Updated Wed, Feb 27, 2008 by Ratboy
The issue that strikes me though as the item that I would most like to change in the World of Warcraft is the social aspect of the game. What? That’s not listed above you say. Well you’re right. For all the issues that WoW has the one that bugs me more than any of the technical or player issues is the social issues. Let me explain what I mean by giving some background.
MMO’s are meant to be a large social game where you can make new friends and enemies and adventure with them or against them in an imaginary world. To promote this aspect of the game MMO’s have traditionally been made with difficult quests or raids that require you to group up with other players to complete. The issue has arisen in several other MMO’s however were the grouping process took almost as long as the quest itself. This lead to the casual player being left out of content, as they could not dedicate enough time to group and then quest.
Blizzard purposefully decided to make the game easier for the casual gamer by adding many quests that could be completed by your self (solo). This is one of the things that makes WoW so accessible and popular to new MMO players. And while a nice feature, I have felt from the beginning that Blizzard went too far. This has been reinforced to me several times over the last month or so while leveling a few alts (new low level characters) and even on my main (primary character) a few days ago. So it lead me to write this article about it, to see if other agreed or not.
OK, so you all have the background now. So what exactly is my issue?
WoW is too easy to solo or grind through, until way to late in the game (level 55+). It does not promote social, group and cooperative aspects enough at low levels in the game. The only place you really need to group and be social is at the end game stage.
I keep finding that while leveling a lower level character there is almost no reason to group for any quests other than those that take you into dungeons (instances). WoW is filled with a huge number of excellent quests for any level, but all this means is that you stick to the easy ones at your level and you can solo them. In the game you almost never see messages asking for groups for anything except instance runs. When I post messages looking for groups for quests, I very rarely get replies. This happens even when playing a sought after class such as a priest or druid.
Even when joining guilds, most players grind or solo to gain experience as fast as possible to level to the end game content and are not very interested in grouping for anything but instances. I have joined large 200+ person guilds on several servers and its all mainly the same. Once in a while there will be questing going on, but most commonly not.
And then late in the game (level 55+) there is a huge swing in the game dynamic. Almost every quest and any adventuring require you to be in either a group (5 person) or a raid (up to 40 person). This is a huge shift in the way the game works and comes as a shock to many players who are new to team work or team communication. This also requires a shift in how you play your character which is difficult for some players to accept.
I have run into many players in the 50-60 level range that are completely bewildered why the group leader is asking them to not do maximum damage, put a pet away, not kite, or some other group role. Many of these players have afterwards admitted that they have never really played in a group at any point and did not understand why they were being asked to do anything different than they normally did while soloing.
WHAT??? How do you go through an MMO and not group? If you can, why is it even an MMO? Why not just play a single person RPG game (like a D&D game).
I know and understand complaints over games that require groups and take forever to get them. However World of Warcaft makes it too easy to go to the other end of the spectrum.
So how does Blizzard deal with this? How do we the players deal with this?
Blizzard could deal with this very simply by making some of the quests at each level or are more difficult, but have better rewards. This would put some incentive out there to group at all levels. The rewards could be better items (of equivalent level) than you could find through other means, or a much larger experience gain.
They could also implement a mentoring system such as Everquest 2 has, that allows a higher level character to temporarily step back to their friends level to assist them. This would allow high level players to com back and assist lower level friends and still keep the fights fair and interesting. It would also allow the lower level person to gain decent experience while being mentored.
The above are two of many ideas out there on how to help promote group play, teamwork and the social aspect of the games at all levels. The biggest change must come from the players though. More players need to recognize that this is a new game from Blizzard. While it is a Warcraft game it is NOT a single person game! Players have to be educated that by playing the game as primarily a solo game they are missing so much of the enjoyment that the game has to offer.
So next time you see someone asking for help with a quest, even if it is one that you have already completed, lend a hand. Take advantage of the social aspect of the game and make a few new friends, take some time and help a few people out. In time it will come to reward you. It might come in the form of help on quests that you need, maybe in a quick gold loan for that item you NEED off of the auction house, a guild invite to that elite guild on your server, or any number of other things. If nothing else you will gain many new friends in the World of Warcraft and help you become part of the community on your server, rather than just another player.