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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!