Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 18, 2009
 
Grouping kills you

Back in the early days of this millenium, when I was playing the original Everquest, I started out like any other level-based MMORPG: With a level 1 character killing level 1 monsters. But while my characters became stronger with every level, the strength of the monsters per level grew faster. Soon I wasn't able to kill even level mobs any more, and in the mid-levels many character classes were even unable to kill the weakest green mob still giving experience points. Fortunately I was playing a druid, and could still do some soloing, with a rather complicated technique called quad-kiting: You would cast a spell on yourself which speeded you up, and cast spells on 4 monsters that slowed them down. Then you'd run in a big circle or square, and would cast an AoE on the mobs every time you had gained enough distance to them. 4 mobs, because AoE spells were limited to hitting no more than 4. Necromancers were soloing using fear kiting. But many other classes could only gain experience points by banding together in a group. People called it "forced grouping", and it wasn't all that popular, but at least there was a certain logic to it: Adventurers where facing a given challenge, and only by banding together were they able to overcome it. A group much increased your chance of survival.

Fast forward to nearly a decade later, and games like World of Warcraft. What has changed? At level 1 you still kill level 1 monsters. But now your gain of power per level is equal or greater than the gain of power per level of the monster. A level 80 character of any class can easily kill a single level 80 monster, even in green gear. You need to be really, really careless to die while soloing. And you don't even need tactics like kiting to solo. Only large groups of enemies or elite mobs have a chance to kill you. That changes the minute you join a group. Even a pickup group for a dungeon is more likely to get you killed than if you would solo. And if you start raiding, getting killed repeatedly is actually expected. A group much decreases your chance of survival.

I think that neither forced grouping nor guaranteed survival soloing are good game design. Players enjoy a certain degree of challenge. As the leveling game in WoW and similar games does not offer that challenge, it is dismissed as "grind", as obstacle on the way to the level cap, where "the real game begins". That is a huge missed opportunity. A better compromise would be a variable challenge during the leveling game: People could solo mobs slightly lower in level than themselves easily without any fear of dying. Even level mobs would be doable, but require people playing their character well enough. And higher level mobs would be killed either using advanced soloing tactics like kiting, or in a group.

Now what is keeping a level 20 character in WoW from attacking level 25 to 30 monsters using advanced tactics or a group? Well, first of all there aren't all that many advanced tactics available for most classes. And second killing higher level mobs solo or in a group gives you LESS experience points per hour than farming green mobs. In World of Warcraft both the bonus for taking on a harder challenge and the so-called "group bonus" (which actually is a penalty, you get less xp per mob in a group than solo) are too small. Killing a monster somewhat higher in level than you either solo or in a group takes much more time, for little more xp when soloing, or less xp when in a group.

Bah, you say, lets just forget about the leveling game, it isn't important. But then I hear you complaining about people who can't do more than X dps with their character, or who can't grasp the simple concept of not standing in the fire. Why can't they? Because of the training they had. Why bother learning even a half-decent spell rotation if that is total overkill for the challenge the leveling game poses? And there are no fires not to stand in during the leveling game either. Thus while we are at it, improving the leveling game, we could add more solo encounters which train skills like not standing in the fire, as well as training better spell rotations and other ways to play your character well. And ideally we would balance the group bonus in the leveling game in a way that grouping isn't forced, but is at least a viable option for leveling.

Everybody loves to level faster. What could be better than to teach players that if they would play better or cooperate, they would level faster? Instead the current leveling game teaches them to avoid any challenge and all groups like the plague, because grouping kills you, challenge kills you, and neither hands out enough rewards to be really worth it. MMORPGs need to offer a path of advancement for even the most incompetent and anti-social soloer to attract a mass audience. But that doesn't mean they can't reward better gameplay and cooperation!
Comments:
In WoW, I love doing low level grouping to do instances like Deadmines, Wailing Caverns ... etc. What I like the most is the simplified combat. You still wipe and get killed, but the strategy is more straight-forward. No matter what your group makeup, as long as you are careful you will survive. I find these kinds of PUG's to be much more social and fun as players aren't taking things so seriously as they would in an end-game instance.

The best reward for group play in MMO's should be more fun, not more rewards.
 
I've always thought that a cool and interesting thing that could be added to WoW would be solo instances based on your class. In essence, every class in the game would have its own instance(s) that it would have to solo.

The instance would require the character to use most/all of its abilities to complete, and would have fire, void zones, etc. Since each class is relatively different, a mage instance would be substantially different than a warrior instance, because of both ranged v. melee, and CC mechanics.

You could have each instance reward a few key pieces of gear (weapons, trinkets which are hard to come by before level 40), etc. Completing the instance would also grant a certain spell ability, and maybe a level worth of experience (only giving gear/spells/experience the first time). You could even make a heroic class instance to reward just gear without the above rewards, for more practice. Include some achievements for it too, what the hell.

You could have class solo instances at the 10s, to keep everyone interested and practiced. They would be somewhat like the class quests that were required for spells/gear before WotLK made just about everything trainable.

The problem is like you said. WoW encourages people to solo to 80. Then the whole point of the end-game, at this point, is instance/group based choreographed combat.

I don't think grouping necessarily kills you, as much as people who aren't used to the increased complexity of combat in instance groups get you killed by making rookie mistakes. Class-specific solo instances would provide practice for later end-game fight mechanics, while making the leveling up process a bit more interesting and rewarding.

Not to mention, players have to learn to use their class abilities and learn what abilities they have. Theres nothing more disturbing then coming across a player who doesn't even know they have certain abilities, or what the abilities do.
 
Funnily enough, this huge gap in difficulty between solo content and group content was in vanilla partially bridged with elite mobs and quests. The trouble with those is that if the content can be tackled with both solo and with a group, then it's either going to be too hard to the soloer or too easy to the group.
 
Great post.

And second killing higher level mobs solo or in a group gives you LESS experience points per hour than farming green mobs.

This is very true in many games. I remember trying to solo elite mobs in WoW and discovering that they had 3x the health of normal mobs but were worth only 2x the experience. So the extra experience wasn't nearly worth the added time and risk. Also, the experience value of normal mobs doesn't scale enough with their level, so monsters above your level typically don't give enough experience to justify the extra time and risk in killing them.

Ideally reward should be proportional to time and risk. It seems like it would be fairly simple to adjust the experience curve to more accurately reflect the difficulty of a higher level monster.

Re grouping, Wizard 101 handles this well. Every person in a group gets full experience and loot for each monster, so there is really no downside to joining a group. That gives people an incentive to team up even at low levels.
 
Aion allows you to solo, but playing together with a partner allows you to kill faster, without downtime and take on larger mobs. XP are divided by the number of party members. But it still pays off.

Even if one does not like the more or less asian mmo design style of the game, it does grouping right: It gets rewarded and not punished, while not making soloing impossible.
 
Good design isn't always popular. Grouping is dead in the sub-max-level area. While it may sound superior to many oldschool MMO players, it's a burden to the new generation, that just wants to log in, grind some XP and log off without thinking about others. People want their single player experience in an MMO. For the most part they do not want the true MMO experience and who could blame them. For everything that was so good about EQ, there were two things that just plain sucked, but we do ignore now. I witnessed people quit the game in EQ before reaching level 10, cause they could not commit to the grouping. Grouping especially in EQ pressured players into spending more time, than they actually wanted to. You just did not leave the group, when it took one hour to setup the camp, with strangers that you wanted to meet again later. EQ built a very efficient social trap for many.

Mimicing such a concept today, is very bad idea. Growing from 100k to 11 million, the community became a melting pot for different types of players. In 1999 every player i met, was my kind. That's where the nostalgia is grounded on still. You could "meet" people, that you own small town never let you to. 2009 though i meet people online, that are not my kind of player anymore. Even encouraging me to cooperate with them, won't make a grouping system work. I run WoW PUGs now - even raids - where less than 2 sentences of communication come up. That's not the social gaming experience i enjoyed 10 years ago, when you were forced to chat long times, waiting for spawns and/or mana to regenerate.

The genre changed and WoW is coping with it in the best way possible. The MMO experience now starts when you enter your first raid at max level - period. Everything before is filler.
 
I'd never call the leveling game unimportant. I only call it in some way superfluous.

In my opinion you could improve the game by either improving the leveling system, thus that it is not superfluous anymore or just scrapping it and offering the content, the leveling system consumes right now, to all players and not just the minority that's not 80. (Dangerous trading or dangerous travel were ways to accomplish that).
Limit that flying somehow .. I really think this whole idea of flying around at turbo speed whereever and whenever you want needs to be rethought.

The problem with a challenging leveling is this:
It makes balancing classes even harder - if not impossible.
You described it yourself for EQ.

That is the main reason IMO why Blizzard doesn't care about a challenging leveling game. They feel like there's just no way to implement it if there are some 30 different speccs combined with raid, arena and BG balance.

One way to solve the problem were to accept that some mobs in the wild cannot be beaten by some characters.
Just balance it like: Magic monsters are good against warriors, but balanced against mages. Physical ranged monsters are good against mages, but trivial for warriors...

Try to make those characters that are bad at the leveling game ab bit better at end game PvE/PvP.
(Perhaps unrealistic as the forums would explode).

In my opinion Blizzard plays it safe right now. But if they want to make the leveling game great they need to take more risk. Right the leveling content is wasted for at least 50% of the population.
 
I played EQ for 3 years as a Warrior so I understand forced grouping, and while I love to group I must admit even I like being able to solo from time to time.

The Ideal situation is that soloing is completely viable, but it should be far less effective in terms of time spent to progress made.

In EQ if you were soloing or grouping you were fighting the same mobs in theory. There were no "Elite" mobs So if you could solo a white con (same level) mob then great, but you usually had hefty done time after (I know it took my necromancer multiple minutes to regain full mana, and that was with a spell that drained my life and converted it to mana constantly)

I think one of WoW's best ideas is that there are separate types of mobs made for groups. the "Elite" mob idea was a great Idea because it prevents groups from just mass farming normal mobs which does seem like a grind.

However, if grouping to kill these harder mobs, which by their nature are more risky, has a worse time and effort to progress ratio then there is no point.

Look at how empty the lower level dungeons are in World of Warcraft. You hardly ever see anyone running them, and when you do 90% of the time a level 80 character is involved.

All in all like you said people don't treat it as the real game.

But the problem is that unless your an MMO vet, you don't realize that. Someone coming to wow for the first time, never having played an MMO is going to spend probably at least a month leveling up a character, likely alone the majority of the time, and then when they finnaly reach max level the game suddenly expects them to posess an entierly different skill set then the one they've fostered beforehand.

It angers me because I get tired of people who don't know what their job is, and who suck for various reasons. However I also understand that its somewhat unfair to expect much from these people since the game does nothing to teach them how to play it.

If "end game" is the real game, as blizzard seems to have designed, then you could argue that 1-80 is a lengthy tutorial. But if that's the case it isn't doing its job well.
 
You consistently make unwarranted assumptions and state them as universally accepted facts.

Particularly irritating in this post:

"Everybody loves to level faster".

No they don't. I, personally like to level quite slowly and find that my characters in some recent MMOs level faster than I would choose.

There are many people who like to complete all the quests available while they are still of an appropriate level, something which is impossible with most levelling curves. There are enough of these people for game designers to include options to turn experience-gain off.

In EQ2, this option has been available for years, but originally only applied to xp from killing monsters. While I was playing EQ2, there were frequent requests from players for this to be extended to all xp gain from any source, which was eventually implemented. Vanguard also added this option due to player demand.

Some people do this for paractical reasons, not only questing but also PvP, farming and so on. Others just like a particular level range and want to play within it and not move up. I've done that, halt a character in the 20s or 30s for a year or more just so that whenever I want I can log that character in and play in those zones, which have content I like.

There's nothign wrong with the substantive thrust of your piece, but the argument is not assisted by assigning universality to commonality. Absolutes undermine your case, as we know from personal experience that they are untrue, which casts doubt on the rest of the thesis.
 
In EQ, certain classes were better at soloing, and certain classes were better at grouping. This wasn't the problem, because groups could go deep into dungeons and get better loot, while solo classes mostly hunted outdoors for exp and gold, but were forced to buy their equipment from players who went into dungeons.

The problem in EQ were those classes that neither excelled at grouping or at soloing, and were essentially screwed, because of it.

= # # =
 
"MMORPGs need to offer a path of advancement for even the most incompetent and anti-social soloer to attract a mass audience. But that doesn't mean they can't reward better gameplay and cooperation!"

Actually it exactly means that.

What you are suggesting now is a "privileged way" for skilled players. It meets with the outrage of those who are not privilaged.

Remember when the unskilled got Naxx with ilvl 213 that can be gained without any idea how to play and gave Ulduar to the skilled ones.

The unskilled whined (and even worse quited) not because they were 13 ilvl below, but because they felt "second class citizens". As soon as they could get equal gear (ilvl 226 from farmable badges and slowly ilvl 245 from daily hc badges), they returned in huge numbers (server queue, additional instances cannot be launched)

You cannot implement ANY system that gives a "fast lane" to the skilled without losing the unskilled.

Your basic mistake is that you assume that the "unskilled" is just like you was when you were new to the game.

They are not "beginners". They are not "casuals". They are socials. They DONT want to learn. They DONT want to play the game. They want to be liked and respected. They will never accept any scheme that signal them as bad.

And you can't hope that they won't notice it. "l33t kids" (insecure 13 years old punks with gaming skills) will tell them "lol n00b you grind greens while I pwn oranges, u be lvl 20 when I be top XDDDD"

The guy will stop playing this "elitist" game in that moment.
 
the so-called "group bonus" (which actually is a penalty, you get less xp per mob in a group than solo)

I think you know this already, but the "group bonus" is a bonus on top of getting 1/5 the experience of a given mob. ie: you kill a mob worth 100xp, you get 100xp; a group of five kill a mob worth 100xp, everyone gets, say, 25xp.

You still get less per mob per person, but the total value of the mob's experience is the "group bonus".
 
Agreed Tobold. I am sure there are many players (I am one) who often find themselves playing solo and would enjoy a more challenging experience.

In terms of rewards I am not sure if "faster leveling" is the way to go. Faster leveling means you rush through the solo content and get to the group oriented end game more quickly. Why not use the tried and trusted route of giving fancy armour and equipment rewards for people who solo tough content - this could be most easily done in instances. If you enter solo you get higher quality rewards than if you enter in a group for example.

Lotro has a number of challenging solo instances and they have proven popular with players but the best mmo like game for soloing that I know of is Guild Wars.
 
Level 80's can kill level 80 mobs? Try 47. I killed a pile of 47 fallen heros on my paladin last night. I counted the bodies as I looted. To be honest, most of them killed themself with my ret aura and holy shield. I chained 4 packs(about 7 mobs) of these mobs together, and pulled in others that were close. 47:1 ratio is great, but I never came close to dying. I'm going to have to aim for 6 packs next time, if I can get 6 packs together with out them evading, or dying first.

I use this point not to brag, well perhaps I brag a little. I really use this point to illustrate how crazy easy soloing is in WoW. On my 80 Warlock I can't kill 47 mobs at once, but I can chain pull single mobs and two-three shot them(immoliate, chaos bolt, and if I need to conflag). My DK who isn't even a tank can take out packs of 10-20 fallen heros. Fallen heros are in icecrown, they are a normal level 80 mob with full loot, not one of those half ass mobs).

While I'm all for classes being able to solo, I think blizzard should have some more difficult solo content. For crying out loud even killing elite monsters is easy.
 
"Why bother learning even a half-decent spell rotation if that is total overkill for the challenge the leveling game poses?"

The problem is: Many spellrotations are impossible to do solo. Some require you to be behind the mob, for example. Others are simply so long that every mob living that long would kill you in that time. Tanking of any kind is complete nonsense when playing solo. And every heal you cast prevents you from doing damage, so you should try to heal only inbetween fights.

The only way I can think around this is giving everyone at least two NPCs fighting with him and filling the missing roles.
 
You consistently make unwarranted assumptions and state them as universally accepted facts. Particularly irritating in this post: "Everybody loves to level faster". No they don't. I, personally like to level quite slowly and find that my characters in some recent MMOs level faster than I would choose.

That makes you a minority of one, and doesn't change the fact that there is a general demand for and trend towards faster leveling.
 
Remember when the unskilled got Naxx with ilvl 213 that can be gained without any idea how to play and gave Ulduar to the skilled ones. The unskilled whined (and even worse quited) not because they were 13 ilvl below, but because they felt "second class citizens".

Sorry, but I believe you just made that up. I could detect no signs whatsoever of people mass quitting because they were 13 iLevels below others. I read a lot of casual blogs, and didn't here anyone whining or threatening to quit. People *DID* quit back at the start of TBC because Karazhan was too hard to access, but that was about a majority of players not having access to any raid game at all.

The "Additional instances can't be launched" problem is one of Blizzard having made visiting dungeons too popular, not one people who previously quit coming back to WoW.
 
And let's not forget the "Collect N" quests. Why not let a drop count for everyone in a group?
 
Personally I think the success of World of Warcraft speaks for itself. Although you say that players enjoy a certain degree of challenge, I don't really see evidence of that in World of Warcraft. The less challenging it is, the more people that play it.

I agree that the developers are missing an opportunity in the design of the 'grind', especially as someone who enjoys that part of World of Warcraft the most. But just like in real life, the 'journey is half the fun' for only a few people.
 
Personally I think the success of World of Warcraft speaks for itself. Although you say that players enjoy a certain degree of challenge, I don't really see evidence of that in World of Warcraft. The less challenging it is, the more people that play it.

I think that is a logical fallacy. We simply don't have a control case to compare it with. How do you know whether people are not playing more challenging games because they hate challenge, or whether that other game simply was less appealing for other reasons? I'm not sure that if World of Warcraft had a difficulty setting switch everybody would play at the lowest setting.
 
In the old SWG there was the phenomenon of 'solo grouping'. In a group you had access to harder missions that gave more rewards but were still soloable if you had good gear and buffs. So people would form groups in areas, get the harder missions, and then all go off in different directions to solo them. Sounds wierd, but it was kinda fun.
 
Why do people always forget about Guild Wars and hiring henchmen? This allows for more challenge, grouping where convenient, and still has the flexibility to allow a solo-player to complete tasks. Also, other MMOs allow you to scale difficulty according to group size or average level.

It would also be nice to have instances require something other than combat to complete them. This attracts different player types and creates diversity in the virtual world.

Wow is really three games with three type of player bases -- pvp, raiders, and levellers. Notice in the expansion notes that they are developing specific content for each market segment.
 
An interesting solution to this problem is the one taken by FFXI. Now admittedly they have the forced grouping aspect down pat as well (unless you go for very specific class mixes) but they also have an exp bonus to the effects of grouping.

What they do is they give speed bonuses. If you kill the next mob withing a certain time limit you get a bonus to exp. Consecutive kills give increasing bonuses but decreasing intervals for the bonus to kick in until the 5th kill after which it's identical. The effect of this is that there's a sweet spot between the even level mobs and the hardest a party can realistically tackle where really good parties can get into a groove and just keep killing and keep the bonus at max. Good parties can generally hit the 5th but then run out of steam and need to rest a bit. Bad parties are evident pretty quickly.

Interestingly this game has what I consider to be the best grouping skills in it's player base (pick up groups are the norm for leveling and really bad ones are few and far between once you get beyond level 20-30)

Now the forced grouping is a pain most for western audiences, that I can understand but nothing stops developers from tailoring this sort of chaining mechanism to reward grouping instead of making it less effective than soloing.
 
I looked at this blog post and thought back on my last week in WoW:
- In Silithus I ground out Cenarion Circle Exalted on my main
- I gained one level on two separate alts (level 70-ish), and on one of them spent some time on a profession (gathering, crafting)
- I ran heroics: Daily heroic Emblem of Triumph ‘farm’, and some runs just for fun to help out friends/family/guildies
- I blew though daily Argent Tournament quests to get Seals for an item I want
- I tinkered on the AH with specific JC cuts, as usual
- I ran raids for hard-mode achievements

That is not an atypical week, since we’re sitting 10 months into Wrath. I have a couple of 80s and various alts, and I can join a top-end raid group, crush a heroic, group quest, or solo quest (or chase achievements on my main). IMO there are so many options and things-to-do range from easy-to-hard, solo-to-group, that many people just don’t see any such issues (and I don’t even utilize the twink or max-level PvP options like BGs and Arena).

“Challenge” and “fun” have many different definitions, and WoW is wide and deep enough to meet the definition for a big player base, be it building a 19 twink, or leveling to 80, or Loremaster, or Mr. Pinchy, or a Mechano-Hog, or knocking out BG achievements, or Yogg-Saron, or whatever else.
 
@ Gevlon: the complaints over the 13 ilvl difference from Naxx --> Ulduar was due to 10-mans and Naxx's easiness. 25-Naxx was easily puggable on any mid-large server (213 ilvl) while 10-Uld only had 219 ilvl vs. 226 at the 25-man setting. So, when a sizeable quantity of raiders already had 213 quality items, going up 6 points (and with items often with worse itemization) was a source of complaint. On top of that, regular 10-man is arguably harder than regular 25-man (esp. certain encounters like 3D-OS), which added another layer to the complaint. Noticeably, with ToC and the extra raid tier, the problem generally fixed itself over time.

@ Tobold: I do think we are seeing "difficulty settings" in WoW with the current tier and probable future of raiding. There are now 4 raid variants, reg 10/25 and heroic 10/25. Having face-rolled reg-10 and most of reg-25, the heroic 10 version is very, very challenging, and I doubt my guild will ever make much progress in 25-heroic ToC. I'll be interested in seeing how many people "choose" the challenge of heroic modes vs. the almost free 15 triumph emblems from regular.


As for leveling in general, people are overlooking the biggest benefit of group-questing in WoW vs. soloing. Speed. You can kill a much higher volume of mobs in a group than by yourself; so even if an "individual" mob might give 25 group vs. 100 solo exp, you can get quests accomplished DRAMATICALLY faster (remember the quest reward exp is not group-divided). On top of that, a set group makes grinding dungeons an excellent way to gain xp, I remember the first people in my guild during TBC hit the cap by running 5-mans consecutively.


And the reason why soloing is so easy now is because Blizzard wants to keep the 1 hour a night/weekender crowd subscribed by letting them get a little bit done in a short period of time. If grouping was _mandatory_ (rather than just optimum or most-rewarding) WoW would have EQ subscription numbers.
 
Party mobs
You form a group to kill mobs in area X, party mobs spawn in area X only when a group/party is there and formed, party mobs give more xp and better loot drops, party mobs despawn within a certain time frame if not killed (so as not to be left to harass the soloist) also they have the HP and dps of an elite so it will be harder for soloist to kill them.
 
I think you are missing one critical point from the wow grouping perspective. That is that the groups (specifically raid bosses) are of significantly higher level than you, and are elites.

Without the group, you might get one or two spells off. With the group, you actually have a chance to down the thing.

So grouping dosen't actually penalize you (at max lvl at least). At lower levels, with the penalty to xp, I can see where you are getting at. But even then, if you are running through a dungeon (heirlooms aside), grouping allows you to gain access to better gear, and more money than you would have gained otherwise. Its a bit of a tradeoff.
 
Excellent write up Tobold, I think you really hit at the heart of this problem.
 
I'm going to go back to DDO here, as you don't really get xp for killing mobs, but doing quests. How you do those is up to you, solo or grouped, kill everything or find a way to do it by not killing anything. There is even a guy who decided to make it so he could "stealth" (stealth works differently than wow, anyone can, but how good depends on a lot) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UqSHCIJ1jo) I like that DDO is more "objective" based instead of grinding to level, and while some are soloable (more since henchmen now) grouping is encouraged and if you get in groups who fit your play-style it's even better. The changeable difficulty of the dungeons helps too. I know it's not perfect, but it does present a different approach to leveling.
 
What I find the most interesting about this is the fact that despite WoW getting things wrong (punishing grouping, pointless max gold, etc), the game remains very popular. It really shows the human nature that "if other people are doing it, most likely you will be doing it too just because".
 
"On top of that, regular 10-man is arguably harder than regular 25-man (esp. certain encounters like 3D-OS)"

Complete and utter nonsense, Ben. Yes, Sarth+3D was harder on 10 man (a balance issue which was long ago acknowledged as a mistake by Blizzard), but every single one of the other 30-odd raid fights in WotLK is _vastly_ easier on 10-man.

I defy you to name a single fight, other than Sarth+3D, which is harder on 10-man than 25.
 
I was in a group recently with a tank that was barely capable of comunicating. They basically said "mage. water.", "paladin. kings.", and "BUFFS" and that was it. This is all a nice idea, but when your players are this immature or young (they were smart enough to retrigger the final boss fight when we kicked her and she bubble-hearthed to safety while we were locked in without a tank) grouping with them will ALWAYS be a detriment, no matter your training. I think you have to design your game for an older target demographic because the young ones that can handle the social accountability will play, while everyone that can't will stay away.
 
I have a big problem with grouping in MMOs, and even more with guild membership, and not just during leveling but also at max level.

What this mechanism does is hold my game experience hostage to the competence of the people I happen to be associated with.

If I group with RL friends, that's great if they are competent and there are enough of them playing to do the content. But often they are not good enough (are all your friends great players?), and often there are not enough of them.

So, I have to find people in game who I didn't know from RL. Forming pseudo-friendships with online pseudo-friends gets tiring after a while, especially when I have to jump guilds as drama and Gresham's Law of Guilds (bad players drive out good) take their toll.

Recently the guild I was in, that didn't clear Ulduar 25 on normal mode (which was annoying enough), and got blocked on Faction Champions 25. We downed it once in several weeks of trying. At the end I said to myself: this sucks. Why am I playing with these people? Why do I have to keep playing with people like this? Is the game worth this annoyance? And I decided it wasn't, and I let my subscription expire.

Grouping, in my case, killed my enjoyment of the game.
 
I totally agree! In EQ you had to be decent at your role in a group or they would replace you. Not being able to solo is something nobody would put up with today but making it always better to be in a group would make a game much more enjoyable. People would yell and call it forced grouping but they would do it and have more fun than if they soloed the game. People don't always know what they want or need ;)
 
"Recently the guild I was in, that didn't clear Ulduar 25 on normal mode (which was annoying enough), and got blocked on Faction Champions 25. We downed it once in several weeks of trying. At the end I said to myself: this sucks. Why am I playing with these people? Why do I have to keep playing with people like this? Is the game worth this annoyance? And I decided it wasn't, and I let my subscription expire."

Grouping isn't the problem in this case. Your guild was. Instead of quitting, you could've just applied to a better a guild (assuming you're actually more capable than your original guild), transferring servers if needed.

Hell, even good PUGs on my server 1 or 2-shot all the bosses on 25-man TOC.
 
@ Carson: The reason why 10s can sometimes be harder than 25s is the numbers. In a fight on 25s, a healer dies, not the end of the world, in a 10-man, it's either 1/3 or 1/2 of your healing dead at once. 10s get easy once you have 25-man gear to overpower the encounters. As I said in my first post, this was mostly the case before Ulduar came out (which is when the complaints/arguments about the low ilvl were strongest), when OS3D was the _only_ encounter of merit. I agree with you that GOTUR is easier than GOTHUR for good players to get, but this is in part due to numbers/logistics. Having a few bad players in a 10-man makes a much bigger difference than a few bad players in a 25-man.
 
Grouping isn't the problem in this case. Your guild was.

Yes, the guild was very likely to blame for that failure. The problem I was complaining about wasn't that particular failure, but that the game forces one to jump from guild to guild.

In order to succeed, the structure of the game forces you to be selfish and backstabbing. Your friends aren't useful? Sayonara, suckers, I'm off to play with non-losers.

In the end, I just couldn't tolerate that. And I don't see how any MMO with group content, where the players control who they group with, can avoid the problem.
 
Tobold says, "the so-called "group bonus" (which actually is a penalty, you get less xp per mob in a group than solo)"

Check your logic here. Think of experience like loot for a second. You put time into a game to kill mobs for both experience and money. When you group up you have to split the money evenly, so it makes sense that ALL parts of the mob are split, even the experience. The grouping bonus is very real because while you're grouped the mob is "dropping" more experience than normal to compensate. What you're asking for is the experience equivalent of having every mob drop his loot separately for EVERY character in the group, and then saying that for it to be worth the grouping the mob has to drop MORE loot than normal for each and every person!!! That's outrageous!

I agree that WoW's group bonus is pretty pathetic, but I don't even understand why they still give you xp for killing mobs, quests are essentially your only option for leveling anyway. My primary problem here is that your logic seems totally slanted in an attempt to slander Blizzard. I know sensationalism sells, but that's no excuse for misrepresenting data.
 
I agree that WoW's group bonus is pretty pathetic, but I don't even understand why they still give you xp for killing mobs, quests are essentially your only option for leveling anyway. My primary problem here is that your logic seems totally slanted in an attempt to slander Blizzard. I know sensationalism sells, but that's no excuse for misrepresenting data.

Careful here, because otherwise I'll start saying that you are a Blizzard fanboi troll and your logic is totally slanted in an attempt to support whatever they do, and so on, and so on, and then we get into a typical WoW forum type of discussion.

How about instead you actually read what I say? I am talking about XP PER HOUR in a group compared to solo. In a group of 2 your xp is cut in half, there is ZERO group xp bonus, but your group isn't killing mobs twice as fast, so you end up making less xp per hour. In a group of 5 your xp is split by 5, then multiplied by 1.4, so you get 28% of the xp per mob. But as your group isn't killing mobs 4 times as fast, you end up with much less xp per hour. Plus you're not making any xp in the inevitable time it takes to set a group up.

I think that in a group of any size a player should earn MORE xp per time unit than solo, to compensate for the initial barrier to entry of setting the group up. There *are* games, e.g. Atlantica Online, where in a group xp are not divided at all, but only a bonus applied, so that idea isn't all that outrageous as you claim, but the important thing is xp per hour, not xp per kill.

XP isn't a limited resource that has to be shared. It stands for experience gained by some encounter. Would you say that if you went to a cinema with friends the experience is lessened by being shared? I'd say if anything it is heightened.
 
This is what I get for skimming when I'm having a bad day! But my point still stands. Read what you say here:

Tobold: "you get less xp per mob in a group than solo"

Nothing about xp/hour right there. I agree with you on this issue though, now that you've clarified. Oh, and I'm about as far from a "WoW fanboi" as it gets without being a "WoW-hater" so I wouldn't have let you turn the conversation into WoW-forum madness ;)

I like the movie metaphor, but you have to admit that that's not how they really treat experience in WoW. Experience, like gold, is just one more way to get ahead. In life do you really hit points where you are instantly smarter, wiser, fitter, stronger, or more skillful in any kind of significant way? If experience in WoW was like experience in the original SW:Galaxies then I would say that it could be considered to be similar to the way experience works in the real world, but as it stands now "experience" is simply the name they give to a system that helps you become more powerful.

I say that because killing 80 levels worth of mobs while dual wielding longswords would not in any way make you able to wield a giant two-handed axe with any kind of skill if experience were truly like the movie metaphor suggests it is. I again hold the idea before you that experience is a commodity just like gold- and that WoW should compensate players appropriately to make grouping beneficial -in that it is nothing but one more system that increases your character's power (by unlocking abilities, increasing stats, and allowing you to equip better gear) just like purchasing skills is a mechanic that increases your power by through the acquisition of gold.
 
Have any experience with Final Fantasy XI? Soloing is nigh impossible even after 20ish, and even if you play one of the few classes that can, the XP isn't worth it. Good groups substantially increase your XP in a given time. And at higher levels without an awesome group, you are all dead. Even monsters that are your level will drop you in an instant if you don't know what you are doing. Grouping in the game is both necessary and much more rewarding.
 
I KNEW you'd say that Ben. The "10-man is harder" argument is ALWAYS "it's harder because if you lose 1 group member, 1 out of 10 means more than 1 out of 25".

So you will, naturally, concur that 5-mans are even harder than 10-man raids? Since losing one of of 5 is twice as bad again? Heroic VH harder than 10-man Ulduar anyone?

Sorry, it's nonsense. Yes losing one of ten is significant, but EVERY 10-man encounter (except, as I said before, Sarth+3D) is tuned to be massively easier than its 25-man equivalent, so you are much, much less likely to lose that one person.
 
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