Monday, November 23, 2009

Do we need friends more than groups?

In the comments on my last post, Zizlak states that Warhammer's loot system in keeps does not harm the overall experience; if you don't win an item outright, you can eventually get the same item via tokens from killing enemy players. My gentle prodding at failing to land a loot bag after placing second in a particular keep siege aside, I agree with his point. Unfortunately, this is a problem for repeatable content incentives.

MMORPG's rely on in-game rewards to motivate players to spend their time on repeatable content. This works when the reward at the end of the line is genuinely rare and valuable. It stops working as the rewards become readily available (e.g. you already have dozens on mounts and minipets) or easily replaceable (e.g. you are still leveling, or every patch includes a gear reset). When that happens, rewards cease to be an effective incentive for doing repeatable content that is not enjoyable on its own merits.

In a more traditional group game, your team-mates provide some of the entertainment that makes each evening's gaming experience different from the previous one. Everyone who raids has some quip about the raid leader or some anecdote of a mistake that is more amusing than annoying in hindsight.

By contrast, the solo player has only the content itself, generally with a fair dose of AFK-travel time and random number generator mayhem, to keep them entertained as they repeat the same content daily. This is fine as an activity you do while waking up in the morning, or as you look for a group, but falls short if it becomes the sole point of your day's gaming.

In some ways, Warhammer and WoW's efforts to place players in groups with people they do not know might actually be doing those players a disservice; technically they're in a group, spending time doing group content, but without the camaraderie that accompanies actual friendship.

7 comments:

Jormundgard said...

I'd say they have a much better chance of getting people to play together than getting them to like each other.

Carson 63000 said...

I know I'll happily heal a heroic for my friends even if there's no meaningful reward for my character, but I'll be hard-pressed to bring myself to pug them on my main even if they do offer me shiny new emblems of frost for doing random heroics.

Tesh said...

It's not the game's job to make friends for me, or make me make friends.

Stripes said...

I donno, I've made friends (or at least in-game friends) from random grouping. I'm normally with _some_ folks I know, and we get one or two we don't. Sometimes they are folks I would be happy to see again. Sometimes folks I would be neutral seeing again. Once in a while they are folks I don't really want to see again.

The downside of the cross-realm LFG stuff is if I run into folks I would want to run with again unless they happen to be on my server, that info is almost useless (I can't try to pull them into future groups, or raids, or recruit them for a guild).

Thallian said...

In answer to your title "yes, yes, yes!" I also agree with Tesh though, games shouldn't force us to make friends, just encourage us and invite us. If people want to play solo that's fine, and if they want to group soulessly then whatever, they are cheating themselves out of a richer more fulfilling life.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

I'm a bit anti-social when it comes to grouping. So the new stuff sounds exactly like what I want.

The fact that people will just leave the occulus run without trying it still pisses me off.

All I want to do is do Occulus repeatedly for hours, but no one else is interested. Especially not my friends, who's idea of fun, does not include riding on the back of awesome dragons.

In the end, my friends don't play WoW. I meet up with them in RL. The friends I made in game, or more like really close aquaintences, and I'd count on them helping me in RL, as much as I'd count on them to show up for a raid on time, which is not at all.

In the same vein, I wouldn't help them out either. Until they cross the gap of online friends to real friends, they're nothing more than a really complex AI as far as I'm concerned.

Thought maybe I'd give you my view on this, since it seems everyone is so gung-ho about how important friends are in-game, but it doesn't matter unless they're your real friends, and not some people you're guilded with.

Anonymous said...

Running repetitive content with "friends" or "guild" has one advantage over PUGs - items handed out to other group members will improve your next attempt (as the group is better geared now) and improve your chances to win something (others are "geared" and don't compete on the same item again).