Monday, December 15, 2008

MMORPG Group Dynamics

Sony sure knows how to make people mad.

In a typical MMORPG, there are two types of characters that rarely have to LFG for long. The tank and the healer. With most players playing some type of DPS*Damage Per Second* class there is nearly a constant demand of tanks and healers. However in the latest expansion for the age old MMORPG EverQuest, that has changed.


To those new to this idea or just new to EverQuest entirely, mercenaries in this context are NPCs*Non-playable characters* you can hire to join your group like a normal PC*Player character*. In need of a healer? Hire one. In need of a tank? Hire one. DPS classes are now always able to hire these npcs in a pinch instead of possibly waiting for hours to find one ran by a human being.

This is a bad thing.

In EverQuest I now see a steady stream of Clerics LFG for hours on end. No one wants them now as they bring nothing to the table. A mercenary is far more reliable than a random person that could go afk without saying anything, be a loot hog, be an idiot, etc. Why take the risk? So we have an expansion that completely shuts down a complete class. But wait...they can just hire a tank mercenary too right?

Yeah, IF they have the latest expansion.

It seems SOE tried to fix its low player population with NPCs that simply encourages people not to group up with real players. I've joined several groups where around half of the group were Npcs. The ol days of a fun filled group chat filled with different personalities is long gone for EverQuest it seems. However this was simply a failed fix to a problem many MMORPGs suffer from. I know in my personal play time I was constantly LFG in World of Warcraft when I wanted to do a heroic instance. That or in a group that was looking for a tank and/or healer.

This could go on for hours.

So what is the solution to this? This isn't fun for the players of the DPS classes to be waiting for hours on end to snatch up the first healer/tank to make a whisper in the LFG channel. I frankly find it's time to abandon the classes that inspired MMORPGs, Dungeons & Dragons. While the archetypes concept worked very well in the table top scenario due to a large number of "friends" being there, it doesn't work online.

So, Hybrids. Classes that can function in several roles at ONCE. I'm not talking about WoW's current Hybrids such as a Priest can switch talent specs to dps or heal, or a Warriors tank or dps. The ability to perform BOTH tasks at once. Warhammer Online has done something akin to this with their classes.

So what do you think? Should MMORPGs stick with the D&D inspired ideas or adopt "classes" that can fulfill multiple roles? Or is there another solution besides a very bad one by SOE by using NPCs to replace PCs?

Leave a comment. Do it.

1 comment:

  1. The whole "merc" thing can go both ways. There are many players who don't like the idiocy of others when it comes to doing things, while others, much prefer a human as opposed to an NPC who can only do what it's programmed to do. I highly encourage grouping while leveling as it tends to make gaming more enjoyable and not to mention easier. And always, it's nifty to have extra muscle or a pocket healer ^_^


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