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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 14025

OP  3/04/11 12:05:00 PM#1

Depending on your opinion, closed grouping in MMOs is either the best or worst feature in many games. In today's Player Perspectives, columnist Isabelle Parsley has a few thoughts to share about open grouping and the (in)famous closed grouping in today's MMOs. Check it out and then offer a few comments of your own.

In most games there are three modes of activity for the most part: solo, group or mega-group (raid). There's no denying that you can design content for groups, dungeon-wise, that probably can't be done as easily for a collection of single players who just happen to be in the same place at the same time. I don't happen to think instanced group-created dungeons are the only way to have fun multiple-player experiences, but this isn't a post about instanced vs. open either.

Read more of Isabelle Parsley's Player Perspectives: LFM.

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Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/16/10
Posts: 422

3/04/11 12:25:25 PM#2

I think this is an area were devlopers need to improve. Longevity in an MMO is create by content and by social contract. If there are multiple ways to work together, more people would stay in a particular MMO. When I played WOW, I stayed in it because family and friends were there. We had an opportunity to play together. It did ever last long because the content, especially Cata content, get be gotten through so quickly.

Raising the level cap isn't always the answer to "more social content". I am sure that there is a myriad of "horizontal content" that can be put into MMOs that players want.

EVE, although somewhat restricting, has open group content as well. Fleets can be created and left open by the Fleet Commander so that others can join if they want. Pilots can find the fleets by looking in the fleet window and all available fleets, whether from their corp or not, that they can join will show.

Gaming since Avalon Hill was making board games.

Played SWG, EVE, Fallen Earth, LOTRO, Rift, Vanguard, WoW, SWTOR, TSW, Tera
Tried Aoc, Aion, EQII, RoM, Vindictus, Darkfail, DDO, GW, PotBS


Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 14025

OP  3/04/11 12:28:35 PM#3

I agree with the whole "join at random with other people in the area" kind of thing that Rift employs. I played LOTRO but didn't start until it had been out for 2 years. Consequently, my chars were never "right" for instances and I was rejected more times than my ego could take. I finished the game through the latest updates and have stopped playing for now.

Being able to randomly join has been a balm to my wounded pride. :P

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Novice Member

Joined: 3/13/09
Posts: 96

Have fun.

3/04/11 1:01:32 PM#4

This will help put the "massive" back into MMO.

"I am the harbinger of hope. I am the sword of the righteous. And to all who hear my words, I say this: What you give to this Empire, I shall give back unto you."
-Empress Jamyl Sarum I


Novice Member

Joined: 9/08/05
Posts: 87

"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks" -- Dorothy Parker

3/04/11 1:07:14 PM#5

PS -- I don't usually know what the article pix will be till they're in -- and OMG that 4th one! My eyes! They bleed!


Novice Member

Joined: 5/27/09
Posts: 24

3/04/11 2:38:03 PM#6

love the open groups in RIFT they are fun, its easy to join, easy to leave. and same server!

for more formal groups I hate it when it takes 30 minute (or more) yelling in channel "group looking for tank" "Group looking for healer". An alternative to yelling is to register via some game "same server" mechanic, that you are looking for a group, but in my experience people don't use the dialog tool to register availability or know where to look in the UI to see who is available. Or in prior games the tool/dialog didn't seem to work.

Another solution is the dungeon finder tool in wow. For Dungeon Finder the only down side is that you get people who just don't play nice with others, or plan suck..or other issues. And in D.F. people take advantage that there is no real long term penalties for being an @#% hole. Perhaps D.F. needs to be limited to one server so that if you are an @## hole, the server will know about it, and you gain bad rep that follows the character around. One thought I had was to create a way to "report" what the person did via some addon to a database other players can look at. Such as tool takes a screen shot, captures the text in the window, and allows a player to write a description on what the offense was. A gearscore for player behavior if you will :p



Advanced Member

Joined: 4/16/04
Posts: 1467

3/04/11 3:03:28 PM#7

Things that have killed a lot of potentially decent games for me: The biggest, which is contradictory to the rest of what I will myself. I don't have 10 hours a day to play MMO's anymore.  Sometimes all I get is an hour or two at a time, maybe a couple times a week.  This is a lot different than in my DAOC days, when I had the time to spend.

Now, with saying that...the biggest killer of a game for me is soloing.  I like to solo. I enjoy it.  But the bottom line is...why am I paying $15 a month for a MMO where 9,750 people on the server are playing by themselves standing right next to each other and 250 are in elitist groups doing the pvp and or raiding?

I usually last a month, maybe two, and then move on.  Games have learned to cater to the extremes.  The people like me who don't have time to run raids or NEEDING to be in a group to complete quests....and the people that want/can spend hours a day in tight knit perfect class combo raiding groups. The Fun part in the middle has been missing for a long time.  Games like WoW try to patch that up by doing cross server stuff, which kind of sucks.  You might have fun one time, but you don't form any relationships, you can't group in the future...because most of the people are on different servers.  You can't hunt down the guy that Pwnd your face in pvp because he's not on your server.  There is not much notoriety or fame to really gain. 

So you end up with an entire server full of people paying $50 for a box, $15 a month for a subscription, $40 a month for an internet they can play a single player

Something like RIFT or WAR have done something right with the easy open grouping methods.  Everyone you are grouping with is on your server, you show up and leave as you like, and the option for more formal grouping is there.  I loved that about WAR....too bad the rest of the game design was either boring or made no sense.....but that's a different conversation from a dissapointed Mythic fanboi.

So with the grouping conundrum out of the way...the next big pet peave.  When I played DAOC, I didn't always win, I couldn't always find enough people to do raids, etc...but I knew who many of the players on the server were, I knew my enemies by name if they were notorious enough. I knew the pve guilds, the pvp guilds, the casual guilds and the and the guilds that were just jerks.  That is missing these days.  There is no community because people are either super elite or so random and into soloing the game because it's faster that way, that no one knows who anyone else is.

Get rid of cross server anything...unless its something like my server raiding your server and Pwning your face....Allow methods for casual grouping, and don't make everything able to be done by one person, or one person and a bot.

p.s. Battlegrounds break immersion and are lame.  They don't belong.  Add a reason for people to attack each other, or just get rid of it.  DAOC Frontiers...enough said.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

3/04/11 3:14:34 PM#8

In a way, MMOs started as one big open group - if two people happen to be attacking the same mob, they were effectively an open group.  It seems to me that party systems emerged from wanting to restrict who got loot - it wasn't so much bringing people together as it was keeping the unwanted people out. Then as content was scaled to challenge groups and limitations were imposed to avoid bosses being zerged, groups became too competitive, too focused on getting everyone walking through the one right solution to any problem.

The question to me is how do modern open quests avoid sliding down the same design road again?


Novice Member

Joined: 10/09/05
Posts: 534

3/04/11 3:18:15 PM#9

I find it very hard to believe this argument that finding or setting up a group is difficult. It can be frustrating, yes, but think it all comes down to this modern phenomena of wanting something to happen immediately all the time. We're in the realm of microwave dinners and instant presents here....otherwise known as a lack of patience.

I've been playing on Fippy Darkpaw for the last few weeks (The Everquest progression server for those not in the know) and grouping has been fun again. It's rarely painful getting going even though there can be some pain within groups when it comes down to a lack of communication and other things. That's all part of the fun for me though. Norrath has always had more of a real world feel than many of these modern, instant-gratification MMOs and I'd rather have that any day of the week. This is especially so if the alternative is the humdrum of Rift.

If you found yourself in a fantasy world I think you'd meet all manner of different characters and have to accept them for their failings and their abilities. I like to think it's more fun to deal with that in a game too. I play to be immersed after all.

On the other hand, I can not deny that there are times when all you want is a quick group for 30 minutes and you may feel awkward joining one only to leave shortly after. Thing is I've never liked these quick fix, quest-achieveing groups anyway. For me modern MMOs are far too dependent on questing as it is, and that is without making it a reason to remove the PUG.

So give me Everquest and the old mechanic of PUGs any day of the week. A lengthy group deep in the depths of some dungeon and with people you only met two hours ago will always be fun. That is even if the developers of modern MMOs are trying to rid the genre of anything that promotes or requires it. I say let's rid the genre of those developers.

All hail the Pixel, for it is glorious Orange!


Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 14025

OP  3/04/11 3:28:10 PM#10
Originally posted by Ysharros

PS -- I don't usually know what the article pix will be till they're in -- and OMG that 4th one! My eyes! They bleed!


I work quite hard to make sure your eyes ble...I mean to find just the right tasteful images to put into your articles. >:)

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Advanced Member

Joined: 6/05/09
Posts: 272

3/04/11 3:29:55 PM#11

Open Groups, one of the things Rift got just right.

The content has to be designed for them though, a few AFK or out of their depth players has to not stop the group succeeding.

But a very welcome change from the typical behaviour found in PUGs. Gz to Rift developers for that. This sort of concept is just what is needed to overcome the tendency for everyone to play solo.



Novice Member

Joined: 3/05/10
Posts: 1098

3/04/11 3:30:50 PM#12

Being unfamiliar with Rift and WAR, I don't understand the open grouping concept from just the info that was in the article. What's to stop someone from joining the group and then just soaking up experience and loot without contributing? Or worse, someone who makes the group even worse than it was without them (for griefing purposes or just from gross incompetance)?


Novice Member

Joined: 8/10/09
Posts: 116

3/04/11 3:31:05 PM#13

Well the open party system has really made RIFT fun for my wife and I.  We DO dislike having to drop out and reform our party, but that's something we've brought up to the developers already so I don't need to say anything more on that. :) 


That said, being able to just randomly run up on a site and NOT KILL STEAL is a blessing.  I remember people complaining about kill stealing before the whole "tagging" of mobs, and then when tagging became common people would complain about stealing named mobs.  That goes away mostly when everyone in the area can just group up, even if you're not directly working together at least you're not hurting one another.  


I have to admit RIFT has been the first game in a while, thanks to this system, where I've had regular contact with random players.  Cooperative contact I should say.  Hell, some of them even talk! :) 


Current Game: Asssasins Creed 2(PS3, Gamer Tag: Happy_Hubby)
Current MMO: World of Warcraft and World of Tanks
Former Subscribed MMO: Star Trek Online, Aion, WoW, Guild Wars, Eve Online, DAoC, City of Heroes, Shattered Galaxy, 10six.
Tried: Too many to list


Novice Member

Joined: 9/08/05
Posts: 87

"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks" -- Dorothy Parker

3/04/11 3:37:19 PM#14

@ Disdena -- technically, nothing, though that's behaviour you'll see in formal smaller groups too. It's an issue now and then (more leeching than griefing that I've seen), but on the whole it's not something I remember seeing all that often.


There will always be people who want to cheat or exploit a system. The problem is, when you start shutting down those systems to shut down the cheaters, you're usually also making life much, much more difficult and less fun for the vast majority of non-cheating players.


It's the same in RL, really. One jerk can ruin a good experience... if you let them. We do have a choice how we react to jerks, and these days I choose to blithely ignore them. I suspect I'll live longer and have more fun. ;)


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Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10942

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

3/04/11 3:47:03 PM#15

Originally posted by Ysharros
@ Disdena -- technically, nothing, though that's behaviour you'll see in formal smaller groups too. It's an issue now and then (more leeching than griefing that I've seen), but on the whole it's not something I remember seeing all that often.
There will always be people who want to cheat or exploit a system. The problem is, when you start shutting down those systems to shut down the cheaters, you're usually also making life much, much more difficult and less fun for the vast majority of non-cheating players.
It's the same in RL, really. One jerk can ruin a good experience... if you let them. We do have a choice how we react to jerks, and these days I choose to blithely ignore them. I suspect I'll live longer and have more fun. ;)

With rifts, your reward is based on participation. You have to do something. It may or may not be a useful something, but you have to do something. I've actually tested this. The fewer things you hit or the fewer people you heal, the less your reward.

The reward is actually separate from your membership in the group. You could be a member in a group that's at another rift entirely and your reward for what you did would be the same.

I'm not sure about other stuff like regular mob killing or Warfronts. It seems like you can get credit for doing very little, but I haven't done nothing in either of these situations, so I'm not sure.

I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/27/04
Posts: 239

3/04/11 3:48:42 PM#16
Originally posted by Disdena

Being unfamiliar with Rift and WAR, I don't understand the open grouping concept from just the info that was in the article. What's to stop someone from joining the group and then just soaking up experience and loot without contributing? Or worse, someone who makes the group even worse than it was without them (for griefing purposes or just from gross incompetance)?


Dunno if Rift is exactly the same but WAR's open groups are the same notion as a closed group just with automatic inviting.  If someone joins and the group leader (either the one that formed the open group or randomly assigned if the original leader leaves) doesn't want them there they can still kick them out - but there's nothing preventing the offender from rejoining unless the leader closes the group.


That said, the situations that open grouping is used in don't really lend themselves to anyone caring about the competency of the other group members.  In WAR it was either a PQ, which by-and-large was zerg-able (not really requiring any particular skill or coordination) or open PvP, which was pretty fluid anyway and didn't really depend on set piece attacks (again more zerg oriented).


Open grouping doesn't work (in my experience anyway) for typical MMO dungeon content (raid or otherwise) or for small group elements (scenarios in WAR for instance).  The grab-bag nature and the lack of permanence tends to torpedo that kind of content if taken by an open group.


Novice Member

Joined: 4/12/06
Posts: 42

3/04/11 4:20:09 PM#17

"humdrum of Rift"?!?!

I played eq1 since kunark released and loved it.  That said, I can't play it anymore.  It feels SO kludgy and out of date that it's impossible for me to immerse myself in it.  I would honestly be better off in a straight up text adventure.  When something as simple as mouse look is all messed up (fast right/left motion but horrendously slow vertical), I just can't do it.  

And I'm not sure which game YOU played, but it wasn't Rift that's humdrum.  It does indeed have elements we've seen before, but the level of polish and the addition of little details makes me go "Why the hell haven't developers been doing THAT this whole time?!"

Anyway, I love the Rift grouping model.  Oh look, there's a rift!  *button pops up to join the group already in the area*  Ok good work everyone! drop group and go about my business.  I can even merge my group into that existing group, just can't pull the group back out when we're done.  If they had a way to "group leave" to preserve your original membership that would be fantastic.

It also comes in handy when some d-bag is trying to ninja a boss that you had to fight off 10 trash mobs to get to.  Click the offending a-hole, merge your "group" (1 player) with his and bam. You get credit too.


Novice Member

Joined: 5/10/09
Posts: 148

If Ya Ain't Dyin, Ya Ain't Tryin

3/04/11 4:34:04 PM#18

Just a brief statement on quality and informativeness (if thats a word).


Isabelle Parsley  You Rock.  I enjoy your articles more than any other writer's on this site. Keep up the good work and live long and prosper.  I especially love how your articles are not self agrandizing ... just informative/funny and a good read.

If Ya Ain't Dyin, Ya Ain't Tryin


Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/30/06
Posts: 606

3/04/11 5:48:21 PM#19

For all its faults WAR at least gave us open grouping and public quests which seem to have been taken up and expanded upon in Rifts and GW2's dynamic events. MMO's are starting to feel more like you are fighting and adventuring alongside others now rather than just fighting others for loot, mobs etc.


Novice Member

Joined: 3/05/10
Posts: 1098

3/04/11 5:50:59 PM#20
Originally posted by an0maly33

It also comes in handy when some d-bag is trying to ninja a boss that you had to fight off 10 trash mobs to get to.  Click the offending a-hole, merge your "group" (1 player) with his and bam. You get credit too.

That's the kind of griefing behavior I'm talking about, except you've got it reversed. Someone claims a mob that you feel entitled to, so you force yourself into his group and claim the credit? That's what doesn't sit well with me. Dungeonfinders aside, the dynamic goes like this: one person extends an offer to join the group, the other person accepts. In that way, the game knows that both players have a mutual desire to cooperate. If there's only one side saying "this is a group now", it seems bizarre for the game to assume that cooperation is taking place.

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