Thoughts on Grouping

Syncaine just wrote a post regarding his hope that WAR, through it’s open group and public quest system, will make grouping a more viable and enjoyable form of leveling. He states that WoW has created a mentality within players that has made us jaded when it comes to PuGs, and I certainly believe this to be true. There is simply too much that can go wrong when it comes to PuGs that make players extremely weary to try. I’m going to focus on two inter-connected problems with PuGs that I believe make up their biggest flaws.

Risk vs. Reward

I’m using the term risk here very loosely. The risk I’m speaking of is mostly referring to the potential for wasted time. Say you find three other people looking to run Slave Pens. All you need is a healer, so you tell them you’ll wait until they find a healer and then head to Coilfang Reservoir. “Sweet, we just found a healer!” they tell you. You make your way over there from killing eels for a quest. Just as you resurface inside, you ask the question you hope the leader has already asked, yet secretly know they haven’t. “(insert name here), you can heal for us, right?” Several seconds pass before he says, “I’m prot specced, but I’ll be able to heal fine.” Now is where it gets interesting, because there are so many potential options and outcomes. I won’t bore you with all of them because I’m sure you’ve been down this road like I have dozens of times. The point is, almost without exception, you will end up wasting an unnecessary amount of time and likely get nothing to show for it, or you’ll cut your losses and head back to the eels. With so much potential for failure and the possibility that you won’t get any gear and only a fraction of the xp for soloing, is it really worth taking the chance?

Rewards of soloing vs. grouping

Whether it’s in an instance or just working on a quest, many games today offer no xp boost for grouping. In Asheron’s Call, eight players in a group could earn 33% of the total xp which created a huge incentive to group. While leveling was a bit stale in AC and xp wouldn’t need to be that high in games today (due to their quest-based nature,) there still should be some increase when grouping is involved. It’s almost as if developers see grouping for additional xp as an exploit. While I can understand the prevention of power-leveling by reducing the xp earned by much lower level character, why should even-level players be penalized for playing together? This just doesn’t seem right to me. When I’m grouping I don’t want to have to think about whether they are a burden or not. I’d much rather focus on enjoying my time with them and playing the game. With that said, If I can solo a quest with ease, why should I cut out some of my xp by bringing another player along? I truly wish this was not the case, though.

In games that are built around social interaction, why would developers make it more lucrative to play by yourself than with other people? I think it’s a case of players wanting more solo content because grouping was too forced before, but now developers have gone so far to the other end of the spectrum that they’ve actually taken nearly all of the incentive out of grouping, even penalizing it. If you want to group anyway, you just have to understand that you are going to be penalized for it a good deal of the time because developers are afraid you will level too fast with extra xp from grouping. Yes, instances require that you have other players to help you, but when the chance is so great (I’d go so far as to say that 30-50% of all PuGs are failures in some form or another) that you won’t get the gear (which I addressed here) you want and you won’t get hardly any xp (when compared to soloing,) why not simply put grouping off until it is absolutely necessary? I know I do, and I think it sucks.

While I certainly hope that WAR will help to change this mentality, I think it will be hard to unlearn everything that WoW and other MMOs have taught us about grouping. If the rewards don’t balance with the potential for wasted or unpleasant time spent with others, then nothing will have changed. Since player skill level and maturity are things that can be as different as night and day, it’s tough to always know whether a raid/mission/quest/instance are going to be successful before it starts, so players are naturally going to be skeptical. Only time will tell whether grouping, and more specifically pugging, will once again be revitalized as the chosen method of leveling as opposed to that dreaded thing we all must face at one point or another.

~Kanthalos

P.S. WAR open beta in just over a week, I can’t wait!!

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