Massively Overthinking: Does challenging solo content belong in MMORPGs?


Star Wars The Old Republic’s plan to implement new solo challenge content called Ventures in its Desperate Defiance patch raised more than one eyebrow around the MMORPG genre. There are plenty of people who consider solo content in MMOs to be, well, the antithesis of what MMOs are all about. Some folks think solo leveling content is problematic, never mind endgame content that celebrates and rewards solo play and takes up developer resources that could be used for multiplayer content. Other people are all about the more the merrier.

Let’s Overthink it. Does challenging solo content belong in MMORPGs? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Do you even care at all? Which MMOs already offer content like this? And would and do you play challenging content solo?

Andy McAdams: I agree with Justin: Variety is the spice of life. I don’t always have the time or inclination to jump into a group and do face-melting content. By the same coin, I don’t always want to be the lone adventurer out in the wilds with nary a soul for leagues around. I want both. In my mind, MMOs is about playing with other people – and the “with” here is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Sometimes “with people” is running a dungeon or doing group content, sometimes it’s duoing, sometimes it’s questing with other people around you aren’t talking to but it’s great to know there real people behind the pixels, and sometimes playing with people is sitting in a city, people-watching and listening to the chatter in chat sipping my proverbial beverage of choice.

To say that MMOs can only ever be about group content is missing out huge swathes of what it means to be social.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’m definitely in the “more the merrier camp,” and not just because I don’t care; it’s because I think the best MMOs need a broad range of different types of content to appeal to different playstyles. Even my own different playstyles, since I switch up what I’m doing on a constant basis. Sometimes I’m bored and just want something new. If the game I’m in lacks that new-new, I’ll go elsewhere. If the game has lots of variety, I’ll stick around. And we all know that it’s the rare MMO that is all multiplayer, all the time. I want a mix. I want a virtual world, which requires a mix, just like real life.

I want to call out City of Heroes – specifically Homecoming – for having an excellent take on how to blend content to work for as many people show up. There’s no worry about development fungibility when everything scales and players can set their own absurd levels of difficulty and ratchet up the challenge.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): Every MMO at this point needs a roguelike mode that can be played solo. It’s annoying how only FFXIV has one, and how you can outlevel Torghast in WoW! I’d love a roguelike mode in GW2; it’s insane how they haven’t made one for it yet.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): With this again? Let people play how they want to play and let them have options.

The word option is key here. Option. It is optional. It is an option that is specific to the player. An option. Optional. It is not required, it is optional. It is not a requisite. It is a selected choice based on an individual’s time or preference. It’s an option.

Now please shut up about this, I beg of you.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): It’s all a balancing act of content delivery, yeah? I have no problem with adding specifically solo content for MMOs, especially challenges like this, because they do fill a demand from certain player mentalities or moods. But if all you’re doing is concentrating on solo content to the detriment of open world or group, then you’re unbalancing the MMO and weakening it as a whole.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’m a big fan of encouraging solo play in MMOs. The experience of playing an MMO for me is always about being around other players – chatting with them here and there while I’m doing what I want to do, seeing players running and doing their own things while I’m doing my own things.

Something I like, and I think is a motivator for others too, is being able to show off. Showing off achievements, gear, cosmetics and everything is fun. And when I can show off something that I did, solo, by myself it’s fun.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I’m amazed some people are still making an issue of this in 2024. A huge number of people play MMOs mostly or entirely solo, even people who do group regularly sometimes still want in-game time to themselves, and all the other good arguments that have been put forth about this over the years.

It’s especially strange that people would have a problem with SWTOR of all games doing this. It’s always had a heavy focus on solo content. Personally I can’t believe anyone actually spends any significant amount of time in its group content. It’s like playing EVE Online for the lore.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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