Zubon has a very interesting post on ‘playing together‘ over at Kill Ten Rats. I am generalising a lot here, but I do wonder whether the industry is starting to listen to players and actually provide systems to make playing together easier, rather than harder.
For several years the ‘play your way’ mentality has naturally resulted in very solo-friendly content in most MMOs I have played. Existing games reduced open world difficulty and made group-only content soloable. This is certainly laudable for accessibility, I myself have played enough solo sessions in games to appreciate this. But the trade off has always seemed to be in de-emphasizing group-content whether through deliberate changes to game systems or simply because the community as a whole does less together.
LoTRO certainly has seen these types of changes, with the ‘solofication’ of the story-heavy book quest chains and the reduction of group quests in revamped zones. WoW as well since the Wrath era has had fewer and fewer group content out in the open world. Even DDO added a solo/casual difficulty level to allow players to solo level their characters more easily.
I’m very happy to see games re-emphasizing less strictly defined group play. It won’t happen in all games, so there will always be solo-friendly options. But it is nice to have at least some games (GW2 & Rift are two) where I can play with friends without lots of system-level barriers standing in our way: fixed group sizes, gear checks, level gaps etc.
Change is coming slowly, there are still new games coming out that are very standard model MMOs, but some change is evident. It’s an evolution of the genre not exactly a revolution. Well that’s more than enough for me at the moment, ¡viva la evolución!