Asocial and Antisocial

There was an interesting blue post a few days ago explaining why Blizzard had yet to embrace the GW2-esque open-tap philosophy:

The main reason we don’t embrace a fully open-tap world is that we feel that those mechanics are asocial. To be fair, that is certainly better than antisocial – no question there, and antisocial experiences usually reflect spawning and mechanics that we need to adjust. However, while a world in which everyone runs around damaging things a few times (or however much is needed to qualify for credit) may be one in which you don’t feel bad about other players being around, at some point it also makes those players nearly indistinguishable from NPCs or bots with decent AI. You don’t need to talk, or ask if someone has room in their group or would like to join yours. You just attack a few times, and then move on.

The blue dev (Watcher in this case) went on to assert that they “commonly” saw transient groups forming for daily quests, and perhaps some of those groups became less transient over time. And to an extent, I even agree that games like GW2 might have inadvertently crossed some line wherein other players are simply irrelevant when questing (as opposed to registering as something to think about).

At the same time… are we playing the same game? Even as far back as Wrath, there was basically no interaction between me and the random strangers who were competing with me for spawns. Any time that I did buckle down for blind social interaction, the majority of the outcomes were A) waiting around for them to get back from being AFK, and/or B) them being barely pulling their weight, and/or C) them trying to wheetle me into doing more of their daily quests for them. Indeed, that whole awkward parting scenario is generally why I avoided any stranger contact that I could.

I suppose that I am not exactly the sort of player that Watcher was talking about or even want to socially engineer. After all, not only am I naturally asocial, but I was already a part of a guild that wasn’t recruiting, so there really was no upside to stranger interaction. Given the generally accepted churn rates of 5% per month, eventually there are going to be hundreds of thousands of new players cycling in every year, and getting them into guilds and such is paramount.

Hmm. I gotta say though, I feel that the WoW-style tagging system is archaic and antisocial at this point; Wildstar tried to split the baby and ended up with two halves of a baby too. Going forward into 2014 with an assumption that players are going to just accidentally stumble into good relationships is kinda ridiculous. How often is someone going to pick up an MMO blind without any friends from either real life or friends they met in other games? Perhaps the idea is that you can recruit from the pile of random people killing quest mobs in daily hubs? The whole thing just feels kinda sketchy considering it is a linchpin in the entire social game design edifice.

There is something to be said for needing a reason to need other players to ensure social interaction takes place. In other words, dependency (or perhaps more charitably: profit) is the impetus to take that first step towards interaction. There is also something to be said that if you have to force social interaction between two parties that otherwise would prefer not to be bothered, perhaps you should reexamine what it is you are doing in the first place and to what end.

Shouldn’t it be enough that an impromptu group gets quests done faster? It is not even as though you are punishing the solo player as it is undermining the very thing you set out to foster in the first place, e.g. social interaction. By default, all non-party members are detriments to one’s gameplay. That does not encourage me to group with them, that encourages me to endure them or move to a less busy corner of the world. If I wanted to make more friends, I would make more friends regardless of whether or not we had to expressly group together to get quest credit.

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Posted on August 1, 2014, in Philosophy, WoW and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Here is the thing I don’t get either. Questing with a questing partner is actually slower than questing alone. For all those shared kill quests, you end up with unsharable collect quests. I used to quest with my wife, and it often took forever to complete those quests.

    • I think that the last time I played WoW, quest items actually dropped for everyone, even if it wasn’t your “turn” to loot that mob. Still, there are plenty of quests out there completely unfriendly to grouping; nevermind the fact that you are penalized XP-wise in groups for some bizarre reason.

      • Admittedly, I haven’t played for more than a year now, but I just don’t get their stance at all. Wow is (was) so non-group friendly from a levelling perspective that I have trouble seeing how they claim this tagging thing (nodes or mobs) is friendly toward grouping.

      • But that’s not true for all the “pick up X from the ground” or “interact with Y on the ground” quests. These items aren’t shared for your group, where in GW2 they are shared with everyone.

  2. Hmmm the last non-single-player dailies I did were in WotLK at the Argent Tournament stuff, the ones where you were riding around with a horse and a lance killing stuff. I remember A LOT of quick groups forming up and breaking up for those quests.
    It probably worked because it was very few quests, then you had to move to a completely different hub (if any), so it really fit the “transient group” definition.

    In MoP there was the problem of collection quests NOT giving credit to the entire group (in addition to being solo), so the only ones I remember doing in a group were guild groups. So the Golden-DAMNED-Lotus dailies were not really group friendly.

    I think in MoP there was a lot of transient groups for the Timeless Isle Rep farming, but not giving at rat’s ass about that I skipped it and I can only talk from the announces I saw in general chat while I was on my way there to the Celestial Scenario thingy.

    • > Hmmm the last non-single-player dailies I did were in WotLK at the Argent Tournament stuff, the ones where you were riding around with a horse and a lance killing stuff

      The argent tournament was added with atch 3.1, LFD was added with 3.3. Since LFD, and now LFR, grouping with strangers is no longer an option because most people do daily while waiting on a queue to pop.

      The LFR is the most antisocial part of WoW, because it prevents you from grouping up!

  3. Part of the difficulty/difference remains on the mechanics end of things. I like the open tag system, but to really make it work well, there’s a lot more to it than just flipping a switch that says anyone can get credit.

    In WoW, a high-level character can obliterate low-level zone mobs with barely a blink. Open tagging there would lead to people being readily “carried” through leveling content left and right. Arguably, that’d be good for new people who want to play with experienced people, but it pretty much ruins the experience of the game itself.

    In GW2, there’s a zone-based level/stat normalization that greatly reduces (though not eliminates) the advantage of high-level characters in low-level zones. This leads to players being able to contribute regardless of level. The content isn’t totally trivialized, and everyone feels involved.

  4. “How often is someone going to pick up an MMO blind without any friends from either real life or friends they met in other games?”

    I do it all the time. Part of what I like about MMOs over standard multiplayer games is that I can join one and meet some new people. I did that with Guild Wars 2 and talked with lots of people along the way. Asking for or offering help in that game to kill a champion is just so much easier when the other players are not seen as an obstacle. Were any of these lasting friendships? No. I did however hear about what it’s like living in Peru and Canada, which was good by me. If the game is going to be transient I’d prefer players to not be viewed as nothing more than a barrier to me getting my ore.

    What Blizzard is talking about seems to be nit picking at the wrong areas of the game though. Even as far back as Vanilla people didn’t do much grouping for quests and open world content. Where people really found potential guildies and did most of their chatting with strangers was dungeon runs. The dungeon finder effectively ended that. At this point I don’t think there is any part of the game where you are organically pushed towards other people.

  5. With shared tags, crowded areas would become a zerg where everyone tries to get their one hit in. I guess I can see why Blizzard wouldn’t want that. Maybe some system where tags are shared if you contribute more than X to the fight, say 20% of mob life.

    I have never in my life seen an impromptu group form for dailies. I’m not saying it never happens, only that I’ve never seen it. I have grouped for dailies, but only with people I knew and for that purpose.

    The WoW world is just going to be zero sum. All those people out there are obstacles, competing for limited resources. Back in the early days, people thought it would be really cool to see a bunch of other people playing the same game as you. It has its merits, but for the most part it is just as annoying as having to deal with strangers in the real world.

  6. The problem with a lack of open-tap in WoW is that when you’re out questing/farming/whatever, you are usually also waiting in a queue which will drop as soon as you join a group. I used to run around Timeless Isle for rares and such and no one would ever group because everyone was queued for LFR. Even for the Celestials, people would actively avoid joining a raid group for the same reason.

    Ironically, GW2 which lacks queued activities also has a fully open-tap world.

  7. dachengsgravatar

    How about this:
    Instead of open-tap rewarding you if you tap the mod, make it so that you get rewarded according to the amount of damage you do on the mob. If you’re in a group, you get rewarded according to the amount of damage your group does.

    This doesn’t penalize the loner who diligently tries to take down the mob; it does penalize the guys who try to tap everything once to get the reward without providing much of the effort; and it provides an extra incentive to make or join a group, without requiring it.

    And for LFR, make it so that you can pop into and out of groups without it affecting your LFR status (unless a group you join is also queued for LFR).

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