Why i play solo

Solo-play in MMORPGs seemed to be the hot topic yesterday. Massively was looking for the best Solo MMORPG, Keen looked into reasons for playing solo and offered some suggestions to encourage grouping via game design and Syncaine also chimed in. So i’d like to visit that topic, too, because i feel every article states something that’s worth mentioning.

Massively’s Bree mentions, for instance, that soloplayers are often seen as “violating the rules of the genre” by other players and sometimes even as one of many reasons the genre’s not doing so well. This doesn’t sit well with me, too, because i think there are valid reasons to solo in a MMORPG.

Being a father of an 18-month-old toddler i can tell you; grouping up with me often isn’t as much fun as it should be. When he wakes up, i’ll have to take care of him until he falls asleep again. This can take 5 to 60 minutes. So when i group, i need my groupmates to be understanding on the one hand, so that they won’t hold a grudge on me for leaving quickly and maybe for a longer stretch of time. On the other hand, i’d like to know that they won’t just stand there and wait for me while their mood gets worse with every minute. I need to know that at some point, they’ll just log out or continue without me. Now, there are people i know who fit this description, but there are only two of them and i know them for quite some time. Nowadays, i don’t think i’ll be able to get to know someone on that level in an MMO.

It’s not really about the games, though

While Keens observations are good and valid points themselves (i also preferred the lfg tools over the lfd tools), he’s looking at game mechanics mostly. I think the reasons for people playing solo- at least those in a certain age, or let’s just say living a certain kind of life (job, other hobbies, friends, maybe neighbors, kids etc.)- are mostly found in our lives, which doesn’t mean game design can’t help us out, but “quicker progression”, “boring group classes”, “ability to do everything” aren’t really the reasons why i most of the time end up playing solo.

I think TSW has found a sweet spot in the “quicker progression”-part Keen mentions- the mobs take time to kill; you’re always having an easier time if you can find 1-2 other people doing the same quests. But still most people play solo and TSW is often mentioned as a good solo mmorpg in that Daily grind on Massively.

Here are some of my out-of-game-reasons for playing solo mostly:

  • i can go afk whenever i want without feeling guilty. A bio break, getting a drink or something are easy, but what about a friend calling/visiting, a toddler crying/waking up or the wife wanting to discuss something? These are not “finished” in a few minutes and while it is true that in the beginning of WoW, this would be just fine and resolved with a quick message, i think the normal players don’t really put up with stuff like that. You won’t be added to friendlists as quick as others
  • i can play the game at my own pace. Even if nobody says something, i always feel pressured to not-read-quest-text/skip cutscenes/not enjoy the scenery/don’t look over that hill/don’t gather ressources when grouped up. I don’t like that.
  • This is something that turns up in guilds, mostly, but still: i don’t like voice chat very much. It used to be that i preferred to listen to music instead. Nowadays, my talking might wake up our son. “But you can just listen”, i hear you say, but really, 99% of conversation via voice chat is small talk, i don’t see a reason why this couldn’t happen via chat.

So, what can a game do?

I think the best solution might be some cross over between GW2’s “alone together”-mechanics and TSW’s ttk (time-to-kill). Also, stop putting group content in instanced areas- i think it would help a lot if you could just meet people willing to group up in the world. Aion comes to mind, with the Elite/group zones they had in 2009. Don’t know if they’re still there, but they came quite early in the progression and while you could do the quests there solo…somewhat…it was difficult and slow. So people grouped up, spontaneously.

LFD-tools don’t help, either. The other players are often treated as if they were npcs, so there’ll be no socializing. And i agree with Syncaine here when he writes that the social bonds are going to help players grow roots in your game. But i think those social bonds will grow better if their seeds are planted in the open world, not in instanced dungeons.

So another general suggestion would be to stop pulling people out of the worlds- battlegrounds, dungeons, raids, housing- put it in the world. Also, a game should provide more than one hub where players can get services.

Finally, yes, please, bring back lfg-tools (Blizzard has done it in the latest expansion, don’t know if it is used by the player base).

What i’m playing

So, Syp from Biobreak has this little widget on the right side of his blog, containing games he’s playing and goals he wants to achieve in each of those titles. I’d like to take his lead, as well, and see what i’m playing, what i want out of these games and what my goals are. Also, i think it’s a good idea to get a handle on the games i play/i want to play because the list isn’t getting smaller, unfortunately. I was hoping for 2014 to be the year i finally settle in one or two MMOs, but that wasn’t to be.

So here goes.

Everquest 2

I’m still enjoying this one and it feels like there’s lots to do and explore in EQ2. Right now, i’m a little split up between two characters- Triupia on Antonia Bayle, an Inquisitor, who’s in a guild and supposed to be my main. I’ll continue to focus on her when i’m playing alone. I’d like to get her to adventurer level 25 and then get the complete quested Inquisitor armor. After that, i’d like to catch up in crafting.

The other character i’m playing is Eshaunia, a Fury on Valor, the german server. I started a project in my multigaming guild, basically moving from one f2p-title to the next with a group of players who vote which game to go for and then playing it in a group. Eshaunia will probably stay where she is after the project is finished, because i have the Inquisitor and Valor is quite empty.

Star Wars: the old republic

I started an Imperial Agent, because the storyline is generally viewed as the best in game and i haven’t even finished one of them. I’d like to do that. Right now, immediate goals are to finish the first zone and get a hang of the class and story.

Elite: Dangerous

Some people describe it as “Euro Truck Simulator in space”- but really, i like it this way. I want to improve my flying skills while doing simple delivery missions, maybe trading and exploring as a medium term goal. If i get into fights, i’d like to be able to hold myself. Also, i want to get involved in the storylines the game presents.

The Crew

No real goals here. First one would have to be to level up and finish the main storyline. After that, it will be a fun ride of completing skill trials, finding hidden cars, exploring the mini-US and drive coast-to-coast or go on a virtual “Route 66”-tour.

World of Warcraft

I bought into it when they had the discount on the basic game. My wife plays, so i thought i’d like to join her, but we haven’t played together all that much. Still, i think the Explorer and Loremaster achievements are quite attractive goals and i’d really like to see the content of the game, because we spent a significant amount of money on this game if you add it all up and i didn’t play past the vanilla Un’goro crater.

Single Player

There are some singleplayer games i’d like to visit, as well. Endless Legend, The Wolf among us, Civ:beyond earth, Divinity: Original Sin are some that come to mind.

All in all, i think i have enough on my plate to spend 2015 without buying any new games. But i also know it won’t happen, sadly. For 2015, i’ve made the resolution to curb my spending on MMORPGs, though. With all those alpha-accesses i bought in 2014 it was an expensive year without much success in this regard (Landmark is still quite rough, AA is broken, Repopulation still not released.

Elite: Dangerous or EVE?

Now i know this is a dangerous question to ask. There’ll be proponents of both games and some others might point out that the true question would be “Star Citizen or Elite: Dangerous”. But that’s not the question i was facing yesterday, when a sudden urge to explore space grew and i needed to decide whether firing up E:D or resubscribing to EVE would be better suited for me.

Now, there are articles by others who list the differences between those two games in an objective manner- i can recommend Elite:Dangerous is not EVE by EliteNinja if you’re looking for that kind of thing. I’m taking a more subjective approach to show why i decided to play Elite: Dangerous as my space sim of choice for now.

Elite: Dangerous is not an RTS

See, i like EVEs approach. But i prefer the first-person-actiony-stuff from E:D, because it offers the opportunity to improve my skills over time. When i completed the first training scenario, where you shoot some toxic barrells in space, i was flying like a mad, drunk monkey. Later, when i started the “real thing” i was already somewhat capable of interpreting the radar and moving my ship. Now, i didn’t meet anything when i played (in Solo mode) and it was for the better, to be sure, but still, i felt like i was improving- without skills, levels or stats. It was my ability to play that was improving.

Also, it is new (and shiny)

The second most important reason i chose E:D was that it is new. Most of us like to read about exciting EVE news and think about how great it is that a game is able to deliver experiences like that. EVE is about the only game that does that right now and maybe even in the future. But there is the possibility that E:D also shapes up like that, given time (and money)- and this time, there’s the opportunity to be there when it begins.

The social experience

E:D is not about the PvP; in fact, you can play Solo, but you’re still not playing alone. The market, the political structure of the systems etc., everything is influenced by all players. Sure, technically E:D doesn’t count as an MMORPG in a sense we are used to, but i think if thousands of players influence whether a certain trade is profitable or not, they influence my gameplay in a much deeper way than all the other players in the normal themepark MMORPG. Of course i can see them in WoW et al, but usually, they won’t impact me in any way. In E:D, other players have an impact without necessarily involving pvp.

It’s not only about the players

EVE is great because it’s player-run. There are NPCs, but from my understanding, they don’t change the course of the universe. Today i read the interview with David Braben over at mmorpg.com, and here’s a snippet i found to be very interesting:

There was a rebellion in a city where the Federation has raised taxes, and the rebels are objecting to this. They want to secede, they want to become independent. During the beta, lots of the backers were supporting the rebels. They were running guns and supplies to the rebels and fighting for them—the Federation brought in a big battle cruiser—until the rebel leader made a speech saying “Comrades, excellent, we’re winning the battle against the Capitalist oppressors!” And it was very clear from his language that they were Communists. Now, everyone knew they were Communists, but they hadn’t really realized the connection. After that, all the backers started supporting the Federation.

Somehow, the players influenced things. But the NPCs influenced the players, as well. I didn’t know E:D intermingled these things in such a way, but it does, and i like it very much.

400 billion stars

This is endless. Even if E:D might have 1 million players, the galaxy won’t be mapped out and “won” in a few days. So here’s an opportunity to play, explore, trade, in a vast “world” where travel matters and markets are regional/local. I always wanted to see stuff like that in fantasy mmos, but none have managed to realize this to its full potential. Great to see it in a space sim.

Of course, there are other reasons for choosing E:D over EVE, but these are the most important ones. Can’t wait to explore the galaxy!

Everquest 2

Why it took so long

I think it’s quite unusual to “fall in love” with a game that’s been out for 10 years, but it might have happened to me and Everquest 2. I tried the game on several occasions after it went free-to-play. Before, i was one of the WoW crowd and was under the impression that EQ2 was somewhat older than WoW. While i like some of the systems in old school MMORPGs, i can’t overlook the production quality of those titles.

In the case of EQ2, there were several issues i had that made me stop playing it after dabbling in the starting areas. First of all, the human avatars- they don’t really look so good.

The environment grew on me, though
The environment grew on me, though

The other thing was a feeling of detachment from my pressing a key and my avatar reacting. There’s some kind of lag, i don’t know where it stems from, but i think it isn’t my internet connection or the server location. It feels quite slow, somewhat comparable to the combat feeling of Lotro.

What drew me in

News of the coming expnasion. I don’t know why, but the general excitement infected me, as well. Also, since SOE got rid of ProsiebenSat1, i can judge the developer on its own merits, and generally i can’t say too many bad things about SOE. Yeah, that Vanguard thing- but really, i think it’s because of SOE that it was available as long as it was. I have no connections to SWG, either, so the CU and NGE stuff doesn’t apply to me. What i see, though, seems to be a company willing to take some risks and approach the genre in new ways (Landmark, H1Z1, EQN) as well as providing their playerbase with new stuff to do (expansions in EQ, EQ2) and good value for their money (All Access). So they have my goodwill, now, and my money, as well.

Of course, all of that wouldn’t matter if the game wasn’t appealing to me, but strangely, now it does. I still think it would be good to have a starting area that’s more like a medieval european landscape, since i’m not really into giant mushrooms and dark woods…and Faes, for that matter, but Greater Faydark pulled me in, nonetheless. It’s a huge zone with many landmarks to see, orientate oneself by and many, many quests.

I also like how complicated it all seems to be- of course i looked for a newbie guide but couldn’t find anything that seemed up-to-date. My first instinct was to level as fast as i could, get to 20 and leave the starting area. The double XP weekend seemed very suitable to do something like that. But now, as i understand it, it seems that i would miss out a lot- equipment, a free mount (although i don’t know if it’s still provided in the quest series), gathering nodes and so on.

So i backtracked. Because i had to, since the timeline quests often seem to build up on one another and i really want the free horse. And that’s another thing i like about the game: there is a quest progression. It’s not enough to be of high enough level to do something, there are quest requirements.

So i went and did level 8 quests with my level 16 Warden, until i could do the Tuathil Laeds quests which, according to one guide over at TTH rewards a mount at some point. The wiki doesn’t mention the horse as a quest reward, so it might have changed in the meantime- nevertheless, i’m eager to find out.

 

Goodbye Vanguard, welcome back FFXIV and nice to meet you, EQ2

Welcome back

So yeah, it’s been a while since i posted. I guess having a baby at home gets in the way of gaming and especially blogging about it. So what happened in the meantime? Not much, of course. Last year after my last posting i didn’t play much- i think Raptr counted 30 hours, mostly in SWTOR, if i remember correctly. This year i saw ESO and Wildstar coming and going (for me). I knew they weren’t games designed with me as a player in mind before going in, but i couldn’t resist. Needless to say, i dropped both of them. Also, we moved. New job and all that.

So here i am, still trying to figure out and find “my” MMO home. The three candidates that made me start this blog still haven’t released yet, so there’s still hope for me. A lot more of it, to be frank, because SOE dropped ProsiebenSat1, so EQN is on my radar once again.

On a side note: i stumbled across old (guild) friends of mine and rejoined a german guild because of them- the guild/community i joined last year is the best organized guild i ever encountered and they offer great community-related stuff, really great people, i can’t complain. The new, german one is a lot more casual in their together-ness, but they’re also very nice. One thing i miss is some structure- but honestly, i never was in a german guild that also had a good organization (maybe i’ll post about that another time).

Goodbye, Vanguard

When the year 2014 came, i had a bad feeling concerning Vanguard. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but some news coming from SOE made me think Vanguard might be nearing its end by the end of 2014. So i subbed, thinking i might spend 2014 with getting to know Telon in my own pace. One week after i subbed, SOE really broke the news about Vanguard closing. But much sooner than i thought. With a closure in the end of july, there was no hope for me to see as much of Telon as i’d liked, so i stopped playing. But that’s not the point.

A huge loss

The point is; i think Vanguard was the last of the more old-school, world-orientated MMORPGs out there. It had an open world, a great crafting system and diplomacy. There are other games with an open world, of course, but they also have that “zone”-feel. Go from Elwynn to Westfall in WoW and it isn’t a slow and steady but a sudden change of landscape. There’s only one game i know of that doesn’t have that as much- and that’s ArcheAge.

Also, character progression should take almost forever. That’s how i like MMOs- open world, a variety of activities, a good ingame economy, lots of opportunity to socialize. I’ve never been one to “finish” MMORPGs, Rift being the only game i maxleveled a character, but still…endgame is not for me. At least not the WoW-inspired raiding endgame.

So the loss of Vanguard made me think about that, and that’s why i knew ESO and WS wouldn’t be for me, but i didn’t know what else to play. Also, i wanted to make a “decision”, to stick it out with one MMORPG for quite some time. But which one. As it stands, i am now committed to two games.

Final Fantasy XIV

I liked FF14 very much when i visited it- there was one thing i didn’t like, though: i thought levelling crafting was a huge grind. What i didn’t know is that you can do these Levequests for gathering and crafting, as well. Those help with progress, a lot. Also, my new german guild is also actively playing it, so i am not alone. I’m really looking forward to playing this to level 50…and i will!

Everquest 2

News of the new expansion made me curious, once again. The player base seems to be very excited for the expansion coming 11/11. I don’t really know anything about EQ2, but the excitement carried over nonetheless. Everquest 2 is mentioned very often when it comes to full-featured themepark MMORPGs. The housing and crafting systems also get a lot of praise. Also, it is the successor of Everquest, to which Vanguard was the spiritual successor. Somehow i thought, maybe this is the game one would play if Vanguard was no longer available.

I decided to get All Access, as well. The perks SOE gives out aren’t that interesting for me, yet, but still…and now we are coming out of a member-double xp weekend that was so well-timed that SOE might have read my mind (went All Access one day before they announced the double xp).

I’m playing a Warden right now (Broshia), got to level 16 and just started levelling as an artisan. I haven’t decided on a crafting profession, yet, but i think it might be tailor.

In the case of EQ2, i plan to play it as “second” MMO. Soon there’ll be ArcheAge (my guess is a release in late september), so it’ll become third. I like it so far and think i should have looked into it much sooner. I can also see it being the “casual”, “fall back to” MMORPG that in reality gets the most of my available play time.

Towards a bright future

I’m excited, again. This is a result of a few events since i last wrote.

Time is running

First of all, i haven’t had much time to play all through september until the middle of this month. What i do then is what i should always do: fire up the games i like to play in this moment. See, since i know i won’t be playing for longer than, let’s say, 1 hour , there’s not much of a point to “force” myself into those MMORPGs i decided to treat as “main MMO”- if i’m in the mood for some The Secret World atmosphere, so be it.

As a result, i’ve played that one in those weeks where my weekly average playtime was about 3-4 hours. Sometimes i started something else- like Lotro, for example, and even Star Wars: the old republic (which i still find surprisingly enjoyable, but more on that later). So these 6-8 weeks freed me up, as a result, my list of MMOs i play grew back again.

The other game

Now, there has been Syl’s NBI armchair game designer – or how that other MMO keeps ruining my gameplay experience and i wholeheartedly agree, as someone who falls into the same trap more often than not. I keep thinking about how nice it would be if MMO x borrowed feature a from MMO y with a twist of MMO z’s way of handling things. Or i bemoan missing stuff, thing the game developers have done wrong and so on. As a result, every MMO experience feels incomplete.

I like them all in one way or the other- well all of those i covered here- from Fallen Earth to EVE, Vanguard, TSW, Rift, Lotro, FF14 and so on- they’re all great in some ways and lacking in some others. Being in one of them makes me miss some others. Or even think about that MMO that is sure to come out “soon” which will be a perfect fit for me. I used to think about ArcheAge in that way, and before i really liked GW2, but it turns out that none of those is perfect. And believe me, Black Desert won’t be perfect, as well.

I think this mentality has resulted in what i’d call the first deemed-failure-before-release MMORPG, ArcheAge. If Jef is thinking of jumping ship to another MMORPG that’s even further down the line (with no word on NA/EU release whatsoever), many others will be already done with ArcheAge.

So i’ve come to the conclusion (before reading Syl’s posting, but his words really fit perfectly) that one should enjoy those MMOs that are out there- there’s no point in always chasing the next release- which i think the community’s been doing since the release of Age of Conan.

The Secret World should be a hit

When playing TSW, i always think that this poor game is neglected because of…well, i don’t know. Maybe because it launched too close to GW2, maybe it is because it’s a bit rough around the edges or maybe it is because those who tried it found it to be “more of the same”, a mistake quite easily made when you give the game only an hour or so.

When you dive in, though, there are so many points where TSW innovates and tries new stuff that one would think all those players who scream for “something different” (myself included) should happily be playing The Secret World. The quest system might look like “more of the same”, but it isn’t. You’d have to give the game a little bit of your time to realize that, but the quests in TSW are very interesting story-wise and they offer a lot of variety.

Also, The Secret World is a game where it really is about the journey- i think one could run through everything in a quite short amount of time, but that wouldn’t be the point.  I agree with Syp that story-wise, the Secret World is as good as it gets in MMO space.

But even if you’d play through the experience and were “finished”, with the releases of content (Issues) down the line, you could always expect to return to TSW for a short time- and i’ve heard those storylines are really great. The business model is a very good one, as well. You don’t need anything from the shop (except additional content) and you don’t suffer any restriction compared to subscribers. In a way, it’s quite like GW2’s business model- without the lockboxes and with stuff you’d like to buy in the item shop.

What i like very much about TSW, as well, is the balance in group/solo play. TSW doesn’t force you into grouping up (unfortunately it forces you to do some of the stuff solo) except for dungeons, but a group is really handy because the fights in this game take some time. If you can get a friend to join you, it’s more fun and easier.

I am glad i’ve “returned” to The Secret World, it’s a great experience that works very well with my gaming schedule and playstyle. Of course, if another game beckons me again, i’ll be there. And by now i already know when this is going to happen and with what game.

A good guild

I’ve always thought that guilds play a big part when it comes to longevity of an MMORPG- and right now, i’ve made a good choice. In the past, i’ve made no experiences with guilds despite almost always joining one in the games i play. Most of them were chat channels, the german guild i joined in Rift was a chat channel where tidbits of voice chat conversations would sometimes appear.

I think a guild should be more, though. And it’s not about going to dungeons or getting help, it’s about building community. At least if a guild is always recruiting it should always do community building. How much that can be, i learned in the TSW cabal i just joined.

There’s a cabal meeting every month- i can’t remember when i last was member of a guild that did guild meetings, possibly the ones i co-founded / co-lead. Guild meetings allow the members to meet up, see the characters of the other people even when they are at different stages in the game. Also, you can catch up to news about the guild, talk to the other members and stuff like that. It helps. Especially in a game like The Secret World that doesn’t really allow you to chat and play along simultaneously.

There’s also a newsletter/magazine published by quite a talented member of the community- it covers everything from news to articles provided by other members.

And the third reason i joined is a sub-group within that community that wanders different MMORPGs every few months. If interest is high enough, recruitment for the guild founded in that game will commence and it will become a part of the community. So Multigaming and game-hopping are built in.

What i like is that there is a vision, and there is an idea how to follow through on this vision. It’s neither a casual nor a “hardcore” setup in this guild. I feel great with these guys, and while probation is still ongoing for me, i’m already confident that i’ll stay with them in the long term. If they don’t kick me, that is 😉

Soon we’ll embark on a new adventure in a new game, and i’m pretty excited to start with this group of people.

Darn it, my list is filling up again

Now, concerning myself. I started this Blog with a few games and a resolution for myself: i’d pick one of three candidate games- ArcheAge, EQ Next or The Repopulation, stick to my choice and keep this blog as a journal-type recording of how i got to select the MMORPG in question and how i experienced it when it released. In the meantime, i wanted to stick at least to my resolution, since i don’t have much time and wanted to experience at least one MMORPG to the fullest before moving on.

Moving on, though, has become somewhat unlikely. I still look forward to all three of these games, but something’s telling me they won’t be exactly what i’m looking for, as well.

Plus, there’s another thing: the sticking to one MMORPG at a time doesn’t work for me. First, i chose Rift, but Rift being what Rift is, it still didn’t provide me with the experience i was looking for. Many people describe Rift as being quite soulless- and i think for me, this is the problem with the title, although the accusation doesn’t hold itself when you enter expansion terrain. The content of Storm Legion has lots of soul.

So i moved on from Rift to find a surprise- Final Fantasy XIV, a game that has lots of soul, as well. I can’t see a downside to this selection- the game is an experience coming quite close to what i’m looking for- there are things i like very much- the dependency on others in economic matters as well as progression, the fact that gold sinks >= gold fountains (the balance has yet to be found, though), it is great.

As an addition, Firefall offers a different game experience- quite action oriented, quick, and a deep experience nonetheless. Plus, at this stage, it suits very well as a second MMORPG- there’s still lots of development to be done, it will not be provided very quick and vertical progression is not very long. I still like Firefall a lot, even if i didn’t get around to play it for quite some time.

The same goes for FF14, i have to admit. It’s been more than a week ago that i played it; there has been real life stuff in the way, other hobbies (watching football/soccer), meeting real friends at the weekend, so all in all, i clocked 8 hours game time last week, 6 of which have been in FF14, while the other two feature a new, old newcomer and my biggest surprise in released MMORPGs from last year: the Secret World.

Hanging out in Kingsmouth
Hanging out in Kingsmouth

This week, it looks like TSW will win the fight for my gaming time. In general, i think this is a good thing- see, i did buy the grand master pack shortly after release, but really didn’t play it enough to justify the expense, and i am generous on that front. While Funcom didn’t devalue the lifetime subscription in my book, i didn’t do as well on my end. So playing it again is a positive in this regard.

As in many others. The Secret World is a much underappreciated effort done by Funcom. It’s an MMORPG with loads of good stories in it, a good, but not very good, fighting experience, a great way of progression- at least for non-raiders and/or content locusts and some very interesting mechanics above that. What FF14 is for 2013, TSW was in 2012- the biggest positive surprise in MMORPG gaming in my book.

I haven’t really decided yet whether i’m going with my “old” character on the english RP server or with the new one on the german server. The german server seems to be business as usual for german servers- it’s quite silent and not so very populated, but i have to say i enjoy Sword+Fist more than Sword+Assault rifle. Also, i enjoy taking my time in the zones i visited earlier, but the decision to stick it out with the new character could turn into a bad decision when i realize that progression is too slow, when i remember all the missions and know how much of that is still waiting for me before i enter new territory.

So, all in all, i’m back up to three MMORPGs- Final Fantasy 14, Firefall and The Secret World. It seems i’ll achieve none of my goals when starting this blog, but at least the third reason for opening it up at the time i did will present itself soon enough- the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2 is going to start in a few days, this time mentored by the two sites Contains Moderate Peril and T.R. Red Skies. I wanted to join that, so i probably will, because i think this initiative is a great way to encourage new bloggers like me and foster the MMORPG/gaming community.

Edit: i’ve decided on continuing my “old” character, Eliza “Lisah” Ruben, on Arcadia and updated the Group up – page accordingly. As always, feel free to contact me in- or out of game.

5 ways to make your gaming experience more social

They put the multiplayer part out of the MMO. That’s what they- meaning us- say. Is it true, though, or is it just us who go about differently nowadays than we did 10 years ago in the time when MMORPGs rose to fame?

I was thinking about The Secret World quite a lot, recently. For one, in my opinion it was the big hit in 2012. Unapreciated, underrated and with a release date too close to GW2 to make an impact. But it is just such a bold move from Funcom- they really tried- and in many ways succeeded- to bring change to a tired themepark formula. With many great additions in this game, there’s one part that i think gets overlooked a lot: it’s just so group-friendly, without tossing soloability aside. Maybe it is my build, but the time-to-kill in TSW is considerably higher than in most other MMORPGs- and this is where a group comes in handy, especially when it’s a small group of 2-3 players. With 5, it can go too fast, but it’s still very much enjoyable.

And yet, you don’t see small groups running around the zones, at least i don’t. There aren’t many requests for grouping up besides going for dungeons. This is one reason why i think it’s more “us” – the players- than “them”, the developers, who are going solo nowadays. With my newfound focus here in the blog as well as when playing MMORPGs, let’s take a look at 5 ways to make one’s experience in MMORPGs more social.

1. Be your nice self

Yeah, it’s obvious, right? No, it isn’t. I know many nice players who think all other players in MMORPGs, besides those on their friendslist or in their guild, of course, are asshats. They steal loot and resources and act like a jerk when you are new to a dungeon or the game itself and make mistakes in group content because of that. When those players use the dungeon finder equivalent in their game, they stay silent- but what we should do instead is the opposite- be friendly, communicate with others, offer advice (instead of criticism) and add loads of people to our friends- and blacklist (won’t go into that very much, this should be a positive posting).

How many times was your gaming experience ruined by some kind of jerk? I’d guess at least on some occasions this happened, and you took notice. But there are many times when your gaming experience has been enhanced, as well. That one guy or girl who helped you with your quest? Or the group member who took his or her time to explain an encounter in a dungeon? Yeah, they’re there. Next time, try to be that guy.

And if you think “i have to rush to those resources to get them, because everybody else is so rough and will just steal it”- stop that line of thinking, now. Because if you walk into this mindset, the next time you rush to a named mob or resource node, you’ll be the asshat “stealing” someone else’s stuff. Instead: invite to party, group up, chat, ask, tell, add to friendlist, be social.

2. Open your eyes

Now the first part is mostly valid in dungeons while this one concerns our behaviour in the world. When you see someone having trouble, give them a hand- i know this used to be troublesome and sometimes it still is. Once, i was in a group in Lotro and we saw a single player challenging the named mob we wanted to attack next. We decided to lend im a hand when it happened: before he tagged the named mob (the player was busy with adds), that mob attacked one of our groupmates and got tagged by us. This was not our intention and we waited around with the other player to lend them a hand when the mobs respawned, but it was still unfortunate. Nowadays, things like this don’t tend to happen anymore. When you play a game from 2012/2013, the mob tagging system has become different- usually, you won’t steal anyones XP or quest progress.

So help others out.

3. Fill your friendslist

It’s easy to assume that you won’t meet anyone again in the game. That’s how we perceive this nowadays, we are used to filling our contact list from the guild we’re in- but those guys you meet in the world? They’re at the same stage in game as you are. If you’d be like me and everyone else is much farther into the game than you are, maybe you’ll meet someone on your travels whose pace is closer to yours. So when you meet someone who acts kind- either following points one and two of this list or reacting positively when you do so, add them.

4. Group up

Don’t wait for others to ask- and don’t ask if anyone “needs help” in Zone or guild chat- ask if anyone is willing to group up to do x, y or z. Offering help is nice and all, but with the soloability of games nowadays, few people will actually respond.

If you’re in a guild, no matter what rank you possess in this guild, pay attention and don’t always group up with the same people. Cliques in a guild are a problem on many levels, but when you’re playing with the same people all the time and your group is full, you isolate yourself and/or others. Especially newcomers to your guild will feel left out.

If your game supports on-the-fly public grouping, whether in a official way (Rift, parties are formed) or inofficially (GW2, no groups are actually formed, but you play together with others), the temptation is high to just think of the other players as “content”. They’re not. They’re people. Say something. Or at least emote after the fact. Don’t ignore other players.

5. Find or form a guild and stick with it

Guilds have been changing recently. GW2 and FF14 allow you to join multiple guilds or guild-like structures. You shouldn’t really do this, though. The key is to find one guild that fits to you and where you can blend or even step in. If you’ve got a lot of time, you might be able to do that in more than one guild, but if you’re like me, that won’t really be possible.

Now, joining a guild can be achieved in different ways- i think the most promising approach is to just play the game, join group content / group up in the world, filling your friendslist and finally joining the guild of one of your friends. The upside to this approach is that you already know at least one member of your new guild.

Another way of doing things is to find a guild in the forums. It is a somewhat good approach, since you can sort out which guild advert suits you in terms of concept, language and playstyle. Still, i think if you have the time, you should go with the first approach, it is indeed more promising. While i have joined good guilds in this way, i’ve found the guilds either founded or joined out of friendship to other members have more longevity and fun.

There’s a new way- Massively started a new column to fit players to guilds. I welcome the idea behind that, so i’d like to encourage players and guilds to join the activity there.

Doing it wrong

Yesterday, i read the massively opinion column titled “Maybe it’s time to admit you don’t like MMOs” and it made me think- about the general perception of MMOs, their communities and my interaction with other players in the games themselves.

I came to the conclusion that i’m doing it wrong- i mean, in Final Fantasy 14 i am member in what seems to be a great linkshell/free company. My interactions with the other members have been saying “hi” and “bye” as well as one dungeon run, which was fun. In Firefall, i had fun doing stuff with one or two other players, but when our army grew to be bigger than the squad size of Firefall, i became reluctant to log in.

Finding excuses for solo-play

Now, i know what this blog’s title suggests, so i am aware of how these games are meant to be played, but there always seem to be obstacles to experience these games this way. For me, it comes down to:

  • Voice Chat. I don’t like voice chat. Yet, in many guilds using it is de facto mandatory. In my Rift guild, for example, guild chat would always just entail fragments of conversations that happened in voice chat. Yes, i might use voice chat once in a while, but don’t expect me to launch it with the game. I might want to listen to music/podcasts or whatever. Voice chat directly affects my ability to relax and enjoy an evening of leisure.
  • Log-In times. We have a toddler in the house. When he screams, i’m afk. When my wife needs assistance, i’m afk. Often, when i log in, i don’t know how long it will be- it could be 2 hours, but it could also be 15 minutes. I don’t want to ruin someone else’s evening by signing up for a dungeon run i can’t finish- or doing something in the party and let them wait for my return in a quest hub.
  • My own mood. I play these games to relax. I take my time, i play them slow- my Conjurer in FF14 is level 22 now and will remain there for a time because i want to catch up with my botanist and weaver classes. If i were to group up with my level 22 i could suddenly find myself being at level 30 without progressing in the storyline and my crafting jobs getting far behind. Playing at my own pace in groups becomes running after someone else very quick. I wouldn’t want that.
  • Other people’s progress. I’m slow, others aren’t. One reason i haven’t done very much with my linkshell is that many are in their 40s or at max level (they played 1.0) and therefore what they do isn’t available to me.
  • Other people’s playtimes. I guess this goes hand-in-hand with my last point, but there’s more than just the progression. I’m always somewhat surprised that even players who call themselves “casual” play 4 hours each day. As i mentioned, i average at about 10-15 hours a week and i consider that playing quite a lot. In Firefall, i saw how others in my army spent every free minute available to them in the game- when i see that, i think to myself how quickly they’re going to burn out and leave the game- and true enough, last week the guild leader played 2 and a half hours Firefall. As i said, right now i think Firefall is a great game, but you have to consume it bite-sized, or you’ll be burnt out when the really cool features come into play.

Resolutions

Good excuses, right? Well, no, maybe not. Maybe, if i don’t want to play with others i should just start up one of my many single player games i didn’t finish (or pretty much didn’t even start them). Sure, MMORPGs nowadays are soloable and especially the gathering and crafting bits of FF14 lend themselves very good to solo-play.

Maybe i should just scrap crafting first and just level my most advanced class to 50 as quick as possible. But then i wouldn’t be able to craft equipment for myself during the levelling process. Also, endgame is usually not what i’m playing these games for. When i reached endgame in Rift in June 2011 i just quit- doing daily quests or repeating the same dungeons over and over again doesn’t appeal to me. Levelling as quick as possible is also not what i’m there for. So that’s not going to work.

I made a resolution, nonetheless. I want to party more, and usually, when i do, i get something out of it. The other day i helped another player in a really dense spawn point- he was going to fill his hunting log, but no matter how he’d do it, he would pull 3-4 enemies to get to his targets. So, as a healer, i asked him what he wanted to do, grouped up and helped him achieve his goal. One more member on my friendslist.

So i want to do that some more- go around with open eyes and help players i see having trouble. I did that before, as well, but it was a case of throwing out one or two heals and going my way. Also, i should ask in linkshell chat if somebody wants to group up- either for my most advanced class or for some of the classes i want to play down the line. I mean, there’s many of them. Just for adventuring classes, i aim to play:

  • Conjurer
  • Arcanist
  • Thaumaturge
  • Archer
  • Pugilist
  • Lancer
  • Gladiator

All this to get the jobs of White Mage, Black Mage, Bard, Monk and Scholar- more or less in that order.

Making (and keeping) friends

One problem, of course, is that none of my friends play MMORPGs. Many players just enjoy group content with either real life friends or acquaintances from the game(s) they’re playing- none of the two are available to me, for different reasons, many of them my own fault. If you jump around in games and guilds very much, you’ll have a hard time making “online friends”. And when you do make them and let the connections somehow fall apart (as i did with the guild i co-founded in GW2), that’s your own fault, as well. Maybe i’ll talk more about that last mistake some time.

This blog

Now, there’s a topic for a series of blog posts that fits right into this blog’s title. Party business- how to put the multiplayer part back into MMORPGs from the perspective of a casual player.

I haven’t written for some time, because when commenting around at the last post i realized that the reason i started this blog- or the topics i wanted to cover- aren’t really hot anymore. EQ Next is a thing of the past- i’ll look into it again either when SOE scraps P7S1 or when i cave in and decide that making an account there isn’t the end of the world. With EQN, there’s another thing: i can’t shake the feeling that this will play very GW2-like. ArcheAge seems to become a lot more themeparky than expected and The Repopulation seems still to be far off.

Final Fantasy 14 caught me by surprise- i didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, but as you can see above, i have goals that last for quite some time- for me, at least- and i didn’t even mention crafting. But i’ll have to put some thought into how i’m going to develop this blog further, since it really doesn’t bother anyone what i’m doing in my MMO and so the journal-type i was using isn’t of much interest. That’s not to say i won’t continue like that, but there will be another theme to my blogging, and right now i think it’s going to be somewhat community-focused, which might be an odd thing to do for someone who’s doing it wrong.