Home > General MMORPG > Forced Grouping

Forced Grouping

MMO’s are per definition social affairs. We actually pay a price for being able to play with our people: the world becomes static and whatever we do, it will not change. In single player RPG’s like Dragon Age when we kill a dragon, it says dead and the town is saved, but it will be back every week in an MMO and the town it threatened will never be free. Blizzard solved this partly by introducing phasing content: it hides or shows certain aspects of the world depending on where you are in a quest chain, for example: building a fort starts by securing the area, then help gathering materials and then the fort is ready. However, this limits the social mechanic because people cannot see each other in the phased zone if they are in another part of the story.

Grouping is social, so social is grouping?

Social interaction can happen on several levels:

Presence: while playing you see other characters active that are not NPC’s and as such are not predictable. This makes the area less static and helps convince you that you are really in a living world.

Communication: talking to others about the world, but also about real life. However, there’s also a negative side in the form of spam.

Cooperation: playing together, trading to mutual benefit, PvP, Roleplaying

Competition: having other real people in the world is not always beneficial, there’s the risk of kill stealing, ganking, killing quest givers etc. On the other hand, fighting against real people in PvP adds a level of unpredictability and learning ability that no artificial intelligence can mimic so far.

Thus social does not mean grouping.

Flavors of grouping

I never played Everquest, but people who did told me that you could not get anywhere without a group. My first MMO was World of Warcraft and I could do most things on my own. However, the best items required playing together with others to conquer the 5man and 40man dungeons. And that made sense, because the scale of the dungeons showed that no single person would be able to fight through the armies and giant monsters that awaited there. Super heroes too a have long history of teaming up to defeat powerful foes. My characters that did not group could get adequate gear for the content they did and PvP provided its own rewards.

Playing in a group demands different skills and poses a different challenge to playing solo. If an MMO wants to have grouping at end game there should also be grouping while leveling, because otherwise the endgame will be filled with people who have no idea how to behave. The many complaints about pick-up groups in World of Warcraft are caused exactly by the fact that one can go to maximum level without ever grouping. A game should teach people to group by making it worth their while to group. WoW’s Dungeon Finder has done exactly that. The epic quest line in LOTRO does require grouping while leveling and this is fine because it is just one quest line, but everyone wants to do it, because it is truly epic.

Five heroes banded together to take down Shadow Destroyer...and I'm still the one getting hit.

On the other hand, public quests in Warhammer and in Champions Online allow a kind of non-communicative grouping: everyone in the quest area contributes to the quest objectives. The quest gets progressively more difficult and that should, in theory, let people cooperate to finish the objectives. I like the idea of public quests, but I have not noticed much coordination and communication between players most of the time. Still, I think that public quests will be the way forward, especially if more storytelling is added to them to really draw players in.

Team vs Team PvP. Playing together in a team against other players is basically the same as grouping for a dungeon.

Roleplaying is also a form of grouping. Developers cannot control where RP happens, although they can facilitate by providing locations without opponents where people can RP undisturbed.

In conclusion

Social interaction does not require grouping, but grouping allows for encounters on a larger scale and demands different skills from players. While players should not be frustrated in their progression, they will have to accept that not everything is soloable as long as they can get gear appropriate to their level of play. Playing in a team is not a skill that everyone has naturally and thus the developers have to encourage, teach and reward grouping.

Categories: General MMORPG Tags: ,
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: