Ideal MMO Group Size

What is the ideal MMO group size?  I’ve been giving raids a lot of thought lately, but the most enjoyment I get out of MMOs comes from a really good group.  I was talking to Graev tonight, and we both prefer groups in the 6-8 member range.

More Group Variety

Having 6-8 members of a group means that every spot isn’t met with the same scrutiny as a group having to truly choose how to fill only five slots.   Larger groups can take a support class, more DPS and less heals, or more heals and less DPS.  Group balance becomes an art, and customizable.

When groups are larger, classes can be more unique.  I’m a fan of specialization, and I really hate homogenization.  I want to see every position in a group filled by someone bringing entirely unique skills.  Fewer slots in a group means that classes have to begin filling more roles.

To go against what I just said, larger groups also allow hybrids to shine.  In LotRO I played a Captain, and a group of six had that extra spot to let me be that class who made all the other members of the group perform better.

How many MMOs these days recruit a class to be the puller, or the buffer, or the debuffer?

Dungeon and Content Challenges

Groups were subjected to rigorous challenges, and often impossible odds when group sizes were larger. This makes sense, though.  A group of 6-8 people is right between enough to increase the challenge, and few enough to prevent zerg mechanics.  Content can still be difficult with fewer people, but overcoming that challenge is extremely different when there are fewer players — this goes back to having less to go on because of group variety being narrow.

I remember the holy trinity used to be Tank, Heals, and Crowd-control.  I don’t know if this can be backed by anything other than my observation, but the smaller groups have been simplified to emphasize DPS over control.

I like off-healers and backup healers.  I like off-tanks and contingency plans.  I like room for error and having the ability to adapt.  The flexibility and options come more naturally to a larger group of players.

  • I’d be happy with a new Everquest with FFXIV’s graphics. In all the years and all the MMOs I’ve played I’ve yet to come across a more enjoyable set-up than the six-person group with content that requires, and classes that can supply, a very wide and overlapping range of roles and abilities. Your final paragraph echoes my own feelings exactly.

    It took me quite a while to accustom to the five-person group that has become a virtual standard since WoW. I think it’s an odd size. Unbalanced. The fifth member is something of a spare wheel. Four would seem more stable for a smaller unit if six was deemed too large.

    I wouldn’t want to go to seven or eight, though. Either some of those slots aren’t needed or if they all do need to be filled imagine the LFG issues. Fillng six slots was always hard enough without adding a couple more on top.

  • I agree with the post. Sometime developers make changes to the games without think of consequences or they are fully aware of what they do but they chose profit over quality. Main example is wow and the “bring the friend not the class” mentality that made all classes identical…

    I support the “bring the class and make your friend feel unique and important”

  • Yes. Designing content around tank+healer+3 DPS is an extremely constrained vision and limits the fun of classes. I played City of Heroes and The Lord of the Rings Online™ for years largely because of the classes and their combinations, which is furthered by having larger groups and designing content around the expectation of having diverse abilities rather than simply efficient DPS rotations.

  • I am so sick of 5 man parties and generic tank+healer+DPS arrangements. I’d love to be a specialized buffer or debuffer, or to have more use for actually being hybrids. It seems like most MMOs these days definition of a hybrid is a class that can tank, heal, and/or DPS – but only one at a time. You can’t actually be a hybrid in a party because you’ll gimp yourself.

    As much as I’m looking forward to WildStar, I’m worried they’ll get caught in the same trap. Really hoping they’ll expand parties and make hybrids actually hybrid.

  • Agree 100%. I loved DAoC’s 8 person groups. The cool thing was you didn’t even need to fill all 8 slots to do a lot of stuff. But, you could if you wanted to. Nobody queued up for dungeons and waited until all 8 slots were filled with the necessary roles. Your group size might dictate the places you would go or things you would do, but it was much more flexible being able to add people or not based on turnout/which classes you already had or diversify classes more if you wanted to.

  • I spouted my thoughts about this one nearly two years ago ( http://tremayneslaw.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/size-matters/ ) and haven’t changed my mind about it since then. to give the executive summary – small groups have the convenience factor for both players (it’s easier to get a group together) and for devs (fewer possible class combinations mean it’s easier to design content that is challenging but not impossible for all groups). However, hybrid and niche classes need a large enough group to accommodate them alongside having the bases covered. It’s no coincidence that WoW has marginalised hybrid gameplay at the same time as driving raid sizes down to the point that the standard WoW “raid” is barely larger than a DAoC “single full group”.
    Any game that’s going for a wide market will go for small group sizes (4 to 6 players) for the sake of convenience. If we do get a new age of cheaper, more focused niche MMOs, though, there’s definitely room for a game that offers a more challenging (non-raid) PvE experience, and hopefully that will include the flexibility of larger groups.

  • @Keen this is precisely why i enjoyed AIon despite it’s multiple downfalls for the western audience, the 6 man group despite being only 1 above the standard 5 man group made it unique and exponentially more fun. Now with my schedule so busy, I’d really like a game company to grasp this and make essentially raid level of difficulty dungeons for smaller condensed groups in the range you mentioned 6-8 . Would make it more feasible for less scheduling of raids and more improvised play, which of course helps cater to casuals. More small tight knit groups of friends doing a raid together rather than depending on so many pugs, and strangers. Once a company grasps this and makes a quality game to boot I’ll be all over it.

    People including you Keen have mentioned how small a % of an MMO community actually do do raids, and obviously things like LFR in WoW helps curve that, but i think this would help even more so because as i said, there would be little to no need for scheduling of raids, which is probably the biggest barrier from keeping most “casuals” from raiding, can’t make certain times on a consistent basis. With so much fewer people required it’d be far easier to form a group, I know that SWTOR has 8 man raids, but like i mentioned earlier you have to make a good game to boot, which as virtually everyone on this blog knows, SWTOR is not that =)

    P.S. Would anyone actually miss recruiting for a guild/raid group? Lol.

  • @Joe: I’ve been giving this a ton of thought lately. I like when a lot of people get together and kill a really big and difficult boss. I just hate having to get the people together to do it. I’m also a ‘normal’ person now with a work schedule, and I find myself feeling the hurt when it comes to being able to schedule out time on a regular basis.

    Content designed for ~8 people seems like an ideal number. Is that enough to make a battle feel epic? That’s still something I’m struggling to decide.

  • I’ve been championing the 6-8 group size for years. Anything less just excludes players from finding tanks and healers.

  • @Keen i definitely understand your reservations on this, and how you need a certain amount of people to make it feel epic, but idk, i remember doing certain bosses in Aion with 6 people, virtually the entire group being friends of mine all on Ventrilo/Teamspeak and that made it epic enough, and that was with a game that simply didn’t cater to western audiences, because virtually every boss was tank n spank. So while i think your point is valid, i think all of that can be overcome simply because the quality of people you’re with overcomes the number.

    The biggest thing that annoyed me about raiding, and you mentioned it, was getting people to show up of course, but even more so than that was having to count on their production, and their level of competence, when that is virtually removed, because you’re playing with close knit groups like we’ve been talking about that whole element of “unknown” and frankly, frustration is gone, and it makes the whole experience, at least IMO FAR more enjoyable. I guess what I’m saying, long-windedly of course lol, is less is more in this certain scenario.

    It’s actually something i was hoping GW2 was going to do with their dungeons, but because of the removal of the holy trinity turning those dungeons into graveyards, it completely destroyed my hopes in dreams.

    Not sure if you’re aware of this Keen but In Rift actually, idk if they’ve put in any of them for the expansion Storm Legion (SL). But in “vanilla” Rift they had Mastermodes essentially a 3rd level of difficulty for 5 mans, above the run of the mill themepark faire of “regular” and “heroic”. These dungeons were actually extremely fun for all the reasons i mentioned above, (playing with closer friends, no worrying about pugs performance etc) but TRION actually made them relatively challenging, especially for people who didn’t raid often, not to mention the strategies for the encounters were definitely reminiscent of raid encounters. Problem was TRION only released i think 3 of them or so? For the what 15 dungeons they had? So if a Game developer would simply release this level of difficulty for numerous, if not all of their launch dungeons you’d definitely be onto something, especially if you could go in with as much as 8 people in your group. Maybe work how Blizzard’s new “flexible” raids do, can go into these “mastermodes” with anywhere between 5-8 people and it would auto tune the encounters to the group size.

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