Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Social MMO's and PUGs

Tipa writes:

Most TSO missions I’m in — pickup groups every one, as Kasul and I are Nostalgia’s only active members doing TSO content and we’re far too few to form a group — end in failure, so it’s just a gigantic waste of time, usually taking more than an hour to finally abandon the mission with a pile of debt and repair bills.

At first I wondered what was up with that, and I still don't quite get it. But then I remembered the critical fact. The first few times we tried TSO instances, we wiped repeatedly, sometimes on the first named we met.

That's because many many nameds in TSO instances are what I'd call "trick" mobs. Back in my tabletop days we called them click-clicks, after a cartoon that appeared in the Dragon magazine that showed a glowing point of light monster called a "click-click" that was immune to everything you could throw at it, but if you yelled the word "October" at it, it died.

Nothing quite that blatant, but each of the TSO instances has at least one puzzle or trick or challenge to it. Once you've figured out what that trick is, and get everyone in the group on the same page, it becomes easier to progress. I propose to not spoil any of them here.

It's possible to look things up, but the writeups aren't always clearly written, or have every twist of the encounter recorded. We wiped on a queen bug in one of the Befallen instances quite a few times after reading the description.

But once I understood that there were puzzles to be solved, I was like a cockroach in seeking refuge in The Shadow Odyssey. I figured one puzzle out while lying face down in the dungeon just watching what was going on around me. It had started out as a feign death, but turned into a real one, which was a big shock. But it was also a big clue to what was going on with this encounter in Befallen's Necrotic Asylum.

To me, a few paltry deaths are totally worth the satisfaction of solving a puzzle.

I haven't been in a group that was a pure PUG for a while. I've been in groups that were part friends and filled out a couple slots with pickups. I've been called in as a replacement in a PUG to help with the last named, that had a guildie in it already.

Most of the people in these groups understand how the fights work. It might well be that they don't know all the ins and outs, or the whys, but they know what works.

And they share it. One of my pet peeves are groups that don't communicate well. And I've had some, to be sure. They assume you know what to do, or give cryptic explanations. Voice chat fixes this for the most part.

One of my favorite instance runs in the past several months consisted of going into a TSO instance completely cold with guildies and trying to figure it out. We died a fair bit, we made a lot of progress, too. We got most of the way through before some of us hit our timeouts. I can't think of a more fun experience. And the thing is, doing it with friends made it social.

EQ had a slow pace to it, dictated by dps rates versus mob hit points, and by power regen rates. This meant that there was time for the text chat between and even during fights. Healers and mages would sit during fights, and have nothing to do BUT chat. Those days are gone forever, I think. But socializing isn't dead, not on my server.

We chat in voice with guildies, and on guild chat. The server chats in the 70-79 channel and looks for group also in the level 1-9 channel, since everyone sees that, even if they are on an alt. People chat when they are shopping the broker, gathering, doing solo quests, and decorating their houses.

They don't chat much while tradeskilling, it takes too much attention. Nor do they chat much while in a group and actively working through a dungeon. Unless the group is really overpowered for the dungeon.

One of the most important innovations of EQ2 (WoW did it too) was to have health and power regenerate at different speeds depending on whether you were in combat or out of it. This change greatly reduced the time a group would have to spend between fights, and with better gear and buffs, most groups don't need to rest at all between fights. Furthermore, dungeons are often designed to reward fast clearing, with fast respawn, roamers and ring events with scheduled adds.

So most players these days have been trained to a fast-paced dungeoning style. I confess that I rather like it. Counter to this is the importance of keeping everyone in the group up to speed with what's happening. I think this is where many groups have a problem.

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Anonymous Tipa said...

The pickup groupers aren't unaware of the tricks, and usually someone says something like "click this" or "stay here". They've done it so often they don't think anything requires explanation any more, and definitely they are trying to move as fast as possible so there is no time to appreciate the art or the atmosphere or to chat or anything. It's rushrushrush. I don't die every time. But nobody is relaxing and having any fun with them. It's so much like work. It's tedious and not fun at all.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Toldain said...

Yeah, that pretty much sounds horrible to me, too. I've seen a few groups like that.

8:07 AM  

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