What's wrong with grouping in MMORPGS... (blog rant)

I’m damned angry and I’m not going to take it anymore!

Number one reason grouping sucks and/or blows in any MMORPG: people.

Number two reason grouping sucks and/or blows in any MMORPG: developers.

What’s that you say? It’s not the developer’s fault that people in general have a hard time grouping? Really? Well, you’re plain wrong. Let me explain why:

Hooray for ‘good ideas’ which are just as abusable as what he proposes to replace.

That being said, the latest CGM had a great column on why grouping sucks. When I get home I’ll rip some quotes from it.

Unfortunately, the idea of rating other players would probably suck rhino balls. The very people that you complain about, that screw up, that act like jerks, and that basically ruin the game experience half the time would be the exact same people that would get to vote on your proficiency.

Not only that, but there would be a pretty easy way to game the system: spend a lot of time helping newbies in the deadmines. They’ll love the hell out of you and vote accordingly.

:(

But I’m certainly with you on the basic idea that MMOs still have a lot of work to do to optimize grouping.

The only real solution for now is having friends to play with, otherwise its a roll of the dice.

Right, except that’s a non-solution, since unless you can convince a friend to have a character which is only played with one of your characters, eventually one of you will outpace the other, and you’ll no longer be able to play together.

Blizzard needs to get their shit together and add CoH’s sidekicking and mentoring in to the game.

Its as good as solution as any others including what the the blog posted. Actually its better. The rating system would be worthless because of abuses to it. The “training” trips are minimal at best. Even they guy says most would ignore them. You aren’t going to take people who are not good at grouping and having some text fix it. The reality is its going to be this way when its a game with thousands a mostly strangers playing with eachother.

So yea your choices are have real life friends to play with, or spend the time to hopefully…maybe hook up with enough good people you meet in the game. Thats just how it is.

The one thing I will agree with is the sidekick option. Every MMO should adopt it in some fashion.

Well, yes. In theory, I completely agree. In practice, it’s difficult to maintain. One person is busy and can’t play for a week, while the other gets some extra time, and then suddenly there’s a split you can’t bridge short of getting the other guy to not play while you catch up.

But yes, it’s a better solution than ratings. Any system that requires input from players is imminently abusable.

NOT a global rating system (as you said, it will be abused). A system that only you use. OR, a system that only you use AND the ratings of other people you decide you trust.

Something that basically allows you to track people you’ve played with and potentially people you haven’t played with, but those you trust have.

Not only that, but there would be a pretty easy way to game the system: spend a lot of time helping newbies in the deadmines. They’ll love the hell out of you and vote accordingly.

:(

I don’t see this as a problem. Every system is going to have exploits. If you’re going to spend your time helping newbies so you can get some repuation loving on a global system (which is not proposed here), then the system is working. :)

But I’m certainly with you on the basic idea that MMOs still have a lot of work to do to optimize grouping.

Every system has exploits and ways around it… That doesn’t mean something shouldn’t be done.

I say at the end of me rant that I’m not saying these are the best ideas ever, but something needs to do be done. Maybe positive reinforcement along with the negative (as all systems in MMORPGs are based on now).

Right, except that’s a non-solution, since unless you can convince a friend to have a character which is only played with one of your characters, eventually one of you will outpace the other, and you’ll no longer be able to play together.

Blizzard needs to get their shit together and add CoH’s sidekicking and mentoring in to the game.[/quote]

NCSoft solved this problem to 80% at leaast their first go-round. Sidekicking is awesome. I assume Exemplaring works as well, though I’d quit by the time I’d seen it in action.

EQ2 has a similar solution to the same problem too.

Well, yes. In theory, I completely agree. In practice, it’s difficult to maintain. One person is busy and can’t play for a week, while the other gets some extra time, and then suddenly there’s a split you can’t bridge short of getting the other guy to not play while you catch up.

But yes, it’s a better solution than ratings. Any system that requires input from players is imminently abusable.[/quote]
The sidekick/mentor option is just a stop gap though. You’ve now designed a system requires you to have your friends play for you to have fun in the game. That’s a losing solution.

I’m not saying they aren’t needed in everygame, if done right, but they sure aren’t the answer.

I also agree. The only real solution is to remove power levels. Which I am all for, but for which the mere mention will result in a cascade of vehement posts decrying the idea as inherently unworkable and against everything gaming stands for.

That being said, first person to do it wins a hojillion dollars.

This is a bizarre article, that seems to definitively be written from someone whose sole perspective is having gone from not playing any MMOs to WoW. (Or who has forgotten about previous MMOs he’s played.)

Specifically:

Dear Savant,

Next time you’re grouped in WoW, please click on the second tab on the default chat interface. That’s the one that gives you combat information. When you kill something, please notice that in addition to the normal experience and any rested bonus you may have, you also receive a group bonus. That’s right, skippy, people are rewarded for grouping by the single most important thing to 90+% of the population of the game: Increased progress rate. At least, if your group isn’t stupid. Then again, if your group is stupid, no amount of reward will offset the detriment of being forced to group with people who inherently make the process less rewarding than soloing.

On to #2:

Train people how to group. Sure, a lot of people aren’t going to listen/read/play whatever it is that trains them, but enough will do it to make it worthwhile.

Dear Clueless,

This is why there are instances that can, realistically, only be completed by groups at the appropriate levels. It’s a sort of “on the job” training. Of course you can get your level 60 friend to escort you through the Deadmines for the nice quest rewards (look, quest rewards in dungeons that are only group accessible while the quest rewards are viable – another reward structure), but then if you’re that type of player you’re probably also the type that’s not going to read the “It’s generally considered good form to announce you have monsters about to attack with some statement to the group such as ‘We have aggro.’, ‘Incoming’, or, if you’re a caster, ‘OMG GET IF OFF ME AIEEEEEEEEEE!!!1111!!1’.” tooltip either.

Rating of players. A global rating if at all possible (though any global rating system has too much room for exploits to really make them worthwhile), but a local rating system would be really helpful. I could group with said 4 other people, and if I really liked them, I could change their ratings with a simple right click, select rating. Then, whenever I was looking for a group, I could check my find group tab and see if anyone I have rated high is available and interested.

You must be a scientist! Because only a scientist (or a civil engineer) would find such an overly complicated way to describe a feature that already (and ubiquitously) exists: /ignore and /friend. If you group with someone and you think they’re the shizznat, add them to your /friends list. Sure, you may have to knock off that hawt night-elf chix you were having, ahem long talks with last week. But it’s not like she’s talked to you anyway since his wife found out what he was doing online and told him to stop. Similarly, the /ignore tab is a wonderful manner for storing a list of all those folks that aren’t worth your time to even listen to. That should probably include the warlock who decided that it was okay to pull because he had mana and a succubus, so how hard could 4 be even if the warrior was at 50% health and the priest was currently AFK. After all, he solos 3 or 4 critters all the time on his own. BTW, what’s the ornate gold picture frame thingy mean on a monster? Extra treasure, right?

Have all social and grouping system that encourage the right behavior in place at launch. Train people from the very beginning how to play. Don’t just put the game out and expect people to know how to play, assume they don’t and train them, with positive reinforcement, on how to play.

If only a game had systems like the above in place, everything would be fine. Disregard the fact that there will always be morons who bask in the radiance of their moronitude, and that if it’s important to you to play with people unlike that, the onus is on you. Hell, disregard the fact that at least 20% of the people you’ve played with have thought you were one of the people that needed the type of training you espouse. Clearly, it’s all due to poor game design and if only designers would think about such things, the problem would be magically solved.

(Edit: Aw, hell, I would have been less vitriolic if I’d made the apparently-too-large-for-me leap in logic that linked your post name to the fact that it’s Matt’s blog. Ah well, a rant for a rant I guess. Nevertheless, tone aside, my points still stand. All of these systems are in game in one form or another.)

How does “removing power levels” solve the problem of “you must have your friends play to have fun”? How are the two even related? If the complaint is that:

To avoid morons you need your friends to play.

But your friends and you have disparate power levels.

Therefore, artificial boosts/limits to those power levels solve that problem.

How is that not a self-contained solution? Power levels fix the power disparity problem, but sidekicking does that just fine if implemented intelligently. Having no power levels does nothing to impact the moronitude of other players. It just means that all the morons are equal in power to you. I’m not seeing the solution.

Oh, it’s not to affect moronitude (I like that word). It’s just to make sure you can always play with your friends in any given situation. I agree that artificially modifying power levels achieves the same effect. It’s just that as far as I’m concerned, it’s a quick fix for a broken system. But I understand that’s not a very popular viewpoint, as most people can’t even conceive of a game where your character doesn’t have some numbers that you can make larger.

It’s just that removing power levels solves a host of other problems as well.

Heh, this is one of the truest things said yet. I’ve run a relatively small number of instances, but I’m amazed at how many of them seem to end with two or more players thinking that the other players were inept idiots. I’ve even received private tells on several occassions from different players each snidely talking about how happy they were to get through the instance even though the other player was a ball and chain weighing us down. :lol:

Well, I can conceive of such a game. I just wouldn’t call it an MMORPG. I like the sidekick option because it allows for solving the failing of the RPG part. (Hell, I want a sidekick option in X-Men Legends II because having to switch out parties to keep level parity is tedious when I want to play through most of the game with the same group but I invariably end up having to use someone for some level for some random reason that’s locked in by design.)

It’s just that removing power levels solves a host of other problems as well.

Such as? I think removing power levels (stored in the character) completely just shifts the game from being an MMORPG to an MMOFPS or somesuch (MMOActionAdventure maybe?). Stat accrual and power building has to be the fundamental play mechanic in any CRPG.

Heh, this is one of the truest things said yet. I’ve run a relatively small number of instances, but I’m amazed at how many of them seem to end with two or more players thinking that the other players were inept idiots. I’ve even received private tells on several occassions from different players each snidely talking about how happy they were to get through the instance even though the other player was a ball and chain weighing us down. :lol:[/quote]

Most folks know there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. The thing is, most people don’t really apply objective standards. (Right way == we win, wrong way == we don’t). So it always ends up “There’s a wrong way and my way to do this.”

This is actually one of the cooler things, IMO, about those monstrous 40 people raids. There’s so little chance for most people to actually control how it’s done, that they’re forced to see the entire trial->outcome chain of events. If they’re in a raid that doesn’t do things the “right way” yet still wins, it pretty handily drives the point home that there’s more than one “right way”.

(This doesn’t work so well for the raids where everyone wants to follow someone else’s strategy verbatim, which, unfortunately, is still a lot of them. :( )

Yet, that mechanic itself has nothing to do with roleplaying. It’s a throwback to a time when you couldn’t accurately model certain behaviors without some kind of numbers to abstract the system.

As for problems it solves, it gets rid of level grinds, loot grinds, power imbalances between players in PVP, and puts the focus back on actual roleplaying rather than farming and grinding. The focus, as I see it, should move to materialism and wealth in game, with outward indicators so that players can still feel superior to others, without forcing ‘noobs’ to climb an annoying ladder simply to get to the point where “the game starts”.

I think I’m about to pull an HRose.

To expand on what I’m saying here (relating it all specifically to the familiar territory of WoW, but applicable to your MMO of choice), a global, Blizzard sanctioned rating system needs to be developed that tracks every player over a wide variety of metrics. Anything that’s relevant to the quality of a player in a group should be tracked in order to insure that similar player types are matched (all around balanced players matched with their own, and same with ninja looters). The trick here is figuring out how to measure this stuff. How do you represent a quality such as “balanced, fun group player” quantitatively? I think my above metrics of # of times completed instances/quests are too limited. As an infrequent grouper, I can think of very few metrics, so, perhaps I’m not the best one to be speaking up here (this is Blizzard’s problem to solve). But grouping is a real pain in the ass to me, precisely because most people seem to suck, and I don’t want to be forced into a guild or somesuch just to find worthwhile players, especially when most of them aren’t near my level or world location anyway.

Matt, I like your idea of a local rating system that can match you with players you rate highly (a subjective rating system, where your rating of any player is noticable only by you, if I’m understanding you correctly), but it’s still too limited for me, which is why I’m opting for a Blizzard sanctioned global rating system. Players would have to potentially get burned alot before they could access a sizable list of other players worth grouping with at any time of day using your system, which isn’t so much a problem when players are assigned a rating by the game itself. The list would become even smaller when you factor in location/level differences, although a sidekick system, properly implemented in WoW, could address the latter. And of course, the potential for exploits lurks below the surface of both systems, though yours, being subjective, is more solid in that department than mine. But, again, this is a problem for Blizzard to solve.

I’ve not seen any CRPG game, past or present, which doesn’t abstract the behaviors as a relative power level systm in some way. If you can point out an example, I’d be far more willing to believe this assertion. I’ll agree it has nothing to do with “role playing” in the strictest sense, but even the most “RP” of PnP games I’ve run across (World of Darkness) has power level quantifiers. You can argue that it’s inherently different if it’s couched in a zero-sum set of differential skills, but I think UO showed pretty handily that there’s still a relative power-level disparity in such a case as well as a “grind”, even if it’s numerically not the same as grinding exp for “the next level”.

As for problems it solves, it gets rid of level grinds, loot grinds, power imbalances between players in PVP, and puts the focus back on actual roleplaying rather than farming and grinding. The focus, as I see it, should move to materialism and wealth in game, with outward indicators so that players can still feel superior to others, without forcing ‘noobs’ to climb an annoying ladder simply to get to the point where “the game starts”.

So you’d prefer a Diablo system without the levels? Correct me if I’m wrong, but by the time you get to the high levels in D2, the difference in being viable and not in PvP is in: a) Fitting one of the few “tank mage” profiles that’s been min/maxxed for maximum survivability and b) Having the really rare loot.

I’m not sure how switching the levelling system from a character stat to having to acquire X items is in any way less of a grind or less of a disparity. It certainly won’t get rid of the loot grind.