The Solo vs Group experience

Silverblade

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Apr 11, 2007
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Southern California
Ever thought you might find some people in your random groups that might become your friends so you would then know what to expect?

Of course there’s always a chance that out of those random forced groups you end up finding someone compatible with you. That’s not the point. The point is: the execution is forced. How many of your long-term relationships started out of sheer randomness? I would venture to guess, not many. Most of our relationships started as a measured choice: we initiated contact with another because we noticed some similarities between that person and ourselves, we noticed from afar they seem fun to be around, etc. We as people, rarely just jump to a person and strike up conversations and interact with strangers (maybe in bars/clubs when we see some attractive person but that too is a measured choice). In fact, when we do interact with strangers, it usually is forced and unwelcomed (ie group projects).

I’ll include another example that most readers will be familiar with. Ever have your mom meet up with one of her friends when you were very little and that friend also had a child that was similar age to you? What is expected in that situation? Both moms expect the children to behave and act like friends. Sure, in the long run those two kids may end up friends but just because you put them together doesn’t mean it will happen. In fact, a lot of kids get annoyed having to play with someone they are unfamiliar with.

PROBLEM with many group oriented games is they force you to group with strangers because your friends all tend to have more or less free time than you do and thus forge ahead of you or constantly struggle to catch up.

If you take level out of the formula, then you can group with friends more often and end up having a more enjoyable time.

And no, I don’t think levels are a big determent to grouping among friends especially in games like City of Heroes and even EQ2 where there are systems to alleviate the level disparity.

Levels, skill points, etc are always a factor in MMOs. And those factors are always determined by the amount of time you spend in the game. Can that change in the future? Possibly. But so far, no one has come up with a solution to this problem while at the same time give the player a sense of progression (other games like FPS have no real levels/skills but there’s also no progression or development of the character). If you are having problems keeping up with your online friends and their activity in a MMO, then most likely you are not compatible with them in the game (that doesn’t mean they are not compatible with you in other areas). The difference in levels/skill points are just a tangible reminder that they play more than you and there will always be some issues with grouping.

I think MMO companies need to think of ways of pooling similar minded players together thus allowing them to have a better chance at grouping. In terms of strict game mechanics, I don’t have anything concrete but in a roleplay aspect, I do have an idea and it can be adjusted for non-rpers as well.

After so many hours of playing a game at the beginning (like 1-10 levels in a traditional MMO), a player should be assigned to an in-game faction, kind of like the computer run corporation in EVE (this exists right? I thought I read it somewhere). But there’s more to it than that. The first few levels our hours, the character is set off in a series of solo quests that require the player to make moral/faction/background choices, similar to what Bioware does in their games. Once the character completes the quest chain, they are part of an in-game faction/guild but they can leave it if they so choose.

The point is, once they are in that pre-made faction, they automatically start with a pool of other players who are like-minded with them. That will help people to integrate themselves within that faction. Some of the randomness has been removed. From there, the players can even get more specific and create guilds for those they find are even more compatible.

For non-rp stuff, the questions and choices can relate to more game mechanic ideas like raiding, min-maxing, economy, crafting, how much they play in a week…etc but the choices are answered through decisions within the quest chain. Heck, incorporate some questions from the Bartle test.

There would have to be a ton of ready made factions though but I don’t think it is impossible. Imagine if your character went through the quest chain and at the end you found out you developed a roleplay character who is lawful good, raids heavily, crafts on the side, generally plays late at night for roughly 12 hours a week and that there was a faction filled with players who play just like your character. Immediately you have a starting point to group with like-minded people and if you think you are still being forced, you can always leave.

I suppose you could just have every player fill out a questionnaire before creating a character but it would be so much more interesting and fun if the designers created a quest chain that answered those questions for you using a series of puzzles, dialogues, scripted events that veil the true intentions of the quests, which is to assess what kind of player you are and what kind of character you are making. The beginning quests can even be a mini-game of sorts for many players. It’s kind of like running through the same game over and over again to discover how to find the alternate ending…

Again, those who wish to solo can do so without penalty but this type of matchmaking system will also help groupers form communities between like-minded players. To me, a MMO is not about grouping. There’s more to a MMO than finding a group to kill a mob. To me, a MMO is about a new form of social interaction and community development. People can be part of a community without having to group.
 

HJ-Onilink

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Sep 17, 2006
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Milwaukee
I'm a soloer by preference but will group when needed.
My opinion would be to build the mechanics around smaller group sizes....3 person parties max. smaller parties are easier to manage and put together then say FFXI 6 person parties. The attempt would be to not feel so much like a "group" but more of a co-op like the NES days.
Still want bigger parties? form temporary groups with other 3 person parties.

Granted, this game isn't an MMO (yet) but I think that its on the right track. .Hack//G.U., to me, had a pretty decent balance in solo play and group play. Obviously the mechanics would have to be tweaked for RL but still has the potential to execute properly.

Soloing was definitely possible, just difficult but having little parties made it more enjoyable.

Just a thought....
 

Eniko

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Nov 13, 2007
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Netherlands
I've been forced to group. I didn't like it. I want grouping to be optional. Maybe more effective than soloing, but not the only way to go about things. And yes, I have grouped with random strangers many, many times in the past decade of playing MMOs.

I didn't use to even mind it so much.

Until I started to realize that more often than not, when going with a party of strangers I wound up aggravated because they'd do or say things that I didn't want to be exposed to. Random parties were hard to start, people would show up only after long waits, people would be opiniated asshats who tell others how to play the game, people were jerks who would kick you from groups for not being flavour of the month built, etcetera.

Nowadays I only group with trusted parties, people I can trust not to turn my supposed entertainment into aggravation. If you force me to group I will quit the game. Why? I want to get ahead, if groups are the only method for doing that and as stipulated above more often than not random strangers will do things that turn my entertainment into frustration then you've just devalued my enjoyment of the product by not allowing me to solo.

And why should I play one game and be frustrated by forced grouping when I could play another where I can solo?
 

Gate

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Oct 17, 2006
Eniko, you've hit upon the main reason that I personally don't like to group. It's not the game. It's not the systems. It's not the incentive. It's the people. Extroverts are more likely to put up with other people's faults and attitudes. Introverts just don't see the point in putting up with it. And a game is supposed to be fun. Unfortunately, a vast quantity of people on the internet are overly-opinionated egotists and that combination of them and I in a party doesn't spell "fun" for me. (I'm fairly opinionated myself so the combination really doesn't work. I'll happily admit I'm not always the easiest person to get along with... though I like to think I'm not nearly as bad as many).

Virtually the only grouping I ever did was with my guild or those who were vouched for by people in the guild. That's because my guild was tied together by bonds in real life. My guild master was a good friend that I saw on a monthly basis and I had met half a dozen of the others in person as well. Every few weeks or so I would try out a PUG just to remind myself why I didn't participate in PUGs. I always appreciated my guild so much more after those sad attempts.

Once. I repeat, ONCE I actually enjoyed and was thrilled by a pick up group. It was a wonderful feeling. Sadly, it was never repeated.

Now to be fair, in WoW I was heavily into PvP (before the era of the arenas). I was willing to deal with the people then because the systems weren't binding us together so closely. If the classes capable of healing wouldn't heal, no problem, I just adjusted my game plan and didn't count on them. In a party you don't have that option. You can't make that many allowences and still succeed. I don't see how changing the systems would make self-centered people work better together unless you relax the restrictions on everyone doing their job and then the game is just so easy that it's pointless.
 

Silverblade

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Southern California
Eniko, you've hit upon the main reason that I personally don't like to group. It's not the game. It's not the systems. It's not the incentive. It's the people. Extroverts are more likely to put up with other people's faults and attitudes. Introverts just don't see the point in putting up with it. And a game is supposed to be fun. Unfortunately, a vast quantity of people on the internet are overly-opinionated egotists and that combination of them and I in a party doesn't spell "fun" for me. (I'm fairly opinionated myself so the combination really doesn't work. I'll happily admit I'm not always the easiest person to get along with... though I like to think I'm not nearly as bad as many).

Virtually the only grouping I ever did was with my guild or those who were vouched for by people in the guild. That's because my guild was tied together by bonds in real life. My guild master was a good friend that I saw on a monthly basis and I had met half a dozen of the others in person as well. Every few weeks or so I would try out a PUG just to remind myself why I didn't participate in PUGs. I always appreciated my guild so much more after those sad attempts.

Once. I repeat, ONCE I actually enjoyed and was thrilled by a pick up group. It was a wonderful feeling. Sadly, it was never repeated.

Now to be fair, in WoW I was heavily into PvP (before the era of the arenas). I was willing to deal with the people then because the systems weren't binding us together so closely. If the classes capable of healing wouldn't heal, no problem, I just adjusted my game plan and didn't count on them. In a party you don't have that option. You can't make that many allowences and still succeed. I don't see how changing the systems would make self-centered people work better together unless you relax the restrictions on everyone doing their job and then the game is just so easy that it's pointless.

Would you consider grouping if there were an extensive matchmaking formula? This question is to all the soloers here.
 

HJ-Diviana

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Feb 27, 2006
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St. Charles, MO
Would you consider grouping if there were an extensive matchmaking formula? This question is to all the soloers here.

No.

I've actually started playing The Fallen since I don't have to bother putting up with anyone. The healers are bots, I can AFK script, and I think I also just needed a break from the general drama in prime.
 

Gate

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Oct 17, 2006
Would you consider grouping if there were an extensive matchmaking formula? This question is to all the soloers here.

I can't envision a matchmaking formula that could possibly deal with the problems I mentioned. Formulas are only as good as their input and no one is going to check the Ninja/Asshat/Egotist/AFKer/Unreliable/Horrible Tank/Horrible Healer/Poor Net Connection/Whiner/Drama Queen boxes. Unless that system can reach into the other people's minds and tell me what their personalities are like, it won't work.
 

Jaraeth

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Joined
Feb 28, 2006
Would you consider grouping if there were an extensive matchmaking formula? This question is to all the soloers here.

No. I think Eniko & Gate touched upon my unwillingness to group. I don't think you can blame it on "Extroverts vs Introverts" either. Sorry, that's stereotyping, which I'm sure still doesn't fit as well as it may seem.

Let me add, that in World of Warcraft... I seem to often despise, no... maybe it is pure hate... that of the random pick up group filled with strangers. Attitudes clash, and I really don't like people telling me "ur doin' it wrong LOL" or that I have the wrong spec, etc. Let me play the game, and if you don't like me and I don't like you, we don't have to group ever again.

However, in Dark Age of Camelot, I played on a non-PvP/non-RvR server, named Gaheris. For a period of about 2 years, my guild was up in popularity and competed with other major guilds such as Emerald Dragons and Black Heart Pirates. I was often in one of the most well known dungeons (Darkness Falls), and was often grouping both with guildies and allies, as well as complete strangers. My guild got huge because of my willingness to group and powerlevel just about anyone who wanted to tag along.

Now, find out what makes me hate grouping in WoW, and made love to group in DAoC, and you might find out that it isn't so much game mechanics, as the /b/tards that play a particular game and make life aggravating. Once in a blue moon I find a group in WoW that I like, and it makes me sad that we part ways... rarely do I get to group with those people again.
 

Silverblade

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Southern California
It seems most of the soloers here are soloing because of bad experiences with PUGs and other players. Clearly there are players who are just a pain but in my experience, it's not that hard to find a good guild with players who are reasonable and sensible.

I think WoW gets a bad rap simply because the game has ridiculous numbers. People talk about how EQ, UO, DAoC and some of the older MMOs had great communities but there's a difference between 200K players and almost 12 million. And the landscape of MMOs were quite different back then. MMOs were very exclusive and only the hardcore folks played it.

That's not the case anymore. Even games like AoC and WAR, which hoped to gather mature gamers are full of griefers and annoying players. Every PUG is a felgercarb shoot.

You're going to get bad random groups from now on. MMOs have become too big. The choice really is to adapt. Now, I realize there are some who prefer to solo but I venture to guess that most agree that grouping with friends and people you get along with is a much more satisfying experience.

Again to the soloers: Why won't you join or create guilds of like-minded people and play the game with them instead of hoping for a decent PUG? A good guild makes a world of difference and you can find one that suits your needs. I'm asking because the major complaint are bad groupmates but that can be avoided with a good guild...

I just want to add that I enjoy the solo experience as well but I don't like to do it all the time. So I'm not trying to criticize soloers because I am one too but I do believe a solution can be reached for soloers to find decent groups.
 

Eniko

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Nov 13, 2007
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Netherlands
Would you consider grouping if there were an extensive matchmaking formula? This question is to all the soloers here.
Anything short of what would be the dating-service equivalent to finding people to go "steady" with in groups would just wind up being ignored by me as producing just as awful results as any other way of forming groups.

Hell WoW supposedly added this in those group finding stones. I can't remember ever seeing anyone use them, let alone using them myself.
Again to the soloers: Why won't you join or create guilds of like-minded people and play the game with them instead of hoping for a decent PUG? A good guild makes a world of difference and you can find one that suits your needs. I'm asking because the major complaint are bad groupmates but that can be avoided with a good guild...
Do you think none of us ever thought of this? Or that we actually don't group with friends and guildmates? I can almost guarantee that everyone's who's said no to forced grouping here does these things.

But guildmates can be busy. Friends can be busy. And then what? You have to log off or find a PUG. Unless you find a guild big enough that there's always a good group you can join going, and that has it's own problems. The bigger the guild, the bigger the drama, the larger the chance that guild groups start showing the same kinds of cracks PUGs do.

Hell in Mabinogi me and some friends started a guild called Aesir. We did our best to recruit only the best people and reduce friction in the game and there were still people in that guild that I couldn't stand to be around. So joining a small guild means people won't always be available, and joining a big one means you might wind up grouping with an asshat anyway, even discounting the drama magnets large guilds are.

And that's not even going into the fact that then before you can start enjoying the game, being entertained by your entertainment, you have to go out and find a guild you feel comfortable with! Or make a whole bunch of friends. And in a game with forced grouping until then you're either paralyzed and unable to do anything or you're right back to square 1 and having to deal with PUGs.

I enjoy grouping with the right people, but there is no way in hell I can surround myself with a sufficient number of the right people to always have them ready to go group with me, which means I can't do anything in the game during those times. Not to mention in a forced grouping game I'll find it incredibly difficult to start out since I need to build a social circle before I can even get started, likely leading me to quit and go somewhere where enjoying myself isn't quite so much effort.

TL;DR: just because I dislike a game where groups are the only option doesn't make me a soloer.
 

HJ-Diviana

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Feb 27, 2006
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St. Charles, MO
Anything short of what would be the dating-service equivalent to finding people to go "steady" with in groups would just wind up being ignored by me as producing just as awful results as any other way of forming groups.

Hell WoW supposedly added this in those group finding stones. I can't remember ever seeing anyone use them, let alone using them myself.
Do you think none of us ever thought of this? Or that we actually don't group with friends and guildmates? I can almost guarantee that everyone's who's said no to forced grouping here does these things.

But guildmates can be busy. Friends can be busy. And then what? You have to log off or find a PUG. Unless you find a guild big enough that there's always a good group you can join going, and that has it's own problems. The bigger the guild, the bigger the drama, the larger the chance that guild groups start showing the same kinds of cracks PUGs do.

Hell in Mabinogi me and some friends started a guild called Aesir. We did our best to recruit only the best people and reduce friction in the game and there were still people in that guild that I couldn't stand to be around. So joining a small guild means people won't always be available, and joining a big one means you might wind up grouping with an asshat anyway, even discounting the drama magnets large guilds are.

And that's not even going into the fact that then before you can start enjoying the game, being entertained by your entertainment, you have to go out and find a guild you feel comfortable with! Or make a whole bunch of friends. And in a game with forced grouping until then you're either paralyzed and unable to do anything or you're right back to square 1 and having to deal with PUGs.

I enjoy grouping with the right people, but there is no way in hell I can surround myself with a sufficient number of the right people to always have them ready to go group with me, which means I can't do anything in the game during those times. Not to mention in a forced grouping game I'll find it incredibly difficult to start out since I need to build a social circle before I can even get started, likely leading me to quit and go somewhere where enjoying myself isn't quite so much effort.

TL;DR: just because I dislike a game where groups are the only option doesn't make me a soloer.


Well, the only game I actively grouped in was FFXI (because you HAD to) and we had a static party where I knew 90% of them in real life.

So I might be a bit more on the loner side, where I really won't group regardless. I just prefer to be on my own when playing a game.

I like to rough it out too, in DR the only help my other characters get is a little starting equipment and maybe a couple plat (being a noob is expensive :/ ). That's what I'd expect them to get from any other player if I asked for help (I was helping a guy put together a compendium the other day from the empath shop and he told me someone gave him 500 plat. Why didn't anyone ever do that for me? :P).

So yeah, I just don't really like grouping. I don't have a lot of good friends (one or two?) in real life. I could never work customer service again. That's just how I am though, and good grouping mechanics will not change me.
 

Lethe5683

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Nov 16, 2007
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Connecticut, USA
Thinking of FFXI makes me feel EMO. That game is a perfect example of how forced grouping is bad. In EQ2 PuGs actually tend to be about a 50-50 chance of having a good group or not and about a 10% chance of having the entire group filled with nice people although there's almost always at least one who is a problem.
 

HJ-Diviana

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Feb 27, 2006
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St. Charles, MO
Thinking of FFXI makes me feel EMO. That game is a perfect example of how forced grouping is bad. In EQ2 PuGs actually tend to be about a 50-50 chance of having a good group or not and about a 10% chance of having the entire group filled with nice people although there's almost always at least one who is a problem.

Back when I started playing FFXI I found myself in some decent groups (usually with a good percentage of japanese players), but I'm just not a very social person so grouping isn't something I particularly like in any way. I chose to go to the Alt School in high school because there were like 25 kids in it. I had good grades, I wasn't a troublemaker, but I just didn't like being around all the people in the normal HS.
 

Jaraeth

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Feb 28, 2006
I DO have my own guild and belong to other guilds in WoW... every single one of them do poorly because "we're not all about end game content" or raiding or ... or ... "we just want to have fun and socialize and group with friends" doesn't seem to cut the mustard.

But please ... stop trying to read so far into why I group. I group, if and when I feel like it. If I were to log into WoW, or even DAoC right this minute. There would be no way in hell I'd group. And it has nothing to do with the game, or the players of the game... I plainly and simply do not want to group with people, but would rather play at my own pace and wave or interact here and there without the need to do so constantly as I would in a group.
 
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