Changing His Solo Ways

For some reason, this 2006 post appeared in my RSS feed. But of course, the writings of Wilhelm Arcturus are always fresh and ready to be mined for new insights. Such as:

I have not avoided groups in the past because I am anti-social. … I have avoided groups because they make leveling take longer in WoW. Solo play, for levels, is rewarded in WoW. When you group, your exp per kill is reduced, time taken to finish drop related quests goes up dramatically with each person you add to the group (so you do kill more, which mitigates the exp per kill loss somewhat, but a lot of the exp is in finishing the quest, so your exp/hour is still taking a hit), and unless your group all has the same quests, somebody is usually waiting for everybody else to get to their quest.

This of course brought 2008 to mind:

If it is designed as solo content, you gain little to nothing for bringing a friend. Indeed, it might take the two of you longer to do it together than it would to do it separately, say if you each need to loot a dozen ground objects that despawn after they are looted; you would have been better off each going alone, five minutes after each other, rather than going together and waiting for the respawns.

Both of which reinforce the point from yesterday that grouping brings with it the potential for great upsides and downsides. If most of the leveling game takes away most of the upside, that leaves a lot of distance for the increasingly common “solo MMO” to fall.

Which are perhaps some reasons why we are seeing the rise of MOBAs and a renaissance in small group games where you bring your friends rather than trying to seek the questionable benefits of a matchmaker service.

: Zubon

10 thoughts on “Changing His Solo Ways”

  1. I went back to that post because I linked it in one of my posts this past week. And whenever I do that with older posts, I stop to update the tags and such, just to keep things consistent, which sometimes pushes the post into the RSS feed.

    Of course, the context of my linking to that post was that our six year old regular Saturday night group seems to be having trouble staying up on Saturday nights. Things change, lives get more complex, we all get older, and happy times come and go. So I was looking back to the salad days when we set out as a group to conquer Azeroth.

    Now when it comes to the genre, my solo ways seem to have returned.

  2. Of course, most modern MMOs have done away with the inconveniences listed in the above excerpt from Wilhelm’s 2006 post. Not long after that post was written there were the beginnings of a communitarian approach to questing and other “solo” activities. Vanguard launched with group gathering, for example, and most MMOs I played back then began to introduce shared quest drops within groups doing the same quest, albeit inconsistently at first.

    By the time we got to Rift the very concept of a group began to melt away, with group auto-joins for Rifts and Invasions and Contribution rewards and quest completion blurring the boundary between solo and group play. GW2 took that a stage further, doing away both with any need for grouping at all outside of an instance (although some people still insist on LFG for open world content, to my complete mystification). Anything you could get rewarded for solo you will get rewarded for in a group, or in a zerg.

    Rift and GW2 made a big deal of these features in their PR but I’ve noticed that even MMOs that don’t trumpet their clever shared-credit mechanics do still actually have them. I did many quests solo in the Secret World alongside other soloists or small groups and got full Mission credit on everything.

    Observing from their actions that someone nearby might be on the same quest then joining in with them without having to form a group (or even discuss it) was one of the joys of TSW for me. Far from seeming anti-social it made the world seem more organic, more “real” and very definitely more immersive. I notice that the FFXIV beta has the same unadvertised flexibility and it works wonderfully.

    I don’t play WoW but I believe even Blizzard may have retro-added some of these features. From my perspective the whole concept of “groups” is redundant outside of instances (and probably there too). We should just all play in the same space and the game systems should sort all that out in the background. Which appears to be where we are heading.

  3. Ehhh… I don’t quite get the MOBA link from that argument. Don’t MOBAs primarily use a hotjoin matchmaker system for groups? And have a reputation for terrible abuse and negative interactions from said groups – especially when their side loses. It’s also nearly impossible to solo a MOBA unless you create your own game with 9 other bots, which would be boring for most.

    1. That is going with “where you bring your friends.” My friends who really, really enjoy LoL have a competitive group together so that they can almost always play with a pre-made 5 rather than using the matchmaker.

      1. But then I can use the same argument of bringing your already-made friends along in an MMO for a much better, net positive grouping experience. Dungeons and team PvP would automatically be more awesome as a result.

        1. I concur, although that is after the leveling game thought that prompted the post. People frequently recommend avoiding PUGging for that sort of content, although I think that argument favors the non-MMO games that have spent their time focusing on that small group experience without the MM baggage.

  4. If anything, I’d say you’re on to something here about the leveling game in MMOs being baggage for a certain type of player who prefers running in premade groups. That’s probably why MOBAs are taking off in popularity – it’s not so much whether the leveling experience is more convenient/better solo or grouped, it’s simply faster to get to the action and fun, rather than deal with getting to max level first.

    And with that suddenly making sense for me now, I will stop hogging your comment feed. :) Thanks for the discussion!

    1. MOBAs work for the same reason PvP MMOs work; the players provide the content, which is far cheaper and lasts longer than dev-designed content.

      The main reason LoL is the top game out right now is because it allows casuals and ‘bads’ to get hooked, without the (usually direct) notification that they are indeed ‘bads’. In a PvP MMO you can’t hide that while still allowing the content drives (top players) to do their thing. In LoL you very much can.

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