Massively Single Player, Part 2

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Massively Single Player, Part 2

Maybe the reason people want to play MMOGs by themselves is that playing with others is a royal pain.

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Shamus Young:
Sometimes you'll meet hardcore experts who never bother explaining what's going on or who will get impatient with you for not also being an expert.

Surprisingly true for me. Pretty much summed up how I felt when I returned to WoW after almost a years hiatus. The first group I got I was taking my warrior (needless to say I tanked) into Hellfire Ramparts or something in that first BC zone. I was stuck with 3 dks and a priest. I have to say, the group worked out perfectly, the second group which was a far more diverse ended up sucking.

Now people might wonder why I bring this up, but what I'd like to suggest is perhaps another fix to something that Shamus mentions in this article. That problem, of course, being the deserted low level zones. Someone might see this as a problem, but what WoW did differently with death knights is that ~4 years after the release of the game, people can start at level 55, skipping early zones that would be abandoned, and you're actually decently geared coming out of the new starting zone. That group with three death knights and a priest wasn't overly skilled, but they had the gear to compensate for it. The second group was geared in...crap? Perhaps as an MMO ages, giving people the option to start at high levels with decent gear will help to alleviate the barriers of group play vs solo play.

This brings up the question of what if people still want to do the old zones? See how the story has evolved without them? Therein Blizzard, I believe, provides another step in the right direction. They have made leveling significantly easier since BC/WoTLK, speeding up the process by allowing access to mounts earlier, reducing the time it takes to level, and promoting new players trying the game through leveling incentives (increased experience gains, recruit a friend, etc). In addition, revamping the old zones in cataclysm, and heroic versions of old dungeons is sure to encourage revisiting of long forgotten story lines.

MMOs boast their constantly changing environments and perpetual worlds all the time, so why not reinforce those values by making the stories evolve over time as well? That's the beauty of an MMO, just because you muck it up the first time, doesn't mean you can't just go back in and change things, try something different.

This is the main reason I could never get into MMORPGs. I'd spend 30 minutes getting all of the plans together and then real life would occur and I would need to leave.

I would come back a day or two later and all of my teammates would have the quest finished plus extras, and of course no one would bother with me because I am just one person. This cycled repeats itself until everyone is 20 levels highers than you and you are still trying to scrape together a group for the stuff you started.

Also Warcraft worked better as a Real Time Strategy game.

I think Guild Wars does this well usually as you always have a group with you whether it is AI henchmen and your personal Heroes or human people which I found was great especially when as mentioned old campaigns in new areas and sometimes end game areas are dead.

This hold especially true for the Jungle in Prophicies well although I praised them a minute ago the introdution of Heroed made this problem worse but solved in it a sense a bit parodoxical I know.

I'm confident that the upcoming APB will work around the problems present in conventional MMO games, personally.

It apparently has a system where by a group of low level players will be matched up against 1-2 high-level players in a PvP instance, such as a high-level police officer being summoned to deal with 4-6 low level criminals.

This article basically stated exactly why I solo MMO's

Finding people who are willing to co-operate is really freaking hard. On any online space, be it an MMO, Xbox Live, PSN, or Steam.

The only sure way to get people to work together is to bring a friend or two along, but then you have the risk of them not even liking the game, and if they stay on and you co-op with them normally, if they get off for a few weeks, but I keep playing, I'll be way ahead of them, and the missions I need to get done would be to hard for him and his missions would be to easy and boring.

I'm just really hoping Bioware makes solo play a viable option in The Old Republic.

HATE FORCED GROUP QUESTS. Warhammer handled this best, where anyone who ran into the area became a part of the quest, and parties just kind of sprang up fluidly.

I disagree on the point that pvp should be more rewarding than co-op play. Generally, PvP comes down to cheap tricks, stunlock and ability denial. Compared to co-op play which requires special tactics, group composition, communication and learning each fight, the reward should be much less.

But some forced group quests are pretty nice. Generally, a long quest line that leads up to a dungeon is a good idea. I find myself hoarding all of these until I am able to do them at the same time. It's really annoying when you have a group quest in a dungeon and are unable to do it in a single run though...

MMOGs have always had two elements about them that I always consider when playing them: Game-play and social interaction. The game-play to me is generally a "Diablo"-like game--albeit slow but still fun. The latter is how a player's unique experience with people is in that game. The game-play is easy for the Developer to control, though the social aspect is beyond their capabilities of controlling.

That said, the only MMOG I ever enjoyed (and I also agree with Glademaster that having AI henchmen in MMOGs may vastly improve the game) would be "Guild Wars". I had a friend get me interested in the game and I did play with her for a bit, but I found the game really fun solo and lots of fun.

Now I'm curious in why developers don't offer NPC henchman for players to hire for group quests? They are optional to acquire, so friends can still jump in but would be great for anyone just interested in solo play (like me).

I just had a brilliant idea: MMORPG's should have match making services! Similar to dating sites like eHarmony or whatever, you create a profile of yourself with your gaming style preferences and your characters classes & levels, and the in-game service matches you up with like minded people to play with. Newbie looking for fellow newbie's, RP'er looking for others that role play, Power gamer that wants to rush through getting the best loot, etc. If you play any game long enough you can usually find an appropriate guild for yourself, but it can take a long time and is especially hard when you're starting off.

I play Guild Wars and I can tell you that you can do all the campaigns using heroes and henchmen , even on Hard Mode if you're good at making builds .
If you want to go to high end areas, yes , you will need to find a team, but why bother with PUGs? That's what guilds are for , right? Especially PvE guilds which are abundent.

For the most part I don't like PUGs. I would rather group with guildies that you know and you know how they work. Too many times I have gotten into PUGs with a tank that can't tank, or a healer that can't heal and it sucks.

But then there are times that you get into a PUG with people that are amazing! The whole group just clicks and everything is smooth.

Last time that happened to me was a couple days ago in Aion. I joined a PUG running Fire Temple (lvl 35ish dungeon) and everything went smooth. After the first run thru a couple people had to leave which left us with 1 tank, 1 healer, and 2 melee DPSers. This is a 6 man instance but we took it on with 4 and no CC. It was amazing! The fights were challenging and very fast paced, everyone had to be on their toes but we did it. We even had a couple of 2 mob + boss pulls and didn't miss a beat.

Those are the experiences that keep me coming back to MMOs.

Hiring henchmen for various group roles would solve the old "why aren't there more tanks on this server?" problem. You can make them expensive so it is preferable to find a group but not mandatory.

Otherwise Warhammers solution to arranging parties and wargroups is the best LFG system I've seen in an MMO. MMOs should just copy that and we'll have a lot less of this kind of discussion.

In Champions, if an open world boss cannot be solo'd you get credit for it's kill whether you are in the party that tags it or not. So if you find a quest mob you can't solo you wait a couple minutes for others to show up.

Guess I'm just saying, I agree with your point, but MMOs have done me worse, and making it too soloable reduces opportunities to meet people and socialize.

silasbufu:
I play Guild Wars and I can tell you that you can do all the campaigns using heroes and henchmen , even on Hard Mode if you're good at making builds .
If you want to go to high end areas, yes , you will need to find a team, but why bother with PUGs? That's what guilds are for , right? Especially PvE guilds which are abundent.

Amen to that. I remember playing through the original campaign on my necromancer, and discovering you could indeed do the entire Ring of Fire section with only henchmen - something my guildmates didn't believe I'd actually pulled off, heh. The addition of heroes though has made the game so much more fun for those of us going through it by our lonesome.

This is exactly the kind of thing I just commented on in Part 1. It takes a lot of time to get a half-decent group together -- I'd say 20 minutes is underestimating it. Finding people who are the right level and want to do the quest, filtering out the idiots who won't listen and end up getting everybody killed, and replacing the 3 people who leave 10 minutes into the quest (why did you look for a group if you have to leave in 15 minutes?!) quickly adds up to a long time spent just trying to get the game started.

The fact that this becomes more difficult at low levels when popularity starts to drop is part of it, but I think the real problem is how broken most of these games are. I've put it that ambiguously because I think it's broken in many ways:

1. There are no repercussions for being an idiot. Sure, I won't let you in my group again, but with 1000 other people on the server, I'll probably never see you again. I also won't have any luck petitioning a GM to ban your ass or get back the item you ninja'd. The bad apples stay in the bunch, meaning that every attempt to make a group is going to require a lot of time picking out the spoiled ones.

2. It takes too long. As you said, it can easily be 20 minutes to get it all together. To make matters worse, you usually can't just pause the game and come back later, so any kind of interruption can make the entire session a waste. You didn't finish the quest, you didn't get the good loot, and you'll have to start from the beginning tomorrow. I hope you can book 4 hours off to try again.

3. Sometimes, you just don't want to. When you have an hour, you could go wrap up a couple of quests, but you certainly don't have time to make a group and run an instance. But the game insists that you do so: all of the low-hanging fruit is gone and now you have to trudge your way through the epic group quest. If you could just come back to it later, it would be fine, but as Shamus said, the XP and loot will be worthless soon. Yet, you're probably not powerful enough to move on to the later levels, either. You're stuck doing this quest, but you don't have time for it. This is where a lot of people get stuck and end up dropping the game entirely.

What it comes down to is that not everybody wants to be massively multiplayer all the time. But they still enjoy the game and everything else that comes with it. So they play it solo. The pretentious MMO developers will say, "Why are you playing an MMO if you want to play solo; go find something else to do," and they will quickly see their user base shrink and die. The enterprising MMO developers will say, "You want to play solo? Sure, here's 50 other things you can do by yourself. We wouldn't want to see you go," and they successfully maintain their deathgrip on hundreds of thousands of people.

Don't tell the gamers what they should be playing; give them what they want to play.

The main reason that I'm prone to the occasional bout of single player MMO'ing is that I want to play a game at my own pace without having to be burdened with responsibilities to other people. I remember one game in particular I wanted some help getting through a few lower level quests, so I joined a guild in hopes of meeting a few similarly low leveled dudes to help out. Upon joining I'm bombarded with a list of rules explaining how I had better fucking be prepared to dedicate to this game lest my humanity be stripped from me. I'd like to be able to get the same kind of interface and gameplay from an MMO without similarly having to dedicate myself entirely to it. The entire concept of having to "dedicate" myself to a game as thoroughly as some people are expected to within the framework of an MMO is completely asinine.

Fun, how dare people playing games have fun.
Yeah single playering in MMOs is nice. Playing it with other people has its ups and downs. Its more fun if they are people I already know and like from somewhere else. If there just random strangers you get luck of the draw as to whether there ass hats or nice people. Some of the best questing in MMOs I have done has been with one other person who just happened to be doing the quests. You team up talk for a while do some quests and never see each other again.

Edit: As the person above me said the nice thing about playing on your own is you can take time to enjoy the scenery and read the quest text. When I'm in a group I just try to get that out of the way to do the content with them.

My favorite MMO is still Bioware's Neverwinter Nights on community role-playing servers. I get to grind out a level by myself or with a group when I feel like it, role-play with others without feeling like I'm wasting their precious XP time, and simply chat with those whom I've connected with on a more personal level. There's a simple, established etiquette that is present across almost all NWN role-play servers that is lacking in commercial MMO servers, I feel.

Forced grouping just further solidifies my belief that most MMORPGs have absolutely no desire to be actual RPGs and that the devs are just incompetent assholes. The whole point of taking a RPG online is to go out there and forge your own story. To be DIFFERENT from everyone else. Even in the great fantasy books there are stories of important characters that still tend to be loners. Hell, even Frodo said fuck this group shit and wanted to go to Mordor alone. If it wasn't for Sam refusing to be left behind, Frodo would have solo'd the whole mess. If you want your character to be a bit of a lonewolf, then why shouldn't you be encouraged to choose that path?

funny this is coming up. i was actually REALLY into lotro until i started finding myself stuck because i had to have a group to continue.

so i ditched my subscription.

Shamus Young:

Maybe the reason people want to play MMOGs by themselves is that playing with others is a royal pain.

To put it bluntly, this. Anyone whose been in PvP knows this to be true. PvE isn't as bad, but is still up there with its idiot Zone Pullers, Self-Healers, Ninja Looters and "MY QUEST FIRST! : CYA!" muppets.

Occasionally, you'll get a wonderful PUG (Pick Up Group) but have you EVER found one in L4D?

Of course playing with others is pain. I had a group in Aion two days ago, my Chanter (healing/support/dps hybrid) as the designated melee DPS and mantra support, other Chanter (I love dual-chanter groups) designated healer and support mantra, Gladiator tank/dps, Spiritmaster support tank/DPS and Sorcerer as a DPS/CC, so everyone in the group of 5 deals damage.

...After about 40 minutes, the Chanter leaves. Okay, no worries, I was higher level anyway. We can do it.

...30 seconds before killing the last boss from the quest, the gladiator leaves with words "Sorry guys, g2g, bb". Seriously, we were like WTF. In 3 people it was impossible to do it. I was hoping that I would get aggro and heal myself while the SM and Sorc damaged and CC'ed the enemy. Guess what, we aggroed another monster... God.

Never again. I'm back to my solo Spiritmaster.

Just an added note on LOTRO as it was mentioned in the article.

Turbine, the devs of LOTRO, have taken huge steps in the recent past to ensure that things like this happen a lot less than they used to. There are now very few quests in the early game that require grouping at all, and those that do have relaxed requirements. Things like dropping the suggested team size to 3 from 6 and balancing difficulty so a well geared and knowledgeable solo player has a real chance at completion are now common. They are also in the process of revamping the Epic (aka Main Storyline) quest line such that it can be played by a solo player or a group of variable size. On top of all that is the Skirmish system that many of the newer Epic quests use, which is automatically built to scale with teams of 1, 3, 6 or 12 players.

The issue brought up in the article does definitely exist, and I absolutely hate being railroaded into a group quest like this too, but it's a bit of a misnomer to single out LOTRO as being particularly noteworthy as an offender.

Forced grouping is what made Dungeons & Dragons Online ultimately fail. It was one of the worst design decisions I've ever seen on an MMO.

I absolutely agree with you, Shamus. I think many game designers forget that the purpose of a game is to HAVE FUN.

Leslee

Other players: Your greatest ally and biggest hinderance.

This newspost and thread ignores a couple of things.

Just letting players do whatever they want is not a sure fire recipe for fun.

Sometimes it's not about you, the solo-er. Sometimes the game designers intend for a experience to be collaborative. And when they fail, you get the experience you describe. But that does not mean allowing everything solo as well is the solution. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that you want to team with like-leveled players. Take away that and it's easier to find a good team.

lesterley:
Forced grouping is what made Dungeons & Dragons Online ultimately fail.

No, no, no. There were FAR worse things than that that made it fail. ;)

I agree with StriderShinryu though, LotRo is actually quite fun for soloing; but D&D online suffers so much in that the classes were meant to compliment each other. Like Team Fortress, you've no hope of playing the game only as one class.

WoW Shammies, CoV Masterminds, EQ Bards/Beastlords are all soloing machines; but swap to a Healer class in most games and your chance of soloing anything other than grey undead is zippo.

Capo Taco:
This newspost and thread ignores a couple of things.

Just letting players do whatever they want is not a sure fire recipe for fun.

Sometimes it's not about you, the solo-er. Sometimes the game designers intend for a experience to be collaborative. And when they fail, you get the experience you describe. But that does not mean allowing everything solo as well is the solution. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that you want to team with like-leveled players. Take away that and it's easier to find a good team.

Actually a better situation is to make it entirely optional, as between the two if you want to do the quests with a party then your free to do so but you shouldn't be forced into grouping as a lot of people do like to play alone for whatever reason

Capo Taco:
But that does not mean allowing everything solo as well is the solution.

Why not?

Demon's Souls has some solutions to the Massively Single Player problem.
You always see other people playing as ghosts in their own world, leaving you hints you can rate, leaving bloodstains so you can see how they died, you can summon them in seconds to co-op at the same point in the game, you can be invaded or invade other players games for PVP.
All Demon's Souls needs is to be on the PC and have IRC chat build-in, guild system, and the point of putting it on PC is so you can have a keyboard and a way of adding expansions like WoW.

Anyway, I'll be checking your future posts and reviewing some of your old ones, I like your stuff.

WoW is built around "Group first, solo second" idea. I don't like grouping most of the time, hard to find players who arn't constantly criticising that you don't play a min/max build, that you don't raid for the best gear possible, you know, jerks. Wow doesn't take in to consideration that some people have a life in the outside world, with commitments you have to keep. Maybe Blizz hopes that their player base are like those people who have a computer setup the size of a small house and are able to multi-task 12 accounts simultaneously and forego any real life.

I like WoW, I do, but it just isn't a casual friendly game.

A problem I see with MMOs, and esp. WoW, is that Blizzard does not differ between casual players and stupid players.
It's nice to have some comfort features, but along the development since about Naxxramas, WoW has gone from "I'll show you how to do it" to "I'll do it for you, and wrap it in shiny". I have been at it since release to about Naxxramas and jumped in from time to time, but the average skill and competence has gone down significantly.

luckily, wow has fixed "looking for ages for an ok group" with the random dungeon tool, but the group quests at end of quest chains are still going strong.... its very annoying, and often in my case, it ends up with me trying to solo it :D

good article btw :D

There's exceptions to each critique, really.

Getting together a group is a hassle and hard to do? Not if you have a really slick LFG interface. Blizzard recently added one to WoW that is basically a one button group former, and it has had an overwhelmingly positive reception.

Developers forget that the lower levels become underpopulated over time? Some MMORPGs, such as Final Fantasy XI, integrate mechanics which encourage players to rechurn those lower levels and their lower level game is actually quite popular. City of Heroes actually has a fairly boring end game so their lower level game stays popular simply because creating a new character is more fun - incentive-based lower level rechurn. Some MMORPGs (including City of Heroes) have a mentoring system that allows lower level players to play with higher level players (and vice versa).

My point only being that the idea that going massively single player is a necessity based on the platform doesn't hold water when there are examples to the contrary.

008Zulu:
WoW is built around "Group first, solo second" idea. I don't like grouping most of the time, hard to find players who arn't constantly criticising that you don't play a min/max build, that you don't raid for the best gear possible, you know, jerks. Wow doesn't take in to consideration that some people have a life in the outside world, with commitments you have to keep. Maybe Blizz hopes that their player base are like those people who have a computer setup the size of a small house and are able to multi-task 12 accounts simultaneously and forego any real life.

I like WoW, I do, but it just isn't a casual friendly game.

You have to be kidding right? in terms of MMO's WoW is probably the most casual friendly. In comparison to what it was a long time ago. If you want epics you can just go do heroics with a random group thats off server with the new lfg tool or if you want to do it by yourself go do bg's. Alot of the player base is casual and it really doesn't require a massive time investment. As for the jerks, well their in every game and unless your speccing horribly wrong (i.e 20/20/20 or something) most of the time it's a somewhat negligible difference until your at the raiding stage of the game. (Tbh though it really doesn't take much to go onto elitist jerks and check a rotation and a spec just to have some idea of what are good talents if your 80.)

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