While I was grouping in EverQuest in Unrest tonight (an activity I’ve spent more time doing than I’ve played most MMORPGs all combined), I thought about grouping and the nature of group etiquette. These days, that idea of forming a group of people by requesting certain classes in a chat channel is gone. The days of having to find replacement members, whether for yourself or the healer leaving, are gone. Gone too are the days of group etiquette, or having etiquette or social play really mean anything.
Our tank just randomly had to leave tonight. That meant the group was essentially hindered — even paralyzed — until we could find a replacement. That action ultimately lead to the group breaking up. That person essentially hurt a lot of people’s evening plans. Many would say that it’s no wonder such a practice has been done away with, in favor of automatic group queues.
Similarly, groups aren’t formed to sit indefinitely in a space and earn experience for unlimited periods of time. Modern grouping mechanics match you with strangers and last for up to 30 minutes (heaven forbid any longer, right?).
Conversely, I’ve had group last 10+ hours where people courteously find a replacement for themselves before they have to leave. Those groups result is enormous leveling efficiency, wealth, and fun for all involved. In many cases, much preferred.
Asking myself which I prefer — the automatic groups or forming one — I would quickly respond the latter. There’s an element of humanity there, and a sense of forming a group to complete a task that gives the players some control over their fate. On paper, I hesitate to jump at saying I like forming a group and keeping it well groomed. There’s a weird ‘ideal scenario’ and ‘idyllic outcome’ that pulls to me. It’s that “we’re a real community of players all in a world” appeal. It’s the notion that I would never abandon a group as their healer because I know how screwed that makes them, and could potentially hurt my reputation. It makes me care more, and that incorporates some ‘real’ element into the game that makes it more fun for me.
Do you have a method you prefer? As the case would be with many mechanics isolated from the rest of their respective games and compared against the other, I don’t think one is better. I think both are so heavily flawed that neither could be declared a better method. They rely on a plethora of other factors and mechanics which when combined define what type of game you’re playing.