Raiding with “Friends”

Checking up on Tobold reveals an interesting post about the “failure” of the F2P model in Facebook games, or at least the way Zynga goes about it. However, there was a specific section of the post that piqued my interest (emphasis added):

By making paying to play so expensive and annoying, Facebook games thus make the “social cost” of pestering your friends more appealing. That very quickly leads to players realizing that the person least likely to be bothered by a constant stream of gift requests is somebody already playing the same game. MMORPGs like Everquest started out with a social model in which guilds were there to play with your friends, and over time that social model degraded to guilds where you play with people who have the same goals and play intensity as you have, even if you don’t actually like them. Facebook went through the same development much quicker. Every Facebook game forum has “add me” threads. My new Facebook account already has 67 friends, just by clicking on links in various “add me” threads like that.

I am not entirely sure whether the designers of Everquest actually expected people to join guilds with their IRL friends, but that almost seems like a moot point anyway – MMOs have a way of stratifying the playerbase into those willing and able to perform at X level and those at Y level. As may be implied by the tone of prior posts, and the existence of a blog to begin with, I tend to take things much more seriously than regular people… of which my friends qualify as, more or less.

The irony though, is that I am not even sure whether raiding should be a friend-based activity, or even could be one in the long-term. I certainly would never raid with my IRL friends specifically because raiding presents scenarios that only complicate things in (external) friendships. Loot distribution. Healing assignments. Interrupt duties. Punctual log-ins on raid days. Choosing who to sit out when 11 people are online. Deciding whether heroic modes are worth the time/hassle of attempting. It is the same strain I imagine must exist in a friendship between a supervisor and their employee. There is no good choice between the job and the friendship; it is always Lose-Lose.

The in-game friends I made via the guild and raiding in general understood when certain decisions were necessary as a Guild Master and/or Raid Leader in ways that my IRL friends could/would not. Then again… now that I think about it, there was quite a bit of drama when I continued bringing a few people along to the raids for the good of progression, but whom otherwise detracted from the enjoyment of everyone else. They probably should have understood why my actions were necessary, but I cannot help but imagine my having the same negative reaction if the shoe was on the other foot.

Raiding is often called the pinnacle of the MMO experience, but I am beginning to question that precept. Is there something wrong with the model? Or is (the possibility of) interpersonal conflict simply a given in any social endeavor? It almost seems like you could avoid conflict by making raiding so easy that any friction becomes irrelevant, but what of the people who enjoy a challenge? Or, hell, wouldn’t an easy endgame preclude the usefulness of a guild to begin with?

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Posted on November 21, 2011, in Commentary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Tuesday and Friday nights, I raid. Thursday, I meet up with me RL friends, what take this all way less serious than me, on a different toon in a different guild and we do 5-mans or retro raids. Been workin’ fine fer nearlies five years now. Always struck me as a perfectlies legitimate way fer ta handle the dichotomization, but mebbe I’s just weird.

  2. Enjoyment and progression have pretty weak link between each other.

    It’s possible to enjoy raiding while not progressing at all. Most people cannot do that for long because raids don’t have enough variety, so joy of exploration wears off pretty fast, but it exists.

    Progression without enjoyment is certainly possible too – both by “being carried” while doing trivial effort yourself, and by not enjoying being in certain team – commonly happens when guilds merge to save raiding, for example.

    And where societies form, social friction never becomes irrelevant, regardless of difficulty. No community is all “happiness and flowers”, even when that’s their goal, and changing difficulty will certainly not change anything overnight.

    Variable raid size might work – but balancing that is probably too hard for wow team who look for easy solutions everywhere.

    One or two-boss instances would also help alot with scheduling and required commitments.

  3. One of other working mechanics NOT used in WoW is hard time limits. For example, in Global Agenda once you enter 4-man instance, you have 20m to kill final boss. If you fail, you get your consolation prise (obviously worse then what you would get for winning), but there is no “beating your head against the wall” for hours.

  4. I like what Shalcker has said and I agree. This is a good discussion to bring up Azuriel.

    I think it’s important to play social games with people you care about (and no I’m not talking just brotherly love or sisters, or mothers …people you an interpersonal connection with, whatever that connection is). In many ways, it’s an important part of what actually holds the social fabric of MMOs together. No one will commit to a “game”. Most people *will* commit to social groups with whom they have interpersonal connections which are meaningful. The meaning cannot and does not derive simply from playing the same game. It’s one of the best reasons the guild tools came with Cataclysm; to disincentivize guild hopping, because the social fabric has become so tattered that players find a hard time committing to guilds.

    There’s more nuances to that argument, but I want to stay on topic. Here’s a really relevant post I like to point people to every time this discussion pops up on forums. It really hits the nail on the head for the blend between progression raiding and raiding because its social.

    http://www.fohguild.org/forums/mmorpg-general-discussion/39425-wow-4-0-horde-bdf-join-foh-1155.html#post2059819

    Here’s the text of the link:

    Actually, raids and PvP now, are more difficult in terms of individual skill then they were in Vanilla. However, Vanilla’s difficulty was far higher in terms of organization and management (It was far less accessible.) Things in Vanilla were easier to do, but more difficult to get to the point to do them. Look at the trash in MC, and the re spawn rates. That kind of stuff just hasn’t existed since Vashj. The thing is, organizational difficulty and even time hurdles, can be lessened/defeated by just proper management from the raid leaders. In other words, a quality core of officers and a couple good raid leaders could make Vanilla and TBC raids beatable within a couple hours, even if half your raid was really poor.

    By shifting the focus away from management and onto individual player skill (Or shifting it away from the “Accessibility boss” and onto the actual boss), Blizzard took away that ability for the few to carry the many. Now, an average raid leader, in a great guild, is far, far superior to a great raid leader, in an average guild. And to be frank, it’s a lot easier for a guild to get a good core of officers/leaders, then it is to get a guild of all elite/good players.

    The irony of all this is that by making WoW more accessible, but more difficult, Blizzard has alienated the casual player. The bad-bubble head-healer or the pot head rogue were fine raiders, even if they could only raid twice a week, in vanilla as long as they had a strong leader. Now they aren’t good raiders, even if their leader is fucking MMO-Rommel.