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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: Soloing

Posted by MikeB Thursday October 15 2009 at 10:01AM
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This weeks Community Spotlight highlights the oft controversial topic of solo vs. group content in MMOGs. The topic being discussed today is “I do not condone your efforts to promote soloing in MMORPG’s” by the user AstralMystic. AstralMystic quite dramatically contests that the promotion of solo game design by developers will be the death of the genre, saying, “This genre is like the seed of a great tree and the poison that does not allow It to grow is solo game design.

A gamer should be allowed to play the game and have experiences without grouping but the core component that is needed for this genre to grow is community and grouping.

Player interactivity, grouping and community is as important to keeping this genre alive as food is to our bodies.

Without It, It becomes a dead life form.”

As one would expect, the responses are all over the place, though user Axehilt makes an interesting point, “Tree analogy?

WOW's soloing was part of the many nutrients that caused it to grow into the biggest tree ever. Sure you don't need those nutrients for every tree, but they were damn successful in at least one -- and there are some very concrete game design reasons why.”

Axehilt’s point is pretty solid. WoW’s soloability is one of the major reasons the game was so accessible to people, and accessibility is really key these days. It’s no surprise that given the success of World of Warcraft many of the games that followed touted soloability as a key point. But have developers taken it too far?

I would argue no, probably not. I think their heart is in the right place, as many playstyles should be supported, but that is really the problem. Developers seem to be eschewing group content in favor of solo content, which is the real issue. Just as the game needs to be soloable, it also needs to offer significant incentives to group, as well as enough group content to go with it. Many recent MMOG releases fell way short in this regard, often releasing with enough soloable content to barely reach level cap, and in some cases, not enough for even that. And group content? Forget about it.

User Kaisen_Dexx claims it isn’t really possible to cater to both the solo player and the group player, saying, “I believe that trying to cater to both a Solo-Oriented population and a Group-Oriented population at the same time is not readily possible. People tend to follow the path of least resistance, and when it is easy to not have to rely on anyone else, almost no one will. I first noticed this when I tried to go back to EQ2 several years ago.

When EQ2 first started there were tons of people grouping, because the solo exp was quite pathetic. The populace kept asking for more solo content, and to make soloing easier. Then, over time, soloing reached the efficiency of grouping. And grouping pretty much died. I went back several months before the Kunark expansion and spent the whole month in LFG (I didn't just sit there, I solo'd but kept trying to put groups together). I got one group and it was for The Temple of Cazic Thule. I played a Bard.” 

To this, I would say the solution lies in making grouping less painful and again, adding more incentive to doing so. Warhammer Online was on the right track with open grouping and especially with the Public Quest design, but there were a number of issues with the implementation. For one, players in WAR did as Kaisen_Dexx says, they took the path of least resistance. This often meant that players were tucked away in instanced scenarios all day, as that was the best method of getting experience. Population was also an issue; Mythic opened way too many servers which resulted in a fragmented population, and coupled with the massive exodus of people from the game, Public Quests were just simply underused. The concept of public quests is quite sound though, and I would like to see them improved upon and implemented in more games. 

To close today’s spotlight, I’d like to leave you with a quote from user Ushibaru, someone who obviously likes to keep it simple, “MMORPg is not for group or soloish..

i agree that what it needed is to have a great number of both side.


protoroc writes:

I really don't care for blogs like this, it's like is putting the final word out like your opinions matter more then the users. I'm sure it not exactly intended, but an admins words dont weigh any heavier then anyone else's opinion.

Thu Oct 15 2009 10:17AM Report
Palebane writes:

The in-game communities need to be revived. The only solution I can think of is to get developers and Game Masters more involved in the day to day activities of the communities with in-game events, questing, PvP tactics, etc. If you can convince the players to build a community instead of compete against it, I think the games would be much richer.

Thu Oct 15 2009 10:18AM Report
madeux writes:

If people only group because of "incentives"... what is the point?

Thu Oct 15 2009 10:47AM Report
Lord.Bachus writes:

Group content shoudl be optional as is raid content. But they also should have better rewards then solo gameplay.

Keyquests like in Lotro and Aion has should never force people to group, espescially when the game is a few months old the forced grouping leads to many frustrations as certain classes have allways hard times to find groups.


A mechanisme with henchman and heroes like GW has will give people the option to play the epic content as if it was a single player RPG like they will be playing Dragonage.  The same quests done as a group tough would be a little easier and give better rewards..


This way people will not be forced to wayt many many hours for a group but they can play the content.


Games should be possible to play solo, but grouping should be more fun and more rewarding.


Thu Oct 15 2009 11:12AM Report
SteamRanger writes:

No one is preventing people who like grouping from doing so. The same can not be said for people who prefer to solo. Say what you will, but developers make the most creative content the exclusive domain of groups. Since soloers pay the same as groupers, this is where the imbalance comes in.

Thu Oct 15 2009 11:13AM Report
illanadan writes:

 I have to agree with LordDraekon. I am a solo player and prefer not to group, but to compete in the end game you HAVE to group to get the best "epic" items.

Thu Oct 15 2009 11:26AM Report
dodsfall writes:

The statement that "People would rather not group, so the developers should make them group" seems a bit odd to me. More effort should go into making grouping more fun than thinking of ways to penalize solo players into grouping.

Thu Oct 15 2009 11:54AM Report
artemisentr4 writes:

It is always about balance. A mix of solo and group content for all playstyles is the best for a game.

The key to me is how this is done. I like to see most quests in a region to be solo quests. A few should be longer chain quests. These chain quests would end in a group chalange. The group quests at the end would have the best drops and rewards. As long as the group quests are limited in each region to one or two. You shouldn't have a problem finding a group. Players will want to finnish a chain for the best gear even if they don't like to group.

Fewer group quests in a region with better rewards will increase the ability to form PUG's. Too many group quests and only guilds or friends will find enough people. Other players will get frustrated and leave. This will decrease the subs and cash flow for a game. Balance is key to getting more players to group. Not more group quests required.

Thu Oct 15 2009 11:56AM Report
webrender writes:

I agree that both play styles need to be supported. I think it’s great that a game offers great group opportunity, but that being said, I prefer solo game play. I would not invest time or money in a game that would not allow for this.

I’m just one person with one opinion, but what I enjoy about the MMO community is the conversation within the world at the various Kinship, Friend and other levels. Simply being in a world that is in a constant state a change by the folks playing the game is what draws me in.

Thu Oct 15 2009 12:42PM Report
alkarionlog writes:

well problem is you can't force people to do things, in DDO I'm playing now some quests you need to be in groups, you say ok then let's try to find one, you can't find anyone(or enough people for it) then after sometime you leave to play something else. that is one thing I find there lack of people to do quests together and I tend to NEVER roll more then 2 chars sometimes I only make one, why? I don't have time to play more then one char. also only group games, I will use the shadowbane, pure pvp and group play, what happens if you don't find a guild and groups to play? you can't play, not because you can't solo, but because if someone see you there they will kill you XD, the first time I played I find a guild and its was nice wars and all, after 2 years I tryed to play again and couldn't play it, why? the reqs there are not nice even if I asked just to have a "save place" to stay then they closed the servers ^^.

gonna explain what I think, the comunity there in shadowbane as in a certain way they don't accepted new players unless you could play like 24/7 and be in all the sieges what only only people who only study or work and do nothing else, I did that a lot when I was younger and I could take A from my classes even if I sleep there :P

and like the dude says here, you tend to take the "easy" path always, really if a MMO say to you "BOTS ARE FREE TO USE" you can be sure you will use, granado espada more then half of the people always did the AFK lvling

just to finish my little wall ^^, solo play should be accessible, but with a little group incentives for xp, areas for both types of play only diference would be the fun for that time

Thu Oct 15 2009 2:28PM Report
nAAtimus writes:

I don't see a problem with certain games catering towards solo play.  There are games that cater towards group play.

Thu Oct 15 2009 2:29PM Report
Brynn writes:

One solution would be to make instances available for any amount of players, one to whatever . For one or two players, fewer mobs, for more players, more mobs.

My friend and I duo in Champions Online and using tactics, can do the 5-man dungeons. Instances are usually indoors, so we can use the structures to advantage, pull to doorways, hide behind large items, etc.

Thu Oct 15 2009 4:46PM Report
darkb457 writes:

Actually I think the answer to this problem would be to implement features that aid both.

Thu Oct 15 2009 5:03PM Report
Dendro writes:

I agree with Brynn with instanced content.

I believe the biggest beef that players are having with this issue is gear. What I see is that group content is the only way to get "epic gear" and games thats are PvP heavy your character needs these items just to compete, so you are forced to group. Solo players are then limited to content and even considered a lower class of player, because of the lack of good gear.

If content adjusted to the size of the group or the group was allowed to adjust the difficulty of content that they are playing, with the same reward then most players would be happy. If it took me 3hrs to complete the same content that a group could do in 1 hr, both play styles still have an option to play the game the way they like and get the "epic" gear. It would just be faster to group.

The only other option I can think of is to have servers with the same content but for grouping, soloing, RPing, PvPing and a mix of the lot. To make everyone happy is to cut out the competion between play styles.


Thu Oct 15 2009 7:49PM Report
hogscraper writes:

    The path of least resistance is always what people will take. The other posters are right on. I have fun in games soling most of the time because I can. Saying that though, I think an MMO should be set up so that small, boring areas that are severely restricted should be the only soloable areas. If you don't make 90% of the game so that people won't have to group you will have end game content not worth playing. Being able to take on huge fights that require a least a group to tackle is the only thing that separates an MMO from a single player RPG to me. Its funny how many people scream that such and such game can't possibly be an MMO because everything is instanced or too much slanted towards soloing players and the other half will quit if they can't beat every boss by themselves. 

Thu Oct 15 2009 8:07PM Report
SWCeridan writes:

Let's comare 2 MMOs:


FFXI (pre Goddess expension) and WoW.

In FFXI, it was simply inpractical to do most thigs solo. Leveling was painfully slow allready with a group, it was almost impossible solo. That game was not playable if you had to go to school and work.


In WoW, leveling as a solo player was and still is ok. There is some quests here and there that require grouping, but doing 1-80 solo is completely possible. Is WoW a bad game because of that? no.


FFXI had one of the best back story I saw. It has good imersions(with ingame cut-scene) and the missions where entertaining. WoW still is missing personnalised cut-scene but they make up by weaving the stories in the quest to allow this imersion (more since BC but still).


All in all, Bliz was able and still is able to, cater to those like me that cannot devote 80hr per week to a game and even leveling is not really a chore. But in FFXI it was a chore to level. I'm curently in the process of trying to play FFXI(as soon as I have time) aggain to try to see if it has improved as mutch as a friend of mine tells me to.

Fri Oct 16 2009 8:47AM Report
Babylon9000 writes:

I myself enjoy the freedom of the open world concepts found in MMOs and prefer to solo.

I do team but I don't play MMOs for the group content. I play them for the large worlds and the complexity of the game in regards to crafting, character customizationm, exploration, and the freedom to choose various different missions instead of one locked down storyline.

I'm not sure how many people there out there that think this way, but if there are more, and I'm going to guess there are, I don't think solo content would be the death of MMOs. The example of WoW being case in point, it's not my game of choice but it is very soloable, at leasdt what I played of it before moving on. WoW is not suffering any for subscriptions.

Fri Oct 16 2009 11:27AM Report
dazy writes:

I think the term "solo play" can be misleading.  Contrary to what some people think, when I "solo" that doesn't mean I'm playing in my own little bubble. It means I'm adventuring ON MY OWN in a user-populated world. I'm affecting in various ways by what other people around me do or do not do. 

I prefer to adventure alone because in my experience, "grouping" requires more of an immediate time and playstyle committment that I'm generally not prepared to give.  Honestly, kind of like in "real life", sometimes people do things in a group, sometimes they do things alone. I'm good with that. ;-)

I think rather than grouping bringing *better* rewards, it should provide *proportionate* rewards.... and capabilities. I get that I might not be able to get through some evil dungeon by myself as easily or as quickly or as unscathed as a group of 3 or 4 might, but shouldn't there still be a chance that I CAN get through that evil dungeon, albeit with some difficulty? 

It's funny... so often I hear people that prefer grouping gripe that solo play shouldn't be catered to! And yet... I don't know that I've ever really heard solo players decry grouping...


Fri Oct 16 2009 12:59PM Report
Smokeysong writes:

One of the things anti-solo people entirely forget is where the MMORPG came from. What are it's roots? Who were the first people who thought "Yeah, that sounds great to me! We'll make that!" and "Yeah, I'd LOVE to play in a fantasy world as my own character!"

The source is people who read fantasy and science fiction. That's it, without those people who read fantasy novels D&D would never have been made, and the online versions that followed would not have either - or at least would have started much later and been far less rich in detail.

Do you read in a group? For all but a very tiny percentage of us, the answer is no, and even if you did who is the book written for and about? It is almost always written with a protagonist - ONE main central character. That character might join others - groups, villages, armies even - but the story is not about the armies, it's about the character, first and foremost. It is a story for one person to enjoy, solo, about one person.

I started playing a game like D&D ("The Fantasy Trip", we played it because of it's elegant rule set which we adapted to our needs) primarily for the purpose of living in the kinds of world that I read about when I read fantasy. Yes, It was partly because of the people, in particular because of a girl (heh), but I'd never have done it, never have considered it without a long history as a fantasy reader.

It took me a while to figure out why some people insisted that MMORPGs were just about groups, because that's what I came from. Why some insisted that they should be about PvP even. Then, I realized that many, particularly younger, people did not come from the background I did. They came in large part from the gaming world and multi-player PvP world, from single-player games that had been converted in to multi-player ones. In an instant I understood why such people were so hot for PvP, and so hot for group activity. They wanted more of what they liked in gaming to begin with, and they wanted it in groups. The "RPG", the fantasy part, was a far down the line consideration for most of these people. What they wanted was action, and "multiplayer" action, not story line and character development. Perfectly natural, and entirely different than someone who came from a reading and movie-watching world, where storyline and the growth of the hero were the main parts of the a rich, well-developed universe that we immersed ourselves in.

Yay! Good for the gaming-oriented!! I like that! Why do I like that, I hardly ever PvP, and raid primarily for the gear (and resent that I have to)? Because it [u[it makes for a larger player base[/u]..

MMORPGs are expensive. They need a lot of players to pay for their basic upkeep, never mind development costs and expansions. The kind of quality I want in an MMO doesn't come cheap. The larger the player base, the more successful the game I want to play will be, the longer it will stay around for me to enjoy.

The big thing I don't understand is why there are anti-solo players to begin with. How does it hurt you for solo possible content to be in the game? It doesn't. There is nothing in any MMO I've ever played that requires you to solo. Yes, there is that word "Multiplayer" in the name, but did you ever stop to consider why it is there? The fact is that the MMORPG has the second "M" not just because it was made for groups to enjoy that wanted to do that, but because of simple economics. It was impossible to make a "MSORPG" (Massively Single Player Role Playing Game) and make money doing it - make it pay for itself even, never mind profit. For a world as large as UO, EQ, and the many that followed, it had to be "Multiplayer" to exist at all.

Bottom line though, you couldn't play PvP - or even group PvE - content in an MMORPG without the players who came from reading and going to movies, activities with story lines designed predominately for individuals, not groups. The MMORPG would not exist - and the proof of that is the lack of games called "MMOFPS" or "MMORTS". These games don't exist. Why? I'm not sure, but it is in part becasue the kind of people inspired to create MMORPGs to begin with are not interested in producing those other types of MMOs.

I hope this makes some sense to those of you who are anti-solo. I hope you will stop fighting against solo playable content, because there's really no reason for an "us vs them" thing here. We all want to game (but we have different reasons), we all want to play in MMOs, and we can definitely live together in the same game and be quite happy with it, if we choose to be.

We can even get exposed to different ways of playing, and find that we enjoy them!

No MMORPG should EVER require a player to solo, or to group, to PvP, or raid, but there is room for all to exist and it makes the universe we play in all the richer for it.

See you in the game!




Fri Oct 16 2009 4:06PM Report
yumadome writes:

It's been interesting to see everyone's thoughts on this.

I nearly always play solo when I'm playing an MMO. My life at home comes first and because of that, getting involved in a big group raid that I can't step out of if need be just doesn't work for me. I love the community of the MMO, being able to talk to others and ask for help and hints and such...

I don't have a problem with the 'epic' items being nearly exclusive to the big raid bosses and such... I get that you have to work harder to get those... I'm content with knowing if I want one of those, I better start saving my gold :) 

One of the things I don't like is a big chain of solo quests and getting to the end of the chain and being told 'now go and get 15 of your friends to finish this'. That even drove me out of EQ2.  I quest chain is like a story and to be unable to finish it solo when I've 'read' all the rest of it solo is terribly annoying.

They need to have solo chains and group chains... or at least an option to finish the chain solo knowing I'll get a lesser award or something...

ah well... /end rant

Fri Oct 16 2009 7:31PM Report
battleaxe writes:

Original WoW had a good balance.  You could solo most outdoors content and basically make it all the way to level cap if you wanted.  However, instanced content had better drops, better experience, and required grouping.  There were level appropriate quests that led players to the instances with promises of better equipment than they could get otherwise.

WAR's public quests are also decent.  However, ,they don't require the same level of cooperation and communication.  You group up, finish the quest, and leave without ever actually needing to interact with your group mates.  In a WoW instance with non-legendary equipment, you often had to stop and strategize or you would fail.

Mon Oct 19 2009 10:27AM Report
Korhindi writes:

"When EQ2 first started there were tons of people grouping, because the solo exp was quite pathetic. The populace kept asking for more solo content, and to make soloing easier."

This is what the pro-group camp can never understand:  People want to play solo.  Your own quote says that the EQ Devs were asked to make the game solo friendly.

They capitualated because enough of the playerbase demanded it. That says something right there.

And in this age it says: Forced grouping = lower subs/players.

Maybe if grouping was more rewarding and hassle free it would be like the old, glory days. But I really don't think so, for while Devs can control the content, they cannot control the asshats that we have to group with.

Tue Oct 20 2009 10:03AM Report
Torchwood writes:

What is confusing me is, If grouping is so vital, why does everyone avoid it if they can?

The excuse that allowing solo play and rewards hurts grouping can only mean more people wish to solo then group.

Why not have scaling.  Same rewards, solo, 5 man, 40, 9000 man. See what is done more.

Saying soloing is for people who are lazy is rather silly. I play alone, or with my wife. Cause I prefer to.

MMO means to me, auction house.  Crafters. Sales. Buying.

Never means forced to group to me.

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