This is a PERFECT example why forced grouping does NOT work
I started my 14 day trial for Saga of Ryzom a few months back. I played the trial a few days on the starter isle...ran into a few group forced quests. Problem? I played Ryzom for 3 hours, for 4 consecutive days...every 10-30 min (depending how active chat was)...I asked for help for the group quests. But, 90% of the time, chat was completely dead...and I only saw a few people or less a time on the isle, and was never able to find a group for the quests or any help. I tried doing the quests myself, but no luck.I had no choice but to log out, and never log in again. The game pop was dead, and with forced grouping, it was impossible to do anything.
And that people, is why forced grouping does not work. It might work at a MMOs release when its most popular. But, once people get higher levels or into higher content, or the game loses a lot of population (like Ryzom) it does NOT work.
EVE you really do need a group (especially for PvP)...but it works, because the game has so many people playing it. And even then, in EVE you can solo if you want.
Forced grouping is awful in level based games, because after the MMO gets more mature, everyone is a higher level so you are stuck being a low level, unable to do anything. Sure, like in WoW there is usually always some new players showing up, or people making alts...but I often ended up (before dungeon finder) trying to find groups for low level instances, and was never able to get a group going. Dungeon finder fixed that problem, but before that...it didn't really work. Most of the time, I just ended up paying a high level some gold for him to run me. Wasn't fun at all.
Now, forced grouping in skill based games works a little better in my opinion, especially if skills don't matter as much, but what items you have or your own skill. Not perfect still, but way better than a forced group in a level based game.
Now, in WoW...everything was soloable pretty much (at least until end game), even group quests (if you were a warlock, druid, paladin or some other class, you could easily solo group quests). People joined a quick group occasionally, got the quest done, then never talked to you again and left. That doesn't work either. You never meet people, never build up relationships or anything.
But lets go farther back...in UO, you had power in groups, but you could be just a solo person just as easily. Well, at least thats how I remember it when I played...now, I soloed lots in UO, but I also grouped lots too and met many good friends. But UO, it wasn't forced.
And my first MMO was Asheron's Call. That game had tons of solo content...but...I often saw people looking for groups for things that could easily be soloed. I made TONS of friends in AC...but this worked because (correct me if I'm wrong, haven't played AC since 2001)...when you grouped, you got bonus exp for grouping.
In fact, because grouping was more optional, but provided bonuses in AC...I think this built up way greater relationships than if I was forced to group with them. I remember I tried FFXI for 3 months (back when it was new), and most of the time I greatly disliked the people I grouped with. I was forced to group with them because I had no other choice.
On the other side of the coin
Games like WoW, the community suffers greatly because no one cares to group with you, you never get to know people really well...and you lost TONS of exp for grouping. Not to mention all the ninja looting and item stealing that went on.
So, forced grouping = no, especially for low pop games (spend hours just trying to find a group if you can even find one, like what happened to me in Ryzom). But it always works (at least in my opinion) if you get bonuses to grouping, but can still solo if you want. Asheron's Call, Ultima Online AND SWG all offered plenty of "encouraged" group content, but still offered you a chance to solo just as much.
But games that DISCOURAGE grouping, like in WoW, fail just as much for me
Sure, MMOs are about interacting with people...but how I interact with people should be MY choice...be it if I want to group with them, spit on them, trade with them, kill them or any other ways I can interact with them in a MMO. But, groups should not be penalized. Make it like AC, UO or SWG...give bonuses to groups, not take away items or exp if you are in a group.