Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why Go It Solo In an MMO?

Saylah and Pete both had great posts recently about the importance of soloing in an MMORPG. Many people don't seem to understand why some of us like to solo in an MMORPG. After all, they say, if you are just going to play by yourself most of the time, why not just play Neverwinter Nights or Oblivion or some other single player RPG? Well, for me, there are many reasons why the single player RPG option isn't as attractive. I enjoy solo play in MMOs:

- Because there is a real economy with real players buying and selling things. You can simulate that in a single player RPG, but most don't. And knowing a real person is running around with something you made makes it far more rewarding than knowing the game deleted the item based on some random event and gave you the money, even if the end result appears the same.

- Because in games like EverQuest II with living guilds, I can contribute to the growth of my guild, even if I'm doing the work (adventure/tradeskill writs, particularly difficult quest lines, etc.) alone.

- The economy and living guilds are two ways that people can play "solo", while still playing together. Many other features in MMOs can be created that allow people to essentially "play" alone but still leverage the multiplayer nature of the genre to provide an experience single player games can't. Some examples would be: architect features in MMORPGs that allow people to design their own content, player-writable books, fluff RP features that let players play music or coordinate emotes to create customized 'dance' routines or players, and EverQuest II-style Live Events or Warhammer-style Public Quests that provide a goal for your faction, server, or region that everyone can work towards (even if they are alone).

- Because single player RPGs don't have chat rooms.

- Because trading in-game items I've earned with a computer algorithm isn't as fun.

- Because MMORPGs evolve over time; single player games get a few small expansion packs for 8000 Microsoft points a piece and then die.

- Because the game world seems more alive when there are other people running around in something other than a predetermined pattern.

- Because I do like playing WITH other people, even if I might not be "grouped" with them in combat. I might craft for them, I might help them out in chat by telling them where they need to go, I might check on something at the auction house, or grab an item that someone needs and deliver it to them since I'm on my way there anyway. All of these things are fun, and impossible in a single player RPG.

- Because in groups, everyone always skips the cut scenes. It was frustrating in Guild Wars because I was actually interested in the story. Everyone is in such a rush to get going that those of us who actually want to read the quest text or watch the cut scenes and enjoy the story are left behind. The MMO game world seems to be dominated by so-called "Achievers", so those of us in the literate minority often have to go it alone.

- Because sometimes I do want to group and I have the opportunity to do so if I choose. Most "single-player" or offline RPGs don't have cooperative modes.

- Because sometimes we don't have a choice: I love MMORPGs, and I do enjoy playing with others, but my wife recently gave me baby. I haven't had time to play anything yet, aside from a little Fable 2 while the baby napped on my belly. But when I do, I'm not going to be able to pause our EQ2 guild raid because my baby dropped some phat loot of her own. So I'll probably end up soloing. And, eventually, when I find time to game with others, I want that progress to count.

... and many, many more reasons.

What are your reasons for wanting to go it alone in a "multiplayer" game?


Mallika said...

Pretty much exactly your reasons -- especially the part about the living economy, the persistent but ever-evolving world, and being able to socialize with other actual human beings, even if I don't group.

When I played Oblivion, the world just felt dead. I mean, try as I might to RP by myself, I knew there wasn't anyone around but me. NPCs can't hold a conversation with you; selling something to an NPC is much less satisfying than selling something on the auction house, knowing another player bought it and the money was from her/him (I am an auction house addict); and there was no possibility you could ever share anything, or make friends. Heck, there were a few items that I stole which would have greatly benefited my husband's character, but because Oblivion is a single-player game with no way to go multi- even just for a bit of co-op, all I could do was turn to my husband and say, "Aw, this would have been nice for you!"

In an MMO, I could have given or sold the item to someone who would have found more use for it.

In an MMO, I do enjoy grouping for GROUP quests, but besides that I like doing quests on my own. I had that come up just last night in LotRO, where I was invited into a group with two people with whom I'd done a previous group quest, and they asked if I wanted to quest with them. I politely declined. It's just that for normal quests, I enjoy doing them my own way on my own time, because I'm free to meander about or decide that I'd rather do THAT other quest rather than THIS one, or that hey, I'm going to go crafting or gathering up materials for a while or whatever. Plus I dislike running around permanently attached to a group, especially when this is my first character(s) in LotRO and I haven't yet figured out for myself where things are. I dislike being rushed, and I dislike being boosted.

So yeah -- grouping is something with which I'm fine, but I group when I feel like it, or if I see someone LFF (looking for fellowship) for a certain group quest I already have and decide 'hey, why not?' and send the person a tell. Besides that, I like exploring the world and questing and doing things on my own. More freedom. And hey, it isn't as though I'm not socializing. All the while I'm questing by my lonesome, I'm keeping up conversations with two or three people with whom I connect and like, chatting and laughing and generally getting my 'MMO-ness' from that.

I cannot play single-player RPG games anymore. I miss too much the feeling that the world is alive, of seeing other people run about and knowing there is actually a person behind the character I can talk to, that the item that I sold on the auction house was bought by a real person, that I can make friends ... Yeah. :)

Tesh said...

I play games if I like the world, the lore and the mechanics. I'm a big fan of single player RPGs, but there actually are some well designed MMO worlds. I want to play in them. It's that simple.

Sometimes I like other players, most of the time I do not. I'm there because the game itself is interesting. I've written before that I'd pay fair money for a solo offline WoW. It's the world and the game that interest me, not so much other players, especially random internet idiots.

I have started to appreciate the economies in games, and the potential to make in-game money playing the AH game is nice for a change of pace.

Ysharros said...

/deletes "Why it's ok to be ungrouped in MMOs" draft. ;)

I have a sneaking suspicion this is something the "go play a single-player game" whiners will never understand, however.

Hechicera said...

Hmm, I'll try to keep this brief. I love to play with other people, interactively.

However, I may be called away from the keyboard at any time, with no warning, or idea how long I will be away. I care for a child, now a young adult, with disabilities. My need to go afk, with no warning, for unpredictable lengths of time is not negotiable. This is a 24 hour a day job.

So far, soling the vast majority of my time online is the only gameplay that allows me to see to my son without having my need to go afk randomly affect others negatively.