Where Did The Social Go?

MMOs have become more and more focused on solo players and there are many reasons for this. Many people are out there, like me, that just don’t have the time to find a group or else they are worried about having to leave in the middle of something and making the group angry. I claim this is a game design flaw and instead of designing in heavy solo content, games should be focusing on ways to take advantage of the fact that a large number of people are playing the same game at the same time.

Lets take a look at groups in general. Currently many people shy away from “pick up groups” because either they end up with someone that doesn’t know how to play very well and thus harming the group’s advancement or else they are worried something in real life will force them to have to leave too soon. Therefore, they end up playing solo. If a game was to focus instead on making grouping up fun no matter the group make up, and make it easy for people to come and go easily, it would change the interest levels of the players towards grouping in general.

Technically, we could even go so far as to group people up automatically. If I am on a quest and I’m in the proper area, perhaps the game can pop everyone in that area working on the quest into an impromptu group. Perhaps I am out fighting something, and have my auto-group option turned on. A healer might come running by and see I need some help. In games like WoW, helping me out will only reduce my XP. But with auto-group and the right game design, the healer could group up with me simply by joining in the battle – and we could get XP bonuses instead of a penalty for being social. Why are games so afraid of what might be considered “power leveling”? If the game is designed right, there would be no race to the end game because there would be no end game. Therefore, rushing to the level cap (do we even need to make levels a big deal? or have them at all?) would just result in missing content.

Now I’m no game designer, but it seems to me as a player that we are losing out on something important here. Grouping up should be the main focus of MMOs. If you can design a game that by having someone in the group makes it more fun and better than not having them, the problem could be solved. Question is, how can that be done? Well, how about including group skills that become active when you have a certain number of people in the group? The “combo” skills included in several games (FFXI and LotRO to name a few) is a good start. Imagine a game where one player could toss some sand into the eyes of the enemy while a second moves in to trip him up and a third pins him to the ground with a well placed spear jab. Or how about a few magic users casting spells that work together to form a more powerful spell with everyone getting a chance to toss in a little twist to make it special. All I am really saying here is let’s try to make it so much fun to group that nobody wants to solo. Don’t force the group, make it so you can’t wait to group.

Simple things that games like Asheron’s Call has where you can have a patron/vassal situation that is beneficial to both players. A new player can pledge allegiance to a veteran player which results in XP pass-up going to the veteran and perhaps financial gain (or even knowledge) going down to the new player. Like I said, I’m no designer, but shouldn’t we be focusing on ways to encourage socialization? These games are massive, but we are turning them in to soloing with a chat channel.

Speaking of that, why are guilds reduced to simply chat channels these days? At least Everquest 2 provides a guild leveling system so that is a plus over games like World of Warcraft. But there needs to be more. There needs to be pride in belonging to a guild, where veterans spend time seeking out new low level good quality players to bring into the guild and teach them the ways of the game. There should be rewards for taking someone under your wing and rewards for joining a good guild. Guilds need to have something to bind them together. Games with a guild keep that you can defend would certainly be a good start.

Another problem area is the buddy list. How many games must be made that require you to enter your friend for each and every character you have. Do we really need a separate buddy list for each of my alts? The list needs to be good for all your characters. And while we are at it, let me assign an “alias” for my friend so that no matter what character he logs into – I can see he is online. I would also like to see what level all the characters on my list are and when they last played. I’d like to see where they are in the game world. I want to be able to leave them a message right on the buddy list. See what I am getting at here? Encourage socialization!

From what I have read, Warhammer Online is going to approach some of these issues from a different angle then many of the current “solo” focused MMOs. Public quests are a step forward, in that it groups people up without them feeling like they are grouped up by force. If you can make people want to group and want to have people in their group, it’s a good thing.

I’ve turned into a solo player over the past several years and I’m wondering why it needs to be that way. I feel like the grand possibilities of what people can do with MMOs are just being reduced into only meeting the lowest and most basic common needs.

– Ethic

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I own this little MMO gaming blog but I hardly ever write on it any more. I'm more of a bloglord or something. Thankfully I have several minions to keep things rolling along.

21 thoughts on “Where Did The Social Go?”

  1. The character-specific buddy lists, ignore flags, etc., actually enable antisocial behaviour. They enable people to be absolute idiots/griefers/ninja-looters/whatevers and have a clean slate afterwards. Definitely something I’d like to see go in most games. There are some where that kind of anonymity is necessary (guiding hand social club, anyone?).

  2. Explicity grouping, tagging, looting, leashing etc are features that were sorely needed. Previous MMOs were filled with _antisocial_ behavior because the game allowd it with no reprecussions. If you do share experience, loot & quests by default, you also have to give players the tools to strip offending players of their ill-gotten gains. It’s easier said than done, though. Just look at Blizzard’s attempt on social-by-default features: the battlegrounds, particularly Alterac Valley. Those have been in the game for years, and the checks and balances are still far from optimal.

    One idea that would warrant further refining is the AFK reporting. If it’s effects were retroactive it would serve as a powerful deterrent against many types of antisocial behavior. Did you just ninjaloot the Chess Event chest? Your raid reports you and everything you got from that raid is redistributed among the remaining raiders and you are booted from the instance. Did you tag a mob and let some poor shmuck kill it for you? No loot for you. Did you transfer off a server with the guild bank in tow? No you didn’t. Did you just AFK through a Battleground? No honor _at all_ for you from that Battleground.

  3. I’m glad the first two commenters jumped on some of that too. Old MMO’s were not “social” by nature, nor were their players. Grouping required? Fine, we’ll tolerate it in order to achieve our own individual goals. Many of us may have made the friend or few but by and large it was just like real life: you *might* interact with someone briefly (or not) then another thought for the other is never spared again.

    Seriously, you EQ guys need to take off the rose-colored glasses. It wasn’t some romantic chick flick of an adventure. It was a lot of guys being forced to interact who most likely would not have otherwise.

    You’re correct about the time factor though. Not only do I not necessarily have the time, I don’t care to take the time. Example? I logged into Vanguard yesterday morning, desperately hoping to find a group for the second-to-last Hunter’s League quest, which is a group quest. No takers. Same as last week. So after 15-20 minutes of spinning my character in circles I logged out. I tried again last night, same result. Both times I had the time for the adventure but I am absolutely not going to just stand around sitting on my thumb waiting for hours to get a group. Which means I’m unable to play a game I’m paying to play. *THAT* is what needs to be dealt with.

    As for the social factor the *only* MMO I’ve ever played that actively encouraged socializing was SWG with its non-combat Entertainers. To this day no other game has even come close to the amount of legit friendly socialization I saw in SWG and it had nothing whatsoever with *forcing* people to group at all.

  4. “Currently many people shy away from “pick up groups” because either they end up with someone that doesn’t know how to play very well and thus harming the group’s advancement”

    I guess i am the odd man out, because i prefer PuGs, they are always interesting and challenging. We rarely complete things, but sometimes do, and that’s a thrill knowing that you did it with people you haven’t worked with before. If you play with the same people over and over, you know exactly what they are going to do, and it becomes more boring to me. Whenever i hear someone say “i don’t do pugs” i hear “i have no skill working with others”. I’ll give a good example from DDO a while ago: I was in a pug doing a tough quest line with newer players, and we died several times with some of the players not knowing certain things. We get a “leet” player, who starts going on how he has full sets of dragon gear, a great guild, and starts showing off, running ahead trying to solo the whole dungeon. Being the only healer in the group, a bard with wands and running out of those, i advise him via tells to slow down and keep in sight. He replies “Lol, i got this”. Okay, he starts challenging the others to see who can kill the mobs the fastest, and precedes to run down a spiral area. Boom, he goes down, along with all the others, i get him typing all caps at me and yelling over voice to “HEAL ME!!” He then complains that we all suck and says that this is why he doesn’t do pugs and drops group. Not sure where i am going with this story, but it was one of the worst memories of grouping that i have. Wow has it too, mostly in people who are just there for a certain loot or quest, and then drop after they get it. So it would be nice if you could get them just being in the area like you said. Sounds like Warhammer online and it’s Public Quests might be close to that, at least i hope so.

    Something i mentioned on Toblods was that why is everything “versus” in mmos? why can’t the focus be on “with other people” instead of “against other people”?

  5. CoH/CoV rewards large groups, in my opinion. Most quests scale well, and it’s much more rewarding to storm an enemy stronghold with eight people, fighting dozens and dozens of enemies. And this kind of carnage really shows on your xp bar, so there is a big incentive to group.

    But in the end, it really comes down to the people playing the game. That’s why I’d say ‘auto-grouping’ is a bad idea; you have an example in WoW’s battlegrounds. That often results in a free-for-all, which isn’t always that funny. What I’d like to see is some kind of feedback option (think ebay); if players suddenly care about their reputation, that’d certainly help. Of course, there’d have to be some checks against fraud and abuse – one score for the account, not the character etc. And if you still don’t care and rack up a huge negative score, well, at least the others will know what you’re up to ;)

  6. To finish my thoughts (got a bit hasty on that ‘submit’ button): “grouping” does not equate to “being social.” How many groups have you ever been in where one or more players don’t chat or only say a word or few the entire time? They’re interacting with you, but only because it’s the only way to accomplish their goal at the moment, and they’re keeping the social interaction to a minimum. What if that person is you? Maybe you’re the one actively recruiting a group in the LFG channel or LFG tool (or perhaps you’re the *tool* recruiting in general chat! :) ) then once the group is all set you barely say anything? As the group leader?

    Likewise, if you only play with real-life friends, are you not therefore being anti-social to everyone else in-game and precluding making new virtual friends?

    Everyone is so horrified of pickup groups yet all the forum posts will tell new players to find a good guild. Ok… what defines a “good” guild, and how would that player know? You check the guild forums and apply to some and through trial and error and process of elimination will eventually end up in a guild with a roster and play style that matches your own. However, and this is a key point, as a new member you are nothing more than a pickup player, and they to you. The only thing you share is a new “family name” over your heads because you don’t yet know each other. They might be absolutely horrible at the game, they might be a Leeroy, AFK leechers, any number of things. You just don’t know, yet everyone automatically thinks “oh, we’re guildies, everyone is great and life is peachy.” That just isn’t realistic. You’re all strangers in the same club, nothing more, nothing less, until you all take the time and spend some effort to get to know each other. That being the case, exactly what the hell is so bad with being social, taking a risk and just getting a 100% pickup group? In every game I’m playing (ok, except one) I have my characters in awesome guilds, yet I did *one* single “guild run” in all of 2007. Everything else was pickup groups. Ya know what? Over the entire year I only had one single mildly negative experience with pickup groups.

    I wish I hadn’t lost the article I wrote on this subject (and Darren quoted on SUWT) last year but it was one of many lost in the server crash. I’d gladly link it here because it’s appropriate to this post but.

    Again, the EQ “vets” (ie. no longer play and haven’t in quite some time) need to stop pining away, staring at the moon on lonely nights thinking of the Good Ol’ Days. EQ was not Sleepless in Norrath. It was forced grouping. The difference back then is no one knew any better. There’s a reason modern games are more solo-friendly and it has nothing to do with the audience “becoming” less social in-game. It always was. We grouped because it was the only way to survive to see content and to accomplish our individual goals.

    Everyone (and it’s usually the rose-colored glasses EQ vets) who whines “MMO’s are about grouping” needs to get over themselves. MMO’s are about lots of people having adventures and living fun virtual lives with (hopefully) fun game play. Drawing from the “Life is the ultimate MMO” parallel, hop into your favorite MMO. Or WoW, even better. Take awhile and read the general chat. Now, you’re honestly going to tell me that because it is your belief that MMO’s are for grouping and nothing else that you therefore want to group with everyone you just read over general chat? Walk downtown (yes, that means walking away from the computer and going outside) to a busy street corner. Do you want to interact, work, or otherwise “play with” (get your mind out of the gutter, pervs!) every single person you see walking or driving by? No, you don’t! Your have your own goals and ambitions in real life. You have your own personality, your own preferences to what you want to do at any given time and how you want to do it. So does everyone else you just saw or read in the general chat. Sometimes we make friends in life intentionally, most of the times it’s completely by accident, but it’s rarely if ever thrust upon us. Life is a one huge pickup group. Don’t be so afraid of it.

    One more thought for you EQ vets to stew on: how many of *you* are the ones who avoid pickup groups because you “know for a fact” you’ll get someone who is (in your opinion) unskilled and therefore will guarantee failure? Isn’t it exactly you EQ vets who clamor for the hardships and difficulty of your much-lauded Good Ol’ Days yet when the opportunity for difficulty is presented before you as well as an opportunity to *be social* and perhaps teach the new or unskilled player a trick or few, you shy from it like the plague? Take a good look in the mirror, guys, before pointing your fingers at all the “anti-social solo players.”

  7. Just to be clear:

    I am not advocating removing solo play.
    I am not advocating forced grouping.

    I am asking for designers to think outside the box more and find ways to make playing together more fun than playing alone. Allowing anyone to be able to play alongside anyone else. Encourage socialization by making it easy, fun and rewarding.

    The way of EQ is really not that much different than the way of WoW. We do not need to keep working off of the same basic design elements.

  8. I think if grouping is something you want to encourage, the answer would be to reward grouping. I think CoX does this by giving much more xp and money when you accomplish goals grouped rather than when solo.

    You aren’t forced to group either except for certain cases.

    Of course the way it does it is by instancing everything, and having extremely short and IMO rather meaningless missions. If would be nice to think of a way to change mission parameters without doing that.

    Tools to make it easier to track your friends are all needed. I’d like to have the ability to add notes or a category to friends, so I know where I met people, what I thought of them, etc. Even having multiple guild affiliations. Why only one guild? In WoW I have so many chat channels for different groups of friends. Most of the group/guild tools would be useful there too.

    I am not sure I like the idea of being forced to defend territory, to me that’s like using negative reinforcement instead of positive. I mean that’s a fine thing to add to games like AoC or WAR which are pvp focused, but adding more rewards for staying together longer, for people getting certain achievements.

    Maybe even rewards for achieving goals while groups. People will try to “game the system” but their might be possibilities. I’m thinking a similar mechanism to titles/badges/achievement points.

  9. Grouping required? Ick. A big reason people don’t like groups is because when someone who isn’t a very good player joins it usually leads to death and frustration rather than enjoyment.

    Back in the MUD days there was a LOT of social activity.
    People chatted often, immortals hosted events, I formed some very close friendships from playing MUDs, something that no MMOG has done since.

    When you think about how a player plays a MUD though, 90% of the time it’s solo. MUD’s as I remember them didn’t really have groups. If you wanted to gain a level, you, by yourself, went to an area and killed stuff.

    Hrm… if we can find a way to bring back that ‘MUD Magic’….

  10. Wow, everyone jumping on the “attack the EQ1 vets” bandwagon :p

    As Ethic said in his comment above, he’s not advocating removing solo play, or forced grouping. Anyone who played EQ1 back in the day can tell you grouping, or trying to find a group absolutely sucked. I can count on one hand the number of times I got enough people of the right classes together to form a competent group that didn’t go AFK or linkdead at the first sign of trouble. Ethic isn’t trying to say bring back EQ1 grouping, he’s trying to say, make the MULTIPLAYER game more MULTIPLAYER friendly. Bring more rewards into grouping, like SWG had huge experience bonuses for grouping, or watching and chatting with entertainers. Or the AC2 patron system. All the things he mentioned were non-forced grouping mechanisms that ADDED to the game by grouping. Guilds are, as someone else said, a huge waste of time these days. The provide no benefit other than a group that might raid with you, or (if you’re a lowbie) might occasionally send you some gold. There is no real game incentive to cooperate, talk or help another player. There are no real goals to reach toward, no towers to take down, no keeps to protect.

    Now some games have taken good stabs at these things, but for whatever reason we keep falling back on the same mistakes we’ve made in the past, and forget to implement these in newer games (like WoW or EQ2):

    AC1 – Patron/Vassal system, patron receives funnel down XP, has a direct interest in seeing his vassals succeed and continue to provide him with free xp
    Anarchy Online – Notum Towers, provide passive boost to skills for everyone in the guild. They are miniature PvP zones so you have to protect them and they cost a fortune to put up.
    DAOC – Various bonuses for you if your realm holds keeps and takes others.
    SWG(pre-nerf) – Build a city, collect taxes, protect your area from Rebel/Imperial forces so you could continue thriving.

    Another major impediment to grouping is the godforsaken “healer” class. If you don’t have a healer, you can’t group because all the content is impossibly hard without basically having 3 extra HP bars. As soon as the healer in a party leaves, OOPS, looks like group just split up. Why would you design content, like a boss, that incorporates 5 different resists, three different “forms”, a multitude of abilities and you ruin it by letting players bludgeon it to death as long as they have a healer than can keep pumping jesus juice into their backside. If you HAVE to put healers in, let them only heal out of combat folks, and send them back into battle. Hell, bring back REAL support classes that can make camps, medicines to treat wounds, set up perimeter defenses and various other goodies (aka the pre-nerf SWG Ranger class).

    Oh, and a simple system of “rating” is the eBay rating system. Plus, minus or neutral with a 10-20 word area and throw together a support team to handle complaints on the ratings.

  11. I’d somewhat like to see “easy grouping” or “auto-group” capability, because the wandering healer/buffer deserves a reward for being a nice guy (god knows his experience soloing is hellish at best already).. but I’m also worried that sort of thing will encourage the KSing or looting type griefers.. in almost every game I’ve played you get the guy who wants easy XP, so he pings your kill and syphons off up to half your XP in a split second, before he running off to screw the guy a screen or so over too.. or the guy who makes a big deal of “I’m helping you, you’re a noob and you’ll just die”, well maybe I will die, or maybe I’m also trying to learn how to play my damn class and you’re just robbing me of real-world experience (as opposed to the sort that levels you up in-game). then I also see the frequent looters, who love nothing more than to see you struggling to survive in a fllod of monsters, so you can tank the mob while they loot the drops you can’t get to yet because you’ll die if you stop to pick it up. In an auto-grouping world, I imagine these people letting you fill their quest objectives while they don’t do much of anything but be near by, or (even worse, depending on the game) your loot going to them in the random distribution scheme, while they just sort of poke at something now and then.

    as for PuGs: in CoX, I’ve found myself making insane amounts of progress in a single day compared to solo play.. if I can bring myself to risk the hassels of: bad players who either don’t know their AT (yet or still.. depends on the level of the group) or badly need a respec and serious advice, leeroy-types and AFK leechers, etc; between mission down times where 3 out of 6 people have to go to wentworths, an origin shop, the supergroup base, or the trainer; group recruiting downtimes; and, probably the most frustrating to me, I’m forced away from the group because of my own RL issues.
    Best group I’ve ever been in was about 6 players, with 2 replacments made over the course of about 4 hours, staying in Talos Island, racking up nothing but radio missions. I managed to go from 25 to 28 in those few hours, finally having to leave to go make dinner for the family. in contrast, I’ve played about 8 hours solo since then on that particular character and only made about 20~25% of the xp needed for 29, so the rewards are there.

    on the other hand, I’ve spent an hour a day or so for a week on Protector trying to get a group together to do the Terra Volta respec trial, only once finding a group large enough to start the TF, with almost half of the members then dropping on the second mission because “it’s too hard” and “we’re just wasting time”. i’ve also had days of spending a half hour or more teamed with 3 other players, all unwilling to just get a mission and get to playing because “we need a “. I’m not saying get rid of them outright, but if it really is requiring all three and you can’t make due with hybrid types like the debuffer, the ranger or the pet class, then it’s going to be hard to make the game group friendly no matter what you do.

    I’ve focused on CoX PuGs, since that’s what I’ve been playing most recently, but I’ve had all the same types of crap go down in a wide variety of games, with the “OMG we have no healer *player(s) drop(s)*”-issue being the most common thread to tie games together.

    on to forced grouping: the worst single experience was in a game that had 10 instances of a 15-man raid-type quest start every other hour at 2 minute intervals.. the problem came when you see how they managed entry to these raids.. first come, first served.. now, the game only had 4 classes to start with, being healer, tank, mage and archer.. and on at least 3 occasions before I moved on to the next game, I found myself in raids totally lacking either the tank or the healer, which essentially meant an automatic fail.. there was literally no possible way to finish the raid successfully without at least one tank AND one healer, even tho the raids offered each player 3 on-the-spot respawns before you get booted. can you say “WTF devs?”

    and lastly, some way of rating players: well.. that sounds good, but I also imagine it as leading to the next wave of greifing.. spamming negatives at a person just to leave them unable to get a group and play the game in a rewarding manner.. seeing as I’ve played games where whole guilds of greifers have managed to form, just to have either aid against repercussion or to implement wide-scale asshattery, I can see getting hit with their 20~40 bad reviews a day being a fresh new hell, and making it tied to an account leaving you in the crapper when you roll an alt to escape it.. the greifers aren’t playing to have fun and make progress.. they’re playing to stop you from doing so, and making a new account to ditch a “warning: this player is a jackass” tag would be nothing to many in the games where the client is a free download and no CD key is required.

  12. When you think about how a player plays a MUD though, 90% of the time it’s solo. MUD’s as I remember them didn’t really have groups. If you wanted to gain a level, you, by yourself, went to an area and killed stuff.

    Hrm… if we can find a way to bring back that ‘MUD Magic’….

    Interestingly, you’ve just described every (not that it’s a huge list) Asian F2P MMO I’ve ever played… maybe they’re onto something after all? :p~

    A proximity-based auto-grouping system *can* work, with checks and balances, but it will also mean *finally* moving beyond the Kill Ten Rats quests we all love oh so much. I suspect that if the most awesome MMO *ever* came out but didn’t have KTR quests, it would fail. As much as we claim to hate them, as much as we claim to hate grind, as much as we claim to want change… I doubt we really do.

    Rep systems have their own inherent problems, as has been noted. Xbox Live, for example, has a rating/rep system that works but I can only leave all kinds of negative comments about a player, while the only positive action I can take is to give that player a ‘preferred’ rating. In the XBL group I’m a member of, we’ve had several people get their ratings trashed in ‘public’ games where groups of kids ganged up with negative comments, and there is no recourse to take. Ratings are all fine and good, but needs to be taken to the next step and have some system of proof of guilt or innocence or some recourse when the “ratings griefers” arrive. And they will arrive, you can count on it.

  13. “the wandering healer/buffer deserves a reward for being a nice guy”

    hah you know on my priest my reward would usually to get flagged because I didn’t realize the guy I healed was flagged, and then a minute later get killed by some nelf druid. :)

  14. At the risk of sounding elitist people wanted to group up in the early days. Whether it was because we were younger, or older in general than gamers today most of us had more in common with one another than we do today. Yes we are all gamers at heart, casual/hardcore w/e. But back in the early days it was something we could almost take for granted that we were all within a few years of one another age wise.

    With the growth of mmo gaming we no longer play with people that have the background of Dungeons & Dragons/Champions/etc. One of the last times I grouped up in WoW someone asked what everyone was listening to at the time. When I shared that I was listing to Zeppelin, to a T they all asked huh? Who’s that. To be fair I had little to no idea what most of them were listening to as well lol.

    Beyond the fact that it’s harder to find people with whom we have something in common many games, wow lotro etc are set up to pit players against one another. With the heavy focus of loot in these games the battle against the AI is only the beginning. Once you get through the encounter you often have to sit for several minutes arguing about who is more deserving of what item. “Dude, that sword is perfect for my hunter.” “Nuh-uh, my warrior needs that sword” “WTF are you talking about thats a rogue weapon if there ever was one” etc etc etc.

    Now-a-days I find myself soloing more and more. Hell, I don’t even remember the last time I was really in a good guild of like minded players. I even find myself looking more and more at the gameplay of these mmo’s like single player games in general. What offers me the most entertainment bang for the buck and, unlike games like launch SWG, Ultima Online etc, I look at them more as a short term investment of my time until the next quality single player games come out.

  15. Regarding the competition with other players on the group for loot drops: I think “soulbinding” has gone a bit too far, in that regard. Hand me downs help a lot when working with pugs (or guilds who don’t look at the greatest gain for the group).

    What I’d like to see is a bidding system on high itemlevel gear. When loot drops, throw up a window and allow players to offer items for the same slot. Others bidding on the same piece of gear can select offered items which they would use. Any offered item which others would want grants a bonus on the owner’s roll equal to the difference between it and the lowest offered piece. After the roll is made, if the winner had a requested item, it is taken away and given to the winner of another automatic roll among the people who requested that item. This pattern continues until an item is passed down to someone whose gear was requested by no one. Their offering is given to the original winner to be sold, to pay for enchantments, for example.

    For instance:
    The Purple Sword of 80 drops. Adam has the Blue Sword of 70, Bob the Green Sword of 55, and Chris has the Green Sword of 50. Everyone throws up their weapons. Bob and Chris both bid on the Blue Sword, but Chris doesn’t like the stats on Bob’s sword, and doesn’t bid on it. Since neither Bob nor Chris is offering anything someone else wants, only Adam gets the bonus, which is 20 points. Not unfair to Bob and Chris, but significant to Andy (as it should be, since his offering is a loot class above the others). The roll is made, and Adam wins. Another roll is made (with no bonuses, due to neither participant wanting each other’s gear), and Bob wins. Adam gets the Purple Sword of 80, Bob gets Adam’s Blue Sword of 70, and Adam gets Bob’s Green Sword of 55 to sell off.

    Tada! It needs a few more checks and balances, but it’s got its merits. For one, it results in a more steady stream of lesser upgrades, keeping the sense of progression while reducing the time spent in stagnation. To make things more fun, the item could remember the original owner and the last two previous owners, so the item develops a legacy, especially in guilds.

  16. Something else to mention is why do most of us want to solo? I can say I solo for the pure reason I hardly ever win loot on the random lotto symstem when grouping. I feel this is the real reason why some us prefer soloing for at least that way we can at least get loot. I think the loot symstem needs to be more fair myself or at least told how it works for everytime someone askes on the Forums we can get no info. Why is that? This random generator is bias if you ask me for I can group and same person wins over and over and that makes me want to refrain from grouping if I can’t ever win decent loot. When I do group it’s more for exp and at that it’s not always easy getting a group going.
    Another reason why I like soloing is I really enjoy how I can spend my time doing things and see a lot people just playing only to level up thier character, then see same people complain they are bored when they are maxed out in level. Why the rush?

  17. “If the game is designed right, there would be no race to the end game because there would be no end game.”

    That’s the truth.

    I think that any MMO can be made more exciting by removing levels entirely. If you shift the ‘grind’ into fun activities that actually have a purpose, you make the game more interesting. There you go, solve the ‘end-game problem’, and reduce grinding at the same time.

  18. I refuse to read this entire post because it’s too long, but…

    The players at Kill Ten Rata are carebears because they group in order to blog about MMOs. I, on the other hand, am hardcore because I run Nerfbat solo.

    Interestingly, we’re still pretty social between KTR and NB, we just do it in an asynchronous manner. We’re starting to explore that sort of gameplay at the Nerfbat Forums right now, and I’ll likely write up a post for the site in the next week or two (http://nerfbat.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=352) about it.
    The point is, social gameplay doesn’t have to mean “grouped” gameplay. Encouraging players to directly play together is great too, as long as it isn’t “forcing” players to directly play together.

    “If the game is designed right, there would be no race to the end game because there would be no end game. ”

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s true. No matter what the game is, whether it has levels, whatever, there is an end game. The end game is when players feel they’ve experienced most of what the game has to offer them. More specifically, it’s the behavior that occurs when the player has reached this stage. In a game with a finite world, players will reach this point sometime.

    There are things you can do to mitigate the end game. You can routinely push the end game farther away, you can keep adding content at the end game, you can run temporary events regularly to keep players engaged in new stuff, etc. But, there’s still an end game there that you have to make sure is entertaining enough to keep players around.

    Long tangent… I’ll stop typing now, I suppose.

  19. I noticed no one mentioned Guild Wars
    One Friends list for ALL characters you create
    Bonus XP to Groups
    Missions that require groups, and if no group available…Henchmen

    And my understanding is GW2 is looking to enable “Auto-Grouping” for random events in Zones…

    Example: Your fighting standard mobs outside a village, when that village is attacked by a Dragon. If you join the fight, you instantly get whisked away to an Instanced Quest zone to fight the Dragon with others who are available in that Instance also…and the fight will scale to your level of skill..(based on overall group levels..)

    HELLO…that is EXACTLY what is needed to form some socialization…grouping, special events only available to groups, etc…
    I can even imagine a countdown timer…for example…you join the fight, but no one is there yet…so a countdown begins to wait for other players…then you can send a message to a friend “I am in dire need of assistance my friend”…..
    Can we say “Roleplay”? something which seems to also be missing in MMO’s of late…

    Right now, all the MMO’s have become rote, and until something changes like what we see above…the group mechanic will die.

    LOTRO had the right idea with special combat moves only available to groups…but, the rest of the game is a stinker…
    The mentoring system in EQ2 is also the right move (as well as the awesome Guild features..how novel?…Do quests together to level up your guild, and raise your status as well)…but with so much solo content…there is not much use for it…

    Well…the watch still continues for the right game that has the best balance of solo and group content..

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