Massively Overthinking: Forced socializing in MMORPGs

Massively OP Patron Jackybah has a question for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s probably going to kick up some dust. He wonders whether MMO developers recognize and “serve” a particular subgroup of their players enough — specifically, the group of players that do not want to actively participate in social grouping (for dungeons) or social banter (in guild chat) but still want to contribute to and participate in an online world.

“In quite a number of games I feel that the game forces a player to group up to be able to see content and/or get higher-level gear,” he writes to us.

There’s a lot of layers to unpack here — non-social gamers in social spaces, the current state of MMO group content, and even the fundamentals of MMORPGs. Is our Patron right, and if so, is it a problem studios should be addressing? Let’s get to it.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): This is probably going to be an unpopular reply, but I do think grouping should be a core features of MMOs. A solo player should be able to level up if a game uses that system. They should be able to see all of the developer’s story if they’re including it. They should be able to participate in game’s economy if a game has one.

What they should not be able to do is get the coolest looking armor, most awesome mounts, or hold the best non-instanced housing. There are tons of Facebook games and not-so-massively multiplayer online games that can cater to solo minded players, and I say that as someone who is frequenting those games more often these days. While I enjoy public questing, it’s socially frustrating for me to be surrounded by soloers in MMOs when I’d used the genre in the past to connect to people. The lack of systems that included socializing as a core gameplay feature (beyond raiding and non-ganking pvp, as these tend to be end-game content) is absolutely maddening. Both my brother and myself have struggled to meet other gamers as adults. Arcades are few and far between. We drive in our cars, so even mobile gamers are probably not seeing a lot of fellow players. I had thought gamer culture in Japan was rough, but having returned to America where we lack local multiplayer game cafes and a dying internet cafe scene, things are downright depressing when MMOs feel like they strongly cater to the soloer.

My own gaming habits have changed, but especially after E3 2017, I’m feeling more like forced grouping is a good thing. I think, mechanically, having simple systems but requiring very basic communication skills is best. MMOs are supposed to be virtual worlds. Remember that MUDs gave birth to RPGs, not vice versa. As MMOs are graphical MUDs, our genre should be supporting the RPer more than random killers. Online multiplayer is cool, but what’s the point of a massively shared world if most of the content can be done brainlessly by yourself? We need MMOs to get back to their social roots, rather than continue down the path of multiplayer murder simulators. There’s no point in my virtually killing if I don’t want to virtually live.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I think that MMORPG developers definitely do serve the solo player, or at least the part-time solo player, to a degree, usually in the early and middle stages of the game. I’m sure plenty of people would argue that’s a problem, even, and some will go so far as to argue for forced grouping at all times — the group or die philosophy, the “make people group with me or your game will die” mantra. But it’s also still true that many developers and players consider the pinnacle of massively online gameplay to be multiplayer, which means you’ll seldom find an MMO where you can effectively opt out of guilds and raiding at endgame and not be considered a second-class citizen by the game rules, the devs, and the community. The supposedly “solo-friendly” or “solo-catering” MMO hasn’t really advanced much in the last decade; we’re in a holding pattern where lone wolves are still relegated to the midgame, whales too. It’s almost like when you tell a whole chunk of your customer base that they aren’t welcome or valued unless they play exactly one way, they leave and find other genres!

So I agree with our reader that this is also a problem; contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing inherent in the term “massively multiplayer” that says you must be be teamed up at all times or be social. The game whose devs coined the term MMORPG to describe it didn’t even launch with groups, global chat, or guilds, for crying out loud. So I completely understand that some people want to exist and participate in an online world — its exploration, its achievement, its storyline, its economy, its competition, its simulation — without necessarily joining the equivalent of the cool kid fraternity or an endless stream of school group projects where you drag everyone to the finish line just so you can get your grade and graduate. I get that. Sometimes you just want to go to the mall and buy stuff and sit by the fountain and eat and people-watch and not bring a dozen friends (or your Instagram account followers) to validate your activities.

I don’t see this changing any time soon, as the next wave of MMORPGs is obsessed with turning us all into warlords squabbling over patches of virtual pixel land, meaning those with no desire to be hypersocial or antisocial — those folks in the middle — are going to be waiting a while longer for games that are real play-as-you-like sandboxes and not just ladders to a sticky-social endgame where your virtual relationships determine your play.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I’m probably the last person in the world to say that MMOs must, at all times, force social interaction for players whether or not they want them. Ultimately, the social aspect of MMOs is an important part of the game, but not the only important part of the game; the question, then, becomes where the balance should lie and how social you should need to be in order to see most of the game as a whole. Interacting with an online persistent world is another part of the genre, and it’s possible to enjoy that part without necessarily enjoying all possible permutations of group content.

My personal feeling on the matter is that all content should at least be open for players to experience without having to form any sort of static group, and players should feel free to pursue the parts of the endgame that interest them rather than certain “mandatory” large-scale excursions. There are, to the genre’s credit, several games which I think push for a healthy balance between the two; Final Fantasy XIV, EVE Online, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Star Trek Online all offer what I’ve seen as a good split between social options and solo ones, although many of them fall at different points within that boundary.

Too much forced socializing and you wind up with games like World of Warcraft, where they game pushes you into a single path and spurs your efforts if you’re not interested in the one path the designers support (in this case, raiding). Too little, though, and you wind up in a situation similar to that of Star Wars: The Old Republic, where the game basically has no persistent world outside of a standardized friend list and some shared areas. Even some of my favorite games have gone too far in one direction or the other; I love Guild Wars, but you can seriously play through almost everything in that game without ever requiring another human being to join you. (Though some bits get tricky.)

I do think that designers have the right, perhaps even the obligation, to push players into contact. It’s how you meet people and make friends, and that’s an important part of the experience. But you shouldn’t have to have your Do Content Night planned out weeks in advance just to, y’know, do content.

Well, I'll take it, but I won't pay much for it.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I think they have, to tell the truth. There has been a lot of movement over the past half-decade or so in the MMO space toward more solo-friendly activities and goals. It’s a hard balance to achieve, to offer both group and solo options and make both viable and rewarding. Remember, players always migrate toward the activity that offers the most reward for the least effort, so if that is soloing, then you can kiss grouping goodbye — whether or not there are people who want to do that. Same goes the other way.

But we have seen games that offer other routes to top-level gear, such as crafting, WildStar’s elder gem system, world events that require mobs of people but no actual grouping (just show up and get your participation badge), achievements, and so on. I applaud games like RIFT for offering single- and dual-player versions of raids to see them on “tourist” mode for those who want the story, not the forced grouping challenge.

Developers in MMORPGs have to be careful not to unbalance the dynamic of the game by being too solo-friendly or too group-dependent lest they fall into a much narrower niche. So different options, all rewarding, all challenging (in their own way) is the way to go.

Your turn!

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83 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: Forced socializing in MMORPGs"

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Kickstarter Donor
thalendor

Considering that most groups I join in modern MMOs have no or almost no socialization it feels like asking a question about forced socialization is a moot point.

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Patreon Donor
Veldan

“While I enjoy public questing, it’s socially frustrating for me to be surrounded by soloers in MMOs when I’d used the genre in the past to connect to people. The lack of systems that included socializing as a core gameplay feature is absolutely maddening.” ~Andrew

I fully agree with this, and with the rest Andrew said. I’m an introvert and love to be alone in a game world sometimes, but MMOs are multiplayer by nature, and soloing should not be the main thing to do.

Neither should zero-interaction multiplayer where nobody even speaks a word and everyone just does their own thing. To me, that’s worse than soloing. There’s a related quote about that, from the late Robin Williams:

f0107ad113f67088bcfd7046c9b79f7e--alone-quotes-true-quotes.jpg
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Alex Malone

Massively Multiplayer Online…..this whole genre is dedicated to 100s / 1000s of players living and playing together in the same virtual environment. I actually feel like most MMO devs have forgotten this and I don’t think we’ve ever had an MMO that truly leverages the MMO aspect.

I also feel that too many MMOs are too solo.

Community is what keeps these games going long term. There isn’t enough content by itself, we stay for months / years due to friends. So, I’m all in favour of devs doing whatever they can to encourage a community to form, be it through forced grouping, an in depth economy, pvp, roleplaying or whatever else.

On the forced group thing specifically, I’m in favour as long as there is something in place to deal with a decline in the population. LotRO had a lot of group content at launch and it was nearly impossible to reach cap without doing a lot of group content. That was great……for 6 months. Then we all hit cap and stayed there, making it really hard for newbies or alts to find groups. Then it sucked.

This is why I’m in favour of scaling technology – it’s the same quest, but scaled to level and group size (much like the generic missions in SWG). That way, most of us can do the quests in groups, resulting in more socialising and better rewards, but when the population drops we can still do the quests, but we might do them solo.

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Patreon Donor
Veldan

“Community is what keeps these games going long term. There isn’t enough content by itself, we stay for months / years due to friends. So, I’m all in favour of devs doing whatever they can to encourage a community to form, be it through forced grouping, an in depth economy, pvp, roleplaying or whatever else. ”

This is the essence of why I dislike the state of most current MMOs. Community is as good as absent, and the devs are no longer designing for it.

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Chestnut Bowl

I’m a solo player, through and through. No friends, no guilds, no statics. I like MMOs because I like feeling immersed in a larger, active world. That said, forced grouping is a quick way for me to lose interest in the product.

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Sean Drohan

Then play something else…

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Patreon Donor
Veldan

That’s exactly what people who lose interest in a game are going to do.

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Loyal Patron
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
kgptzac

And that’s absolutely fine for everyone involved. Nobody can simultaneously like all forms of entertainment, and that’s ok. I don’t complain about my beef doesn’t taste like strawberry ice cream. There are already games that are “lite-MMO”, which offers much Chestnut Bowl’s desire without downsides, and they don’t (or at least shouldn’t) call themselves MMO.

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Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Suikoden

Like Justin said, I think there have been strides in that direction. However, what they need to be careful of is that, allowing someone to participate in an online world solo, is different than making it solo friendly. I felt that SWTOR made their game too much a solo game, but I never felt like I was participating in a larger world. Whereas to the contrary, GW2 allows you to adventure completely solo, but I always felt like I was participating; whether it was the world quests or the economy.

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Sean Drohan

ESO has this problem as well and actually facilitates it. You can be part of 5 guilds – the sense of allegiance is absent from the game (for me).

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Avalon Alduin

After 15 years of searching for a MMO that does social well, ESO was the one that finally pushed me back to trying UO again, on the UO Forever shard. ESO is a beautiful, full game, with tons of content, to be honest I really feel like I’m in the Elder Scrolls world, the problem was despite the constant players I see everywhere, there was no communication, no social connection, I didn’t feel like I was a part OF that world. Five guilds, no allegiance, no actual need to group for the majority of the content.

What I really miss is the chat right over someone’s head in UO, where you could have a conversation with a random stranger, offer help, deviously impede a person’s progress, both the good and bad social interactions are what I’ve missed from games.

Three months back to UO, and loving every minute of it, have built dozens of relationships once again that I see as long lasting relationships, both inside, and outside of the guild I chose. I can’t say I’ve gotten the same out of any other MMO these past 15 years. WoW was almost there for me, then came the ever evolving raid content, that if you couldn’t raid 3+ nights a week to keep up, you were left behind.

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Sean Drohan

‘After 15 years of searching for a MMO that does social well, ESO was the one that finally pushed me back to trying UO again, on the UO Forever shard. ESO is a beautiful, full game, with tons of content, to be honest I really feel like I’m in the Elder Scrolls world, the problem was despite the constant players I see everywhere, there was no communication, no social connection, I didn’t feel like I was a part OF that world. Five guilds, no allegiance, no actual need to group for the majority of the content.’

^1000 times, that

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Chosenxeno .

Some grouping is ok but I learned that forced constant grouping is a terrible idea via Vanguard. I do not want my progression tied to population sizes or interest in helping me. It wasn’t the bugginess that drove me out of Vanguard back in the day. It was needing to group to kill basic world Mobs.

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Kickstarter Donor
Modrain

As often, I’ll be advocating for the advent/return of virtual world mechanics over ultra-gameified ones.

Forced grouping is the epitome of controlled content, and is more often than not strongly linked to instances. It feels unnatural in the context of a virtual world, the game tells you: “you don’t know what’s ahead, but you have to group with 4 other people”. It does not let the players experience the world, it does not make them understand what is to come. Just: “you must group”. It’s a constraint. Is that even a context to “socialize”? Some might not care about it, but in the end it’s a leash put on players.
Why should that leash even exist? Why should virtual worlds necessarily be experienced in groups? It’s nothing more than a shared space between players. They should not *require* groups, they should *allow* groups.

You don’t even need the forced/queued grouping to want to group by yourself. Allowing players to experience the content independently from a group makes a complete difference as to how you can approach them. You can try the content alone, evaluate its difficulty, understand it. If it’s a content that you really want to complete, and that it is too hard for you alone, then you’ll come yourself to the conclusion that you need a group. Otherwise, you should be given the possibility to just come back later when more powerful, and solo the content. But for that you need a non-instanced open world and a lack of level or quest gating. Basically, you need more virtual world.

Willful grouping > forced grouping.

kjempff
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kjempff

I very much agree. The way forced grouping is discussed has been too obsessed with the forced part. Forced will not get people to socialize, but when you turn it around and let the player decide they want to socialize, it is suddenly a positive thing. Most players are some mix of socializers and soloers and I think most are more social than they think when they are not forced.

That said, when game mechanics and game world has been designed to require a group for some of its content, it is of course forced in some way. But it makes all difference for the player, that they opt-in on the socializing – Which means a social game NEED to have content for solo play, and that the player can participate in these activities with little effort.. which again will be a positive feedback loop for less social player to interact with others.

So what is need is for a mmo to create these less formal socializing mechanics and systems that nudges the player to socialize. There has been too much focus on grouping being the main way to interact with others, but there are so many more ways. Some examples.. trading and hackling by talking instead of anonymous auction house, tradeskills requiring components that only others can provide (efficiently) or even tradeskilling that require teamwork, while adventuring it could be asking players in the area to do small favors such as train these away so I can slip by, invis me, can you show where x is.
I am also a huge fan of informal grouping mechanics such as gw2 (the basic idea, not the execution) where players can cooperate (and therefore socialize) without management overhead or bureaucracy. It is all those small patches of opt-in socializing we need focus on, and not grouping as the only way to socialize.

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Tia Nadiezja

I’ve never found group content in MMOs to be terribly social. Sometimes standing around in San d’Oria or wherever with a partial party trying to finish building a full party led to interesting socialization, but once we were out doing actual content what little talk there was was purely practical.

I’d really rather just keep my guild chat tab open and play solo at my own pace.

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Seamus O'neill

I think it’s good to have alternatives to gearing, and some solo options to an extent. In dungeons you should never be required to speak. It might be in your best interest to listen if you don’t know the fight, but other than that, you do you. However at the end of the day, you’re playing an MMO. This is not skyrim, this is not dragon age, or neverwinter nights even. This is an MMO, they were made to be social and have the game be about difficult group content. Mmos like swtor have forgotten this as of late and they’re suffering because of it. You shouldn’t be able to get the best gear or even close to the best gear unless you’re working together. I find it very tiresome when I’m in a dungeon ( quite a few in FFXIV) and we wipe because someone refuses to even speak or acknowledge what’s happened. If you’re shy, or just not in the mood to talk, fine that’s your own prerogative, but at least look

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Brown Jenkin

Neat to see this discussion brought up around here, as it has sort of been talked around a few times but I don’t think ever really directly addressed. I think it was GW2 that made clear to me how much different types of gamers really do want dramatically different things here. I continue to think that GW2 offered some of the most meaningful innovations in the MMO genre to date, particularly with regard to social play. Many folks complained for ages that GW2 was an “anti-social” MMO, while in contrast I remember it always being one of the most social MMOs I’ve ever played. The issue at hand was that GW2 almost never forced players to be social (this changed later) and for some players that removed any incentive to do so.

I have great memories of playing with my friends, my family and my guildmates in GW2, all things that most MMOs do many things to dissuade. GW2’s moves toward removing fights over loot, and struggles over who to guild with (friends and family or the megaguild) I would argue actually changed the genre. Once folks thought these were asinine moves that undermined the foundations of MMOs, but we see these features (or the exact opposite with full looting and guild on guild warfare) as some of the foundations of lots of MMOs now, and like it or not other “run of the mill” MMOs (like ESO) have realized since GW2’s success that these moves are net positives as they make MMOs less miserable as a genre.

When you don’t force people to play socially, they do so because they actually like to play with others. This should be an ideal that more MMOs strive to imo.

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Schmidt.Capela

When you don’t force people to play socially, they do so because they actually like to play with others. This should be an ideal that more MMOs strive to imo.

This is true for so many activities.

Take PvP, for example. If people are only doing PvP because they want the shiny reward at the end, because they feel like without engaging in the PvP they will be left behind, then you will have droves of players in PvP matches who don’t actually want to engage in PvP, which in turn means those players will do whatever they can to get the reward with the least effort even if it goes against the principles of PvP and ruins the experience for everyone else; it’s how kill trading, exchanging objectives without fighting, and numerous other behaviors that kill all joy in PvP start.

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Sally Bowls

Remember the periodic discussion where columnists and commenters are puzzled as to why companies are running away from labeling their game an MMO: e.g. TESO, SWTOR, Destiny, SC, et al… ?

IMO, this is an example of why!

A vocal group knows what MMOs must be; not something as mundane as what the customers want to buy. And a dev goes “OMG, why would I want to hamstring my sales potential and taint my game by letting this label get smeared on it?”

———-

A couple of times in the pre-Launch Wildstar videos, Gafney mentioned that 60-65% of MMO players solo. It’s OK for you to talk about what MMOs used to be or what you think they should be. But that does not change what, today, they are.

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haishao

The idea of MMORPG is a big persistent fantasy world where people live in. Everyone doing their things around everyone else doing their things. Like real life, but in a fantasy world. It was never about group content at all cost.
Grouping always came naturally in early MMO. It was never forced and I think this is why people remember it so much and why it was easier to make friends. People grouped together on their own will and similar people stuck together. Like in the real world.

When you’re forced into a group, you don’t make friends that easily. You just get put together with other people you have never seen before. No one will be talking because everyone just want to go through that forced content. And when it’s done you’ll most likely never see them ever again. This is not natural and doesn’t feel like a world. It doesn’t feel like a MMORPG, it feels like a quick pickup game you play 1 hour a week.

Grouping should never be mandatory. It should come naturally and encouraged by game mechanic without having the game force it upon anyone.

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Sean Drohan

‘When you’re forced into a group, you don’t make friends that easily. ‘

Perhaps ‘you’ do not but others (often) do. There is not a guild I have been in that I was not initially in grouped content to begin with – I would think this would be true of most everyone that ever joined a guild.

‘Grouping should never be mandatory.’

That’s just bad for the / any MMO IMHO. If you care about the people in the game (a natural progression after forming bonds with certain people in a game over time), you will play more (fact). With common goals accomplished, as a group, the game prospers.

If you don’t want to socialize, fine, just know your progression is likely going to be capped. You cant have it both ways – solo with all access to the fruit of a the collective play.

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haishao

Forced group content is part of what killed socializing in MMORPG. Because it came when Developers decided to take upon the path everyone has to follow in the games; which puts everyone in their own instance of the linear solo story quest.
People remember old school MMO and how much sociability there were in them but those MMO didn’t have premade story that had to be followed and forced group content.
It’s a bit ironic that people’s solution to lack of sociability in MMORPG is more of that poison that killed it.

Not having mandatory group content is only bad in bad MMO. Player should form group on their own will. Not because developers decided it is required to go further.

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Sean Drohan

‘Forced group content is part of what killed socializing in MMORPG. ‘

‘It’s a bit ironic that people’s solution to lack of sociability in MMORPG is more of that poison that killed it.’

I can’t accept that (repeated) premise. There is nothing but opinion there and that the genre is flourishing would seem to indicate otherwise.

Also, MMOs did not invent forced grouping. Every sports title available today has a ‘Team’ option and they are quite popular.

Every shooter has ‘Team’ based modes where communication is paramount to success.

In the end, for every troll group you find yourself stuck with, you can (and will) find a group that has you saying ‘wow, that was cool, I really learned something from that group – had fun too’. If you don’t want to engage in it, again, fine, just know you are missing opportunities to get more, learn more, and have fun you would not otherwise have been exposed to playing solo.

KatsPurr
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KatsPurr

Very well said Haishao! Exactly!

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flamethekid .

but there’s the problem most mmo’s don’t have any ways to encourage grouping unless the player strays off on their own the given path made by the devs to talk to someone(which would usually end in futility since it would most likely end up as an awkward situation)and end up not even bothering to try socializing again.

this is especially a huge problem in PvE games and not so much in PvP cause in PvP you gonna interact with people either to kill them or to team up to have a better chance at survival(adversity can and will always either bring out the best of ourselves and lead to friendship or bring out the worst and lead to making enemies same applies in real life as well)this is the current problem of todays mmo’s

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haishao

This is a problem with how MMO are developed today. There are many ways to encourage natural grouping but sadly, they were traded for individualist features and convenience.

given path made by the devs is a big part of the problem. It shouldn’t exist. MMORPG are world to “immerse” yourself in. Not a story book that you read through without skipping a page. MMO developers should be creating worlds and lore, not story. The story should be your own within this world. Your own path, your own choices, and your own goals.

There are a lot of thing in modern MMO that prevent natural grouping. Sadly they’re things people seems to want.

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Utakata

Yow seem to be assuming all MMO players are unsociable to begin with. This kind of social “blank slate” idea can lead to some very poor development decisions…such as forcing players together who don’t really want to be together, as the OP suggested.

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Utakata

Edit/Erratum: *You seem to be…proper.

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Witches

Forced grouping means that as soon as that content is deemed obsolete or not interesting by the majority of the playerbase, no one else can do it, you’re basically creating abandonware.

I can play Injustice, GTA, ME:A, what have you alone, being able to play with others is just a great extra, but if someone only plays the multiplayer versions of that game no one will fault them, the options are there for all that want to use them, if you choose to make the side game your main game, you’re still playing the game, that’s what counts.

This type of thinking is just another reason MMOs are underperforming, it always comes down to, “it used to be this way, want can’t it always be exactly this way ”

And it’s not like there isn’t a “solution”, besides the pvp only, but with crafting and other MMO elements, we will soon have raid only games, also with MMO elements, meanwhile every popular game will have a multiplayer option, because outside of MMOs people don’t seem to have much of a problem with grouping, it’s just that people playing GTAO aren’t complaining about the people who have no interest in grouping.

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Tia Nadiezja

Yeah. This is also a thing.

I’ve been playing STO for years. A bunch of the queued content just… sits idle. And a few types of marks are a pain to get because everybody’s done earning them.

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Sean Drohan

Thi is a design problem – not a social one. For example, create some gravity in the content that makes it worth it to continue to go back.

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Orenj

Yet another example of MMOs being two great tastes that don’t taste so great together. On one hand you have a mass of players that are there to play a *game*… they want a planned, canned multiplayer gaming experience, and they need other players to be forced into chasing the same carrots with them or it doesn’t work. On the other hand you have a mass of players that are there to experience a living *world*… they want other players there for the rich and surprising emergent behaviors and experiences that can arise, but the more the players are regimented, scripted, forced into doing certain things, the less space there is for the truly dynamic.

Sure some people are into both, but they really don’t work together; one comes at the expense of the other. They really need to be in separate games. Developers really need to get out of the WoW everything-to-everyone Ur-MMO mentality and just focus on one or the other. (Actually that seems to be happening, but not enough yet.)

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IgnisGray

If any game tries to appeal to multiple demographics of players, each with their own gameplay preferences and boundaries, it’s not just arrogant but dishonest and sometimes downright mean to force players happily fulfilling their own niche to do something they’d rather avoid.

I play MMO’s as an extreme introvert because they feel like societies to me. I’m happy to weave through crowds and soak in the ambience of a bustling city, but don’t confuse my appreciating being AROUND other people with me being a social butterfly.

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Toy Clown

There are enough MMOs out on the market now that thankfully I can pick games that fit my playstyle. It wasn’t that way a handful of years ago.

I’m not a fan of ‘forced’ anything – not in the real world and especially not in gaming. I am social, but I prefer to play with people that appeal to me (and vice versa). Depending on the MMO, I might not ever find people I enjoy spending time with, as I don’t have a lot of tolerance for cruel, uncaring and toxic behaviors. I don’t believe that MMOs are about “forced grouping”, and I don’t see anything wrong with creating content for solo players to enjoy. Just because I don’t enjoy socializing through grouping or partaking in “chat” doesn’t mean I’m not social. I enjoy bonding over discussions of an MMO’s lore, crafting, and roleplay interests.

On the flip side of that, I’ve never felt like raiding should be a solo activity (as an example), and I accept there’s content for group players that I will never pursue.

Bobuliss
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Bobuliss

Here’s a radical thought: if you don’t like socializing, don’t socialize. Why would someone whine about being “forced” to socialize in a multiplayer game? No one’s handcuffing you to the computer, loading up WoW and cackling maniacally while they poke you with hot irons until you queue up for a raid. Just go play a single player game. There’s a bunch of them out there, I’m sure of it. Or just go experience the vast amounts of solo content in virtually every MMO out there. But don’t complain because the big bad devs won’t let you clear progression content by yourself. Ughh.

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Tyler Dahle

Thank you! Nothing is more irritating than people crying about how they can’t play an MMO in solo mode lol. Why the hell do you actively seek MMOs when you have no desire to group or talk or participate in the community? Any Dev stupid enough to pander to solo players in an MMO will be the reason the MMO dies.

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Diane Bradley

I play MMO’s for the same reason you do — to experience an alternate life in a dynamic, living world. I’t mostly about economy — I need other people to sell things and to buy my stuff.

I solo because…
1. I’m an older lady who needs frequent breaks, and I don’t want to hold up the group, nor do I care to wait while someone else takes care of their personal business. Furthermore, I’m a “smell the roses” type. Can’t stand that “go go go” mentality.
2. I have a very defensive play style. Every time I’m grouped, some Leroy Jenkins plows into the camp, drawing aggro and wiping the group. An irritating waste of time.
3. All the loots and all the nodes belong to me.
4. Small talk and idle conversation bores me. Juvenile sex-related talk and most political discussion enrages me. Some people are loners by nature.

I think LOTRO has the best solution — you can solo most content or choose to do it with a customized group size.

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Sally Bowls

The complaints are just a distraction to this discussion. It does not matter how much the not- socializers complain; what matters is where they spend. Whether they whine or completely silently move to a different game does not matter. They not being customers of the MMO does. MMOs aren’t in great shape financially; shrinking a game by running off the majority of the potential customers is tough to justify.

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Tyler Dahle

I’m sorry… Playing online with others is what an MMO is. Any MMO that panders to those who just want to play solo the entire time does not deserve to on the market as an MMO. And if you just want to play solo but reeeaaallllyyy want to play an MMO, then you just have to make it work and recognize you are in a freaking MMO and you aren’t playing it right.

So no, any MMO that panders to solo players will live a very short life because no one will play it except the 2 fools who only play solo but are for some reason playing MMOs.

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KatsPurr

We live in the real world filled with introverts, extroverts and everything in between – everyone has a place here. An MMO is a world also, merely a virtual one. I don’t see why introverts suddenly lose their right to exist upon stepping into the virtual plane? You might as well say that those wanting solitude have no place in the real world either – I mean “it is a world after all”. The beauty of MMOs is it brings players of all kinds together under one roof and thus should also cater to different wants and needs. Games like MOBAs are a whole different story, since the main focus is on team work.

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flamethekid .

you can’t go through life without interacting with a real living human its impossible you can certainly avoid people through the day however.

in an MMO you are playing with more people than most people would typically see in a day and in a tighter smaller space as well.
and seeing as how majority of mmo’s are combat based the common person should not be able to steamroll through content solo.

lets take the game dragon age for an example you are a powerful person but you can’t go solo in that game without your other party members. if you could you would end up having an easy game and for some people who like playing in parties the appeal of the game would fall apart.

that being said literally only thing to do is just have mmo’s that satisfy different people
you can’t satisfy everyone
and the idea of an mmo is a shared world where everyone is playing with you and interacting hence multiplayer.

KatsPurr
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KatsPurr

As I mention in my comment further down, my situation is the exact opposite than what you describe. My whole day is filled with people, and yet more people. I’m having to constantly interact with people all day long. And no, there is nothing I can do to avoid this through the day. Unless I quit my job and abandon my family! Just to be clear, it’s not that I don’t enjoy these aspects of my life, it’s just that they are also draining for an introvert, so I really need that down time in the evenings where I don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules, don’t need to be commanded by a raid leader, don’t have to put up with snarky kids in a dungeon, but still want to explore everything the game has to offer.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, I really enjoy group content with friendly people. I even enjoy challenging content with positive folks. But I dislike the WoW style of dungeon and raid, the assumption that if you don’t know what you are doing, you shouldn’t be playing, the gear checking, build requirement, hostile if you fail kind of group.

I consider ever dungeon a chance to learn something new. The assumption that I know it all, or should know it all, before setting foot in a dungeon is stultifying. If the dungeon isn’t there to experience and explore, then it is there just to scratch off an achievement or put you another hour on your gear grind. What is the point of an MMO if not to gather your friends before setting forth on an adventure?

On the other hand, I also really enjoy banging through content with an experienced group and laying everything to waste with proficiency. It’s the equivalent of that PvP high when you win.

The best of all possible worlds is when these two hands meet, the friendly, competent group and the challenging dungeon content.

In my experience, however, this is the exception, not the rule. It’s the friction of where the fantasy of how you intend to spend your time gaming meets the reality of other people.

MMOs are just the latest endeavor of humanity to try and hash out what the world should look like. People have been making rules about the world they want to live in probably as long as there have been people…

“Then did Ur-Nammu the mighty warrior, king of Ur, king of Sumer and Akkad, by the might of Nanna, lord of the city, and in accordance with the true word of Utu, establish equity in the land; he banished malediction, violence and strife, and set the monthly Temple expenses at 90 gur of barley, 30 sheep, and 30 sila of butter. He fashioned the bronze sila-measure, standardized the one-mina weight, and standardized the stone weight of a shekel of silver in relation to one mina… The orphan was not delivered up to the rich man; the widow was not delivered up to the mighty man; the man of one shekel was not delivered up to the man of one mina.”
–Code of Ur-Nammu, c. 2100 BC.

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Cadaver

What they should not be able to do is get the coolest looking armor, most awesome mounts, or hold the best non-instanced housing.

As a solo, exploration-focused player I don’t particularly care about these gewgaws. That ain’t my carrot. You can have your precious things (although these days the ‘coolest looking’ stuff tends to be reserved for the cash shop anyway). All I require is that mmos don’t block my ability to level, to explore and to enjoy the story with forced grouping. I’ll socialize, but in ways that I want to and at times when I want to.

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Tyler Dahle

It’s an MMO… You may want single player games if you don’t like grouping. MMOs get ruined and die if they pander to solo crowd too much. The very core of an MMO is to be able to play WITH other players. If you aren’t doing that… Why are you there?

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thirtymil

Humans forced to socialise when they don’t want to get irate. Letting them play most of the game solo and then telling them that to progress they must change their ways completely leads to them being even more irate. What you don’t want is a game full of irate people.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

This is a great, gaping mistake almost all MMOs make today. A dedicated solo player will just move on to another MMO rather than put up with a developer’s mood shift to now cater only to group play.

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Tyler Dahle

Solo players can leave… This is an MMO. What good does your presence so for the rest of the community if you aren’t grouping?

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jaif13

Largely absent from this discussion is that PvP (open-world, RvR, organized) requires other people. So if I want to build up a character, make a build, and then test it out…I need other people. That doesn’t mean I want to wait for them to show up to a raid, or be forced to beg for help from a tank and healer so I can get something I want.

I’m not maligning grouping, but some people have a completely different perspective on “social” gaming that differs from the “social=friendly, anti-social=unfriendly” definition.

-Jeff

P.S. Personally, I prefer RvR/WvW – that’s my thing in MMORPGs, and where I get the biggest kick. I do like some of the open world event thingies (e.g. GW2), but I really wish the event results would stick more.

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Byórðæįr

So I remember the days of dwago and doom, you ran around with random other people shooting monsters. That was fun. To myself the social aspect is supposed to happen naturally as people have common goals. You want people to talk to their is a chat box in most cities that scrolls about a ten lines a minute when it is slow.

MMO should be about community not necessary six people. A guild came from people creating temporary channels to chat with their friends and wanted more permanent chat channels. then housing shows up on the mmo scene and people want a larger house to party at. Only people who worked hard to get the largest house were likely competing with each other not working together. So I see it as five people who group to buy house should not have a bigger house than any of the players fifty levels above them just because the grouped together. But I liked bdo’s method the guild houses where set locations in the world in different instances of the world. The houses varied on size based on how much impact you had on the world. To get the biggest houses you have to buy up a whole lot of smaller houses and use them as something other than your house. It felt more like a liege protect vassals as they move up in the world taking on larger tasks. most people at the start of the game only used them for storage but item storage is usually the most frustrating part of any mmo.

To strike closer to the point is some people are introverted and some extroverted. Introverts are more comfortable having people around at more than arms distance while extroverts what to here people even random strangers talking to them. Being that people are different everyone falls somewhere between those two extremes. So mmo start by having people walking around the same cities but having instanced homes to some degree. This means that when the avergage player only plays two hours a day and four to five on the weekends with some people almost living in the game, they need content that appeals to all players and best content should not go to the players that burn through the content as fast as possible but it should still be a reward for interacting in the world. So if you burn through the content in a week but still interact with players and npcs in that week then there should be no difference to the player that takes two years to get through the content as they might interact with a thousand times more player but they still keep the content feeling alive over that period. So for me that awesome sword design that was reward for killing a thousand players, that should just be design that player can get other ways because farming a thousand newbies verse a thousand hard fought battles is not the same achievement in any way. Some quest line that has you go through ten dungeons starts getting into the queuing problem and people griefing by stopping half way through to be funny as people get stuck finishing content after most of the player base has gone through it so having quest require you to finish so many dungeons of any kind opens the door to solo players running through old content much like the pvp player farming nubs… it is not the same but it still has people running through the content and if newer player want to see that content their might be people willing to run the content solo or as scaled gear with players who are wanting to run older content. People may run through it so fast no one sees it like you do when the content is new and wipes the party twenty times trying to get through it the first time. But most rpg roots are not pong but dungeons and dragons and gurps which set a group of adventures into a dungeon looking for monsters to kill and defeat some kind of boss at the end of the adventure. The loot being the cherry on the top of high point of defeating the monster which did not necessary meaning kill it.

mmorpg really there to be a reason to group with random strangers to make new friends. But many of silly things of roleplaying games often end up by the way side in video games simply because even on servers set aside for them people scream they have a right to ruin people fun.
So most mmo simply try to focus on building story elements for the players to directly interact with and hope that people emoting are happy with silly emotes. For me d&d was about controlling a avatar or character or toon, and saying what I would do then watching as the dice controlled most of what happened. If you got creative with explaining it then it was more up the storyteller or dungeon master to want to see it happen the way you expect or blow up in your face as something funny happened. Most of that is missing from video games so that everyone has an equal chance to have a good adventure. most times the party wipes people scream at who ever made a stupid mistake or did not have enough gear. I have no idea how to fix that but the social aspects of forced grouping really do hurt player’s ability to find people who just want to have fun. The ideal is people sign up with an interface to find groups and if they are just bothering the party the party goes back to a hiring hall or interface and tries to find a better group. in reality most people either get lucky and people are there to have fun and you try to clear the dungeon until you do or the party sighs and tries to gear up before trying again. Almost never do they simply go out of a dungeon and try to gear up the player like guilds used to do. I can remember being the tank for one guild getting deployed to another country for the us military and coming back and trying to tank in my gear and the guild I was with at the time basically carrying me through a bunch of dungeons I could have run no problem if my gear had been current because I was the main tank before the deployment and once I had picked up about seventy percent of the current gear same dungeons we ran before the deployment I was able to main tank we could carry more players who hit a stumbling block and could not get the gear they needed to raid with us. Most guilds these days tell players not to raid outside the guild but gear up some how before the raids…

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Robert Mann

Pretty sure this is just one little thing that needs to be a different sub-genre. Simply put, it is virtually impossible to please the people who want more community and social aspects, and those who just want to contribute solo, at the same time.

If the content is relevant, most people will pick the easiest or fastest path. In general, that means that such an MMO will see an even larger portion of dps playing solo, and that any potential group dynamics are further hindered by that shift. At least with the current design. You see, games often take older stuff and make it single player friendly, but the actual current content that matches the storylines? Still locked behind a group… and if it shifts to single player eligible you won’t hardly ever see anyone willing to group for it.

The only way around this, is to make the activities more or less independent of the current design. Making combat challenging, but not balanced around roles, such that group dynamics are more about supporting the position of each other and handling how the swarm of enemies comes at the group. Then have that scale to different sizes, with some reward of extra creatures or something for bigger groups (thus giving more loot.) That might (maybe, but probably not) work. Most likely it would just result in complaints about the unfair loot, and again drive everything to single player. Assuming it would work, it requires things like not traveling through each other and mobs, and at a minimum a shift from the standard class design.

It would be far easier, and far more likely successful, to simply shift MMOs into several different setups. Instead of just Themepark and Sandbox, we need some more variety. I don’t want all games to avoid catering to those who want to play solo online… but at the same time I most certainly do not want to be forced to play solo online all the time. The only reasonable solution is to have games which focus on that solo experience, and those which focus on a social or group experience.

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Brett

I’d say that MMORPGs do require social-focused mechanics, and I like the idea of gameplay rewards for positive social interactions like cooperation, leadership, compassion and altruism. The problem is that forcing the creation of temporary or permanent teams (for example: dungeons, raids and chat-based guilds) to progress seems to be the only form that social dimension tends to take in most game worlds.

While roleplay might be simulated very well with AI in some other single-player games, MMORPGs are the only genre where it is possible to progress into the territory of identity play – and that absolutely requires a social environment where characters of all types are constantly interacting with each other. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a game world entirely alone, but there should also be inducements such that the majority of the time it is more rewarding, and more fun, to be meeting strangers within the fantasy of the realm you inhabit. I think the key is that more developers need to facilitate that direct, individual and spontaneous character-to-character social interaction, instead of the far more common by-the-numbers grouping or support for RL player social media platforms.

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Warking

@Andrew Ross not sure why developers aren’t supporting rpers more, with more social tools added you increase more social interactions for everyone, not just roleplayers.

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rafael12104

Hmm. So we are, once again, going down that nebulous road that tries to define what MMORPGS are or should be. That is what grouping discussions bring to my mind. And yet, the definition is a moving target, and what once was is not what it means now. Lol. And perhaps, that is why some devs are refusing the term altogether?

So, the net net IMO is that their is enough room for solo and group play. Big games that have the resources to strive to be the swiss army knife of gaming should do it all and support groups and lone wolves equally. Other less ambitious titles should cater to niche markets to bring in those players that are looking for a specific feature to be the dominant factor.

But, in general, we need to realize that online play doesn’t necessarily mean group play. Socailizing doesn’t require group dungeons, or raids or pvp. MMORPGs can be flexible enough to allow different modes of play that reward players equally, but maybe differently.

One more thought. SWTOR gets a lot of flack for doing the very thing I describe above. And it is notable, that to some extent, they proved it can be done even in a theme park. Unfortunately, Bioware got mired in lockbox and xp mania. (It is a long story. Lol.) But SWTOR year three and four was an example of a game that was managing both group and solo activity quite successfully much to the chagrin of those who decided it did not fit their definition of an MMORPG.

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Sunken Visions

I think the black and white view people have on the issue is what drives the divide. Group play always seems to force players to perform at a specific level, which is contrary to the fact that every individual has their own skill cap and play style.

Nobody should be punished for having time constraints or simply not having amazing gamer skills. Grouping should be beneficial, but content should ramp up in difficulty instead of having gated requirements.

As for rewards, I think token and gold based systems work best. Stronger mobs just drop more tokens and gold. Nobody gets stuck with things they don’t want and they can eventually get the things they desire. You can always have special rewards for completing difficult tasks, but content should never be locked behind social barriers.

But what do I know. I’m not a developer, and I’m sure nobody in the gaming industry is going to change their views based on some random internet post.

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Arktouros

I have never cared for the social aspects of MMOs. Generally speaking they are bothersome and usually forced in clunky ways. In fact the only thing that appealed to me was the ability to hunt down and kill other players. When UO was coming out there was an article or something where Richard Garriot described other players as the game’s real threat as players could become bandits and presented the ultimate challenge for other players. That sounded right up my alley.

As games went increasingly more and more carebear over the years (full loot, single item, death items, no item drop only coin, no penalty at all, etc) I still find myself playing MMOs because I enjoy the persistent character progression in them. That said I still mostly prefer games where socialization is largely optional to progress. GW2 I was able to get full Ascended without much if any grouping. I can plug myself into any WvW group and hold my own as much as they might scream at me to get on voice comms. In BDO I’m wholly unreliant on others and it’s largely impossible for others to be reliant on me. No trading means I’m freed from the shackles of peer pressure like “Oh…you have an extra Dandelion Box…you should give that to me!” because oh well, too bad, I can’t. Add in near infinite progression….heaven.

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FreecczLaw

I think different games should balance it differently. There is no right or wrong answer except that everyone has different opinions and the genre as a whole should cater to both sides imo. There are enough players out there to support a good number of MMORPGs (especially now that most are made to be played for one day a week) and with the genre having been quite narrow in its scope for a long time it is good to see variety finally being a thing even if it is brought by smaller developers.

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KatsPurr

I’m a lone wolf, but MMOs are my main game genre. Let me explain why: I work all day long in an extremely social environment where there is constant interaction with my team mates. I come home in the evening and I’m social with my family all evening long. Both of these aspects of my life and the amount of social interaction I have is nothing I can control or adjust in any way. Top that off with the fact that by nature, I’m an introvert. So by the end of the day I am absolutely pooped out and all I want is some “me time”. For me, one of the most glorious moments of the day is when everyone has gone to bed and I can log onto my favorite MMO for a little peace and quiet. Many would ask: Isn’t that counterproductive? Why don’t you play a single player game instead? Well first, I love being immersed in a world that feels real and other players being around contributes greatly to that. I also love the fact that it won’t “end”, MMOs are persistent, so all of my efforts will not go to waste but will contribute to my experience far into the future. But one of the main reasons I choose MMOs over single player games is CONTROL. Control over my time, my experience and over the level of social interaction I choose to have. I may be helpless in controlling how much I have to interact with people all day long at work and at home, but once I dive into an MMO, -I- choose whether I go do some solo grinding or whether I take part in a raid. Instead of having to be surrounded by people, I can choose to climb up to the top of a virtual mountain and sit peacefully, enjoying the scenery whilst all the others players trot around below. So ironically, the very fact that there are others players around ENHANCES my feeling of delicious solitude. So to answer the question being asked in the OP, yes – I believe it’s important to also cater to solo players and give them some kind of possibility to do dungeons solo, even if it means that the loot and rewards won’t be as great. I would still like to experience them somehow and in most MMOs, I’m the one who has never been to most dungeons because I don’t have the emotional energy to deal with yet more people when I play.

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Veldan

Well written, and as an introvert I understand this. I also love that feeling of solitude when I’m in an MMO late at night at a quiet place. That indeed doesn’t work in a single player game, it’s not the same.

I would not ask for soloable dungeons though. For me, having an immersive world to stroll around in and do some stuff is enough. My favourite game for this was RIFT, because with the artifacts there was always a reason to go to remote places in zones by yourself (and the zones had such nice atmospheres). I spent so much time late at night just traveling through zones and gathering artifacts and resources… I actually enjoyed that more than dungeons or the solo instances that RIFT had.

Ah now I’m sad… RIP old RIFT. I wish I could turn back the game to its 2014 state.

KatsPurr
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KatsPurr

Thanks for chiming in Veldan. Yeah doesn’t feel the same, does it. As for dungeons, the only reason I’d wish for that is for sake of exploration – the possibility to “see” the entire world. That’s why I don’t care really of the loot would be crap. I did buy and play rift a bit, but moved on to other games eventually.

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Zoe

I have a similar work situation and personality to you, so I understand completely. :)

Brett
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Brett

I can relate to this – and I’d definitely agree with being able to control the level of social interaction during different play sessions!

It’s a good point, and I wonder if there’s something here about how important it is to design the social aspects as gameplay as well, not just as a meta layer on top of the gameplay? That is, the manner and degree by which you engage with other characters also has to facilitate the key elements of choice, strategy and personal customisation – not be a flat assumption.

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panthyr

So I think these assessments have made me realize something: I dont like mmos. Ive been playing since UO and I think Ive just realized Ive always wanted a morpg. I dont want to be forced to group with people I dont know. And if my friends arent online then I dont want to have my play restricted. I think Ive learned to appreciate games like warframe and kritika/dragons nest where the grouping with strangers is a nice to have but not forced. In the end the only reason I play mmos now is and has always been the same: the world feels a live. If devs can code to cover that with dynamic npcs, etc, then I think Id avoid forced grouping at all costs. This was enlightening.. thank you :)

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Minimalistway

Andrew Ross: “our genre should be supporting the RPer more than random killers”

Agreed, and i’m not RPer in any way, i never did it, but i love it and i think many MMO developers are not doing enough for them, offering RP servers is not enough, some games at least offer a way to develop addons and there are RP addons, but they can do more, just imagine Blizzard announcing a patch focusing just on providing tools and content for RPers

In the other hand, i think players should make their own social groups, it may or may not work, for example i wanted in WoW to join a guild focusing in doing old raids at level, just for fun, you know how hard is it to find such guild? and when you find it how hard is it to be a member in the guild? i gave up after a week of trying to talk and search.

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Thomas

MMOs should have both group content and solo content, but I think story content should be soloable, whereas group content should have better rewards (high-end gear, more gold and xp, etc.). I was kind of hoping that GW2 was headed in this direction when I first heard of their “story mode” dungeons, but then, of course, ArenaNet completely blew it and made all versions of their dungeons for player groups only.

Nothing ruins story content for me more quickly than the “go-go-GO!” slam dunk of a typical 5-random-player dungeon run, so much so that I rarely if ever run dungeons anymore.

I was particularly annoyed with WoW: Legion, wherein you now must complete group dungeon runs to level up crafting or complete class/zone quest lines, something that wasn’t necessary (for the most part) in previous expansions.

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Daniel Reasor

Just looking at the way people treat each other in WoW’s dungeon pickup groups, it’s my experience that a LOT of that game’s player base don’t actually enjoy grouping. Players can’t even let the tank pull, because they want the dungeon run to be over with as fast as possible.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

These experiences really put the lie to all the “grouping is social” and “MMOs are all about grouping” arguments. MMOs may once upon a time been about grouping, but now they are about speed racing to level cap and gear grinding. That’s what groups are set up to do. That, I would argue, is what most MMO guilds are set up to do: Make it easier for players to grind gear.

The problem with group play in most MMOs, particularly LFG/LFR groups is that they are not friendly. There may be a few people (all the MOPers, for example) who are looking for social interactions when they group, but most people are not.

IMHO, forcing people to group by putting key progression or story elements in dungeons and raids creates two problems. One, people who don’t want to group, group. Two, people grouping aren’t interested in the content, they just want the tick box to move on.

This really degrades the experience of those who do want to group, who do want to enjoy the content, who do enjoy group play.

My conclusion is that people who really, really enjoy the social aspects of games and want group content should be the last people to insist that people who don’t want this content do it. This is like having people on your bowling team that think bowling is a joke sport. They may be able to throw the ball and hit the pins, but they are not really on your team and they’ll go do what they really want to do as soon as they have the chance.

That’s the problem with modern MMO grouping content in a nutshell.

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miol

The question is here not solo vs. group, but rather forced vs. non-forced!
I only see solo instanced content as actual soloing!

Just because you don’t like forced groups, with all their imperfections and a certain power they can hold over you, depending on what the game allows them to do with you (gear check, loot distribution, kick voting,…), doesn’t at all mean, you don’t like socializing!

Participating is still very much a form of socializing, even if it’s only a very low-key one!
But this has a much greater pontential for way more people to meet and get to know each other, as so many simply rather prefer to avoid forced grouping entirely!

This very much taps into the same vein of people preferring texts over calls! Think about that! ;P

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BalsBigBrother

Offer options, let people pick what suits them and don’t favour one over the other.

I like groups and people but I also like the alone together thing too depending on my mood on any given day. Forcing me into something because that is the only option offered, whether that is group or solo, will at some point hit a day when I am not wanting to go there if there are no other option then I will play something else. Which is fine for me but the idea is to keep me in the game not make me go elsewhere.

Both group and solo have offered me some great socialisation over the years as well as a total lack of it too on more occasions than not. Being grouped doesn’t automatically make folks socialise and being solo doesn’t prevent it either. Trying to force it will always create push back in some form or other.

So as always for me these questions boil down to not locking options down and keeping things in the players hands to decide what they want rather than making the choice for them. As long as that is possible then you increase the chance of people wanting to stay which increases the chance of socialisation and friendship (with the added benefit of making the mmo “sticky” so players stay and spend monies on it.)

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Kathy Davis

Playing together alone…
I hate forced grouping, but I do like running with strangers (soon to be friends)!
I am currently playing a weird MMO called Asta, where at certain times of the day there is a world boss and everyone kinda gangs up to kill it. This is a really low key way to break the social ice.

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Veldan

The thing is, often these world boss zergs in games (because I don’t know Asta, but many games have them) don’t require any communication or coordination. It’s just a bunch of people doing their own thing. As a result, no socialization actually happens. It was one of the big flaws of GW2’s design at launch. Every dynamic event was a bunch of silent strangers doing their own thing, and splitting up when the event completed without even having said a word.

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Koshelkin

There’s no definitive answer to this, imo. If a developer would make everything obsolete which group content offers, people would complain about the rewards being too low or the effort not justified but if they do not the solo players complain that some things are inaccessible for them.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I guess the key here is to offer a wealth of content for everyone so that people are too busy to complain.

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Veldan

No, the key is for the developers to think about what makes a good game. People will whine no matter what, at some point they have to stop listening and make the game in the way that they believe to be right. There will be some people who don’t like what the devs make and that’s fine. The whole idea that an MMO should appeal to everyone was flawed from the start.

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Caec the Warrior

I liken it to real life. No one is forcing you to socialize with others. Just don’t expect to get blurrie group selfies on New Years eve.

The strange idea that every style of game play should result in the same “rewards” has been one of the oddest blocks in MMO game design for years. Or, to turn that around, the idea that a game should accommodate everyone is a terrible way to base game design around, but an understandable way to do it if all you care about is maximizing revenue.

From the player’s side, the idea that an individual game should change and cater to them specifically is also odd. In most other markets, if a product doesn’t cater to you, you don’t buy it. You don’t need a $500 robot vacuum? You don’t buy it. If this was the MMO industry, instead of not buying it, you’d buy it, then scream at the manufacturer to make it cheaper, and to stop focusing on vacuuming your floors, but instead…it should wash your dishes.

It’s just a really weird dynamic on both the developer and player sides of this genre.

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Loyal Patron
imayb1

I disagree. Yes, every style of game play– that accomplishes a specific goal– should get the same rewards. Run a group dungeon, get the spoils. Solo a dungeon, the spoils go to you. Why should the reward system discriminate here?

If a person doesn’t want an expensive vacuum, they don’t buy it. If a player doesn’t want X type of game, they don’t buy it. Both may still complain about the the price, performance, or features of the item, if it doesn’t meet their personal criteria. They have the right to explain why they don’t purchase. I don’t think many people buy into something they don’t like unless they were mislead. If it’s a vacuum, they can return it. If it’s a game, they’ll probably stop playing.

In my experience, many of the people who play a game and then complain about certain features do so because they LIKE the game, but feel it could use improvement. With a vacuum, people may write to the manufacturer, or rate the product online, knowing their specific purchase will never change. Online games are different because devs DO change the game. They listen and respond to customers. Complaints can actually bring about a change.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i don’t consider forced group to be socialization. socailizing can happen in these things but for the most part in most mmo’s that doesn’t really happen.

when i think of forced socialization the last best/worst example is swg’s pre nge death penalty which involved spending a fair bit of time in cantinas listening to ents to recover after dying. i remember hating it at the time but in retrospect it’s something i wouldn’t mind seeing again the genre, tho perhaps in less heavy handed form.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

I probably should have worded my response better, but great point, deekay. “Forced” may be a bit harsh, but strong incentives are good. It’s probably one of the only reasons I added people to my friend’s list in Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch.

Rustyblades
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Rustyblades

“Forced” is applicable to some MMOs – especially for FFXIV – my first encounter with the “story” group dungeons ended up with me facing a choice – wait forever (really, 30+ minutes to do a story quest is sadistic) or pay $18 and blow off all the base story in order to progress my character.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

with hots as an example it’s kind of funny. i’ve recruited a couple people from massively to come do the forced group nexus things with us so they can have friendly voices in mumble to do team work an dmake them pleasant. but even then we often don’t talk that much during the actual matches as we all know our roles in our teams fairly well.

maybe less so than when we do guild dungeon runs which have alot more chatter than the average PUG i’ve done in the current decade. thoa couple notable wow pugs around cata launch were fairly chatty in text ingame.

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CloakingDonkey .

They did for the past 10 years but they shouldn’t. MMOs are not single player games.

I used to have a tiny amount of sympathy for this when I was still going to school, thinking that these sorts of players just don’t have enough time for the social aspects. But now I work a 40 hour job and spend another 30-40 hours on youtube. That leaves me in the hyper casual <than 10 hours MMO time per week bracket and somehow I still manage to do everything I used to do, just less of it ;)

I'm gonna call those who "can't" either anti-social or lazy. I'm not accepting the "b-but I'm so introverted" excuse, either. It's gaming. Most people are introverts and they manage. Get over yourself and join a guild or play games that already cater to you instead of infesting the only genre that provides social gameplay in the first place.

If you don't like playing with other people have a gander at what came out of E3. 90% of those games should appeal to your hermit ways.

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Sally Bowls

I think you are looking at it from the wrong end. As you say, players who prefer to not have forced grouping have plenty of alternatives. But what are the alternatives for the MMO devs? Most devs are making eSports and mobiles, but the ones that want to make a MMO are left with either being tiny, being in the business of selling nostalgia not games on Kickstarter, or playing in a solo-friendly MMO. Some people are realistic about what niche means; A lot of people complain about the scope and pace of content from WoW, GW2, ESO but imagine a dev one-thirtieth their size.

So MMO devs can get over themselves and provide a product these customers want to buy or they can tighten their belts, shrink and watch the potential customers spend their money elsewhere.

You are correct that almost all of the prefer-no-forced-grouping people could play a forced-grouping MMO if they had to. But they, and the devs, both know they don’t have to.

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Lethality

I dunno… The game and the world is solo by default. That’s like 95% of the content of most games. Making specialized “solo instances” or content beyond that is better served in other types of games.

Instead, more should be done to tackle some of the problems of telling or participating in stories as a group.

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