Tobold's Blog
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Playing together

While I cancelled my subscription, I still have a month paid for in WoW, so I'm still occasionally playing a bit. Today I was playing around with my level 17 goblin hunter, doing quests in Azshara. Goblin humor isn't everybody's thing, but I can smile about SFGs (Surface-to-Face Grenades).

My wife is sitting next to me, on her computer, playing her new paladin. Same server, same faction, and as it happens level 17 as well. So we think for a moment what we could do to play together which would make any sense: Monsters or quests you'd want the help of another player for, or at least things we could do together which would go faster or smoother than if we did them alone. No luck, there isn't anything. Quests are faster solo, and for dungeons you need more players. Tackling higher level mobs together makes no sense, as we can't get any quests for those.

There is no use for playing together with one other player. I find that somewhat sad.
What is this nonsense? Kill 10 boars is exactly 2x faster with 2 people than alone.

Collect 10 boar ears is just as fast alone as in group assuming there are enough boars around.
You prefer efficiency in a game over playing the game together with your wife?
Kring, trying to be efficient is half the fun while leveling. It's not like there would be any other 'challenge' left than trying to be fast. And the fun of walking through that fantasy world suffers quite a bit due to all the non-immersive features nowadays.
Uh?? "There's no use for playing together"? I play an MMO exactly because I cam play with other people and expecially friends. Who cares if it's not efficient, it's still a lot more fun.
Trying to be efficient isn't "half the fun" while levelling in my book. Indeed, fun is more likely to be a corollary of INefficiency than efficiency.

I do a lot of duoing with Mrs Bhagpuss. The overwhelming reason we duo is what Kring implies - shared experience. There's also "to do something one or both of us can't do alone". And there's an awful lot of talking to each other "in character", joking, teasing and arguing.

About the only thing that is more efficient is the actual killing of things, which does generally happen faster. Due to the large amount of larking about, playing the fool, showing off and having heated, pointless debates about trivia, however, far fewer things tend to get killed than would be the case if we were both soloing.

On Tobold's substantive point, however, I tend to agree. We found WoW a poor duo game compared to many other MMOs and it was a significant contributory factor in our relatively short stay there.
I play some characters with my wife and I agree, it is not effeicient. But do it so that my wife and I can play together, which I enjoy.

I agree with Tobold's sentiment, that this is sad. An MMO should reward people for playing together, not discourage it.
One incentive would be to give players bonus to experience points while playing in a group, like in ... well in another MMO I know of.

I leveled through a zone in that MMO yesterday in a group of three. Sure it was trivial, but it was fun and lower overall efficiency was partially offset by the group XP bonus.
If you're not getting it: the point isn't that he can't, shouldn't or wouldn't play with his wife. It's that, without the fact that they are, you know, married and presumably enjoy eachothers' company, there would be absolutely no reason to group together other than they can. And, as we know, people will avoid grouping as much as possible, precisely because it's perceived to not be as efficient.

Whether it's a sad reflection of the current playerbase, the game design or both is another matter. But it's still sad.
Wow needs duo skirmishes. That works for me and my wife..
WoW used to be a great duoing game, but yeah I agree, they lost a lot of that with the drive to solo gameplay.
I actually get both sides of this one. I remember vanilla WoW where there were a lot of elite mobs in the world and quests you could not complete alone. These could be fun, and challenging, and they even made sense from a gameplay perspective in that you had different "levels" of enemies.

But as time goes on, this kind of content in the open world becomes hardly to justify. As players accumulate at max level, there are fewer people in the leveling zones doing the content there. So these kind of "elite" quests become more of a obstacle than fun and interesting content. I'm actually already running into this in RIFT as I am finding it very difficult to complete the "Saga of the Endless" quests because I am leveling far below the pace of most people in the game.

As a side note, I leveled two characters from 80 to 85 in Cata before I canceled my sub... one with a friend, and one alone. The solo leveling went much, much faster. Granted this is just anecdotal, but for me, grouping up had no other benefit aside from some company while I killed my floozies.
I do think WoW questing crossed the line from "solo friendly" to "group unfriendly" in Cataclysm, unfortunately:

- Non-shared gathering experience makes it hard to stay in sync when levelling together.
- Phasing and linearity mean that you can't group up to quest casually, you have to be on the same step of each chain all the time.
- Group quests have mostly been removed and quests generally don't become available until they are already completely trivial to solo.
- Immersion as a group is hurt by the quest givers emphasising more than ever that you are the one and only hero, never mind the other guy you're running around with.

You can still group up of course, but it requires certain sacrifices these days. :/
I think what Tobold is getting at is that the game makes no attempt to make anything but soloing the most efficient and "fun" route to get from 1-85. Not that you couldn't, just there is no benefit, no reward other than the company of another human being.

WoW kinda adds that social part tacked onto the side. You don't need to be social to achieve what the game deems successful.
as long as you're both equal lvl you can easily work together, the only things slowing you down are the collect quests, as sometimes you'll have to wait for a round of respawns to get the missing items. Just level ahead of ;your lvl, go for the red quests, or yellows if red isn't available, the moment they turn green, get to the next place. Prior to cata this was more viable then now, and if you're using BOA gear theres no point to it. Since cata unfortunately my druid is perfectably capable of soloing red quests that require 2 or even 3 players. Its all the BOA gear you can get for him though wich accounts for a lot. Still without boa gear, red quests help out a bit. Especially if one of you is a herbalist. That experience was still shared the last time i checked :P
Just goes to show that just because you can play together, doesn't mean it's the best solution... and I'm referring to the whole efficiency thing.

No offense intended, hopefully.
Um, not to beat a dead horse, but in rift...
you can leapfrog quest hubs to skip to higher level quests
You can close Rifts, which are difficult to max out when on-level without some backup.
You can do the above while swapping roles with your partner every thirty minutes, so neither of you is locked into a playstyle for too long.

It can be revealing how even modest design decisions can substantively change a game experience. :)
I'm not sure it's true to say that you need more people for a dungeon. For the low level stuff, tank & healer is quite sufficient.

I suspect BM hunter + healer would be very effective.
The sad truth is that the game actually punishes players for grouping up during questing.

My wife and I frequently play together, most lately we were doing quests in Searing Gorge. There are several quests which are very annoying (to say the least) while being in a group:

* Heat That Just Don't Quit requires every player to use an item on 10 different elementals. Unfortunately that is not shared and each player has to do it individually.

* Lunk's Adventure: Spider Rider and Lunk's Adventure: Cranky Little Dwarfs -- same deal -- those would also only count for one player. Even worse, sometimes one "copy" of Lunk would "steal" the "kill" from the other player.

Shintar said: "Non-shared gathering experience makes it hard to stay in sync when levelling together."

Simply due to my wife's Herbalism skill, she's already 2 levels ahead of me.

All of this draws a very sad picture indeed.
>Simply due to my wife's Herbalism skill, she's already 2 levels ahead of me.

And yet this was something that for a long time was crusaded for! If you are advocating to get rid of it then I want to slap you.

Plus, you are rather uptight if you are really going to get upset over 1 or 2 levels. Even if one is, say, 6 lvls ahead of the other around lvl 60, that should not stop you from playing together - there are so many ways around it that you're silly to complain; the simplest is to have the higher skip some gather X quests.
Xax, he's not complaining about the individual idea of herbalism giving xp, but about how the leveling process discourages grouping. One of the mechanics of this happens to be the level gap, but that doesn't mean he's blaming the level gap itself, or the herbalism xp that caused it.
Seems Rift got it right. Quest drops and kills are shared, therefore duoing quests is 2x faster because of double DPS output. Plus there is some sort of XP bonus if you kill things while grouped. It was sort of significant if i remember right. And only one person has to have the quests, because you can share them with the group on the field.

Not like it did keep me subbed. Didn't have a friend playing the game with whom i could enjoy these features. :(
Doing yellow-difficulty quests in a group is extremely boring in my opinion.

But given your a hunter and your wife a paladin, what prevents you two from 2-manning a level-appropriate dungeon?

Just tame a tenacity pet and you are good to go!

My wife and I specialize in 2- and 3-manning dungeons and we know a tenacity pet is a real option in such cases. Try it, you might like it!
No, due to getting less XP while grouped, it can easily be slower in a group.

If you are a healer, then grouping with a DPS can be faster. But if you are lock/hunter it is hard to believe collect 10 ears is faster xp/hour in a group.

The main problem that causes me to avoid leveling together is schedules. If I have two hours to play on Tuesday and my friend has none or one, we quickly get out of sync. Someone who is a couple of hours ahead of me will have to endure gray level quests and zero xp/kill. Not fatal but certainly not fun.
Well yeah, I am sorry to bring Everquest up again, but it was always better to pair up in EQ because there was always outdoor stuff to do with 2 people that you could not do with 1 person and the loot was way better. If you paired up, you could break up a bandit camp, or a pair of druids at the druid stones, or some treants, I am sure there were lots of other things, too. And those bandits dropped quest items, so yeah, I am talking about quests, too. WoW has intentionally segregated solo people outdoors and group people to dungeons. You are right, it is sad.
Ignore the Trolls, I know exactly what Tobold means. WoW offers no challenges that suit a two player party. You you will end up killing monsters too fast to be fun, no challenges. Challenges is what makes something interesting.

There should be some content for 2-3 player groups where you need to use all or some of your tools to over come the challenge. The 2-3 player group content is lacking in most MMORPGs. I think dungeon variety is needed. You need a solo-dungeon, duo-dungeon, 2-4 dungeon, and your 5 man heroic and normal dungeons.
I would rather group with someone to quest than solo, even if it is less efficient - I used to do this all the time in vanilla and tbc
I find this a bit silly. I group with my girlfriend all the time. It is very often slower than soloing simply because she isn't as fast and as efficient as me. But I always love it and love duoing with her, simply because it is playing with her. There ARE some moments where I prefer to solo because I would like to get something done fast, but overwhelmingly playing together is it's own reward.
This what we've been trying to tell you Tobold. The new "on rails" zones stink. Blizzard changed WoW into a very lame single player game.
I was blown away in RIFT just because of this... I just started this weekend,and if not for the upfront cost of the game, i would not have played after the first game as it was just like Wow with more trees etc.

But then today, the whole rift thing came in. different lvl people grouping up randomly - and the game makes it very easy to group up - to take down the rift.

i remember the first time playing wow - and a fellow added me to a group to kill spiders in the cave in the n-elf starting area. today in RIFT it was the same kind of feel.

Though I do miss the humour in WoW - goblin or otherwise.
What I wanted to say is that your request sounds silly to me. You're lucky enough to have a wife which enjoys playing the same computer game as you do but you need an in game bribe to play with her? That's one of the things that ruined WoW (in my opinion). That we expect Blizzard to always tell us exactly how to play AND to expect that Blizzard tells us to play the way WE WANT.

What's next? Do you expect the movie theater to give you a discount if you buy two ticket because otherwise there wouldn't be an incentive to watch the same movie together? :)
And yet, in the other games which you consider copy cats, playing together is faster. Both people loot the mob for the item. If one person does the required action, both get credit. This is in both Rift and LotRO.
@Laura: There is 2-3 player content in LotRO and Rift.
@Kring -- Being someone who enjoys playing mmos with his wife, I can definitely sympathize with Tobold. In my experience, its not that we want extra incentives to play together, its that in many cases, its actually less fun to play together than to play solo.

1.) If a quest requires each player to collect 10 mob drops, then it is more efficient for each player to go by themselves and at different times. (e.g. if it would take 15 minutes to solo, then a total of 30 person-minutes are spent if we go at different times, but if we are doing it together, then we are both there for 30 minutes for a total of 60 person-minutes).

2.) Content is often so trivial that mobs are dead before each player has even gotten to do anything. In other words, solo content is boring when done in a group.

3.) Cataclysm introduced content that is impossible to group for. For instance, there is a horde quest where you have to borrow a mount from an NPC and ride it by yourself to another location. If one player is currently doing the quest, other players have to wait for the first player to finish (and for the mount to reappear) before they can take their turn. Blizzard made no attempt to make this group-friendly, so if you are trying to play with others, you are forced in this case to patiently wait for each other to do the entire quest by themselves.

The bottom line is that we end up occasionally feeling punished for playing together -- and this is sad considering what the middle 'm' in mmo stands for.
I've done many of the pre-wlk dungeons duo with my girlfriend, it's a decent challenge! We too miss the group quests of old, though, as partnering for regular quests is a terrible drag at this point. Mindless.
@Gevlon - You kill 2x faster, but get 50% as much XP per kill = 100% XP/hour. Plus there are the "gather 10 herb" quests that mean you have to find 20, instead of 10, which essentially nullifies the gain from turning in other quests faster. If you and your GF were to race me from one to the level cap, doing only quests, I would win. It has nothing to do with who is more efficient at killing boars, and entirely how Blizzard has designed the game.

It's odd how the leveling game has developed - espeically in WoW. All gameplay is suited for 1, 5, 10, or 25 players, but nothing inbetween (excepting Arena). It seems they may have even gone one step further

I personally feel this ties into aspects of end-game, such as player not knowing what CC is, how to use (or even know they have) certain abilities, etc.

I'm not really in favor of "forced grouping" to level (ala EQ). But "forced soloing" doesn't appear to be any better - or even arguably worse.
This is the biggest problem I have with WoW's evolution. I've always duo-ed or played in small groups through PVE content. That's the core fun of MMOs for me over SRPGs.

Now with all the phasing tech, silly vehicle quests with shared goals (so friend accidentally completes it while you're still reading the instructions!) and general 'face-roll' ease of it all grouping isn't as fun anymore.

Worst of all as was mentioned above I'm now falling behind my two fellow Worgen players because my skinning grants no XP but their Herbalism and Mining does - so I have to solo grind mobs every so often to keep in step!

Blizzard are so fixated on 5 or 10 group random stranger gameplay, they seem to be trying their hardest to dissuade us from playing with friends...
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