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News & Features Discussion  » General: MMOWTF: Going Solo: The Grouping Dilemma

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Managing Editor

Joined: 7/08/05
Posts: 6729

OP  6/08/07 10:51:05 AM#1

Weekly columnist Dan Fortier uses this week's MMOWTF to share his own personal opinions on solo play versus group play.

When someone outside looks at the MMO genre they don't see things the same as folks who have been playing for years. The terms like buff, nerf, AoE, and mezz don't mean as much to someone who has never played an online game since they are were rarely applied to the same effects in the old RPGs. (I don't recall ever calling Hold Person a 'root' spell in AD&D) Another misconception that is generally shared by the MMO-less crowd is that a vast majority of MMO gamers choose the genre because they are interested in the social aspect of the games. Why else would someone choose a Massively Multiplayer game over the much prettier, cheaper and more stable single player titles?

Read the whole column here.

Jon Wood
Managing Editor


Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/12/06
Posts: 1731

6/08/07 10:58:41 AM#2
I've gotta agree with it. Especially since I no longer really have the time to be spending half my day forming groups and raiding things. I like having the ability to pop out of the game and do something else at a moments notice. I can't really do that, without pissing off a bunch of people anyway, if I'm sitting around for 30+ min, getting a group together, and then need to leave shortly after the group actually starts doing something. The only real "hardcore" (Using the definition of : People who spend all day in game) people that still play really are the younger crowd that just hopped on, mainly due to WoW i would expect. I started playing years back in UO. I used to play all the time in UO, EQ, etc etc. I was really "hardcore" back then. Now I've grown up, I've got work and relationships to contend with my gaming hobby. There just isn't time left to be wasting 2 hours organizing a 60 man raid to do anything. I would imagine there are quite a few who are in the same boat as I am.

Bans a perma, but so are sigs in necro posts.



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Joined: 11/19/03
Posts: 7445

The enemy is so dumb! They believe that WE are the enemy! - A famous orc commander.

6/08/07 11:04:30 AM#3

As I always said, solo is the single most important aspect of a MMO-RPG; after grouping.


Before tradeskills, before raiding, before PvP...there must be a good, strong, PvE-soloing option.


If devs can't get solo right, they can't get anything right.


Happy soloers provide the raw ressource for appealing grouping.  Yeah, a big chunck of them won't group today; but that is cool.  Having 100k soloers happy and 500k groupers is better then having no soloers and 200k groupers.  Grouping is better when not enforced on soloers.  Best soloers should be peoples who solo a lot.  Best grouping have to be groupers.  There are many ways to achieve this.  Happy soloers = better community = happy groupers.  You don't want peoples to group because they have to, you want peoples to group because they want to.  If Joe Blow is in a poor-piss mood, he is better left alone, soloing.  Tomorrow maybe he will group, maybe not.


It is my experience that in a game that is solo friendly, all soloers eventually prefer grouping over soloing at long as they can commit to grouping.  Maybe they won't like me, or groupB.  And this is cool, they will group peoples they enjoy grouping; and they will avoid peoples they dislike.


A big part of the problematic come from some geek who took offense that peoples rather solo then group him.  But I would prolly prefer soloing over grouping that geek myself.  And this come from a grouper.  Some peoples are better left alone until they learn how to behave in society.  Enforced grouping isn't working, never was, never would.


Peoples need a reason to solo, which is solo-uberness.  And they need a reason to group, which is group uberness.  Having 1 overall system can only work in a casual setting with no "deep hardcore" desires.  Which is cool, but then all paths have to lead to total uberness, including soloing.

- "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - René Levesque about the denial NO on the poll to his dream, project and goal. (Free translation)


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Joined: 11/28/05
Posts: 220

Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten. B.F. Skinner

6/08/07 11:09:38 AM#4
Originally posted by Kordesh
Now I've grown up, I've got work and relationships to contend with my gaming hobby. There just isn't time left to be wasting 2 hours organizing a 60 man raid to do anything. I would imagine there are quite a few who are in the same boat as I am.

I think you imagine correctly. I certainly dont have time sitting around trying to get a group togeather. When I'm online I want to play. And I've found that I can level up faster solo. I hear the cries of not possible. Sure a group can normally make xp faster than a solo but what about that down time whilst the group is forming. Or the down time because everybody got killed, something that happen rarely to me when I solo play. Or the times when somebody says, afk dinner. Grrrrr.

I like solo play in MMO because it gives me a chance to kill annoying people without going to jail It also feels more alive than a stand alone (non-online) game. Plus on those rare times when I feel like talking to people I can! So I'd very much like to see end game solo stuff. It's why I stopped playing WoW after maxing two characters. It was boring for solo play unless you wanted to grind motes or rep!

Novice Member

Joined: 11/19/03
Posts: 7445

The enemy is so dumb! They believe that WE are the enemy! - A famous orc commander.

6/08/07 11:16:14 AM#5
Every soloer is a wild beast.  To make them groupers, you tame them nicely, not force them ( with loot, progression, impossibilities or whatever else lame enforcing system).  It has to come from the soloer.

- "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - René Levesque about the denial NO on the poll to his dream, project and goal. (Free translation)


Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/09/05
Posts: 288

6/08/07 11:21:15 AM#6
Probably the one thing I miss from EQII is the "secondary guild" I had in chat from doing crafting, and chatting in the crafting hall with other crafting dweebs.

The social aspect of MMOs is also non-gaming chatter, both in guild and in various channels.

I mostly solo and craft.  I'm a constant gamer, but rarely have an extra hour to wait to get a group together.


Novice Member

Joined: 7/17/05
Posts: 236

6/08/07 11:26:35 AM#7
Shmeh, I don't think we should be saying we need more solo play. If we look at the high performers in the current market, there's little but solo play. Still, I love this edict that "I don't have the time to spend finding a group, I need to get on an play, right away." It simply is a logical fallacy. There hasn't been an MMORPG that I know of where solo play hasn't been an option, the ones that solo players whine about are the ones where grouping is a more effective and quick way of getting XP and loot. So, these games have a solo play option, which takes a long time to level, or a group option, which takes time to organise, and allows for rapid progression. They balance each other out.

The common rebuke is that the solo player would rather be having fun than finding a group, and I would reply that group play, is more fun than randomly clicking on the same old boring AI. The MMOWTF column states that versing a real person is stimulating beyond the boundaries of single player games. I agree, but I would argue that being part of a group of people, fighting alongside them, exchanging jokes and banter while supporting them and working as a team is just as, if not more stimulating.

My point is that yes, it might take longer to find a group, but the rewards will be accrued much, much faster (so long as the game isn't World of Warcraft) and you'll have a lot more fun along the way.

When did MMOWTF turn into another casual play column?

Novice Member

Joined: 10/03/04
Posts: 2228

Why So Serious?

6/08/07 11:28:12 AM#8

Its rare these days that topics started by staff writers appeal to me or rather that they make any sort of real sense and are written with people with real brains but this one is perfect.  As in I agree or rather empathize with the writer.  I just don't have the time like I did when I was a teenager or in college to muck around for hours on end with a group everyday all the time. 

While i'll never put down raiding because there should be something that everyone can hero worship over (as in so and so's guild did this OMG thats so awsome I wish I had time for that) why should we as people with lives who can only put in a few hours a day maybe even less be punished from good gear?   I'm perfectly wiling to take up a quest that requires me to do it by myself and take several days or even weeks  to get an item that is on par with raid drops.    End Game has in some games become so repeative so tedious and requires dealing with so many people at once that even some hardcore players are sick of it. 

When I read about WAR I was like oh my god its going to be WoW with DAoC RvR, then they put more and more out about it and I now I admit I'm on the bandwagon.   The fact i don't need a guild or need a group to progress or to even do the big stuff completely appeals to me.  I can jump in and have a good time form friendships with people if I want too and not feel I need too.   I really wish, no hope that more games (if this built in point system works instead of playing constantly for player given points (DKP or whatever guilds call it these days) ) take a look at what WAR is doing and embrace it.   If a player can play and play well do the work even if they dont' live in the game constantly the player should be rewarded by the game!

More MMO's need to reward all players equally even if one way or the other requires more work to get it.  (im not saying it should be some outrageous grind but we can't expect things to be handed to us on a silver platter).

Please Refer to Doom Cat with all conspiracies & evil corporation complaints. He'll give you the simple explination of..WE"RE ALL DOOMED!


Novice Member

Joined: 1/10/05
Posts: 59

6/08/07 11:28:57 AM#9

Solo replies are for Noobs!!!!


LFP to reply to this post.

Need support chars with high lvl Spellchecking and or Grammar Wizardry.

I already have a Font Master and Paragraph Builder.


Only want peeps that will not go AFK in the middle of building the reply.


Novice Member

Joined: 2/18/04
Posts: 3

6/08/07 11:35:19 AM#10
I like to team, but I'm picky. It's called a team because you're supposed to support each other. Not log out or warp when you pick up the drop you wanted. I love it when the community is stable enough to where you can team with the same people over and over, as in the original Anarchy Online.

Anymore, I only have a very few people that I consistently team with in GW, and they're great. I think quality of the team is more important than churning through pick up groups until you finally finish the mission/quest.

Because of that, I really think that it should be possible to _finish_ any of the MMORPGs, solo, with NPCs, or some similar option. It's better than dealing with people that you're just not compatible with.

Maybe community building tools would help; player matching, etc.

Anyone got a good answer for this never ending problem?

Novice Member

Joined: 11/19/03
Posts: 7445

The enemy is so dumb! They believe that WE are the enemy! - A famous orc commander.

6/08/07 11:37:52 AM#11
Originally posted by methulah

My point is that yes, it might take longer to find a group, but the rewards will be accrued much, much faster (so long as the game isn't World of Warcraft) and you'll have a lot more fun along the way.

WoW is not solo friendly.


It is a soloer trap, not solo friendly at all.


Saying that WoW is solo friendly is like saying a trap with cheese is mouse-friendly.  Sure, the cheese is good, sure some mouses may work around and get the cheese.  It still isn't the ideal setting for mouses.

- "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - René Levesque about the denial NO on the poll to his dream, project and goal. (Free translation)


Novice Member

Joined: 4/11/05
Posts: 709

6/08/07 11:51:57 AM#12

Excellent article.

It's unfortunate that developers seem to miss the boat on the concept of solo vs group play.  So much potential lost to raid mentality.

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Support Independent Game Developers


Novice Member

Joined: 6/17/05
Posts: 53

Kill the Elves, leave the Dwarves to the Dragon.

6/08/07 12:02:29 PM#13
I find very little use in grouping anymore.. Im tired of people grouping, getting the quest done, drop or what ever and so I usually solo or if I have to group with the odd person. This is why I like LotROnline, I can solo much of it, group when I need to and not limited by games such as WoW where they force you to group to do anything fun

Playing EQ2
Quit - LotRO, EQ, EQOA, EvE, FFXI, DAoC, TitD, AO, AC1, AC2, AA, CoH, CoV, D&L, DS, DDO, EA, GW, HZ, IW, L1, L2, M59, UO, MoM, MoUL, N2, RS, RO, RoE, RYL, SB, SO, SWG, MxO, UO, VSoH, WoW


Novice Member

Joined: 4/30/03
Posts: 104

6/08/07 12:43:17 PM#14

I am a quester...always have been.  It gives me a sense of purpose and direction while working on them and a feeling of accomplishment once I complete them.  But this can be a real hassle with finding groups in MMORPGs. 

Most PUGs in games I have played are experience groups.  They may do a quest or two along the way if it is easy to get (talk to mob in zone, get quest, randomly slaughter until complete).   But if the quest requires doing something far away from the latest hot grinding area, it is tough luck finding comrades, unless the quest results in some uber-reward that everyone wants.

Oh, and I want to comment on the notion that I should just play a single player game.  Those games are often too linear.  I like quests, but I also like deciding when and in what order to do them.  I like the Elder Scrolls games for that reason, but I found Oblivion to be too much like a console game (navigating nested menus designed to controllers drives me batty).


Novice Member

Joined: 6/14/06
Posts: 14

6/08/07 1:10:54 PM#15
 I totally agree with Dan.

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/17/06
Posts: 2

6/08/07 1:14:34 PM#16


I played many times whit WoW, so I understand that what other peoples says who playing only in solo. Finding a group in this mmo is not a really hard. The other opinion is that you not playing in group, you can't join a guild and you haven't got any friends ingame. So you not received any help.

Hardcore play, yes is the mmo games hardest way, sitting before the computer whole hours (4-5 h) and following the leader's commands is really hard and you getting bored after 1 or 2 hours.


Novice Member

Joined: 10/14/04
Posts: 2

6/08/07 1:21:40 PM#17
After reading through some of these replies, I thought of another reason why I strongly dislike forced grouping in MMOs.

Too often an MMO reaches a point where certain items or spells/abilities end up as requirements to group (and sometimes to even survive).  It's a "power creep" effect.  And when this starts to happen, it becomes a pain to find a group.  You'll find that in trying to find a decent group in a good place, they'll either want you to have the best items/abitlities or you just need them in order to stay alive and carry your own weight.

At one point in EQ1, there was a high-level mana regeneration spell (Koadic's Endless Intellect, or "KEI") that due to an oversight, could be cast on anyone.  It lasted a long time, and was very popular.  And due to this, if you didn't have that on you, you were less desirable than someone who did.  And this effect, even after it was altered to where you had to be of high enough level to receive it (as it was a high level spell), caused the game to change: encounters became faster and harder, forcing you to keep up with the latest and best gear.  Fall behind, and you can't compete as well, nevermind joining in groups.  You could get by, but it wasn't nearly as enjoyable, and therefore made you decide if the game was really worth the monthly fee.

This can easily spin off into a side discussion, but it does impact this topic.  Popularity and demand will drive the desires of a grouping style MMO.  And when it's forced on people, those who aren't as "hardcore" will lose out.

And to people who say that all MMOs out there have good soloing options, I can agree in one small way: it is usually possible to solo your way through some areas of the games.  But it means having to play it ultra safe and go ultra slow.  You see all the people around you pass you up so quickly, so that if you don't have the time to spend trying to get into groups or joining raids, you will be left unwanted when you do have time for it, since you don't have the desired stuff to be allowed to join them.

And even if it's not a problem of desired items, it's still a matter of fun.  It is not fun when soloing in a game means having a very high chance of losing, of incurring death penalties, and making so little progress as to be frustrating.  Many quests in MMOs quickly require fighting harder and harder things as you advance in levels, and often you reach a threshold where the encounters are designed for groups for almost all quests.  Example: kill 20 giants, where each giant is a monster designed for a group of at least 3 to 6 to fight.  A person alone cannot complete that quest.  And too many quests are automatically designed by developers to be group-oriented.

So soloing is not as viable an option as many people love to point out.  And the stereotypical response of "play a single-player game offline" usually means the types of games that have some 20 hours of content before they're done.  And how many times can you play those through before you're tired of it?  MMOs are just more massive... hence the name.

Novice Member

Joined: 5/15/07
Posts: 6

6/08/07 1:38:18 PM#18
I couldn't agree more. I also have the problem of devoting a large block of time to forming or joining a group, or running an instance that often takes several hours to complete. Sure, I can go play something else, and so can many others in like circumstances. But that means turning away many who do enjoy playing the MMOs, thereby limiting income and the variety these people would bring to the game. I am new to the MMO type of games, but have enjoyed running instances with a group slashing and hacking our way to the boss and taking  him down. I have also exprienced the frustration along with others of the difficulty of forming a group, the time involved, not finding the meatshield or healer the group really needs, and then someone in the group has to unexpectedly leave, right at the time having a good group counts the most. For those who love to call people noobs, newbs or however you want to spell it,  I guess I just don't see the big insult that is supposed to be. Everyone is or was new to the game at some point and not everyone is perfect, so big deal, but if some feel that is the best put down, so be it.
  User Deleted
6/08/07 1:52:56 PM#19

I can't say that I am a big fan of grouping,

I mostly solo for three reasons

1. If I only have three hours to play, I don't really like having to spend an hour of it looking for a group.

2. I feel having to do something in a group makes my accomplishments less important than if I did it myself. Grouping makes my character seem less useful and powerful.

3. This is probably most important: it seems that as my character gets to higher levels there are more dungeons/instances to do or even worse, raiding, and the more he has to rely on other players to survive.  It seems that all that leveling was for nothing, now that my health recharges slower than ever and I need a full team to even think about tackling a dugeon.  Yet when I was level two I could solo stuff so easy, I actually felt more powerful by comparison.  MMOs should really put the grouping stuff at the beginning and give players the ability to solo as a reward as they get more powerful.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 3

6/08/07 1:57:31 PM#20
I like this article.  While I'm not a PvPer like the author is I love the freedom of soloing.  If I want to log at any point I can.  If I want to go eat a sandwich I can, without worrying about upsetting the group because their main-tank just went AFK.

I'm what many refer to as a "hardcore soloist".  This means I solo out of vast preference but put in lots of time and effort to achieve everything I can.  I love the challenge of soloing.  I love how tough it is to beat an opponent others would cringe from.  I feel bad when games like World of Warcraft (especially pre-Burning Crusade) reward their raiders (those who participated in 25/40-man raids)
 with untouchably superior equipment to anything I could ever get solo, no matter how much time or effort I put in.  I look for games with good social interaction but without a grouping requirement.  A good example was early Star Wars Galaxies.  My guild tended to solo for the most part but were very close socially.  We would have great parties with music and a bartender and dancing, the social aspect of the game, but then would go kill monsters solo.

Where are the MMOs that not only allow soloing but don't punish that play-style in the long run?
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