My buddy and I started really hitting Guild Wars pretty hard again after the update. It goes hand in hand with us taking a small break from Lord of the Rings Online. The thing is my guild is pretty dead (my alliance has a low pulse). His guild has been dead from the start, nearly. So except for all the intelligent PUG players, it’s just us. And, it’s wonderful.
The concept of “buddy gaming” embodies the veritable no-man’s land between solo play and full-on group play. In many EQ-style MMOs, having a buddy to group up with to make things more efficient (read: kill/heal faster) has been around for a long time, but that’s not exactly buddy gaming. Buddy gaming is more aimed at content designed for a party of 2-3 players than just doing content designed for solo players faster.
In Guild Wars, buddy gaming is best achieved with two to three players and Heroes filling out the remaining slots. Unlike henchman, Heroes can be outfitted with a very specific build, and this helps to make the event more personal. Plus unlike henchmen, Heroes can be individually controlled by their owning player. The supreme majority of content in Guild Wars can be played and beat this way. Some of the elite areas are still very hard to do with less than a full ship of human players, but that’s mostly it.
Lord of the Rings Online also implemented something designed for buddy gaming in the Eregion zone: 3-man dungeons. The detriment is if a player is just gaming with one buddy then they still have to pick up that one other person. It’s a small difference, but the personal-feeling players get from buddy gaming is a skittish creature. With Book 8, we will be getting more 3-mans, but further down the road Turbine is working on “skirmishes.” The skirmishes will be a dynamic instance that responds to the size of a party. This is not a new concept as Blizzard has been doing group-size responsive dungeons for some time. The only difference, and this is a big one, is that Turbine is going in the opposite direction. Things will dynamically respond as the party gets smaller.
That is the critical “flash of genius” that I believe has been missing in most EQ-style MMOs. There has been so much content across MMOs that look to engorging party-sizes. The advertisement on the party size on the forthcoming dungeons seem to be nearly equivalent to super-sizing value meals or movie theatre popcorn and soda dimensions. But, many developers seem to have failed to notice that the personal feeling then became easily lacking. Players just became cogs in a wheel or “that one tank.” I think buddy gaming has a lot of unexplored potential and effects… good ones.
ain’t been droppin’ no eaves sir, honest