Tag: solo play

/Saved: Beta impressions, Evergreen topics and ingame adventures

This week, there were some interesting posts about games in (early) testing- namely Atlas Reactor and Black Desert Online, a discussion about solo play in MMORGs and ingame adventures from The Secret World and Final Fantasy XIV as well as some thoughts about map/zone design.

Beta Impressions

Black Desert Online’s reception seems to remain mostly positive, although i have to say Ironweakness’ impressions were worse than i expected while still being quite positive all things considered, while Syl mostly worries about cash shop prices and PvP but still thinks BDO can deliver in terms of exploration.

Atlas Reactor is a game i’m somewhat eyeing: a turn-based multiplayer battle arena sounds like fun! So i was happy to see Nerdy Bookah’s First Impressions review of the game- and it seems they’re quite impressed. While i’m generally quite forgiving and not too bothered by cash shop weirdness, these days i’m not entirely sure Trion has a good plan for earning money with the game. Having no plan – or a bad one- might result in some strange moves on the way to figuring it out. Other than that, though, i’ll probably check it out sooner or later.

Opinion

There are a few topics in MMO-land that surface from time to time- one being the Solo-play-in-MMOs-topic. However, i think it isn’t boring or tiring at all, because perspectives and game design shift all the time- just take a look at the way SWTOR does things now. This week, Wolfy wrote about solo dancing after Syl asked why people would play an MMO solo.

J3w3l took Ironweakness’ post about zone fatigue and shares her own thoughts on that, stating that she doesn’t feel it as much when maps change themes slowly instead of shifting from one map design to another.

Ingame Adventures

Syp brings us another tale from The Secret World, this time revolving around the quest “Wetware” which takes place in Tokyo. Aywren shares her observation that sometimes, healers are killjoys in pick-up-groups. Personally, i’ve had much worse experiences with tanks- and WoW hunters, and healers are probably more sensitive because wipes will ultimately be blamed on them, but i can still see where she’s coming from. Ironweakness takes a look back at the games he played in 2015- this week’s post was about Final Fantasy XIV.

 

Lonely worlds: there are singleplayer games!

The premise and ongoing topic on this blog are MMORPGs and my journey through them. In the last couple of days, though, i (re-)discovered singleplayer games, albeit a very special breed that’s only resurged recently: the isometric solo RPG. A friend bought Wasteland 2 in this weekend’s steam sale, and he liked it despite not really being an RPG guy (more a turn-based-combat player). So i read on and on about that and finally, when i ran out of time, i purchased Wasteland 2, as well.

WL2logo-800x600

Although i wished he’d bought Divinity: Original Sin, so that we could play together, i can kind of see where he’s coming from: there’s shooting instead of magic, and there are no orcs. Playing Fantasy MMOs almost exclusively since about 2007, i can relate to the annoyance in what seems to be the same setting, every time.

Now, if you’d want my very first impressions of Wasteland 2, i’ve got to cut it short and say: it’s so very relaxing. I spent yesterday’s evening with creating my party, talking to the first NPCs i met and setting out to travel to the very first “mission scene”. Since it was late, all i really wanted from travelling out there was an encounter- i got that, fought, won, saved and quit the game. There’s a lot of reading involved in Wasteland 2; it’s a game that takes (your) time- and if you’re in the right mood- that would involve a willingness to read and take your time- it is a great experience.

Gameplay-wise, i don’t know- to me, it seems to be what i’d expect the enhanced versions of Baldur’s Gate to be like- it’s just so….90s. This can be a bad thing, especially if progress is what you aim for- there are a lot of little annoyances pointed out in different reviews (like many clicks to perform some action, clunky inventory management etc.), but i think some of them stem from the fact that these reviewers are, for sure, in a hurry. They need to get their review out there, so they want to see what the game has to offer. That criticism, at least to me right now, isn’t so prevalent when you play on your own and take your time.

Divinity: Original sin is both similar and totally different. I feel like dialogues make more of a difference in D:OS than in Wasteland 2, where they are mostly used to bring the story along.

It’s huge fun when you really “roleplay” your characters, when you assign different personalities to them (you can also set an AI to that personality, so that you’ll choose the dialogue options for one character only) and get to the rock-paper-scissors minigame that decides which character will have their way.

DivinityOriginalSin

D:OS also plays a lot better- it’s what you would expect a game to play like if someone would decide to bring those isometric RPGs back into this decade. As a sideeffect, it feels a bit quicker than Wasteland 2. It also features an open world instead of the “travel map” of Wasteland 2 (and boy, this travel map is oldschool, even more so than in Shroud of the Avatar).

When trying to decide whether to buy Wasteland 2, i looked around for advantages WL2 has over D:OS, and i couldn’t find any. The setting is mentioned, and it is said that your actions have more consequence than in D:OS, but i can’t vouch for that yet. So far, my experience has been the same as the experience of my friend. In D:OS, my latest attempt at starting the game is already vastly different than my first one. For one, i kept the rain scrolls, so i could fight the fire on a boat in the first city. Then, this time, after an argument between my two characters, i killed the drunk guards on the way into that city instead of letting them bring me to a mage. I don’t know what difference this makes in the long(er) run, but it sure feels impactful.

There are advantages for Singleplayer games, especially this kind of games:

  • session length doesn’t matter. Sure, you’ll get more immersed when you play longer, but really, it doesn’t matter if you play 10 minutes or 10 hours
  • you’re always into something- in MMOs, when i log in, i always take a few seconds to look where i am and what my current goals are. In Singleplayer games you load up your savegame and continue what you were doing
  • sometimes, it is relaxing to be alone. I used to have “secret alts” for this in MMOs, but there are still other players around and in some ways, this leads to, well, unrest. The other players are there, they’re maxlevel, there’s an expansion coming and so on- even when playing alone, MMORPGs don’t stand still. This can be an advantage, and i think in the grand scheme of things, it is. But sometimes, it’s also very convenient to find something the way you left it

Needless to say, i’m kind of glad i’m a one-mmo-guy in the moment, because i can see some lonely time ahead of me, as well: with these two games, Cities: Skylines arriving today and Pillars of Eternity also looking quite rad, there’s bound to be some me-time coming in.

So why am i playing MMORPGs?

Whenever someone admits to playing MMORPGs by themselves, the suggestion will come up that singleplayer games are better suited to their playstyle. The gameplay would be better, as well as story and the delivery of said story. So, after yesterday’s reasons for me playing solo, mostly- and by the way, this isn’t out of some kind of principle since i’d also like to group up and do stuff with other players- i’ll look into reasons for still playing MMORPGs.

They’re relaxing

I didn’t like Wildstar very much, although i’d say the gameplay is quite good for an MMORPG. But it wasn’t relaxing to me- the UI shot information and stuff to do at me like there was no tomorrow. Quests, Challenges, these solo-instances, crafting, gathering, housing and others. The combat is very active and involved, so much so that chatting with guildmates became a difficult thing to do. Almost every time i got a tell i had to move out of some spawn zone.

But the other games, especially stuff like Everquest 2 and/or SWTOR, i find to be very relaxing. You can do quite a lot of different activities like questing, housing, yeah, pretty much everything i’ve mentioned above. But where i felt “bombarded” in Wildstar, other games pace this stuff a lot better. I can do whatever i’m in the mood for, whatever fits in my schedule and i still get to do it with other people.

Crafting, for instance, i found to be a tedious and senseless affair in singleplayer games. I don’t know why that is, but i couldn’t get into it- maybe, because the economy was missing. Which brings me to the next point.

MMORPGs are still social, even when soloing

You don’t have to group up or do dungeons to have your MMORPG be a social activity. Of the top of the hat, there’s guild chat, tells/chatting with friends, the economy/auction houses, helping others out in the world (without grouping up) and, of course, seeing other characters in the world. An MMORPG always feels more alive than singleplayer games, because they are (except if you’re the only player in a zone).

Your gameplay will also be influenced by others- for instance, in the economy, if it isn’t borked in some way. Or by meeting others out in the world, maybe appreciating their equipment or looks, maybe cursing, because they stole a resource node or a quest mob or in a positive way by doing this together. This is why i’d tend to put Elite:Dangerous in the “almost-an-MMO”-bucket, too, because storylines and the economy depend on other players in the game and not on your actions alone- even when you play the “solo online”-mode.

MMORPGs evolve

Singleplayer games do have DLCs, but MMORPGs change in a course of years. You can begin playing one right now, stop, return in 5 years and it will be almost like a different game. It’s always nice seeing expansions or content updates for MMOs. The last expansion of EQ2 was the reason i went there (again) in the first place.

There’s lots to do and see

Housing is back- 2 years ago, there were almost no MMORPGs that featured it, but 2014 brought it to a lot of MMORPGs and it seems to be somewhat of a standard feature again. MMORPG worlds are big, there’s always a nice scenery, a quest hub or other stuff to explore. For someone like me, who doesn’t play that much, it’s practically endless stuff to do, sometimes it’s even a little overwhelming, as is the case in EQ2. There’s systems to look into, zones to explore and goals to set everywhere. Singleplayer games are quite directed in the most cases, and deviating from that linear progression is, in most cases, ineffective.

Not so in MMORPGs- you can do it all, at your own pace. And it makes sense. Even in todays very streamlined and often “linear” themeparks, you can often change course and do something different if you drop the experience-point-glasses and just look for entertainment.

Out-of-game community

We’re legion. 😉 Massively, MMORPG.com, all these blogs that i’m enjoying and reading, the out-of-game-community is very much alive, and, in most cases, made up of nice people (yes i know there are many trolls, but usually they’re quite easy to avoid and, to me, the positive outweighs the negative by a landslide).

Of course there are- at least i think so- similar communities to be found elsewhere, maybe in the Skyrim-Department (i don’t know about a active blog just focussing on that game’s content, though) or others. But, see two points above, the MMORPG community will always have more to talk about and discuss- play styles, patches, new games, expansions, in-game-stuff and so on. Or we’ll just open up events for ourselves, like the NBI or the Bloggy XMas. I don’t think you’ll find that in other gaming communities.

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).