EverZen

In a weird way, I’ve recently found that EQ taught me how to be a better MMORPG player. Because of The vision. No really. Stop laughing, the soda’s coming out of your nose again. Ok look, let me explain. Remember how long you camped Mitty for that gold ring? Or you class BP from Trak? Tormax’s head? Or any of a thousand separate tradeskill items in PoP? Ya, that sucked, right? But you learned to wait.

WoW isn’t like that. And that causes some grief on us old school gamers.

My kids are like this. They both have rooms full of toys, a laptop each, mp3 players, gaming systems, and more, but I hear easily three times a week that they are bored. Bored! These days, it’s all about the instant gratification. WoW follows this trend. Thus you end up with people to raid with like Wonderboy. Name changed to protect the guilty. Er, innocent. Whatever. Anyway, Wonderboy has been helping my guild raid. However, it’s obvious he’s in it for himself. He obsesses about the loot dropping on the next boss, or if there’s nothing he wants from it, the next boss. Mid-run on a boss, he’ll start spamming the raid channel that we need to go to a different one. Over and over with “plz” (which is one of those “really annoys Oz” phrases already). I’ve had people offer me a hundred gold not to heal him on a raid. He never brings supplies to a raid, not even the basic ones like healing/mana potions. I’m fairly certain that Wonderboy is 12.

(Note: One of the best raid tanks I ever saw in EQ was 13. This guy was AMAZING. He was a consummate pro, and cool as dry ice. One night he said he had to leave early because his mom was grounding him and that’s when we found out. Stunned we were. I point this out to explain that I know all ‘kids’ are not immature. However, most are. That, my friends, is the definition of that age. It’s ok.)

But he’s not alone. WoW is all about the now, all about the Me. In City of Heroes/Villains, for example, you used to form up a group and pound out missions for people. One for you, one for me, one for her – that kind of thing. It works out well. In WoW, you look for a group for a specific quest, and the second it’s done, they drop. I’ve almost wondered if they have a mod for it; it’s that fast sometimes. But that’s what the focus is: ME. And that just feels…wrong.

I like to raid. I have no issue dying all night long to learn a boss. Heck, I play two raid level chars, and I never complain being asked to switch from one to the other. This means I have screwed myself out of loot the other character could use. But I do it, for the guild. That’s the way I learned to play. You play, you hit the piñata until the candy comes out, and you get loot for everyone. What doesn’t help you directly helps someone else who then helps you get what you want. You cannot always step up and get the toys. You do not always win. Sometimes, you have to wait. Sucks, but it’s the way it works sometimes.

I wonder if Wonderboy will still raid once he gets his shiny pixels? Not sure I’d take that bet.

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Oz

Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who’s been around long enough. Still, he’s always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

17 thoughts on “EverZen”

  1. You know, I’m starting to sound like a LoTRO fanboi, but I have to say the community and their approach to this very issue has been extrodinarily refreshing for my wife and I.

    The past few nights we have been forming PUGs for various quests, instances and single mob Fellowship encounters, and everyone seems willing to just help out for the sake of being a good peson or in exchange for help on their quest.

    It was like: Member 1:”Hey after we do this, does anyone mind poping down to the Barrows for Ruins of Cardolan real quick?” Member 2:”I don’t have that but I don’t mind helping you, and while we are there, can we do the Lalia quest?” Member 3:”Sure, I don’t mind. Anyone need Chap 10?”

  2. WoW is interesting for non-EQ style gameplay. That is, until the raiding part starts. I think EQ simply filtered out everyone who wasn’t interested in that early on, rather than ambushing them at endgame.

  3. LotRO has some good people; I think it’s because the game isn’t really l33t enough to attract Wonderboys. Though saying that, me and my guild have seen plenty of the other kind too. I can’t be bothered with PUGs in any game any more.

  4. Even in CoX, if you do say a mayhem mission, people will drop out in the middle, or drop out right after, without saying anything. I have gotten to the point in CoX where I solo any of those timed or important missions because those seem to attract really bad or selfish people.

    Of course, if you just do a bunch of newspaper or generic missions, people are just fine.

    So, maybe it’s the reward that motivates them to act that way?

  5. I think maybe you’re approaching it from the wrong direction. I’m not saying, “People should be selfish jerks,” but I am saying, “Maybe games shouldn’t be set up so that they require ridiculous amounts of work to get what people want.”

    If the gameplay isn’t designed to be compelling, it just kind of sucks to make it so that it’s a bloody lottery as to whether there’s going to be something worthwhile for the individual player at the end of the day. Otherwise, and this is just my opinion, it’s bad design.

  6. I agree that there are elements of raiding that are unfavorable. Like nothing should ever have to be DE’ed in a raid – EQ you could at least have someone run in an alt or something, but in WoW the corpse doesn’t ‘open’ like that. If you don’t bring an enchanter along, you not only don’t get any item of value, you essentially trade 10-25 people’s time for 4-10g, which is a bad return on investment.

    But in WoW, even group events seem to suffer from this. If a person does not need a group quest for themselves, they are unlikely to join in and help. Playing my priest, I tend to get asked to help a lot, and as soloing is boring as heck, I usually do. Assuming it’s not a blind invite – I refuse all of those.

    Even if you group up to do solo quests as a group, thus making them get done faster, at least you’d be grouping up. But WoW tends to be a soloist’s world, where you snag help for a moment of need and then divest yourself of said companion when the need has passed.

  7. EverQuest forced you to group to get just about anything accomplished, so it not only taught patience but also the rudimentary social skills required to group successfully.

    When you went off to something specific in EQ, you probably did it with some of the people you spent time grinding levels with, so you they were willing to come help you as you would be to go run off and help them. And even pick up groups were generally pretty good because, after a certain level, people generally knew how to behave in a group.

    In WoW, where a lot of solo quests actually take longer (need those 10 drops for everybody) and reward less (divide up that exp) in a group, you find very few people interested in grouping until they absolutely need to.

  8. And that forced grouping, in a way, forced you to have social skills. I can remember thinking from time to time “Bet this guy solos a lot” when someone would be demonstrating non-group-friendly skills.

  9. If you give me a choice between soloing or grouping, I’m pretty sure 9 out of 10 times I’ll choose to go solo, assuming it’s doable. I’m not antisocial, and I’m not a Wonderboy. I just save myself the aggravation.

  10. […I just save myself the aggravation….]

    The point a lot of them are trying to make, Julian, is that in EQ, frustration was thinking you could solo anything past about level 21-22. If you were any class other than Druid or Necro, you absolutly could not solo your way to 50 without spending a veritible eon doing so, with god knows how many corpse runs and potential corpse losses.

    If you somehow then managed to do it, when you hit 50 you would have had the servers worst gear, as you would have missed ALL of the quality loot along the way.

    When I started EQ, I rolled a Shaman, while my good buddy rolled a druid. In the mid 30s, I was crying in my ale, and begging in the LFG channels, while he was off chain kiting 4-5 3 mobs for ungodly amounts of XP.

    The point is specifically, when you joined a PUG for almost anything in the mid to high level game in EQ, you were very, very likly to have a decent experience with quality players, and possibly make a new friends list addition or two. If people were unskilled or plain jerks, they simply DID NOT make it to that stage of the game, because the mechanics prevented it, plain and simple. A few slipped through by sheer force of will, but odds were strong in the groups favor.

  11. I’ve noticed that the majority of players in LOTR seem a bit more mature then the average WoW player. However, it seems more people will roll need on gear they can’t use in LOTR. Seems like there is a trade.

  12. Cyndre: Got it. Good points. Hadn’t really thought it backwards like that.

    Still, I’m not convinced that forced grouping is an acceptable ‘design path’ (so to speak) to end up with nicer people. Besides, we’re talking about EQ which was ten years ago. I don’t say this to discredit the game. Instead, I say it because I think the idea of ‘solo playing’ games like these was largely in its infancy. Don’t want us to confuse correlation with causation.

    Just as we can say “Forced grouping made people learn social skills”, I can also say “People grouped not because they wanted to, but because they had to”. In the end, I think social skills are elusive and not something that can be ‘taught’ by forced grouping. I think some players are just very good social players, some others are very bad social players, and the vast majority is different shades of gray that will remain as they are.

    After all, forced grouping has a few nasty sides that usually balance against it. Even if it was proven to end up creating nicer people to group with, we do have nowadays examples of some games that are doing alright without it, and others that are struggling with it. I’m not saying forced grouping is, without error, the cause for the success or failure of these games and there are no other factors, but on the other hand forced grouping *is* mentioned as a problem with those games that struggle (ex. DDO. LOTRO to a small degree).

    Even if I was lead designer, and I knew for a fact that if I force people to group in my game it’ll end up being a nicer grouping experience for everyone because I’m ‘training’ players to be good, I still wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to risk the nasty sides of forced grouping showing up. Ultimately it’s not a design issue, it’s a player issue, and you can only train players so much. And you can only train those that want to be trained.

    I think people just need to learn to stop being idiot players and start being nicer. But I don’t think that’s something you can ‘teach’ via design. At the very least, you can encourage it, but even then there are better ways of encouraging players to be nice than forced grouping.

  13. I agree with you 100%. I didn’t really mean to imply that EQs design was a good one, only that it existed as such.

    I love to be able to solo when I want too, and to be honest, I did back then. I rerolled a Necro as my second avatar for just that reason.

  14. No, that’s cool Cyndre. I didn’t get from your comments that you liked EQ’s design. At least not in that area.

    I guess my point boils down to this: Yes, it’s true. If you force people to group, inevitably you’ll end up with people that are good grouping. But is it worth it, overall? After all we’re not talking about people that may have *wanted* to become nicer people by grouping. They grouped, and they learned, because we as designers didn’t give them any other way to progress and enjoy the game.

    When we go to the doctor, for anything, do we prefer going to the one that loves being a doctor, or the one that doesn’t necessarily like it but is in it just for the money? It’s the same here. I wouldn’t point happily to a mechanism that forces players to maybe alter their natural behavior, and then be glad about the result. It’s a ghost result. It doesn’t show ‘people that are nice’, it’s just showing people that went through the motions and ended up there at the end. Good people and bad people alike.

    Besides, if EQ’s forced grouping is the bee’s knees when it comes to design, why is it that most other games since then have catered just as much (if not more) to the solo gamer, and the only other game that has forced grouping at that level (DDO) is on life support, with many players citing that forced grouping as a killer?

    Let’s not kid ourselves either. Maybe forced grouping is really an old design concept that was abandoned because, while providing a few nice fringe intangibles (‘makes nicer people in the end’), there were more clear, definite and palpable drawbacks attached (‘I can’t progress without grouping. I can’t find groups. Fuck you, I’m canceling.’)

  15. 1) Don’t make the *point* of quests solely about loot.
    2) Don’t make loot class, race, gender, color of socks, non-drop and non-trade
    3) Don’t force grouping for something as critical and necessary as leveling or grinding. Try something else like grouping for skill advancement (or whatever).

    The emphasis is too much on loot and the loot is generally only usable by a limited amount of people. Who wants to spend a couple of hours working your tail off so some other guy can get the bright shiny object and then log off because its too late to run another grind for someone else?

    Forced grouping (for leveling and combat) benefits some types of players and totally disenfranchises others. Games need to be designed where someone can either solo, group, or do both and advance at the same relative amount of speed. There are plenty of other ways to facilitate and engender social relationships.

    Just my quick two cents …

  16. […3) Don’t force grouping for something as critical and necessary as leveling or grinding. Try something else like grouping for skill advancement (or whatever)…]

    I have been waiting for a designer to give the old UO skill vs. loot system another go, but with a serious and revolutionary AAA title to go along with it.

    Why do we have loot at all? Since when did your Air Jordans give you the ability to play in the NBA? Grinding skills, and progressing your ability through hours and years of practice gets you in the NBA, not the cloths you equip…

    Why not blend the pre-NGE SWG crafting system, where basically all loot is player crafted, make it useful and valuable to encourage a trade and economy, and make adventuring the format by which you hone your skills. Skills can mean base stats, in the sence that like LOTRO you can grind for a while and get a trait that beefs up your base stats, exp and levels in the traditional MMO sence, and/ or it can be like UO where skills are used and improved in some area of your charachters overall power.

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