just "gets done" and very quickly....no hour long waits to organize a party, no being told to respec tank or whatever because that's what they need (even though I don't enjoy tanking) and no more power-tripping controllers telling everyone else what to do (usually); everyone gets organized by the game itself, almost without more than a few minutes wait, and BAM we're having fun in a dungeon. It's dramatically improved the overall grouping part of the game for me, I gotta say.

I can't stand waiting on other people do stuff, I don't like having to dick around for 4 hours a night to find the week link in a 25man raid for why we can't down a boss. Many times I find myself with my head on the desk wishing I could walk in by myself, kill the bosses, see the story occuring there, say "Wow, that was awesome; can't wait for what comes next", and go to bed.

I've fooled myself into thinking that raiding is fun, but I'm sorry given the choice between running Ulduar or Icecrown with a 10/25 man group, and being told "Hey here's all this content made soloable for those of you who want the story"; I'm taking the latter option.

Why do I still do it? Because I'm a lore junkie, and I'll be damned if all that stands between me and the end of a story arc is 9 and/or 24 other douche-bags that have trouble pulling their heads out of their ass.

But then again...

Let's look at the case of Final Fantasy XI. Here we have a game where you are ALWAYS in a group (except for the hours you spend farming). Quests don't give experience, so it's ALWAYS about the grind. Nothing drops good gear except for rare spawns and certain bosses. Even then most of your gear will be obtained through the auction house or self crafting.

On that note: In WoW we find that endgame raids discriminate against people who are not geared enough at lvl 80 to handle the raid. In FFXI we get sets of equipment that become nessesary to equip as soon as you reach the level it can be equipped. You really do need to expand your moghouse and inventory because you'll need it to store all the extra sets of gear you will be needing to simply level up. Some groups won't even let you join unless you have the right FOOD. Eventually you find that you are gonna kill the same enemies over and over for pretty much the entire game. Crabs, pugils, goblins and mandies. What did these crabs ever do to you that you need to gang up on them and kill them over and over? If you wanna maximize experience they have to be several levels higher than you, so you are already at a disadvantage. There is no user friendly level on the mob, just a feeling you get about it's relative strength compared to yours. There is good story stuff in FFXI, and by capping your level in all the storyline places you really get the feeling that square hates you and wants you to die and lose a level. Don't get me wrong, I love the game, but I thank my lucky stars that I have WoW to go to when I want to level from 1-20 in a single day.

I actually enjoy playing WoW as a duo. Leveling with a partner is MUCH more enjoyable than doing it all by yourself. My college roommate and I have duo'ed about 5 toons together to lvl 80. So long as you are willing to put that character down when the other guy is not playing him, it's perfectly fine.

My guess is that this is exactly the demographic BioWare is looking to capture with The Old Republic. From everything I've seen about the game, it seems to be shooting for being the kind of MMO where even playing single player you can get really interesting content.

gim73:

I actually enjoy playing WoW as a duo. Leveling with a partner is MUCH more enjoyable than doing it all by yourself. My college roommate and I have duo'ed about 5 toons together to lvl 80. So long as you are willing to put that character down when the other guy is not playing him, it's perfectly fine.

Heh--if you play the game as a duo, is that 'massively multiplayer' or just 'co-op'?

pimppeter2:
That's why the Elder Scrolls is so perfect, you get exactly that to a deeper extent

It's a topic for another thread, but, to me there hasn't been a real Elder Scrolls sequel since Daggerfall. Morrowind and Oblivion were completely different, microsized, watered-down versions of DF. But I still hold some hope that a genuine Elder Scrolls 3 will come along.

I can think of a couple of reason for Solo-play in an MMORPG.

1) Wanting to play in a persistent world that's periodically updated. Single-player is fine but sooner or later you're going to run out of things to do. The same could be said for an MMO but an MMO has an incentive to provide new content every so often.

2) The specific Genre only exists as an MMO. No one is making Space flight sims or Space capital ship sims anymore, or at least very rarely. Your options are EVE online, SWG: JTL, Jumpgate, and STO when it comes out. Superhero RPG game? If you don't own a console your best bet is City of Heroes/Champions Online.

3) I'm doing something specific that team play would steamroll right over. In City of Heroes, one of the reasons to solo was to play the story arcs. Granted some storyarcs required a team or certain classes weren't geared for solo-play. The pure "force multiplier" classes (Healers, Buffers, DeBuffers) could have a hard time soloing something that a tank or dps class could handle on their own.

4) Courtesy. This really only extens to people I knew in guilds/SGs, sometimes they didn't want to team for one reason or another. I respect there choice to do so and I'm not going to piss and moan that they don't want to team. The best I do is ask and maybe offer an interesting quest.

5) Running a PUG is a lot of work. "If you can't get a group, make one!" is my approach to when I want to team, but after a while it gets exhausting. Trying to make sure the team is full/balanced and everyone is gaming adequately. I don't ask much from PUGs, sometimes all I need from them is to be a giant meatshield distraction anything else on top of that is gravy.

AgentNein:
I'd like to put forth something that may have been overlooked, and that's the people (admittedly like me) who enjoy the concept of playing multiplayer in theory, but have next to no comfort with the idea of initiating the multiplayer with other players. So I get this MMO, and end up hacking away at junk by my lonesome.

I'm an introvert at heart and find social interaction draining to a certain extent. Don't get me wrong, I'm not your stereotypical gamer shut-in, I go to parties and enjoy the company of other folks. It just drains me, and every once in awhile I feel the need to....well, shut myself in my room and read a book and avoid interaction completely.

Anywho, that's how I inevitably play my MMOs. Because playing with other people stresses me the hell out. It's fun, but it's stressful, and I eventually feel the need to recharge by just doing my own thing. Who knows, maybe I'm not alone?

No, you are not alone :)

Yahtzee once described Eve as a space-themed chat room. That right there offers a lot of insight into the issue. You don't have to be grouped up and playing together to experience the massiveness of it.

The "game" of an MMO is gearing yourself up, or generally empowering yourself however the game has you do it. If it requires others to help you down the boss then so be it. But if it doesn't, then recall the saying: to do anything right you have to do it yourself.

People who are clingy and want to be your friend in an MMO feels a little wierd anyway.

With only a few exceptions, I always play a game because I think that it will be fun. It's why I tried the WoW free trial in the first place and why once in a blue moon I think about coming back to it. I'm not really interested in joining one of the guilds, but I do want to play the game.

Although the presence of other players is good too. I feel like I'm in an actual world, surrounded by real people. I can ask others for help (and in turn help others). Occasionally, really cool stuff happens, such as a level 70 character plowing into Goldshire and single-handedly taking on every single person in that place (I was a level 10 wizard. I threw every spell I had at him, and he just healed it all back up).

What I'm trying to say is that in an MMORPG, this solo player only cares for the G part.

Shamus Young:
Developers and group-minded players were confused by this. Here was a portion of the player base that ignored the central conceit of the game (multiplayer) and at the same time accepted less reward for their efforts.

I believe you mean "Concept"?

Anywho, having been playing WoW for the past 4 years of its 5-year history, I find that I mostly agree with everything you said. One portion of the demographic I don't think you mentioned though was the more casual players whom don't necessarily prefer to play alone, but they don't have the time to devote themselves to the multiplayer sections of the game, especially not the lengthy PvE sections that can sometimes take hours to complete.

Take WoW, for example. The average raid in that game can take upto 3 hours to finish (give or take depending on the group's skill-level), and even that's after you're group has mastered the bosses so they can clear them all in a single shot. It can take all week to clear a dungeon if you're still learning it. Some people just don't have that much time for a single span of time, or they prefer not to play a game for that long.

So it's a group of people who enjoy playing the game, and they've love to get into some multiplayer aspects of the game, but they find that doing such makes the game into a much bigger time-sink than they're able, or willing, to allow for. So they content themselves with what they can get done on their own because fun is still fun, even if they're missing-out on something else in the game they'd enjoy.

I stopped playing MMOs this year. This was after a period of time when I found myself playing alone more and more first in WoW last year, then in LotRO in spring.

I have played online for 10 years, but I won't be bothered anymore. People weren't always nice, or particularily good players, but there always used to be a remote chance of having fun with other players. I could still meet lovely people on a random chance maybe three or four years ago.

I can't remember the last time I met an ok fellow player online. CBA hanging around with torturous griefers and trolls, hysterical roleplayers, angry self-antagonized nerd children, ppls woh cant b bthrd 2 spl, sexual predators, and all the other dysfunctional members of the "online community". Are these people even gamers? Do they love games? Or are they just online to dump their problems or project their miseries on other people.

This year instead of going for MMO subscriptions, I've enjoyed The Path, Tales of Monkey Island and Torchlight. Good times.

dogstile:
I got to the bit about hunters being a casual class and was just like O_o

I mean, i took out /warlocks/ with that thing, and warlocks are stupidly easy to play as in pvp.

That's funny considering they are the worst pvp class in the game.

Irridium:
I played WoW solo.

All I wanted to do in that game was explore the vast and beutiful world.
Its just a shame to survive in some of those places I have to grind levels...

If you have to grind levels in WoW, You're doing it wrong.

Because I usually play as either the healer or the tank. And I freaking hate PUGs. So whenever I wasn't in a guild group in Aion, I played my Templar ALONE. Because in 9 out of 10 cases someone stupid would rush, overaggroing 3 groups of elite monsters, or some DPS idiot would just spam the "nuke everything" button and think I have 10 taunt skills to draw the attention of mobs, or the healer would go AFK without telling anyone.

Also, I love playing Guild Wars because while the heroes can't use some of the skills players get, or can't understand how some comboes work, they are still superior to 90% of the playerbase.

targren:
Any of you obscure game lovers know of games playable start-to-end by 2 people (or 2 people + AI like Guild Wars)? Free or subscription is fine (though free is always better, of course)

LotRo, Conan and Warhammer are free to play but need subs to complete.

Of the three at the moment, I'd pick LotRo, almost purely because of Monster Mode and it's so damn pretty.

Conan is nice but it's very linear. Same with Warhammer.

City of Heroes/Villains is always lovely though. A Blaster/Scrapper:Tank or Mastermind/Stalker team should kick ass while still being a scream to play.

If you're into retro, a new EQ update is coming out soon; and EQ2, despite its flaws is still the most pretty, evocative, well-made world ever.

I played as hunter in WoW and tried to do anything alone. Well, Hunter is probably the easiest class of them all, i'm just standing in front of a trap and pressing 1,2,3,4,5,6 to shoot at my enemies while my pet bites them.
When i had 10 quests that i can't do alone, i was just standing in front of that quest and waiting somebody to kill monsters, making it easier for me.
If somebody came up to me and asked if i need help, i wanted to say ''Fuck off!'', but instead i just say ''..ok..''.
I really don't want to babysit weaker players, i don't need any help from stronger players, i'm not going to team up with other people to kill hordes/alliance guys and i surely don't want a guild so i could share my items.
I want an MMORPG game where there is auctions, raids, parties, guilds and stuff like that, but you could go around alone, sell your stuff in auction and become a god that can go inside an enemy base and kill all the weak players.

Great article. Rarely is the solo aspect addressed. I thought the "casual" gamer reference was right on the money. Instead of sinking a bunch of time into a group, I prefer to lone wolf it. Taking missions in stride and mainly picking up a clan to just chat with.

LOL, Didn't know they had the term Pickup Group. When you get tired of solo missions, or feel masochistic, pick-up a group.. I like it. LOL.

Fallen Earth has made a great strides in supporting the casual, lone-wolf, self-entertaining MMO player. Oh, and can't forget EVE.

Honestly?
I just don't like playing games with people that much, because I'm used to Xbox live where your fun quotient equals how much you make the other guy suffer.

I'm skeptical that PC players would be any better, if my experienc in Face Of Mankind is anything to go by.

People are assholes. From experience forcing players to group up for progress was never a great idea to begin with. Considering the surge in popularity for games such as World of Warcraft and Runescape, with the latter putting an emphasis on solo play, it's no surprise people love playing at their own pace instead of being dragged into playing with others that may make their playing experience worse.

It's the move from actual multiplayer to solo mmo's that puts me off WoW and Champions online etc. I want team based action.

I played wow for a while and it really just seemed like a very large but very mediocre RPG rather than a living world, inhabited by players.

Anyone I met just seemed to be running around the place constantly, whizzing past my screen.

This was also true of Champions online; just loads of randoms; and sometimes shared quests which played exactly the same cept there was a leaderboard at the end...

Then I found Eve Online. A real MMO. The Space that players live in is maintained, developed, and secured by players. The markets and economy is player driven. The wars and conflicts are player driven. And to survive in the game you must play with others.

Well I never did instances unless I was bored out of my mind while leveling. It's much faster to just solo quest and all that, and I guarantee no one I know wants to level a new class the exact time I do.

Now if you're level capped and want to play solo, then yes you're a bit weird. Technically you've beaten the game at that point if all you do is solo.

AgentNein:
-snip-

(love the name by the way :D )

I am also one of you. But I just get tired if I have to be social at all. Which makes it a hassle to join a group. I am also afraid of holding someone back, or irritating them, thus playing in groups is often very stressing. I cannot stay back and use my own tactics, I cannot stop to read what a new item does, I cannot do things on my own time and terms. Because the others in the group usually push on forward. I am also not that good in writing fast in the chatbox of these games, so I tend to not talk much. I can write fast, but not correct. And I aim to write correctly :P

The only MMO I really play is Champions Online. I have played in a group now and then, when I have to, but it has never been more enjoyable than playing alone. If I could I would most likely play that game all by myself all the way through. Why? As you said, the allure of a massive world where others can see your character and what you do. If Champions Online was just Champions, without the online part, I would still buy it because of the crazy amounts of customization, but it is an added "perk" that you can show off the characters you make.

I am a Singleplayer by heart, and the only reason I put up with a multiplayer portion is if it is insanely fun (TF2) or if there are no other options (Champions Online) or if I have a brother or a friend playing the MP portion of the game (Brutal Legend)

While it's true that some MMOGs have an extremely high ratio of jerkasses to good people, there are occasions when being logged into one is the best thing you can do.

Jiraiya72:

dogstile:
I got to the bit about hunters being a casual class and was just like O_o

I mean, i took out /warlocks/ with that thing, and warlocks are stupidly easy to play as in pvp.

That's funny considering they are the worst pvp class in the game.

Irridium:
I played WoW solo.

All I wanted to do in that game was explore the vast and beutiful world.
Its just a shame to survive in some of those places I have to grind levels...

If you have to grind levels in WoW, You're doing it wrong.

It isn't actually so hard to play as a hunter in PVP. Survival hunters are grossly underestimated.

Tairneanach:
To me, endgame raids are a terrible experience that I don't want to repeat ever again. By the time I reach the levelcap in any game, people know whatever the endgame in that particular game is by heart and just rush on. Yeah, in the right guild you'll get an explanation, but nobody takes time anymore. I like to enjoy the scenery, the fights, the quests, not the rush to the final boss and the bickering over loot afterwards.

That sounds a lot like me. Then to go a step farther than that, once I've figured out that stuff and explored it on my own, if I go along with other people who haven't done it yet, I'll intentionally pretend to not know what's going on so they can figure it out for themselves, too. Even if I know it's going to get us all killed, I'll go along with whatever ridiculous strategy they want to try, just because it's fun to see what people come up with.

Unfortunately the people who actually want to do that seem to be turning into a smaller and smaller fraction of the gaming population over time. Now you have people running around with add-ons/plug-ins that pretty much let you put the game on autopilot and never have to read the quest text or solve anything on your own, which makes me kind of sad. Their choice, though, I guess.

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