Its a Group Thing

16 Jun

Been spending a bit more time in post-cataclysm Norrath of late.  Sony Online Entertainments “Legends of Norrath” promotion got Mrs. P and me sucked back in in large part due to Gaff’s urging.  So far, I can’t say I have any regrets.

As I mentioned before, I had bailed out before when EQ2 was the 3d game for me.  3d game means that’s the one I don’t play.

I like to explore and I like to play with a few select friends.  And, from time to time, I enjoy crafting.  All of these takes a fair amount of time.  Exploration is its own reward.

Group play is its own challenge– time wise its no where near as “efficient” as well-studied solo play or  some kind of Machiavellian minmax group play but its infinitely more rewarding.  Of course with current game design, sharing content and experiences with others requires an almost herculean effort.

In games like EQ2 and City of Heroes/Villains, there are mechanism that allow players of different levels to play together, but lets face it, the higher level player is mostly playing with the lowbie as a charitable act.  Chances are they have already experienced the shared content.

Mrs. P and I have been exploring the evil side of Norrath and generally having a good time.  Gaff has about 87 characters on no less than 34 accounts of all races, genders, classes and levels, and is quite adept at multiboxing so I think he’s hoping we stick with things long enough to plug into one of his multi box groups.  We’re actually looking forward to replicating on a much smaller scale some of our WoW group experiences.

As no doubt Wilhelm will report this week, we had a challenging weekend foray with our WoW group.  As Mrs. P and I retired in the wee hours Saturday/Sunday, I prattled on in my usual Monday morning quarterback fashion about the night’s efforts.

While we were not altogether successful in our primary goals, I was reminded of the extremely rarefied space our little band of adventurers occupies.  Three of us have been playing as a regular group since WoW’s release in December 2004.  Four of us have been playing together since about April or May 2005.   The latest incarnation of our group has been playing together since September 2006.

In a few short months our current group will have been at it nearly two extremely casual years.  In WoW terms, we are finally nearing the current level cap (70).  Until last week when we lifted the self-imposed soft level cap, we had managed to stay within about 1/3 of a level of each other after nearly two years of play with wildly divergent play budgets.  Not too bad I’d say.

As Mrs. P and I were doing the post-instance night post-mortem, it occurred yet again to me what an amazing accomplishment we’ve achieved irrespective of the night’s outcome.  One of us had a baby, four of us moved, one about 800 miles in the same time zone, one about 3000 miles two time zones away, one of us a few dozen miles and one of us twice in that period of time.  One of us lived out of a suitcase for more than a year and still managed to make our Saturday night runs and when they moved to their new permanent abode not miss the Saturday night event after the move.

No thanks to any game mechanic, through heroic efforts of self restraint and self auto regulation, we have shared collectively extraordinary experiences.  Indeed the chronicles of the group that Wilhelm has recorded has created that singular heroic fantastical narrative of shared experience that MMOs should strive to provide for their subscribers.

When I look back on it, we have a single shared narrative which should be the essence of the MMO experience IMHO.  If you read Wil’s amusing and insightful reportage of our collective adventures, you are in fact largely seeing all the data points of the collective narrative.  Except for perhaps crafting, there is no other narrative.  What you see is pretty much our five individual and collective stories in the game universe.

As we’re getting a bit more immersed into the EQ2 scene and frankly a bit bored with everything else currently out there, I’m struck by fundamentally different character of the experience we’ve been having in WoW and Tipa and the Nostalgia the Guild folks have been having back in EQ.  I’m hoping we might replicate at least a shred of the same thing in EQ2.

Maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety but I’m not seeing any of the current crop of games make this kind of gameplay easier.  The “all solo” MMO is a function of the reality that we all have different play budgets and asynchronous progression is the new norm.  I can’t help but think that we’ve lost something by turning the dial completely to solo and not to provide mechanisms whereby different folks with different play budgets can still play together and create the shared experiences that are the most rarified that MMOs have to offer.

I’m not sure there’s a eureka moment buried here as its late, but I gotta think the devs might have a few better ideas than mine to facilitate this kind of gameplay.  Capping XP generation would be a start, but many more aspects would also need to be managed in order to accommodate different play styles and still support the unique squad-based objective.  Thats different from a guild, that’s different from “i have friends who also play the game”.

Then again, maybe I’m over thinking it.  Maybe all it takes is a group of people committed to coloring within the lines and being selfless enough to recognize that a greater good comes out of self restraint and “staying with the group” as they adventure through a virtual world.  I sure wish a few devs would bend their brains to make it a bit easier for us though…


Posted by on June 16, 2008 in Everquest 2, World of Warcraft


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “Its a Group Thing

  1. Gaff

    June 17, 2008 at 4:09 am

    Well, up front I’m obviously biased–I really think EQ2 is the best thing going on the market currently–at least for me. The content is deep enough that despite my various alts, who tend to be boxed and hence hit a lot more heroic content than is probably healthy, that I am always finding new content to experience, or at least new quest lines. I found a great one when starting a new duo in Freeport out in the Graveyard a couple weeks ago–probably been there since launch. I am still playing through the Sarnak starting area in Timorous Deep. I can’t believe I have missed so much of the game.

    So in short, mentoring down is typically not about reliving content for me, or “charity,” it is as your colloquial title puts it, about the group and the people. And as a bonus, I normally see new things–or at least new master chests.

  2. loredena

    June 17, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    In the original Everquest I was in two different once-a-week groups. The first group stayed pretty static, while the second changed members and/or avatars a few times. Either way though, we kept our groups within a few levels of each other for over 5 years. I’ve really enjoyed reading Wilhelm’s account of your weekly WoW group, as it brings back those memories. My EQ friends and I formed an equivalent group in WoW January of last year, but this group has not done a good job of keeping everyone at the same level, and has not had the same feel to it as a result.

    I’m enjoying the two Nostalgia groups a great deal as well, and I have to say that the combination of shrouds, leadership exp, and AAs makes it easier to keep in synch even with disparate play times (we accomplished it before by our weekly characters being alts — we all had others who were mains).

    I’ve yet to put together a comparable group in EQ2, which saddens me, as it’s really the best game out there for me as well.


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