Ya Gotta Have Friends:
The Newb's Guide to Forging Gaming Friendships
EverQuest was my first MMOG, and the game that taught me the importance of having in-game friends. In fact, it was a family friend who got me into EQ, and other friends who led me around Norrath by the hand as I learned to play the game. They occasionally gave me their cast-off armor, or a sweet weapon that dropped off of some boss mob I didn't have a snowball's chance in Hades of killing
yet. (I believe it was their passive-aggressive way of demonstrating their superiority, but that's another story.) One of these so-called friends, on my first day in the game, insisted I should auto-follow him in Felwithe, which ended with me drowning in a pristine little lake. Another, much later in my career, prodded me to begin the quest for my epic weapon and vowed to accompany me, then laughed his ass off as I chased a running NPC around the Greater Faydark forest trying to hand her a note. Ah, mis amigos!
It's apparent that friendship will play an integral part in Dungeons and Dragons Online, too. In fact, the game is so group-centric that developers have suggested it will be virtually impossible to solo past level three. DDO is clearly not for antisocial types: experience is gained only through the completion of instanced quests, and most quests will require groups.
Those new to the D&D franchise may wonder why Turbine, the developers of DDO, would choose to alienate the portion of the gaming population that prefers solo play to grouping, even in a massively multi-player online game. The answer is simple: that's how it's done in D&D, and Turbine wishes to remain true to the spirit of the pen-and-paper (PnP) role-playing game. For those unfamiliar with D&D, the game involves a group of friends gathered around a kitchen table with their rule books, monster manuals, and dice.
So, you can't play D&D alone. (Well, I suppose you could, but it would be a sad and desperate thing, wouldn't it?) You can't play DDO alone, either at least, not for the most part. In this online game, cooperative play will be king. Many online gamers will join DDO with an existing core group of online friends, or an entire guild, already in place. But what about those players who are either new to online gaming or have soloed their way through previous games? How will they make their way through the dangerous dungeons of Eberron?
If you find yourself without a group of friends to adventure with, then it's going to be important to get to know people quickly. Here are a few ways I've found to win friends and influence people:
Don't be a Jerk
I'm not sure why I even bring this one up, because, in my experience, jerks are jerks and that's that. You can't talk them out of being jerks by simply saying, Hey, be nice. Jerks tend to be the oblivious sort, the ones that make you think, I see idiots. They're everywhere! They don't know that they're idiots. (And no, Bruce Willis won't show up and show you how to relate to them.)
But I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't remind you that it's to your benefit to work and play well with others. Be willing to lend a hand when others need you, and you're more likely to have the favor returned. Show some humility, and people will be more likely to notice your abilities. (By contrast, if you go around shouting about how great you are, others are going to hold you up for more critical evaluation.) It should go without saying that being a decent person will get you a lot further both in life and in an online game, but I still feel the need to say it.
Pick-up groups get a bad rap; and as a rule I've found they deserve it. Pick-up groups form when adventurers seek out others to adventure with, usually complete strangers. Whether those players end up being skilled or unskilled, generous or selfish, humble or arrogant, is all based on chance. (Talk about your roll of the dice!)
But for every few idiots you run across in pick-up groups, you'll generally meet someone whose personality clicks with yours, and whose play style is compatible with your own. Obviously, those are the people you'll want to forge in-game relationships with. In my experience, people are flattered when you ask them privately if you can add them to your friends list and adventure with them again. (Unless, of course, you're one of those people that other players classify as unskilled, selfish and arrogant in which case you're on your own.)
Once you've made a few friends in the world, you may find yourself with a guild invite. Guilds are a great way to have a ready-made group of players at your disposal to game with. You'll want to make certain that your goals and the guild's goals are compatible--you don't want to join a casual guild if you're all about getting the best gear and rocketing toward the end-game. You'll also want to be certain that your guild of choice plays at the same time you do. Be aware of time zones. If you join an east coast guild and you live on the west coast, you may find yourself spending some lonely hours after everyone in your guild has gone to bed.
So, if you want to play DDO, and you don't already have a group of friends that you game with, plan to make some--you're going to need them. And if you're the anti-social type who would rather game alone, you might want to reconsider your choice of MMOG. There are a few out there (World of Warcraft comes to mind) that will allow you to go to your little corner and beat up monsters to your heart's content. But when you think DDO, it's wise to consider its PnP roots; you won't want to roll your dice alone.
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