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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: On MMOs Going Solo

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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 16270

OP  9/25/12 5:05:11 PM#1

According to our latest Devil's Advocate, there is an increasingly prevalent trend for many MMOs to incorporate solo experiences into what is supposed to be a social experience. Whether or not this is a good things will be left to you decide so keep reading! Add your voice to the conversation in the comments.

There is a subtle but distinct trend in the MMO industry towards the “solofication” or “single-playerization” of the MMORPG. MMOs are still generally social experiences, but there are design choices and tweaks to how certain things work that make it easier to think of an MMORPG as a sort of expandable single-player experience. While it's not exactly a topic of scholarly or philosophical study, it doesn't mean we can't shine a light on this shift in the MMORPG. Today's Devil's Advocate attempts to look at the main reason people think MMORPGs are becoming Massively Single-Player Online Role-Playing Games... and then throws another idea into the mix for some extra tidbits of thought.

Read more of Victor Barreiro Jr.'s The Devil's Advocate: On MMOs Going Solo.

Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom


Advanced Member

Joined: 8/25/06
Posts: 1402

9/26/12 8:15:02 AM#2

I found in GW2 story mode to be the best personal mmo experience ive had. Once out of it..all the special events-skill points...etc  made it so socially interactive i havent found a better balance than what this game has brought to the table for me to play. And honestly i dont expect to.

and as far as the wvwvw= they nailed it!


Novice Member

Joined: 6/15/12
Posts: 326

9/26/12 8:22:06 AM#3
To me I dont understand why people want a solo mmorpg. There are plenty of rpgs, fps and other types of games that are solo. I like guild wars 2 when I bought it, but... I just havent logged in. My hope for mmorpgs is dwindling. Hopefully darkfall unholy wars will be a group based game like darkfall.

Novice Member

Joined: 1/27/10
Posts: 2784

9/26/12 8:27:27 AM#4

MMO devs should encourage all types of play. Some days I enjoy grouping up with friends and taking down some bigger challenges. Most days, I like doing my own thing while chatting up my friends. If I'm doing that in a MMO or an SPG, doesn't matter.




*in your game, ruining your genre

I want a mmorpg where people have gone through misery, have gone through school stuff and actually have had sex even. -sagil


Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/08/11
Posts: 78

9/26/12 8:30:04 AM#5

I like the 'conclusion' of your column, because it mirrors how I feel about 'other people' in MMORPGs: Many seem to see them as an arena to put the spotlight on themselves. I don't like that 'look at MEEEE!' attitude (and the following it attracts). In fact, such posturing turns me off such games.

That is, however, not to say that I prefer solo play. I like the cooperative aspects of MMORPGs - I mostly play as healer or other support character (like LotRO's rogue - a debuffer). I forgo characters that are strong in a solo environment in favour of those that shine in groups.


At least, I used to. because back when I MMORPGs started, I HAD such groups. I was part of a guild where everyone knew everyone. We knew each others quirks and gaming styles. We complimented each other while gaming, and as such our fun derived from how well we worked together in groups. How we adjusted to each other.

Today, I don't have those groups any more. I mostly play with total strangers. And in that, I enter the "Hell is other people" territory. Because I have no time to adjust to them, nor is that even recognized. It's every man for himself. We play alongside each other rather than with each other.

And to be honest, that stems from another problem: People in my age bracket (~30) have less and less time when to play, and have to move their schedules much more than when we were in university. It's simply a problem even getting a group together that can do stuff together.

And that is why I have begun to like solo content in MMORPGs. I still have the sense that I'm in a huge, lived-in world with thousands of others. But I can play the game when I have the time, and not have to adhere to a schedule. That's also why I won't and can't raid any more. For me, raiding in any game might as well have not been implemented - I will never see this content.


Phasing and solo-quest areas don't solve the problem for me, though. As I said, I still am playing MMORPGs because they give me a sense of not playing alone, and being in a huge world with a lot of others simultaneously. Instancing and phasing diminish that feeling to the point where I am beginning to wonder: "Why am I playing a MMO? I could just as well be playing SP, and that would have better mechanics and less lag."

  User Deleted
9/26/12 8:31:46 AM#6
People want solo and they want social, most solo games have no social aspect. So.... You invade mmo's and complain about difficulty and no solo content. I like both personally, I don't think I need to be in group 7 days a week, so some solo stuff is nice.

Novice Member

Joined: 2/20/12
Posts: 7969

9/26/12 8:31:50 AM#7
Originally posted by gravesworn
To me I dont understand why people want a solo mmorpg. There are plenty of rpgs, fps and other types of games that are solo. I like guild wars 2 when I bought it, but... I just havent logged in. My hope for mmorpgs is dwindling. Hopefully darkfall unholy wars will be a group based game like darkfall.


many of us have family, work, ect..I still want to enjoy mmos but don't have time to group most of the time and with my kids can't always commit a lot of consistent time grouping.. allowing me to enjoy the game with and without needing to group is ideal for me and many people.

I angered the clerk in a clothing shop today. She asked me what size I was and I said actual, because I am not to scale. I like vending machines 'cause snacks are better when they fall. If I buy a candy bar at a store, oftentimes, I will drop it... so that it achieves its maximum flavor potential. --Mitch Hedberg


Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/21/04
Posts: 8077

Logic be damned!

9/26/12 8:50:48 AM#8

How I see it -

I always enjoy playing MMOs with other people.

But for the most part, I only really enjoy playing with people I know and/or want to play with as my days of really enjoying PUGs and such are mostly in the past.

So the things I don't like to see are:

1. Systems that force me to play with randoms (PUGs) to progress my character - things like Raid Finder and LFG tools in WoW are useful for getting me into the content to do what I need to do, but they are souless and not really all that social unless you get lucky and get randomly paired with talkative, fun people.

2. Systems that force me to play with others to progress my character (forced grouping) - even if it's only with people I like to play with, if I am online and no one else is I don't want to be forced to sit around and twiddle my thumbs or find a PUG.

3. Systems that actively punish you for playing with other people - things like traditional questing where you and a friend need to each collect 12 Bear Pelts and due to drop rates and not sharing the Quest-loot drops you have to kill 30+ bears so you can both complete them.

Also included are things like linear quest chains and phasing/instancing of quest chains/steps that force you to be on the same part/step or you can't play together.

4. Systems that turn something that should be cooperative into something competitive - which is why I love PvE in GW2 because things like mob tagging and kill stealing and node ninja's are gone. Other players are ALWAYS a help and NEVER a bother. That's how you do it right people.

So yeah, I love grouping and group activities and socializing/social systems in MMORPGs, but I want to have the option to go it alone if the people I want to play with are not online.

Honestly, GW2 really is ideal for my play style - I can play solo, not compete with the people in the zones and still be a part of the herd for events- feeling like I'm part of something larger than myself - AND I am not punished at all EVER for playing with other people in a party but actually 100% encouraged to do so.

I've probably been lurking for way, way too long.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/28/05
Posts: 1

9/26/12 9:21:22 AM#9
That's exactly what is happening, I never saw a mmorpg made for teamming with the exception of City of Heroes. They were very smart, you can do anyone's mission doesn't matter the lvl, everybody get xp for the mission completion and you always have fun playing together. The rest of the games if you don't have the same mission of your teammate don't worth to play in team. Unless you find someone that can spend his time helping you even him don't getting xp bonus for the quest, he just helped because he has a good soul and you don't find this kind of player very offen. So you end up playing alone except for dungeons or pvp.

Elite Member

Joined: 1/06/05
Posts: 18486

9/26/12 10:11:36 AM#10

Whoa! +1 for  "No Exit". Great play.

good article, we need more columns by Victor.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/16/06
Posts: 898

9/26/12 10:23:06 AM#11
Great article. It really made me think about my own preference for soloing in MMOs. I always said it was to avoid jerks and asshats, and to a certain extent it is. But if I'm being completely honest, it's to avoid being judged as inadequate by complete strangers. As a geek, my social self-confidence is fragile enough without strangers telling me I suck. And it was also enightening to realize I don't like the mindset/mechanic of all of us using each other to attain a goal ( loot, exp, etc....). I love RPGs,  and I like to feel that there are people around in a living world, but I don't want to be responsible to those people. Hmmmm. Provocative piece Victor.


Novice Member

Joined: 10/15/09
Posts: 166

9/26/12 10:29:57 AM#12
Originally posted by Sovrath

Whoa! +1 for  "No Exit". Great play.

good article, we need more columns by Victor.

I've criticised folks for using “Hell is other people” in a superficial way on this site so it is only fair that I should give credit when it is discussed in more detail.

+1 from me too.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/10/12
Posts: 1403

9/26/12 10:33:31 AM#13

As a MMO player, I like to both solo and group. What I don't like, however, is having everything handed to me in a carefully paved path. These new modern MMOs feel more like book reading and movie watching - I have little to no control.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/06/08
Posts: 2370

9/26/12 10:35:00 AM#14

No one is more to blame for a lack of community than the people complaining about a lack of community. Everyone is looking for it, but very few do so actively; if you make the effort to reach out you may be pleasantly surprised to find people just waiting to get to know you, and thus play with you. That games allow a solo experience doesn't mean that's an experience that's forced on you, rather that the opposite is no longer an obligation.

To those that say that's not a good thing, think about that for a moment. Is a friend you've made really a friend if they're only your friend because they have to be?

"Forums aren't for intelligent discussion; they're for blow-hards with unwavering opinions."


Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/08/11
Posts: 78

9/26/12 10:41:26 AM#15

Senadina raises an interesting point: Playing with a PuG and its inherent risks - particularly for people who aren't absolutely self-confident.

I admit that I share her fear: I just hate it when someone I don't know at all finds fault with my gear, my talents, the way I play, or even my choice of race for my toon or its haircut. There's no limit to the things strangers can find to criticize (mostly in an inconsiderate, insulting way). And that's not a few isolated incidents; but it's not something that's spoken about very openly.

One of the most memorable moments in this regard was a healer, who, after having healed us flawlessly through an instance at the end thanked us for not chewing him out.

And that is why I dread joining any PuGs any more. Sure, from time to time, you meet nice people. But too often you meet people that embody the GIFT. And they can really ruin my day(s) by their sheer attitude. In a wide-open world, those people are a nuisance for a moment. You can circumvent them, or they go away. In group content, however, we have to abide them, even play with them. And that I abhor.

And that is why, for me, the whole design that incentivites us joining PuGs fails flat out: Because if I must run that risk to participate in any meaningful way in a game in a way that my schedule allows, I'd rather quit.


Elite Member

Joined: 9/16/11
Posts: 2423

9/26/12 11:03:58 AM#16
+100 for mentioning Sartre!

Keep up the good work! This article quality is above and beyond your typical article quality.

And yes, even though I am ENFP and I shouldn't think Like that, I agree that "hell is other people". You just need to look at MOBAs and their focus on pugging. In HoN it is known as Solo MatchMaking(SMM). For what is that acronym as well? Sado-Maso Mode(SMM). Oh gosh darn it! It is identical! Well... :).

I prefer to play with people I know(friends/colleagues/acquintances/clanmates), not with random bottom of the barrel scrubs. Because it is just Counter-productive.

TLDR: Awesome article/pugs are Bad/actual teams are awesome/Sartre was a git with trust issues(:)).

Apprentice Member

Joined: 2/16/04
Posts: 380

9/26/12 11:19:32 AM#17

For me, and a lot of MMO player friends I have, it's because times have changed.


When Everquest was out we were young.  We could play for hours in a block and camp loot over days.  We had the stamina and we didn't have the real life commitments.


Now that we're older, we have time consuming things like jobs and families.  Even if I had the energy to devote to that type of gaming I wouldn't want to.. too many years of doing it has just burned me out to it.


So instead I play with friends when I can and then I solo when I only have a little bit of time to play.  If I didn't have that choice I wouldn't be playing MMOs any longer.


The old generation of players have mostly moved on from our Everquest days and the new generation of players have grown up with solo-ability so they probably don't fathom how great it was.  The 30+ crowd is still a larger consumer of MMOs and you have to cater to where the money is.  I know I'm not the only 30+ that feels the same way (though I'm sure others will disagree).


Novice Member

Joined: 3/06/04
Posts: 1217

9/26/12 12:00:17 PM#18
FYI...Appear offline is nothing new. They had the in EQ and many of the older MMOs. Single player MMOs are a fail. Playing a old school MMO solo took skill to pull off but could be done now they just make them all easy for everyone.

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/29/04
Posts: 31

9/26/12 12:41:08 PM#19

The September 2012 issue of Game Developer Magazine has a fantastic article titled "The Care Bear Myth: Debunking a Game Design Urban Legend" by Jason Vanderberghe (creative director at Ubisoft) that might help shed some light on the situation.

The article describes research into player's competitiveness, with the original goal of finding "care bears" who don't like competitive gameplay. What the research found was that everyone liked competitive gameplay, but that some people inherently preferred team-based competitive games.

The deeper reasoning for this preference was that while some players took everything personally--they saw themselves as the only important part of a team and saw their own personal success as the only thing that mattered--other players internalized community membership and most valued community membership and success.

The research went on to show that the most extreme of the solo-type players tended to get the most enjoyment when their personal success was at the expense of other people's failures. In other words, by making other people lose, their victory became sweeter (versus a fully single-player game, where their victory came at no one's expense). Conversely, the most extreme of the community-type players tended to get the most enjoyment when the largest number of people were able to win together; ideally with nobody losing. And this type of co-operative play is most prominantly seen in MMORPG grouping and raiding.

It should come as no surprise that these two types of people don't really get along, especially in team play environments. I suspect that the play, No Exit, refers to a group of solo-type players. I've certainly seen them in raids: players so wholely concerned with being the top DPS they'll actively sabotage other people's efforts in order to get to or remain at the top.

The "problem" with solo-ification is that it attracts more solo-type players. This is a "problem" from the team-type player's perspective, who wants to find a team of mostly other team-type players to raid with.

I'd point out that the general loathing for a "pug" originated well after the development of MMORPGs; that, in early games where players had to group up to accomplish anything, grouping with strangers was not an unpleasant thing. This was because the extreme anti-solo-ification of these games tended to drive out solo-type players, leaving a large community of largely team-type players happy and able to cooperate.

Perhaps the simplest solution for everyone would be to administer an automated personality test to new players, and attempt to group them up by compatibility scores? WoWHarmony, anyone?


Advanced Member

Joined: 9/18/04
Posts: 79

9/26/12 12:48:21 PM#20

The answer if fairly simple for me.  I have been playing MMOs since 1999 and started with Asheron's Call.

Scale & Content

No other games really come close to the size and content that MMOs offer.  There have been a few that feel like it at first, but after some time in them you typically realize they are not.  This is not to say "all" MMOs have great scale and content.

Other reasons that make MMOs attractive to this soloist:

  • Others make the world feel more alive even if I don't game with them
  • Challenge to try group content solo (doesn't always work out too well)
  • Share the experience with RL friends and others if I so choose
Soloist/Group - 80/20 %
Even in a game like Planetside I did a lot of soloing.  Great fun taking out objectives alone.
As long as it is fun, which soloing is for me, isn't that the point of gaming?
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