How to Make Grouping More Fun

I talked the other day about making content for groups more engaging, but what about grouping in general?  Graev and I feel MMOs have a lot of room to improve the fun players can have while grouped together.  Accessing more difficult, dynamic, deep in scope content is one way to improve the fun, there are other obvious ways.

Class Synergies

Class synergies would be a great start.  I think Fellowship Maneuvers from Lord of the Rings Online are a great example of a very, very simple way to get classes working together.  Bringing a Burglar along was always a treat because that class could initiate some really helpful group abilities to stun and knock down mobs.  These abilities required group members to pay attention and even coordinate pressing buttons or activating skills.

More complex group synergies are needed.  Imagine if a warrior could pick up a rogue and throw him behind the enemy, or a mage could teleport teammates into position. Mages should be able to cause archers to fire arrows — or even duplicate those arrows magically to give the DPS in your group a boost.  Players these days only care about how good their DPS is compared to everyone else in the group, so most people just spam a rotation and watch a 2 inch box in the corner of their screen.

Clearly Defined Classes

Classes in general these days have homogenized way too much to the point where everyone can do everything.  Grouping has become boring because everyone I group with can do the same things as me.  Graev is constantly bringing up the Druid class from WoW (which can literally tank, heal, melee DPS, and ranged DPS) as an example of what not to do when creating a class.

Classes should have unique and clear roles.  Grouping with a Bard and Enchanter in EverQuest was (and is to this day) a life-changing experience.  Those two classes are so ridiculously different from any other class — again, even to this day — that having one in your group introduced you to new ways of accomplishing your goals.  If there are 10 classes, and each one brings something totally unique, then chances are you’ll run into many different combinations and, when combined with player input, no two groups are alike.

 A Reason to Group

We talk a lot about the importance of group content in MMOs and avoiding the single-player-syndrome.  Yes, it makes an MMO an MMO, and I can ramble on about all the many ways in which grouping is just better ‘for the good of the game’… but ultimately grouping has to be fun or it doesn’t matter.  Give me unique classes, awesome abilities and combinations I’ll only experience in a group, and lots of great content to explore in a group setting, and to me that’s a great start at making grouping a lot more fun.

  • Agreed!

    We’ve seen “carrot and stick” approaches to encouraging grouping (putting the phattest loot in group content, making it difficult or impossible to level solo).

    We’ve seen a lot of effort into reducing barriers of effort to grouping (group-finders, LFR, etc.)

    But how often do we see a really genuine focus on making people WANT to group?

  • The key thing about EQ and class roles, though, was that while there was often (not always) an accepted “Best Class” for any given role, there were always several other Close Seconds and a string of Will Do In A Pinches.

    One of the things I most enjoyed in EQ was doing full group content with ad hoc parties of friends and making it work with whoever we had despite the classes not being ideal. A really good necro could fill in for most classes, as could a good Beastlord. I did max-level, current content group content with Enchanters tanking, I did pet-groups, ae groups, kiting groups, you name it.

    We never sat around spamming LFG. We had a custom chat channel with 20-25 people in and we used it to make groups from whoever was on, picking up other party members from LFG or individual friends lists and guilds as needed. It was flexible, friendly and fast.

    To encourage grouping there needs to be content that requires groups and there need to be few barriers to effective groups being formed. Plonking random people who have never met and never will meet again into a small set of fixed roles according to an invisible algorithm is no solution. Making a wide range of individually attractive classes with broad skill-sets that overlap is.

  • I miss the skill needed to play in a group, I miss the skill needed to succeed well in a group. Of the three servers I played on (1 pvp and 1 normal then moved my normal char’s to AB) You could count on one hand how many Enchanters that were considered great players and made grouping and camping a great area just a breeze (pun intended) . The same with Monks (and alternatively SK’s) made the pulls not an insta kill if you were short a CC class.

  • If there are 10 classes, and each one brings something totally unique, then chances are you’ll run into many different combinations and, when combined with player input, no two groups are alike.

    If every group combination can actually finish the group content, how is that not implicit homogenization? “You’re unique …and immediately replaceable!” Or perhaps you mean “unique” in that you are forced to have roles X, Y, and Z covered by specific classes in order to be successful – in which case you won’t actually see that many combinations, just the ones that work.

    I’m thinking back to my time in GW2: classes certainly felt unique in many ways, but the uniqueness wasn’t necessary to win. At which point we may as well have used five Elementalists. Maybe the Fractrals changed things insofar as a Guardian is necessary for every group now, I dunno.

    Regardless, I have zero desire to move back to “totally unique classes, and you need X of them to win!” design. When I made my two best WoW friends, all three of us happened to be paladins. In TBC. Back before paladins could tank or DPS. A game can force people to group a certain way, but that doesn’t always lead to pro-social behavior.

  • Classes in GW2 did not feel unique to me at all. Everyone felt DPS’ish. Everyone had healing. Everyone rolled around on the floor. GW2 was one of the closest games to complete blending of classes ever.

    I don’t think you should be forced to have any one class, but I am 110% against groups of any combination doing content.

  • certainly every class in eq couldn’t do everything, but that wasn’t the point. Part of the fun was making the group that you had work, even if it wasn’t “optimal” and it actually was fun because unconventional groups could work. Often it left you with a nice feeling of satisfaction when you pulled it off. Dungeons presented you with problems, and your groups combined abilities were the toolbox you had to solve them. Big group of enemies to deal with? You could mez them and deal with them one at a time. Or kite them! or try to split pull them in smaller groups. Or just pull them all, debuff them and brute force tank them! The best solution varied, depending on your group makeup and the makeup of the enemies you were fighting and even where you were fighting them. Some strategies were more reliable. Some were safer, some were faster, some you employed just because it was your best option with what you had at the time. But there was variety there, and problem solving, and the pacing and very nature of the game made its players (at least many of them) much more willing to work with what they had rather than reject every setup that was less than ideal. And man when you got some good group synergy going you didn’t forget those guys.

    some groups didn’t work at all. but yeah, it was a fun way to work together.

  • I don’t think you should be forced to have any one class, but I am 110% against groups of any combination doing content.

    Alright, so your ideal grouping gameplay would have made it impossible for me to play an MMO with my friends. Which… I thought playing with friends was the point, but I suppose you want people to either A) group with strangers, and/or B) only make friends with people playing a different class than you.

    I’d rather people stand out based on their personality and skill-level, rather than what they picked on the character select screen four years ago.

  • I’m a fan of the trinity: Tanks, heals, dps/cc.

    I think a group of druids or clerics shouldn’t be possible. Classes should bring unique value, and a value needed to put together a group.

    Groups are something to be formed and thought over. Gandalf and Thorin needed a burglar. You can’t have a team of quarterbacks.

    People can stand out based on their personality and skill. By all means discriminate between a warrior with a great personality and talent vs. a drab and awful one. But making everyone the same is just too boring for me.

  • Mm. There are things I love about classic MMOs, but being stuck with a designated, permanent, fixed role isn’t one of them, I fear. I’m very much in favor of the trend I see in GW2 where you form a group, work out a role for that group — but you can fill any role if needed. My warrior in GW2 can tank, can support (‘heal’ / ‘buff’), can melee DPS or ranged DPS… but not all at once.

    Honestly, I am at a loss as to why I’d want to be in a situation where I have a group to go somewhere and do something, but we can’t. We have to throw out someone who wants to come along in order to bring “the right class” — and we can’t find one that wants to go right now. Trinity gameplay is fine… grouping being required is fine… hard travel times are fine… fixed roles might be a deal-breaker for me at this point.