Playing with others (unfinished rant)
Posted by Voyages in Eternity [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on Sat, 15 Sep 2007 13:45:05 +0000

This was an earlier version of the same Grouping rant (posted above) from a couple weeks ago that never got finished or published due to an absolute onslaught of interruptions… presented mainly for comparison’s sake. 

Be warned, it ends in mid-thought.  I know, I know… what’s so unusual about that?

This one was prompted by several posts at various sites over the past week or so, including this post at West Karana, the discussion following this post at Kill Ten Rats, and this post at MMOment of Zen.

I have my own prescriptions for how to encourage people to play together without returning to the “good old days” of settling in for 8-10 hour marathons at the keyboard, colostomy bag and adult diapers at hand because stepping away from the keyboard might prompt the group to drop you from group, guild, friends, and Christmas lists, and threaten you with assault for weeks after adding you to the FBI’s terrorist watch list, since obviously only a commie terrorist scumbag would go afk to relieve their bladder in mid-dungeon.  Have you no shame?

Ok, maybe I exaggerated a bit.  But not much.  (8-10 hour marathons, people joking (bragging?) about wearing adult diapers, people dropped from guild as well as group, and threats of assault are all elements I’ve personally experienced.)

As I see it, there are three aspects that could be drastically improved to make grouping far more accessible and common, with the likely result of increasing player’s enjoyment of the game.

Convenience

Convenience is the A-number-1-primo issue with playing together in these games, IMO.  It simply isn’t.  Convenient, that is.

I’ve written on various aspects of this before… I listed some things that I felt could be done to make the LFG interface more useful in this post, for example.  It goes far deeper than that, though.

Why do we have to go through the entire log in process, including character selection, just to find out whether or not there is a group that could use my character’s talents?  Devs can’t figure out a way to present a list of groups looking for my class and race before I’ve gone through the 5 minute “enter world” process?  Then when I find out the “class of the evening” is Cleric instead of Fighter, I must wait a minute or two to log out, of course, then 5 minutes to re-enter the world to find out that, well, actually, that Cleric _would_ be more useful…

I’ve already asked multiple times why most of these games require you to log back in at Downtown B.F. Egypt, Middle Of Nowhere, if that’s where you logged out.  (Immersion?  Whatever you’re smoking, let me have some too, k?)  Wouldn’t it be just ever so nice if you could instead search for groups and chat up potential playmates before you pick a character, form/join the group even, then choose a log-in location close to where you will be adventuring for the evening?

Lars of MMOment of Zen mentions quests in his post as one of the impediments to playing together, and I agree.  However, in addition to what he details, I would also come at the problem from a slightly different angle.  Part of the problem, as I see it, revolves around the fact that everyone gets the exact same quests.  When I do your version of the “General Strongbad asked me to save the orphanage” quest, I know that mine will be precisely the same when/if I do it.  Thus, I am driven to either make sure I have that quest already (to “get it out of the way”) or to not join you to save it for later.

Simply personalizing quests in various ways would be something less-than-obvious that I think would go a fair way toward encouraging grouping, changing the mindset from “skip that door, there’s never anything behind it in this quest” to “I wonder what Snidely Whiplash did with the Kidnap-O-Matic remote control THIS time?  Last time, he hid it in his chamberpot.”




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