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When You Have to Play an MMO Alone – Do You?

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Unfortunately, I think I’m the last of my friends playing on Coirnav. You may recall that when I started this adventure that I was only keen on idea if I had people to play with me. Between PixARK capturing the hearts and minds of the community, Project 1999 pulling the hardcore away, and even the loss of a family member, it just hasn’t been in the cards for our crew.

I’m debating if I should stick it out on my own and keep my subscription going. I’m a cleric, so finding groups won’t be hard. I could probably even find a guild. The question I’m asking myself is whether or not I even want to do any of that, or if I should just fold and keep playing these drop-in-drop-out games. There are plenty more even releasing next week.

I usually think these topics are a bit much, but I’ll ask anyway. How do you play MMOs? Do you play with friends, or a guild, or go solo? How do you make it work when you’re the only person you know playing a MMORPG and you don’t have a support group with you? MMOS are mostly dead, and I haven’t had to think about this for over 12 years. I’ve had friends playing new releases, or whatever side MMO we’ve decided to play together.

Reason I’m contemplating this has nothing to do with EQ, really. I’m looking ahead to the next two years when I see a few MMO-ish titles coming out. I wouldn’t be able to get Graev to play another MMO to save my life, and I’m betting many of my friends are still WoWbies or 100% anti-MMO. The last MMO I went into completely alone was probably 12+ years ago. If Camelot Unchained or any other MMOs come out that I want to jump into, I want to maximize that experience and not have it thwarted by going solo.

  • I mostly play MMO’s alone. Albeit I’ll join a guild to talk and such, but 99% of what I do I’m doing solo. I just don’t have the time I use to invest with plans with groups of people. That, and most of my friends are in the same boat.

    • Given the nature of MMOs these days, the end-game activities tend to all be groups and raids. Have you just come to terms with the fact that you’ll never participate in those activities if you only play solo?

      • Pretty much. World of Warcraft makes it a lot easier with its LFR/LFD to get things done when it comes to group content. Something I wish existed a lot more in other games.

        I also played a lot of Black Desert Online, which, may look like a group oriented MMORPG from the outside, but is in fact a very solo-heavy game with grouping elements inside. As long as you stayed away from the pvp-aspect, the game was pretty much a single-player experience.

        I still wish I had the time to get back into raiding and other group content, but life/time-changes just make it almost impossible. I hate the feeling of joining in with a group only to be yanked away before we get anything done because of life/family issues that arise.

  • Same as Sky.

    I like the challenge of leveling solo, it feels more dangerous, plus my loot is mine.

    There is a benefit to living like a cat and doing what you want when you want, come and go as you please, plus summoned friends are never diagreeable.

    I think this highlights your heavy community-oriented perspective, where you even have to question the utility of grouping with strangers, let alone not grouping at all.

    The vast majority of leveling I have done has been solo, and I’ll occasionally tolerate strangers who want to join me, particularly if we are farming in the same location as cooperation beats competition for kills.

    Running battlegrounds with friends is fun though.

    Occasionally I have joined a guild for raiding, and I try to take a leadership role and run guildies through areas out of a sense of obligation, but then I take off own my own.

    Many of the most formidable characters in fantasy literature ventured forth solo, grouping as dire situations necessitated.

    Now as far as multiple subs go, I generally have only chosen to dedicate my time and money to a single game. If you are questioning re-subbing, there is probably a good reason.

    • Play without friends and playing solo are two different things to me. Do you usually play solo as in no grouping at all? I tend to gravitate towards games with social/group-centric gameplay. I like the social side of MMORPGs, otherwise I’d play singleplayer — singleplayer NPC’s don’t disagree with you either! 😉

      Questioning resubbing to EQ to keep playing really is only because I have a dozen games I could be playing. I’d be choosing to play EQ without friends/community. Is that worth $15/month to me? I think that’s my dilemma.

      • Solo, no grouping, with the thrill of rapid-fire multiple pulls, but I tend to play glass cannon high DPS classes with plenty of kiting.

        Imagine I have killed 3 of my last 4 pulls, kite the 4th, and pull some more as I move across the map.

        Now imagine that while I am in the middle of this random people keep coming up to me and ask if I want to group with them, pretty annoying, but I never am discourteous when I decline as I realize they are trying to be sociable.

        I like that kind of perpetual action, which is why I really enjoyed Tabula Rasa back when, where the more you killed the higher DPS and the screen turned red and I think the background music got more hectic.
        One was always dashing to get just one more tag before your murder feverometer reset.

        I can’t stand to group with strangers, but with friends is certainly fun, even though I feel responsible to keep playing although I would rather switch to other activities. I guess I don’t seek out the added responsibility that comes when rl friends want to do just one more whatever.

        One of my exes described my as an outgoing antisocial person, which kind of makes sense how I treat MMO’s; although I want to be left alone, I like the hustle-bustle chaos of actual players around as it makes the world feel more alive.

        Maybe an analogous question to ask regarding the solo vs. grouping preference is do you enjoy going out to bars by yourself or would you rather not if you can’t go out in a group?

        I love going out and having multiple short-term interactions with strangers, but keep in mind I am referring to local bars in sociable cities like New Orleans where getting into conversations with strangers is likely going to happen regardless if you solicit it.

        It is easy for me to say drop the sub and see how much you miss it, but I would be somewhat of a hypocrite since I still have kept my $20/month gym membership although I haven’t been in over a year (most of my exercise time is spent kayaking ~3 times per week). I guess i feel if I drop the gym membership I have admitted I am done working out there, which pretty much every week of late I keep thinking I am going to start up again.

      • I should clarify, I dislike grouping with people for general PvE and raiding (which means I generally do raid in games where I am not guilded), but I love PUG’s in battlegrounds, so long as we aren’t matched against a premade.

        PUG vs. PUG really allows one to shine, a killing machine coming to the aid of group-mates, all with a strong emphasis of self-reliance.

        …pretty exciting!

  • Im hyped for Bless Online next month! Going to be hardcore into that. The first AAA MMO in years

    • I was reading up on it and their most current dev blog seems to indicate it will be a B2P with in-game and real money microtransactions, am I correct about this?

      • yea buy to play with a cosmetic shop. they are saying no p2w. Which is more believable then like black desert.. gear in game actually has different looks, no fatigue type system, etc

    • Bless Online looks like a generic Asian MMO to me. I doubt it’ll have any staying power in the west. I haven’t seen anything to convince me this is worth playing. (Including the videos people have made about why it’s worth playing…)

  • This is yet another question with no simple answer. Modern MMOs don’t generally require you to make a choice between playing alone or with others – the gameplay automatically involves you doing both. Since WAR invented the Public Quest and Blizzard added the Dungeon finder, the vast majority of new content in most MMOs is what I’d call “Alone Together”. You don’t need to have friends any more to have friends.

    I hugely – HUGELY – prefer this to the older style of gameplay from the EQ/Vanilla WoW era. I don’t miss any of the grouping or guild-based aspects of those days, with the sole exception of the reduction in the need for tactical combat – but that’s far more to do with overall gameplay design changes than social behaviors.

    I play EQ and EQ2 in a traditional “solo” style, albeit with the fantastic benefit of NPC Mercenaries, which allow for gameplay that feels much more like grouping than playing solo. I find it extremely immersive and satisfying. It’s not in the slightest lonely because I chat all the time in multiple chat channels as I’m playing. About the only place left where this isn’t normative would be on retro servers like Coirnav, where the experience is made artificially archaic.

    In more recent MMOs, particularly GW2, I nominally play solo but I am in constant conversation and often collaboration with Mrs Bhagpuss, who plays even more than I do. After nearly six years I also know scores of people by name and reputation (which is certainly still a thing, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) both in PvE and, especially, in WvW. It feels like a community and I feel like I’m part of it. I run in zergs and squads much of the time, both in PvE and WvW and even if I’m not (in)formally grouped almost every combat activity (and many non-combat ones) are communal anyway.

    I think that you’ll have difficulty as you describe because you’re trying to replicate the MMO gaming style of a decade – or probably more like two decades – ago. A lot of people still claim they want that but the evidence suggests they may want the nostalgia but they don’t want the complications which modern MMO gameplay evolved, successfully, to remove.

    If I had to suggest a course of action I’d say focus on the drop-in/drop-out stuff for now and wait for Pantheon – it’s looking more convincing all the time and it could be the (last) new MMO that supports the gameplay you crave.

    • Agreed on Pantheon.

      To your point about modern games not forcing the player to make those decisions, I can only see this as a partial truth.

      To level up, sure. That’s certainly an activity that almost every game promotes you doing solo or grouped.

      Almost every element of end-game activity in any modern MMO, though, requires the coordination of players and ‘who you know’. The watered down LFRaid stuff in WoW being one of the few exception, if that even counts. One way or the other, PvE or PvP, you have to eventually form bonds with people if you want to experience the complete game.

      How long that takes, how hard you have to work at it, and if you’re even successful at all depends on if you went into things being a social gamer with friends or a solo player spending years making relationships.

      Even WoW, heralded as one of the most accessible games ever, isn’t going to let a solo player anywhere near the REAL end-game.

      • I’ve never had even the slightest inkling of an interest in true “end-game” content in any MMORPG, ever, though. In fact, I used to have contempt for it as a distortion of the true ethos of the genre. I believed No MMORPG should ever even entertain the concept of having an “end game” because the “game” was purely and simply to live in the world.

        That zealotry faded over time. I stopped feeling contempt for end-game activities – if people enjoy them then fine, that’s no different to people enjoying crafting or housing or collecting pets or whatever. just one of the myriad things you can do in an MMORPG if you choose to do so. It doesn’t interest me though so whether my chosen playstyle prevents me joining in the end-game is entirely irrelevant. I just do the things that interest me and there are far, far more of those than I’ll ever need to keep me occupied and entertained.

        That said, I can’t fathom why it makes a blind bit of difference to you whether playing solo affects your capaity to engage in end game content. When was the last time you got close enough to end game contgent in any MMO that you could see it with a telescope? When you report on MMOs you’ve played, particularly your forays onto various progression or retro servers, I c an barely recall you making it to anything most people would call the mid-game, let alone the end.

        How “end game” capable do you need to be to enjoy grouping in Unrest or its equivalent in another MMORPG? If you stayed on Coirnav, what would be the chances of you ever needing to be Raid-ready? How likely would you be to stay abreast even of the increased levels that each opening expansion would bring, far less to equip yourself to handle the leading (let alone bleeding) edge raid content? How far have you ever progressed in any MMORPG in the past decade?

        If you start a new MMORPG from the ground up (viz Pantheon) and it clicks with you, all of this will take care of itself. You won’t need to bring friends – you’ll make friends. If the MMO uses old-school mechanics (like Pantheon) you’ll find a synergy that bouys you up like it did in early EQ and WoW. You are never going to find that dipping back into retro-recreations of old MMOs and MMOs that follow the current design methodologies don’t support that behavior by intent. They use other structures, which you have established from experience don’t work for you.

        In essence, this is a non-problem. The MORPGs you can play now don’t work for what you want and they don’t work for the people who you want to play with, who are people who also want what you want. That’s why they either won’t play or soon stop playing if they start. The only option is to wait to see if someone makes an MMORPG that supports, by design, the kind of gameplay and social structure you’re looking for.

        I don’t believe you will ever find that in a retrofitted version of an MMO that also has a Live offer. The motivations the players have for playing on those are different from yours and so is the intent of the developers. Of course, maybe “Classic WoW” will prove me wrong. We’ll see.

      • PS. Should have read the rest of the thread before I replied…

        If your issue is specifically that you want to play MMORPGs with your existing group of friends but few, if any, of that group is interested in playing the MMORPGs you want to play…then, yes, you do have a problem. I have no idea how you change that. I guess it’s just the way that friends drift apart in their interests over time in all walks of life.

        I suspect that even the advent of something like Pantheon won’t change that. Those friends may well have moved on from playing MMORPGs in the way you want to and wish they’d want to. Even a totally appropriate new game that fully supports the playstyle won’t necessarily switch them back on to that track once they’ve changed direction.

        I suspect you will need to make a new set of friends for this specific part of your gaming life. You can play solo just for a while as you look for and find them.

  • I feel your pain Keen, I’m currently going through this right now with World of Warcraft. I enjoy the game, but I need to find more people to play with to progress further and actually enjoy/experience the game and its features at a higher level. I’m playing with my wife. My pace, as I’m sure you are aware, is much different when it comes to playing games. I love the world quest system in wow. They have even added a party finding feature that makes solo questing so much easier and faster than ever before. I find myself having to slow down significantly when I play with my wife. I feel like I’m chasing the feeling of accomplishment, and I can only do that for so long while playing solo. We will see where all this takes me.

    • You’re in a tough spot for sure. You power game better than most people I know. You see immense success in progressing as far as a “solo-ish” player can go. You quickly realize your “end-game” comes sooner than the people with a dedicated squad of hardcore elitist no-lifers (that sounds meaner than I mean it to).

      To progress, even in the ever-accessible WoW, you have to find that team. I’ve tried. Heck, last time we played at Legion’s launch we had a raiding group. Various people fell off, but the group ultimately broke up because that mindset attracted a ‘special’ kind of people. I’m digressing.

      It’s always nice when you have a group of like-minded people who all enjoy the game together in the same way.

  • If you’re willing to spend the time, it’s possible to find a support group in an MMO even if you come into it completely solo. The issue is really time and willingness to commit.

    Personally, I’ve often found I enjoy the support of hardcore competent dedicated players… except if you ever want to get in touch and become a member of their network, you too must be a hardcore competent dedicated player or at least invest enough time into crossing an acceptable threshold where they can find some self-return/benefit for helping you out, as opposed to helping someone they’ll never see again. The former becomes at least a somewhat mutual relationship among peers, the latter is just random benevolence / kindness to a stranger.

    These days, the time and interest to commit often isn’t there for me, and I’m not a majorly social player by far, so I’m happy to play solo in most games and avoid games where heavy grouping is required. For those I do want to play for some other pressing reason that does need a group, I just bite the bullet and invest the time to find what I need.

    From your blogging, Keen, you’re a really social-reliant player. Think the question to ask in this case is, are you willing to invest the effort to find and join (or found) a new community with interest in supporting you in that game you want to play? If yes, it should be no problem. Caveat, you may lack enough time to maintain social ties with your old community interested in other things, that might end up a deal-breaker.

    If no, then best to follow the community you already have playing whatever game is the flavor of the month. It’s about what you’re motivated by – some people play because of the draw of the people around them; some people play because the game itself is the draw.

    • I am most definitely a social-reliant player. I could play solo until I find a more steady group… but I don’t think I want to. I want to play with my friends — the ones I have now. This isn’t any game’s fault that my friends are split between games, though. That’s me bemoaning my own personal state of affairs.

      Agreed on everything you said.

  • I generally play a lot of MMOs alone, when I do at all. I hadn’t played any in a long time until last year when I really got into ESO. The multiple guilds and easy grouping make it easy to group if you want, but mostly I played by myself or with just one friend. I dabble in LOTRO nowadays which is a great solo game – there is dungeon content and high-end stuff but at least so far I haven’t missed it. There are so ridiculously many quests and the epic questline being tuned for soloing, that I never run out of stuff to do.

    • That’s an interesting distinction you made there, perhaps without knowing it.

      Not running out of things to do vs. not being able to do the things you want or may want. It’s absolutely a positive thing when what you want to do matches the side with plenty to do. But it’s quite a different story when you want to do stuff that requires people.

  • I’ve had similar experiences with multiple groups of gaming friends. Discord has made it easier to keep in touch.

    I recently gave up on EQ after an exodus to Coirnav from Agnarr with a smaller group of people from our Agnarr raid guild didn’t really go as I had anticipated. I feel like EQ demands a massive time commitment to be properly enjoyed. I love the core gameplay but there is so much about the archaic systems in the game that make it frustrating to play.

    Whether or not I go it alone depends on how much I’m enjoying the game. I would love to have a static group of friends to game with every night but even with my close knit friends people lose interest or a new game comes out just as we get rolling. I’m watching it happen now with a return to WoW. Just as we start picking up steam someone gets bored or decides to go play something else and now our 5-man mythic+ team doesn’t work anymore. So do we keep going with 4 and pug someone or do we just say screw it and hop on the new shiny just to watch the cycle repeat over and over?

    I don’t have a good answer to these questions. For now, if something holds my interest or attention that is enough for me. If I can find some friends to join me then all the better. If I get to a point where I want to pursue more challenging content then I will join some random group of deplorables until I get my pixel fix and then move on. The cycle repeats.