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Massively Single-Player Gaming? 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the world-of-me-craft dept.
Massively is running an article discussing the trend in recent MMOs to enable and encourage solo play. Where the genre's early offerings, like Everquest and Ultima Online, were heavily dependent on finding other people to interact with, it's common for today's games to allow players to experience most of the content by themselves. Quoting: "It is human nature to want to be the center of attention or at least feel like the hero on some level. It's also not too far of a stretch to call members of our species generally selfish. How can you really deliver this experience if you force your players to ask for help all the time? I think this was simply a natural progression of the genre in trying to appeal to our natural traits. ... Finally, I believe it all comes down to the mighty dollar. Audiences grew and so followed the market and competition. Suddenly, you couldn't make MMOs on the cheap anymore (though a stalwart few still try). Not only are game studios focused on appealing to the solo casual gamer to maximize earnings, they also want to build in artificial time sinks to make players stick around."
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Massively Single-Player Gaming?

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  • I hate time sinks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @05:30AM (#28739543)

    Time sinks do not make me want to stick around, they make me want to go elsewhere. I already have a time sink in my life, it's called work. It regularly consumes 13 hours of my day, factor in an average 8 hours of sleep and that leaves me with 3 hours in which to do things like play games, eat food, etc. If the game wants me to spend time essentially doing nothing, then I'm not playing.

    • by tnok85 (1434319) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @05:33AM (#28739555)
      There's a difference between time sinks and solo play. Unfortunately, most 'solo play' is just a poorly disguised time sink.

      When done right though, solo play is great for those of us with long hours, or on-call jobs. We can do the multiplayer portion during our time off - but I can't rightly join a group of people when I have no idea how long I'm going to be able to play, or when I can only log on for a half hour.

      Having the ability to advance my character, or at least get the illusion I'm not stagnating without being forced to group is nice.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:48AM (#28739787)
        I disagree. MMOs should be like sex, you need at least 5 people to participate.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alcoholist (160427)

        I've always been turned off by MMOs because of all the grindage they seem to make you do alone. After the one thousandth time, running around in the sticks looking for beasties to kill gets very old. I always thought grouping was the whole point of these games, but pretty well everyone I know who plays them spends most of their time doing solo stuff because they are looking to level.

        I've always wondered if a game that had no leveling system might be more interesting and encourage more team play.

        • by wisty (1335733) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:33AM (#28740263)

          This has been threshed out on Slashdot ad nauseum.

          a) The Grind makes more money, because MMOs are time based.

          b) The Grind makes them more addictive. You can't stop playing, because you "invested" 1000 hours already.

          c) The Grind gives you a false sense of achievement, just like poker machines do. You like they way it feels like "work", but nobody ever criticizes you for doing it badly. If you were to spend the time learning a skill, or making money, there would be a much greater chance of failure. The Grind is an effective substitute for real life.

          • by Moryath (553296)

            The bigger problem is that so much of the grind requires having other people to grind with.

            And the problem with that is the inherent problem of MMORPG's - namely that over time, the playerbase will wane and stratify, and eventually the people you would really like to play with leave the game and the rest either become asshats, or were already asshats to start with.

            Take City of Heroes or Final Fantasy XI as two great examples. In City of Heroes, unless you personally know someone in the game who already has

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by CronoCloud (590650)

              I agree, the worst thing about FFXI was the Japan inspired conformism in the player base, which spread to the non-Japanese players too eventually. "You're level foo and don't have a Hat of Foo? No group for you!" "You're playing a Hume WHM with RDM as subclass and not a Taru-Taru WHM with BLM as the kami intended? No group for you!" "You want to play your WHM as a Western style Battle Cleric because you're a Hume with a Hammer, instead of being a "Staff Chick" as the kami intended WHM to be? No group

            • by fractoid (1076465)

              Hatefests for anyone not running their character as a predetermined "optimized build" and paying massive $$$ to the gil sellers who camp all the necessary "optimal" boss mobs to drop your needed loot, and grief anyone who comes near? Check.

              Coming from WoW, this statement seems odd. If you could get "needed loot" off "optimal boss mobs" by simply paying in-game currency for them, why would you bother to join a group in the first place?

              Maybe this is just the perspective I have after playing 4+ years of WoW, but the general progression that I've seen is that you solo your way to the level cap and 'acceptable' starter gear. Then you look for a group, and work your way through progressively harder content, upgrading your gear as you go. If you c

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Scarletdown (886459)

              In City of Heroes, unless you personally know someone in the game who already has a major supergroup (guild) built up, getting anywhere is going to be a chore.

              That is not entirely true. I have several characters (both heroes and villains) who are doing quite well while not being affiliated with any super group. Specifically, I set up characters on two servers with the intention of not creating my own group at 10. These are:

              Screamsicle [photobucket.com] - Sonic Blast/Cold Domination Corruptor
              Full Metal Duck [photobucket.com] - Assault Rifle/Energy Melee Blaster
              Impact Event [photobucket.com] - Earth Control/Thermal Radiation Controller
              Polar Peregrine [photobucket.com] - Ice/Storm Controller
              Willowpaw [photobucket.com] - Fire/Electric Blaste

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Scarletdown (886459)
                Belgium! Looks like I had a visit from the Fuck Up Fairy...
                Trying again...

                Sparkle Swan [photobucket.com] - Broadsword/Shield Defense Scrapper.

                Crimson Duck [photobucket.com] - Fire/Energy Blaster.

                ... Ah, what the hell. Here's another look at Sparkle Swan [photobucket.com] in her level 30 costume. The one in the first shot is what she will get at 40. :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cpricejones (950353)
        I agree with this: in practice they can become very addicting. Take Morrowind or Oblivion, both fantastic games that are single player. Both are time sinks, depending on how you look at it. Many people played them, so there were enough people to talk about the game to make it massive single player.

        Probably the best example of what you want is Nethack. The game does not take much time but is very, very frustrating for the beginning player. Sometimes it is so damn frustrating you cannot play for more than
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CarpetShark (865376)

      I already have a time sink in my life, it's called work. It regularly consumes 13 hours of my day, factor in an average 8 hours of sleep and that leaves me with 3 hours in which to do things like play games, eat food, etc.

      It seems common lately, but this is a pretty weird notion; that life is all about having fun after work, and work is just a waste of time. Work IS the majority of your time. It's what YOU do --- YOUR job; YOUR career; YOUR chosen way to exist. It should be something that's meaningful to

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sheik Yerbouti (96423)

        Most work sucks in reality that's why they call it work and not play this is reality get used to it. The number of people that actually have fun interesting jobs are relatively few. You doubt this, really look at peoples faces at street lights and intersection on your next commute to work to a man and woman they all look miserable. Not to be too much of a downer but modern life is for most people is a daily drudgery. Why else would so many be on anti depressants? I would settle for my work being meaningful

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          Anyone who works 13 hours a day, either likes their job or is earning enough money that they are going to retire early.

          Or is a workaholic and will be exploited by the corporate machine for their entire existence.

          • by Sparton (1358159)

            Anyone who works 13 hours a day, either likes their job or is earning enough money that they are going to retire early.

            It regularly consumes 13 hours of my day, factor in an average 8 hours of sleep and that leaves me with 3 hours in which to do things like play games, eat food, etc.

            9 hour work day + 2 hours commute either way == 13 hours.

            He's not working 13 hour long days, he's just got a fairly long commute time. I have effectively the same thing; except I play either iPhone games or DS games to and from (or occasionally some sort of reading material).

            • by nedlohs (1335013)

              If you are willing to travel 4 hours a day for a job, then the same set of criteria apply.

            • by fractoid (1076465)
              2 hours commute either way?! That's crazy - how far is your round trip commute, 200km? Or do you think he just has a hideous number of public transport transfers? If I were spending four hours a day in transit I'd seriously consider either moving house or moving job.
          • by centuren (106470)

            Anyone who works 13 hours a day, either likes their job or is earning enough money that they are going to retire early.

            Or is a workaholic and will be exploited by the corporate machine for their entire existence.

            Or is barely managing to pay the bills with whatever work they were able to find to support their kids.

            Or are in the middle of a desert in the middle-east getting shot at regularly, out of duty and service rather than personal enjoyment or a lucrative income.

            While they may not match up with a lifestyle of playing MMO's in one's off time, there's plenty of scenarios in which a person does not have the luxury to pick hours they like, or a job they enjoy.

            • by nedlohs (1335013)

              Subsistence living is a different beast. As is having more kids than you can afford with a reasonable job - what is the point of supporting the kids if you never see them anyway?

              Being in the military is a separate thing too, I would assume the "retire early" applies, but modified to be "I don't expect to be doing this for my entire working life, but it is worth it in the short/medium term". Where "worth it" could be a lot of things from expecting a long career in the military not involving being in a warzon

              • by centuren (106470)

                Subsistence living is a different beast. As is having more kids than you can afford with a reasonable job - what is the point of supporting the kids if you never see them anyway?

                I think we're defining "support" differently. The point of supporting your kids is so they can eat, have a home, etc. The level of subsistence where supporting the kids definitely has importance over quality time. I agree with you on "supporting" being things like buying them an xbox, making sure they get a new car at 16, etc.

                Being in the military is a separate thing too, I would assume the "retire early" applies, but modified to be "I don't expect to be doing this for my entire working life, but it is worth it in the short/medium term". Where "worth it" could be a lot of things from expecting a long career in the military not involving being in a warzone all their lives, or a jump start on a civilian career with the training/experience/etc the military provided, or just plain old "I will suffer and risk my life for my country because I am a patriot". And don't forget "I love shooting stuff" :)

                I'll give you the "I don't expect to be doing this for my entire working life", absolutely. Of course, that doesn't change the present, which with long and repeated deployments can rea

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Have you given thought to joining a commune? They work really well. At least they do until they realize that nobody is taking out the trash since everybody wants to be an artist...

        The only people I know who would be doing what they're doing for work if they were independantly wealthy, are independantly wealthy.

        • realize that nobody is taking out the trash since everybody wants to be an artist...

          It's interesting how you totally filtered out the part I wrote about enjoying menial jobs as a service to humanity.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rich0 (548339)

            It's interesting how you totally filtered out the part I wrote about enjoying menial jobs as a service to humanity.

            Nope - I read it clearly. You're welcome to stop by and mow my lawn as a service to humanity anytime you'd like. Actually, I extend that offer to everybody. And yet, for some odd reason, I still find myself mowing my lawn.

            My point is that what you're saying sounds nice and all, but nobody in the real world would actually live that way.

            • And yet, for some odd reason, I still find myself mowing my lawn.

              That odd reason is probably exactly what I'm getting at: that people know you won't appreciate it.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        There are plenty of jobs that nobody could possibly want to do.

        Sure there are less now that we have car building robots and so on.

        I worked a couple of months between semesters once on a production line that was taking shrink wrapped cartoons of cigarettes, opening them and putting them into smaller promotional packages that were then shrink wrapped. No one could have possibly enjoyed that work, and it certainly wasn't benefiting humanity.

        Harvesting a field isn't fun either, at least that one is essential to

        • There are plenty of jobs that nobody could possibly want to do.

          Yeah. There's a good chance that the guys who run Doody Calls (a septic service in Tacoma) don't actually enjoy their work. Bet it pulls in some decent income though. I briefly entertained the notion of opening a competing service called It Happens. However, I just don't have the ambition needed to get into such a crappy line of work. :)

      • by MorePower (581188) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @11:20AM (#28741419)

        The main problem is this. There is nothing that I enjoy doing 40+ hours per week. And the really big problem is that even things I do enjoy doing, I hate doing to someone else's schedule. I really like building things with LEGO, for example, so should I go apply for a job at LEGOLAND (as if I would really get such a coveted job)? I bet I would hate it just as much as my current job, because I'm not always in the mood to build things with LEGO, starting at 8:00am and ending at 5:00pm (or whatever hours LEGOLAND builders work).

        And that's the thing about jobs, someone else is relying on your output. So you need to adjust to their wants and needs. And that's the part that sucks.

        Also, there is no way to "quit your job, live off social security..." Social Security only pays out when you reach retirement age (and you notice, most people do quit as soon as they are eligible for retirement benefits). Welfare is what you would get as a working age person, and unless you have dependent kids they cut you off after 5 years (cumulative for your lifetime) and leave you to starve to death.

        • There is such a thing as part-time work. Or, you could temp for an agency for a change of organisation on a regular basis. Or, you could do random freelance jobs that interest you in your spare time. Or, you could do a mixture of any of those, and probably quite a few other things.

        • by Homburg (213427)

          I do think that's a very good point. Marx put it well 150 years ago [marxists.org]:

          The division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, manâ(TM)s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.

      • by drsquare (530038)

        You do realise that if people didn't do any jobs unless they really loved doing them, then the entire economy collapse and most people would starve to death?

        We can't all be astronauts and rock stars, someone has to clean the toilets and empty the bins.

  • by acehole (174372) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @05:53AM (#28739609) Homepage

    Its a myth like unicorns or a republican with a soul.

    There are many levels of time people put into games. How exactly do you definite 'casual'? If you look at it from the MMO perspective (wow for example) do you count a casual gamer as someone who doesnt raid? how about someone who only spends time in the game for raiding and not much else? What about if the non-raider spends more time in game than the raider, which one is casual?

    • by Krneki (1192201)
      Casual is somebody who is not addicted, but how much time defines one or the other depends on who you ask.

      Generally speaking causal is who puts RL before the game.
    • by williamhb (758070)

      There are many levels of time people put into games. How exactly do you definite 'casual'? If you look at it from the MMO perspective (wow for example) do you count a casual gamer as someone who doesnt raid? how about someone who only spends time in the game for raiding and not much else? What about if the non-raider spends more time in game than the raider, which one is casual?

      In my personal opinion, if the idea of paying a monthly subscription for a game appealed to you in the first place, then you are probably not a casual gamer.

      • by Krneki (1192201) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:31AM (#28740255)
        So if I hack and account I can safely say I'm not addicted? :)
      • Wow's subscription costs about the same as
        - 2 movie tickets
        - half a nice restaurant meal
        - 1/4th of a new game
        - a very cheap/bad theater/opera ticket
        - a new CD
        - a new DVD
        - ...

        you can play very little WoW (6-8 hours/month), and still get more "entertainment time" for your money than you would with more traditional entertainment.

        of course, you won't get the same benefits out of it.. it's pretty much a-cultural... but then again, given how bad most recent movies have been ...

        • by centuren (106470) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @12:13PM (#28741795) Homepage Journal

          Wow's subscription costs about the same as
          - 2 movie tickets
          - half a nice restaurant meal
          - 1/4th of a new game
          - a very cheap/bad theater/opera ticket
          - a new CD
          - a new DVD
          - ...

          you can play very little WoW (6-8 hours/month), and still get more "entertainment time" for your money than you would with more traditional entertainment.

          of course, you won't get the same benefits out of it.. it's pretty much a-cultural... but then again, given how bad most recent movies have been ...

          I look back on my time playing WoW, and adding up everything I spent over a year and a bit, I sort of wish I had that money back. I enjoyed myself tremendously a good 60-70% of that time, and it was definitely the cheapest way to socialise daily with friends who lived 2 hours away in a big city, at a time when none of us had a lot of disposable income. Still, that "golden age" of my experience was shorter than my hope, and I definitely feel like I wasted some time that could have been better spent (and paid money to do so).

          At the same time, a friend who started playing as I was winding down, ended up playing much more than I did, first string in a 6 days/week raiding guild. She loved it, and hated her 40 hour/week office job. Coming home from work and playing WoW, if you enjoy it, is actually really, really cheap. The more you play it, the cheaper it is, since you're not doing other things that cost money. After cigarettes and gas, WoW was really her only expense, so she was able to save money very quickly.

          At that age, her job wasn't a career and even living in Silicon Valley a temporary thing. Raiding was what she wanted to do with her time, and she was able to work, put a lot of money in the bank, and enjoy herself in the off-time. When it was time to move back home, she made the trip in a gorgeous mint '95 BMW 850ci.

          Of course, the cost of WoW goes up dramatically if your guild holds "drunken PVP weekends", but in those cases you would probably be spending the money on nice alcohol anyway.

          • by fractoid (1076465)
            When I look back over the past four years and add up all the money I've spent on WoW it comes up to maybe $1500. That sounds like a lot until I think that a carton of beer a week at $45 a carton is what, 10 times that? And then I compare that $45 a week with the $80-$150 a night that I'd spend if I were going out on the town and buying drinks for myself plus any particularly lucky ladies who happened along...

            $20/month is *cheap* unless you only get paid pocket money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192) *

      Casual vs serious is all about how much you care. We all know film buffs for instance who take films very seriously who watch a lot of movies, but also read about them, talk about them, think about them. Then there are people who just like to see a movie from time to time. Games are the same way, it's not a hard and fast line either, there are many shades in between.

      I guess there are some observations that can be made though. If you've never seen a foreign movie, you're probably not a film buff. If you'

    • It's real easy to define on a sliding scale...

      * < 1 hr/week of gaming: casual gamer
      * < 2 hrs/week of gaming: The addiction is starting...
      * > 4 hrs/week of gaming: average gamer
      * > 8 hrs/week of gaming: hard-core gamer
      * > 32 hrs/week of gaming: I can stop any time...

      --
      WoW (TM) is the McDonalds (TM) of MMOs

      • by TheLink (130905)
        FWIW, even if you play many hours a week it doesn't mean you're addicted.

        e.g. if you can go on a holiday for a week and still not feel the urge to login and play, you're probably not addicted.

        I know people who go on a holiday but they still "must" log in a few times ;).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fractoid (1076465)
        8 hours a week is hardcore? Maybe for Tetris or Wii Bowling. 'Casual' MMO players can play anywhere up to 30 hours a week, I don't believe it's possible to play an MMO game at a 'hardcore' level if you have either a job or a partner.
  • by AlmondMan (1163229) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:05AM (#28739645)
    Killing it through making everything into solo-content, losing out on all the things that the genre would've allowed for. All the many possibilities of player vs player conflict are swept under the rug and turned into endless killing grounds, like the instanced battle arenas in Anarchy Online, WAR and WoW. WAR is a bit on the right track again, with the world being sort of dynamic between the two sides, but things are just going way too fast back and forth. And the world is too stiff.

    The idea of players working together, cooperating and prospering in these digital worlds has been lost and we're back in the ego race for the most epeen. Which is sad, because the fun of these games lies in the multiplayer cooperative part. Which was their great attraction piece in times past. Now, it's just a really bad singleplayer game. Consider, if you will, playing any of the many MMOs in an offline game. Everything works exactly the same as the MMO, only you're quite alone. Nothing you do will ever have an impact on the world as it does in proper singleplayer games. The story progresses and things change around your character. In MMOs the best thing you can do is fake this, like they've started doing in WoW, which I find to be just cheap, with the only purpose of it being to greater satisfy the solo player. Leaving nothing in the way of multiplayer ways to see change going on in the world. Sad.
    • One of the reasons I quitted playing MMOs (except EvE). I'm in for the group experience. Why pay 15 bucks a month to play a solo game?

      When you like group play, you're pretty much lost right now in MMOs. You can't start anew in an "old" MMO that relied on group play, because everyone is already far above your level and unwilling to go back to level yet another toon, and, well, being a group-heavy game you won't get far alone. And the new games that would have plenty of low level players are anything but grou

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by centuren (106470)

        You can't start anew in an "old" MMO that relied on group play, because everyone is already far above your level and unwilling to go back to level yet another toon, and, well, being a group-heavy game you won't get far alone.

        I agree that there are major problems starting anew in an MMO that requires group play, but for a slightly different reason: once an end-game player, always an end-game player.

        I realise this won't apply to everyone, but after I passed the point in WoW where I had spent more time at maximum level than I had all other levels combined, a huge part of the game was spoiled for me.

        If I wanted to start a new character to say, play with other friends on a PVP server, the first 69 (and later 79) levels were just blo

      • by fractoid (1076465)
        Agreed here. Even WoW, which is notoriously easy to level up in, will force a new player to spend literally months playing solo before they can get to a level where people are still running groups. Hell, on my server it's hard to find even a heroic (hard-mode) 5-man dungeon because everyone has already outgeared them and is on to the second tier raid for this expansion.
    • Consider, if you will, playing any of the many MMOs in an offline game. Everything works exactly the same as the MMO, only you're quite alone. Nothing you do will ever have an impact on the world as it does in proper singleplayer games. The story progresses and things change around your character.

      In other words, the Animal Crossing series. Or what am I missing?

    • Very true. I'm amazed at how much effort is poured into adding solo content, and how little is put into making the group experience better. Possible areas of improved, in WoW, would be:

      - a Karma system, actually 2, one for skill and one for social intelligence. Assholes and retards spoil the game for whomever groups with them, and it's amazing how many of those there are. Blizzard must have the intellectual and financial means to build a karma system that works ?

      - Multi-player combo moves. Buffs are fine, b

      • by centuren (106470)

        - a Karma system, actually 2, one for skill and one for social intelligence. Assholes and retards spoil the game for whomever groups with them, and it's amazing how many of those there are. Blizzard must have the intellectual and financial means to build a karma system that works ?

        Intellectual means would be key here. Someone could design an addon that lets you assign karma points, but for it to work it would have to be well thought out, since the assholes and retards will try to take advantage of anyway they can retaliate.

        - Multi-player combo moves. Buffs are fine, but having combat combo moves that require several players to collaborate would be oodles of fun.

        This actually does exist, although you're probably thinking about something more explicit to game mechanics. In arena (my experience comes mainly from season 3) you can't survive combat without extremely well executed collaboration between team mates. Hell, just th

      • Multi-player combo moves.

        EQ2 has exactly that. Classes are divided into 4 groups (tanks, rogues, clerics, mages), each spell/style belongs to some group, and the combos are done by executing a style/spell of the relevant group when it's your turn. Depending on what kinds of players you have in your group, you can do different combos (i.e. if you have no mage in your group, just do combos that require only tank/cleric or something like that).

        Unfortunately it's been nerfed into oblivion, the bonus or damage s

  • That's not why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:25AM (#28739713)

    When I play games like Guild Wars solo, it's not because "I want to be the hero" or because "I want all the lewts". It's because pick-up groups suck. You spend half an hour trying to round up people to fill out the group, and it only takes one of them being a moron to ruin the entire experience.

    For those few of you who don't know, that's the guy who doesn't know how to get where you're going, can't properly follow your directions to get there, tries to boss around the party when he finally does get there even though he clearly doesn't know what he's doing, and then fifteen minutes into the group says, "o man i have 2 go.. mom wants me 2 clean my room".

    • by Artifakt (700173)

      You could have just said "Google Leeroy Jenkins"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stereoroid (234317)

      I was going to mention Guild Wars too, as an example of a game that is highly playable as a single player. You can be offline for a month, and it's not costing you anything, since they don't have monthly fees. The quality of the graphics is such that you can just wander around in your own time admiring the scenery, especially with the Eye Of The North expansion.

      On one of the few occasions I joining a pickup mission, I ran in to an "expectation" problem. The character I used was a Monk, and what I learned is

      • by centuren (106470)

        I was going to mention Guild Wars too, as an example of a game that is highly playable as a single player. You can be offline for a month, and it's not costing you anything, since they don't have monthly fees. The quality of the graphics is such that you can just wander around in your own time admiring the scenery, especially with the Eye Of The North expansion.

        I'm heartened to read this, because I picked up GW a while back ($19 w/EotN expansion, no subscription, how could I resist?) and I've only played it a few levels. I know no one who plays it and I have no desire to pug groups (I turned off my chat window all together, the 'city' areas were just too obnoxious).

        I was hoping that when I play it more, groups wouldn't suddenly be vital to play. It sounds like they won't. The expectation problem is definitely present in WoW also, but it does go both ways. As a war

    • by Endo13 (1000782)

      When I play games like Guild Wars solo, it's not because "I want to be the hero" or because "I want all the lewts". It's because pick-up groups suck. You spend half an hour trying to round up people to fill out the group, and it only takes one of them being a moron to ruin the entire experience.

      Real MMOs have less of a problem with that than GW though, because in a real MMO you actually have to care about your reputation as a player at least a little bit. In GW it doesn't matter because you'll never see anyone from the same group again anyway. You can be a shit player having good players carry you through the game the whole way and never group with the same person twice, without trying. In an MMO, you can get away with that for a while, but if you do it too much it eventually catches up with you,

    • Takes a while to get a collection of good players, but it's worth it.

      In "old school" games where you had to group to get anywhere, it meant that you spent your 20s and 30s (provided it's a 50 level game, generally about the first 3/5th of your leveling) with groups that sucked. Mostly. My standards are pretty high, so I'd say about 4 out of 5 people I played with sucked and they didn't meet my requirements. I took a note of the other fifth of the players I played with, though. And so did they. Over time, yo

    • by centuren (106470)

      For those few of you who don't know, that's the guy who doesn't know how to get where you're going, can't properly follow your directions to get there, tries to boss around the party when he finally does get there even though he clearly doesn't know what he's doing, and then fifteen minutes into the group says, "o man i have 2 go.. mom wants me 2 clean my room".

      As a tank in WoW, the type of player I hated the most was the one who believed there was only one way to run a dungeon. They weren't usually horrible players in terms of basic mechanics, but were definitely more prone to let their rigidity hurt their performance. My main frustration was they will have read gone online and read through a complete guide on how to do each corner, each pull (I'm not even counting bosses in this, just mobs). Chances are, the way detailed in the guide is a good way, quite possibl

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        And as a view from the other side of that fence, as a die hard healer, I hated PuGs where the tanks really *wouldn't* push it. It usually manifested itself as ultra slowness, and a refusal to pull (or having to be prompted before each pack) if I didn't have full mana.

        In TBC as a priest, with downranking and a brain you could heal forever with rank 2 GH and CoH and never have to worry about mana, unless things got really hairy, and yet still you'd have tanks that just wouldn't push the boat out. I can unders

        • by centuren (106470)

          And as a view from the other side of that fence, as a die hard healer, I hated PuGs where the tanks really *wouldn't* push it. It usually manifested itself as ultra slowness, and a refusal to pull (or having to be prompted before each pack) if I didn't have full mana.

          In TBC as a priest, with downranking and a brain you could heal forever with rank 2 GH and CoH and never have to worry about mana, unless things got really hairy, and yet still you'd have tanks that just wouldn't push the boat out. I can understand being sensitive to the needs of the guy keeping you alive, but after the 5th "heeler drink!" prompt in party chat while we all sit staring at a 2 pack of mobs, it starts to get tiresome.

          In Wrath the heroics are so easy, that even with downranking gone, and mana regen outside the FSR severely down, it is still very easy to keep even a modestly geared tank up.

          My best friend was a priest, and we levelled up together. We ran all the heroics, did 2v2 arena, and got into big raiding at the same time.

          As a senior tank and then MT, I helped a lot of green warriors learn about tanking, and I always included advice on keeping your healer in mind. Beyond the obvious like "keep an eye out in case someone screws up and their mob/add goes after the healer", I'd stress things that a lot of tanks don't think about, mostly having to do with the tank now knowing how better to pl

  • by EWAdams (953502) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:26AM (#28739719) Homepage

    I want the colossal richness and depth available only through online worlds, without the horny adolescents, griefers, and other social incompetents that MMOGs seem to attract.

    Give with WoW with just me and the NPCs, and I'll pay for it. Not otherwise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NightRain (144349)
      What richness and depth? MMOs have sheer size, but any richness and depth they have comes from the fact you're dealing with other human beings. Remove them, and they are invariably suffer in comparison to a dedicated single player game from the same genre
      • by k8to (9046)

        Having played wow, I disagree. I played it for about a year. I raided in top server guilds, totally mastered multiple classes. I know it pretty much inside out.

        The game would be better without other players.

    • Player matching (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AlpineR (32307) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Saturday July 18, 2009 @09:53AM (#28740807) Homepage

      I sense a demand for a service like eHarmony, Match.com, or Chemistry.com geared toward finding compatible gamers rather than sexual mates. Put all the immersive RPGers on one shard, all the 1/2 hr a night casual grownups on another, the emo teens on a third, etc. Maybe include a function to vote misbehavers off the shard.

      • by NiTr|c (130325)

        Funny you mention this. I've been debating creating a site like this for a personal project. Like a general match-making system for any type of game or games. I question how well it would actually work, but it's interesting that someone else has had the same idea.

      • by k8to (9046)

        It's a nice theory, but there's a lot of antisocials who get their entertainment by harassing those who aren't interested. Where do they go?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Draek (916851)

      So, like Fallout 3 or Oblivion? or just like playing Guild Wars on an European server?

    • by centuren (106470)

      I want the colossal richness and depth available only through online worlds, without the horny adolescents, griefers, and other social incompetents that MMOGs seem to attract.

      Give with WoW with just me and the NPCs, and I'll pay for it. Not otherwise.

      I'd expand this to say, make a boss drop his loot, and rely less of repetitive play for content. He either has something or he hasn't. Killing the same boss 20 times for rep, badges, and the hope of a drop hardly helps maintain immersed in that richness and depth.

  • It's the D-Bags... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MogNuts (97512) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @06:29AM (#28739731)

    It's because of the d-bags. We love the idea of all the new content, ever-changing worlds, new quests, new gear, or trading for awesome gear you can't normally get at your level. Then we play with people and remember that it's still the same thing as playing with online as it ever was--awful. D-bags, cheaters, impatient people, and all the other awful people online. Just think, the same trolls and flamebaiters and morons who post random comments on forums/articles (excluding /.; those people make ./ trolls look like saints) are the same people you'll be playing with on an MMO.

    Hence the single-player MMO--providing all the benefits with none of the drawbacks.

    • by Dunbal (464142) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @07:15AM (#28739877)

      I completely agree.

      I remember back in the Compuserve/GEnie days, before the internet became popular. We used to have to pay $6+ per hour to connect. I would play multi-player games, read and post on forums, and there was never any serious trolling/griefing. Then along came the internet and unlimited monthly access for a flat rate. Suddenly all the MPG's I played were filled with beggars asking for free stuff, or griefers just trying to ruin the game for everyone. Massive access to forums also caused the quality of the posts to deteriorate to simple flame wars.

      The effect of price on behavior was very obvious. I can think of two possibilities: Either a high price enforces "good behavior" because no one wants to waste money acting like an idiot, but people are willing to act like idiots when something is free; or as an "elitist snob" (yeah yeah, think whatever you want) I tend to favor the idea that people with more money tend to be better educated (with few exceptions) and mannered, and so an expensive, exclusive "club" will have less "trash".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hibiki_r (649814)

        I completely agree.

        I remember back in the Compuserve/GEnie days, before the internet became popular. We used to have to pay $6+ per hour to connect. I would play multi-player games, read and post on forums, and there was never any serious trolling/griefing. Then along came the internet and unlimited monthly access for a flat rate. Suddenly all the MPG's I played were filled with beggars asking for free stuff, or griefers just trying to ruin the game for everyone. Massive access to forums also caused the quality of the posts to deteriorate to simple flame wars.

        The effect of price on behavior was very obvious. I can think of two possibilities: Either a high price enforces "good behavior" because no one wants to waste money acting like an idiot, but people are willing to act like idiots when something is free; or as an "elitist snob" (yeah yeah, think whatever you want) I tend to favor the idea that people with more money tend to be better educated (with few exceptions) and mannered, and so an expensive, exclusive "club" will have less "trash".

        It doesn't have to be free: Xbox Live is choke full of imbeciles, and people pay for the privilege of having to play with them.

        • £30 for 12 months of live is way cheaper than £5 - £8 /month for an MMO. Besides which, I tend to just play with my friends and the good mannered, non-dbags that I've picked up on my friend list along the way. I very rarely play with randoms and not at all for co-op games.

          TBH live is more like an MMO than most people like to admit. You create an avatar and spend ages trying to find an unused variation on the name you want. You grind quests (games) to increase your level (

      • Well, how about that the average bored 12 year old can't blow 6 bucks an hour on online access? Not to mention that he could never get an ISP to sign a contract with him and few parents would consider paying that?

      • by bughunter (10093)

        Your last idea is close, very close. I played the same games on AOL at a nickel a minute (NWN, GSIII, etc), and ran up $400/month bills regularly, even though it severely strained my finances at the time. That's a huge barrier; you had to be pretty damn addicted to pay that kind of scratch month in and month out. Sure, there were some d-bags, but they were far fewer, probably only the few who could afford someone else to pay their massive AOL bills.

        Serious gamers are willing to pay $3/hr for their games,

    • by centuren (106470)

      It's because of the d-bags. We love the idea of all the new content, ever-changing worlds, new quests, new gear, or trading for awesome gear you can't normally get at your level. Then we play with people and remember that it's still the same thing as playing with online as it ever was--awful. D-bags, cheaters, impatient people, and all the other awful people online. Just think, the same trolls and flamebaiters and morons who post random comments on forums/articles (excluding /.; those people make ./ trolls look like saints) are the same people you'll be playing with on an MMO.

      Hence the single-player MMO--providing all the benefits with none of the drawbacks.

      I agree with your thoughts on the d-bags, but not that a single player MMO will provide all the benefits. The single biggest benefit to my MMO experience, and the only reason I started playing one at all, was that I could play with friends. My friends are scattered around the country now, and in high school we used to have gaming nights all the time. Playing WoW, we got to play together again, socialising every night and having a lot of fun. When people started quitting or moving servers (for good reasons,

  • Ultima Online (at least on the free shard UOGamers) doesn't require any kind of interaction with other players on any meaningful level. I quite commonly solo my way through PVM as well as PVP in the dueling system without having to talk to anybody or organize people like other more guild-centric MMORPGs require. The most I ever typically interact with people is the occasional chat with someone I encounter or buying/selling stuff.

    Try it out. http://uogamers.com/ [uogamers.com]

  • Therefore, I chose to do all "challenges" in WoW by myself, wherever possible. The moment I couldn't do stuff on my own/finding a (working) group to do it would always take more than 1 hour, I quit. I am definetly not the "I need to be THE hero" type of player, therefore the timesinks in WoW ("Hey everybody, look at my super-duper 1000 hours worth of playtime pet, I'm awesome!") and other MMOs don't work for me either.

    A single player WoW with bots would've been awesome.
  • by lindseyp (988332) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @07:57AM (#28740053)

    I don't spend so much time gaming. But having wasted a good many hundreds of hours on MUD's back in the day. I can say the one thing I found inherently unattractive about the recent flavour of MMORPGs was the fact that you had to go find friends, become part of a guild or team, and work through all those stupid politics and social chores just to be able to play.

    I don't necessarily want to make friends. I just want to play. What I *Love* about multi-player games is the fact that you meet real people along the way, and have the *opportunity* to befriend or interact if you so choose. What I don't want in my escapism is some social obligation to go through the same bulsh*t with people to "get my game done" as I have to at work to "get my job done".

  • by Synn (6288) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:09AM (#28740111)

    Players didn't get sick of group play, they got tired of having to wait 30 mins to an hour for the proper group to form just so they could play the game. Then you'd get an hour into a dungeon only to have the cleric leave and you'd have to exit and sit around waiting for another cleric to show up, because you couldn't play the game without one.

    • Easy solution: Roll a cleric.

      Yes, it's not flashy to be the healer. Personally, I see it that way: Any other pet class has one pet. I have 4 (provided the party has 5 members).

      There has always been a lack of healers in almost every MMO there is. To a lesser degree, a lack of tanks. The only thing you never had any shortage of were damage dealers. The reason?

      Simple: Damage dealers usually have the least problem soloing.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        But then you have the problem of being a healer.

        It's harder for you to solo, unless you have a dual spec system that has finally been introduced to WoW, it takes longer for you to level, and then when you do get to your endgame, or even when you're just looking for lower level content as you level up you get everyone in a 50 mile radius whispering you to come and heal their woeful pug.

        I've been a healer in WoW since it first came out, and it's a very rewarding experience if you can find a guild and then bui

        • Healer since EQ here.

          Harder to solo doesn't really bother me as long as it's not hard to find a group. I play for the grouping experience, but, as the article points out, this becomes harder and harder. Games are more and more geared towards the formula "solo grind, grouping only for raids", which means that fewer and fewer dedicated healers exist. Being hard to level (since you're forced to solo grind and your class is simply not suited for it) means few people do it in the first place, and those that do t

      • by k8to (9046)

        I usually play a healer, and this problem is still existent. Players flake, or suck, and it ruins the experience.

  • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:11AM (#28740135)

    Simply put, people are a waste of time.

    Let's go back to two games I played and HATED because of the forced-grouping. EQ and DAOC. EQ was *terrible* about requiring a group to do... anything. Except for certain classes. DAOC was the same way. In both cases, the intention was always to force people to group up to do pretty much anything at all. Hell, even just getting from Point A to Point B was often dangerous alone.

    It's just not fun. Period, end of story.

    To build an MMO like that, you're assuming there will be an equal distribution of the classes required to do anything. You're assuming there will be as much tanks and dps as healers. That's.. not true, at all. Never happens. And nobody wants to spend their limited time in-game sitting around waiting for people to show up so MAYBE they can go push a single button over and over and gain a half a level. Spend 2 hours looking for a group, and 1 hour actually grouping? It's just not fun any way you slice it.

    Forced grouping works GREAT in certain games, and certain aspects of games. Look at D&D. You KNOW when you're playing D&D that you'll have a group with you, because if you don't.. you're not playing. You don't decide to play and then sit around your table waiting for random people to walk by and ask them if they happen to be the class you need in your group. That happened in EQ and DAOC constantly. It's dumb. In WoW, end-game raids are generally scheduled, and even those that aren't? They're at least end-game, where the majority of your player base will wind up, so at least there's a wide pool of people to draw on. Even that wasn't enough, though, so WoW has added tons of tools to help people find other people to group with for end-game content, and of the 3 archtypes -- tank, dps, heal -- most classes can handle at least two of those jobs, and with dual specs it's really, really simple. And honestly, it still kinda sucks. A few people don't show up to a scheduled raid, you have to spend time looking for fill-ins. PUGs don't always even get off the ground.

    Basically, forced-grouping in MMOs fails because people don't like sitting on their ass typing "LFG" over and over and over when they're *supposed* to be playing a game and having fun. Once you add all the retards into the equation, you wind up spending too much time typing "LFG" and once you're done with that, it's probably 50/50 odds that you'll have to start doing it again shortly because whoever you find will be too stupid to group with.

    Honestly WAR handled it pretty well, at least up until level 30 or so (when I quit..). Solo you'd be fine 99% of the time, but each time you added to your group you became more and more effective. WoW group play compared to solo I often found to actually slow me down, even with guildies on vent, but WAR it really always payed off but never was necessary. Really a shame they got so much wrong with that game, because they did get a lot right.

    • For anyone else who was confused:

      • EQ=Everquest
      • DAOC=Dark Age of Camelot
      • WAR=Warhammer On-line: Age of Reckoning*
      • LDG=Looking for group
      • PUG=pick-up group
      • dps=damage per second

      *I think, although really should be WOAR.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Couldn't agree more - I don't really care for MMOs that force reliance on groups to generally have fun. I'm willing to sacrifice some levelling for being a little more of a loner. When I do take part in group activities I try to do ones that don't really leave the group depending on me too much - so that I can cut and run at any time.

      I live in the real world. If something comes up that I need to take care of, well, I'm going to be taking care of it. If that means I send a message to my group to say "got

    • by Minwee (522556)

      Forced grouping works GREAT in certain games, and certain aspects of games. Look at D&D. You KNOW when you're playing D&D that you'll have a group with you, because if you don't.. you're not playing. You don't decide to play and then sit around your table waiting for random people to walk by and ask them if they happen to be the class you need in your group. That happened in EQ and DAOC constantly. It's dumb.

      That's because when you wanted to play D&D you usually wouldn't just wander up to your k

  • Diablo II (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rockoon (1252108) on Saturday July 18, 2009 @08:17AM (#28740163)
    Diablo II.

    An online multiplayer RPG without most of the MMO horseshit. You can group up, play solo, or mix the two up.

    In this game, the fun is the journey more than the destination. There are always monsters along the way that your character will have trouble with, regardless of your "build."
    • by centuren (106470)

      Diablo II.

      An online multiplayer RPG without most of the MMO horseshit. You can group up, play solo, or mix the two up.

      In this game, the fun is the journey more than the destination. There are always monsters along the way that your character will have trouble with, regardless of your "build."

      Yeah, I can see the adventure now:

      *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click*

      ooh, a drop!

      *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click*

  • finding other people to interact with to do anything takes time. and its dependent on other people's will.

    kids of yesterday are grown up people now, with jobs and families to take care of, or other responsibilities, if not married. they have limited time to to allocate to gaming. usually, maybe 1 to 3 hours in weeknights, and that may not be every night.

    therefore, when they come online to do something, they cant afford to spend 30 minutes to find enough people to do something, then lose another 15 minutes b

  • I can't speak for its current state since I don't play anymore, but AC was very solo friendly. There were tons of quests and dungeons that were doable without a party.

  • 3 solutions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:23AM (#28755355) Homepage Journal

    A: Score players by referral. Search for players using a threshold based on referrals. Just like filtering slashdot posts, filter players. Assholes quickly dissapear then

    B: Scale content. Go into Molten Core solo, in a group, or a raid of 40. Just scale the content, number of drops, etc accordingly.

    C: Provide players the tools needed to police their own. Griefers are the result of the player population (the masses) having no ability to deal with griefers on their own. Bounties as an in-game mechanism can go along way with dealing with griefers. Especially when there is a real penalty for dying when you have a bounty on your head.

    Feature:
    Bounty - A player, once per day, can place a bounty of X gold on another player. For evey Y gold placed on the target upon death the target will lose 5% of their exp and will have to wait 1 hour for every Y gold before logging back in. Each time they die Y gold is removed from the bounty pool.

    Y=1000 Gold

    A player has a 5,000 bounty. Upon dying the player will be booted for 5 hours and lose 25% of their exp. The next time they log in the bounty pool is now at 4,000 bounty. Upon dying the player will be booted for 4 hours and lose 20% of their current exp. An so on and so on.

    This assumes 1000 gold is a decent amount of cash in your game. This mechanism would go a long way to disciplining griefers. Can be used as a tool to grief? Yep, but pretty damn expensive tool to abuse.

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