Friendliness vs isolating mechanics in MMORPGs

How welcome are other player characters when you’re out and questing? Do you ever chip in to help fight or heal a stranger when out in the field? These are the questions I’m writing about in this blog post. I play MMORPGs almost exclusively because the game has that wider community dimension. Even if I’m mostly solo’ing in Everquest 2, or playing in a static dungeon group in World of Warcraft; it doesn’t stop me stopping and observing other players riding past on a fancy mount, or casting the odd ‘drive by buff’.

Boat = buff party

Beyond such superficial distractions or interactions, MMORPGs vary a lot in terms of whether they encourage you to be friendly to other players or to prefer playing in isolation. Older games positively discouraged joining a fight already under way, even penalising those who dared.  In Lord of the Rings Online, before the devs introduced open tapping to the open world content – a marked contrast to older system of assist experience which effectively stole a share of experience from the character or group tapping a mob, while not rewarding any XP the out of group giver of assistance.

Meeting another player character should be a positive thing

Getting no XP from a tapped mob, usually denoted by their name or portrait turning grey, is a common enough thing. In earlier World of Warcraft this was the standard model for many expansions. It meant that you could heal a character that was about to die (if they were your faction of course), or even help kill the monster though you’d still gain no XP or items if outside the group.

In Everquest 2, outside of public quest content, the game retains an even stricter old-school tapping model. By default encounters are locked once you tap a monster or its group, meaning you cannot help in a fight or heal a character in a locked encounter (with a little padlock symbol). The upside is there’s little in the way of over-pulls as patrolling monsters will ignore your combat by the same rules that players are locked out. The downside is, at least based on my casual observations that this lock mechanism seems to be the more popular choice among players I encounter, there’s no scope for helping others. That’s not to say players aren’t ever friendly, I’ve seen enough acts of random kindness (gifting money or suitable items for your class out in the field) to know otherwise. But with a mercenary out in the field it does tend to give the game a more lonely tone overall.

This contrasts starkly with the public quest content in the game, where players are actively engaged with one another in boss fights or escort quests, like the macabre Erollisi Day (a k a Valentine’s Day) themed Love Will Lead You Back. I love this type of content in the game as it really brings players together and leaves you able to casually contribute on common goals.

World of Warcraft has done a rather better job of moving away from isolating mechanics in the last few expansions – open tapping on more monsters and gathering nodes, the return of some buffs, and plenty of open world content to encourage positive player interactions (e.g. world quests and world bosses).

The game feels a bit more friendly to play as a result, not because players are forced to work together to survive, but because there aren’t penalties or barriers to joining forces and there’s content to drive such interactions.

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4 Responses to Friendliness vs isolating mechanics in MMORPGs

  1. Shintar says:

    I just never felt like tapping was such a big deal. E.g. Classic may not have shared mob tapping but I’m more likely to be actively happy to see another player in densely populated areas there than in most other games because someone else killing mobs in the vicinity makes my life easier.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    Hang on… are you saying you can’t get adds in EQII once you’re engaged in a locked encounter? If that’s true I have never noticed it in fifteen years of playing. I was sure proximity aggro still worked even when you’re in combat, so if you backed into another spawn it would aggro and you’d have them both on you. I’m going to have to test that because if not then it would completely change the way I fight and pull mobs in enclosed spaces.

    There’s a function of EQII that no-one ever uses any more. too, whereby you can voluntarily unlock your encounter by calling for help. I think you literaly have to type /help or maybe /yell. Back at launch, when almost al overland content was Heroic, it got used quite a bity as people got into difficulties but it was never popular because once you do it no-one gets xp or loot. I think that was changed somewhat over time and I’m not sure exactly how it works now. I haven’t used it since about 2006.

    • Telwyn says:

      I suspect the adds is a conditional thing. I know I’ve been in a fight and had hostile mobs wandering around nearby , they’ve even ‘looked’ at me and wandered on past. Not 100% sure you can’t grab adds though in all circumstances. Also, this only applies to ope world, naturally in instances all bets are off.

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