One thing I’ve mentioned a time or two on this blog is how I miss the old days when there was more, what I call, casual socialization. The ironic part is that while it felt casual, it wasn’t. EverQuest was hard and slow to play solo (not impossible), and so grouping with other people was very desirable. While lots of people hated this “forced” grouping, the fact is that it lead to people having to talk to each other. World of Warcraft, on the other hand, is so easy to play solo that barely anyone ever grouped, so much so that they had to invent an instant group making tool AND make it work across servers to get people to go do group instances. That’s not entirely true, people were doing group instances to a degree, but how it was being done is the point of this post.
Playing EverQuest felt like this:
While playing World of Warcraft felt like this:
In EQ, my guild always felt like a subset of the server. I raided with my guild (and their alliance) and I grouped with my guild, but I also grouped fairly often with other random people from other guilds and even raided with public raids (not to be confused with pickup raids where someone stands around shouting that they are forming a raid, but planned ahead of time, posted on the server message boards and open to signups by anyone). In WoW, my guild felt like it was my entire world. I raided with my guild and I grouped with my guild, and that’s it. Occasionally out in the world working on a quest I’d casually group with someone working the same quest (kill ten raptors goes faster for everyone around if you group up… collect ten raptor hides, however, is a cutthroat business), and at the lowest levels you might find a random group doing an instance, but only back before about 2006 or so because nowadays most people just race solo through the low level content to get to “the real game”.
I want to love my server again, my whole community, not just my tiny corner of it. But how do we do that? Unfortunately, the answer is less instancing and less easy solo content. In general, people will, even when it is detrimental, choose the path of least resistance. Soloing is easier than grouping in that you don’t have to contend with the personalities of others and you don’t have to share rewards, when you make soloing also better experience and progression, people stop choosing to group except when in their own niche of the community, their guild. When guilds don’t have to contend, compete and share content, they don’t have a reason to talk to each other. Instead they’ll just go off into their own instance and get their own loot.
Of course, this all depends on what you want out of an MMO. If you want a game, if you want pushing buttons to defeat monsters, if you want loot and to “grow” your character, above all else, then you want easy solo and instancing. But if you are like me and the game, the fighting, the loot and advancement, are all secondary to playing in the world with other people, then you want harder solo and shared content. Currently, WoW rules the roost. It makes the most money, and money controls the flow of design, so every game since WoW took over the market has tried to be like WoW, more game, less world. This is a great thing if you love WoW, except if you love WoW why would you want to leave a game you have investment in for a game that is exactly like WoW only you are level 1 instead of level 80? Couldn’t you get the same experience on an alternate character in WoW?
In the meantime, I keep trying new games and hoping to find one with less easy solo and less instancing and more community inside the game world. If you know of any, where you play with people not in your guild frequently because it has a vibrant community in the game, I’m all ears…