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Community Forum Spotlight: The “Solo Content” Debate

This week, Community Manager Laura Genender trawls the forums and comes out with a thread that focuses on solo play in MMORPGs.

The “Solo Content” Debate

MMORPG.com member, Perilous1 brought up a hot topic from the MMO frontlines: Why do MMOs force us to group? From EverQuest to Lineage II, DAoC to LOTRO: rewards in MMOs, be it PvP or PvE, often scale their difficulty by numbers of users. You can solo to farm tradeskill items, group for EXP, and raid for gear. Trying to solo your way through many of today’s games is pointless – despite us being the heroes, most monsters can take 6 of us on and still sometimes win.

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“This may seem like a small matter to most players,” states Perilous1, “but for those of us whose enjoyment of playing is tightly wrapped up in solo'ing, it's a real downer when you start to get into a new MMO and then have it rendered worthless to you because the Dev's rolled out another cookie-cutter design that could easily have been fixed and made far more flexible.”

Many users agree with Perilous, and it’s not always the solo-crazy. User Vendayn enjoys soloing, but not exclusively. “If a mmorpg has forced grouping, I'll probably quit pretty fast. Not to say I don't like grouping cause I do...just not being forced to group all the time to get anything done.” User Tabby_Cat sings a similar tune: “While [I] prefer to play in groups [I] do not like to be forced into it. [T]here are times where I just want to solo.”

Many players are of a similar mindset, and wonder why modern MMOs are taking a grouping approach. User Zethcarn, though, doesn’t see this as a new or even current problem. “You got it backwards,” he replies. “The trend is MMO’s are more soloable than ever (WoW and EQ2). The old style was forced grouping (EQ and FXII). Now MMO’s are going with the WoW model.”

From my own experience, “solo-friendliness” has a lot to do with how the player approaches the game. The player and their mindset have a massive impact on “soloability”. When I play EverQuest or Lineage II or another game where I seriously participate in raids or PvP, I put a lot of time in. For quick, casual play sessions, soloing is not just more fun for some players, it’s more efficient: you don’t have to take the time to put a group of 6 people together, figure out where you’re going, and get everyone there. When I have multiple hours to spend in-game, though, I would rather have groupmates to chat with and the bonus of extra grouping EXP, even if that takes me a half hour to set up.

When I’m casually exploring a new online world, I am an entirely different person; I will play through the game almost entirely solo, refusing any outside help or spoilers. I’ll take the time to read flavor text and pursue every silly quest or storyline mission that I can get my hands on. I’ll form opinions about certain NPCs and even think up a backstory for my character. I want to see the world, experience the story, and the only way to do that is soloing; in a group, I’d be holding others up while I sniff the roses.

Of course, it’s not all about fung-shwe and attitude. One of the big questions with solo/grouping is, sadly, what class are you playing? Pet classes are often some of the most successful soloers in any game. Healer types are fairly successful as well; while they take forever to kill anything, they don’t die themselves! High DPS or tanking classes often require at least a couple companions to make any headway.

In my opinion, that is the weakest aspect of solo/group gameplay. Classes should be balanced for soloing, grouping, and raiding. Seeing other players of equivalent levels and gear solo easily what you can’t fight is nothing short of demoralizing, and being a “solo class” that can’t get a group will eventually lead to account cancellations. Players should not have to pick their class based on how many people they want to hunt with; they should pick their class based on their personal style and preference of beating monsters up!