Smells like team spirit

Back to the solo/group player divide. This occurred to me a few days back: I wonder if the grouper-types are more into team sports and the soloer-types are more into individual sports? More specifically, if that’s how we see our MMO gaming — as a large, fuzzy baseball game, or as a quiet, in-my-own-time round of golf?

It’s probably a facile correlation, but I’ve sometimes had this feeling, while being upbraided by a group-type for not wanting to do what they wanted me to do, that I was “letting down the team.” Whose team? Who put me on there anyway? That, of course, is my reaction as a soloer, whereas maybe the grouping types are thinking “What the hell, this is a TEAM game, wtf are they doing being all prima ‘I vont to be alone’ donna?”

teamspiritI’m a perfectly good team player when I’m given a choice to be on the team in the first place, as with scenarios in WAR. What I cannot abide is logging into games and being approached by players as though it’s a bloody football match (American if you like, but what I mean by “football” is “soccer”), they’re the boss of me, and I’d better do what they expect or *gasp* the whole team will lose! I don’t say this often, but Oh noes!

This is shaping up into a rant about people who turn their own expectations out onto the world and don’t understand when the whole world won’t cooperate to do what they want, as though the universe were set up to fulfil the desires of any single person (and if it were, it bloody well wouldn’t be Mr. Me-First McSelfishbastard) — and that’s not what I want today.

So, what do you think? Do you see MMOs more as a team-sport kind of thing, or not? (I don’t mean for obvious team events like scenarios or dungeon crawls — some things are blindingly obvious even to me.) It may not be a huge or illuminating correlation, but I do wonder if it helps to understand some of the reactions we get from others in games.

29 thoughts on “Smells like team spirit

  1. In my opinion, WAR is definitely a team game, because communication and co-ordination are vital for open RvR. I suppose grouping up is optional for most of your PvE experience – you can just solo your way to 40 without any major repercussions. However, for any measure of success in tier 4, you need to work as a team with many other players at the same time.

    If you have been running into warband leaders that have no grasp on their situation, cannot seem to employ the abilities of the warband, and refuse to listen to advice, then the best thing you can do is form another warband of your own. Arguing with the warband leader will just split the efforts of some people, and make other players leave the whole area.

  2. MMO’s are what *you* want to make of them. I too, as I have previously ranted, hate being told what to do. It’s my sub, if you don’t like the way I’m playing go join another PUG. I can understand the ‘it’s an online game you should know your role’ argument but disagree on principle with it’s premise. While it’s true that everyone is playing the ‘game’ together who is the one to judge whether one play style is ‘the uber’ while another isn’t? Just because someone has min/maxed and meta-gamed the hell out of a build doesn’t mean that is the ONLY way to play that particular class or archtype. Besides, it still all boils down to this: It’s my $15. If I want to run scenarios naked with no weapons I should be able to as long as I’m willing to accept the natural consequences (no buffs, no heals, etc).

    I’m a more social than solo gamer. I tend to like being grouped but dislike PUGs. Social norms and mores tend to be a bit more relaxed due to the anonymity of the ‘net. I bet I wouldn’t get any kind of smack talk from a fellow PUGer if I were physically present and could jack said smack-talking nimrod across the back of the head.

  3. Though I know I ought to be more willing to approach WAR like a football/soccer game, where I’m eagerly cooperating with my fellow players, I sort of prefer the golf model. Especially with my boyfriend there, it’s sort of like we’re on our own fairway, puttering around. 😉

  4. @Jen — I don’t think a game is necessarily either/or. Well okay, some of the cooperative shoot-em-ups or whatnot (not sure, don’t play them), but there you know what you’re getting in to right from the start.

    MMOs, however, paint themselves as all things to all players. I just wonder whether players tend to think of MMOs as one thing or another primarily. Suddenly I’m also wondering if our gaming past affects this too — play lots of team-based FPS, assume MMOs are the same? Hrm.

  5. Yes, I think your problem is you need a better warband leader!

    OK, snark done…

    As a data point, I am (as you know) a solo player, and I do not like playing team sports.

    Very possibly, social is social, whether it is sports or games or movies (I also prefer watching a movie alone rather than group viewing).

  6. I consider MMO to be a team event, with some reservations.
    You got to work together(group) to achieve a common goals, but it’s okay to strive for personnel (solo) excellence. I see some quest and most dungeons at group events, and exploration and a few quest as solo events.

    I just do what it takes to get stuff done group, raid, solo, or duo.

  7. I like the analogy, though it does fall apart (like all analogies do eventually). I used to watch a lot of team sports but have switched to mainly watching (and, occassionally, playing) tennis these days. For tennis (and golf) there are occassional team tournaments, but most of the focus is on solo play. Yes, there is doubles, but in MMORPGs doubles are just an extended form of solo play.

    However, the big difference is the cooperative nature of MMORPGs (well, I can hope they are cooperative). In tennis or golf you are soloing against another group of people. In MMORPGs, hopefully, you’re working with them at least some of the time.

    I agree with you, that I’d rather helping be voluntary rather than forced. And, if that means I won’t get to see a part of the game, that’s ok with me. I’ll enjoy what I’m doing and if that means I’m helping you out today, you should be pleased rather than annoyed that I can’t do it every Monday at 6 pm server time.

  8. MMOs in general are team games. The solo play before hand is training and preperation. You might go with another person to fullfill goals that aren’t specific to the end game, but that’s just akin to a work-out buddy.

    In WAR, you’re part of a team. These teams can be a group, a warband, or multiple warbands that span guilds, alliances, and pugs. This team play and idea is why it is so important to have a warband leader and to ensure that everyone listens to that person. If any single person is unwilling to listen and follow the directions, leave. You’re welcome to tag along outside of the warband, but if being uncooperative, you’ll be doing the cyber equivelant of riding the bench.

    The reverse works as well, if you’re Warband leader is incompetent, or unable/unwilling to make decisions, leave and start your own. If people see your ideas as the right ones and you are successful, word will spread.

  9. “MMOs in general are team games.”

    Says who? That’s my question. *You* may say so, but where exactly in any of the MMO literature (or promotion) is it explicitly stated? Sure, raiding is a team activity, but it’s not the ONLY activity. Nor is it obligatory, or I wouldn’t play any MMOs at all.

    Team activities are one of the many choices MMOs offer. To me, it seems part of the (wilful?) blindness of team-forcers to say that it’s the only VALID or MEANINGFUL activity.

    If I want to spent 3 days decorating my EQ2 house or 3 days chasing achievements in WoW, how is that not valid, or even less valid?

    I think that is, at base, what really bothers me. Team-based people seem to think only what THEY do, and want to do, is what matters. The rest of us have an easier time accepting a variety of choices and activities.

    (Sorry to pick your particular statement apart, Shadowwar, but that quote so neatly encapsulates something I was trying to deal with. Thanks for providing it! :D)

  10. To paraphrase Heinlein’s Lazarus Long:

    [Soloing] is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing — and you don’t have to go home in the cold. But it’s lonely.

  11. I love playing volleyball, but I tend to like teams of 4 or 2. It’s hard to play that game solo. That said, when I play games, I want to be alone, for the most part. People are draining, and I play games to relax. I play volleyball to exercise. Since there are different motivations, I play differently.

  12. I tend to be more of a soloer, and personally not much into sports of any kind ( 8-o Blasphemey I can hear you saying )

    But I don’t see MMO’s as one or the other. They’re mini-worlds and as such have the same variety of people types in them.

    Sure, there are times when it’s necessary to team up for a raid or a warband or whatever, but in the real world you don’t have to join a football team to play sports if you don’t want. The same applies to a MMORPG.

  13. @ Ysh: Only three days chasing achievements? Pah! I spent two bloody weeks trying to get the Loremaster of Kalimdor with my Alliance druid. Even had to go into the hell hole that is Maraudon… twice!

  14. I don’t really think it is necessary to make a choice as most MMO’s cater to both. Dungeons and Dragons Online was mostly developed for group-play, amidst a variety of problems, it never really caught on – never became what it could have been. Lately DDO has been trying to reach the solo player through the addition of hirelings. Not exactly effective in my opinion as most DDO quests tend to require 4 players, and in many cases demand 6. Are they possible to solo…yes, but it ends up being an exercise in extreme patience. It seems really necessary to cater to both styles of play.

    In my own case, I tend to solo about 80-90% of the time largely because I have lots of interruptions. If I know there won’t be any interruptions, than I tend to group. Scenarios are an exception in that 99% of the time my interruptions can wait a few minutes. I strongly dislike holding up a group for any reason.

    It’s understandable that the greatest rewards should come through team efforts confronting a real challenge. That said, I would like to see a few instances/dungeons designed to seriously challenge a solo player with a suitable reward. Everything considered though, that is probably a greater challenge for a designer than it is designing one for a group.

  15. It really depends on the amount of time I have and my personal inclinations. When I’m a member of a team, then I’m all in. I’ll work to fill whatever my role is and fight for the group’s success. If I’m in a mood to do something else though, then that’s what I’m doing and appeals to be a “team player” will not get positive responses from me.

    I find it really annoying for some people to be in my face about joining an instance run if I’d rather be doing something else. A member of my kinship was spamming requests for groups the other day and bugging the hell out of a bunch of us. There were a lot of people on, but some were off PvPing, others were crafting, I was doing my explorer thing on an alt – none of us wanted to go on an instance run right then.

    In gaming, much as in real life, being a “team player” is often code for “do what -I- want you to do.”

  16. When you’re part of a team, there is always that pressure you will let people down. And for that reason, in sports and in MMOs, I tend to be more of a solo player. However, I wasn’t always that way. Real life has crept into things and now I lead a team all day long in my real job. The last thing I want to do is go home and lead a bunch of goons through a dungeon or raid. Sometimes…I just vant to be alone.

    I was a BMX racer, skateboarder, and martial arts kid growing up. The only team sport I played was basketball. I was more in my element doing the solo activities. The only one I could let down was me and I didn’t have the pressure of dragging a bunch of people along for the ride. I also wasn’t on someone else’s ride toward failure.

  17. One of the (required, dammit!) courses I’m taking this quarter is a “business psych” class.

    The instructor is focusing on identifying underlying personality styles from a “needs-based perspective” – or “how different people instinctively react if they weren’t spanked enough as children”. (My words… 😉 )

    One of the tests we took as a class was a DISC personality assessment. It builds up a model of a blend of personality traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness (or submission), and Conscientiousness (or caution). It isn’t as in-depth as some of the others, but it’s simple enough to explain to a bunch of Computer Science students… =)

    It would be interesting to see how various players and their behaviours correspond to standard personality profiles…

  18. @Ysharros

    Pick away!

    The way I see it, other avenues of play are the sideshow. I’ve talked about it in my blog before, about playing to the intent of the design. In MMOs, that’s usually some type of post-cap, end-game play. Sure, many online games have other things to keep you busy, achievements and housing being just two, but the point of playing the game is to have fun on the journey, but also to play the game that is waiting for you at the end.

    EvE might be one of those games where there is no “hard end-game” as it’s a sandbox, and whatever you’re doing, it’s the right playstyle, whether playing the market, doing missions, dog-fighting, or running a network of spys and informants to help bring down the dominant force in the universe. You know, whatever.

    However, the reason I say that MMOs are a team game isn’t only because of playing to the design, it’s also in the name of the genre. Massive multi-player. I just don’t understand the mind-set of wanting to play a game in this genre and want to do it alone. Why play? Sure, competition is great, whether on the open market, or in laying out the better virtual home, but one of those can be done in single player games as well, and I don’t personally know anyone who plays MMOs just for the thrill of buy low, sell high.

  19. Massively Multiplayer simply means there’s a “massive” (whatever number that means) amount of players able to be on the server at once, compared to the “normal” multiplayer games that seem to max out around 64 players per server.

    There is no intrinsic meaning that “MMO means grouping” and I think it’s safe to say at this point it’s been proven enough times over the past decade that “grouping does not equate to social” as well.

    If Ysh and others prefer to spend their entire time solo in an MMO that’s fine. They’re playing their game the way they want to, and it’s not affecting anyone else’s game.

    What MMOs allow is for all those “massive” numbers of multiple players to interact with each other in various ways, if they choose to. That’s what cannot be done in a single-player game, and that is a huge attraction for people even if they level their characters mostly on their own and choose to not participate in end-game group content.

  20. Well said, Ysh.

    I played plenty of team sports as a kid and enjoyed them, but I generally don’t enjoy grouping in MMOs. I think that’s largely because grouping in a sport is dynamic while grouping in MMOs is static.

    No matter what your position is in soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and such, every game feels completely different. Hell, every quarter of one game feels completely different! Each player has a clearly defined role, but that role doesn’t make gameplay experiences feel repetitive or rote.

    MMOs, on the other hand, are designed so poorly that group experiences are mostly predictable. Roles are ridiculously restrictive and without variation.

    And, as I’ve said many times, not everyone is attracted to MMOs because of the social aspect. For many of us, the coolest feature is the huge worlds open for exploration. MMOs are far bigger and more diverse than most single-player games.

  21. Sorry for the delay getting to your comment, Makk! You got spammed again for some reason. What WordPress karma pixies did you offend lately?! 😀

  22. @Scott

    You’re completely right, everyone who plays can play to any style that suits them. Each person can feel free to explore the content to their hearts desire.

    My contention is, like I said, in not playing to the design of the game. Looking at WAR in particular, and having followed the development of it, every avenue points towards guilds, alliances, and large “epic” groups of people running over the enemy en masse.

    MMOs used to have a large world where you not only got to “choose” to interact with other people, you were required to if you wanted to succeed. I still haven’t heard a proper argument for why anyone would play a game of this genre, and do it alone, the ENTIRE time. Playing in that manner is a glorified game w/ chat room.


    I understand the explorer mentality, I really do. I love console RPGs. As expansive as MMOs in general are, you can’t tell me that games like Morrowind, Fallout, Fable, etc… don’t offer insanely large areas to explore without the “hassle” of other plays intruding on exploration.


    It’s hard for me to understand so many people wanted primarily solo play in a large multiplayer world. I’m happy for the players that so much of that type of content has been released, but I think it cheapens and degrades what makes these games great. It takes the focus away from the shining gem of multiplayer content and makes it a side-show, something that is done whenever you’re bored of being alone, and that is a sad, sad thing.

  23. @shadowwar “It’s hard for me to understand so many people wanted primarily solo play in a large multiplayer world.”

    That’s pretty obvious. You seem determined to project your gaming values onto everyone else.

    Please point me to a single player RPG that gets regular content updates over the course of years, has events that vary with the seasons, has a live economy and has an AI engine that produces the kind of random, strange events (both RP and not) that you encounter when you share a world with several thousand other players. After you’ve pointed me to one, point me to a several others, because I do like variety in my gaming.

    You seem to equate soloing with “ignoring all the other players” and that isn’t the case, or even possible. Other players impact how we play in many ways. Soloing means opting not to chain myself to some other player or players… I don’t chain myself to other people in real life and I don’t see why I’d opt to do that in a game. But that doesn’t mean I’m anti-social in-game or in real life.

    Also, WAR is 1 instance of MMO gaming. I’ll agree with you that WAR was designed around grouping and (IMO) playing solo there is a fairly bland experience. But a lot of that is because WAR falls far over on the Game end of the Game Virtual World scale.

  24. Look to Fable, GTA4. They just released updates over their consol networks. This is becoming more and more common, with new technology.

    I believe you’re confusing with what I mean as solo play. I mean, honest and truely, doing everything alone, without anyone else being involved. Playing a market is playing with other people.

    And yes, WAR is a special example because it’s PvP focused, if you want to do everything solo in a PvE game, I could care less, it dosen’t affect me one iota. However, in a PvP game, other players solo-focus and refusal to work as a team can and does lead to a hinderance of my gaming experience.

    If you want a changing experience and minor updates from time to time in a game you play, wouldn’t playing a different game give the same level of “newness” and change? “Chaining” yourself to other players is the point of multi-play. Whether you’re fighting with or against them, and nothing says that if you’re not having fun, you can’t just pick up, leave, and try somewhere else.

    I’d bet you’re more chained in real life than you put forth. Do you have friends, do you do things with them? Married? Children? A job? Employees/co-workers? No man is an island.

  25. Yes, so several months after release, Fable 2 (which I played and loved) comes out with a modest expansion and it does give me hope. But when’s the next update, and how many are planned? Do you know? I don’t.

    “If you want a changing experience and minor updates from time to time in a game you play, wouldn’t playing a different game give the same level of “newness” and change?”

    Because then I’m starting over again. I play these games to build up characters (and in most games, “clans” via alts). Plus, switching to a new game means throwing down another $60 and hoping that new game lives up to its potential. I prefer a small monthly subscription to an ever-changing world based on a game system that I know and enjoy, to risking $60 on a game that may or may not be any good.

    “if you want to do everything solo in a PvE game, I could care less, it dosen’t affect me one iota. ”

    Then why are you making such a big fuss about it? WAR is 1 game in a big sea of MMOs and this discussion isn’t about Warhammer, its about MMORPGs.

    Though I’d argue that if I’m playing WAR solo and puttering around doing solo quests and making potions to sell on the broker, that isn’t hindering your play experience.

    “Do you have friends, do you do things with them? Married? Children? A job? Employees/co-workers?”

    Sure, but I don’t have to wait half an hour and gather a group to go to the grocery store (and then have someone go AFK to walk the dog while I sit around watching my free time being pissed away). I solo most of my tasks in real life, just like I solo most of my quests in games.

    The exception is work, where I do operate as part of a team, but y’know what? That’s why they call it WORK.

    If by “playing solo” you really do mean “honest and truely, doing everything alone, without anyone else being involved.”
    then I think you’re talking about something very different from the rest of the people in these comments.

  26. I suppose our perspectives are just different. The sliver of difference between playing an MMO solo (in the sense that everyone else is saying) and playing a single-person RPG is just not enough to convince me of the reason to participate in that playstyle. Perhaps you just progress through those games far more quickly than I do, but I would be dropping $60 every few months on a single player title, so the cost would be about the same for me, which is why I presented it as an option. Didn’t think it was needed, but obviously, YMMV.

    I won’t go through, line by line, but I still don’t see enough difference from what you and others have put forth to warrant playing an MMO over a single-player game in the manner that was presented by those discussing here. Yes, WAR is one game in the options, but the concepts still apply in some regard to other games, the impact is just softened in other games because of its non-competitive nature.

    The intent of MMOs from their inception was to bring people to a place where they can play together. They grew up from dikku MUDs where people came together to advance as groups. The entire genre was based around people interacting with each other. It wasn’t until recently that this solo-centric idea invaded these games. Looking to the games that paved the path for our playstyles shows a sudden shift to soloability.

    EQ, AO, Daoc, Shadowbane, SWG, even EQ2 was more group focused on release, then “Oh shit, WoW” now there is a heavy focus on letting the solo’er see and participate in the same content that the grouper/raider sees. I argue that they are more deserving to participate in these large-scale events because they put the work into it. Solo’ing is always easier to preform because you only need to rely on yourself, and getting people to cooperate is a difficult task. Providing large-scale, massive events to small groups dilutes and devalues the effort previously invovled in achieving those tasks. That dosen’t mean solo-style was less valid, or inferior in play, only that the reward was appropriate to the task/challenge/effort/what-have-you.


  27. I don’t recall anyone saying “As a soloer, I should be able to accomplish the same goals as a 60 man raid can.” Obviously that isn’t true.

    “The intent of MMOs from their inception was to bring people to a place where they can play together. ”

    We DO play together. We just don’t join in this artificial Group construct (very often). How do I know Ysharros and many of the other folks who comment here? From playing MMORPGs with them.

    “getting people to cooperate is a difficult task.”

    I agree that getting people to cooperate is a difficult task. But it isn’t gaming. And that’s exactly why I solo. I don’t want to be a Den Mother when I’m trying to relax. I don’t want to have to sit around waiting for people who can’t manage to arrive on time, and I don’t want to hold others up when suddenly the aquarium catches fire and I have to go AFK.

    Analogy time!

    Cell phones were designed so that you could make phone calls and talk to people, and that’s why I use mine. I don’t see any point in texting someone when I can just call them. But I don’t feel compelled to go around telling people who are texting that they’re not using the cell phone the “right” way, and the cell phone companies clearly see that there’s a huge market for texting, so they’re making cell phones more texting-friendly.

Comments are closed.