Don’t you just hate it when you see someone off by themselves and having fun without anyone else? Yes? You’re not alone, and neither are they in a way. One of the top distinguishing features of an MMO is all the other people playing in the same world as you. So what if one of them isn’t playing with you directly. You play with other people. You’re a group player. Even if you don’t need a group, you like playing together. That’s the way the game was made to be played. Right?
More and more players have been playing all by themselves. Some don’t like to ever group up, avoiding “forced grouping” as much as possible. Why? Saylah says, “The reasons why people solo in MMOs is as varied as the players themselves,” and I’m largely inclined to agree. I do, however, think that asking “why” is still a good idea. Why do, or what are some of the reasons that, so many players like to play by themselves?
- The player doesn’t have the time to group.
- The player feels that a others would be a hindrance.
- The player can’t find an adequate group.
- The player wants to be alone.
- The player wants to progress at their own pace.
- The player doesn’t feel a group is needed.
- The player feels finding a group is a hassle.
- The player wants to challenge themselves.
- The player is keeping up with friends.
- Likes MMO gameplay, but dislikes the multiplayer.
If we can eliminate all the rational reasons for a player to want to not group, it stands to reason that the player will only have reasons to group. Of that list, of which I’m sure is only a fraction of the reasons people avoid grouping, only a couple of the reasons are truly unavoidable.
If the player doesn’t have time to group, we need to make grouping not take up extra time. We could probably solve this in several ways. One way is to make grouping fluid and natural.
If players are grouped together automatically, they don’t have to spend time looking for a group. No one would want this automatic grouping to hinder the player’s explicit choices, so let’s make different kinds of groups and let the player be in both. So if a player decides to go kill some giant snakes for a quest, he’s automatically grouped with allies in the area that are killing the same creatures. Meanwhile, he’s in his regular party waiting for more.
The can design the system around grouping penalties. A robust party forming tool can solve most issues with finding adequate party members. An automatic party system as described above would let players play at a pace they want, with party members coming and going based on proximity and activity. By keeping a group finding mechanic streamlined, simple, or automatic as above, players should find group-making a fairly hassle-free experience.
If a player wants a challenge that he doesn’t feel he can get with a party in his current area, alternate instances of varying difficulties may be a solution. A specially designed open-world difficulty setting could spice up gameplay as well. Maybe an option set at party formation would trigger enemy creatures to always call for backup or seamlessly power up.
It’s important to note that we don’t want to punish the player for opting to play alone. It’s the player’s choice, and the player should have fun playing however they want. Like I said before, some players, some times, just want to play by themselves. That should be okay and supported at some level. As long as an individual playing alone doesn’t hinder the experience of the multiplayer-friendly, it shouldn’t be frowned on.