Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Thought for the day: Soloing

If you only want to play solo, and not cooperate in group content, nor interact with other players in other ways, why play a MMORPG in the first place? Wouldn't a single-player game be a lot cheaper and more convenient?
I would say even though I do enjoy solo questing doing things on my own and not interacting a lot of the time it's great to have the option to join a group when you feel like it.

If you absolutely do not want anything to do with a group the reason to play a MMORG vice a single player box game is that you have a feeling of being connected still with the outside world. I like reading the conversations back and forth when it's carried above the grade school level and believe it or not if there is breaking news in the world someone will shout it out in chat right away. That gives you the feeling of not being isolated from the world around you while spending a whole lot of hours inside the virtual world of WoW or any other online game.

Make sense?

Just because a person is anti-social doens't mean they don't like to observe what others are talking about.
It's not really all that complicated.

1. Sometimes I want to experience the group combat dynamic. Not often, especially if I have to rely on a PUG to do it.

2. I like having other players around to do the chores I don't enjoy, like running instances over and over for loot. Meanwhile, I usually harvest way more materials than I can ever use in crafting. So I sell those, thereby doing the chores other players don't enjoy.

3. MMOs usually receiving ongoing support. Single player games, once done, are done. The very rare game like Mass Effect or Baldur's Gate 2 might get played through a couple of times. But most get finished once, if that.

4. An MMO will always feel more like a "lived in" world because of the other players, who do a much better job of providing atmosphere than most NPCs.

In short, I consider other players to basically be slightly smarter NPCs who provide essentially the same services: items, resources, combat assistance, and atmosphere.
I end up doing solo activities, because hardly ever I can find someone to do the thing I want to do, and mostly at the same time. Last night I did a run in Scholo just to test some things. Who would want to do that with me ?

On the other hand, a single player game cannot compare with a mmo. A single player game has a set course. My options are limited. No single player game can compare with the vastness of a mmo (maybe Never Winter Nights or Underworld, but I already played those). No single player game can compare nor provide a dynamic world like a mmo does. It's all about the feeling.
I DO play single player RPGs. I play them until I am done with their content. From that perspective, I would argue I do the same with WoW, having several times come back to play through the content. I only played WoW longer because there is much, much more content in WoW.

To me, the "MMO" part is like having great multiplayer functionality on what I still consider to be an RPG at heart. That keeps me entertained a little while longer, but it's not "the game" to me. When parts of the multiplayer functionality limit me from a large portion of the content, that just means I quit sooner (and most importantly to Blizzard, stop paying sooner). I think I am far from alone in this mentality, and Blizzard would be fools to admonish us like misbehaved children because we aren't playing with enough of the other kids, so they don't want our money.

I would also point to this as a huge reason for "WoW tourists" in other online games, if not the biggest. Do you think the makers of Mass Effect or another RPG are offended that players aren't still playing their game two months later? Why does an MMORPG expect their players to continue playing their game after the players are done with the content?
Well that is debatable isn't it? If you've been playing something GuildWars all by yourselves sincer 2005, guess how CHEAP that would? would have been almost free to be exact.

To put it in perspective. Standard MMO = $15 . Standard PC Game = $50 . If i play a single player game the same amount of time as an MMO, i'll finish probably like 3+ in one month! . If we're lucky to get a Oblivion or a Civilization "endless" type of game, sure, but does anyone play a single player game 2-4 hours per day and last longer than a month on it?
Actually, that is a VERY good question.

I started playing WoW because the genre and gameplay looked really enticing to me - NOT because it was an MMO. I was interested in the solo content, having never played an MMO before. I had seen no other games on the market that held the same sort of interest for me - fantasy based, with rich lore and lots of character improvement methods. I also really liked the replayability of it.

Before WoW, I was stubbornly still replaying the Quest for Glory series over and over and over, having never found anything that interested me as much.

It took a very long time before I stopped playing WoW like a solo player, and really starting embracing the social aspect of it. The truth is, even as an MMO, WoW just seems to blow a lot of the similar solo style games out of the water. Perhaps this has changed with DA: Origins.
sure, but single player games are a average lifespan of a few dozen hours, a mmo has hundreds :)

personally, i like to play solo when i won't play long (mornings), and grouping the evenings i play.
The main reason why I want to be able to solo progress in WoW, is that grouped activity requires large blocks of time (I'm talking about dungeons here; raid time requirements are utterly ridiculous imo) where other people expect your uninterrupted attention. Which limits the time I'm actually able to take part in grouped activity a lot. Real life gets in the way constantly.
If grouped PVE activity could be extended with something you can hop into and out whenever you want to, I'd probably prefer that over solo play (assuming progress would be equal or better).
I love the feeling of being in a world full of people even in games where I primarily solo.

When I play the market in Eve it's very interesting to see the fluctuations and compete against other players. I have a system for coping with deep undercutters which makes it rather enjoyable to see them operate.

There's also the menace. I occasionally get ganked (invariably for being careless) which focusses my mind. And gives me targets for when I move up to my hunter killer stage.

That's also something I want to do a lot of - solo pvp hunting. It's expensive so I'm continuing to develop my financial base first.

In games like DDO and WoW sometimes it's just nice to have a break from other people. In DDO particularly a lot of veterans level to about 10 solo so as to avoid free to play noob groups then group more after 10.

I'm on the fence I mainly group but sometimes I really am fed up and soloing is very soothing.
Short answer:

Because a world populated by humans is more interesting than a world populated by npcs.

Longer answer:

I think your example is very extreme Tobold: "play solo, and not cooperate in group content, nor interact with other players in other ways," This implies that the player never helps a passing stranger, never buys of sells anything on the auction house, never even reads the chat channels. I wonder how many people really fit into that mould apart from the first few weeks in our first online game when we were too nervous to open our mouths in chat.

My own guess is that rather than there being a black and white divide between "soloers" and "groupers" there is a whole spectrum of people who participate in the social aspects of the game to varying extents:

At one extreme there is the player who totally ignores every one else in game and turns off the chat channels (not common I think).

At the other extreme are those who are actively involved in large social networks in game - running guilds, participating in raids, engaging in serious role play etc.

In between we have players who adventure solo but interact at arms length with others through the auction house and through group chat. Players who like showing off their stuff by dancing on mailboxes. Players who enjoy casual grouping with random strangers in pugs. Players who join a guild to participate in guild chat and the occasional guild group. Players who get more actively involved in raiding guilds and so on ...

I believe that all of these people are benefiting to varying extents from the multiplayer nature of the game. Even the soloer who turns off the chat channels still gets to observe a more lively world than one which only has npcs in it.

Where exactly an individual player fits into this spectrum depends on personality mood, inclination and many other factors.
Most if not all of my thoughts on why I solo play in WoW have been mentioned by other posters, but I’ll reiterate.

1) Trade.
Whether it’s goods or services, the ability to trade with other players is the primary difference between WoW and single player games like Oblivion and Morrowind. In single player games the game will always behave in the same way, which means there’s always an exploit to get stinking rich to the point where money is irrelevant. Not so in WoW, which means you have to be more creative. This is fun.

2)A living world.
Someone else said other players were smart NPCs to him, and I know what he means. In single player games everything and everyone is predictable, not the case in WoW.

Single player RPGs are all easy. As with making money, once you figure out the game you can easily overpower the content. You can gimp yourself to avoid this, but I like to min max as much as possible and it feels artificial to not try and do your best. Now in WoW the solo content is laughably easy, and this is a problem in my opinion, but you can find challenges if you want to. I like to do Burning Crusade 5-mans. The higher level ones can be difficult, and you have to think carefully about your gear, consumables and tactics. To complete Magister’s Terrace on my hunter for example, I had to die a few times each on the last three bosses to learn their moves, and adjust accordingly. I had to use abilities like Eyes of the Beast which had never before seen the light of day and gather old tier pieces for useful set bonuses like the extended range Mend Pet on Giantstalker. It was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to trying Wrath dungeons (finished Utgarde Keep so far).

WoW has many times the content of even the largest single player RPGs.

WoW is updated regularly, and while you might get some downloadable content for a single player game this doesn’t really compare.

I’d like to say that even though I play solo I don’t feel cheated that there is so much group content. Some people like to play that way and if it wasn’t there then the things I like wouldn’t be either.

Besides, I’m looking forward to soloing Ulduar at level 90 or 95!
"An MMO will always feel more like a "lived in" world because of the other players, who do a much better job of providing atmosphere than most NPCs."

This question has been debunked for years. There is a difference between wanting to solo and wanting to have the option to solo. They are two completely different things and any MMO veteran will understand exactly what I mean.
Cheaper? Far from. For WoW I'd pay €13 a month. This month I played Dragon Age which costed me €35 and is a very long game which will keep me busy for a month. Then I also bought a few bargains which will cost me another €40. It's gonna cost me a lot more at the end of this month then when I played WoW.

And there is a lot of fun in soloing an mmorpg. You're never really alone. Even if you just level solo you'll see other people running around. It makes the world feel alive.

And the content is great to play alone. I've often wondered why other single player hack & slash games don't follow it. In Torchlight you're basically doing nothing but right & left click. No thinking needed which bores me quite quickly. In a game like WoW you have to use tons of spells, control a pet,... I'd love to play a singleplayer WoW!
A good question Tobold.

I would answer a question with a question...

Why are so many MMO's not group friendly in much of their content? (for example: lack of shared quest rewards, lack of shared objective triggers, worse rewards than solo, lack of any actual challenge when grouped).

I think ultimately, that any MMO that focuses just on Group play is doomed to mediocre success. DDO for instance gained a reputation as a group only game very quickly, and wasn't as popular as it could have been. It's recent re-release, with more soloable content, has helped it gain a new audience.

You need solo play, as you need something to do whilst you wait for other people to come online. Perhaps where the trick should be, is that solo play shouldn't be the "BEST" way to progress, and MMO design should concentrate on group play as the primary focus for the player. I think fundamental changes in the way MMO's are designed are required.
I think your example is very extreme Tobold

There is a difference between wanting to solo and wanting to have the option to solo.

I'm all for the OPTION to solo. But in several discussions this week some people expressed the opinion that:

- There should be no content in a MMORPG that cannot be soloed.


- There should be no content in a MMORPG where soloing it is less efficient than doing it in a group.

So the "extreme examples" aren't provided by me, they are contained in various comment threads this week.

Personally I do think that a MMORPG principally should be designed around multiplayer content. Soloing should be a viable option throughout the game, but not necessarily get you everywhere, and it should always be less efficient than grouping.
I've blogged on Monday about the inherent advantages single-player games have over multi-player ones. There are a few huge upsides to single-player (such as immersion, adjustable difficulty, and modability) that I think are simply impossible to replicate in a multi-player environment.

Multi-player has a lot going for it as well, but if you don't use those aspects of a game, you should be much better off with playing an offline one.
The main reason to play MMOs for me is that the MMO-world/story matters more than that of a single player game.

- Firstly you cannot restart an MMO. If you did something you did it. No quick-reload F5/F9.

- Since other players experience the same world it matters more. It's not just me and my own 'instance' of Tamriel, but a world that I share with hundreds, if not thousands, of other players.

If the world matters to me I can matter to the world - if that makes any sense :)

PS: WoW does not really offer these advantages anymore. It does not offer a world but a playground. It drifted too far away from an immersive, credible simulation of an alternative reality, which it was in the beginning. It can still be a lot of fun, but:

Soccer is not really a war simulation and WoW is not really a fantasy-world simulation.
According to your own posts recently Tobold you have been spending more time soloing, leveling, playing the AH, and doing professions then you have in group play.

Since you don't care for raiding or PvP that leaves a pretty small slice of content - really just 5 man dungeons and heroics of the playstyle "grouping".
I solo due to my play schedule. It is difficult to join a raiding guild who wants to run until midnight each day. I will join PUGs when I can though.
Tobold, didn't you yourself admit that MMOs are pretty cheap forms of entertainment compared to having to buy new single-player titles whenever they're beaten? An MMO, even if solo'd, has plenty of play opportunities that far exceed the monthly $15 investment, considering one would get much shorter entertainment for at least twice that cost.

Also, name one single-player game that plays like, say, WoW. There are other RPGs, but none as expansive, with the class-based replayability, that WoW offers.

For those who only want to solo who are tech savvy, setting up a private server would be the way to go, but for everyone else, shelling out $15/month just to participate in things like the auction house and holiday events shouldn't seem like a burden for what still amounts to a single-player experience.
You said it yourself in a recent post: $/hour, there's no better bang for your buck. MMOs are so very much larger and more involved than any single-played game can be; even playing solo there's much more to do. Plus, even if you don't PLAY with others, things like the AH are side effects of other players that solo players make use of.

Playing devil's advocate, here; my favorite mode of play is 5-man dungeons, but I've got Loremaster so I've done my share of soloing. :)
You can't really talk of any game being solo-friendly or not as a whole.

It wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to describe WoW as solo-only up to a point, then solo-meaningless beyond that. There's a very narrow band in between where someone can group on a Monday and solo on a Tuesday and achieve something both days.

Given that antagonistic game design, it's not surprising that solo-only players come to think their game experience would be made better if grouping wasn't just discouraged with subtle penalties like less loot and xp, but outright considered a form of unfair cheating (like gold-buying, or how twinking used to be viewed) and the accounts of those attempting to do it banned whenever caught.
Competition and proving yourself is a big part of mmorpgs.

How better to prove yourself than achieving something "impossible" all alone. You have all your braging rights, like gear, items, titels and what not, right there for everyone to see and admire.

In singleplayer-rpgs you just have the story and the challenge and very little competition.
I like solo-oriented play in an interactive world. Trade, chat, role-playing are all multiplayer activities that I engage in. However, group tasks where my success is determined by finding the right players of appropriate class, spec, gear level, skill, temperment, and schedule is a turn off.

It is like Golf -- you can play alone with others but your success does not require a guild or team! I can still play along side others, talk about it with others, even compete with others but not be forced to sit on the bench if other players are not around to play with. Playing Golf on an empty course with NPCs in the clubhouse (like an SPG) would be boring. Alternatively, if I want only group-play, I would not play Golf, I would play volleyball.

People typically fall into three types of social character - Introvert (prefer mostly independent time), Tribal (do almost everything with a well known group of friends or family), and extrovert (always doing something with a new person or people all the time).

A solo RPG only has to cater only to the first group. An MMO can cater to any or all three groups. I believe successfull MMOs have a little something for everyone.
I agree with many of the statements here. Being a participant in a living world, watching the fun, joining when you want, a much more relaxed atmosphere.

I would add that there are down-sides to joining a guild (from a social perspective) to better participate in MMOs. Primarily I don't like the drama of particular individuals who demand you play or support in a particular fashion. I think the real test of a group is learning how all can work well together, and many groups fail to do that.

Second and just as important is the scheduling and the waiting for group events. Different time zones, different commitments, wait-wait-wait. Much easier being a solo player who has the option to join groups.

Then there's the drama of the guild members wanting - demanding - participation in the forums, taxing your hard-earned gold, relegating you to sucky jobs. Bleh.
VatecD and Gavin voiced most of my responses, but I will reinforce this one: the economy.
Most of my time questing in WoW is solo. I have run a few heroics just to see the content, but for my purposes (running old content that I haven't seen much of, or want to challenge) I don't need the gear rewards.
It is at the Auction House and in the Trade Channel where I really appreciate the multiplayer aspect. That is the only PvP I engage in (two HKs otherwise;). I provide a service, i.e. converting my time into scroll enchants, ammunition, and other bits and bobs, and I try to know the market well so I can be competitive with others of the same ilk. It's a mini-game, and one of the biggest reasons WoW interests me so much.
I actually feel pretty claustrophobic playing a single player game, just *knowing* there's no living being in that space except for me. I find the chatter, the busy scenery, people running to and fro and banking things and talking to NPCs alongside me to be comforting and make me feel like a real part of the world.

However, I still opt to solo *most* of the time because of the blocks of time in which I'm able to game, and because it's rarely simple or easy to quest in a group unless you are very specific and fairly co-ordinated.
It's a single player game with better chat features.

For instance I've been playing Aion, Borderlands, and L4D2 lately by myself but I'm still in vent talking to friends.
One thing not yet mentioned is forum participation. Even if you take soloing to an extreme and don't group, guild or chat in-game, some people like discussing whatever they're playing in forums, and with an MMO, the forum doesn't dwindle away to a small hardcore group six months after release. You'll always be able to find people out-of-game who are doing the same stuff.

I know one guy who admittedly does group sometimes and is a guild-member, but spends a lot of time on forums when he's at work (during breaks, I'm pretty sure). Single-player games aren't as good for that.
Even for someone like you are describing Tobold, they might still like the feel of "intelligence" that players moving around exhibit, or perhaps the random surprises that players create that an AI cannot. Other than that I have no idea. Maybe they would be better off playing torchlight or dungeon siege.
"There should be no content where soloing is less efficient than doing it as a group."

...people... people seriously SAID that?

Have ANY of these people tried to group? EVER?

Groups are made of elemental inefficiency just on the face of them, due to communication and lag and everybody not needing to use the bathroom at the same time and a dozen other factors. If groups can't get things done more efficiently than solos from at least a numerical perspective why would anybody join them?
OK, let me explain. I think all content should be possible to solo, but I think the rewards should be higher for players who complete the content as a group or as a raid.


The quest requires a particular item from a Dragon's bed of treasure. You can either sneak in and steal it (solo) or you can go in and kill the Dragon (raid). If you steal the item, you can't carry out any extra loot, because you'd risk alerting the Dragon, but if a raid kills the boss mob - then the guild gets multiple reward items to dispense among it's members.

Raiders get what they want, prestige items, and casual players get to enjoy the same content, but with less reward.

Everyone is happy.
Tobold, maybe you should rephrase your question. Instead of "why play an MMO if you want to solo everything", to which a number of posts here have great answers, ask this: "What should the difference be between the level of endgame rewards in solo play vs. group play?"

The extreme solo-inclined players will respond: "No difference -- rewards should be a measure of skill, which is easier measured solo than having 25 people doing a memorized key-press rotation while not standing in the fire". The opposite extreme, the group-inclined players, will say things are fine the way they are, since raiding offers its own strategic and organization challenges which measure a broader set of skills.

In TBC, the Shartuul event challenge was a great test of solo skill. Unfortunately it dropped BoE equipment. I wouldn't mind if BoP Tier-X shoulders only dropped from such a solo event, to distinguish who had enough skill. Then to complete the full tier set, you'd have to both raid (have a good guild/group) and have the skill to beat a hard challenge on your own.
...asks the guy who wrote an article on indirect and direct interaction between players in MMOs.

The better questions are in your follow up comment, Tobold, asking about the "extreme" positions of "everything should be soloable" and "soloing shouldn't be less efficient".

Why not just ask about those directly, instead of throwing out an old red herring that has been addressed in depth, more than once?

I'll answer those other questions, though: Yes, I think everything should be soloable (though with value shifted rewards to incentivize group play), but that soloing should be both more and less efficient, depending on what activity we're talking about.

First, making everything soloable, albeit with shifted rewards: All paying players should have access to everything. That's the implicit promise of a "one size fits all" subscription, or even a Guild Wars box sale. To be sure, people will play at different rates, but all of the *content* should be available to everyone. Anything less shows the lie (or logical hole) in the "subs are even ground" arguments. If you want to shift the reward scale so that soloists get rewards that are one step behind those available to groups, that's a fair trade in my book. The ultimate rewards should also be available to all, though, but soloists should have to do something extraordinary to get them. (Likely skill-based, not an unholy rep grind or some such nonsense.)

This means scaling dungeons or some other equalization metric, and maybe even unique quest chains. To be honest, I feel that's long past due anyway, since not everyone wants to group in batches of 5, 10, 25 or 40, and highly specific and targeted quest chains seem to be fairly popular. Let the players set their own "target" population scale for the scaled dungeons, and highball or lowball it if they choose (with concurrent scaled rewards if you really want to be fussy about "fairness").

That's a lot of work, though, which is why we don't see it happening. One alternative is "Guild Wars"ish henchmen (warm NPC bodies with mediocre AI can even be better than some players), or even some sort of buff, not unlike the "reclaiming the Undercity" staged scenario.

That, of course, ties into solo efficiency. In some ways, WoW at present is already more efficient soloing in places, and less in others. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and having a variety of situations across the spectrum lets players choose what they want to do. Extending that to the "soloists in all content", you'd again wind up with scaled dungeons, and perhaps even alternate dungeon designs. More work.

One way around this is a "ghost mode" (or the aforementioned "Undercity Superbuff") for those who just want to see the content and *not* get the loot. Of course, there we start to look at two different approaches; do these arguing the "extreme" positions want content or loot? I argue most strenuously for content access for all (which is why a lootless tourist ghost/superbuff mode works for me), but I really don't care one way or the other on the loot angle.

If soloists want the same loot as the groupies, and scaled dungeons are too prohibitive to produce, insane rep grinds (or some other exorbitant cost) are the easy solution. Dumb, but easy.

That said, I'm not sure there's a compelling case for equal loot for soloists. Content, yes, loot no.
It's a good question, and here's my take on it.

Many people who don't want to deal with other people, yet who desperately want to play MMORPGs, aren't thinking of people as people. They are thinking of them as abstracts. People are "options" or "disposable help".

Look at some of the other comments. They basically say this -- "I don't want to deal with people, but I'd like the option of using one when I need it" or "people are lame, but sometimes they're necessary to get what you want" or the milder "I don't want to interact, I just like knowing people are there". (These are paraphrases).

In other words, a single-player game does not offer convenient people that can be used as a means to a selfish end when the anti-social player wants them.

To be fair, a lot of people stumbled into WoW not because it was a social game but because it was a cool game, and they never intended to be social. Still, I detect more than a hint of people in this thread thinking of other online people as disposable objects.
Single player games I have found to be too linear. There is an end. Even though there is a direction in a MMORG, the course can weave to my will and pleasure.

There's a place for both, but the construction of MMORG's allow for a winding course and maybe more freedoms that one can enjoy compared to the single player game.
Heh, let's not even get started on guilds. I was one of the founding members of one of the first guilds on Guinevere/Albion in Dark Age of Camp-a-lot. I lived through the evolution from member of "ambitious small guild" to officer of "prime mover in one of the biggest alliances." We mounted one of the first keep raids, one of the first relic rescues, etc. And as our success increased, so did the pressure from the members to "organize things for us you lazy %&$@s!!!!!! You invited us to your guild, it's your JOB to entertain us!!!!!!"

I already have a job; I don't play games to fill that particular need in my life. I play games to have fun. Guilds, for me, tend to sap most of the fun out of a game. I already have obligations in the real world; I really don't want to have a ton of obligations dumped on me every time I log in to my "leisure activity."
My thought?? Why WOULDN'T a developer want to cater to solo players and get an extra sub?
Thus, why not offer all content as solo-able as well as group based?

So, just because a player wishes to only pay 15 bucks a month instead of 30-60 for a game...I mean...I think I see what is the better deal here.

This argument is played out actually, and should not exist. A smart developer WILL cater to both, and who cares how the player wishes to play.
"- There should be no content in a MMORPG that cannot be soloed.


- There should be no content in a MMORPG where soloing it is less efficient than doing it in a group."

I think these are more great examples of people demanding that a particular style of video game change to match their preferences instead of playing games that already do that. (single player games)
"WoW does not really offer these advantages anymore. It does not offer a world but a playground. It drifted too far away from an immersive, credible simulation of an alternative reality, which it was in the beginning. It can still be a lot of fun, but: Soccer is not really a war simulation and WoW is not really a fantasy-world simulation."

"To be fair, a lot of people stumbled into WoW not because it was a social game but because it was a cool game, and they never intended to be social. Still, I detect more than a hint of people in this thread thinking of other online people as disposable objects."

These are both excellent insights and I agree with them completely.
Tobold shouldn't have to rephrase his question.

Why play ANY MMO if you are not going to partake in the MMO aspect of it. Wouldn't Dragon Age be more to your taste?

It's a valid question. Lots of people have different reasons for solo'n in MMO's. There are enough people interested in it that developers make content focused at it.

However it still raises an interesting question, why bother? MMO's were never intended to be played by yourself. They are designed around social interaction. Why play when and then choose to avoid the majority of the social interaction?

(I can think of a few reasons but all and all they are rather weak justifications)
If you ever sell or buy anything on the AH, you are not playing solo.

Playing The Elder Scrolls was my first foray into "modern" video gaming. I loved it. But playing in my dark living room at 2am when other sane people were asleep started to feel lonely and even somewhat unhealthy.

When I gave WoW a try, I marvelled that there were other people out there. I grouped TWICE (poorly) in the first 8 months while I leveled to 70, and never PvP'd.

But I played the AH, laughed at trade chat, and just felt like I wasn't the only dork awake at 2am wasting time on a video game.

Call it Gevlon's dreaded "social", but it just seems that there's at least an illusion of a "point" to the game when there are others about.
I think it is crazy that so many of you are insisting that the existence of a server somewhere automatically dictates what kind of game it is "supposed to be." To me, this is the same as saying Left 4 Dead is poorly designed because games without a central server are "supposed to be" solo, with maybe some multiplayer parts. Games are "supposed to be" fun. Any other "supposed to be" is a load of BS.
It's an odd thing, isn't it. I never used to understand the desire to solo although I do more now. For me, it's a time thing. If I'm online for a few hours, I want to group but if it's only for 30 or 45mins, I'll just solo.

I like having the flexibility but I can't really understand why it would be the main focus of play for someone.
Hasn't this question been ground into the dirt by now? It has been discussed ad nauseum on every mmo forum since the genre began. I can't help but think that people who ask this question are really asking not "why dont solo players group w/ others" but "why wont other players group with me?"
Sometimes I like to be alone, sometimes I like company, sometimes my friends aren't around to play. To keep my subscription to a game, it should accommodate a wide variety of my play styles.
Your thought misses my intention.

I soloed 95% of WoW, but I grouped at every opportunity and enjoyed it.

For me I play like I live. When an opportunity to collaborate presents itself in game I will take it. If I'm forced to succeed by grouping I lose interest.
I solo 95% of the time, but I don't play single players games anymore. I like the infrequent casual interactions with other real players.

I also PVP 95% of the time the same way. Solo. But its hard to PVP on a single player game.
You need to read this great post by another blogger that pretty much sums it up for me
I found out the answer tothis only this month, when I played "Dragon Age".

An offline, solo game is not "real". That's pretty much the nub of it.

We can nitpick over what meaning the word "real" has in the context of pretending to be a gnome or a fox in a world full of magic and dragons, but whatever "reality" is in a fantasy world, the more people sharing it, the realer it feels.
In my opinion, WoW would be a pretty good solo game if you took out the MMO aspects.

There are plenty of classes which are all different and viable. There is plently of quests and areas. There are cool abilities and gear.

The only weakness is an overarching storyline.
I'm sure you've already seen it, but there's a lot of research on this issue.
Why should I want to avoid a game when it comes out ? I love Lord of the Rings lore, so should I want to avoid it just because it is an MMO ? I am a parent as well and a business systems developer and don't have the time sink for grouping.

I love the fact that the LOTRO MMO does provide me the option to Solo and just enjoy the game I paid for like anybody else... The fact that it has MMO capabilities is cool and adds to the game, but otherwise I would want to solo most of it - if I want to. Actually for me it is a frustration to know I won't see the whole game I paid for, just because certain areas are for grouping only. But I'll have to accept the fact, as after all that is the mindset behind an MMO. I do however applaud any changes to make soloing more acceptable in an MMO.
There's very few good co-op games for the PC around. (Borderlands is the exception, and even that we blew through once and were done.)

My hubby and I enjoy playing co-op together, and mostly Duo MMOs, with the occasional group to do instances.

We pretty much ignore other players, but it's fun to defend each other from the occasional ganker.

I agree with the other comments that the MMO world feels more "Real" than a single player game. I feel that my character exists as an entity outside of my Computer's save game files, even if it's just data in a database somewhere :)
Somedays I feel like being social and want to group.

Other days I just want to bang out a few BGs or levels without being bother by MMO friends.

If wow enforced grouping I'd lost interest long ago.
If one has to answer your original question, Tobold, then the answer is one shouldn't play an MMORPG. But the question is ridiculous, ofcourse, because I don't know of any MMO player that does not want to "interact with other players in other ways". Heck, using the AH is interacting with other players, albeit in a rather indirect fashion.

That being said, if I had to make a comment on the subject, I would really like to argue that what most people want out of soloing is the ease of play that comes along with it, not the lack of interaction. Being able to dive into a game, play for whatever time period one has at their disposal and be able to leave the game without any impact on other people is a very powerful bonus of 'solo' play.

Not being forced to depend on others all the time is a must for any MMO, imo. Sure, make some content where you have to group, but you gotta make sure that there is always something to do, always some way to progress your character for the person who does not want to spend more time looking for a group than enjoying the content.

Here's some food for thought: battlegrounds are fundamentally a solo experience these days, don't you think? Even though it mostly involves interacting with other players, you join the BG solo, you play according to your whims and you leave whenever you want. It's remarkably close to a solo experience.

It's not the server that makes me assume the kind of game WoW is... it's the fact that it IS a MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER ONLINE GAME.

You shouldn't avoid a MMO because you intend to play solo. However you shouldn't demand the content to be developed around how you want to play the game.

Should Diablo 2 release a patch so you can fight Baal with 24 people? No, because that isn't how the game was built.

Deal with it.

The existence of an acronym is an even stupider reason that a game is "supposed to be" a certain way than a central server. What if MMOG stood for "massively multiplayer online grindfest?" Would questing then be an unacceptable addition to the game, even if it makes the game more fun for a lot of people, just because that's what the acronym says it's "supposed to be?"

Define it however you want, but what I'm describing already IS the game of WoW from level 1 to 79. There is no reason that at the end game it suddenly becomes "wrong" to play it that way.
Samus, you simply can't be reasoned with. You want a multiplayer game to be soloable, which by definition eliminates the mutliplayer aspect of it. Label it what ever you want, you want the game changed to match your play style rather than finding a game that already exists that matches your play style.

I'm not saying there should be zero solo content in a MMO. What I'm saying is you shouldn't buy a Multiplayer game then expect and demand solo content.

Should I demand that Assasin's Creed 2 be multiplayer? No, I shouldn't.

You are falling into the common pitfall of a false sense of entitlement. You feel that you are entitled to play a game any way you want regardless of how it was designed.
Nobs, I am sorry you are taking this so personally. I am only trying to explain my preference in gaming and why I prefer it, an explanation I was specifically asked for as the purpose of Tobold's post. I like soloing in an online game, the way nearly all players do leveling to max level in WoW. I lament at the fact that this doesn't just become de-emphasized at level 80, it is eliminated completely. I wish there was some end game where I could play in the playstyle I prefer. I don't want to sacrifice any of the raiding or other grouping aspects of the game. I don't want it to be emphasized or rewarded over raiding. I just want it to be offered along with the many, many other things players can do in the end game.

Am I the only one who wants this? Then Blizzard is smart to ignore me. While I would certainly have played longer, and thus paid more monthly fees, I alone certainly do not justify the development costs. But I do not think I am alone, and I don't think you believe I am the only one either. I think it is clear there are many players who would want to play this content. If you think this would affect how you play in any way, I think you are wrong, but I still believe we have the right to ask for the features we want.
Samus I'm not taking this personally. I am a little amazed that you are so caught up in an acorynm though.

My problem with WoW is that it is trying to be the Walmart of video games. It is trying to be everything to everyone and it shouldn't. People feel every playstyle, genre, and skill level should have a place in WoW. I feel they shouldn't.

WoW is a MMO RPG. Lets keep it that way. There should be solo content, sure. However you should not be able to solo every step of the game.

I'm very practical. I know people want to solo and I know enough want to solo that makes their opinons matter. However MMO's are designed around solo'n. They are designed around grouping.

I pointed that I'm quite willing to do the "chores" that other players don't find enjoyable (like harvesting). I hardly find that to be "selfish." In fact, it's the heart and soul of capitalism to find something that you are good at/enjoy and make a profit doing it. Both sides walk away feeling like they got a good deal.

So please don't use loaded words like "selfish." It could just as easily apply to those who want to group all the time because they don't want to figure out how to do things by themselves. See how it looks from the other perspective?

Finally, electronic associations are certainly people. But it's very rare that they take on the same sense of tangibility as "real people" in the "real world." They're hiding behind a veil of anonymity which often masks their true personalities. Simply put, except under very unusual circumstances, you're never going to get to know them as well as you will even a co-worker or the cashier at the supermarket. That doesn't mean you should ever forget that there's a real person at the keyboard.

All that Massively Multiplayer Online means is that there are lots of player online simultaneously in a persistent world. That's it. There's nothing in there that implies grouping.

MMOs descend from MUDs. Many, many MUDs were essentially solo experiences (Rogue-like, basically). Ultima Online had group dungeons, but a huge number of players preferred to run around and "do their own thing." Everquest was the first MMO that practically enforced grouping, yet the first thing many players did was try to figure out which were the best SOLO classes (Druid, Necro, etc.). Do you detect a pattern here?

Lots of players. Online. At the same time. That's it. How they choose to interact with each other is up to them.
@VatecD: If you're saying that there should be balance -- time spent soloing and time spent interacting with the other players of the game in some way -- I'll heartily agree with you. People who never want to be with other people and people who can't stand to be alone for ten seconds are two extremes I'd never advocate.

But so you see my point, I do spend most of my time in-game doing solo things. Harvesting, like you said, for the greater good of friends and guild. What grows tiresome is that I often must deal with people in groups who do not think of me as a person. They think of me as a means to an end for themselves.

Now, if they're nice about it, and fair, and generally respectful, I'm happy to be used in this way because I get a good experience and everyone is happy.

Unfortunately, the abstraction that allows humans to think of others as being "less real" also tends to allow them to be much crueler, ruder, and unethical. We as humans can think of others as non-persons, as something like a slightly more sentient NPC or a robot -- therefore we don't care about their feelings, their personality, their generosity -- we care only if they are around when we need something done for us.

That is the sort of thinking I do not like to see in a game that involves social interaction, and there were definite hints of it in some of the above posts.
There is truth in your words. However, a lot of people don't have schedules that allow them to regularly join a group and therefore find themselves struggling in some missions. So, having to be a part of a group to overcome a lot of difficult missions is somewhat of an unwanted struggle.

Also, a lot of players choose to go solo simply because that's the way they prefer to enjoy the story and development of their character inside a populated and living world. Sadly, about 95% of these MMOs don't cater for this.

Like it or not EverQuest is the father of MMO's. Ever MMO since then has focused on grouping UP UNTIL RECENTLY.

MUD's evolved from P&P D&D which was about playing in groups... with friends.

If you want to keep tracing it back in time I can point out 10 games that are intended for groups for everyone one that is played by yourself.

That's not the point. Without groups MMO's are no more than Diablo 2 with a graphical chat room... ie Dalran.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be solo content. What I'm saying is that shouldn't be the focus. Group play should be the focus. If you want to create or play a game that focuses on single player game style find a different genre.

Unfortunately, that's the nature of the Internet as a whole. There's a fairly famous line:

Anonymity + Audience = Jerk (actually, it's another word that begins with "A" but I'm being nice ;^)

From the EQ newbs begging for "SOW plz!!!!" to AC newbs demanding "buff me plz!!!!" to players of more modern MMOs joining a group for exactly as long as it takes to complete whatever quest they are working on and then bailing, this isn't going to change.

And let's not even talk about MMO forums....

But there's also a world of difference between those people and someone who simply doesn't want to (or can't, due to time constraints) group. Just because I consider other players to be basically "sophisticated NPCs" does not, by default, make me selfish. I treat them exactly the way I want to be treated: I want to be left alone ;^)

I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree. I could just as easily insist that Ultima Online is the "father of MMOs" or even Asheron's Call. That's not going to make my statement any more true than yours.

And as for it only being "recently" that grouping has declined in MMOs, I'm also going to disagree. Sure, EQ had forced grouping. Dark Age of Camp-a-lot (The Game of Riding Horses from Snowdonia to Lyonesse and Back!(TM)) had forced grouping. But the developers of the third generation MMOs (EQ2 and WOW) recognized that they were missing out on a huge market segment by imposing this playstyle on their players. WOW adapted quicker and became the 800 pound gorilla, in large part because it "grew up" and moved away from forced grouping.

Here's a thought for you: if grouping is so much fun, why does it have to be "forced" upon players; shouldn't players flock to this playstyle just because of the fun? If you want MMOs to encourage grouping, you might want to pursue a strategy of positive reinforcement (by rewarding grouping, making it easy to do and fun) rather than negative reinforcement (rewarding people for not soloing) or punishment (punishing people for not grouping).

MMO developers are in the business to make money. Providing a game with a low barrier to entry, that allows players to play however much they like in whatever way they like seems to be the formula for making money.
Here's a thought for you: if grouping is so much fun, why does it have to be "forced" upon players; shouldn't players flock to this playstyle just because of the fun? If you want MMOs to encourage grouping, you might want to pursue a strategy of positive reinforcement (by rewarding grouping, making it easy to do and fun) rather than negative reinforcement (rewarding people for not soloing) or punishment (punishing people for not grouping).

I have to say, this is an excellent point. At a certain point, you have to question the sincerity of someone who says that most people prefer grouping, but at the same time believes that when given the choice, everyone will solo.

On the other hand, I do see this from a developer's point of view. MMORPG players are dumb and stubborn by nature. They will do whatever it is that levels them the fastest. If grinding is the fastest way to advance, players will ignore your quests and grind, and then they will accuse you of making a grindfest.

But I also agree that you don't need to use negative reinforcement or punishment. Why do people do 25 man raids when 10 man raids would be so much easier? Because 25 mans are where the best gear is, so that's what they do. If Naxx had the best gear right now, everyone would be doing Naxx. It is very easy to control the direction of your player base through rewards.
"If you only want to play solo, and not cooperate in group content, nor interact with other players in other ways, why play a MMORPG in the first place?"

You are assuming that solo players in MMO's always want to play solo which is not always the case. Surely it's good to have the option to solo or group?

Some of the worst times I had on Warcraft that ultimately contributed to my quitting was waiting around for groups. Either for it to start, fill up, come back from the toilet, replace players who logged off, and so on...

I'd have liked the option to take 9 henchies into a raid as long as there was some system in place to reduce the quality of loot compared to what you could obtain by taking 10 human players.
Player flock to the easiest means of getting what they want. That's why you have to force grouping, because if it's just as easy to do by myself then why should I group?
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