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

Community Spotlight: Soloing

Posted by MikeB Thursday October 15 2009 at 11:01AM
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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.