Never the twain, part QQ

catassassinIt’s disheartening to find out that no matter how much ink we pour out (virtual or otherwise), at the end of the day we don’t usually understand each other and may not even really want to understand each other. Rant incoming, though I know it’s a pointless exercise. Be warned: I don’t particuarly feel like being reasonable or fair, so I shan’t be — this is a rant, after all.

Today’s catalyst is Syp’s post on soloing, which fairly neatly encapsulates why some of us play the way we do. And yet the comments, some of them from people I really respect, only make it clear that no matter what gets said, some playstyles will continue to be viewed with hostility by others. Maybe I should know better than to have these illusions; it’s not like it hasn’t been discussed many times before, including here. And yet, it sucks that people I thought were friends apparently think I’m the MMO equivalent of a hyena crossed with a rat.

It also galls me, deeply. I have absolutely no problem letting the raiding people do their thing, and the grouping people do their thing. I don’t leech off anything they do. I don’t ask them for help, I don’t ask them for money, I don’t ask them for goodies. What I do ask for, occasionally, is simple bloody company but if I’m going to be seen as a giant selfish asshat who apparently plays only for themselves and is a minor step up from a bot gold farmer, then what’s the point even of talking?

Why is it that soloers are constantly and continually challenged to justify the way they play — and I can, believe me, there are many perfectly sensible and valid reasons for the way I choose to play — but raiders and groupers are not? Hint: it’s not because games are designed for grouping only and soloers are the metaphorical leech on underside of the brave grouping raider gestalt. It’s because some people absolutely cannot imagine that any playtstyle that doesn’t involve playing exactly like them can be anything but negative and bad for everyone. It’s because some people see instances of a given behaviour and use it to tar everyone else who doesn’t behave the way they want them to. (I’m annoyed enough to make this analogy, even if it’s not fair: “Gay? Ew, I ‘ll bet you’re a child molester too!”) It’s because people who like to play their own way don’t give a shit how you play, and don’t feel the need to require you to explain it over and over again, as if explaining it often enough would make you see the light and realise the error of your playstyle ways.

It’s beyond irksome. If we’re going to be asshats, I’d have to say I think raiding is probably THE biggest waste of gaming time anyone could indulge in, doing the same thing over and over dozens of times for what? The chance at a roll for some item that will only be replaced a few weeks or months down the line, and that’s mainly used in order to get to the next instance that gets done over and over again dozens of times? Personally, I’d rather chew my own arm off. But I don’t generally go around saying so, nor do I say that raiders are selfish, narcissistic, achievement-obsessed people who will only join guilds until they get what they want and then move on to the next guild that can give them what they want. That raiding creates more drama among groups of players than I have ever seen in games, and leads to more split friendships than any other kind of play.

And don’t get me started on grouping. Every damn time, there’s always one player who runs ahead, or behind, or to the side, and brings back every single creature in the local area, all foaming at the mouth for blood. Who gets everyone else killed except themselves, and then stands around whining about how the group isn’t moving fast enough. Then there’s the player who absolutely has to tell you what you’re doing wrong and how you should play, what you should be wearing, and what you should be casting at whom at any moment (in between gazing at themselves and thinking how unbearably awesome they are). There is, always, the player who thinks everything that drops is intended for them and them alone, and gets increasingly hostile with any kind of attempt to, you know, do the right thing and share loot equally. And don’t forget the player that’s always happy to group but never actually anywhere in the vicinity, and keeps everyone else waiting for an hour because they just have to do this one thing, or they don’t have the brains god gave an amoeba and they’re not sure how to get from A to B, could you come get them? Bring a blanky and a pacifier.

If I did say it — ahhhh, it did feel good to vent, even hypothetically — it wouldn’t be fair, because while the above may contain some truth, it’s not the whole truth. Besides, if people want to do what I consider to be a monumental waste of time, what business do I have to judge them if they’re having fun?

But wait, says the solo-hater. I contribute to a wider community! I get shinies! I die a lot with my friends! I go into dungeons! What do you do?

Well. I craft things that I give away or sell to other people. I harvest stuff that I make available to the rest of the people in my guild, server, friends list. I loot stuff I also make available. I chat, laugh, make silly jokes, and giggle with my guildies and friends. I help them out if they need it, or find someone who can if I’m not high enough level or don’t have the right skills. I interact with others. I just don’t do it in the way solo-haters think I should.

Aside from the fact that I don’t raid and I don’t consider constant grouping to be my only play option, how are we so different?

And why is it to damned difficult for raiders to understand ANY playstyle that isn’t their own can be productive and useful … and fun?

Yes, I understand that some people join raiding guilds in order to obtain stuff they couldn’t otherwise get, and then they slurk off, leaving drama and anger in their wake — that really does suck, but lumping everyone into that category… narrow-minded much?

Yes, I understand that when a grouper wants a group, anyone who says “No” is somehow making a personal declaration of war and somehow letting down the whole MMO universe (I understand it, but I think it’s pretty freaking bigoted). I understand that not doing what YOU want me to do is somehow an affront.

I just wish YOU would understand that MY not wanting to do what you do is not a personal insult, that soloers aren’t all the gollum-like dregs of the MMO universe, and that there might just be more than one way to play an MMO. There are bad apples in every playstyle. Seriously — raiders and groupers are all shining examples of friendly, helpful, community-adorning altruistic gameplay? I freely admit that many soloers are asshats; I just as freely admit that many groupers and raiders are asshats, because playstyle is not who we are, it’s just the way we play. MMOs are full of assholes and guess what? Quite a few of them aren’t soloers. 

God help me, I want someone to design a grouping- and raiding-only MMO so that the grouping nazis can get their asses in that game and stop being so damned mean about my playing preferences.

66 thoughts on “Never the twain, part QQ

  1. There’s a saying I picked up, printed on a sign in my first tattoo shop, that I sometimes modify to fit specific discussions.

    “The only difference between with tattoos and people without tattoos is people with tattoos don’t care if you have a tattoo or not.”

    While it might not ring completely true in this instance, I think it fits. The only difference between solo players and group players is solo players don’t care if you’re a solo player or not.

    Anything else I can think to say you’ve pretty much covered. Good post, kudos for staying on message during a rant! 🙂

      1. There’s a very similar saying regarding conservatives and liberals (and it’s backed up by at least one study conducted by a university):

        Liberals don’t understand the conservative viewpoint; conservatives understand the liberal viewpoint, they just disagree with it.

        This is the same thing. Group-oriented players simply don’t understand why anyone would play solo in a Massively Multi-PLAYER game; Soloers, OTOH, understand why someone would want to group, they just don’t want to do it themselves (much).

        The problem is, group-oriented players feel that too many resources are devoted to the “solo element.” And most of them absolutely, positively refuse to see the “reverse angle”: group-oriented players have access to all the content soloers do =and= to the exclusive group content; soloers only have access to solo content unless they’re willing to engage in the grouping playstyle. So all that “solo” content is easily accessible to groups, with no real change of playstyle required, while “group” content is =not= accessible to soloers without a change in playstyle.

        I personally hope that a good group-oriented game will come out soon to draw the players with that preference so they’ll stop trying to influence the solo-friendly MMOs back in a group-friendly direction ;^) Shame Vanguard ended up not being that game….

  2. The main grievance comes from trying to support types that want to group up with friends and face a challenge and those that what to just putter about doing what ever.

    There has been a big shift towards enabling those that want to putter around (including exploring and fighting stuff) which has reduce the amount of content available for grouping people.

    I’m not talking PUGs, I’m talking groups of friends or guildies that want to get together and have a challenge while exploring something new… instead they end up slaughtering mass amounts of creatures that could be soloed because the content has to be accessible to solo people.

    It does negatively impact the group game just like previous MMOs were tough on people that wanted to solo (i.e. EQ1). There doesn’t seem to be any sort of balance there because either you make things too hard for the soloist and make them challenging for groupers or you make it soloable and make it way too easy for groupers. The easiest solution is to rail away at the solo players trying to play a single player game but still have access to chatting with multiple people in a game that is supposed to be multiplayer.

    You basically want to be playing Oblivion but still have access to chatting with people… why not boot up a single player game and have IM on another machine? 🙂

    I’m not trying to be a pest here, but the main source of my disinterest with MMOs lately is that they’re too easy when you get a group. FAAAAAR too easy. It’s no fun unless you intentionally do stupid things to make things harder.

    Hey, I have no problem with people wanting to solo, I do have a problem with that impacting the game and making it trivial to play in a group. 🙁

    1. @ smak: I respectfully disagree with your fundamental arguments here.

      First, you contend that the existence of soloable content of necessity means there’s not enough challenging grouping content. That’s truly not the case; it’s a design decision in every game and every game has a different balance. Some games even scale content to group size and allow people to set difficulty levels for their own preference, thus completely avoiding this issue. Do some games offer too little group content? Sure. Do some games offer too little solo content? Sure. Is the presence of enough solo content linked to the lack of group content? Hardly.

      Second, you contend that Ysh really just wants to be playing Oblivion with a chat client. That’s clearly not the case. Ysh likes playing a game in a world full of other people, wherein she’s free to choose how much she wants to interact with them. She likes crafting and selling her wares, likes chatting with guildies about the game, likes helping people (thanks for the assistance last night by the way! 🙂 ), and likes immersing herself in a setting that’s varied, deep, and continually updated. Oblivion doesn’t offer any of those things – no crafting, no other people playing the same game to talk to (the “playing the same game” part is actually important for shared experiences and interests), and frankly it’s a much smaller world with a lot less to see and do. Moreover, it’s kinda insulting to suggest that “what she really wants” is anything other than what she’s actually playing… which are, you know, MMOs.

      If your problem is that the games you play aren’t challenging you enough, and you’re actively seeking all the challenges you can… then you could either a) play harder games, b) play games wherein you can set your own difficulty level, c) artificially handicap yourself to increase the challenge (e.g. do it with no armour!), or d) suck up and deal. Blaming solo players for your lack of enjoyment isn’t logical.

      1. I was implying she wanted her own little sandbox where she could have all the benefits of other people sort of being there, but not really because if they were really there, then she’d have to deal with the negatives of people be there messing up her stuff or being asshats because that’s what you’re going to get the more massive the population.

        “If your problem is that the games you play aren’t challenging you enough, and you’re actively seeking all the challenges you can… then you could either a) play harder games, b) play games wherein you can set your own difficulty level, c) artificially handicap yourself to increase the challenge (e.g. do it with no armour!), or d) suck up and deal. Blaming solo players for your lack of enjoyment isn’t logical.”

        a) There are none out there. Every game that comes out claiming to be challenging ends up either not living up to it or getting watered down.

        b) There are no MMOs out there with any sort of difficulty toggling – WoW slapping ‘heroic’ on it only makes it more difficult in that you need bigger numbers and maybe need to deal with the odd trick here or there. It’s not harder, you just need to do bigger numbers.

        c) I do that. I generally two or three man dungeons. Some were quite fun that way but it becomes very artificial and exclusive. How much fun would it be if you saw I was going to Dungeon X, wanted to go too and said, “Hey do you have room?” To which I replied, “Yup, but I’m just going to two man it because it’s too easy.”

        It also goes beyond doing it with fewer numbers, I have done things with less than optimal groups (I ran a few groups in EQ2 without any healers) and my ‘pulls’ would normally be called ‘trains’ by others.

        There is only so much compensating for a game’s lack of challenge you can do. Sad thing is I see glimmers of how things can be made tougher but they’re barely used.

        d) Who said I was blaming solo players?

        I blame the companies that see what Blizzard did with making WoW accessible to so many players that they all seem to be trying to mimic that instead of coming up with something that caters to another group entirely (one reason I’m envious of DarkFall players).

        This goes beyond solo players and includes making the adventure/exploration aspect of a game trivial too. Smaller and more linear instances/dungeons are equally frustrating to me as most content being solo-friendly.

        I know Ysh likes playing solo and it’s not a matter of, “you just had bad group experiences” or “you’ll love it if you try an instance/dungeon” – it’s how she plays the game. Those aren’t the aspects of the game that she enjoys so she doesn’t have to do them. Cool.

        There is such a huge lean towards Social (and casual) gamers lately that the whole Explorer/Achiever/Killer is being neglected.

      2. @ smak: ” was implying she wanted her own little sandbox where she could have all the benefits of other people sort of being there, but not really because if they were really there, then she’d have to deal with the negatives of people be there messing up her stuff or being asshats because that’s what you’re going to get the more massive the population.”

        I don’t think that’s the case. I think she (and I, and Tesh, and others) like to be able to choose the amount of interaction we have at any given time within games. We don’t want to *have* to group to experience the game. I can attest firsthand that Ysh chats in guildchat and helps people out, which contradicts the theory that she doesn’t want people “really” there.

        As for your concerns about content not being difficult enough, all right, I hear you. I’ve found this to be true a number of times myself… in LotRO I used to really enjoy doing the endgame instances with 3 or 4 people and pushing ourselves. This is again a game design choice though, and I think we’re going to see a greater amount of customization options in this regard in the future. Games should have content that scales for group size and allows users to set their own difficulty level.

        “There are no MMOs out there with any sort of difficulty toggling”

        CoX has difficulty toggling and group size scaling. LotRO is adding both, I believe, in the next update.

      3. I’m not trying to be contentious here, Smak, but where did I say I don’t want people messing with my stuff? Nowhere. You’re making assumptions about who I am and how I play based on your perception of what soloers are, which is only part of the reality and only applies to a proportion thereof (as is the case with most pigeonholes).

        It’s tiring to constantly have my playstyle blamed for MMO ills. That’s got no basis in fact and is purely and simply picking on other people because it’s easy and they’re there. I don’t go around blaming group and raid folks for DIKU-MMO games’ ridiculous obsession with levels, points, and items… I could, but it would be facile and inaccurate, though I’m sure I could make a convincing argument all the same (though it would still be facile and inaccurate 😉 ).

      4. More to Ysh’s reply way down below that I can’t reply to. I skimmed over this which is more focused on negative grouping experience which I took to mean disruptions on how you could play the game:

        “And don’t get me started on grouping. Every damn time, there’s always one player who runs ahead, or behind, or to the side, and brings back every single creature in the local area, all foaming at the mouth for blood. Who gets everyone else killed except themselves, and then stands around whining about how the group isn’t moving fast enough. Then there’s the player who absolutely has to tell you what you’re doing wrong and how you should play, what you should be wearing, and what you should be casting at whom at any moment (in between gazing at themselves and thinking how unbearably awesome they are). There is, always, the player who thinks everything that drops is intended for them and them alone, and gets increasingly hostile with any kind of attempt to, you know, do the right thing and share loot equally. And don’t forget the player that’s always happy to group but never actually anywhere in the vicinity, and keeps everyone else waiting for an hour because they just have to do this one thing, or they don’t have the brains god gave an amoeba and they’re not sure how to get from A to B, could you come get them? Bring a blanky and a pacifier.”

  3. I have nothing against soloers, it doesn’t hurt anyone and a lot of people always solo because they have other commitments (like a baby, or being the sole carer for an aging relative) that means they may have to leave the kb at any time.

    But guilds are funny things. They date back to a time when the main reason people joined was either because they were RL friends with the guild leader or because they wanted a social circle AND people to group with. So in any guild, you have a group that wants to … group. And as a guild leader, if you can’t provide enough people who want to group with them then they’ll leave. Or maybe they won’t leave, instead they’ll stay and be really miserable.

    A solo player is a neutral quantity to a guild really. They can’t provide anything that anyone else doesn’t do and can’t provide the one sole thing that a lot of people want from a guild either. Being friendly and chatty and helpful on channel is great though, especially in the right guild. Or, more importantly, the right game.

    I’m thinking of my recent experience in LOTRO where I resubbed for a month to check out Moria. I rejoined my old guild but mostly was bumming around by myself or with my sisters. I happily offered things I found to the guild bank or offered my crafting skills … to a solid lack of enthusiasm. No one there needed any of the things I could give, they probably had alts who were more useful than I was. They were polite about my lowbie crafting items but no one really wanted them. It was pointless.

    They weren’t unfriendly (and neither was I) … it’s just a game in which lower levels (and this was only about 8 levels below the max) have nothing much to offer higher levels. And I didn’t want to spend my time helping people lower level than me, because I was there to explore and level myself.

    Compare it with CoH where you can at least give extra influence to your supergroup by solo questing or with WAR where you can hop into the occasional tier 1 scenario with people’s alts. I think the traditional type MMO may be becoming more solo friendly, but it’s not built into the social structures.

    1. Solo players can provide crafted goods, fun conversation, and advice to guildies without ever once grouping. All of these things meaningfully contribute to the guild.

      But then you’re once again defining “solo” as “never ever grouping at all for any reason” which is a lot more restrictive than most of us self-defined solo players would define it. I mostly solo but enjoy grouping sometimes, and am quite happy to help others out with active assistance. When I have endgame characters I enjoy light raiding but don’t make it the focus of the game.

      It seems clear that solo players are no more neutral than any other sort, from the point of view of the guild’s Greater Good. Just as solo players might not choose to group much (or even at all), so too the raiders might be obsessed with getting better gear and might harass other players into helping them with a continual stream of raids. Raiders might also just use guilds to get what they want then move on to other guilds with higher equipment requirements, then rinse and repeat. I’m unconvinced that raiders are inherently any better for guilds’ Greater Good overall than solo players. Sure, if it’s primarily a raiding guild then you’re prepared to deal with the downsides of raiders, and might be less interested in the contributions of soloists… but then the complete opposite might be true in a casual guild.

      Your example with LotRO is kinda flawed… insofar as you joined a high level guild with your low level alts, and so you had nothing to contribute solo. If e.g. you were the same level as them, or some of them had alts lower level than yours, then your crafted goods would be of greater use. Notably, you’d have been just as useless to them whether you chose to solo or to group; they didn’t need your lowbie help with their high level content, either.

      1. Tangentially, I’ve never liked a crafting system that promotes alts rather than just allowing self-sufficiency. The stated goal of limited skillsets (in LOTRO) or a small number of craftskills (WoW) is to promote player interdependency… but more often, it just means leveling up alts *because people like to be self-sufficient wherever possible*.

        Even raiders… or else why would they have crafting alts?

      2. I joined the guild I used to belong to last time I played. And I was only 10 levels below them when I started. (This is assuming there were any low level guilds, which isn’t all that likely in a game that’s over a year and a half old.)

        But OK, yes my crafted stuff was of limited use to the guild in the limited period in which we all were levelling. Still, you’re never the only person in guild with that tradeskill and games like to make drops and quest rewards useful too, so it is limited use.

        Point is that I played solo. The reasons were partly from choice and partly because it wasn’t easily possible to group. But in practice, I played solo. It’s not to do with high level or low level. I might have been a high level player who never grouped, it would have been the same is all.

    2. Aye, I know what you mean. However, I think the issues you describe apply to particular kinds of players and particular kinds of guilds. I certainly don’t try to join group-heavy (or indeed raiding) guilds as a rule, because I know my priorities and those of the members won’t mesh. There are, however, lots of guilds that aren’t based around *just* (or even mainly) grouping together, which is a much better fit for me.

      It’s sort of like in RL — some friends I have ALWAYS want to be entertained (as in, “you do it! make me have fun!”), some always want to be doing stuff (and will initiate it), and others are happy to do whatever, or nothing.

      Course, we also don’t all want the same thing all the time, either. 😀

      1. I’ve been in a couple of different crews in Puzzle Pirates (guilds, more or less, while PP “flags” are groups of crews, a sort of superguild/alliance thing), and I’m happiest in the one that is comprised almost entirely of soloers. We all do our own thing, but if someone needs a hand, we’re happy to pop over and help out. We’re a loose affiliation of friends who simply like to do our own thing without losing the *option* to help at the drop of a hat. The crew structure is a helpful organizational tool in that regard.

        It’s not unlike real life. If I had to deal with twenty to forty people everywhere I went, I’d go insane. I *need* that asocial solo time to relax, though I’m not *antisocial*.

        There’s a very different psychology between extraverts and introverts. Some people *need* to interact with others to maintain energy, and being alone drains them, while others are the exact opposite. Yet, somehow, they can get along in the real world.

      1. Well, I am. But that’s not because I like to solo; it’s because I draw sustenance from the vital fluids of other lifeforms. 😛

  4. My issue with the recent trend of solo friendly MMOs (and making previously non-solo friendly MMOs solo friendly) is that people like easy. Much like anything else, the path of least resistance in the one taken. If solo is easy, and therefore easier than grouping (because, face it, dealing with other people is harder than relying on yourself), people will solo. PUGs suck because if the group sucks they can just go solo, especially in a game like WoW where grouping actually REDUCES your reward. Spawn times and loot drops, combined with the ease of soloing means that you can often get better XP/hour, Gold/hour and items/hour than a group. The only advantage a group has is in getting a chance at sharing slightly better loot by taking on harder monsters, but overall, as long as the items are not BOP, you can get what you want faster by grinding money and buying from the auction house than you can from grouping.

    The solo friendly design degrades the rewards of non-solo play, and results in people who might otherwise enjoy group to play solo in order to avoid hindering their progress.

    I only point that out because as tired as you are of hearing people disparage your play style, I am as tired of hearing solo players insist that soloing has no effect on the rest of the game.

    1. Each playstyle affects any game, because devs only have so much time and because, as you point out, what one person can do is easier as a rule than what several can do, so why bother with the grouping options?

      Similarly, however, I’m tired of seeing endless raiding content being thrown out in games when what *I* would like to see is more crafting, or better crafting, or more options relating to stuff that isn’t necessarily raiding.

      That’s a problem with games as they are now. I don’t think for a second that this is necessarily the way it has to be, or the only way to design games.

      One thing I would really love to see more of, if and when someone figures out how to do it, is SMALL group content — say 2-4 people. Duos and trios are getting so much more common, but there’s no middle ground for them right now.

      Maybe scaling is the answer.

      At any rate, I’m the last person to ever say (or think) that I should have access, alone, to stuff other people have to work together to obtain. I’ve heard that before and I happen to agree with the groupers on that one (assuming solo risk < group risk, which isn’t always the case).

      1. Actually, EQ2 was revamped a couple of years ago almost completely on the theme of providing things for duos/trios to do. Most “group” content in that game is really aimed at the duo/trio set until you get to the highest levels.

        Of course, every PUG insists on filling out to six before doing anything because A. it’s easier and B. you never really know if any of the other players have a clue. But a duo/trio that plays together often is usually just as effective as a full PUG.

    2. I think WoW has failed to provide a design that adequately rewards grouping except in endgame raids, but that’s not the fault of the soloists.

      My choice to play primarily solo is based on my preferences… I have to go AFK a lot and at random times, and I dislike inconveniencing others. I also like to be free to experience content at my own pace. I do quite enjoy a good group with friends and don’t avoid them, but the majority of my time in online worlds has been spent solo. I don’t believe that my preferences in this regard in any way have to detract from the enjoyment of others. A game can reward grouping with experience bonuses and I’ll still often solo. The fact that some games choose to penalize the exp over time of grouped characters is frankly a strange design choice and not one I approve of; I certainly didn’t ask for it and won’t be held accountable for it.

  5. I’m not really sure what I want to say, but I wanted to say something (blogger mentality?). So basically it is this:

    When you went to school dances, there were probably three types of people there: those mixed in with the huge crowd in the center, those standing around talking with a few friends, and those wallflowering by themselves, trying not to drink their punch too fast.

    The two groups probably look at the lone ‘flower and wonder why they are there, if they don’t want to have fun. But the ‘flower does want to have fun, and they are there for one a couple of reasons:

    They need someone to take them by the hand and invite them into the fun. Or. Watching the crowds is plenty of fun for them by itself. Or. Maybe they just want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

    In any case, I don’t think the dance would be the same without them.

      1. And sometimes the wallflower actually doesn’t like other people bothering them, and is actually happy where they are. Don’t assume that someone else’s approach to life is something that needs fixing. That’s the danger in this discussion, from any viewpoint; live and let live.

  6. I don’t blame people for playing the game they want to, the way they want to while having fun by doing so… I’m just frustrated that what I enjoy has taken a back burner to things like crafting, pets, houses and other fluff. I don’t want to adventure, explore, clobber things and sometimes squeak by something really tough. /rant /rant /rant

    Using the above analogy (hehe), it’d be like having said dance and forcing the people that like dancing to not dance because the others don’t like to, choose not to or have fun doing something other than dancing.

    At what point does it stop being a ‘dance’?

    🙂

    1. Perhaps. But I think you’re blaming people with a certain playstyle for what DEVS and gaming companies have decided to cater to. The solo player was there from the start, or they’d not have had stuff designed for them. Sort of like the gold selling argument — sure, gold sellers suck (IMO anyway), but people usually conveniently forget that there was a HUGE market for it in the first place, so how come the buyers are never at fault?

      Somehow along the way solo has come to equate antisocial. Eh… I was going to explain how it really isn’t, but by now I’m pretty sure that no matter what we all say, our basic opinions aren’t going to change.

      It’s disheartening.

      1. Asocial != antisocial. Also, the Jerk Venn sphere isn’t contained in the Soloer sphere.

      2. “for what DEVS and gaming companies have decided to cater to”
        Yup, it came across like I was blaming solo players. I didn’t mean to make it sound that way and mention that above. 🙂

        I know what you’re saying, I don’t think solo players are anti-social any more than I think that all grouping players are social. I’ve been in groups where some people were about as social as a pebble.

        I’m frustrated, annoyed, bored and don’t really have much to look forward in MMO’s at the moment. Which is saddening because I used to really enjoy them.

        I miss the days where exploration wasn’t a given, combat was lengthy and felt tough, terrain was part of the challenge, you could actually get lost in an instance/dungeon and things didn’t feel so easy all the time.

    2. Heh ok, I’m going to quit getting on your case about getting on my case about getting on your case about… where were we?

      Your comments were an easy target for my frustrations, so apols. I’m frustrated in a generic sense, not at anyone in particular… just as most grouping/raiding players are.

      What probably irks me that most in the MMO-sphere (and hell, RL) at large is the general refusal of most folks to see past the end of their own noses, or beyond their own prejudices. I may rant and rave here now and then, but I remain v grateful that people commenting here aren’t at all like the bigoted sons’o’bitches I describe. 😀

      1. I don’t mind 🙂

        I can understand being frustrated at people not understanding why you choose to play the way you do and thinking they can ‘cure you of it’. It’s not something that needs a cure dammit! I like playing this way!

        I’m just equally frustrated that MMOs are moving away from what I liked to cater to people (not necessarily you) that want an easy time even when doing things that are supposed to be hard.

        Is it sad that some fights in Wizard 101 and Free Realms are more challenging and fun that some of the, supposed, heroic fights in other MMOs?

        😐

  7. Jason, so you’re min/maxing the rewards that come from using people in a group, as opposed to using the game? That sounds more like a personal playstyle issue (what you want out of the game) rather than a social issue.

    Spinks, that’s one more reason to not stratify game design by levels, then. The DIKU model has a lot of flaws, primary among them the level disparity and obsession with loot.

    smaken, are raids not enough? Those are hardly tuned for the solo player.

    Ysh, sounds like that’s been building for a while. Saylah has some good rants up too. *bookmarks* As a confirmed soloer, I’ve resigned myself to the notion that I’m effectively playing a different game, just in the same world.

    1. My main issue with raids is that they water you down to a single role amongst many other players where what you contribute can matter less unless you do it wrong. The challenge isn’t in the encounter so much as ensuring a larger number of people don’t screw up. 🙂

      They also seem to be getting shorter and shorter.

      For me, the challenge was always in building a group, wandering into a large dungeon and delving it. Seeing certain sights along the way, running into something that stands out and trying to piece together why that was. With regards to combat, it was the risk of one of them getting away and bringing back a boat load of friends or the risk of having something wander in while you were vulnerable. A lot had to do with the environment you were in, not just the atmosphere but requiring some sort of coordination not to fall into that pool full of crocodiles.

      If you think of EQ, consider most of the dungeons people didn’t like to go into because it was too hard. That’s where I went.

      Some of my best memories aren’t of the successes, but rather the failure. In the current games, there is little risk of failure unless you do something really stupid at which point it isn’t a risk, it’s result of doing something stupid.

      And I do solo, quite a bit – I blew through TBC mostly solo and a fair bit of WotLK as well. It’s definitely easier to do when there is a social aspect involved (guild chat or whatever). I just miss the challenges and feel like I’m not really doing anything but chatting with some on going distraction in the background.

      Ah well.

      1. Game designers certainly seem to be afraid of letting players fail these days. I don’t appreciate that. The risk of failure makes success feel much more meaningful. Most modern games are simply wars of attrition… if you play long enough you’ll get everything you want regardless of skill.

      2. It goes a bit beyond game designers. It seems it’s becoming cultural to not let our children fail. But I won’t go into that. 🙂

  8. “Also, the Jerk Venn sphere isn’t contained in the Soloer sphere.”

    It is if you are the jerk 🙂

    Good point about extrovert vs introvert, also. And raids notwithstanding, I don’t understand why devs for games like WoW can’t put in more solo and fluff content … it would please a lot of people.

    1. Heh, I should have written “wholly contained”. The point was that jerks come in all flavors. Good clarification. 🙂

  9. I don’t have an issue with people soloing as a playstyle choice. I think the issue arises when people who solo primarily want the same level of gear rewards as people who group or raid.

    I certainly think you can incorporate solo-centric content into any game, but the solo rewards have to be “fluff” or of some lesser quality than group rewards, otherwise you are passively discouraging grouping and, while many people prefer soling, MMORPGs should encourage cooperative play on some level.

    Soloing to finish a quest that gives you a super awesome house item, or pet, or appearance armor? Sure.

    Soloing as a viable way to get a reward comparitive to a mythical weapon? No.

    1. @ castilion: “MMORPGs should encourage cooperative play on some level.”

      Please explain why you feel this to be true. It’s a common claim that’s rarely backed up to any extent; it’s just thrown out there with the assumption that it must be true. Often people go so far as to use the genre’s common name as an explanation… “it says ‘massive’ in the name so it has to be cooperative”. That’s however fallacious.

      MMORPGs are games. Single-player games are every bit as valid as multi-player games, have the same potential to be Art, can bring as much enjoyment, can be as educational, and can make as much money for the game companies – in every meaningful regard they’re equal. The fact that a game is played online, in the presence of other players, doesn’t necessitate the game’s focus on cooperative play (or competitive either).

      From the sound of it, you like grouping and feel that solo play threatens your enjoyment; if equal rewards are available to solo players, you feel this will fail to motivate people to group. This however begs the essential question (and its follow-ups): if rewards are the same, and people prefer to solo, why shouldn’t the game allow this? Why should we force people to group? Why bias the rewards to encourage people to do what they might not prefer to do?

      1. Let me answer in this way then,

        I play EQ2 because it enourage(d) cooperative play. It was the premise of the game. It’s the reason I purchased the game, and it’s quite well known that EQ was virtually group or don’t play and EQ2 certainly encouraged cooperative play at launch.

        I doubt you will argue the point that EQ2 is biased towards cooperative play? The loot rewards certainly indicate this.

        So, while I agree that solo-centric, or games that do not encourage cooperative play or competetive play are quite valid, playing a game that was designed from release for cooperative play and then being surprised that solo-play is not as rewarding is counter-productive.

        Solo play does not affect my enjoyment of the game, positively or negatively at the moment. I don’t care if people solo or not, it’s their choice. However, if you do not acknowledge that making gear rewards for solo play identical to rewards for group/raid play does not passively discourage grouping, I don’t know how to respond to that.

        The path of least resistance is the most traveled path, and if cooperative play is not required to be rewarded with Uber Sword +5, then..what’s the point?

        I certainly support your right to play a game that caters to a more solo playstyle. I just think you should support my right to play a game that requires a more cooperative playstyle. We all have choices, yours is not more valid than mine.

      2. Encouraging isn’t the same as forcing, though. MMOs do differ from single player games in the fact that most of us (even the soloers like me) play them at least partly because they contain other people, and other people are what makes life interesting. What we differ in mostly, I think, isn’t the idea of socialising, it’s what form said socialising should take.

        I do however agree that MMOs *should* encourage social interaction, because they’re a great vehicle for it. There aren’t many environments where you can putz about by yourself OR putz about with people OR putz alone and still be conversing with all manner of folks you know and don’t know. That’s one of the greatest strengths of the genre, and I don’t think it’s being nearly as well utilised as it could. Raph Koster has written a fair bit on this before, and a lot better than I ever could.

  10. Perhaps the question is what you’re encouraging player interaction for. If you’re trying to present the option for interesting gameplay that can’t be found anywhere else, that’s one thing. If you’re assuming that “MMO” means “group or die, all the time”, you’re just limiting yourself. It’s a valid choice, but a limiting one.

    And castillion, equal rewards for solo and group efforts isn’t actively *or* passively discouraging one or the other. That’s the whole point; it’s letting the *player decide* from equal options. It’s not the game dev’s job to tell people how to socialize. I can’t stress that enough. If I wanted social engineering out of my free time that I’m paying for, I’d go join a country club and ask about their hazing program.

    They should provide a framework of rules for how the game works, and let the players have as much freedom as possible to play within those bounds, with other players or not, *as they choose*.

    1. We’ll have to disagree whether it’s discouraging or not.

      They should provide a framework of rules for how the game works, and let the players have as much freedom as possible to play within those bounds, with other players or not, *as they choose*.

      Why? Why must every game do this? I clearly chose to play a game that encourages and rewards cooperative play. Why must it be changed to accomodate your style of play?

      1. @ castillion: “I clearly chose to play a game that encourages and rewards cooperative play. Why must it be changed to accomodate your style of play?”

        Who was asking for the game to change? Some of us are simply indicating our valid right to play solo, and indicating that our choice to do so isn’t lessening the enjoyment of others, and further that our choice doesn’t hurt the community nor make us less desirable guild members.

        Though I think it’s reasonable for a game to steer people towards either solo or group play, I don’t perceive it as *necessary* to do so. I don’t agree in theory that grouping > solo nor that reward structures need to reinforce this bias, but that’s not the same as me asking for an existing game to change to suit my needs.

      2. Indeed. I’ve not asked for a game to change either. I’m talking in generalities and egalitarian game design.

        Now, if I start asking for stuffed Care Bear minipets in Darkfall, you can complain.

  11. I don’t have the inclination to read all the comments here, but I wanted to thank Ysh for the post.

    The benefit I get from discussions such as this one is, I get to see a person’s true colors and know to avoid them in future.

    I also read Syp’s post and the comments to it, and my reaction was basically a string of expletives directed at Spinks. Which I then edited down to a blog-friendly format.

    Happily the world’s a big place and I can easily avoid gaming around folks who harbor such nasty and mean-spirited feelings towards me because I choose not to group.

  12. I certainly think you can incorporate solo-centric content into any game, but the solo rewards have to be “fluff” or of some lesser quality than group rewards, otherwise you are passively discouraging grouping

    You would like to have a reasonably balanced risk/reward ratio, regardless of whether the content is aimed for solo or group play.

    And what is really group play? 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 players? more?
    Something that would be reasonably challenging for a group of 2 would be dead easy for a group of 6, unless there is some scaling involved, or you can add NPC group members. And if you design everything for a certain group size, you are discouraging other forms of grouping.

    And if you find a good way to cater for all those different group sizes, the solo play just becomes one additional group size.

    One thing people like to hit each other with is also what we use to name this type of game – MMO or MMORPG. We could call most of them OSPW instead (Online Semi-Persistent Worlds) and in that case there would be little argument how people should play it due to the name.
    But since we happen to be stuck with ‘MMO’, people use that as an excuse to put down other people’s play styles.

  13. Pete S: You can avoid gaming around anyone, that’s why you solo 😛 Anyway if you want to see my ‘true colours’ feel free to read my blog. I don’t actually rant about soloers because I’m all for people playing the way they want.

    But as someone who prefers to group I would rather have a guild of groupy people. It’s this notion of ‘I’ll join a guild so they can entertain me but I have no intention of really taking part’ that I query. Because I don’t think you can really take part in a community if you shun groups.

    1. You and I see things so radically different that it’s like we’re speaking two completely separate languages.

      But I haven’t resorted to insulting you. Well, I haven’t externalized it, at least.

      My girlfriend is the guild leader of a level 50+ guild in EQ2 with a huge guild hall that she’s spent a lot of time setting up to make useful for members of her guild. She helps out people all the time. She chats with people all the time. She runs a web site for the guild, she does sigs for other EQ2 players, she’s active on the EQ2 player forums.

      But by your definition she’s not part of the community because she doesn’t often click the “Join Group” button?

      That’s quite simply incorrect.

      This isn’t about opinion or and it isn’t subjective, you are simply wrong.

      BTW, I do read your blog, that’s why I’m so dumbfounded by your comments. I didn’t think you were so judgmental of other people’s habits.

      You say you’re all for people playing the way they want, but I guess you reserve the right to casually insult them if they don’t play the way you feel they should?

      1. I’m not casually insulting you. You’re just choosing to take it personally. I’ve also never been in a guild where the guild leader never took part in any group activities. I’m finding that unusual.

        But OK, I’m wrong and your girlfriend proves it. I just don’t think she represents the kind of playstyle most people think of when they say they prefer not to play with others.

        I’ll write more about this if you want to know what I think and why, probably friday.

      2. @spinks

        Maybe you didn’t intend to casually insult me, but you did. When you say something disparaging towards a specific group of people, I think you have to assume that members of that group are going to feel personally offended.

        “I’ve also never been in a guild where the guild leader never took part in any group activities.”

        Neither have I. I think that’s the crux of our disagreement. To you, the only valid “activity” in a game is the Group as a game mechanic.

        In the LOTRO guild I was in, the guild leader set up meetings where he created contests and games, or led expeditions to obscure areas. We’d go as a Guild, not as a Group; he was a solo-er. But, *I think* you would consider that he wasn’t taking part in group activities because he didn’t click the Group button (and I apologize if I’m putting thoughts into your head, I’m just trying to understand your viewpoint).

        Here’s another example. I’m in a guild in EQ2. I don’t Group with people very often. But I Writs, which earn Status Points for the Guild. I go out harvesting materials which I deposit in the Guild hopper for others to use. I put gear I get as drops in the Guild Bank for others to use, or just mail gifts to people.

        But you’d still say I’m a leech because I don’t Group. But if I wasn’t in the Guild, the Guild as an entity would progress more slowly because I wasn’t contributing status to it.

        I also don’t think you really understand what a person means when they say they Solo. It doesn’t mean we don’t interact with other players. It doesn’t mean we won’t help out a guildie (or a stranger) in need. It doesn’t mean we walk past someone being overcome by mobs, leaving them to die. Of course we jump in and help. It doesn’t mean we don’t help when our Realm assaults the other side. We join the fight. We just don’t click the GROUP button. We still heal other members of our side. We still defend people. We still trade with people, we still interact with people all the time.

        What we don’t do is enter into a social contract that says “I’m willing to be part of this Group construct whereby if I decide I’m done playing for the evening, my leaving the Group will adversely impact your enjoyment of the game.”

        I don’t want the guilt of leaving people in the lurch, and I don’t want to feel like I “have” to keep playing or screw up someone else’s enjoyment.

  14. In many ways I think it all boils down to labels. What one person means by “solo” isn’t necessarily what another person understands “solo” to be. Perhaps I’m an odd fish in that I mentally class myself as a solo player, and yet I’m in a guild that actively explores the 10-man raid content in WoW – but only with one character.

    I am an unashamed alt-o-phile, something that should come as no surprise to a visitor to The Stylish Corpse :), and this sometimes translates into playing on one of my many alts that are no in the guild because I want some “me” time in the game. There are some days when I’ve had a god awful day at work and the thought of grouping up with anyone, guildies or otherwise, makes me go cold to the core – and on those days I want to have the option of just puttering around doing my own thing.

    Having said that, I’ve always got a chat channel open to friends in the guild and I’m willing to at least consider the option of joining them if they need a spare body and my mental state allows! It’s not as if my need to be solo is absolute but I appreciate the game design that permits me, or anyone else, to indulge that need.

    As for the solo rewards vs group rewards argument, that breaks down for me as I really don’t care about the rewards. Sure, something nice and shiny is indeed nice a shiny, but in the end it’s only pixels. It doesn’t exist. So why on earth should I get wound up about it?

    Eric

  15. I’m sure it’s been stated amongst the fighting thus far, but I didn’t read it all since the back and forths don’t really pique my interest 😛

    I think the main issue is that when a developer group decides to put in group content, they do so at the expense of solo content. When they decide to put in solo content, they do so at the expense of group content.

    This isn’t always the case, as the game updates for EQ2 lately have included solo dungeons, group dungeons and x2 & x4 raid dungeons all in one update so … it’s possible, just not popular or shared amongst other games. But I believe that’s where the argument stems from. Groupers see content for soloers and say “where’s our content? We don’t want solo content” and therefore think the soloers are sucking dev time. Then the vice versa happens when group content is made.

    Now, to be honest, MOST of the whining comes in the form of forums posts and God knows people on official forums are usually less than the scum of the earth so I usually pay them no mind, but the devs seem to for some reason.

    Not all soloers have the same mentality, not all groupers have the same mentality. I solo when no one’s on and group when I feel like it. Even when I group with people I know, Ysharros’ notes about groups come into play. Some people just don’t feel like going through with plans and strategies and pull every damn thing in site, or don’t rest for mana or 1 of a hundred other things. But I don’t mind because we’re friends. Would I mind if it was a PUG? Probably. Why? Dunno. Does it make me a hypocrite? Possibly, but sod off 😛

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  17. Excellent post with an equally interesting comment discussion. Quite a rarity for the internet. 🙂

    I have raided in the past though I am a soloer at heart. I think the problem for each side of the discussion is that they blame the other side for frustrations they have that are made at a developer level. Blizzard, SOE, Turbine, and others have made the very mercenary decision to welcome all comers to various degrees. I find it difficult to argue with that from a business perspective. However throwing all of those people in the same game can be problematic.

    Too much to say here, so now I have to blog. Darn you, Ysharros!

  18. Not to be snarky although there’s an abundance of negative snark about solo players. Vote with your dollars. I don’t purchase or play heavily group dependent games because that doesn’t appeal to my play style. Players who want those types of games should stick to them. They are out there – LOTRO and EQ2 are better for grouping than solo. Have at them and enjoy. GW is another game where you’ll progress more reliably with a group – static if you can than soloing if you want to see most of the content.

    However, the fact that many games are now supporting solo play speaks to it’s popularity and players who want that option play those games. We speak with our dollars too.

    MMOs are evolving as the player base evolves. The players that played games like UO and EQ1 aren’t the only people playing MMOs now so the styles of the games change to support the audience.

    In a perfect bubble world developers and publishers would be happy with niche market numbers but they aren’t, so they cast a wider net. It’s the net that’s ruining your so-called group gaming. Companies want nice profits. Sorry, most of the games don’t want just the hardcore or just the group players, they want as many subscribers as they can get that enjoy playing in virtual worlds with other.

    You are all free to stop playing MMOs that provide a lot of support for solo game play, the same way I don’t play the ones where grouping is a prerequisite.

  19. Wow. Sorry to ring in so late, but I thought I’d stir up the discussion by saying this. Groupers/raiders fall into one of three categories…

    1. You’re the jerk who has to stay three levels (tiers) ahead of everyone else because you just HAVE to be the BIG person in guild. You always try to group with the server elite, leaving the rest of the guild behind because…hey…it’s not your fault everyone can’t be dedicated like you. You just want to play the game!

    2. You’re the guy who is always in the perfect group at the perfect time, scheduling with a good chunk of your guild so you advance together.

    3. You’re the moron who can’t keep up. You don’t know crap about gear or how to even play your class. Maybe if you played a bit more and read a little bit…you know…during your downtime at work…you may be a little more advanced. Now shut up…because I’m better than you….I’m three levels (tiers) ahead for God’s sake!!!

    Of course, I’m being a little tongue in cheek here. But believe me, there are more of the first and third types than anything else. And we have a saying in politics – “It’s not what you think about yourself, it’s what others think about you.”

    And before you go and get mad at me, I’ve been every one of those stereotypes in my close to 18-year career playing MMOs. And I’ve done a LOT of soloing, too.

    In recent years, soloing has been a lot more fun. Mostly because I’m always in the perfect group – me. Mostly because I only have one group memember to share loot with – me. Mostly because there is only one group member that gets all the harvests – me. Mostly because my group moves at the right pace – mine.

    I’m sorry, but among the numerous guilds I’ve been in during that span of time…rarely have I been remembered socially for my contributions in groups, raids, being a damn soloer, dropping mats or crafting items in guild bank, or giving people coin. I’m remembered and hopefully make friends because of my personality in chat, vent, community message boards, blogs and betas.

  20. Ha… I like all forms of play. I started out playing solo for two basic reasons – lots of distractions and I hate others having to wait on me; and initially fear of screwing up bad. The last one is proportionate to the amount of coffee I’ve had.

    Increasingly, I’ve started enjoying group play (obviously after having lots of coffee… and fewer distractions). In most of these situations, I’m very much in the learning phase – don’t know instances by heart and such. Some groups prefer veterans – so that reduces my chances for exposure a bit.

    Really, what I think is missing is more opportunity between the “solo player” and the “more hard core groups” – that being the true “explorer/learning expedition”. I don’t blame the designers for that, and I don’t blame players for that; finding instead that the initiative is on me to get something like this going.

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