I often mention static dungeon groups in my posts since I’m usually involved in at least one at a given moment. As far as WordPress’ search tells me I’ve never really talked about this style of gameplay as the topic for a post, however.
For as long as I’ve played MMORPGs, I’ve been playing with the same group of friends regularly, usually to tackle small-group challenges like dungeons, elite monsters in the open world or public events. This habit of adhoc or scheduled gametime with a circle of friends probably traces back to earlier hobbies tabletop rpgs and LAN gaming.
In World of Warcraft, when I started in the genre back in 2007, soloing was painful and slow unless you were a very knowledgeable and hardcore player. So it was natural that we’d group up in whatever number to do anything vaguely challenging. Often we’d help each other to clear our way to quest objectives in caves (caves in WoW have a history of being *nasty* places), keeps or other areas of fasts-spawning monsters. Once we were high enough to run dungeons they became the ‘main event’ whenever possible. They offer a concentrated challenge with relatively well spaced rewards (i.e. boss drops).
Through the first three expansions of WoW we played a lot of static groups, the exact make-up of characters and players varying over the years but the style of play and objectives remained the same. Keep a group of characters in close step experience and level-wise. Play them (mainly) only when online together so that they’d remain in step. Most MMORPGs had a problem with characters of widely-varying levels playing together. For years it was the defining challenge for a static – staying in step. The temptation to solo a few quests or to work on crafting (which requires gathering that leads to killing mobs) or even just class quests could put you gradually ahead if you had more playtime than the others.
This issue was the bane of my relatively long-lasted Ranger-only static in Dungeons & Dragons Online, circa 2009-10. We had set rules for the group, only played one night a week to keep in step. ‘Twinking’, i.e. obtaining higher power items for a character in the static by any means, was strictly off limits – we only used and shared what dropped in group play. It was intense fun and rather challenging because our only healing was through ‘wand-healing’ (limited use items can provide substantial healing in DDO). The group was a mix of frenzied melee characters (dual-wield) and archery-specialists – quite the fantasy strike team. It worked great for 8 levels, over the best part of a year, but eventually fell apart over players wanting to buy weapons that had certain properties (e.g. ghost-touch).
One summer (2014) we had a very successful and fun static group in Neverwinter for dungeon runs. Husband and I were playing duo anyway, when three WoW guild mates turned up in game and suddenly we had a full dungeon group ready-made. We spent many sessions running all the then-available levelling dungeons. Higher level character scaled down automatically to the level range for the dungeon, so we could bring our higher level-capped characters to try out different roles and character mixes. The runs were challenging (none of our characters were well-geared) and a lot of fun! At the time higher level characters got level-appropriate gear drops from the end chest which usually meant a pretty decent gear upgrade if you stayed to the finish. That was a great incentive for working together and helping others. Sadly, towards the end of that summer the loot for higher level characters was removed, I imagine it was being exploited by some, so all had to suffer as per usual. That gutted the motivation of some of the WoW guildies, they were motivated primarily by the gear progression.
Playstyle differences are the bane of any static group. Fast as possible, or slow and relaxed (or anywhere in-between)? Full clear dungeon runs or skip as much as possible? Experience boosts and all the bought buffs, or only what drops and ‘authentic play experience’? There are a bewildering array of possible playstyles for a given static within just one MMO, let alone considering them all across the games I’ve played.
In World of Warcraft Classic we have a current static for dungeon runs. Levelling through dungeons almost exclusively is possible but not optimal. Gear upgrades are sporadic so your character’s gear can fall behind easily. That’s a problem for anyone, but for the tank or healer it can lead to stalled progression. There are also not quite enough dungeons to level this way satisfactorily. We got so fed up with Scarlet Monastery by the time we were high enough to try Uldaman last week. There aren’t quite enough dungeons to avoid heavily repeating certain ones – it doesn’t help that a few dungeons are very confusingly designed and lack good drops, so very occasionally someone will veto a dungeon leaving an even bigger gap to fill with repetition.
Static group play remains one of my favourite online gaming style, alongside duoing with my husband. It can require a good amount of out-of-game coordination to keep the group in sync and playing, but it’s well worth it for the stellar runs you can achieve once the group gets practiced at playing together.