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Game by Night

Game by Night regularly provides entertaining and thought provoking content for members of the MMO community. Don't forget to visit the official site at and subscribe to the feed!

Author: GameByNight

The problem with grouping

Posted by GameByNight Wednesday September 23 2009 at 4:07PM
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For the longest time, I wasn’t a fan of grouping. I played solo, talked in guild chat, and was happy with only teaming up when it was time to run a dungeon. It stands in contrast to how I’d played MUDs beforehand. I had been social before and would meet up with friends I’d made in-game to adventure often. Yet, when I made the jump to a “real” MMO that disappeared. I became a voice in guild chat and the occasional raid buddy.

Nowadays, things are much different. I love grouping, talking in vent, and generally being a community member instead of just a player. So, I ask myself: what happened?

I think it all comes down to opening the door on the MMO genre. The difference between then and now is that I had been playing WoW and now I’m not. Warcraft jumped into the field and proclaimed themselves to be the MMO for the non-MMOer. It was the game that opened doors except that, in doing so, they closed others in the process.

For some reason that I’ll never fathom, they decided that people who group to complete quests should be punished. Maybe it’s that that they want to “guide your experience” and leave less to chance. But why punish? At the end of the day, unless Blizzard tells you to group up, and sometimes even when they do, you’re going to get less xp per kill and progress slower than if you went it alone. If that’s not the nail in grouping’s coffin, I don’t know what is.

For a single game, the “solo to level-cap” ideal wouldn’t much matter. The problem is that game studios and, more importantly, publishers want to emulate WoW’s success. So, we see this model repeated until soloability becomes the expectation. No big game “forces” you to group. They might encourage it. But there are always ways to advance, even if it’s plain old grinding. Yet, that fact is one that gets lost in the complaints that players shouldn’t be “forced” to do things that “aren’t fun.” As a result, games release more “casual” content so people can play by themselves in these massively multiplayer worlds.

I didn’t realize the bubble my playstyle had been in until I escaped the WoW-trap and hopped between games for a while. I don’t like feeling like I have to do something any more than the next guy but I found out that taking risks and trying something new can actually wind up being a lot of fun. Darkfall, for all of its hardcore-i-ness was one of the single most fun MMOs I’ve ever played for the simple reason that it was the single most social game I’ve ever played. Yet it stayed true to its MMO roots. I’m not talking Free Realms social with Darkfall, I’m talking get together and overcome social.

Even though I’m not playing WoW anymore, it’s still the industry trend setter. It’s the Big Daddy of the MMO world and when it moves, people turn and look. And if, one day, it wears a blue shirt, it’s not unlikely that the other kids will start to wear blue shirts too.

You know, for all of the good WoW has done the industry, I kind of wish they’d never taken up a leveling model. I know, it’s the natural move, but doesn’t level separation create walls that’re hard to overcome? Someday, it’d be nice to have a game with all of the MMO bells and whistles that will let you hop in and group with from the get go. Levels don’t let you do that.

For the time being, I’m contented. I can solo when I want and group up when the mood strikes me. That’s something I really like about Aion right now. The K&G and Havok community are active and fun and a pleasure to talk to on vent. They say that community makes or breaks a game and I’ve found that true. As we move forward, I hope the WoW approach to grouping is something we leave behind. Keep the option, drop the penalty, and we all win.


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toddze writes:

The problem with solo centric games with grouping when you want is this; The only time people group in that type of game is when they NEED/WANT something. That is the wrong reason to group. It gives grouping a bad name. People join get what they want and are gone leaving the others SOL. I love grouping games, I cant stand grouping in a solo centric game because its never about the group, its always individuals. To many people get their distaste for grouping because they do it in a solo centric game, and thats a grave injustice to grouping games. To be honest if I didnt start my MMO hobby with FFXI, and with wow I would hate grouping too, I dont even think Id give grouping games a chance. But thankfuly I started with a grouping game (FFXI) and I know the difference is night and day.

Wed Sep 23 2009 4:36PM Report
GameByNight writes:

I definitely agree with your point. It still bothers me a little bit when people drop group without so much as a word. It's like... "okay, thanks for your help too." Oh well.

Wed Sep 23 2009 4:39PM Report
fansede writes:

 Don't forget grouping and raids takes effort. People might not want to be bothered by taking up time to assemble a team. Grouping is going the way of the dinosaur. However, things like Public quests, Open ended warbands and other systems to make grouping an easy process offer hope.

Thu Sep 24 2009 6:54AM Report
Death1942 writes:

XP reduction for groups is about the most stupid thing i have ever heard of.  So what if someone power levels with a friend to max?  It happens anyway.  You hear so many devs asking why they cant encourage people to group up for the group content the devs make so hard...its usually because grouping is simply not worth it. 


Solution:  Keep solo play viable while REWARDING group play.  Just killed 2 birds with one stone (provided the group content is half decent in the game)

Thu Sep 24 2009 8:01AM Report
daltanious writes:

I prefer solo as much as possible. Not because being unsocial. I help via chat if somebody ask and I know answer, if I'm a healer I will always heal player in trouble if I spot him, my rogue always open lock boxes for free as mage open portals for free :-) .... in other games classes does not have this special kind of "social service" ... but I like help with questing.

As for solo ... I like it for more adrenaline. Yep, in groups I find myself many times just running behind leader which know where to go, healing, dps-ing, .... missing a lot of content and environment. If solo, I must many times plan very carefully how I will get to my target, object, ... how to kill 3 mobs and not being killed. In group there will be always some healer to heal, resurrect, .... etc etc. Solo is more dangerous as you are always on your own. Of course ... if you get group of friends for quest that is soloable this does not count. As there are trivial solo and trivial group quests.

But I agree it’s wrong to penalize group play with GROUP quests! I guess Blizzard wanted to prevent gang grinding instead of questing. Maybe they wanted to prevent bunch of people just running through game. And the only thing in game I'm interested in is questing and leveling. Btw ... I find idea of leveling only natural choice. If you have just graduated medical school I guess you will not start brain surgery very next day. It will take time. Same with driving, exploring in nature, .... etc. I do not see any logic behind anyone being able to go in jungle without any preparation.

Another "why solo" is because of time schedule. Many times I have been searching for some group literally for hours ... and even days. Sometimes I was unable to find decent group that that quest become obsolete. Also if group is to big there is always somebody causing wipe because of wrong pull.

But of course ... never ever will everyone be happy with any game and any game will find somebody that will love it. :-)) Of course, many lovers keep developers going on so is imperative no matter why some decisions that there is enough high number of subscribers to actually help game going on. No subscribers, no game. And final reason (besides fun, enthusiasm, ....) why some company decides to start programming is ... money.

Fri Sep 25 2009 4:11AM Report
Wizardry writes:

Well not sure if the author was confusing what FUN is because i got the feeling he was saying forcing to group is not fun but soloing the same content is fun?

I would find it VERY difficult to believe anyone that says soloing an aspect of a game is more fun than grouping.Grouping almost always offers MORE choice and does NOTHING to stop you from still playing as a soloist ,even inside of a group.

All i have seen in solo play is EASY game play,and that is in every game that relies on it.EASY does NOT equal fun and imo the majority actually find some sort of challenge MORE fun than easy mode.

The ONLY reason and this is my opinion,that gamer's accept EASY game p[lay is because they are more infatuated with something as simplistic as gaining levels.I think it quite obvious to anyone gaming for years,they have seen how much important players put on levels,more so than anything else in game.

Levels in a game mean absolutely nothing,they are not about prestige or importance just simply a number you see beside your name.Even still i have seen nonsense with players actually insulting others or bragging because they had a higher level player than someone else,sad really but the truth.


Sat Feb 01 2014 11:53AM Report writes:
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