What’s with this ‘Companion Character’ nonsense?

“What we’re trying to do is make MMO’s more accessible to people to pick up and play any time and still have a good time.”

“So if you’re grouping up on a Friday night and you’re like ‘hey we can’t find somebody to heal’ you can say ‘hey that’s cool I have a companion character who can heal’.”

“So, potentially this is going to allow more people that maybe don’t want to play in a group at all to go and solo through sections that otherwise would require multiple party members?”
“Yeah absolutely it helps us out with our goal of making sure the old republic is playable as a solo or group experience.”

Why don’t you just make it a single player game?  I do not understand this mentality of making a MMO and then taking all these steps and putting in all these systems to make it anything but a multiplayer experience.  What is the point?  Make it another Bioware RPG and stop jerking us around by jumping onto the “We’re a MMO!” bandwagon.

This interview did nothing but piss me off the whole way through.

Edit:  There are a lot of comments and a lot of them have been driven way off-topic by those who either don’t understand because they’re not vetted in these types of games or because they choose to ignore what is being said.  I want to state right here at the top my main argument:

Those in favor of a singleplayer game with multiplayer added on should not be trying to change a genre that has existed for over a decade.  Bioware should be doing this from their side of the line, and not from the MMO side. The unfortunate reality is that this side of the line has more $$$ potential. We’re Massively Multiplayer here, not Singleplayer with Multiplayer Opportunities. Both types of games should exist. You shouldn’t be changing ours to get what you want though.

Why does one company making one game matter?  Look at World of Warcraft.  Companies with this much clout have the power to enact enormous change.  MMORPG’s are my game of choice and I do not want this type of change brought about.  I enjoy these games because of the interaction and reliance upon others in a shared and open ‘massively multiplayer’virtual world.  Eliminating those ideals from these games would mean they cease to exist as they have for over a decade and that is something I will fight to the end even if it means drawing a line and taking a stand.

[I’m deleting trolling and responses added with zero discussion value.  I’m also now deleting comments that try and make this about Solo vs. Grouping.  This isn’t a debate about that.  This is a debate about Massively Multiplayer games being turned into a singleplayer game with the option for multiplayer.]

  • Honestly, I think it’s a great idea because how many times have you sat there, sub one character or sub one class you NEED and though, “Damn, if we just had a x”.

    I sure see it enough to think this sounds like a decent idea. Of course, they way they implement might be lousy as all heck. Like, how do you implement a companion character Tank? That’s one that I can’t see being all that obvious. DPS, Heals, Sure. Tank? Uhhh.

  • I’m still looking forward to the game a great deal, but the companion characters do seem like terrible idea. They say you can play fine without one if you want, but I can’t see how that would work without gimping you, especially if they’re good enough to heal or tank for groups. I guess we can only hope they know what they’re doing.

  • I don’t know; I still PUG with real people from time to time in Guild Wars, or mix up a party of real people with a few hench/heroes – and I *hate* people (she said jokingly) – so multiplayer isn’t exactly dead, even in a game that makes it so easy.

    I am really interested in seeing how this plays out, namely how many solo- and single-player gamers TOR will win over versus how many group-intensive players it drives away.

    And what is the carrot to entice previously exclusively single-player gamers to try TOR, anyway? Wouldn’t they just rush to complete the story without interacting with anyone, and then quit, like they would with a single-player game? This is quite the experiment on Bioware’s part.

  • @Sentack

    I think a tank could work; as a warlock in WoW my voidwalker minion tanked a lot of low-level instances.

    My worry is any group content they’ll have will either be balanced around everyone having minions out (and thus they’ll be required,) or balanced around none (and so be too easy if you take them out.)

    I hope the group content they mean is group quests/low level dungeons, if you can use companions in a significant way in endgame raids (which they’ve said they’ll have,) it’ll be a nightmare. We all know that people would work out whichever companion is top dps, and then it would be expected that everyone of that class would have them out for challenging encounters. Ugh.

  • Hey, EverQuest has hirelings now. You can rent an NPC tank or healer. And what game is more group focused that EverQuest… used to be?

    It’s the wave of the future man, we can all play alone together and pay $15 a month for the privilege.

  • This is a silly, silly reason to get upset about an MMO. And if you don’t like it? DON’T use it! And I don’t buy the argument of having to tune dungeon/mission difficulty based around companion characters, or not, BioWare is smarter than that. I’m gonna take a guess that difficulty may vary based on the presence of companion characters. At the worst they’ll make it so that it’s tuned for a normal group minus companions.

  • I’m with you Keen. It sounds like MMO-hell for me — instances galore, grouping optional (see: solo mandatory).

  • I think this is fuss over nothing.

    The reasonable way to do companion characters is to allow players to summon them to fill empty slots in a group. You will not be able to play your companion as well as other players player their characters (it probably would be a level below you), so clearly you’d prefer having another player along to fill the slot that your companion would otherwise fill.

    The content doesn’t have to be “designed” for companions. The companion would just occupy a slot in the group that would otehrwise be occupied by a player. You still wouldn’t be able to have more than 5 (or 6? or 4?) total characters in a group.

  • They’re making a massively multiplayer single-player game They’re obviously not smarter than that. It’s going to be another clandestine way of tacking on a subscription fee or a cash shop in a game that promotes itself on the platform of massive multiplayer gameplay when really we are all playing a game by ourselves at the same time.

    What they should do is make their game a multiplayer game or singleplayer game where you can invite a friend to jump in and play with you. Heh, what am I saying? That IS what they’re doing. It’s being marketed and pitched to the MMO community as another MMO when it’s being designed as the MMO that’s not a MMO or the MMO that finally isn’t a MMO for those who want a MMO but not the things that a MMO brings to the game. Brilliant marketing, but cheeseball.

  • Will someone just make a single player game with a chat room in the interface and let players chat with each other and be done with already, it seems to be the direction we are headed anyway.

  • “this russian microtransaction mmo sure is well i love how things are what im used to but done a little differently with its own personality and feel”

    “i think mmos need more story and fun, new mechanics to keep me engrossed and wanting to play”


    wait what

  • I agree with ya Keen that this is massively disappointing, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with companions.

    I take a lot of flack for calling Guild Wars an MMOG and IMHO, the Hero NPCs that were added in Factions were good fun (minus them being taken into PvP). The previous version were called Henchmen and sucked, but the Hero NPCs were well designed and rock solid to play with.

    Having Heroes and Henchmen in Guild Wars didn’t kill those players that wanted to play together, all while letting that solo player enjoy some grouping experiences without having to downscale all the content.

    I think the more worrying part of SW:ToR is how boring the game looks every time we see it.

  • I torn on this.

    One side the thing i hate the most of MMO’s is waiting for that 1 class you need. If a group was limited to just 1 then i think it might be a good idea.

    But on the other side if you allow more than one per group you make the game pretty much a single player game.

  • @ Evizaer

    That solution did occur to me (making the player limit in flashpoints/instances include companions.) I very much hope they do something like that.

    However, there are still issues with that setup. Assuming for the moment that instances drop loot, it becomes beneficial to run it with your companion instead of another player to maximize your potential reward. Unless other players are significantly better than a companion. Which opens up other balance issues.

    All this worrying though isn’t just about companion characters. It’s general worrying that the game will not put enough emphasis on the “massively” part of MMO. The huge emphasis on playing solo, and on instanced encounters thus far, along with the scarcity of endgame/social details, has people worried.

    I’m cautiously optimistic Bioware will manage both. But I do share the concerns of Keen and many others.

  • Both arguments are sound, the thing to do now is just wait and see how they work it out.

    I have faith in bioware, always have always will, they havent let me down yet.

  • you cant please all the people all the time, half the people who play mmorpgs would rather play solo. me ? i love both sides. i have played mmorpgs for over 10 years. i love playing with my group. if i cant i would rather play solo.

    i pretty much dont play any other kind of games but morpgs now. so if i want to play solo i should not play them ?? games come and go, mmorpgs are my thing. solo or with group its all i play. no matter what you feel in the end its game, you play to have fun. i am not sure how you dont get this by now. some people can still have fun in mmorpgs playing solo. if they did not do you really think game makers like bioware would not try and sell to both sides? hate to tell you but thats what they are doing. and what everyone who makes a mmorpg are going to do from now on. if you dont like it get out.

    i played wow for 4 years, i blame them for everything they have done to mmorpgs todays. in the end though they are all in this for the money, not sure you can blame them for that. you can either play the games they make or not.

  • I don’t think this is as bad as you might think. Guild Wars implemented much the same system where you could hire npc henchmen to fill out your group.

    Were they as good as real players? Of course not. Could you carry them through the harder missions if all you were missing were one or two group spots? If you played well.

    Ultimately, I think this kind of system gives us options, which are greatly appreciated. Would I rather play with other humans? Of course! Would I like the option to be able to fill my group so as not to have to sit around waiting for people? Very much so. I think the question very much comes down to just how effective the npcs are. If they were flawless then obviously there would be some issue. Optimally, they will be significantly less desireable than pugging a player in the same position, but still useful enough that using one or two will still be doable for a group.

  • “This interview did nothing but piss me off the whole way through.” (Quoted keen)

    Hahahahahhahahahahahahaha, I agree

  • I’m glad they are coming around to realize that they can accommodate solo’rs, groupers, and casuals, now if they would just go a bit further they might be able to include raiders as well. I do hate one comment that I keep seeing raised that solo’rs might as well play single-player games. The reasons people like me want to be in MMOs have been stated many times. I sense frustration.

  • The real cause is the limiting class specialization. I love to play both tank and healer and I wish I could do that on the same character with ease.

    Most of a time I cannot simply swap out to the class role thus have to wait on someone else to come. That’s about it.

  • @Curious George: There is a difference between designing content for a player who wants to solo and designing your content around the solo player. Allowing a player to solo group content because his automaton healer npc can fill the role another player though is crap.

    In a way, if you’re going to remove all the need for interaction with other players beyond a chat window, why not just add a chat window to the Bioware RPG’s like DA:O and let people chat while playing — that is essentially what they’re creating here.

    It’s a legitimate argument. Why don’t soloers go play singleplayer games? Not the ones who like to occasionally go off and kill some mobs on their own every once in a while. Not the casual slow paced ones. I’m talking about the people who never, ever, want to group with other people or bother interacting. Those people should not be catered to in any way. They’re asking for a MMO to not be a MMO. That’s asinine. And those are the people Bioware want to suck in with this whole “accessible” gameplay model.

  • Right, because Guild Wars failed with the AI henchmen/heroes idea…

    … no, wait, it didn’t.

    As for your last comment, Keen, it’s not a legitimate argument. It’s not 1999 anymore. Soloing is the new duoing. Duoing is the new grouping. Grouping is the new raiding, and raiding is dead. The way it should be. Deal.

    I for one am -incredibly glad- to see forced or “strongly encouraged” grouping go the way of the dodo. It took a good while, but devs finally realized that it’s better to frontload the fun and build around the concept of solo and small groups than to take said individual player’s fun and put it in the hands of 9/19/39 other monkeys.

    So here’s a toast to the death of the inevitable cascade of “afk bio”‘s, the endless amount of people who should know how to play by now but don’t, the tedious large group logistics, loot dilemmas, millions of chat lines per year which consist only of “lols” and “rofls” (just think of the bandwidth savings on that alone!), the constant having to wait for the slower ones and catch up to the faster ones and so many other maladies! Begone!

    *raises cup* Salut! Prosit!

  • @Julian: I am in 100% disagreement with you. Bioware calling one of their RPG’s a MMO and extending the umbrella to bring in a bigger market share will not be be enough to declare grouping gone.

    If anything good does come of it, those who share your point of view will have a game to play and hopefully many more like it to come. That way this movement will finally move — away.

    Oh, and Guild Wars is not a MMO either. G’day!

  • I dont see what the problem is. I mean alot of people especially the ones who got started on NON-EQ style games love Solo-ability and I would never ever play a forced grouping game.

    I started with Asherons Call in 1999 (PC MMO) and it was perfect cause most of the time it was about “you” and gave your gaming time a sense of “epic” and Heroic feeling knowing you could solo.

    Remember not everyone equates MMO as grouping because one of the main draws for an MMO is an ever-persistant, ever-changing world with massive replayability, unlike old school RPG’s. Its one of the main reasons why games like Diable II, Fallout 3 and Oblivion are such great games because of the replayability and almost persistant feel for them.

  • I don’t get the fury over this. If anything, it will take out more of the aggravation of PUGs by making sure those who are more comfortable soloing STAY AWAY from those seeking like-minded groups.

    Are the group-oriented that insecure that they require ‘forced grouping’ in order to make sure their gameplay preference is viable? I’m guessing the quality of your groups are not going to be great if you have folks who are clumsy with aggro issues and used to going it alone mixed in with you.

    As heaps have mentioned, Guild Wars still has live people making groups together.

    City of Heroes now allows you to spawn the entire map for a team of 8 to solo yourself if you wanted to. I’m guessing grouping’s not dead there either. In fact, through super-sidekicking, you can group with your friends whoever, and whenever, whatever their level.

    There are many ways to -encourage- grouping (less restrictive teaming mechanics, like less holy trinity reliance – like maybe, oh hey, a healer companion when you need a healer for your group?), more spectacular group synergy, ease of joining groups and not too time consuming committment requirements, etc.

    It doesn’t automatically follow that letting people have the option to solo = death of grouping.

  • Sorry Keen, dont see the big deal. The term Massive Multiplayer Online Game doesnt imply that you have to actually interact with those people, just that you are all in the same game world. I’m pretty impartial to the whole thing, I wouldnt mind playing with others or just using a NPC companion to help me along.

  • I am not sure how it will work in SWOTR, but Turbine has added a similar feature to LOTRO just this week.
    You will have a soldier companion (not a pet, it has its own AI) but only for the instanced skirmishes.
    This way you can do skirmises in solo or with other players (3, 6, 12). It’s a nice change!

  • Seems like a big waste of time for a feature that should not be necessary in an MMORPG.

    Give me a break, the point is to play with other people.

  • It will be very interesting to see how this affects class populations.

    Games with sustantial amounts of grouping attract people to less popular roles precisely because those roles are less popular. If you play a healer you’re more likely to get a raid spot.

    If everyone approaches this game as a solo game but after the solo game you emerge into some kind of conventional MMO end game it may really lack certain roles.

    In DDO I’ve tried soloing as a healer with a fighter hireling and I’ve tried soloing as a fighter with a healer hireling. It’s night and day, the fighter with hireling is miles better.

    It may be that not many people pick the group support roles but that they are needed at end game.

    Ah well, guess you can always alt and get a new storyline on your way up to heal the guild’s raids.

  • They’re making a KotOR version of DDO.

    Hirelings that are useable to replace group mates that aren’t present? check.

    Gameplay centered in open MMO-like hub that brances off into instances? check.

    All fine and good, but we’re talking about a F2P game with a RMT cashflow model for unlocking content. The only real difference is Bioware’s epic mainstory line will probably be pretty awesome, whereas DDO doesn’t really have one. I don’t see anything wrong with this, except that my image of an MMORPG is a persistent, open world. KotOR doesn’t seem like it’s even going to pretend to do that. The features that make an MMO for me are going to be better found in the old Star Wars Galaxies than they will in The Old Republic. I’m not saying SWG was a better game than TOR will be… I just think it’ll be far more representative of an actual MMO.

    This will be a great game, no doubt. An MMO it is not. It’s probably best to stop approaching it as such.

  • It seems we are at a crossroads…

    I sincerely hope that all the people who don’t think this is a big deal, who like the casual solo play in an MMO find one game they can all play together.

    Then maybe a new company will have the balls to cater to the rest of us who really want to interact.

    I am so tired of solo players in MMOs.. forced grouping 100% FTW

  • Teleth Says: Seems like a big waste of time for a feature that should not be necessary in an MMORPG.
    Give me a break, the point is to play with other people.

    Actually the point of an MMO is to have a persistant world that is ever changing, not to be forced to group by some arbitrary rules.

    Soloability in an MMO is a must for most gamers, but that doesnt mean no grouping whatsoever, it just means that alot of gamers want the option to play in a group or solo, time constraints permitting.

    Not to beat a dead horse and im sure alot of folks who read this will think ill of WoW, but it does have the perfect strategy of solo vs group rewards.

  • Well, Bioware is certainly pulling a few MMO’ish stunts already with Dragon Age [Micro Transactions anyone?] .

    You know what? It’s clear companies are defining MMOs differently than us, an MMO to them is the CONTINUOUS PAYMENT MODEL. They are designing and padding their games to make us pay monthly/periodically/continiously. Simple. They don’t care if it got all the RPG elements or “grouping” or “massively” , as long as they can keep a bunch of people in it and keep them paying past the initial box sales.

    This way they don’t need to make a game every year, but every 2nd year and make a nice income from the current game[s]. There’s always some suckers who’s gonna “empty the bank” and buy Warden’s Keep and a zillion little stupid pets.

    So from that angle, it’s no surprise what Bioware is doing here. Dragon Age’s “online” part is probably more an MMO-test run than people think ;).

    Now i don’t really mind having “Henchmen” [this concept is really a GuildWars rip-off anyway] to fill up a group. The real question is, is it worth a subscription? Will they now sell extra “henchmen” on their “online store” too? Are they gonna start subscription fees to play Mass Effect 2? This is my real worry 😉

  • @simon

    You are absolutely right about how companies are defining MMO’s. I don’t understand why so many gamers defend them as if they are making good decisions in the gamer’s best interest.

    It is no surprise that many ex-mmorpg’s I know are just as happy playing facebook games these days as spending $15 a month on a glorified mmo simulation.

    Lastly why is there always one or two posters that have to insert the subtle “WOW is GOD” comment in to EVERY. SINGLE. THREAD?

  • I didnt insert WoW is God lightly, nor did I mean it in your context, I was just trying to illustrate a point on why games like WoW are so popular. Unlike games like EQ which were only popular because that was the only thing to play at the time.

    Luckily I started on another MMO (Asherons Call) and didnt have to go thru all the forced grouping crap, and actually witness a game that stood on its merits for all gamers, not jsut a select few like EQ.

  • @ Simon

    BioWare was doing the RMT before downloadable content in DA: O they started with their original NeverWinter Nights which claimed to add sizeble amounts of content new models for the people that developed Persistant Worlds, etc, etc. That being said I was one of those fools that purchased “Warden’s Keep” due to what I thought their standard was when they released dc for NWN. While it wasn’t a whole lot of money I can say it was definately not worth it. It didn’t add all that much (or enough) to the story and it was over far too quickly.

    Since I seem to fall into the category of those you’re telling to “go away” I will say that the reason we generally want to play an MMO is for the “sense” or persistance (which was already stated above) and the sense of the community. For the most part neither of which make it into those “solo” games you’re telling us to go back to.

    Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy grouping but there are times I prefer to just to wing it on my own for various reasons. I don’t expect to be handed things nor do I expect to recieve rewards on part with the group quests.

    Getting back to the original topic.. This is pretty much the last nail in the coffin for me when it coms to SWTOR as much as I would probably enjoy the epic storyline that I come to expect from them (if it’s even there) there are just too many things thus far that are telling me to walk away.

  • This is basically the same thing Everquest added in in its last expansion. In my opinion, as a long-time EQ player, that was the single best change ever made to EQ in the nearly ten years I’ve been playing.

    It revitalised the game, created huge opportunities for players at all levels, was widely accepted and heavily used despite the pre-release “it’s the end of the world!” fear of change squalling on the forums. It took a few tweaks to get it to where it needed to be, but the end result was fantastic.

    As a direct result of the introduction of hireable NPCs, Mrs Bhagpuss and I returned to EQ and played it as our main MMO for about six months. We were able to do countless things we’d never done before, saw whole new zones and dungeons and generally had a great time.

    I see these developments as a wholly good thing. Not going to make me any more interested in SWOTR though – it’s still Star Wars, whatever technical innovations BioWare bring to it.

  • Lets try this from another angle. If there are people that hate grouping so much that they’d play the whole game through solo, would you want them in your group?

    Companions do not mandate you have to solo. They give you the OPTION of soloing. I doubt anyone will ever say, sorry Keen, I’d rather not come run the instance with you guys, I’m just gonna do it with companions. BUT, there will be many instances where a run will be made possible by a companion, where another player just wasn’t available to fill it.

    I don’t understand how this makes this game any less of an mmo. If someone was really THAT averse to grouping, they probably would’ve just continued to solo quest instead of joining a group anyway. Even if you assume the worst in terms of players that join the game, I don’t see how having players that exclusively play by themselves, would be any worse than just not having them at all. Just pretend they don’t exist if it’s really that big a deal!

    Ultimately, I think you just have to look at companions for what they are, a group filler, not as a soloing tool. I know everyone’s experienced the frustration of having an almost full group together for 45 min, only to have to disband because there are “NO #%!#!%ING TANKS ON THIS SERVER!”

  • “Companions”, or whatever we want to call them, are a double edged sword.

    Guild Wars was designed to fill up missing player spots/roles from the very beginning. But they have taken it too far: Henchmen NPCs were good, and really good players could do almost everything with them. They were not perfect

    “Heroes”, something similar to companions, created a new trend: They were better than your average PUG player and

    (here we go)

    … it was often safer and just better to play with the Heroes than other human players.

    They have been very wary of this effecht when designing the “soldiers” for the LOTRO skirmishes.
    I have only played a few skirmishes, but putting very compelling content into the form of instanced experiences for you and your companion NPC… time will tell.

    My inner jury and verdict on this are still undecided. Powerful NPC helpers can be a blessing, but they are also very likely to turn into a curse, unfortunately!

  • Designing the game for massively multi-player and designing the game for soloing are not mutually exclusive endeavors. As I am sure any of the game designers will say, they are designing for everyone so that people can play the way they want to. For example, Fallen Earth, as far as I have experienced, successfully attains that goal.

    Now, regarding Companion Characters, personally it is not my favorite way of helping the solo players (there is something artificial about it, duh). But, the examples of Guild Wars and Everquest do suggest that the mechanic can be executed well, and that players tend to appreciate it.

    Will Bioware do it well? I am skeptical. I am watching with one hand over my eyes, and peeking occasionally.

    As for soloing in MMOs, just recently we discussed this across several blogs. There are numerous reasons why people solo in MMOs, and prefer soloing in MMOs over single player games. I count myself as a solo player, typically, due to time and energy, and I really don’t like playing single player games. I like MMOs. I like the depth, open worlds, updates, forums, blogs, community, the in-game events,the mechanics,etc….in essence, all the things that make us MMO aficionados. There is something (a lot actually) about MMOs that make them special to us.

  • Categorically defining what is and isn’t a MMO? Stating that they are, infallibly and primarily, about playing with other people? Telling people to conform to this way of playing because these are the rules we’ve just made up, or go away?

    Been having a lot of Arrogant-O’s for breakfast this week, guys?

  • I would not say that Bioware can do no wrong, but for Keen to say “..They’re obviously not smarter than that”..is a ridiculous claim. What was the last game that Bioware blew it on? How many good to bad games have they made? While not MMOs, their track record in general is impressive and I would say it is their approach to making a game that in the end pays off in a good game.

    Just being a MMO veteran player doesn’t mean you know how to make a good MMO, or even what elements make a good MMO, just that you’ve played alot and know what you like.

  • I think it’s clear that the trend in MMO’s is to move into games that you can play as a solo game with some socialization if you like or as an old style grouping MMO if you like.

    I think the success of Facebook games like Farmville has shown that there is an untapped market of casual single player gamers who want a social aspect to the game.

  • I think it’s a clear trend in the MMORPG industry: if you want more players ( = paying cusomers ) you have to address your game to the casual players.
    Look at WoW… what was at the beginning (40ppl raid, AV was a days-long battleground)? What is now?
    All the software houses have to face it: they need to make the games appealing to the casual players too.
    Now, there are different ways to approach this. Blizzard made WoW a very easy game (Naxx compared to Molten Core? LOL!!) Other games are introducing other kind of alternatives for the casual (often “solo”) player.
    Turbine is trying with the new skirmish system which is separated from the game itself. And it looks quite interesting (but it is just at the beginning).
    Others probably will try different ways, like the Companion here. Every designer is betting on this… we, the players, will decide who got the best ideas.

  • Silly. Dragon Age – another Bioware game – is absolutely marvelous, and in it you basically control a whole party.

    Guild Wars, DDO, other MMOs also have this capability, which makes a massive difference in playability for those who don’t carry 4-5 friends around with them everywhere they go.

    I see this practically as a requirement for any game that’s going to have content designed for groups only, especially if it’s designed for specific group compositions.

    Forced grouping is ridiculous, penal, just… a bad idea that somehow refuses to die. Hopefully Bioware will finally put the last nails in its coffin.

  • I think, hand on hearth, think that adding NPCs to help fill groups is a very very convenient but a incredibly poor idea. I loved it in Guild Wars, but that was before I grasped the concept of actually playing a MMORPG (having group dynamics and playing as a team, a social experience).

    I think there are other ways to ease the process of finding groups with REAL people that should be looked at instead of dumbing the game down and making it too accessible. If you lack the people to do some content imo you should not be able to do it, that’s a core component of a MMO to me.

    Look to WARs open parties and Public Quest system, or LFG systems like in WoW, look at hybrid classes being able to fill several roles depending on specc and/or gear, and look to WoWs dual talent system. Those are all systems that makes finding the missing link for a group a lot easier, and imo that’s the way to go. I’m not saying they should copy/paste one or any of these systems, but look at them and try to evolve them into something even better!

    Now I’m not at all in rage over this since I have ZERO interest in Biowares upcoming MMO, but I can relate to what Keen is saying and agree with him.

  • @ Warden:
    The reasons you play a MMO might be completely different to why others play it. I for one are looking for something completely different.
    I don’t care much for the “persistence” of the game, to me it’s ALL about the social experience in gaming.
    I want to play with REAL people.
    I want to play against REAL people.
    Haven’t played a singleplayer game in years and it’s solely down to that specific reason, there’s no other real people to group up with and no other real people to beat the living snot out of.

  • I like the “You’re trying to tell us how to play” crowd. They amuse me the most. It’s they who are telling the rest of us how to play. They’re the ones telling us we have to change to accommodate them. It’s not the other way around.

    Why not fuss for a different type of game instead of telling something that has been the same way for a decade to change? If you don’t want to play a massively multiplayer game then don’t ask the massively multiplayer game type to bend for you.

    It is you, the solo elite who do not want to interact with other people on a massively multiplayer scale, who are arrogant. You’re destroying this type of game because you, as part of the gamer demographic, are in the majority now and developers will bend over backwards to bring in more of you because they see you as $$$. That does not make it right for you to tell us and our genre of gaming to change.

  • @Zederok

    I agree the ability to solo is essential in modern MMORPG’s. But lets be honest, doesn’t the ability to fill that empty group slot whenever you want undermine the process of finding people to group with. It may even stop people from looking for party members, and i doubt all the content will be playable solo with a companion.

    Im really looking forward to this game, i think Bioware’s games are amazing (im a huge RPG dork) but i just think this feature is unnecessary. I guess only time will tell though.

  • I just actually listened to that interview in its entirety. The interviewer did actually go and ask me straight up “So, if everyone of the same class is going to have basically the same story line, how are you going to be able to combine that with an open MMO experience” (Paraphrase).

    The Bioware employee gave a stock answer about how great it’ll be to have your own story, mentioned that the game will be heavily instanced and TOTALLY IGNORED the actual question. I mean, that is what I was expecting, to be honest, but it just seals the deal. This is a single player game with co-op with am monthly fee. The “MMO” label they are giving it is just straight up a marketing decision so that people are willing to pay monthly.

  • This is a great article. Not because of what it talks about on the surface, companion characters, but because of what it’s really talking about at its heart, the dumbing down of MMOs.

    Why it is becoming so heated is because both sides have extremely valid points in their arguments. So much so, that both sides are right. Therefore, the objective isn’t to choose one side over the other but instead to find a common ground where both sides can be happy. To be honest, I think this is totally doable because it’s actually something that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now.

    Simply put, MMO’s need both solo play and group play. This is a given. I’m sure everyone can agree upon this. That said, what people seem to be disagreeing about is the details of this solo play experience. I mean if the experience could be duplicated within an offline single player game, really what is the point of having it within an MMO game? Put another way, if you have a massive group of people all within the same world, why don’t you take advantage of that fact and design solo play around it? In effect, the MMO gameplay experience should be promoting and influencing cooperative play, even when playing solo.

    What this does is that it allows for people to play solo, yet at the same time allows them to contribute to their factional community’s greater goals in their own way. This is no different than when you play a multiplayer game like Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2. Yes it is a multiplayer game but each person decides how they choose to contribute to their team in their own way. Another example is how we as a society collaboratively work together on shared common goals but each in our own way. I donate individually via Kiva.org to help people around the world, yet at the same time, the effectiveness of my microinvestment is only possible because of the collaborative actions of many individuals doing the same thing as a group (i.e. a community of individuals).

    So yes, I obviously still want to see solo play within MMO’s today. Yet at the same time, I want this solo play to take advantage of the MMO environment and to contribute to something greater on a larger collaborative scale. This is EXACTLY why I said the other day, I still find the PvE experience in Allods to have a “grind” to it. It’s because the experience seems empty and meaningless to me within the MMO environment I’m in because I almost feel like I’m playing a single player game by myself.

    Now imagine if a lot of the single player quests in MMOs today actually contributed something to your factional community as well (i.e. resources, territorial control, etc). This for me would totally change the entire feeling and perspective of the game. I mean even if I was leveling an alt, I would know that what I’m doing is effectively contributing to a greater cause. Even more so, if I can see that cause and effect in action, it’s even more engaging and meaningful to me. Thus if I’m just mining some ore to turn in a quest. I could care less about what I’m doing (grind, grind, grind). Yet if I turn in that quest and see that ore utilized as a valuable and necessary resource to create siege weapons for an RvR war, I’m going to be extremely stoked at turning in as much ore as I can.

    BTW in the forums, I mentioned that I made thousands of gold by crafting potions in WoW. What I didn’t relay is that my incentive for doing this was that I played with a core group of friends and it allowed me to outfit them with a lot of great gear. So again, I farmed daily because I enjoyed seeing the direct rewards of my actions within my community of friends (i.e. them getting gear). As soon as they all got geared up though, the farming suddenly felt like I was grinding again because that meaningful purpose had been lost. In effect, I could still have farmed and made lots of money but it didn’t interest me because I saw no purpose to it.

    PS. One final note. Some of you may say that most MMOs already do incorporate factional contributions. Yes they do but again they don’t take advantage of the MMO environment. In effect, when you gain faction in most MMOs today, you’re doing this for the individual reward, rather than the community reward. What I would like to see is more of an emphasis on rewarding the community first and then you in turn get a reward from that. So the more you improve your community through quests, the stronger your community gets, and the more resources available for you to purchase. So something like a merger between existing faction systems and a tech tree type system (which is kind of what WAR’s guild leveling system was like). I mean just think of Warcraft II RTS gameplay and note how an individual peons contributions improve the community and allow for the building and creation of new buildings and technology which in turn improves the resources and abilities of those individual units.

  • @ Nollind Whachell
    Well written, and I somewhat “agree” with you, there should be a place for such games on the market, it’s a good thing that “singleplayer games” can take advantage of a multiplayer world/online features, it will make for better singleplayer games i reckon.

    The problem is that in the process, it’s killing the pure MMO genre, by dumbing down the content to be as soloable as possible. THAT I reckon is why some people are outraged about how this is evolving. I don’t think anyone of them would be outraged if Bioware came along and made a Online Singleplayer RPG (you get the picture), as long as it’s not marketed as a MMO when in reality it is not.

  • Put shortly, by making MMO’s more solo friendly they are tampering with the most important CORE part of a MMO, the Massively Multiplayer part!

  • Yes, your point is excellent. The “group” v. “solo” dichotomy is actually totally missing the point. The real point is that all actions, solo or group, should have some sort of effect that matters beyond the immediate people involved in the action (solo OR group).

    Its the breakdown of a shared persistent world, which was THE reason the MMO genre was amazing at the beginning, that many of us lament. Whether or not you are actually playing solo or in a group is actually fairly incidental to this larger point.

  • @Proximo

    Keen and I have briefly been chatting about this on Vent. I should have specified in my post a little more than in the “we” I meant the solo player type people that play MMOs and not everyone in general(in response to you and I and others having different “requirements” in MMOs in general). There’s also the fact that while I play solo by choice (connection issues that prevent me from playing a bigger part) and still supporting the community/guild that there are also others still that don’t give a damn about any of it.

  • No matter how people like Keen and Proximo feel or what they say about this matter about forcing people into groups is wrong and not why the genre is what it is today.

    MMO’s have alway alway been about the persistance, replayability and the ever changing enviornment on a grand scale, unlike a single player game where you play once and never go back. MMO’s give you that sense of sticking around for years in an ever changing world.

    Forcing people to group is arcaic at best and downright stupid at best. I summise people like you two have such a close knit of friends that are always online and wanting to be together that grouping isnt an issue. However for the most common MMO player, forced grouping, waiting for up to an hour or more to find that fifth person to round out the group (LF TANK or LF HEALER THEN GOOD TO GO {LOL}) is silly.

    I understand this is your website and blog but please for the love of the game dont disparage the vast majority of MMO gamers by forcing group or die mentality.

    MMO’s such as WoW show that forced grouping games like FFXI and EQ are ancient history, and almsot every MMO that has been released in the last 4-5 years ahve catered to the casual fan. Which doesnt diminish the gameplay in any way because the best items or content is still always best witnessed in groups as it should be.

  • May I add one other thing: IMO the sense of being able to solo also opens the game up to the single player mentality of being the hero and altering/changing the world around them, thus extending that euphoria of a single player rpg in a persitant world.

    That my friends is what truely make this genre so compelling.

  • Well, alot will depend on how they do it. If the companion is some generic NPC that you hire from the market (like Guild Wars) then I can kind of see Keen’s point. However, if the companion is unique to the character (or account/player) then it could work. In just as much as you develop your primary you can develop a personal alt/sidekick.

    This would also be like every class having their own “pet.”

    I will agree that right now Bioware could be testing the limits of “Massive” like DDO. I still expect a very good game whatever category if finally falls into.

  • Bioware is going to make the game they want. But it has to fit in these silly boxes – which results in people saying “wait you can solo a lot? This is not an MMO!”

    Or “Wait you don’t have to sit in LFG looking for a healer for that one 5 man quest for hours??? But I LOVE THAT!”

    This definition of MMO is ridiculous. I can solo 0-80 in WoW. They instance some of the world (with more coming). Is WoW an MMO?

    IS THE GAME FUN? That is all that matters. Video Game Genre Does Not.

  • Agree with Gustavef. While it won’t really be a classic MMO in the open world sense… it’s still probably going to be a great game. Just probably one you won’t need to subscribe to any longer than necessary to beat the main-story.

  • I like the use of extremes as being proof or justification for pushing an agenda or opinion. /sarcasm off. This isn’t about how much you like to solo vs. how much you like to group. This isn’t about forcing people to group or trying to find a healer. Bioware says those things because extremes are a marketing tool.

    This is about taking a genre that has existed for over a decade and changing it. Why can’t Bioware make their RPG with cooperative online elements without calling it a MMO? That’s because they’re trying to expand the definition of MMO to cover a larger market share — a much larger one — and ultimately expand and bring in a larger player base. WoW did it.

    In order to do this, Bioware is taking the core of what MMO’s have been out of the game. They’re advertising a game that is, by definition, not a massively multiplayer game. That is what bothers me. They have the power to enact change like Blizzard did. I do not want that change to be that these are no longer about interacting and living in a virtual world with others players — and yes, even if at times it is forced such as in WoW to do a dungeon or LOTRO to do a story quest.

    If you want to play a RPG where you can bring in a friend to play with you or use companions when your buddy isn’t around then that’s totally fine. Just don’t release it as a MMORPG because it isn’t one.

  • I honestly don’t think the mechanic of allowing players to take NPC henchmen along is bad for games like this. It can be “fun” to not have to worry about finding a “group”, etc.

    The problem with this is the entire premise of what MMOs are today. MMOs started out with the design that it would be a seamless, virtual world where players would get to play as a blacksmith, or be a farmer or fight monsters in a completely seamless, simulated environment (see Ultima Online). Today, they have completely degenerated from the original scope. Now, they can be defined in a few “tag-lines”, such as, grouping, soloing, grinding, raiding, instancing and loot farming.

    Why have people become so complacent with the idea that, “This is the way MMOs should be”? When are we going to try to achieve the “original dream”? Why are we even arguing about this? Posters here describe “grouping” as some sort of static, pre-programmed event that is built into the game system.

    These “tag-lines” and concepts have caused MMOs to feel artificial and inorganic.

    For instance, why can’t my character simply wander through a lonely mountain pass and come upon another player fighting a monster that needs help, and I decide to join him? Why must we have a, “Group” system or NPCs, or etc etc etc? Why can’t MMOs feel organic and less like a day at DisneyLand?

    Ultima Online tried this and it didn’t quite work out the first time. Does that mean we completely give up on the concept? I say, “NO!!!”. I want more freedom, more choices and less structure.

    I think most posters here need to take a deep breath and take a step back outside of the MMO trees and see the forested-rut we’ve got ourselves into with the design of modern MMOs. Why are we even arguing about this? The whole MMO design is a complete mess and needs to be thrown out. We need to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch.

  • “Massive” has been hotly debated ever since it was first used. I think when UO came out and first defined MMORGP it was simply having 100+ users concurrently logged in to a single shard of a the game. Persistence, Seamlessness, and Mutability are late comers to the definition. Granted UO had all these features back then but that was not initially implied.

    The problem is that “Massive” is a purely marketing term. And as such it will continue to be a fluid definition as time goes on.

  • Maybe it is because the gaming demographic is changing (we are all getting older!!!). People that started gaming with NWN/Merdian 59/UO/EQ/AC etc… have obviously aged and now have more responsibility (i.e. Kids/Wife/Full time job – no University does NOT count) which equates to less time on our hands to game. Granted you could be arrogant and tell us to stop gaming but trust me, the gaming habit does not die easily. I just figured I would throw that out there because it is something to think about. For me SOLO play is always a good option. If kid A starts to cry, my group usually gets angry with me for having to take a 15-20min afk.

    P.S. I think the average MMO gaming age was 33 or 34 the last time I saw a study done.

  • The term is relative when it comes to the numbers game. Let’s not get caught up on semantics. We know what is meant now. It’s been described in one or two sentences in comments 60 and 61. We’re talking about a world where players work together to function in a virtual multiplayer world where interaction with others is at the core.

    Remove the necessity of interaction or reliance on others and you have effectively removed the core of a MMORPG. It is not a MMORPG anymore when you make the gameplay singleplayer.

    Note: I do not accept chat functionality as interaction.

  • Just touching on what Gustavef brough tup… I don’t remember much grouping in UO and it was one of the first graphical MMOs (the same holds true for NWN ’91, and Meridian 59). I’d have to say forced grouping came about when EQ was released (Hell I don’t remember much grouping in AC either, but I didn’t play it long enough).

  • We all need to go back and take a long hard look at the earliest video game RPGs. It makes me sick that people are still looking for “new” ideas and new formats for MMORPGs when the best ideas are already there.

    Go back and seriously play games like, “Wasteland”, “The Magic Candle”, “Gold Box series”, “Realms of Arkania” or “Ultima”. When I played those games, I really, REALLY felt like I was on a real fantastic adventure. Characters could get sick, hungry, tired. The worlds were built on real economies, NPCs had day/night schedules. Time actually mattered. Journeys were fraught with real dangers, the world actually had real distance, and scope. Monsters actually had strategies, and when they were killed, they stayed dead – they didn’t just magically re-spawn out of thin air. Experience grinding, believe it or not, in these games, didn’t even exist.

    What we need to do is incorporate those ideas into MMORPGs. We need to throw away the current model. We need to seriously drop the habit of re-using the Japanese-designed model of loot and exp grinding they introduced in Dragon Quest. We need to build the game from the ground up with players having the ability to really feel like they are impacting the world. There needs to be player-built villages and cities, there needs to be realistic family systems. Like, “Legend of the Red Dragon”, some accomplishments need to be completely unique so players can feel heroic. Not everyone should be able to find the same exact weapon, or monster, or quest.

    I also don’t buy the line that, “we are all older now, so we don’t have enough time, thus we need this model” bullcrap. This is another tag-line vomited up by MMO PR to convince you that their system is great. Bottom line is, I am done with all of these pre-coded systems in MMOs. I am done with systems that babysit your grouping, or babysit your free time. Give me a completly open MMORPG world free of the shackles of NPC groups or “grouping” in general. Just give me a simulated open world MMORPG where I can do whatever I want, go wherever I want, and play with whomever I want, and I’ll -make time- for it.

  • “[I’m deleting trolling and responses added with zero discussion value. Just don’t do it.]”

    Except it is a kneejerk reaction you’re making. So my one worded post stands, at least in my eyes. You’re not looking for a discussion on this one Keen, you’re looking for justification of a personal view.

    Those players that solo in MMOGs will continue to do so, whether you happen to like that playstyle or not. Secondly, they’ll do so without you EVER seeing them because you’re obviously very group orientated where they are not. In previous MMORPGs that meant you were doing your raids, your instances and so forth whilst they were out questing, socializing, whatever. So nothing will change – it just means those that can’t be fussed with other players can play the game they pay a monthly sub for without needing a required [insert].

    They even mention though there’s only one companion per character. That’s not going to allow you to solo 5man group experiences and you can bet your left testicle group number missions/quests/instances will still exist.

    If me and my mate wanna do something on our own, because he tends to rage quite alot at other people or I need to stop/pause every now and again to do something in the real world, we can do it without effecting anyone elses playtime and/or experience. That stops the hundreds of bloggers who bitch about having to wait ’round, whilst allowing genuine casual/otherwise distracted gamers to play.

    If you ask me, and thank you for doing so, companion based play sounds like an awesome concept I’ve not experienced personally whilst it also taps directly into previous games of Bioware, ala Blizzard, meaning those new to an MMOG can experience something similar, previous Bioware gaming fans are able to tap into background n’ lore, whilst those more experienced or simply flippant of all these new fangled changes that didn’t exist back in the days can chug along at their own speed and ignore it all, happy to know their own egos are being stroked.

    I don’t get why you’re so pent up on getting everyone together and ‘working towards a common goal’. The days of that are past, Darkfall being the latest example of it not working in todays market (and the reason why Blizzard pulled away from it when TBC and beyond hit) and the only games coming out with those areas still in mind are based off Asian-grinders, which are superficial to the core anyway.

  • @Killergnomie, @Shamutanti (I’ll lump you in here since you’re set on making this about being anti-solo): Again (And for the last time) this isn’t about grouping. UO, while it may not have had “grouping”, still facilitated an extreme dependency on other people. It was built around interaction and reliance on other people.

    The same holds true for EQ, AC, etc. Even with forced grouping, you could solo. I leveled my Necro and my Druid in EQ (my first chars) almost exclusively solo. However, there was enormous amounts of content to group for and enormous amounts of interaction with other players. Even when soloing I was still playing a massively multiplayer game (for more reasons, including a big open world but we won’t get into the instance argument today).

    Soloing and grouping are both great. They’re both important and I have nothing against either play style. HOWEVER, they can both exist in a game that remains a MMOG.

    SWTOR is basically removing that reliance, interaction, and saying you can play the game single player. With all the instancing I’d venture a guess that you can choose to never see another… how’d one blog put it.. “stinking human being”.

    Oh, and I’m 25 and in college and I alpha tested The Realm (before Meridian 59 hit beta). Age and RL circumstances are irrelevant. 11 million people of all ages play one game — a game with interaction required.

    This is about making a massively multiplayer game a single player game, not a soap box for group vs. solo. Do not read this diagonally and make it about something it’s not. I solo more in MMORPGs than I group, yet look at what side of the argument I’m on.

  • I don’t know if you saw the interview but the BioWare representative specifically said part of Companions was to let you play through the game solo. They want to ease the transition of a guy who loves BioWare games but hasn’t played an MMO. It sounded to me like you could play TOR very much like KOTOR 3, in fact the BioWare rep said you could think of TOR as KOTOR 3,4,5,6, and 7.

    He specifically related the MMO part to ‘other people in the world’ but not necessarily anyone you needed to interact with.

    Many times, other players simply get in the way of the story. I think giving the option to many things solo is a great idea, and great for introducing new players to the MMO genre.

  • Actually in UO there wasn’t any grouping mechanism. Getting a group together to do something was just that. Meet up and do something with others. I think there was some “guild” functions in that you could belong to a guild, but that was it.

    I would agree that cooperative (and even competitive) interaction in terms of the game world with others is a now a requirement to feel “Massive.” But that is not an easily quantifiable. We can list aspects of games that meet this requirement of “interaction.” But how much “interaction” is required to be “Massive?”

  • @Gustavef: You need “enough” interaction for it to work with your game. UO, while no grouping, managed to get people interacting on a level that felt 100% multiplayer all the time, even if you were out on your own without anyone on the screen. The game revolved around the core ideals of a multiplayer world. You couldn’t switch off the multiplayer whenever you felt like it.

    You’ve really proven my point better than I ever could. A game doesn’t even need grouping to have that massively multiplayer feel. Grouping could actually not even exist as a mechanic and yet the MMOG can exist.

  • @Gustavef

    If it works like other BW games, the companion will be a character you meet along your story arc who will choose to join your party. You can have companion out at a time, but you can have multiple companions. They will react to your actions in game. A ‘good’ companion may comment if you do an ‘evil’ deed. They may even leave your party. Companions add a depth the story that would be missing without them.

  • When the question “Why don’t you just make it a single player game?” per the OP is asked, I imagine people feel compelled to explain why they are excited about TOR *as is* and not as a single-player game, which can’t really be divorced from the issue of solo play vs. grouping.

    Without mentioning my penchant for soloing in an MMO (since it’s being argued that’s not the issue), I can offer no explanation for “why” TOR being developed as a single-player game would be undesirable for me other than “because I might not/wouldn’t play it if it were a single-player game.” Solo players are just answering the subsequent question of *why* before it’s (inevitably) brought up.

  • The reason why you leveled those characters solo KEEN was because those were 2 of the only classes that could solo effectively (yes yes, later on Wizards became good solor’s etc…). But EQ was about forced grouping for the most part (duoing = group in this argument).

    I was just throwing out another reason as to why some people might find companions a good idea. I wasn’t trying to take a side, just wanted to bring up something that previously hadn’t been listed.

    Btw, we grouped and interacted for the first time yesterday, during the Damned Soul. So once again please don’t label me. There is a time for group play and there is a time for solo play – I will leave it at that. As Syp said on his blog, having more OPTIONs is always a good thing.

    I take it Lumin doesn’t have kids yet…

  • I will pass on ToR just as I passed on Dragon Age. Labeling a game as an MMO does not an MMO make.

  • @Keen (81): I would agree. It is just hard to quantify/measure interaction. And “grouping” (formally or informally) is just one aspect. Economic and creative Social elements add in to that.

    Done correctly “need to interact” should be moot. Looking at UO and even at EVE. Interactions with others just happens. I would agree that games are starting to remove interactions with other players in order to facilitate “Gameplay.” In in the long run, these Massive games will slowly become ghost towns as people “finish” the game.

  • Also don’t assume people that argue for companions, are against interaction…

    Massive Multiplayer to me is all about interaction and that interaction can come in various forms. Hell, some people play these games for the crafting and that is all they do.

    I see companions as a way to do a raid with six RL friends rather then having to rely on twenty other people that I don’t know that well. I can still interact with the multitudes of other people outside the “raid” environment. I’m just hoping companions ease some of the burden put on raiding, thats all! I love running into new people when doing quests that might require a group etc… I just have trouble raiding these days with the growing list of responsiblities. It is not that I don’t want to do it, I can’t usually do it. And it really does suck having to wait an extra 30min to start because Jimbo had to do a Mcdonalds run.

    Meridian 59 and The Realm (played both) were actually released in the same year. The Realm’s beta just started a little earlier. I actually think Meridian 59’s final release came before The Realm. It doesn’t really matter I guess…. I understood your point. But I know for a fact you were not playing Never Winter Nights back on AOL (the first true graphical MMO). Because I was I think 13 when I fired that bad boy up!

  • Wickidd, I might have confused your comment but Dragon Age was never labeled as an MMO. It does not even have a single multiplayer aspect (no co-op play).

  • I can’t and won’t even try to speak on behalf of other gamers, but I’ll continue to share my opinion on the matter;

    I don’t have a issue with there being solo content in a MMO, leveling is often a solo experience, sadly its too often a solo experience because MMO devs found it better to penalize you if you should try to group up while leveling (see reduced XP for mobkills when grouped in just about every game ive tried).
    The problem I see however is when the cross the border and allow you to solo GROUP CONTENT. Or even add non player characters to the group just so you can complete the content, its borderline at best. MMO’s to me is, have always been and will always be about playing alongside other real players to achieve something that is impossible to do on your own. Ranging back to pen n paper D&D you embarked on epic journeys into dark damp places with friends to overcome evil and find treasures waiting. The epicness of playing well as a group is being diminished imo.

    Also, to those saying “blaha this is how MMOs are today you need to wake up, blaha you play MMOs because they add a persistant everchanging world blaha” I have to say; stop telling me why I’m playing games, you are not even remotely correct.
    I play MMO’s ONLY because of the fact that I play with and against other human beings as opposed to with and against NPCs. I don’t care if a dungeon or a world remains EXACTLY the same over the course of a year no matter what actions I and/or the community take, if it does change it’s icing on the cake, but it is NOT why I play MMOs.

  • “Give me a completly open MMORPG world free of the shackles of NPC groups or “grouping” in general. Just give me a simulated open world MMORPG where I can do whatever I want, go wherever I want, and play with whomever I want, and I’ll -make time- for it.”

    I think almost everyone would agree with this comment and I would like to add “Kill whomever I want” – for me at least.

  • “This is about making a massively multiplayer game a single player game, not a soap box for group vs. solo.”

    Keen: Just to clarify. What upsets you specifically is that ALL of the content in an MMO game can be played through like a single player game, correct? So if an MMO game allowed only a portion of their content to be played like a single player game then that wouldn’t bug you as much, right? Or would it still? For example, the first twenty levels of the Age of Conan MMO were basically a single player game, wasn’t it (at least from what I heard)? But after that, you had to interact and rely upon others if you wanted to participate within certain aspects of the game (i.e. RvR combat).

  • killergnomie:

    I have a wife, two kids, a full time job and run my own PBBG (see my link). I don’t have time for endless grinding and the other poor systems in modern MMOs, but I would certainly have time for the ideas I laid out in my earlier post.

    I agree with Keen. When we played Ultima Online, “grouping” was not a mechanic or system, yet somehow, someway we found a way to have fun and didn’t need very much time to do it.

  • “We can list aspects of games that meet this requirement of “interaction.” But how much “interaction” is required to be “Massive?””

    Exactly, this is the crux of it. If I can setup a store in an MMO with an NPC shopkeeper and you come to my store and buy my crafted goods, we are “interacting” but just not face to face. There are a tons of ways to do this indirectly, as I mentioned in my previous comment. Should the whole game be this way. No way. I’d hate it if it was. At some point, the game should require you to interact with others on a centralized task that you need to gather around at a specific location. Grouping mechanism are irrelevant as you said. It’s about working face to face with people and understanding the social importance of that. I mean you can be a rocket scientist with great skills but if you can’t socially interact with others, your skills are useless.

  • @Proximo: If other gamers play MMOs for different reasons than you, are they doing it for the wrong reasons? If I say that *I* (just speaking for myself) play MMOs for different reasons, similarly unattainable in a single-player game, am I mistaken about my motivation?

    FWIW, I care not one whit whether people who believe the MM means “you must play with others” take the term and go home. I was fine with GW being labled a CORPG and I wouldn’t care if TOR was referred to in that way as well, or an MORPG, or whatever. What neither of those games are, however, is a single-player RPG, and I don’t wish to be relegated to playing one.

  • I quoted your post earlier Lumin and I agreed with your final comment. I was just trying to stress that as you grow up and gain more responsibilities you lose out on free time thus making companions a good idea for some that want to say experience an end game raid. For me it has always been about PVP so I could care a less about companions one way or another (other then the fact that maybe I can experience a raid again like my old EQ days – if not, no biggie). I think having more options is always a good thing.

    p.s. I’m going to get fired from my job if I keep this up… haha

  • “Just give me a simulated open world MMORPG where I can do whatever I want, go wherever I want, and play with whomever I want, and I’ll -make time- for it.”

    This isn’t a simulated world because you just describe one in which you have unlimited powers with it (i.e. I can do whatever I want). Simulated worlds are ones in which there are restrictions to them and that’s what actually what makes them so enjoyable. In effect, not everything can be done by yourself. Some things require a collaborative group effort with others to achieve. I *think* this is what Keen is getting at.

  • I absolutely -adore it- how us soloers are (apparently) the “elite” (don’t look at me, Keen dixit), but we are the ones being told, unequivocally, with heavenly wisdom, what a game is and isn’t, how it -should- be played and how it shouldn’t, what the precious core of these things are and in a weird way how, if you’re not directly sucking on the marrow of all the social goodness of all the other players 24/7, you’re somehow doing it wrong because “it’s not what these games are about” or some other hogwash.

    And we can’t forget about the classic “go back to play single player games”, of course. Warming up discussions for the last 10 years and change. What a show.

    Here’s the kicker: We really don’t give one damn about how many group options there are or how much grouping content there is or how much of a focus grouping has, as long as there’s enough options, content and focus for us to do our thing and keep going. In fact, please, the more the merrier. More content and options area always good, even if they’re not my cup of tea.

    From what I’ve seen so far in this discussion (and elsewhere) old timers // group-focused players don’t have this mindset and seem to get in a tizzy every time the soloers are catered to in any way, no matter how small and no matter if it’s even relevant to what they like to do.

    And we’re the elitists? Don’t make me laugh. If you care so much for gaming and the genre (and I honestly think you do, otherwise I wouldn’t be here) then you owe it to yourself to be honest and examine the genre’s history and evolution: Focus on large groups has been progressively eliminated, quite frankly, because it -sucked-. I won’t mince words. And it sucked not because of large groups themselves, but the inability of devs to tame all the problems that large groups always brought with them. Namely and chiefly, large group logistics.

    I’m sorry, but if you ask me to go back to “let’s wait another hour until everybody’s ready” in order to preserve the “purity” of the genre as it should be, if you pardon me, you can stuff it. We play these things to have fun and that should be the first mandate of any game, all other considerations don’t matter. It’s perfectly possible to co-exist without having to tell people to “go play single player games” and until you can grok this, you’ll always be bitter about changes like this one from Bioware.

  • @ Randomess:
    I completely understand and accept that different people are looking for different things in games, we are afterall human beings with minds of our own.
    That said, what I’ve been trying to say is that the genre MMO should not be dumbed down to coop singleplayer games.
    I have no problem with those games existing, but those hold no interest to me, and it’s with dread that I see that the game genre I prefer is being slowly converted into just that, singleplayer coop games.
    Well I guess it’s taking it out of proportion to say it’s already happeing at a major scale, but it sure looks like it’s where the market is going atm, and as Keen pointed out the reason is simple and logically dollars, millions of dollars, by hitting a bigger market.
    All I want is for the MMO genre, as it has been in the past, to continue to be group focused.

  • @Julian: Way to take it personally and be ‘that guy’ who gets offended. You’re so off base even after I’ve explained it half a dozen times that trying to bring you back down to earth to understand the discussion is probably not going to happen without you becoming further offended.

    I think the Solo vs. Group debate is that way. Enjoy! — >

    @Everyone Else: For those who want to talk about MMO(G, RPG, etc.)’s being shifted away from the multiplayer experience to a more individual-centric model, feel free to stay and discuss. This has nothing to do with solo vs. grouping. I won’t say it again or expect anyone else to read through another soapbox post from someone defending his or her stance. You can discuss solo play and group play and their role in creating a game that feels multiplayer and massive (and all the philosophy and ‘feel’ behind that) but this isn’t a debate about how the soloers or groupers get their feelings hurt or who is more important.

    Like I said, I solo more than I group in MMO’s yet the gameplay remains Massively Multiplayer. I would never tell anyone to do away with all solo content or to devalue solo content. I will, however, fight what I believe is destructive to the very essence of a ‘massively multiplayer’ experience. SWTOR released without the “We’re a MMO” tag wouldn’t bother me at all. Releasing it and trying to convince us it’s a MMOG and convince the rest of the world bothers me to no end because of the irreparable damage it will cause.

    Those in favor of a singleplayer game with multiplayer added on should not be trying to change a genre that has existed for over a decade. Bioware should be doing this from their side of the line, and not from the MMO side. The unfortunate reality is that this side of the line has more $$$ potential. We’re Massively Multiplayer here, not Singleplayer with Multiplayer Opportunities. Both types of games should exist. You shouldn’t be changing ours to get what you want though.

    And yes, this is all my opinion. I will tell you how I think it should be because that is what I do on a blog where I write my opinion about gaming. Surprise!

    Let this be the final clarification on the issue. If the issue hasn’t been clarified for you, your comments will probably reflect it and not stay up long. Reaching 100 comments is already tough enough to follow without wading through people fussing over the completely wrong issue.

    TLDR Version:

    [I’m deleting trolling and responses added with zero discussion value. I’m also now deleting comments that try and make this about Solo vs. Grouping. This isn’t a debate about that. This is a debate about Massively Multiplayer games being turned into a singleplayer game with the option for multiplayer. If you don’t want your comment deleted, I suggest you make sure it has discussion/debate value on-topic.]

  • I made a comment here that was more harsh than necessary. Sorry, Keen.

    You love to get into these arguments of semantics over the definition of “MMO”. Unfortunately, trying to nail down what exactly is an MMO doesn’t really accomplish anything because the meanings of words shift over time and will continue to shift regardless of anyone’s efforts to the contrary. Never was it thoroughly decided what an MMO should be and never will it be decided. Trying to pick hairs on the definition is less worthwhile than actually discussing the import and impact of the changes on how fun the game will be. I think you have valuable things to say about how fun it may be. I don’t think that what anyone has to say about the definition of MMO will have much effect or value.

    Seems like you started to talk about fun earlier but then drifted into the semantic argument.

    Here are my real thoughts on the issue at hand. I don’t think companions are worth worrying about until the we actually see how it works.

  • Now that I watched the interview…

    This game is going to blur the boundary between Single player games with others and MMOs. Story and MMOs don’t mix very well. 🙂 You can have a well though out back story, like UO, EQ and EVE. But after that, players make the world go round. Now with SW:TOR, people may be focused to much on going though their own story and not care about the world as a whole that they are in.

    LotRO worked (sort of). There was the Epic story arch. However people did not want to wait to get a group to continue the story. And now that the game has matured it is hit or miss that you will be able to find a group at your point in the epic archs.

    The key factor with SW:TOR will be how much else is there to do in the game other than “The Story ™”

  • @evizaer: It’s that “shift” in meaning that I’m trying to stop. It shifts entirely too much already. Looking at the spectrum of games from EQ to WoW to EVE and everything in between is proof positive.

    Where I’ve decided to make my final stand, dig in my heels, and never give in is here. Let “MMO” mean anything but “Single Player with Multiplayer Opportunities”.

    This is less about “Companions” and more about what they represent. It’s more about the agenda Bioware is trying to push. This movement towards “anyone can do anything any time in our game” accessibility movement — specifically a movement towards playing the game by themselves if they choose — should be headed off.

    It crossed the line for me when the developers stated they want people to be able to solo group content. That is an oxymoron. Group content ceases to be group content if you can solo it. That same type of oxymoron is what I want to prevent from spreading to the entirety of the game(s). Eventually these will be singleplayer games that we pay a monthly subscription to play, yet they’ll still call them “MMORPG’s”.

    I’m asking that they be called something else. Let our ambiguous “MMO” tag at least represent a game with a lot of people playing together.

  • @Evizaer:
    I see your point, but do you honestly think and feel that a game where the majority of players run around doing solo content with NPCs helping them the majority of the time qualify as being called a MMO? I mean, doesn’t this kinda defy the Massively Multiplayer part of MMO?
    That’s how I feel about it at least.

    And sorry Keen, but it’s kinda hard to discuss this issue without touching grouping vs solo, at least it is for me. I would see no reason for me to play a game where I soloplay all the time while still in a persistant everchanging world of a MMO. I play MMO’s to group up and preferably to kill other groups of real players, not to solo.
    I too solo a lot while I play, but that’s mostly because either the game penalize me for grouping, it makes finding groups a hassle or even worse, they see to that I can infact solo it almost as easily as I can do it in a group.

  • @Proximo: Like I said, you can touch on grouping vs. solo and how it ties in to this discussion. You can’t make it entirely about the plight of the solo player in a grouping world as some have done above.

    I think brainstorming ideas as Nollind did above on how the solo player’s gameplay can better harmonize with the “multiplayer” gameplay is definitely relevant because it would, perhaps, alleviate a lot of the conflict between the two playstyles. However, I do not believe it would stop Bioware and friends from continuing down this path of converting the entirety of “gaming” to “MMO” status, and in the process destroying the core of MMORPG’s (What’s left of them, anyway).

  • I think you’re blindly resisting change here.

    What’s the actual reason why MMOs should not be “single-player games contextualized by multiplayer options”? If an MMO didn’t actually involve other players being in the same upper-level game world as you, you might have a case. The players are inhabiting the same universe here–their actions are perceivable on a massive scale (i.e. you can perceive the actions of thousands of players from your character’s viewpoint). You have created a false distinction in your mind–a rigid classification that MMOs must FORCE multiplayer.

    It’s similar to thinking that people can’t (or shouldn’t) be happy in real life without constantly doing things with their friends. There are plenty of people who really value being alone, but like to have other people inhabiting the world around them. It’s the same way in MMOs and I don’t understand why we should be forcing players to treat them like multiplayer games instead of shared worlds.

  • @evizaer: I don’t think I’m blindly resisting change. I know why I’m resisting it — I enjoy them more how they are/were.

    Are the player’s actions perceivable on a massive scale in SWTOR? Everyone getting their own little instanced world in which they can live their own story their own way making decisions that only impact themselves doesn’t seem like something that I can perceive. In effect, I know how I chose to play out my story but I have no clue how you chose to play out yours because yours has no effect on me. This is debating instances though. 😉

    As for forcing multiplayer, the word “force” is rather poignant. A game designed even half-well should be able to convey a sense of “Multiplayer” without having anyone feeling “forced”. I supposed the only way you would feel forced into feeling like you’re playing a multiplayer game would be if you thought you were buying a singleplayer game and want to play it offline (these people do exist btw).

    If Bioware wants to allow people to play a game by themselves but feel the world around them, then why not create missions for the soloer and missions for the grouper? I suppose it’s because in the end the soloer will always be in the grouper’s shadow. That’s a themepark philosophy, unfortunately. But that enters us into a debate about themepark games.

    SWG (pre NGE/CU) was a great example of a MMORPG. You could solo or your could group and you would ultimately be rewarded equally. I could solo Krayt’s. It was way harder than grouping for them but I did it. I could go out and solo on my own and travel to other planets, collect goods, and return home and not feel like I accomplished any less. The same could be said for grouping. There were situations where a group was necessary — especially in PvP and in certain activities. Doing those meant finding other players to work with to tackle an obstacle that was beyond my individual power. Not doing them didn’t mean I was missing out on anything experience-breaking. Why can’t that harmony exist in other games?

    If Bioware meant to say that there will be missions for people to do solo but didn’t mean to convey a sense that “group content is soloable” then they fouled up. If there is never a reason, or an option (key!), to rely on other players then my point stands.

    I fully recognize someone’s right to play by themselves. I don’t recognize someone’s right to declare the sovereignty of their individual power on par with a collective and cooperative playstyle though.

  • I personally think this is a good thing. Seems to me my personal playstyle with what mmos i have played will fit very well within the Old Republic. Personally i think this is a over reaction to what type of game play they will make. I mean there are mmo type games that do the same thing but with less extremes. Like Guild Wars, any game with a “pet” class and now counting Lord of the Rings online. Only difference is you get more choices and the char will react to your choices. Plus hopefully bioware will be a wonderful provider adding free updates and content expansions without you having to buy every “everquest” like expansion with so many microstansactions that it will make you want to cry

    But this is all what if, if they do it right or if they do it wrong. It comes down to one thing of faith. Do you have any faith that bioware will not stab you in the back? Do you think they will treat there fans with respect or gouge them for every penny they own?

    I hope bioware will respect us and treat us well. Turben is one of the best and more respectful mmo developer with all its free updates and content that maybe bioware will up one them. if they do then it will be a wonderful game. Lets just up EA keeps there noses out of things ~cridges~

  • So I did a little research, which I should have done in the first place, and I noticed that TOR will include end game raiding and I also found out that each character will only be allowed one companion. So how are we supposed to solo everything in the game? Does the developer mean solo our way to max level (nothing new here, other games already offer this option)? Because there is no way in hell that you will be able to solo a raid encounter with just one companion. It looks like Bioware is just further reducing the amount of players that will be required for raiding. Kinda like how WoW reduced EQ’s endless numbers to 40, then 25.

    It will also be interesting to see how companions fit in to PVP but obviously that is totally unrelated.

  • The Bioware developers have been sending mixed and confusing messages the whole time. All I can do is respond to their direct statements that we have on tape; one of them being in that video:

    Q. “So, potentially this is going to allow more people that maybe don’t want to play in a group at all to go and solo through sections that otherwise would require multiple party members?”

    A. “Yeah absolutely it helps us out with our goal of making sure the old republic is playable as a solo or group experience.”

    Without any further explanation, he’s basically said you can solo the group content or get friends and do it. What then becomes the meaning of “group” content? It’s just “content” at that point. I’ve yet to see details on “raids” beyond the stock answers they give when asked what types of content they have. Have any links to more info on raids?

  • The raid comment came from a PCGAMER issue dated Sept 2009 where the interviewer just asked about end game content and the developer stated that TOR would come with everything that we are used to in today’s titles (i.e. raiding/pvp/etc…).

    Who knows though how much of this is set in stone but it sounded promising and if you can only have one companion, then I don’t see an issue. We will have to wait and see.

  • I recently played Dragon Age: Online and was intrigued by the deep and interesting story line presented to me. It instantly grabbed my attention and I actually cared about what is going on in the story…an an MMORPG players, I right away thought…wow, why can’t we experience a story like that in an MMORPG…whether you play WAR, WOW, Aion, Allods Online or any other “modern” day MMORPG – the story lines and the immersion into the game world sucks. They try – they tell their stories but compared to a game like DA:O – it is amateur hour.

    The fascinating part is that old games like Ultima had very little story line and yet I was very immersed in the world. However, what Ultima gave us was complete freedom and the story line was created by the most powerful engine out there – the human imagination.

    As MMORPGs “progressed” (a loosely used term…I would not call this progression) the games continuously remove freedom from the game world. Now, half baked stories are being presented – we are led through the game and its zones like mindless sheep. As we all know – it is a theme park.
    Now, instead of making your own story (with complete freedom) we are being told: this is the story. However, in the past, these stories have not even been close to what we all experienced through our own imagination in the early days. These “new stories” really blow – they are a poor substitute for what we used to do much better.

    Star Wars is the next iteration – I think they are trying to now go all the way and instead of giving us a half baked lame story line – they are trying to give us a full single player story line a la Dragon Age: Online. With the removal of gameplay freedom – you do have to tip your hat to that because at least they are trying to salvage what has been ruined a long time ago by the industry. In a sense whether this is with or without companions – I almost find irrelevant – it is a single player experience – with nothing left to the imagination.

  • Keen: I’m not taking it personal. I just strongly disagree with many of your comments and contradictions. But, personal? No, I know better than arguing over the ‘net with someone I don’t know.

    If I was taking it personal I wouldn’t even have replied, because it wouldn’t be conductive to anything. You have your opinions, I have mine (and this is your house, to boot), so that’s it.

    I will tell you this, though: It’d do you well to follow your own advice. You don’t like what you see in SW:TOR? Please, don’t play it. You’d only be miserable, just in the same way a solo player would be miserable by forcing himself to play group-heavy game for no reason.

    This isn’t us evil soloers holding Bioware for ransom and demanding them to corrupt the essence of an MMO (whatever the hell that is) as it’s been alluded to above. This is Bioware making the game as they see fit, and introducing things like these to combat the uglier side of grouping. Nothing more, nothing less.

    So, my friendly advice, just pass on it. No need to brew a tempest in a teacup. Pass on it just as I pass on many games which I know I probably won’t like. It’s not the end of the world and I don’t start complaining about how all those games I don’t particularly like are deviating from the way things should be according to me.


  • Argorius:

    I agree with much of what you say. I’ve written about this several times on my blog. The two articles that I think discuss it clearest are:

    Goal Generations in MMOs


    Save the World! (And Level Up.)

    MMORPGs suck at telling stories because they try to shoehorn single-player game story design into a fundamentally multiplayer game. MMOs should focus on allowing players to make their own stories relevant to the game world–it just so happens that sandbox games do this much better than themeparks ever will, even though the current crop of sandbox games is nowhere near what I’d really like to see.

  • @evizaer:

    Back in UO – we were hunting in this valley we called the rat valley – it was the same people and eventually we got to know each other. Then some red PK clowns came by and proclaimed that nobody is allowed to wear plate armor. They killed everyone who had plate armor unless they gave it up. We had great battles with those PK’s and eventually formed a guild and fought them many times.

    We eventually had enough cash to buy a large tower and that was the base of our operation. We were still enemies with these PKs…eventually we learned that one of our “recruits” – a guy we played with for weeks – was in fact part of that evil PK guild. He infiltrated our guild – they took control of our tower and we were denied access. Eventually they game it back (they werent all evil but actually really good Roleplayers – the leader went on to become a big wig game designer somewhere).

    All of this went on for months and months…no modern game can write a story like that…or even come close to the experiences we had.

  • Holy posts Batman! Some riled up folks here 😉 I think the mmo elements will shine through so I would not worry too much Keen.

    I would be willing to bet that there are many areas of the game that will require more then just you and your companion.

  • @Argorius

    Yes! The story in an MMO should be the story the players create just by “living” (playing, whatever verb you feel appropriate) in the game world. When I tell my story in EVE Online, (or my very short story for Darkfall, as I’ve just begun), it is absolutely unique. Noone has had that exact story, where in something like WoW almost everyone has completed the same tasks (and thus had the same story more or less, with some minor differences based on what quests they skipped, or what order they did them in maybe, let alone the end game, in which people are doing the same things every single day/week/month). Now they are taking it step further with TOR and just saying, hey there are 8 classes, each has its own KOTOR like game.

    At best TOR is going to be like a choose your own adventure book, where there are a couple choices at the end of every section, and there are only a handful of possible endings.

    A game like EVE or Darkfall…thats like having a vague outline given to you about the world, and then writing a book from scratch.

    The real fun comes from when that story you are “writing” intersects with the story of other people. And thats what TOR is threatening to take away.

  • If it’s instance heavy and adding these npc’s that take place of players I probably won’t even try it out. This type of cater to the masses, lets make everyone happy, make the most money we can mentality is what ruins games. To be honest instancing alone I don’t like and I believe takes away from the community more than any developer in the past decade of mmorpg development realizes. Oh well I wasn’t really looking forwards to this game anyways, I’d rather check out STO, hopefully it can be done right.

  • Heavy instancing works so much better than open worlds do for themepark games. If you want concentrated fun delivered as smoothly and quickly as possible, instances are your only choice. MMOs will soon entirely be huge lobbies connecting instanced bits of gameplay. And I think that abstract, themepark-style MMOs will be better off for that. Regardless of what Keen says, the pattern is clear to everyone and I think it’s taking themeparks to the best place they can go. Open worlds usually only operate to get in the way of having fun in a themepark–you want the rides to be close together and long, not the walks between them to be arduous and boring.

    I prefer DDO to WoW. But I’d prefer a good sandbox game over both of them. Unfortunately, most of EVE is participating is very boring activities, most of Darkfall is traveling through an empty world, and most of Wurm Online is watching progress bars fill.

  • Well, the thing is, I think that I actually DON’T want “concentrated fun delivered as smoothly and quickly as possible.”

    I am assuming here that you consider “fun” to be “exciting gameplay” based on your other “boring” gameplay examples. The thing is, boring can be perfectly pleasant. Its relaxing and enjoyable to mine in EVE Online, its nice to travel in Darkfall and just take in the scenery. Fun is obviously a subjective term, but to me those activities are “fun.” If you are really just looking for 100% pure excitement every moment, then no those games aren’t “fun” but they are WAY better at providing an experience that I find enjoyable (and they definitely DO have their exciting moments as well, which I also like, but I don’t need it to be every moment).

    Anyway, there are other genre’s capable of providing that constant “fun” (by your definition) far better than a (traditional) MMO can. When I want that, I play a shooter, or an ARPG like Torchlight. An MMO can offer SO much more of an interesting and diverse experience, which was why I liked the genre in the first place.

  • Many has been stating that Guild Wars did it but ArenaNet define their game as a CORPG not an MMO,there should be a reason why?


    It looks to me as if Bioware wants to be the next Blizzard by being the comapany which will bring the MMO genre to the next generation.If you listen carefully to their PR it’s always “we want to bring…”eg the 4th Pillar.

    The question is “do I want to play a singleplayer coop interactive movie with a sub?

  • @mahlah

    I hit on the difference between my approach in yours in a post I made about Massively Meditative Online Games. People play games for different reasons. I’m not suggesting games should be all excitement. Downtime is necessary and time to plan is OK. There is just too much bland blah uninteractive non-stimulating boringness in these games that can be attributed to nothing but an attempt on the part of developers to keep you logged in for as long as possible.

    I’m entirely capable of playing games that are slow-paced. I play games like Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, some sports sims like Front Office Football and Football Manager ’10, Armageddon Empires, Space Empires, Civilization games of all kinds, etc. which mostly consist of absorbing information and making decisions and have very little “excitement”. Excitement isn’t at the core of fun. The core is making interesting decisions at a reasonable rate. MMOs do not do this, so I stay away from them aside from occasional and brief experimentation. I think they have the potential to do be good games, though, and I work towards exploring that on my blog.

  • One thing is clear… while the industry is definitely stretching thin the concept of MMO, there is a growing clamour of folks that want a very inter-dependent human game.

    I honestly think that we just aren’t quite there yet in the computing hurdles it takes to pull the next level off.

    I think it is safe to say nobody wants to play EQ now.. they want what the old EQ represented.

    The pendulum will swing. 🙂

  • Yeah, I can see your point. Why not just play an offline, single player game instead? I dunno, I’m on the fence with this. It seems like a nice idea for the soloist but then again, it’s just taking the whole point out of grouping. I guess we’ll just need to wait and see.

  • given their separate lineages (no pun intended), It’ll be interesting to see how Guild Wars 2 fares against SW:TOR. Funny to see Bioware leaning towards exactly what NCSoft is moving away from, successful model or not.

    Looking forward to both games, either way…

  • […] find other players to fill certain roles, such as healers and tanks. Keen was one of the first to vocalize his aggression: Why don’t you just make it a single player game? I do not understand this mentality of making a […]

  • Okay I dont like this. Really seems like they just wanna slap the “MMO” label on to get a montly fee.

    A bit off topic

    Have any1 heard anything about PVP in this game? And how would that even work with all the instancing?

  • Mahlah mentions EVE online, but even there, people solo. I count 500 people in my NPC corp, which is little more than a glorified chat channel, and one of many racial corps out there. If you wanted to you could play that game entirely solo. It would be harder, and you might miss out on some large scale battles (unless you somehow freelance merced for a corp) but it could be done probably much easier than TOR.

    Heck, a minor contention in Dominion was the 11% tax trying to tell people what to do-join player corps and stop running so many solo missions. So the single-player MMO isn’t just bioware. Even in group-centric FFXI I soloed my beastmaster class to 75, and they also had NPC companions, although much weaker.

    I think you are worrying too much.

  • Btw the guy who made that quote Keen, was co-director Rich Vogel. At the end of their presentation some questions were asked regarding if we would see stuff that is present in other MMOs (i.e. Auction Houses, PVP (arenas/world etc…), 25+ player raiding, etc…) and Rich Vogel with quoted as saying, “Oh we have all that too. We’re just going to wait a little bit to show you.”

    Since player’s can only have one companion there will still be many “multiplayer” elements involved directly with grouping. You can’t solo a 24-25+ man raid by yourself even if you do have a companion. It just seems like Bioware is moving in the direction of reducing the amount of players required for raiding (something that WoW/EQ2 and others have already done). Eventually though if companies continue along this same path, solo players will be able to achieve everything that a group/raid can – at least in terms of PvE.

  • Although I agree that an MMO should be played as it was intended for, but there is one point that I can see this being a benefit.

    When you log on, and all of your friends aren’t online, finding random players to help sometimes isn’t easy. I wouldn’t think this feature should be leaned on heavily, but used in moments such as this when you are just putting in a few hours of fun.

  • Why am I not surprised by any of this new insight by Bioware? All they have ben hyping for TOR is story. This is the typical line; Bioware:”blah blah blah blah story, blah story, blah blah, deep meaningful…blah, story.” Essentially, based on what has been seen and mentioned so far, TOR is going to be a highly instanced, single player co-op game with heavy emphasis on story. This is what we are calling an MMO nowadays? Doesnt sound like one to me.

    I remember all too well what happened when an acclaimed group of developers tried to make gamers swallow their vision of an MMO. Hellgate:London anyone? People used to argue up and down trying to define how many players qualify a game as an MMO. Hellgate could have had 1 million players on the same server, and that thing was no damn MMO.

    I dont know where Bioware is going with this one, but “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Drkh0YLF8rI

  • @DBlade It is a solo v. group argument, I’ll assume because there are so many replies you missed that part of the discussion. The point is, in EVE, even if you are playing solo, you are having an effect on the game world that matters to other players. That is what is at stake here. Arguing group v. solo is a red herring, and one I think game companies like, because they know solo players are going to win that battle. However, the problem is, along with solo play is coming packaged in a game in which interaction isn’t needed, and contact with other players (even contact in a somewhat removed way, such as, prices on a module going up or down in EVE due to someone flooding the market, even though you may never have seen/met or talked to them). Its that sneaky bit where suddenly you can do away with that key aspect of what makes (made?) the MMO genre really stand out as something with a ton of potential as a distinct gaming experience that has most of us worried. Not whether or not someone needs to sit in LFG.

    Again, this isn’t a group thing. I mean, raiding content is a SMALL concession at best, and frankly doesn’t even address the main point. In fact, I would say being out solo questing in WoW, running into a random person and doing the quest with them, is more in the spirit of what I’m talking about than WoW raiding, even though one involves 2 people and one involves 25.

    @ Vario
    One last point here, and it doesn’t really have much to do with anything. Guild Wars has proved that model can work, in my opinion. Hellgate: London didn’t fail because of its instance structured gameplay, but because it was released in a literally unplayable state with horrendous bugs that cuased frequent crashing and all but the most loyal customers to bail. So, I don’t think that instanced model is going to mean that SWTOR is going to fail outright. In fact, it might be wildly popular, and that worries me more as someone who finds the “sandbox” to be my preferred style.

  • Outside of the debate solo/group.

    I played as a warrior tank in wowcrack since bc. Tanking was a skilled task in BC (still is to some degree). The timed run in ZA. The reliquary of souls in black temple, these were complicated raids that required skilled tanks. So my question is, if you can tank/heal runs with bots(companion is a generous word) then what will that mean for the encounters? If they have to be dumbed down to be doable with bots, ie: every encounter is going to be tank and spank, then it’s going to be boring as hell.

    Btw: if guildwars can be called an mmo then you might as well open the mmo definition to mean any game with a chat room and a multiplayer component – welcome gears of war and halo to world of mmo. Also someone call the oxford dictionary so they can redefine the term ‘massively’ to mean ‘more that one person’

  • Another thing and by far the MOST disturbing thing in that interview is they said “THERE WILL BE MORE INSTANCING THAN FOUND IN OTHER MMO’S TO GIVE A GOOD SINGLEPLAYER EXPERIENCE” Are you guys serious? Are you making an MMO or an offline game? Many mmo’s these days have WAY too much instancing for my taste (my taste is absolutley none) and they already openly admitted that it will have more instancing than any other MMO.. I am sorry but Bioware has lost my money on this purchase, I am not buying an “MMO” and paying $15 a month for an instanced singleplayer game with a chat box.

    This game is everything I hate in MMO’s – Faction Based, Massive instancing, singleplayer design.

  • Stompfoot sums up my problem with this exactly… i don’t mind letting players solo, i don’t even mind letting them solo group content (as long as the rewards are appropriate… Read: not as good as group rewards)

    but what i have a real problem with is when the solo players dumb down my grouping experience… unless bioware has some clever way of tuning an instance based on not only the number of players, but on exactly which class, and which companions are used, (which i can’t even begin to imagine how complex and difficult that would be).. then i have a real problem… you simply can’t tune encounters for group AND solo play at the same time… if you try (which it seems like bioware is indeed trying) then the only logical way to make it work, is to DUMB DOWN the group content so any half wit monkey can complete it….

    this decrease in difficulty is what really bothers me about the direction MMOs are heading.

    the only way i could see this working is if bioware also added difficulty sliders to their encounters… so in order to complete something with companions, you’d have to drop the difficulty slider way down, and be rewarded way less for completing it…. this way there is still a challenge for those that want it. and even solo players that want a challenge could attempt the higher difficulties.

    i firmly believe it is possible to have both solo play AND challenge in an MMO… sadly i have yet to find a game that accomplishes this… and i think scaling difficulty is the key.

    i haven’t seen or read anything that would suggest that bioware is going this route… and it’s the only route i can see to make this work without completely alienating players like Keen and myself.

    but the main thing that bothers me about swtor is the combat just looks lame… lasers and lightsabers deserve a better combat system than the simplistic and archaic tab-target and autoattack system which hasn’t changed in 10+ years…. this is one relic that i wish would go the way of the dodo… and don’t tell me it can’t be done, look at MAG and how it gets 256 players into a single zone engaging in frantic twitch based FPS combat… yet we’re stuck with combat a 4 year old could master. it’s a shame.

  • @Mahlah – I was stressing raiding because lets face it, when people hit max level the majority focus on RAIDING (the others do PVP – granted some do other things too like crafting but lets keep this simple). Both extremely extremely dependant on interaction with others.

    While leveling you might not rely on others as much but that is already the case in a multitude of other games (WoW for example). The real kicker is whether or not they decide to make the game completely instanced (like a DDO). That is what would completely kill the immersion factor for me because even when you do the majority of your quests solo, you still happen upon others in the same area and sometimes form friendships just by helping them with say a challenging quest (i.e. join up with them for a few min. to help them finish an elite quest). Also I’m assuming that you will still need to rely on others to complete group content like dungeons.

    Like others have said we will need more info before we can declare the sky as fallen. It just sounds like Bioware is making group oriented tasks require less people (raiding/dungeons etc…). Something that other games have done in the past. I don’t think they are saying you will be able to complete everything in the game alone. Maybe that DEV was smoking some Ganja! Who knows… 😀

    @Logan – Totally agree with the combat mechanic statements. I was so excited to hear that the WAR 40k MMO would be utilizing a hybrid FPS system (hopefully they get it right).

  • Sorry, forgot to add – Heavy instancing is what would completely kill immersion for me. You would be taking a persistant world and turning it into a persistant cubicle.

  • Mahlah:

    I see. Sidekicks really only affect partying, if Keen means its a symptom of making it something like co-op KOTOR, well.

    I’m not sure what the solution is. If Keen is worried about Bioware reducing the MMO genre to something like Diablo or 4 player co-op Gears of War, there’s not much he can do if Bioware is successful. If group interaction is critical to what makes an MMO an MMO, it should fail, and fail hard.

    I think what he is worried is that, deep down, people don’t feel that. That interaction is really only desired by a minority of players, and the future is in LMOs-Limited Multiplayer Online games.

    I also think he is right to worry, because interaction is becoming more associated with negative experiences than positive. Its barrens chat, guild drama, AH fixing, and can flipping. Players already have started minimizing and limiting interaction through guilds.

    Not sure what the future will bring, unless the perception of negative interaction predominates.

  • I’m all for a KOTOR multiplayer followup. I will not however pay each month for the pleasure of playing it. Every single thing I have heard about this game makes it sound like every single Bioware title for the last number of years with an added option of multiplayer. It’s going to be heavily instanced (even more that current MMOS) to allow for a better solo experience? (Paraphrased quote from an interview). What…the…hell? I’ve noticed that over the past few years Bioware (which I used to admire) have become more and more arrogant in their belief that they know how to do RPG’s properly. Their approach to heavy story based RPG’s does not translate will into the MMO space, and I’m expecting this game to be as much an MMO as Fable 2.

  • I just want to relay some experiences I’ve encountered while SOLO questing and leveling within Allod Online recently, that I think relate perfectly to the question of “What is an MMO?”.

    Where’s The Treasure? – Someone kept relaying on the zone chat channel that they couldn’t find the treasure indicated in one of the quests. “Where is it?”, they asked repeatedly. Not telling them specifically, I told them to hug the Eastern Mountains until they found it.

    Kill All The Bears – While doing a quest to kill some bears, it was becoming more and more evident that there were too many people doing the same quest at the same time. Suddenly someone near me said, “Does someone mind grouping up to make doing this quest easier?” I immediately replied I would and formed a group with her and then quickly invited another person as well. Quickly we spread out to find the bears and when we did, we communicated so, and swarmed back together to take it out. We were quickly done in no time and went our separate ways.

    Kill The Leader – While doing a quest where you had to kill 10 bandits and their leader, I had just killed my 10th bandit only to turn back to see the bandit leader being attacked by someone else. Initially frustrated, I quickly noticed the person getting pummeled and thus decided to help him out. In doing so, the person decided to stick around and in turn help me out in killing the same leader. At no point were we grouped at all in attacking the leader.

    What I’m trying to relay above is what draws us to a multiplayer game over a single player game. Simply put, the multiplayer game creates a shared social space with which people can interact within. More specifically, when I say “interact”, I mean that one person’s actions can and often do influence another person’s actions.

    In the “Where’s the Treasure?” experience above, a single solo player interacted verbally with many others to utilize their shared knowledge to overcome an obstacle. While he wasn’t “grouped” in a party with these other people, he was most definitely “grouped” with them in a chat channel. Yet from his perspective, he probably felt he was solo playing the entire time. Yet in fact, he wasn’t. He was grouping and collaborating with others verbally to utilize their shared knowledge to overcome an obstacle.

    In the “Kill All The Bears” experience, the solo play of many individuals within the same space directly influenced and impacted their individual solo play. So much so that the natural choice was for them to group up, not because they were “forced” to do so, but because it was a desirable choice that allowed them to easily overcome their individual obstacles and achieve their individuals goals much faster as a group. While the people in this example did group up so they could get credit for the same kills, what they were doing more than anything was creating a shared sense of awareness of the environment around them. This allowed them to collaborate more effectively in overcoming their shared obstacle by finding the bears faster as a group.

    In the “Kill The Leader” experience, two individuals collaborated with one another to share their common strengths and skills in overcoming a foe that might have been difficult to down individually. Again it seemed like a natural and desirable choice to make which happened almost at the spur of the moment.

    I could go on and on with other examples but I think you get the picture. Simply put, MMOs are about social interaction at their core. It doesn’t matter if you’re perceived definition of play is solo or grouped, you are interacting and often times collaborating with others to overcome your obstacles. For example, if you’ve purchased a crafted weapon by another person on an auction house in an MMO then you’ve both interacted and collaborated with that person because you’ve both worked together, albeit apart, to meet your own needs. The crafter sold his wares to obtain money (so he could buy other things he needs). And you purchased his wares because it was what you needed. Thus you both benefited individually from the collaboration together. And that is exactly what being a part of a community should be about (but often isn’t), as quoted below by Margaret J. Wheatley in her book “Finding Our Way”.

    “We form our communities from these two needs — the need for self-determination and the need for one another. But in modern society, we have difficulty embracing the inherent paradox of these needs. We reach to satisfy one at the expense of the other. Very often the price of belonging to a community is to forfeit one’s individual autonomy. Communities form around specific standards, doctrines, traditions. Individuals are required to conform, to obey, to serve “the greater good” of the community. Thus inclusion exacts a high price, that of our individual self-expression. With the loss of personal autonomy, diversity not only disappears but also becomes a major management problem. The community spends more and more energy on new ways to exert control over individuals through endless proliferating policies, standards, and doctrines.”

    Our communities must support our individual freedom as a means to community health and resiliency. And individuals must acknowledge their neighbors and make choices based on the desire to be in relationship with them as a means to their own health and resiliency.

    In effect, the last paragraph by Margaret above relays the symbiotic relationship between the individual and the community. The individual should benefit from the community (group), just as much as the community (group) benefits from the individual.

  • To me, this is just an option to use. If you got tons of friends and are willing to wait for them to show up, then that’s perfectly fine. I haven’t played MMOs as long as most of you (started with Anarchy Online) but when you don’t have a lot of time to play, why waste those precious minutes waiting/finding other people to play content with.

    I use to raid in WoW and I know almost every time we raided, we wasted at least an hour setting the group up. Then, wasted more time when a healer gets DCed, etc. It is perfectly fine if you have plenty of time in your hands to do this, but if you don’t this “other” option that Bioware is giving us is a god-send.

    This option means that all the content in the game is open to everybody. There is no more restrictions of being in a big guild, having friends, and being on time at 8PM every day. I enjoyed raiding when I had the time, but nowadays with grad school, I don’t have the time to give to enjoy that content and I still want to experience that, and Bioware will give me that option.

    My opinion is, if you don’t want to use this option, then you don’t have to. But others might benefit from it and they are all paying the same amount of money to enjoy everything the game has to offer.

  • Even though I believe I’ve narrowed down what is at the heart of an MMO above (social interaction), I still want to address one more sticky point with regards to companion characters and making instanced dungeons soloable.

    Back prior to the launch of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for WoW, it was mentioned that raid dungeons would not only be just for 25 man groups but they would also be introducing 10 man groups as well. This of course caused an outrage with some people, as they said that Blizzard was “neutering” the game to make it more accessible to casual players.

    When Wrath of the Lich King finally launched though, what I noticed was an increased interaction amongst people because it was now easier to form up raid groups. As many have said here, I myself had to sit for two or three hours trying to get a few people to fill up a 25 man raid and it’s total BS. Thus with the introduction of 10 man raid groups, that incomplete 25 man raid could now easily split into two 10 man raids and still get some enjoyment out of the evening. Even more so, my core group of friends was close to 10 people and we often played on regular set nights, so we had better overall group interaction and enjoyment than we had before.

    What I’m getting at here is pretty much what I said in my last comment about “What is an MMO?”. The focus should always be on the interaction. If you can implement something that increases interaction than do so. However, if what you plan on implementing reduces or removes interaction, then I’d say don’t do. So with regards to a companion character, my guess is that it’s no different than what WoW did by dropping raiding dungeons from 25 to 10 man groups. So a Bioware 25 man group would be 15 or so people with their henchman.

    That said though, the implementation of such mechanics need to have a choice and consequence to it. For example, I’d say sure allow henchman (although having different 5, 10, and 25 man dungeons would be better) but every core raid role needs to be filled by at least one human player, so as to teach people the importance of the gameplay dynamics. At the same time, these henchman cannot be superior to an average skilled player. Ya they’re better than a newbie but their slightly worse than an average player. This creates a consequence for that choice.

    And if anything, this consequences for your choices need to be echoed throughout the entire game. So sure, you can go through most of the game by yourself but other parts of it should require some collaboration. If you want the greater rewards of an elite boss (particularly at the level it would be beneficial to you) then you’re going to need to collaborate with others in some form or another. In WAR, the open party system allowed this without grouping which was pretty nice.

    That said though, there will be some obstacles that will be extremely difficult and complex, thus they will need a highly efficient team of people to overcome them. So ya, the whole game shouldn’t required highly efficient teams of people to play but there should most definitely be certain aspects of it that should require it.

    And finally what about the word “massively”? Well I’m going to kill two final birds with one stone here. Massively to me means groups engaging in more than 50 or preferably even 100 people. This is exactly where the beauty of MMO interaction can come into play, particularly within a PvP or RvR game. For example, within Warbirds, a massively multiplayer WWII online flight sim game, most squadron groups (i.e. guilds) were the ones who defined what territories were going to be attacked next. Yet once a target was decided upon and relayed across their nations chat channel, many solo pilots swarmed in to help the squadron guilds achieve their objectives. Thus you had many solo players interacting and collaborating with other larger groups to work as a whole nation in overcoming common obstacles, thus providing one amazing social experience for everyone involved.

    In closing, I just want to reiterate again, that is up to the developers of the game to design the mechanics for this work.

  • Everything I’ve seen so far on companions does make them seem like “henchmen”, and I’m fine with it. I have not tried the skirmishes in LOTRO yet to see how they play out in an mmo setting but I’m willing to see what they are like, and further down the road what SWTOR copanions are capable of.

    I was taken by your comment about the clout of companies such as Bioware/EA/LucasArts and Blizzard to effect really huge changes in the industry. I think you’re correct, but I also think I’ve read many times in recent years that the mmo industry needs a big jump start or reboot or whatever to move on to a different evolutionary stage.

    Perhaps it is time for that leap.

  • i think Nollind is exactly right… and it’s funny because i’ve had almost those exact same experiences in Allod’s online over the past few days… and it’s been great!

    but the question then becomes, if everyone has a henchman, will those same experiences still happen?

    if i had a henchman would i need another player to help me defeat a boss? probably NOT.

    if i had a henchman would i need to ask where the treasure is? probably YES.

    if i had a henchman would i need to group with others to kill bears? probably YES.

    so only 1 out of 3 would be removed by the addition of henchmen… that’s not so bad…

    but that’s assuming a persistent, open, outdoor world… i’m not so sure how much of that will exist in swtor… and that has me as concerned as the henchmen issue…

    so basically if the world is mostly instanced, you can eliminate the chance that you will join up to kill spread out, and slow spawning bears… that removes another good experience from the list…

    the only thing that leaves you with is the interaction through chat…. which is why Keen and a few others are claiming that this is nothing more than a single player game with a glorified game-wide chat system, and an Auction House… NOT an MMO… i would agree. (although it doesn’t bother me as much, see the last paragraph of this post for an explanation why).

    in order for this game to be an MMO, players have to interact in the ways Nollind describes… and the way swtor seems to be being built… the most interesting and engaging ways for players to interact are being removed… and i haven’t even touched on the psychological affect of removing those interactions, and how it will likely affect other aspects of player interactions.

    @nollind – would you have had near as much fun in Allods if 2 of those 3 experiences never happened? these experiences must have been interesting if you remembered them and chose to write about them here… if the only thing interesting you had to write about was something said in chat, how would you feel about the game?

    i dunno about you, but i’d say a game like that is pretty lame… at best i could treat it is as a single player game and play through the story once, then discard it… which is exactly why keen and others are upset that this game is being labeled as an MMO, and why we are concerned with the direction MMOs are heading in general.

    i for one hope that bioware goes full bore with this and makes the most single player focused MMO ever… and then once it flops maybe it will be a sign to other companies that we need to press the Reset button on this genre and get back to what it really means to be an MMO.

  • “if i had a henchman would i need another player to help me defeat a boss? probably NOT.”

    Logan: Wow, excellent point. Never thought of that.

    BTW I just watched the interview again and three things stood out this time.

    1) You can have multiple henchman to choose from but can only choose to utilize one at a time.
    2) The game is heavily instanced, more so than others.
    3) You can play all content solo with just your (one) henchman.

    The third point is the kicker. This really signifies that this game may not have instances to what we’re used to seeing (i.e. 5, 10, 25 man instances).

    Now I understand where Keen is coming from. For the most part, this sounds like a single player game with maybe city hubs being the only place to interact within. The net effect is that this dramatically reduces the possibility for social interaction because people will be unable to “bump into” each other (since they will be in their own heavily instanced storyline).

    If it had been henchman within a minimum of a 25 (or maybe even a 10) man instances, I’d say, sure give it a try but this sounds radically different and with radically less opportunity for social interaction. Unless they pull some rabbit out of a hat that I can’t see yet, this will harm the future of MMOs more than does it good.

    BTW I now totally understand why they want to use henchman. It’s totally for story and artistic purposes. In effect, I bet you anything they want you to get a strong attachment to your henchman and then at key points they will get killed and Bioware will win an award because they made you “cry in a game” (which is the holy grail of artistic game design). Great for the “story”, sucks in terms of interaction. Developers just don’t get. Screw the story on rails approach. The unique and unexpected interaction between people in MMO social spaces is where the stories will come from!

    “would you have had near as much fun in Allods if 2 of those 3 experiences never happened?”

    No, I wouldn’t have. As I had mentioned in a previous Allod’s post here, I was getting bored of the “grind” at the beginning. But these interactions, particularly grouping to fight elite monsters, got me hooked (and now I try to interact with others much more so, i.e. heal everyone I pass, etc). If I had no opportunity to interact with others, other than say in a city, I probably would have stop playing the game by now.

    “i for one hope that bioware goes full bore with this and makes the most single player focused MMO ever… and then once it flops maybe it will be a sign to other companies that we need to press the Reset button on this genre and get back to what it really means to be an MMO.”

    It will flop if the social interaction “feels” dramatically to people. Some people, who enjoy playing it as a single player game, will still obviously like it but not sure if they can carry the weight of it.

    Also there is no need to press the reset button and start over, as there are still a lot of great aspects of MMOs that do work (and our talk of Allod is a good example of this). Again it’s just about cutting off the parts that aren’t working and going back to those good core “roots” that people talked about earlier in this post (i.e. UO).

  • Another thing and by far the MOST disturbing thing in that interview is they said “THERE WILL BE MORE INSTANCING THAN FOUND IN OTHER MMO’S TO GIVE A GOOD SINGLEPLAYER EXPERIENCE” Are you guys serious? Are you making an MMO or an offline game? Many mmo’s these days have WAY too much instancing for my taste (my taste is absolutley none) and they already openly admitted that it will have more instancing than any other MMO.. I am sorry but Bioware has lost my money on this purchase, I am not buying an “MMO” and paying $15 a month for an instanced singleplayer game with a chat box.

    This game is everything I hate in MMO’s – Faction Based, Massive instancing, singleplayer design.

  • overall… i think everyone can agree that just bumping into random people in the game world is what really makes an MMO enjoyable… and on the surface, adding henchmen doesn’t eliminate that possibility…

    but if you look deeper, i think it’s pretty obvious that the heavily instanced nature, combined with the ability to solo everything, will inevitably lead to much, much fewer random bumpings into of other players…

    how can this be called an MMO if it lacks the very thing that even the SOLO players themselves say makes MMOs enjoyable?

    henchmen don’t directly take the MMO out of swtor… but indirectly, the entire philosophy Bioware is taking with swtor is quietly, and subtly removing the core of MMOs.

  • I could care a less about companions as I have previously stated… I’ve also read an interview with the CO DIRECTOR that states they will have end game raiding so there is no way in hell companions will kill that aspect of the game.

    What I do hate though is the HEAVILY-instanced comment. Companies relying on using instances is what has been killing MMOs, for me at least, over that last few years. I think WoW utilized the feature best but other companies have been going too far (AoC for example). I actually miss having to do camp checks and running into others that are occupying the same dungeon (ala EQ1). Running into other players is what added so much life to those EQ1 dungeons, not the multitude of npcs/mobs.

  • It’s ultimately a combination of:

    1. Heavy instancing

    2. Henchmen removing the need to rely on other people.

    3. Solo players being able to do group content, thus making it not group content.

    All the above are focusing on the individual and the individual’s ability to progress and be told a story. That bothers me due to the lack of “MMOG” in this RPG, and the overall direction developers will begin to turn as this makes oodles of money.

  • but it won’t make oodles of money… it’ll be just like WAR, a ton of people will buy it, then leave shortly afterward. the only ones that stay, will stay because of the setting and the tease of more story to come if they stick around.

    even the people claiming that this is exactly the type of game they want, will realize after playing that it really isn’t what they want.

    i guess we’ll have to wait and see… but i’d be willing to bet my entire bank account AGAINST Bioware on this one… if it has more than 700k subscribers after 4 months, i’ll eat my shirt.

  • I wouldn`t start making bets until we are 100% certain what they have in store. I tend to think they are just trying to shake up the level treadmill aspect of the MMO. I don`t think they have any intentions of creating a solo `end game experience`. They want to retain customers, not lose them and by making this just another single player game they will not retain anyone after 2-3 months. Even Dragon Age (which is a freaking long single player game) can be finished within a month or two.

  • I guess the key thing I wanted to get across in my last few comments was the companion characters in themselves probably wouldn’t tip the scales IF they were done right. But if you add heavily instancing and the ability to solo instances by yourself (yes with your henchman) that pretty much tips the boat and drowns the interaction within it.

    If they had just added henchman but made quests in open world areas with harder monsters and elite bosses (to counteract the henchman) and made instance dungeons a minimum of ten people (so 5 peeps + 5 henchman) then I think that adding them could have potentially added some story value to the game.

    But killergnomie is right, we haven’t seen what’s within the rest of the black box yet. Still, from what I can see, it doesn’t look promising.

  • I think the most ironic this is that two of the first three MMORPG’s, UO and AC were both VERY solo friendly yet they had great community.

    Still to this day I ask myself, why doesn’t any game developer build their game more like Ultima Online or Asheron’s call?

    The EQ model isn’t bad persay but of the three, it was the least solo friendly yet developers trying to make a solo friendly MMORPG base their designs around that model?


  • been thinking about this for the past few days… just wanted to try and summarize my arguments in one place…. so here goes.

    Assumptions based on the game info we have so far:

    – AI companions that will allow you to basically solo through the entire game.
    – heavy use of instancing.
    – large emphasis on story. each class has its own storyline, with AI companions playing a role in that story.

    #1 – difficulty – AI companions are not going to be as intelligent as the average human. so how do you balance an encounter for 1 player (or even a few players) plus their companions vs a full group of humans? if you make the encounter challenging and interesting for a full group of humans, it’s going to be way too difficult for a group with henchmen… so the only logical way to balance, is for the lowest common denominator. which means the encounters are going to be dumbed down so that they’re doable with AI companions… which is going to make it incredibly easy and downright boring for a group of humans… thus removing a lot of potential challenge, and dumbing down the gameplay experience.

    #2 – fewer chances for random interactions with other players – when you combine the effects of AI companions that let you solo everything, an emphasis on story, and heavy use of instances… you get a lot of players doing their own thing, in their own little part of the world… which means they aren’t in public spaces surrounded by other players… which means there isn’t much chance for players to bump into each other… these factors when put together basically segment the player population so much that their is very little opportunity for interaction between players.

    first you have to segment the population based on story arc. so you’ll only be able to interact with other players that are at the same spot in the story as you.
    (you can’t have both a coherent, engaging story AND a persistent public environment… and we all know that story is Bioware’s bread and butter, and it’s what they’ve been emphasizing in this game. so it’s pretty safe to assume that story > persistent world).
    secondly, of those at the same spot in the story, you’ll only be able to interact with players that aren’t in their own instances. which will likely be a huge amount of people considering the emphasis on storytelling and instancing.
    this basically leaves only a very small portion of the playerbase that even has a small opportunity to interact, even indirectly (notice i never said anything about grouping being the only form of interaction. it’s not, and i’ve never claimed it was. so please don’t try and use it as a straw man argument).

    it’s like cutting a pie into 8ths, then cutting that piece of the pie into 8ths again, and then only being given a 20% chance to find the pie… in this case the pie is player interaction.. and even solo MMO players have cited that they enjoy running around the game world and randomly bumping into other players… it’s going to be difficult to bump into other players when the player base is so segmented.

    #3 – Companions still DON’T SOLVE THE REAL PROBLEM – the main issue people have with grouping is the time it takes to get a group together… well now we have AI companions, so we don’t NEED another human being to do content, that’s great right?… well sure, but what if you actually WANT to group with someone? even solo heroes get bored playing in their own little world every once in a while right? so lets say you want to group for some reason or other… guess what, you STILL are going to have to waste a lot of time and energy putting a group together, probably moreso since much fewer people will be available to group with, since they’re in their own little instance with their own little AI henchman, following their own little story…. so really, how does this solve the main problem with grouping again?


    #1 can be solved with difficulty scaling, or letting the players select their own difficulty. we’ll have to wait and see if Bioware has also figured this out.

    #2 can be solved somewhat by using a phasing system similar to what WoW will be using in Cataclysm… it doesn’t completely de-segment the population, but if they use phasing in open world areas, instead of instancing, at least players in the same spot of the story will be able to interact without having to be in the same instance…. lots of open world areas to take a break from the story would also help, but from the emphasis that has been put on instancing, i’m not sure how likely this will be…

    #3 cannot be solved easily. it would require a combination of many things. for starters, a very good looking for group interface. public quests and an Open grouping system would also help… but the most important thing to lowering the time and difficulty in creating a group, is to get MORE people interested in grouping, not less… Bioware doesn’t seem to have gotten this memo.

    Disclaimer – full details of the game are not available currently… so maybe Bioware has an ace up its sleeve that will make all of this moot…. but from the information we currently have to go on, there is a very real reason for concern… we’ll just have to wait and see what shakes out.

  • We still don’t have enough information on the mechanics in question to make a definitive statement about the quality of this feature. All this arguing is, in the end, moot until we actually have the game in our hands (or at least the details on the system–or enough detail so that we can judge it without making a lot of stuff up).

  • From what I understand the game will have all the normal stuff you find in an mmo such as raids, smaller dungeons, pvp, guild stuff etc etc.

    So the only real change they are trying to add is the rpg element in an mmorpg that has never really been seen before. Also different experience to leveling different classes. Because when you level in wow or aion besides different buttons to press you are basically running through exactly the same damn area, doing the same damn quests.

    Also the “companion” system worked well in guild wars imho for doing some solo missions too difficult on your own.

  • “I think the most ironic this is that two of the first three MMORPG’s, UO and AC were both VERY solo friendly yet they had great community.”

    Damage: True communities are a paradox. One’s that don’t have this paradox within them (which can account for a lot of online communities today) aren’t true communities.

    Logan: #1) Thought about this as well. When real players are collaborating, they’ll probably just throw in some extra enemies to fight to increase the challenge. Nothing too exciting I agree but it helps to offset the higher intelligence of the real player.

    #2) Warhammer Online’s usage of tiers and different racial battlegrounds pretty much did the same thing. Segmented the PvP population in a huge way and reduce interaction dramatically. As for the solution, I don’t think they want to do so, as the story line is king in their eyes. When people are doing their own instances, they’ll probably be able to chat via zone chat but that’s about as much as it will get (i.e. verbal interaction).

    #3) I was going to disagree with you at first but you bring up a good point. The more independent you make players (with the henchman), the less desire for interaction there will be. So ya, it will be interesting to see what happens. The only solution for this would be to make instances non-soloable and have a minimum of 10 players within them (i.e. 5 players + 5 henchman). Basically as per my last comment in that, yes add henchman, but scale everything else in accordance (i.e. all quests and instances get tougher).

    versus: Yes it has all the “normal stuff” but how you interact with that stuff is most definitely not “normal”. That’s why some MMOs fail and others succeed. They could have all the same normal stuff but how it’s implemente determines how well it’s received.

  • I read a lot of negativity in your blog on this one. As if you entered with a preconceived opinion of Bioware and the answers to the questions didn’t even matter. A game experience has to encompass everyone’s style. There are some people who don’t have much time and want to experience the game solo with what time they have. Others will want to experience it in the full MMO style. So why limited to one? What’s wrong with including both styles?

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