Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Warcraft for the Solo Player

Warcraft has always had the ability to be a good game for whatever you want to do no matter what the level of your desire to interact with other players was.  While it is a multi player game it was never required that you do things with others.  There was enough you could do on your own even if it was not everything.

With all the additions over the years the game has become more friendly to the solo players.  Being able to do PvP, dungeons, and raids without leaving your home city or even ever speaking to another person has made it even more accessible to the solo player.

It almost seems as if it is being done by design.  As if Blizzard was trying to remove the social aspect from the game.

I've often said I am not a very social player.  In randoms I say hello at the start and thank you at the end because I believe it is the respectful thing to do.  Unless there is something important that needs to be said or I am answering a question, that is all I will ever say in a random.

This is why I consider myself a solo player.  I am content to play the game and never talk to another living being while doing so.

It is important I mention that because as you will see, even me as a solo player, I found the game to actually encourage me to be social.

When leveling I would run across a quest where I needed to beat some big baddie, lets say a bear.  I would wait there killing things around it doing some other quests in the area hoping for someone to come by that I could ask for help or for someone to come by doing the same quest so I could join them.

It never took all that long.  In most cases it was no more than a half hour, not much waiting as I was doing other quests in the area while waiting.  I would join up with the person. They needed me just as much as I needed them.  Perhaps we would even grab a third or sometimes forth person and we would get the quest done for all of us.

We would all mention that we tried it solo and mentioned our lack of success, or success even, like I almost killed him or something like that.  It reminded you that you are not in the world alone.  It made you actively seek interaction of some sort, even if it was only to further your own personal agenda as a solo player.  Other people where needed, interaction was needed.

For someone like myself that does not like to talk while playing I learned that there was a place in the game for that.  Like it or not, I would interact with others and in time I actually started to enjoy doing so once in a while.

Even now, although a lot less often, if I am passing through an area and see someone mention needing help in general I always stop and help unless I am in a rush on the way to somewhere.  I remember what it was like.  Although I would have never been the person that asked for help in general, I know what it felt like to need help.  More often then not it is something like the amphitheater or ring that people are looking for help with, it is no longer random elite mob so and so.  That random elite mob so and so probably started many friendships in this game and he is missed.

Like I said about the options of the game even back then, you could have just skipped that quest.  Kept being the solo player.  You where not exactly required to do the quest so the option became yours.

Questing has changed to the point where the need for other people for group quests are few and far between.  There are a few quest mobs that will beat you like a redheaded stepchild but over all there are not many of those any more.

My first dungeons were when I saw people asking for help with a dungeon in general in the area I was in.  I would join them and work my way to the dungeon.  I would get lost sometimes and have to stop to socialize, like it or not, to ask directions and share my story of getting lost.  I would hear the stories of others that got lost.

We would finally get everyone together at the dungeon and start working together to defeat it.  Maybe it is me with some rose tinted glasses on but I do not remember old dungeons being like they are now.  I remember needing to attack with a plan and not being able to over pull or we would all be spirit walking our ways back and getting lost again.

 I still get lost going to Mara and affectionately remember one time with three others when we wiped in there and none of us could find the way back in so we all revived at the spirit healer and sat around talking for 10 minutes before we went our separate ways.

You where forced to socialize to some extent like it or not.  You where forced to realize that it really is a multi player game.  You needed to assemble groups, you needed to travel to get there, you needed to talk about how you would advance in the dungeon, you would need to play the game with others, interactive, and not just as if they where NPC controlled units there to assist you.

Maybe you were not forced. You could have just skipped them and continued being the solo player and not do the dungeon quests.  Maybe you went the way I did and tried to solo it as much as you could at level or came back later when you had a few more levels and it would be a little easier.  You where given the option of being the solo player still or to socialize.

With the new system you do not need to assemble a group.  One is assembled for you so no need to talk to people to get a group together.  You do not need to find your way to the dungeon because you will be ported directly there so no need to ask people for directions if you get lost.  When you die your body is usually right outside the dungeon now, no ghost runs from half a continent away where once again you could get lost and need to ask for directions. Now it seems that dungeons are just a series of pull the whole room and kill everything so there is really no need for talking about getting one mob at a time or one pack at a time, because none of that is really required.

You can now find a group, finish a dungeon, and get back to where you were before you even started in the blink of an eye and even more importantly, without ever saying a word to anyone.  Dungeons are effectively added to the solo players game choices.  The other people, while actual people, mean nothing to the solo player.  They are just assistants to help you finish your task.  You are playing solo, they are only there to help you.

The same can now be said for raids.  Raids were the next step on the social ladder.  Quests where minor social interaction with people you would do one simple task with.  Dungeons where more advanced interaction where you would work with several people for an extended time toward a common goal that needed communication.  Raids are the last step in the line.

You needed to assemble a larger group.  The group tasks where harder than anything else you have ever encountered.  You had to deal with the same travel to and from issues as dungeons.  This is where guilds came in.  You actively needed to start working with people on a regular basis so you could conquer these advanced tasks.  Working on them with the same people every week increased the chances of getting better as a team, the ultimate social interaction, teamwork

Now they are the same as the dungeons.  There is one minor difference.  Unlike the dungeons where you can get through them with all 5 people being non social people you need at least one person to be social in the raids.  But with 25 people there will surely always be one person happy to call out the colors of the slimes to go kill.  Even the only boss in the raid, the 5th, where I would figure there needs to be tank communication I have found out can be solo tanked thanks to a comment from someone here.  So not even that needs communication and when I go there I solo tank it and totally ignore the fact there is another tank there, the way any solo player would.

While you will never get many of the more complex tasks done without interaction, the game from beginning to end can now be completed without ever typing one word to another living being on the other end of the screen.

Where it was always a choice of the solo player on what they will and will not do they can now do nearly everything while effectively still playing the game as a solo player.  It even seems as if Blizzard is designing the game so it could be done that way.

PvP by nature is a social action, you are working with and against people and know that beforehand and even that can be done by the non social person, at least not at the top level.

While I do like that idea that the game is more solo friendly I am somewhat upset about it.  While I was never a social type of player to begin with I got used to the fact that sometimes I needed to talk to others to complete a task.  Other players would feel like real people because I needed to talk to them and not just like NPCs that are helping me with my task.

Maybe the reason we see such venom being thrown around from the people that do talk is because of this.  They do not see other people as people, they see them as NPCs that help them on their tasks.  When the NPCs do something wrong they treat them as if they are not people.  Just the same way all of us have looked at our screen at least once while doing an escort quest and said, "would you hurry the F up".

The other people in the game are just those annoying quest NPCs now because the game lets you do everything solo you seem to forget those are people and not NPCs.

From a self proclaimed non social player and a self proclaimed solo player you would think I would actively support these changes but I don't.

As it seems, warcraft is leaning more and more toward being a solo game with multi player aspects instead of being a multi player game that gives you some things you can do solo.  Perhaps that is their intention, who knows.

At least I will never be stuck sitting at a graveyard with three people I don't know with resurrection sickness talking about not being able to find our way back to Mara.

Oh wait, that was actually one of the best moments of leveling and it will never happen again for anyone.  Such a loss for he new generation.

A non social person missing social interaction?  That is proof they had the formula right before.  In my opinion at least.


  1. My most memorable moments in this game were from gathering groups for instances, the wipes, the good and bad groups and knowing who to avoid made the game fun for me. Running SM as alliance was always great fun, taking about an hour to get a group together in the middle of the day, another 20 minutes to get 2 people up there to summon...then finding out the tank wasn't a tank, and didnt even own a shield. Frustrating of course, but I remember it. Do I remember a fail tank these days in a LFG run? Not even a little bit. Kick/ask to leave and carry on.

    The phrase 'the trip is in the journey, not the destination' springs to mind here.

    Which is why, without its LFG tool and world flying mounts, I'm playing SW:ToR right now. We'll see how long it lasts.

  2. Wow, very powerful post from a self-proclaimed solo player.

    I agree - with the introduction of all these systems that are supposed to help us move faster towards our beloved loot, a lot of random but perhaps important interaction is lost.

    I can relate to your story, I've been playing on/off since Vanilla - Wow was so accommodating once, I miss that too.

  3. Interesting post, made my lunch break fly by :)

  4. It's a difficult situation we're in there. On one hand, we want to play the game, not be stuck with inconveniences like 10 minutes corpse runs or long travels to that summoning stone. On the other hand however those inconveniences were exactly what made for that magical feeling of actually exploring a strange new world together, which in turn made people feel friendly towards each other. I agree that the changes you mention steal that feeling away from new players; for players who've been exploring that world long enough to know it inside out, it has inevitably waned already, and they crave the conveniences. I don't think Blizzard, or anyone else, could have anticipated the amount of bad behaviour the anonymity of dungeon finder & co sparked. It's a shame the community seems unable to be friendly with each other regardless.

  5. As another predominately solo player I agree. I never would have thought the changes that have been made would bother me, but they do. Some of my best memories are of groups. Playing only day time, these groups were excruciatingly hard to form, but when we did there was a sense of camaraderie that’s missing now.

    On a low population server in the day time I’ve often wondered if Blizzard is trying to keep the game playable, planning for the days when subscriptions wane, and as a player it’s pretty much impossible to find a group out in the world. Maybe they have other reasons, who knows.

    Enjoyed reading that I’m not the only solo player who misses not being solo.

  6. I really am a solo player, far more so than you Grumpy and yes, I know that is odd as I am the guild leader and all. On the other hand, I am a social player at the very same time. I always like talking with folks, once my innate shyness is overcome. I just don't like depending on others to accomplish something I can do solo.

    If you look at the long term players who will stick with the guild, you will find each and everyone of them is a rugged individualist who can and will and does do things by themself. They are the type of player for whom help usually comes from advice and not from having another player show up to get a job done.

    I can honestly say that starting with the LFG tool, I opposed it on the very grounds that it was ruining the social aspects of the game and was undermining the guild. With no need any longer to work within a guild to group up, folks who would have been instrumental in starting guild groups ran instances through LFG over and over. This left folks like me in the dust for accumulating the gear needed to keep up.

    I saw this coming when LFG was instituted and I was right, but because our guild does have some quality folks who would help out, I managed to keep up with the Jones' for a while. Guildmates who know me, know I am a competent player in a five man, though due to mechanics changes in my class that is less so today than it was in Wrath and even more less so than in TBC or vanilla. I played a much better Shadow Priest then, than I do now.

    LFR has made it impossible to keep up. I don't like running with total strangers, though I have done so on many more than one occasion in five man content. There simply is no way I will endure 24 strangers of my own free will. That amount is larger than my shyness can deal with at any one time.

    This problem goes beyond the fact the LFG/LFR tools ruin socialization. It exposes the lack of end game content beyond raiding that underlies most of the problem I see with WoW. The simple fact of the matter is I am a much better solo player than I am a group player. Forcing me into groups, especially groups of strangers, does nothing to improve my play. If anything, it worsens it.

    I hate sound like a whiner about the changes to the game for most of them I have learned to love or to adapt to and tolerate. I love as a solo player having flight in the old world, as an example of a change oft cited as helping to ruin the social aspects of the game. What I do despise beyond any other thing are the two LF tools, with their instant trip to and from the dungeon/raid.

    I know these are here to stay, as bliz would not take the chance on the storm of protest that would erupt over the removal of "looking for..." but if you want a reason for the lack of socialization, look no further. These two tools are the reason above and beyond any other.

    Oh, hell, I have rambled on long enough. What I have to say on this subject goes far beyond what any blog post reply should be in length and herein I have barely touched on some of the pertinent points. I hope the points, disjointed as they are, still are coherent enough to give some impression of what I feel on this subject.

    Anon, Grumpy's GL

  7. It's interesting - I would describe myself as a fairly social player, but truth be told, my gameplay experience over the years has been quite similar to what you describe in this post. I guess that at the end of the day, most people spend a fair amount of time soloing, and looking at it from the other end, anyone but the most anti-social player won't mind lending a hand or sharing a laugh with someone else at least every now and then. As long as there's a balance that allows both play styles to coexist, it's all good.

    It's a shame that the social side of the game has taken such a heavy hit over the past two years. But playing with other human beings means that they'll act like human beings, will have their own agendas, and won't always be available or willing to do whatever you want to do. Unfortunately this has been played up to be a completely unacceptable state of things in a multiplayer game by now, so we're down to interacting only with those that are immediately available at the push of a button and stay as quiet as NPCs. :(

  8. I wouldn't say exactly that they've made WoW more of a solo game, when you ping that magic 85 there is still no way to progress without group content.

    Instead of providing alternate activities that can be soloed or attempted with any small group size, they've just provided tools to make grouping easier and tied the endgame even more tightly to endless dungeon runs.

    They've made it a tedious chore, in other words and as with any time consuming repetitive chore people hate anything or anyone that makes it last longer. I suspect that the behaviour in the LF tools is the result.

    I'd suggest making WoW *more* soloable would solve this. If you can do your gear progression at your convenience, with friends or on your own it would take the supermarket with one checkout feel from the game. People could then run instances because they want to and with whom they want, instead of because they feel they have to.

    Many people play solo and the current system places extreme pressure to group and do content you may not wish to with people you might not want to play with. I think that needs to end before the community can start to recover.

  9. I completely agree that there's been a paradigm shift due to the introduction of LFG/LFR. Smaller, less-challenging dungeons have also certainly played their part. Interaction between players in LFG dungeons isn't discouraged - it's just that it isn't a neccessity, and therefore isn't the most efficient way to 'gear up', and the 'gogogo' mentality rules supreme. Heaven forbid a dungeon takes 12 minutes to complete instead of ten because someone isn't sure of a strategy - it's easier now to /kick and replace them than it is to explain mechanics. For me, the current in-game situation is barely tolerable. I enjoyed vanilla and BC (for the same reasons you oulined in your post), but I've dropped in and out of LK and Cata with the same sense of casualness that people seem to able to get away with in their interactions with each other in the game as it stands today. Cross-server groupings have led to the sense of 5-mans consisting of 'single-serve friends' (thanks Tyler) - you say 'hi' when you sit down beside them on the plane, you hope like hell they don't make your life a misery by fighting over the armrest, you wish them well when you disembark, and you never think of them again. You don't even gather a group and make your way to an instance entrance - all of you are magically zoned in - completely destroying any sense of exploration. Blizz is tearing apart the world they created in order to keep players drowning in shinies. The sense of adventure, 'epicness' and camaraderie dervied from night-long, same server dungeon crawls has made way for the ilevel brigade. Not a fair exchange, Blizzard. Not a fair exchange.

  10. I was thinking about your post and it got me thinking. We're quick to place the blame on the Dungeon Finder tool, but I don't think its that at all. It's quick to forget that the Dungeon Finder is actually a very new feature -- only existing for less than one full expansion. It wasn't introduced until the Fall of the Lich King patch 3.3.

    On my realm, the predominance of the solo player-mindedness -- what I call the Me First attitude -- existed far longer. I started seeing it really come around toward the end of Burning Crusade. When the non-raiding crowd (the then "Casuals", remember that derogatory term?) was able to easily out-gear the heroics.

    I remember it clearly because every tank at the time was expected to aoe-tank EVERYTHING. If you had anyone CC any mobs, they responded with utter derision because you were a no-skill tank that couldn't hold all of the mobs.

    These expectations grew to include every role -- tanks aoe tanked everything, dps aoe'ed everything, and healers were expected to be able to keep everyone up. That went double for anyone playing a Paladin.

    In mid-Lich King, it got to the point, on my realm, that people were being kicked from heroic runs for having too low a gear score. Having to deal with that, the Dungeon Finder came at a great time. It saved a lot of people from having difficulties in gearing up their alts.

    So to bring this back to the topic at hand, I think the move to a lesser communicative game, a less multiplayer game, was an inevitable one. I'm just glad that Blizzard's introduced the Dungeon/Raid Finders that have made this game still very accessible to me in a time in my life where I have less than 2-3 hours per night to play.

  11. The world of warcraft used to be a massive and dangerous place. So explorers not only *had* to, but also *wanted* to be nice to eachother.

    Today WoW is easier than tetris and you just want to grind the challenges quickly. This environment is not friendly for newbies and bad players.

    We either go back to how it used to be, or they give us flawless AI NPC's in dungeons.