Tobold's Blog
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Playing at your own pace: Priceless

Before Mastercard sues me I'll have to admit that I borrowed my title from their ads. Specifically it was an add that suggested that the freedom of traveling where you want when you want is priceless. And that struck a chord with me regarding the way I play MMORPGs these day. Because it answers the old question of why somebody would play a "massively multiplayer" game solo.

I am clearly missing out on both content and the best rewards by playing World of Warcraft solo instead of organized in a guild. I can do normal and heroic dungeons with the LFG functionality, but haven't even tried mythics, where you either need friends/guildmates or a more complex version of the group finder. And I have only done one raid in LFR mode for a quest. So there are several raid dungeons and mythic dungeons which I haven't seen yet, because they aren't available (yet) for LFG/LFR.

It isn't a problem of skill or gear. My three level 110 characters are all above 840, and the main in above iLevel 850. I have found two legendaries already, albeit on two different characters. And while my dps skills have always been mediocre, my healing skills are pretty good because in spite of many changes group healing is still very similar to what it was when I was playing in a top notch raiding guild years ago.

Rather the problem for me with organized play in a guild or with friends is that it puts me under a certain amount of pressure. I'd want to keep my gear level up to par with the other guild members. And I'd have to be there at certain times for a certain number of hours to play with the guild, especially if you explicitly sign up for some raid. And I don't want to feel compelled to play any more. I want to decide at any given moment whether I feel like playing or not, and what I feel like doing. I don't want to measure my progress against others. I want to play at my own pace.

And while World of Warcraft sometimes feels like it is designed for people doing raid content, in some other ways it feels as if it was designed for my slower pace as well. Even if expansions are now coming slightly faster than once ever two years, and there are slightly more content patches, World of Warcraft is still far away from expansions that really offer two years worth of content. I can play as slow as I want, and there is still zero danger that one day the next expansion comes out before I have finished Legion. I already have three level 110 characters, and my main reached exalted with the Nightfallen and is now on the most current chapter of the Suramar storyline, Insurrection. Unless patch 7.1.5 and 7.2 come soon, I'll run out of content before Christmas. Playing at my own, slower pace seems to be a better fit with the speed with which Blizzard can add new content. Missing out on running the same raid dungeons over and over again to me seems a small price to pay for the priceless freedom and better story pacing that solo play gives me.

> but haven't even tried mythics, where you either need friends/guildmates or a more complex version of the group finder

You are giving Mythic dungeons too much credit. They are Heroics on steroids (more damage/health) with no added mechanics. I've done them *all* in October via LFG custom groups with almost zero issues and my Hunter was 840-something.

Try them, you're holding back for no reason. 850 gear melts through them. There may be specific fights where you need to focus a "little" more to avoid massive damage but trust me, they're easy.

I'm a solo player too (still didn't try any LFG raid so far) and I mostly focus on World Quests and mundane tasks. So I know where you come from.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that since the guild you experienced were hardcore raiding guilds, then all guilds have to be like this.

There are many guilds which are for casual players, requiring no predefined time investment or planning, with no particular aim at progression and where you can join a group or a raid because you happen to be there on that specific evening and because there's a slot.

I don't know about WoW specifically but my feeling is that the majority of guilds in MMOs are more like Helistar describes these days than they are like the restrictive, controlling, oppressive guilds of yore.
The guild I'm in is totally casual. We raid twice a week, 2 hours each time, and it's completely optional to attend. Of course, we've only killed a total of 2 bosses in normal EN, the dragon and the bear. And the bear only once. We have never completed a Mythic dungeon as a guild group, and we're in no hurry to do so.

The rest of the time, it's do what you want at your own pace. Usually? I see people working on their alts.

Towards the end of WoD, I got in with a group doing full Heroic clears of HFC, and managed to full clear the place on Heroic, but at such a cost... people that are driven to "excel in WoW" are just total assholes 95% of the time when they're in game. Everything is a competition. Every boss fight has to be shorter than the last time. And the drama when others don't meet their expectations!
You are giving Mythic dungeons too much credit. They are Heroics on steroids

I am aware of that. As I said, it isn't a matter of skill or gear. It is a matter of a mythic being more complicated to start. And the ones I'd want to go to, like Karazhan, are said to be a lot longer than heroics, and I don't want to be stuck in one for hours.

There are many guilds which are for casual players

I am actually in a very casual guild, the one I started WoW with on the European servers. I was actually one of the 10 guys signing the guild charter. Today of 539 members on the roster, only a handful are still active and we never even get enough people together for a dungeon. Even if I moved to a semi-casual guild that was still raiding, I'd still need to be there on time and for the duration. Not worth it for me any more.
Totally valid play style. Mythic dungeons are exactly the same as heroics just with higher numbers. You miss nothing by not doing them (except higher lvl loot of course).

Karazhan is great. It takes about 2 hours if at least one guy knows the place and all players know how to interrupt and not stand in shit (and probably voice comm to explain it faster). Lots of oneshot mechanics, it's not the best dungeon to take a keyboard turner. Also gets easier with good dps but what dungeons doesn't. I have tanked it at ilvl 851 with 866 healer backing me up. Playing mechanics right is much more important than gear, everyone ~850 should be OK.

But yeah, I wouldn't set foot into Karazhan outside a guild group.
If you want to be a healer most Mythics through the pre-made group finder are sitting there waiting for a healer to queue. Most runs are one hour. Most of those you think of as progressing further are well into Mythic+ runs now. I look for mythics during EST prime and there will be a lot to choose from sitting their looking for either healers or tanks (or both).
I find it somewhat amusing that the notion of statistical progress (which stuck with RPG genre by chance) completely defeated the notion of cooperative exploration (which was the actual idea of first RPGs I suppose). The players can't play together due to level/equipment/gold investment requirements, but getting rid of those in the modern MMORPG paradigm seems unimaginable, because statisctical threadmills is apparently what keeps many players in the game in the first place.

I wonder if cutting all leveling systems would make more players happier or unhappier (besides making everyone mad).
Tobold, I don't get why you are playing a Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game at all, since you aren't interested in any but the most cursory interaction with your fellow players, and aren't role-playing (as far as I can tell) in any but the most cursory way. Have you considered a single-player game? Many of those are large enough to lose yourself in for a few years, and release new content regularly.
@Dàchéng: I'm pretty sure that the way I am playing World of Warcraft today is the way that the majority of players of WoW does it. So why should I leave? Maybe *you* should, if you can't get over the fact that old semantics clash with modern play habits. Especially role-playing has always been an extremely niche activity in most MMORPGs and certainly in WoW.

And some stuff that I do like to do, like crafting and trading on the auction house, as well as the occasional LFG dungeon, clearly requires other players. I just don't want to have to commit to regular hours, because then it isn't play any more, it becomes work.
Tobold, you do not need to miss on content. As of now, every raid (all 2 of them) has LFR version. You just need to wait like 30-60 minutes if you queue as DPS.

Healing is right now the most deficit role in the group game, so you're probably getting instant summons in all queued activities. I personally experienced 30+ minutes of waiting for healer to subscribe into Karazhan group (many times). So Mythics are well within the reach of your healing character.

I can recommend Court of Stars very much, it is so much shorter than Karazhan but is a great story dungeon with many nonstandard interactions with the world. E.g. there is "identify the spy from the incomplete clues" minigame.

Contrary to what some people are telling, some Mythic dungeons are much more complex than heroics, they DO add new mechanics. Particularly true for the Vault of Wardens.
Random_Phobosis said: "I find it somewhat amusing that the notion of statistical progress (which stuck with RPG genre by chance) completely defeated the notion of cooperative exploration (which was the actual idea of first RPGs I suppose)."

The original idea involved more varied characters and parties, in which not everyone need have equal abilities or be able to do everything.

I think classical leveling nowadays serves more as a tutorial, so a game without it might be tolerated. However, outside of the whole leveling concept is the RPG concept of individual character skills and abilities coming from the character or from randomly acquired magic items, weapons etc.

Do away with those too (what might be called max-level leveling), and you have an action game - the problem (or not) is that what differentiates characters then is player skill. Of course in most action games there's no major 'questlines' etc. - there are ranking tables for player skill. Those, combined with enjoyment of the game, are what get people motivated to play.

You can still have hybrids of skill games and levelling games like collectible card games - no reason an RPG couldn't be built around those. I'd try it!

Anyway, I don't think the idea of doing away with leveling is really so radical. But it does eliminate a certain motivation for grinders, which will probably make it a niche game. That's not a bad thing. I still live in hope that when the market matures there will be an explosion of niche games that almost everyone hates.
Tobold, you asked why should I leave? Maybe *you* should, if you can't get over the fact that old semantics clash with modern play habits."

Well, I didn't say you should leave. I was really asking what draws you to play an MMORPG, when you play it as a single player game, but suffering the drawbacks of mobs respawning after you kill them, the story not progressing as a result of your agency, and all the other inconveniences of a theme park mmo world. But perhaps I should take your advice and move on.
I feel that single-player role-playing games are often rather linear and feel very scripted. Games like Skyrim which actually give the players some agency are rare. And every game has a different combat system, half of which I don't like because they are too twitch-based.

Criticizing MMORPGs for lack of real role-playing and then recommending single-player games sounds especially hollow to me. What single-player game do you know which even has anything remotely like playing a role rather than min-maxing numbers?
I bought Witcher 3 recently. First area done, the quest stories are great. For some decisions you have a limited time, but I don't know if these havereal repercussions down the road or just minimal like Telltale Games "interactive movies".

Witcher 3 is a "why didn't I play this earlier" game.
Skyrim and the Witcher 3 were the two single-player games that I was thinking of!

As for role-playing, I was making the point that you weren't really interested in that. So not having the opportunity in a single-player game for role-playing interaction with other players wouldn't be a drawback for you.

But actually, role-playing doesn't have to involve interaction with other players. The very act of assuming the role of the witcher hunting down monsters (rather than somebody sitting at a keyboard typing) is an important kind of role-playing. It puts you in the zone where you can live the fantasy and enjoy the game. It can easily be destabilized by other players in the trade channel discussing Trump or The Young Pope or anal [whatever]. So that's a role-playing advantage that single-player games have.

"You are giving Mythic dungeons too much credit. They are Heroics on steroids (more damage/health) with no added mechanics. I've done them *all* in October via LFG custom groups with almost zero issues and my Hunter was 840-something."

But that is not true about M+. The affixes change every week.

As for Tobold's point. Yes, you can play the game at your own pace. You can also follow life at your own pace. But in both situations there is social pressure to reach certain performances. You (and your parents) expect certain grades, or you (and your employer) expect certain productivity. The same is true in WoW. Your guild expects a certain ilvl, Artifact Level and Artifact Knowledge.
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