Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Is MMO group content salvageable in today's AAA MMOs?
Of course I couldn't leave Hagu's "meta question" of yesterday unanswered. Not only do I believe that group content in a modern AAA MMORPG could be salvaged, I also have a bunch of ideas how. The solution is actually quite simple once one understood the problem, so let's talk about the problem first: Group content today is designed in a way that if you group with the "wrong people", your overall reward of your activity becomes negative. Most frequently in the form of "I group with incompetent players, I fail to complete the group content, I wasted my time".
The solution is therefore to make the reward for grouping always positive. You might still want to group with a more competent player for getting even more reward, but as long as grouping with anybody is better than soloing, most of the toxicity is gone. It would be very hard, if not impossible, to implement such a solution in MMORPG dungeons today, but who said that we have to? We can simply make questing in a group give a better reward than questing solo. If grouping with random strangers day to day was beneficial, people would be a lot nicer to each other, and make friends more easily. We could even have levelling guilds, which I sometimes hear advertised in chat, but which under current game design are unable to deliver.
In its most basic form my solution would be a simple multiplier to the reward of questing depending on whether you were grouped when you did the task or not (with your group partner being in the vicinity). Note that this isn't only possible for xp while levelling, you could also hand out better gear; it would also work for end-game daily quests that hand out some currency to buy stuff with. For xp this is easiest, and you can also give more xp per kill done together, which prevents grouping with afk players. With Wildstar having moved the genre back towards somewhat slower levelling, many people would be interested in faster xp.
If you want to expand on the idea, you would have to modify quests a bit. No more phasing preventing players from doing a quest together to start with. And it might be a good idea to have quests with flexible goals: Not "kill 10 wolves in the forest", but "kill wolves in the forest". When you come back to the quest giver, you get a reward proportional to how many wolves you killed, with each wolf killed in a group counting for more.
Note that currently most games, including WoW and Wildstar, are designed to make questing in a group slower than soloing. Which very much contributed to the "massively single-player online RPG" genre that we have today. Change the incentives, and playing together (and thus paying for playing online) actually makes sense again.