Lauren of the Mystic Worlds Blog has a new post up called "Why we Solo in MMOs," offering her perspective on why, over many years and many MMOs, she has always tended to ignore the grouping game and instead go it alone. While I'm not against grouping at all -- I was very active in the 40 man raid game, and tend to run Heroics around once a week and Karazhans around 1.5 times a week across my 3 70s -- I've always felt that the solo game has a valid spot in MMORPGs, and I've often indulged in it myself. In fact, I'd bet that most WoW players do so on a regular basis these days, whether leveling up or doing their dailies.
She rattles off the usual list of reasons for going solo -- having a weird schedule, needing to take frequent "real life" breaks, not having enough time to go LFG for a dungeon, unwillingness to deal with the infamous horrible PuG group -- then takes it a step further. She believes that many people use these types of statements as excuses or defense against people who can't understand why they wish to solo in a multiplayer game, or actively flame them for it, and that the real reasons are a lot less complicated.
She says that for her part, while she uses all those excuses, and believes that they are valid, she'd probably still play mostly solo in a perfect world where you could get a group of competent puggers right away to do any content.
She hearkens back to her days as a child with an active imagination, when she would often play alone by choice, turning the world around her into magical castles and horse-drawn carriages, turning blankets and old hand-me-down clothes into royal robes. In many cases, she says, she believes that she and many other soloers are acting out that same imaginative play, not only making up their own stories in their heads, but working at their own rhythm, playing and questing and gathering and pvping as they wish to, without having to worry about the wants and needs or social graces or lack thereof of other group members.
So why don't soloers just play single player RPGs? Because MMOs, even for soloers, allow change and growth that makes static RPGs seem a bit bland. Even if you don't choose to group with other players, you can still interact with them or watch them interact in town and in the field, and it means that no two days are ever quite the same. By the same token, constant patches and content additions means that the world itself is never static and always changing. Thus, even if you prefer not to group with players, being able to interact with them and the world that changes around you means that you still want to participate in a changing world, a world that would not truly be replicable in a single player RPG.
Certainly, as I said, I enjoy having the ability to solo, even if I still group quite a bit, so I'm quite in solidarity here. In over a Decade of playing MMORPGs of various shapes and sizes, I've always tended to gravitate toward the Hybrid and versatile type classes probably in large part because I could be mostly self sufficient, allowing me solo when I wanted to (even if, in earlier games such as Everquest, that meant 5 minutes of downtime between each kill).
In that vein, seeing more and more MMOs these days welcome and embrace the solo player is gratifying for me. Being able to group when I want, and solo when I want, or be able to accomplish something meaningful while soloing, is certainly something that draws me to a game, and WoW keeps delivering on this. 2.4 is perhaps the pinnacle of this idea: I can raid with 24 of my friends or group with 4 of my friends and tackle content that gives great loot rewards, or I can solo dailies and gain a good chunk of gold, reputation, and even a chance at a Badge of Justice or two.
In large part, I agree with her reasons, too. I was the type of child who played alone and built castles out of Legos and couch cushions, and to a large part, I do extend that into my MMO play. All my characters gain backstories, and even if I sometimes have to stray from their RP background in order to finish a quest, I still look at my playtime in terms of how my character is feeling and reacting to what is around him or her. In addition, being able to decide that I don't really want to do dailies today and I'd rather head out to Nagrand and mine for Adamantite gives me a freedom that's really appreciated on some days.
This is, I believe, a very thought provoking and unique manifesto on why people solo in MMOs that brings up some points on the whole idea that make it a good read for any player, including those who don't really understand why one would actually prefer to solo in these games. It's definitely worth a read.