Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Unlimited group size

Zubon is discussing playing together, and says about WoW: "Contrast this with World of Warcraft, where you can keep grinding raid tiers and one level-capped character might have twice the damage of another. Asking for a higher gearscore is effectively asking for a higher level character, just the game tracks that advancement differently." He mentions solutions like downleveling, or sidekick/mentor systems, but these are basically just crutches. To understand the problem, we must first ask ourselves "why can't people with different levels (or different gearscores) not play together?

At first your answer might be something like "because they don't deal the same amount of damage". But if you look deeper the problem is ultimately one of maximum group size: If you only have X spots in the group, taking somebody weaker with you means that you lower the overall power of the group, and thus risk not overcoming the challenge at hand. If the other DPS characters in your group deal 20k damage per second and one player only does 10k, that one player effectively becomes a burden to the others, because he could be replaced by somebody doing 20k and the group as a whole would do better.

Take away the group size limit, and that problem disappears. That is more or less the principle behind Guild Wars 2 events: Any help is welcome! If you would add a 6th character with 10k dps to your existing 5-man group where everybody else does 20k, the added character would still help, not hinder the rest of the group. Something similar was already in place during vanilla WoW: Getting 40 people together for raiding was hard, and a dedicated team of 25 could well tackle Molten Core. So you had like 15 spots where the raid group could take people who were far from perfect, but who would still have a positive contribution to the overall power.

That totally changes the social dynamics of a game. If everybody can contribute something positive to a group effort, there is less need to pick your friends by their gearscore or raid performance. And you could imagine other group or guild activities which easily allow for unlimited numbers of participants: Imagine building a guild hall requires 1 million clicks, then having a lot of guild members contributing is obviously better than having just 10 of the fastest clickers. Guilds in A Tale in the Desert function a bit like that. And then you don't have any problems with people with different levels or gearscores playing together.

I remember thinking very much the same thing with Rift's rift feature. The special rifts you opened for reward were nominally 10 man but allowed up to 20 in the raid. So undergeared underperformers were perfectly welcome because they'd add to your chance to win instead of subtracting to it.

It was also an element to 40 man WoW raids - we had afk autoshotting hunters because they were better than running with 35.
Except that many encounters are based around the size of the group. Faction champs in wow immediately comes to mind. Imagine having infinite CCs cause you can bring as many people as you want?

For 10 man versions of the same fight the abilities and mechanics not only need to be scaled, but often key elements of them need to be altered because of the way the abilities interact.

Now how do you do this so that each and every encounter can be done with 8 players, 10 players, 15 players, 19 players, 23 players, 28 players, 36 players, 42 players etc... You would not be able to design encounters as interesting and as involved as the ones in WoW with this kind of restriction in place. Your encounters would become very bland if you had to do a fight that scales with the number of players. Then you would be complaining about the blandness of the encounter.
This comment has been removed by the author.
People are automatically mentored down in Guild Wars2, so its no different than mentoring down in RIFT or EQ2.
It seems there is something missing in the article: the challenge aspect. People do not want to do trivial stuff. If the content is to be challenging, the mob needs to scale. Take away the size limit and the problem won't disappear. If it scales, then every "weak" member of a group makes the whole group weaker. The most you can get off this is to have dynamic group size, but weak members are still a burden.

In GW2 my guild went to kill some fire elemental in Asura starter zone. We were about 40. The mob dropped in two minutes. The scaling was good for random pug but not for at least minimally organized clan group. We did not do any more "kill the mob" events after that as everyone considered it.
boring. :)
Recommended size, remove achievement for going over the size, hardmode achievement for going under the size.

There are ways to get people who want more to go with the NON easy version.

Not to mention more people could equal lesser gear distribution. As you would have to run longer to get people geared.

I agree with Tobold on this. The challenge of it has so many solutions that still allow it to work well with groups scaling up.

A well organized group of 40 people SHOULD easily take out ONE fire elemental. Especially if its designed for a disorganized group fight.

And since I like champions online, I'll mention here that they also allow you to sidekick up and down.
As you probably remember, WoW originally allowed players to bring twice the recommended number of players into five-man instances. This was the overwhelmingly preferred option, despite halving your odds of getting loot, to the point where it was impossible to find a five-man group so you could get credit for the quests.

The catch - other than the fact that Blizzard did not like this and ultimately removed it from the game - was that groups would still wipe despite showing up with twice the intended number of people. Two DPS that do half the damage are worth less than one DPS who does not stand in the fire because they soak up twice the healing. Worse, with the holy trinity model, responsibility for tanking is borne by one player and healing by perhaps two.

More to the point, once the content gets easy enough to allow you to zerg it down by throwing more people at the problem, it usually ceases to be fun to play.
I think you raise a good point about inclusion and community building. Which is something sorely lacking in all the MMOs I play or read about.

When I read your post title, my mind was expecting the smaller group view. I know I was very frustrated in EQ with the 6 person limit. We ran a small, social guild that generally "woke" in the evening and most nights we'd have 8+ people on and wanting to do things. Because of the group size (and the mechanics of Experience Points) we'd have to choose. And because of the requirement to fill roles, we'd have to bias the choices. So generally, the non-tank/healer/slower/pullers would be excluded often.. and eventually would drift off.

I realize things like instances/dungeons are designed for a group of a certain size. And earlier commenter remarked how easy Faction Champions in Wrath/WoW would have been with more and more crowd control. But I can say with confidence that I quit EQ, and my guild died, because of the 6 person group limit. It just made it impossible to involve enough people with the things we did most nights.. and I got tired of telling people we had no room.

I had the same experience a few months back in WoW doing the 40 man AV battlegrounds with friends. You can queue for this as a group.. but you can't as a small raid. So 5 people could queue together, 6 people could not (yes, I know about the Preform Enabler.. and it worked, most of the time, but I digress). This sort of artificial and quite small limit killed the buzz and enjoyment of doing this. The Massively part of MMORPG. I had 10+ people that wanted to do this thing, together, in voice chat and giggle.. and again I had to choose.. which people do I send off. I hate that feeling.

Including anyone that wants to join without penalizing the group would be an awesome design goal for MMOs. You want to incentivize community building, not penalize it.
"why can't people with different levels (or different gearscores) not play together?"

Your primary question was about levels, with gearscore in parens, giving it a subordinate position to my mind.

But what you brought up afterwards really looked like gearscore issues, or at least gear related, and not related to levels at all.

Sure, there may have been 15 extra slots in a 40 man MC run, but how often did those slots go to people who were under level 55? Would you bother bringing a level 30 into MC?

As Zubon pointed out, while higher levels can mentor down to him... which is true in a few games now... the content is still effectively level restricted when you are low level and looking up.

More flexible group sizes can help with the gearscore issue... but it does not fully address your basic question about why characters of different levels cannot play together.

Social dynamic... not changed as much as you think.
The very connotations of "adding" to a group or "subtracting" from it are precisely the roots of the social poison that's made WoW's community so sick.

Bringing someone else should always be better. Early MMOs didn't have group limits. There's no reason we need them now, either. Hard modes can require a certain number of raiders (or less). The limitations can be voluntary and still allow the "baddest of the bad" to get achievements. It seems silly to blanket everyone with a limitation.
take out the pure dps requirement , make a fight more strategic and you can cater for more or less people.
As people are pointing out, "unlimited group size" really just punts the issue. If the boss scales, then each undergeared/underleveled/bad group member does, in fact, weaken the group since the boss gets harder. And while you addressed the DPS issue, you missed the greater issue of damage coming from the boss - your lowbie's "better than nothing" 500 DPS is irrelevant when the passive AoE tick from the boss one-shots you (because it would be trivial for higher-level characters otherwise). Getting around that issue would require percentage-based attacks, which calls into question why anyone is bothering getting gear/XP when it is effectively meaningless, at least in this instance.


Bringing someone else should always be better.

It "should be," but it's not. And thank god for that, because just understand what you are suggesting: someone positively contributes by just showing up. Not by what they do, but by merely logging on. In which case, every aspect of PvE could be defeated by a hundred dudes just standing there.
@Wilhelm Arcturus: The thing about 'true' levels, as opposed to the invisible gearscore levels is that people who are a lower number true level simply only need to play a little while longer to catch up, doing exactly what they've been doing, with no skill or group coordination required. It's the very lowest barrier to entry there is.

The gearscore levels have a significantly harder and different barrier to entry. Skill, group coordination (and yes, this applies even in LFG if you get kicked a lot for your low skill/DPS, or if the hours you like to play are terrible for queueing as DPS), luck of the drop for upgrades.

I remember the infamous Stratholme pants runs. The highest non-raid upgrade in the leg slot in those days was a drop from the Baron. 45 runs it took me, on my rogue, to get the 'best in slot' pre-raiding dungeon piece. Or, at the time, the basic gearscore minimum for MC entry. 45x ten-man strath, each run of which took around 45-60min?
That's one hell of a barrier.

(Holy crap. I just realized how much time that was.)

Anyway. Things are absolutely easier now, but the fact is that the 'gearscore' level barrier is significantly different and harder than the 'true' level barrier. Therefore, using the true, numbered level barrier isn't as much of a problem.

Complaining about it is like...

Let's say gearscore barrier is like killing a cow to get a steak. The level barrier is getting off your ass and going to a restaurant. Complaining about having to actually go to the restaurant? There are limits.
If you can organize hundreds of dudes to do anything, even just stand there, then you've accomplished something. 40 man raids were near impossible to put together; hence, they vanished. 100 people - jeez. I can't imagine.

And yes, I do think that most people should be able to positively contribute just by showing up. Guess what? That's not terribly far from how LFR already works...

I don't see why some tasks should be able to be accomplished by people with greater social skills (i.e. getting 100 people). We have tasks for killers, explorers, and achievers. Let their be yet another way to down the boss: getting 100 people together to just autoattack. I don't see how that's much less a challenge, and clearly gearing won't be too screwed up if only 1 of 100 people are rewarded.

I'm being a little glib here, sure, but I'm not sure how much, to be honest (;
Another problem is one of interactive mechanics. In general, I think it's a good design choice for game to bake-in mechanics that promote/reward interaction between players regardless of circumstances.

As a common example, healers. Healing a 40-player raid is downright unpleasant; you can hardly make sense of all the information coming in, and raid frames block half your screen. You can't just blindly lob healing into the crowd, either, because then it's mostly overhealing.

Imagine the problem scaled up to 100 players. 200? Eventually, group size would remove/destroy fun gameplay elements like healing.
You could bring 15 "non-perfect" people to Molten Core, and they would wipe you with Geddon's debuff every time.
Not to mention corehound packs, which wiped raids with sufficient number of clueless players even at level 70.
I have noticed a something similar with the new WoW world boss. The loot each player gets is independent of anyone else being in the raid. You can take up to 40 people, but it is tuned to be relatively simple so you don't need to be selective. I've seen raids that are tank heavy with half the members not at max level yet they still get the kill. The quickest way to get a group that is good enough is to accept everybody. If you are selective it takes too long to get enough people to succeed.
It wasn't just vanilla WoW. You could raid just fine with fewer than 10/25 in BC and Wrath.

You just couldn't raid the hardest raid that 25 of your best players could. And if you want raiding to involve any skill at all, that will never change.

If I were the author of 'Progress Quest', I would rebadge it as "User Friendly RPG".
Eve Online does exactly this, and it works really well. Two months after joining the game, I was routinely flying around with players with 10x as many skillpoints as I had, but I never felt unwelcome because I could still contribute DPS.

A while after that, I convinced my brother (who was deployed in Iraq at the time) to try the game. He got a free account, jumped in a frigate, and flew around with my corporation even though he had practically no skillpoints at all.

I loved the fact that I didn't need to make a new character in order to play the game with my brother, and I also loved that even as a newbie in a tackle frigate, he didn't feel useless.

Here's hoping they bring that same design philosophy to the WoD MMO...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I have a very happy memory from Vanilla WoW of 8 of us going into Stratholme. I was playing a hunter, and found that I was unable to damage anything save by using engineering grenades, I think only one character was high enough to get us in, and it was a huge challenge to play it.

I also enjoyed 40 player MC and BWL mainly because we used to have people drop in and out during the course of an evening as they played different time frames.

Personally I still think the move to 10 and 25 raids was a retrograde step.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool