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…so I sort of missed the original point.

Syl’s comment on my previous blog post about solo playing in MMO’s pointed out a couple of things:

  1. I was preaching to the choir.
  2. She wasn’t really asking why people solo so much as why said players feel the need to demand such things out of MMO’s–a failure of reading comprehension on my part.

 

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Coincidentally, I just ordered this on Amazon! 😀

So let me expound upon this whole thing a little further. I think I touched on why people solo in an MMO. Now I’m going to directly talk about how MMO devs can make good design choices to feed solo players and group players without causing risk to the genre…and like anything else, it’s about striking a balance.

So first off, Syl rightly and smartly (and also probably quite prettily) stated that solo content makes the whole leveling up thing easier to deal with. It’s progression, and in an MMO that relies on levels, that’s pretty much important. I’ll not expand on that point too much.

What I will state is what happens after the levels have gone away. The endgame. If your MMO has nothing but dungeons at the maximum level, then you’re putting a segment of MMO players out in the cold entirely. An MMO is a sort of game that seems to work as either a laser-focused title that fixates on feeding one sort of player well, or trying to have multiple ways for people to play. Tiers of content. So obviously an MMO should consider what sort of players it wants and work to portray that message as obviously as possible. A game like EVE Online does not really mince words with what it is, and the game and those who like that sort of thing are better for it. No matter how jealous I may be of those who can effectively play EVE, I am not the sort of player that game is made for.

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Damn you for having such sexy space trucks that I’ll never get to fly…

So if you’re an MMO that wants to cast a broad net and cater to different playstyles, then you have to be sure to commit resources and care to ALL of those playstyles. Including solo players.

As someone who enjoys solo progression, I can say that it’s not something that has to be on par with harder group content to feel rewarding. It just has to strike a note of time or effort equaling to reward. I am not risking anything except for some currency in footing a repair bill of gear, so I don’t anticipate being able to enter a raid with my gear…but I’d like to at least feel like I got a sweet shiny for the effort I’ve laid out.

WildStar’s Contracts hit this nail right on the head for me with an example of solo progression done right. There’s a balance of time and effort, along with a semblance of choice in what activities I can do. I get to pick out some missions, head out in to the world and do stuff, and earn points that lead to gear over a pretty reasonable length of time. It’s a perfect way for me to feel like I’m doing an endgame activity without having to force myself in to a group situation where I’m not terribly comfortable.

The Relic Weapon quest in XIV, to a lesser degree, also hit this note of personal progression. It’s kind of cheating, since the most recent Relic required one to do dungeons during one of the steps, but it was still a personal achievement for my character that gave me a pretty solid boost in power as well as a sense of accomplishment…though not accomplishment like “Yay I did it!” so much as “Oh thank goodness that nonsense is over with…for now.”

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Nothing says “accomplishment” quite like a weapon with swirly purple shit around it.

Of course, the other side of the coin is doing TOO much for solo players. The Old Republic stands as my example here, with its recent emphasis on the story of the current expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire. While the stories being told in this expansion are, apparently, some of the best the game has put out, it also must be said that group stuff is being put to the wayside. Near as I can find, the last time new group content was done for TOR was in December of 2014. That is a pretty long drought for those who maybe were hoping for stuff to do in groups.

This goes back to my opening mention of balance. TOR has been a confusing little number with regards to what it wants to do with itself over the course of its life. It started as an MMO with big stories, then it did a bit of everything, and now it’s back to stories only. There was also some ship-to-ship combat stuff in there too. It’s as muddled as a mojito.

And that really illustrates how balance is needed. Solo players should get really great stuff in TOR, but so should those who want to do more cool Operations or Flashpoints. If TOR wanted to make episodic games in a Star Wars universe, they should have taken a cue from Telltale Games.

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…well, almost.

This is not to say that people who like Knights’ stories are horrible monsters. It’s more that the developers for TOR are leading the way in how to make an MMO with your feet. Or at the very least, to not have a gameplan. Hell I’ll even concede that my loved WildStar is suffering from this malady. OmniCore-1 was probably the best piece of solo content I’ve seen come out of the game. But that was a LONG while ago…and we haven’t seen any new dungeons or raids for players since the game first came out.

I suppose the final point is that it’s not really a fault of solo players wanting solo things out of MMO’s as it is a lack of focus on the part of MMO developers. The ability to plan, plot and follow through is what separates a good MMO from the rest of the pack. I adore when a game has a clarity of vision, even if that vision doesn’t focus on my preferences. When a game knows what it is and what it offers, and gives lots of those offers to its players, it makes the game great. Which in turn makes the genre great too.

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