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The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight - Grouping

Posted by MikeB Saturday February 25 2012 at 4:50PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread "Know what I miss in mmo's? Grouping" by Siveria. Again, a fairly straightforward topic, Siveria discusses how he misses being required to group in MMOs outside of dungeon play:

Before you say "well mmo's these days have partying/grouping" I mean grouping where its required outside of dungeons to level up etc. The last game that I have played that was like this was ff11, I've played pretty much every mmo thats come out for the last 11 or 12 years. Most of them were bascally single player games with a glorifed chat room till the end. Recently ff11 lost this aspect to it when they made it piss easy to level, you still can group but now you can solo nearly as fast (least outside of abbysea). Personally I think the point to a mmo should be partying and interaction as its main focus, sadly most just have grouping at endgame or in dungeons, because its just not needed anywhere else.

Am I the only one who misses this aspect of mmo's? I've felt mmo's have bascally become glorifed single player games, with worthless "endgame" and no real goal to hit max level. What happened to the old mmo's? where it was about the journey and not the destination like it is now. I can't be the only one who misses those times... Also WoWtards and current gen mmorpg players please don't bother replying because you'll have no damned idea what I am talking about in the older mmo's, this is for the oldbies who have started playing mmo's way before wow.

Is Siveria alone in this feeling? Read on to find out!

Quizzical takes a more practical approach to the issue, noting the fact that many gamers simply don't have the time to set up groups these days:

The problem is when people who only have half an hour or an hour to play are forced to spend half of that time looking for a group before they can do anything.  If a game is only really playable by people who can set aside chunks of hours at a time every single time they play, then that's a very small potential customer base.  Far too many games assumed that players would magically find a group, without putting any real thought into how players would find a group--or in some cases, actively trying to make it harder for players to find a group.

Instead, what you need to do is to take a good grouping system like that of Spiral Knights, and then put it into a real MMORPG rather than a somewhat, kinda, not really an MMORPG like Spiral Knights.  And then you can require grouping without breaking the game.

Reizla agrees with the OP, recalling fond memories of more group-oriented MMOs, though not without some caveats:

I agree with OP completely. Moet (newer) MMO's lack grouping big-time and by now I've given up on finding groups in the 'open world' by now *is sad*

Lineage II (before the Goddess of Destruction) used to have some interesting party area's (both full party and smaller party) both in the open field as well as in dungeons (also the non-instanced ones), but with the coming of GoD that's kinda gone as well, unless you're 85+ and go to Harnak or ar 90+ the Gardens of Genesis or do the (daily) dungeons. The rest is all solo now :(

On the other hand, Aion still has area's that's a forced party area, which you have to go through to progress. And here we have a design flaw at lower levels where you hardly can go through them because of the lack of players around your level (I hope this problem will be solved soon when Aion goes F2P)

But in general, there are little to no 'open world' parties required anymore these days in MMORPG's. At times I'm wondering where the Mass of MMORPG has gone...

Kaneth feels that when looking ahead, Guild Wars 2 may offer a happy middle ground for most gamers:

GW2 seens like it could strike a happy medium between the two. When someone else is in the area doing the same thing you are, you form an adhoc group. Sure, you're not grouped, but the dynamic event will scale because the both of you are there. It's not forced grouping, but it doesn't detract from grouping either.

My wife and I have been leveling together in WoW on the alliance side (we're both horde normally). The thing I have found is that not only does grouping slow down your leveling rate, but there are also quests where one of us will interact with a NPC and the other can't do a thing with him for the duration. So we're having to repeat certain steps of quests. That's really annoying.

Grouping should NEVER be detrimental in a mmo, from a mechanics stand point, it should always add something to the experience. That's what's been lost when most mmos became solo friendly themeparks.

I really hope the GW2 system actually works the way they intend it to, and if so, that other developers will catch on.

Personally, I have fond memories of what forced or natural inclinations to group can bring to an MMO. This notion of wandering through these large worlds alone and simply consuming content with only the possibility of grouping with others later doesn't really hit at the potential of what the MMO genre can offer. This sort of idea can be accomplished in a singleplayer RPG designed for co-operative play (see: Borderlands).

MMOs offer the potential for much more. It's true that many of the older games did a pretty good job at showing us what the genre could be capable of, but the reality users such as Quizzal outlined in this thread is also true. It's easy to  fondly look back at the memories and the friendships that undoubtedly could have only been formed in these games that required us to actually interact, but I think a few of us  forget the pains of putting many of these groups together. Perhaps when we were younger and had more time for that sort of thing it may have been a nuisance many of us could tolerate in the name of community, but it is a very real issue for MMO designs that frquently force grouping upon players.

Kaneth made an excellent point about Guild Wars 2, in that implied grouping around these dynamic events may help forge friendships and encourage social interaction, which I think really cuts at what many are looking for. People don't need to look for each other, they simply need to come together around the content that is quite literally coming to them. Making grouping easier or even seamless is what I feel to be the right approach to this issue. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater as we have over the last few years has been understandably frustrating for those of us who recognize what this genre is capable of. Hopefully games like Guild Wars 2 can get it right and set a new precedent for the attitude towards grouping in MMOs.

What are your thoughts on grouping? Share 'em in the comments below!

davestr1zl writes:

I'm not really sure the GW2 route is the way to go about this. Honestly we'll just have to wait and see as it could be amazing or it could be terrible, but to me I just see it as being grouping without the actual grouping. What incentive is there to stick around with each other after a DE? Its not like in other games where it will enable you to do other group content where you'd otherwise have to go through the annoying process of finding a group again.. as you can just head to the next DE and do that with whoever else happens to be there or show up (or not, as it scales according to the number of people, or lack thereof).

I personally think that it will end up being worse in GW2, and is one of problems I have with the game (although there is definitely a lot else to love). I think that it will lead to less socialising and less grouping (or grouping in the sense that most people think of, and with the 'rewards' that grouping has such as interaction, meeting new people, etc).. all it will be is people doing stuff on their own.. but in larger numbers.

I dno i guess we'll have to see how it plays out.

Sun Feb 26 2012 3:36AM Report
fenistil writes:

Not convinced that GW2 will offer THE SOLUTION.

 

I mean DE are definately something interesting and good thing overall ,but until we will see some (even if a miniority % wise) content group ONLY in open world this wont be back.

 

Devs don't want to do this cause making enough solo content to progress through all levels solo AND making some areas / places with group ONLY content is costly & hard to balace rewards + to manage hardcore soloers that will whine that they cannot access 5-10% of open world content (even if they don't need it to progress).

 

Not only reason but one of reason this is a problem (finding ppl) is LINEAR often level based sytems in mmorpg.  You go through zone and leave them behind forever cause you outlevelled ,etc

 

This old system from D&D must go and never come back.

Sun Feb 26 2012 8:10AM Report
fenistil writes:

One more thing.

What I am afraid is that GW2 while overall nice DE system ,will lead to "playing along together" thing - which is not really grouping imo.

 

Sun Feb 26 2012 8:33AM Report
MadnessRealm writes:

I don't mind games offering solo-content, but the focus should always be on grouping and creating various incentive for players group up in the world. Why? Because we're talking about MMORPGs, and there's nothing more massively multiplayer online role-playing game than players interacting together throughout their entire adventure.

 

With the current MMORPGs, there's practically no difference with people moving in a real-life city. Lots of people around but they all ignore each others. Enter a restaurant, grab a meal (a quest) and leave. Rinse&Repeat. Thou shalt not interact with anyone!

Sun Feb 26 2012 8:42AM Report
davestr1zl writes:

@MadnessRealm I have to agree with you, but going back to GW2 (i know you didnt talk about it, but the article does alot and its a hot topic atm) - using your same analogy, i see GW2 as the exact same thing of people going into the restaurant alone and doing their own thing, but they just happen to all order the exact same meal.

Sun Feb 26 2012 8:59AM Report
MadnessRealm writes:

@davestr1zl  It will definitively happen in GW2 as well. What we see now is yet again overhyped gamers attributing "features" or possibilities to a game that's not even out yet, which, like with SWTOR, will only lead to disappointment. Not to say that the game will be unsuccesful, but as I've said in a previous post, hype is the largest game killer in the industry.

Sun Feb 26 2012 10:40AM Report
maplestone writes:

Whether or not you design your game with grouping in mind, I'm going to play solo most of the time.  When I reach the limit of what is comfortable and fun, I don't look for a group, I look for another world.

However, that is not the same as saying I want to be playing a solo game.  I want to inhabit a shared world, where I am influenced by those I see and perhaps I influence them (hopefully constructively).  But there's a certain feeling of just being part of a crowd, part of a community, even it's a mostly-anonymous part.

Raids, dungeons, bosses, guilds - there's prenty of content for formal groups (whether pickup or organized) what solo players are already shut out of.  At the same time, open-world content such as harvesting tends to be zero-sum: whoever taps the mineral patch first wins - making it very anti-social content.  What's sometimes missing are the little interactions and events that can just brighten my day, things that make me go "oh good, someone else is here" rather an "oh no, someone else is here" or "I'll have to give up, nobody else is here"

Sun Feb 26 2012 4:20PM Report
Banquetto writes:

Once upon a time, games used the stick to make people group. If you couldn't advance solo, you would group. End of story.

Next generation of MMOs used the carrot. They let you advance solo, but if you wanted the best loot and most epic adventures, you had to group. And the bigger the group, the bigger the carrot.

Finally, we're starting to see games taking a more creative approach. WAR may have been the first, followed by Rift, and next GW2, to ask the question "what is stopping people from grouping?" And then to take the approach of pushing people together into fun group activities without demanding an upfront price in terms of effort organizing and managing the group.

That's the way of the future. People ENJOY playing with other people. That's why they're playing multiplayer games! Devs need to make it easy to group, avoid incentives to solo (like long quest chains that are hard to coordinate with other people), and just let it flow.

Sun Feb 26 2012 9:45PM Report
thinktank001 writes:

I am really confused at what people see in GW2 grouping.   It looks similar to an old game called PSO, but GW2 lacks anything that appears to be a support healer.  I think people will be in shock when they find out that the game lacks a " grouping sensation ", since there are no roles for players during party play.   

 

Sun Feb 26 2012 9:54PM Report
zellmer writes:

Grouping in FF11 should be an experience that would  make you want to torture anyone that tries and preach grouping being required to advance in a mmorpg..

Spending HOURS sitting around looking for groups because it was almost impossible to solo (unless you where a white mage/beastmaster, and until they released the expansion....) was a gigantic PAIN..

Wanted to play/level up something like a Dark Knight or a Samurai?  Tough luck, damage dealing classes are to common, switch to White Mage or Bard and realize that you can never actually play what you want, while crossing your fingers that a group needs even the most requested classes..

Even the original Everquest wasn't as bad as FFXI once you got near the highest levels and spent your 55-60 levels (cap at the time) sitting around waiting for groups to open up.

This spotlight actually maeks me angry that anyone could suggest "grouping like FFXI" as a good thing..  When it was an ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED thing and a huge reason so many people quit after the first month or two...

Mon Feb 27 2012 5:31AM Report
Strap writes:

Surprised nobody has mentioned Rift DE system, and the effect of that on grouping. It sheds some light on how GW2 might work out.

For me, I found Rift DEs positive. With the very full areas when public groups were enormous the interaction was uninspiring, people just didn't talk, yet you felt part of a group effort. Also that "oh good, someone else is here" was present in sparse areas and there were quite a few times where an impromptu small group stuck together for a bit.

How it works out in GW2, we'll have to see but I'm kinda hopeful.

In the meantime Skyrim is doing it for me. :P

Mon Feb 27 2012 5:55AM Report
Wraithone writes:

Groups can be fun. They can also be an endless source of anger and fustration.  All too many people these days have such an over blown sense of entitlement, and lack of civility, not to mention common sense, that its really not worth bothering with them.  I simply will not play games that force grouping to advance. 

Mon Feb 27 2012 11:29PM Report

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