My time in MMORPGs lately has been, admittedly, sporadic and brief. I attribute this mainly to the fact that while the genre continues to grow larger, the games themselves conversely grow smaller in scope. I’m just not interested in online single player games.
So one thing that really irks me is how players are seemingly punished for grouping up. This is a startling trend that has been going on for years now. A new MMORPG would come out and our friends/community would dive in to play. Keen and I are usually fused at the hip when we play a MMORPG together so we are always grouped up. In pretty much every single game the players who soloed would actually outpace us in leveling. Obviously some people would play more than us but even the people who had similar hours would easily out-level us. Everything we kill usually nets us a rather nasty exp split and even games that have supposed “group bonuses” don ‘t end up compensating enough at all.
It’s not a race to the top, at least not for me anymore, but I find this to be incredibly odd and frustrating. Why would we get penalized for grouping together while the players who solo in a massively MULTIPLAYER game have an easier time of it? I don’t know if it’s due to the genre’s paradigm shift towards quest-based leveling or what but it shouldn’t be this way. I’m not saying to get rid of solo content, even though I do think that is a great idea, but soloing really used to be the longer route to greater things but now it seems solo players are basically getting catered to.
How can we solve this? I don’t know. I’m not exactly ‘keen’ when it comes to MMO design but there has to be a way to appease everybody if that is what you really care about doing. I know that I’d be interested if there were lines of “group” quests in games that required at least a few people to participate in. Not just three or four dungeon quests that you grab every 10 levels and group for, but something meatier and interesting that could take the place of traditional quest leveling if you so wanted. Or just return to hunting-based leveling which I find immensely more enjoyable than questing; which to me feels like a never-ending ride on Splash Mountain. Except instead of getting your picture taken during each plummet Br’er Rabbit instead kicks you repeatedly in the groin.
Here’s how WoW punishes players for actively grouping with their friends:
Say I use the dungeon finder to join an LFR queue for a particular raid.
Ten minutes later, I also decide that I want to queue for a scenario. I can open the dungeon finder and queue for that as well. While I’m in the scenario, grouped with two random strangers, my LFR queue is paused, and when I leave the scenario, I’m back in my LFR queue, with no time lost.
However if instead ten minutes later, two friends had logged on and I had asked those friends to join me in doing a random scenario, I would automatically be kicked out of my LFR queue as soon as I grouped with my friends, wasting the 10 minutes I’d spent queueing.
Players are also punished for grouping when questing or gameplay becomes tedious. LIke Graev mentioned, we’re constantly grouping together. When we come to a quest that requires us both to collect something, or when anything basically makes two people take longer to do something or get annoyed — that’s punishing people for grouping. Anything that would be faster solo or better solo is a punishment to grouped players.
I don’t think it is a punishment for grouping but just a continuous trend to focus on solo play in MMOs. Ever since I started playing MMOs – masses of people were crying and complaining about “forced grouping” and have been asking for solo content. The Designers listen and are giving people what they want…these days you can level easily and efficiently by yourself to max level – you can group and do dungeons or even tougher content but you don’t have to. In the older designs…you could solo as you leveled up and stick a fork into your eye while you were at it because neither felt very good…getting a good group was much more efficient…
Just as with so many elements – you add convenience to the game ad you remove depth…it is more convenient to not have to find a group…to not get stuck on leveling while you are looking for people…and getting solo options seems to be a good and convenient thing but on the flip side…these measures suck the life out of MMOs…they destroy the un-quantifiable game play feeling…
Aren’t games already doing this? GW2 doesn’t have grouping penalties, and I think SWTOR actively gives you a XP bonus when you’re grouped.
SWTOR’s story system for individual classes made grouping much slower. If we wanted to stay grouped and not split up we would have to go into each of our stories.
GW2’s questing / leveling in a group is HORRIFICALLY slower in a group. I was leveling with a friend, and another friend of ours was soloing, and we were constantly feeling the urge to simply separate in order to go faster.
The ‘bonuses’ in these games don’t make up for the time penalties.
It feels like WildStar Online will get this right, but that’s just a guess, I’m also prepared to get major disappointed.
If it was the other way round and people who were soloing got less xp than people in groups then I think it would be a bit unfair. The whole point of soloing is taking on a hard challenge and getting the rewards for beating a mob a few levels above you. It may take longer than chaining lower level mobs but you do get more satisfaction.
However I do think they need to level the playing field a bit with the amount of xp you get.
What we need is a large outdoor elite area or even public dungeon in every zone where players that like to group up, like myself, can take a party and have some fun.
I agree with your points. There hasn’t been an MMO since WOW (including it in this comment too) that I have really enjoyed the pve at all.
What I enjoyed with older games was taking on the challenging areas with smaller and different groups for increased rewards.
These days its just play by yourself.
@Mike M: There’s a middle ground where both solo players and group players can be rewarded. Older MMOs are a great example. Grouping was almost always better, unless you got in a bad group. However, grouping also meant you had to devote guaranteed time to stay with that group in order to see a return. Grouping was social, but grouping was added pressure. Soloing meant you could work at your own pace, on your own time, and rely only on yourself. In many cases, soloing was faster for some classes.
Amen Graev! I’ve been saying this to my friends for years about MMOs. One of the worst offenders was WAR. The sad part was DAoC did a pretty good job of providing group bonuses. I will never understand how Mythic screwed that game up so much.
@ Mike M. – Where are these MMOs that you play that it is challenging to solo? Any recent ones? They have all been so /faceroll easy the last few years that unless you are playing some 10+ year old game, and even then it will likely need to be a classic freeshard version, I don’t think the logic you are using really applies to most MMOs anymore.
@Keen – Sorry, I’m not sure I get the complaint about SWTOR’s story sections. What’s the downside to joining someone else’s story? (assuming you’re different classes) Also, everyone’s story is at roughly the same place, it’s pretty easy go do your own story sections separately for a few minutes before rejoining.
I haven’t grouped much with GW2, so I can’t say much but I’m surprised it’s slower to level together. You get credit for pretty much everything, gathering nodes aren’t exclusive, and you should be killing things/finishing events faster. I wonder what’s making it slower.
The main issue with grouping in GW2 is the extra time it takes to get the group together; time that could just be spent killing stuff.
Another issue… A good reason to get a group together is to get the trinity: tank, healer, DPS. With the trinity pretty well removed from the GW2 design, there goes another reason to group.
Finally, any of the hard stuff that traditionally required a group; now you get credit for just being in the vicinity so again no reason to group.
I remember constantly having to ask “did you get all yours?” and “are you done yet?” while grouping to level in GW2.
I remember from Asian heavy grind MMORPG that grouping only gains you exp faster.
The problem that followed is that you get people have others grind for them.
Followed by an active ingame black market where people pay ingame currency to boost them a few lvls or hours.
What happens is shortcuts appear that where never intended. Be it the one that gains the xp without any or much efford. Or the one that gains extra millions in currency.
I have felt that in most MMO’s that I have played I have easily outleveled my more social guildies that grouped. I never understood or believed that grouping bonuses leveled me faster than taking on mob/quests that were a couple level higher than me.
Of course there could be one big reason for this perception; I almost always play the ranged AoE type so I hardly ever need some guy with a big axe to run around hitting individual mob on the noggins just prior to evaporating of my own accord.