Anti-Aliased: Yu rack disriprine

Seraphina Brennan
S. Brennan|03.18.09

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Anti-Aliased: Yu rack disriprine

A few nights ago, I was in one of the worst pick-up groups I have ever seen. It was World of Warcraft, we were in Halls of Lightning, and we had opened up with a dramatic wipe on the first boss. (He wasn't even in his powered mode, which surprised me.)

Valiantly, we tried the battle again, but found the same effect. Everyone looked like they had enough gear -- I had done that boss with "worse" people backing me up. Of course, while I was pondering that, the squabbling had already begun in the party. Priest blames hunter, hunter blames mage, mage blames paladin, then the paladin stops pondering why we were failing, realizes people were blaming her, and becomes flustered that someone would actually blame her for the wipe. Meanwhile, the rogue sat in stealth and went afk. Perfect party dynamics.

Before long I found myself outside of Halls of Lightning again, sitting on the steps in my pristine holy plate armor. I held up a sign that said, "Will tank 4 food," while I kept up hopes that another party would take me in. (Note: Apparently Game Informer used "Will tank 4 food" in their latest magazine, which just read 5 minutes ago, well after this article was completed. Scary.)

Party dynamics seem to be on the decline, but why? Pick-up groups were always a scary prospect, but lately they seem to have become something entirely more nightmarish. What the heck has changed?
Soloing killed the grouping star

Soloing is simultaneously one of the best and worst things that could happen to MMOs. Finally being able to do content on your own was a stroke of genius, as it eliminated some of the nasty wait times that could occur when you tried to group together for content. Plus, in soloing, everything is hinged on you. You don't have to worry about the healer not healing or the DPS not getting high enough damage. You could finally relax and enjoy the game.

But with boons to one area of game play comes disastrous effects to other areas. Because people weren't engaging in groups as often as they were in the past, their experience with their class in a group environment became nonexistent. The squabbles that were happening at level 10 are now the same squabbles that are happening at endgame. Combine those squabbles with the high-stakes mentality of endgame, and you have a powder keg combination.

Grouping comes down to experience in grouping. Gear helps, knowing the boss battles helps, but nothing comes close to knowing how to function with 4 to 24 other players. Our older design use to aid that, while our current designs don't. What you start to get is, of course, inexperienced people in groups in situations that require extreme group tactics.

Penalties? We don't need no stinkin' penalties!

Penalties suck. I can't think of any other way to put it. Nothing hurts more than getting experience removed from your bar or having to run back to your corpse. It's not fun, it's a waste of time, and it's punishing.

...but that was the reason those things were there.

I'm not saying penalties were the best thing known to man, but they did do the job they were given. Their presence had an anecdotal effect of putting fear into players. No one wanted to fail, leading to groups being tightly controlled and players being extremely receptive to input.

Groups wanted to succeed partially for the loot, but also partially because they didn't want to fail. A group that got things done, loot or no loot, was a successful group. People patted one another on the back and felt good because they had avoided taking any penalties with flying colors.

Contrast this with today's mentality of treasure first, players second. Your Nexus (non-heroic) run may only take you 30 minutes, but it's a failed run because you didn't get that epic purple sword. Experience didn't matter and being together with others didn't matter -- it's all about the loot, right? Certainly not all people think like this, but I'm sure everyone in the reading audience knows at least one person who does. It wasn't always like that.

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