In my last post I pointed out that "LFG" is still very much a thing in modern MMOS -- even the most "accessible" ones. The interfaces have been updated, but the concept is still 100% there.
Today I want to point out how this idea of solo-friendly gameplay is also largely an illusion. When people look back on MMOs from 1997-2003 they often think of how those games were really not solo friendly at all. Then they look at modern MMOs as a bastion of "play by yourself all you want" which is completely false.
Let's compare the old school games like EQ (circa 1999), SWG, UO, etc., to today's accessible giant.
THEN: In EverQuest the best gear for many could be obtained in a variety of ways from soloing, questing, or grouping.
NOW: In World of Warcraft the best gear comes from group content only.
THEN: Leveling was the majority of the game and could be done solo by several classes (some better than others), in duos, and didn't absolutely require a group.
NOW: The vast majority of content is end-game at max level where there is no longer any solo-accessibility. The solo content is completed in a matter of weeks by an average player.
THEN: The same activities (done solo) that brought value to character progression in the beginning still continued to bring valuable character progression in the "end-game".
NOW: Very few activities you do at levels 1-100 bring any lasting or meaningful value to your end-game gameplay -- particularly solo gameplay.
THEN: Many dungeons could actually accommodate a solo player. The exact same dungeon that could accommodate a group.
NOW: Dungeons are instanced, group only encounters.
In modern accessible MMOs there is, in fact, less ability to "play your way" than ever before. There's "play their way" and then there's the fringe exceptions.
When people talk about how the "old days" could never come back, they often point to a lack of solo-friendly content as well as how bad it was of the games to "force you to group" to see content. I have pointed out how even the most accessible MMO is guilty of both of these, and to a significant extent far worse.