Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The gathering solution

If you don't want to fast forward the lower levels, but still want people to group for the fun and learning experience of it, you need to find a solution which makes grouping at the lower levels more frequent. For this we need to look at the reasons *why* people don't group at the lower levels.

The problem has two parts: grouping at lower levels nowadays (compared to the time when World of Warcraft came out) is more difficult because there are less people of the lower levels around. And second it isn't profitable enough to group to be worth trying to overcome this higher barrier into grouping. The solution thus has to be to make it easier to find a group, and to make grouping more worth it than soloing, even counting the time it needs to set up the group.

One interesting solution I proposed before was to create cross-server dungeons. If cross-server battlegrounds can work, then why not cross-server dungeons? You'd need to put up the same restrictions on trading, but otherwise it should be possible. You just need a queuing and automatic grouping system like battlegrounds have. A bit more elaborate to make sure each group has a tank and a healer, but otherwise similar.

But that alone wouldn't suffice. You'd still need to increase the rewards for grouping to make up for waiting in a queue and potentially being grouped with nitwits. I'd keep the gear rewards as they are, the loot dropping in low-level dungeons is already good enough. One could think of adding something like a badge system, giving every player some sort of points or tokens to buy gear with in case nothing useful for him dropped. But otherwise the dungeon loot is okay as it is. What needs to be improved is the xp you get in a group. Right now the xp bonus for grouping is small. The xp for a mob is divided by the number of group members, and then some small bonus is added, around 20% if I remember correctly. Unless you have the world's most efficient group gathered together in zero time, your xp per hour in a group are notably less than your xp per hour when soloing. That shouldn't be the case. Joining a cross-server dungeon queue and doing a dungeon with a bunch of strangers should on average bring more xp per hour than soloing. Nobody wants to eliminate soloing from the game, it should always remain a viable option for people who don't have the time required to group. But soloing shouldn't be the fastest way to level up, because that teaches people to *not* group, which is counterproductive.

MMORPG players in general react strongly to rewards. Making grouping more easy and at the same time more rewarding can save the low-level game from irrelevance. Expansions should expand the game, not shorten it or make the old content useless. Cross-server dungeons with higher rewards could well keep the old content alive for new players and veterans with alts alike.
I have been to Underbog 3 times in the last week, all with pugs. My experiences are as follows:

First pug the tank was so bad we wiped 3 times in the first 5 minutes. We eventually ended up with a lv 70 Paladin who nuked everything for us. As I was already Honored with CE I got maybe 100 reputation, but no drops.

Second pug, the tank was better, but didn't really have a clue. He was a feral druid, but didn't know how to pull in bear form, and ran round looting chests and picking herbs without consulting the rest of the group.
At one point he went exploring on his own and managed to pull 2 groups of mobs, and then decided to bring them back to the rest of us (who were on a mana break), so we wiped.
When we came to the hydra boss, he ignored all the advice about where to tank it, and ended up getting knocked over the side into the water in the first 10 seconds.
Finally the group had had enough, and he was kicked. As there were no other tanks available, the group disbanded.
Once again I got no drops and almost no rep.

3rd pug, again the tank was inexperienced, but he listened to advice, and with the help of a lv 70 Priest, we got through it without too many wipes (Priest pulled aggro a lot, but at least had the hp and shield to stay alive). Definitely the most fun encounter.
No cloth drops once again, the tank needed an item from a boss he couldn't use, but said it was a mistake so we accepted his explanation.

So, I spent roughly 6-8 hours in Underbog, cleared it twice, got no loot, and very little CE reputation. A lot of hard work for not much reward.
You don't *need* a tank and a healer for any of the pre-BC instances (you probably don't need 'em for BC, either, but I've not tried that so I can't say). You don't need 5 people, either, but I know that's going to be a harder sell.

It's one of my eternal irritations with WoW that people aren't willing to try more unusual group combinations. The other week, for example, I ran Uldaman with a 40-42 group consisting of a feral druid (me), a hunter and a warlock. I wasn't tanking. It was great fun - new tactics, new ideas, and we absolutely destroyed the place.

But try to get most WoW players to run a dungeon, any dungeon, without 5 people, a warrior or druid, and a priest, pallie, or another druid, and you're in pushing-rock-uphill territory.
I like the ideas here on this blog. I find myself confused on a game that is a MMO however folks don't like to group? Epically the negative view on "PUGs" this leads to only group with a guild or solo atmosphere. Silo grouping & elitist attitudes != good MMO. Wish I had an answer to this. Still good posts . thanks.

Why did you go then?

Because I enjoy group play the most; unfortunately pugs are often more hard work than fun. Encouraging people to group when often the time spent in the instance is long and the rewards gained are small, is so much harder when soloing by comparison is much easier/hassle free.
That last sentence was quite ugly; hiope yu got my meaning!
Well pre BC there were things in the old world dungeons that were worth farming. Dire maul was a great place for thorium, living essences, STrat for orbs, scholo had to be run for flasks, BRD for the onyxia attunement. LBRS and UBRS had some really nice off spec pieces and great fire resist gear. All of those instance dropped enough valuable stuff that instance runs were generally profitable. That is missing post BC. They went out of thier way to invalidate the old stuff so they took away huge reasons to group.

I can literally make more money grinding wool than running instances on my new priest. Or fishing firefins and wreckage pools. That should not be the case.
It's one of my eternal irritations with WoW that people aren't willing to try more unusual group combinations. The other week, for example, I ran Uldaman with a 40-42 group consisting of a feral druid (me), a hunter and a warlock. I wasn't tanking. It was great fun - new tactics, new ideas, and we absolutely destroyed the place.

I Leveled a druid pre bc and fully understand the frustration having been turned down many times for pugs because I didn't have OOC res

But I put the blame squarely on the devs for this one. They drive home the do everthing efficiently mentality and then the way they implement expansions feeds that mentality because people who miss the content usually don't get to go back and do it. So people get stuck in a perpetual feeling of loss and being behind and get so wrapped up in that they wont try anything new because it might waste thier time. It's self defeating. It makes it harder to get groups but the pardigm is fed and watered by blizzard daily.

Pre BC I ran strat with 3 hunters a pally my druid and it went fine. I was told it couldn't be done we were wasting our time. It was one of my most memorabel runs. A bit slower than normal but it worked just fine.
In the later years of EQ (the original) they added "hotzones" occasionally. These were zones where xp was dramatically increased. Usually they were zones where it was difficult to solo for most classes. This seemed to work rather well in some ways, getting people to group for the xp bonus. The downside was that it pretty much shut down all other equal level zone options.
Consider the distribution and placement of mobs in the wild: currently they are usually spaced such that you can pull one at a time, one at a time, one at a time. Very conducive to soloing, very conducive to grinding, very conducive to boredom and burnout.

I'd like to see that changed to there being, say, a fringe of one pulls, then a ring of 2-3 pulls, a ring of 3-5 pulls, and a core of 5-10 pulls.

Someone soloing a kill twenty harpies quest could knock off the fringe spawns .. but would have to wait for respawns .. while all the time having the larger pulls right there within reach tempting them, mocking their solo status.

A group could come along and knock off the kill 20 harpies quest in no time, because they could easily handle the multi-pulls.

So .. a way of scaling mobs in the wild, plus a way of tempting grouping. A double win, no?
On the BG-queue PvE instance idea, I think it would work quite well if it wasn't designed for the trinity .. which is to say make them 25 or 40 toon raids instead, with lots of chaos and momentum and plenty of room for slack and nitwits.

An AV without the PvP, in other words.

Institute various timing or forced action mechanisms to ensure more time is spent attacking (or defending?) and less time dithering and arguing with 39 PUG-nitwits on what the strategy is to be.

I'm reminded of the The "Torek's Assault" quest in Ashenvale as a fun quest, and also the "Counterattack!" quest in the barrens. You don't have time to set up perfect pulls, it's all action. Perfect for PUGs.

Sure, it won't be great for learning how to play in a group, and the nitwits will learn the wrong lessons (eg. just push and aggro, don't pull), but it's a start. Design it such that the early encounters can be zerged, but the later encounters need more and more care .. giving people time to figure out and learn teamwork play as they delve deeper into the instance.
One thing I discovered by chance is that a resto-shaman can cover for some pretty terrible PUGs in WOW. Chain heal can hide a multitude of sins.

I like Garumoo's suggestion for encouraging grouping gently. That achieves the right result: that grouping is more efficient, but you can still progress solo in emergencies.

I also liked an idea I read somewhere else (Vanguard forum maybe?) that one could give bonus experience for being in groups or merely LFG. Again, this rewards teamwork, without making it mandatory.
"It's one of my eternal irritations with WoW that people aren't willing to try more unusual group combinations."

On my part its because I've been in a bunchload of unusual group combinations. Something like three holypriests, a hunter and a feraldruid for heroic mechanaar. Those things can work and they can be fun sometimes. But when you get more of those groups than of 'normal' groups, you get fed up.
I no longer want to have those unusual setup that tends to be slower than normal and requires a lot more attention and skill from everyone than normal. So as I'm a healer myself, I pick the same trusty tank as always (good to have a g/f who can tank godlike) and choose three additional classes of which I know they can dish out some real damage and preferably have crowd control. And everything will go fine.
There's a popular space MMO (Eve, if you're heard of it) where the PVE content can usually be done solo, but it's hard. It's a lot more fun to do PVE with friends, however there are several missions where bringing a second person will auto-aggro every badguy in the room (even if they just sit there and watch you). Often when that happens someone is gonna die, plus you really get more money/hour if you solo. So it's not just WoW that seems to discourage group PvE. In the case of Eve, not only did the devs decide not to add bonuses for groups, but they actually added mechanics that make it much harder with a group(for the same reward). At least the Eve devs seem to have noticed the problem and did a little bit to help. In one of the patches over the summer they finally allowed groups to share the rewards for turning in a mission together. It was a small step in the right direction, and it certainly got more people doing group missions, but I agree that a group reward bonus would be really nice. In fact, in the case of Eve, it would match up brilliantly with their current marketing focus of trying to get everyone to run multiple accounts. If I could receive a reward bonus for just having my alt come along in missions, then I'd be a lot more likely to have a second account.
one more thought: I'd probably still run them solo because it goes smoother, but I'd bring my alt for the bonus.
Group content is a double-edge sword. When you have groups of people, there's always the problem of keeping people online for the entire time it takes to complete the goal. Otherwise you end up with problems rewarding people who only helped part of the time vs people who did the whole thing. Therefore you tend to get group activities that are shorter in duration and more shallow in story and gameplay. The other side of that sword is that groups are by their nature, richer gameplay. I don't think anyone in this thread has mentioned that design problem in terms of grouping yet. Personaly, I find it annoying when I start something with a friend and he suddenly says "I gotta log because of RL stuff", or the old "hang on 10 minutes before we start the next part so that I can take a bio break".
Wow got right the fact that soloing should be an option. that is why they have so many people. Having kids a wife and a job, I just wouldn't play if I couldn't get on for an hour and solo.

But they fail in that grouping should be the most rewarding. Grouping builds relationships and make the game better. Thus it is in the self interest of the game to reward grouping. The problem is the devs seem to think that raid rewards are the only group rewards they need to wave in our face. And those have become so far off for so many they don't motivate much anymore.
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