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Reader Comments (61)

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:07PM Lenn said

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Hear, hear! This piece could have been written by me. It is literally word for word exactly how I feel. My hat off to you!

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:43PM Bezza said

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Say it loud and say it proud brother! I have been saying it for years, developers are forever trying to force players to play the way they want us to play. The Irony being that an ever increasing number of players choose to play the way they want to play, not the way somone thinks they should. Solo, Duo and small party players are an increasingly large percentage of MMO players. Devs need to get their collective heads around this fact.

Myself i theorise that a growing number of MMO players have "grown up" over the years and lost the taste (usually though bad experiances) for pugs and uber guilds. More and more of us prefer to play alone of with a few trusted freinds.

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Posted: Oct 26th 2010 7:20PM Anax said

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I feel much the same way, Justin.

I don't know why so many people don't understand the "playing together apart" playstyle. After getting hooked on MMOs, I tried to play a single-player game (Oblivion). It's really not the same thing. Oblivion just feels "dead" to me. The devs *know* that the deadness bothers players--that's why they hype the inclusion of AI which makes the NPCs live out their own sad little routines. It's supposed to make me feel less weird about all those pixel-based zombies.

I have played several MMOs mainly solo. I like being able to chat with people, to occasionally come to the rescue of a lower-level player who needs a hand when I have time, to craft for other people, to just see other people running around having fun. I also like that MMOs are regularly updated, while single-player games are typically not (or not for very long, anyway).

That said, when I have time, I love to group up, too. I just don't have time very often.
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Posted: Oct 27th 2010 2:03PM (Unverified) said

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Great article. As primarily a soloer you summed my feelings up pretty well. I have limited time so grouping is a major pain unless I know the people and we all have the time set aside beforehand. Most of the time I just want to do my own thing though.

Its not like I hate teaming up with other people. In WoW I enjoyed endgame PvP which is pretty casual grouping but lead to lots of great memories. In Wizard101 its fun to join or be joined in random street battles. In LotRO though I am solo almost all the time. I never tried Warhammer or Guild Wars but it sounds like they had interesting takes on some of the grouping issues that come up in other games.

Somewhere down the line an MMO will come out that blurs the line between solo and grouping so that groups form more naturally rather than being prearranged things.

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Posted: Oct 28th 2010 1:36PM Luftwaffles said

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@ArbyGrot

I don't have any experience with Warhammer, but I can say a few things about Guild Wars. They designed zones to be instanced, so you will never encounter another person roaming the world outside of main cities. This is nice when you don't want to be competing for mobs, but I feel it's EXREMELY detrimental to grouping.

As a mostly-solo player, alot of my grouping occurs (in WoW) when I happen across another player in the persistent world doing the same quests as me. We group to beat a hard guy then move on. But Guild Wars takes away this potential interaction by ensuring that NO ONE is ever in a zone with you, unless you pre-arrange to group in a city. This makes the majority of the gameplay feel lifeless and empty.

So as far as "interesting takes on grouping issues" I think Guild Wars is lacking.
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Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:12PM DancingCow said

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I'm a grouper myself, but I agree 100%.

I'm really saddened by the hostility that different groups of players direct at each other on mmo forums just because some other group enjoy different things about a game.

To a point I can understand it. Everyone wants to tailor a game to suit themselves and don't want it 'diluted' to accommodate others. Hostility and carte-blanche personal attacks are the result. It's just awful.

This is especially true when so often good game design can accommodate different tastes without compromising any of the individual elements.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:31PM Lenn said

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I know what you mean. If it isn't solo vs group, it's raiders vs non-raiders, PvPers vs PvEers, casuals vs hardcore, etc. It's as if people need that "opposing faction" to justify their own playstyle. It's getting really tiresome.
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Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:16PM xBludx said

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Excellent post.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:19PM cotheer said

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Blasphemy!
How dare you!?
Anywho, i totally agree on everything said. I myself am just like that. And most of the time the reason i don't do raids or simple groupings is that i never know when will i be called to go away from my computer thus leaving the group screaming and cursing.
So to stay on the safe side, if i need a group to do some quest, well... i go grind a bit, come back when i'm higher lvl and finish it.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:23PM Wisdomandlore said

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You can solo all of Volume 1 in LOTRO, including Book 2.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:28PM Controlled Chaos said

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Preaching to the choir, man. I'm very much a solo MMO player. I tend to find groups when I need to, but to be forced into it just about drives me insane. I disliked having to depend on people for group projects in school and when I work, so I definitely don't want that same feeling in my gaming. Grouping should be a fun choice, not something crammed down your throat.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:37PM Mirin said

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pretty much sums me up as well.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:37PM M1sterLee said

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I think a lot of the problem is that grouping or doing things together with other people isn't designed well enough, if at all, into many MMOs (strange as that may sound).

Take something like Team Fortress 2. You can't play it solo, it's fully a team game (clue is in the name there!) and you have objectives and things to do that take more than one person. But at the same time everyone can choose to do their own thing. You find that people will naturally try to fill in the gaps in the team, make a medic if there is none, make an engineer if there isn't one already. It makes sense to do that and people fall into the group play quite readily.

Contrast that with a lot of MMO group scenarios where you actually get penalised for grouping with reduced XP and loot. Dropping in one or two forced group quests into the middle of a huge mass of otherwise easily soloable content just doesn't make sense. It can also be quite a pain to get people together for group quests out in the world, they don't just happen organically, everyone has to be on the same stage to participate etc and no one really feels the need to join up with other people to get anything done most of the time because the quests have no impact on the world or the players in it.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how the dynamic events are going to bring people together in Guild Wars 2. Public quests in WAR were a nice idea and the few I was involved with seemed pretty fun. I hope that little seed can grow into something bigger and more widespread where the majority of people will actually want to join up with their fellow gamers because it's more fun, rather than being forced.

Posted: Oct 28th 2010 4:58PM Jeromai said

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Hear hear. Grouping in standard MMOs is a long painful gauntlet of chat spamming, leadership buck-passing, belittling gear/skill comparisons, waiting and blaming when things go wrong. The design is fatally flawed. Little wonder why many people can't spare the time investment, and refuse to interact.

On the other hand, one can learn many things from the cooperative FPS/action RPG genres.

Left 4 Dead demonstrates so much purposeful design polish to encourage cooperation - from being able to see player outlines through walls (gasp, isn't that cheating? No, it's giving people awareness as to where their friends are) to the constant voiced interactions that foster an illusion of sociability without a lazy player having to type. While one may argue that they do use the stick from time to time (friendly fire is on, players wandering off alone tend to die horribly, and situations arise where you need another player to help you out or else), most of the time it is supportive enough that a player of lower skill who can't shoot that straight who sticks with the team can still get by.

Alien Swarm, Natural Selection, etc. all have easy teaming interfaces, often auto matching up people, and making failure less punishing - find a new team, go again, less screaming at each other.

Reward systems in MMOs too often put members in teams in competition with each other, and create bad feeling - whyever for? Why not give everyone a reward for completing the thing? Or if you want percentile chance at loot for the luck and lottery addiction aspect, give each player individual rolls at it.

City of Heroes has an interesting twist on this - it is never announced automatically by the game what each player won. Ta da, no announcement, no jealousy, no "can I have/buy your stuff plspls I need" whining unless the player themselves chooses to share. At which point it was their choice to take the bad along with the so-called good of strutting one's epeen at how randomly lucky they were.

I too am waiting eagerly to see what new and innovative mechanisms have been designed and built from the ground up in Guild Wars 2 to support people viewing each other as allies and potential help, rather than hindrances.

And what designs have been implemented that support ease of grouping - not just the formation of the group, but having the entire group experience be a pleasant one.

CoH has the latter quite well done. Groups are quite low obligation - they can be formed for a quick purpose like giant monster hunting and done with. Individuals can drop out and jump into the team relatively quickly. The max 8 player team has good dynamics and class synergy at duos and trios already, 4-5 players can support 2-3 weaker ones, and a full participating team of 8 just cranks the action and graphical effects to eleven. Combat has no strong reliance on holy trinity, where only specialists good at one thing and gimped in two other respects are welcome, so players can play what they like and still do good things for the team.

Here's hoping for Guild Wars 2 to have some of the same with the new control, damage, support trinity. And players, no matter the class, to have some options of all the above. Plus being able to recover from mistakes and pull off heroic fights by helping each other mid-battle, instead of wiping from one guy's mistake and screaming at each other for being noobs.
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Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:40PM (Unverified) said

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I am really loving these new soap box columns, I couldnt agree with this article more.I am the quintessential solo player myself.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:48PM Graill440 said

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Good article Justin, i disagree with "And I'm part of a growing majority of MMO gamers" comment a bit.

There is no "Growing" majority, the majority always has, and always will be the solid base of MMO's, the solo player. If anything its shrinking until quality MMO's appear. I dont pay or play any MMO out today because they do not cater to my solo playstyle, they are entirely based on guild and group dynamics. MMO to some (devs) means you must group, you must socialize, those people need to be slapped back into reality.

From we the lowly solo player comes the main subscriber base. We have always known its better to experience things by ourselves, in our own way and when needed or forced due to game mechanics we use or "cough* help...others to get a group quest done, we detest drama, politics, and rules. We hold the hands of those that need to be in a group to solve the smallest task, or those requiring social contact because they have little to none in the real world, we call these folks...guildies.

The solo player will always be the main subscription base of any title, those that do not believe this need only look at the games out today and their numbers, even the evil monkey that is Blizzards bitch child has more solo players than guilds, and guild deaths and rebirths in WOW are like the falling rain, at least the forums were amusing in this regard 4 years ago, i have no doubt it still is.

Solo players will make or break a game, a solid fact in my opinion, thats why with all the failures, the moral failure of WOW's revolving sub door included, developers are now shifting back to the solo player. You dont make an MMO and alienate an entire demographic, its pure ignorance, AOC found this out and even today has failed to learn its lesson after massive bitching in the forums and massive patches, warhammer, the same thing.

We can beat the devs up for their choices and be justified because we have ample examples of lifeline titles and utter failures. All content, and this is beating the dead horse again as it has been for the last 15 or more years, has to be scalable and or made for the solo player. I have no doubt whatsoever that the majority of developers purposely make content group oriented to force it. And happily many lose their jobs because of these choices, i call it the hard head, soft ass syndrome.

The mechanics of a leveling system are its own problem and a waste of resources that contribute to the lack of quality content for solo folks that may or may not become a guild and then that guild may or may not require larger goals to stay interested. Having leveled content or tiered anything is taking away from everyone by developers having to deal with many things instead of something for all to enjoy. Keep in mind even in guilds a large part are solo minded folks......most often forced to join.

Lose the attention of your solo players? You lose the game.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:53PM (Unverified) said

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"these groupers find MMO soloers to be blasphemous to the first "M" in MMORPGs"

You mean the second "M", the first "M" is Massively. Made doubly ironic that it's also the name of the site. LOL.

OT: a good read. I'm more of the solo bent myself, so i'd say the first "M" is more important to me. =p

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:57PM (Unverified) said

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Wow... the author sure is misguided if he doesn't like to rely on others for gaming, yet he writes for an MMO site.

And what exactly is a "growing majority"? Because you certainly aren't the majority right now.

Posted: Oct 26th 2010 9:31PM Transientmind said

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I think the majority he's referring to just down-voted you, bro.
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Posted: Oct 26th 2010 6:57PM Marklar19 said

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I'm the opposite of the OP and the so-far responders

not only do I appreciate the challenge of a group quest, and finding the group to do it, but I also appreciate that games still have that as a requirement...I should be able to, from my MMO experience, enjoy the feeling of completing a tough group quest knowing there was no other way to do it but muster up the necessary forces and take it on

if you don't like depending on a group, don't accept the group quests, but it's this mentality that's watering down games like LOTRO (especially) to the point that they're barely even MMOs anymore, and more just social solo-RPGs.

If you're a completionist at heart, you should be well-acquainted with the concept of gathering groups to complete certain things...if you're not a completionist, then don't accept the group quest, and move on to the million solo quests you can do...but stop whining to the DEVs that everything should be soloable...because they are listening to you, and it's ruining games

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