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I've been thinking recently about the, oh, last decade of MMO's and the state they've become. Watching the rise and fall of so many hype trains and promises never truly fulfilled and games that continue to make the same mistakes, copying formats that are no longer working/desired.
Something that struck me as odd is that so many games focus on this psuedo multiplayer style of gaming, where almost the entire journey is filled with nothing but soloing and quests that involve no social or otherwise player interaction to complete. You're just a lone wolf in a sheep's pen trying to pick off the nearest sheep before one of the other lone wolves takes it out from under you. This process is repeated until you reach the fallacy of "end game" where your character abruptly stops progressing and you're thrust into the gear grind treadmill.
You now are no longer a wolf but the sheep, eagerly awaiting a chance at your feed (gear) which is controlled by RNGesus and raid leaders whom decide whether or not you're worthy.
Now before I get even more off topic about the pitfalls of this idiotic raiding treadmill of sadism and megalomania, it just struck me as how odd MMO's have become. The very games are designed to make people even more antisocial, looking at other players as oppositions or hindrances rather than teammates and allies. Even I have been swept up in this net of sociopathy, not caring about others and keeping to myself.
Games used to revolve around group play and people coming together for a common goal or cause. Everything is designed to be antigrouping, even going as far as being a hindrance to progression. It's absolutely insane.
Don't misunderstand me, however. I love being a lone wolf and playing solo as much as everyone else, but I enjoy grouping and cooperating FAR more than I do soloing. Games used to not only give players incentives to group, but it was the only was to truly progress.
That's the issue, the fine balance. I'm not suggesting a game that forces you to group every step of the way would do well in the current market, but why not give incentives and bonuses FOR grouping? Why hinder people who want to group from being efficient? The perfect balance is giving players the option to solo, even making it possible TO solo if you so desired, but your efficiency will be nothing compared to a group. Give groups a higher rate of killing and leveling, incentivizing social behavior and giving players a chance to interact.
This in no way hinders players whom want to be that lone wolf and solo their way through the game. Hell, it gives those players a higher sense of accomplishment because it would actually be more challenging and rewarding to take that route. Not only that, but it prepares people better for the current 'end game' raiding and group style combat instead of them thrust into a setting of responsibility of others when all they're used to is looking out for themselves.
It's a win-win. People that love group content will enjoy it more. People who enjoy soloing, especially for a challenge, will feel more accomplished. And the raiding groups that are looking for people will have more experienced player pools to work with instead of working with complete greenhorns.