WOO II An Exploration in Design - July 2012 - By Stoneghost: Dalaran

 

Woo II - Solo and Group

I love my family. But some days they are a pain in the rear, and I just want to get away from them and be by myself.

MMPOG groups have a similar affect. I like playing with my friends, but game play, and even just "hanging out" is a social activity that requires concentration and efforts, and sometime, I just want to get out on my own. Groups are a good thing, but the game should also provide venues for solo play.

My own likes and dislikes aside, it's wrong for a game to entice people to play and then tell them they can only access most of the game's content if they join groups. Or, at the very least, this should be made very clear up front.

In the early days, this wasn't much of a problem. The main part of the game was questing, and that was by and large a solo activity. PvP was a world wide event that players could do without joining groups. Only the dungeons required groups, and these weren't the main focus at first.

But things changed. Today, the biggest part of the game is the dungeons. None of these can be done solo, and the best are hard to do without belonging to a guild. World PvP has evaporated ... and reconstituted itself in battlegrounds and arenas. And questing has been simplified and streamlined to serve primarily as a way to accumulate experience on the way to the game's top level.

There is probably no single, simple explanation as to why the game developed this way. Dungeons offer the best loot, have a progressive difficulty ladder, and deliver most of the game's story line. The uncertainty of world PvP gave way to scheduled meets with clear cut rewards. Most players want to get to the top level as fast as they can, and questing is just a means to that end. In any case, there is now little incentive to put scarce game design resources into questing.

Guilds

When players need to gather on a regular basis for dungeon raids, the growth of organizations to accommodate those gatherings is inevitable. Guilds serve that primary purpose. Some guilds focus on PvP events, though there are not nearly as many of these. And a few guilds focus on leveling and socializing.

Guilds are formal groups. You have to apply for membership, be accepted, and maintain a good standing with other members. Many MMOG guilds are "loose" enough that this is not a barrier for most people, but it is still an effort, and some player prefer to go "guildless."

This should not be a problem. Everyone pays their monthly fee, and everyone should have access to all aspects of the game. Thus, while guild membership may be a convenience for many, it must not be a prerequisite to enjoying the game.

WOO II doesn't say anything about guilds ... because they don't seem to have any bearing on the issues that WOO II was created to address: boredom in general, and Crafting and PvP battlegrounds in particular. But it's fair to say that the current game's "guild finder" doesn't work very well ... if at all.

One reason for this is that guild mechanics exist largely outside the game. Successful, or at least large, guilds have web sites, and they use Ventrilo for communications. These are outside the game space and require extra effort and expense.

Guilds are a tremendous resource for the game managers. Guilds help monitor conduct, they organize events, they promote bonding with the game, and more. The odds are that players who join guilds are more likely to stick with the game than players who do not. Given this, the game's owners need to think about putting more resources into guild design and maintenance.

Suggestions about how to improve guild recruitment might include:

Life Paths

The WOOII design wants to provide entertaining play for solo and group players. To this end, achievements, rewards and activities need to be evenly distributed.

Raiding

It takes a group to tackle a dungeon. Raider-oriented training dungeons might offer single players the opportunity to run with NPC "teammates" in order to learn tanking and healing techniques, and the Fun Houses do offer a few of these kinds of experiences, but all serious dungeons are set up for group play. Players who are not a part of a guild team, or guild players who want additional play, can use the raider team builder feature to join an ad hoc team for a single dungeon run.

Fighting

One on one fighting is known as "dueling" and is not organized in any formal way. Fighting, in arenas or battlegrounds, is done in groups. Players who are not a part of a guild team, or guild players who want additional play, can use the fighter team builder feature to join an ad hoc team for a single arena fight or battleground run.

Crafting

Crafters farm materials and manufacture goods within their Holdings. These are single character instances and only the Crafter who owns a holding may enter it. On the other hand marketing and sales of materials and goods is a highly sociable process. Crafters will deal with many different players as they arrange deals and collect revenues for their wares.

Questing

The purpose of questing is to present the story of the game. To this end, questing is much like reading a book ... the player engages in a solo activity that focuses on information and entertainment. Key moments in most quests occur in single-person instances. Thus, a player may get help for some parts of a quest, but in the end will have to finish it alone.