Home > MMO Games > Game designers should play in pick-up groups

Game designers should play in pick-up groups

July 8, 2008

As an MMORPG player, chances are that you have had some frustrating experiences when playing or trying to play in a pick-up group (PUG), i.e. setting up a team with a bunch of strangers for whatever reason. Chances are that the number of bad experiences outweigh the good ones.

One part of the problem may of course be people that act like jerks, which is not a game mechanic, but something will always have to face. Although one reason a person acts like a jerk may be because of a frustrating game element though. And often there may be game elements that contibutes to the PUG  becoming a frustrating experience

While many people have friends they play with sometimes, this is not always the case and certainly not all the time, so chances are that many players will play in PUGs or solo. Because the PUG experience can be frustrating, people may tend to play solo because that is easier, not because they absolutely want to solo above all else.

When the game designers play their games before release, chances are that they pretty much always have some people around that they know and can team up with and perhaps also at a similar pace. The issues dealing with strangers in the game does not come up.

So I would hope to see that some effort could be put into some other MMORPG with similar teaming and community mechanics to their own and try that out, without bringing any friends or collegues into the picture. Or find and talk to players who are not part of big active guilds/clans and get their experiences with other games on what is good and bad.

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Categories: MMO Games
  1. me
    July 8, 2008 at 18:55

    Bravo. Implement this today!

  2. Yeebo
    July 8, 2008 at 22:42

    There are tons of things that can be done to make PuGs more pleasent, and almost never are

    1. Every class has a main role and at least one “sub role” so that functional parties are easier to get together.
    2. Allow party leaders to summon players, or at least make summoning abilites fairly commonplace.
    3.Bosses in instances don’t drop loot to roll on. They drop tokens and everyone gets one.
    4. Allow players to sidekick lower level players (ala CoH) and get their effective level up to theirs, or allow them to mentor down (ala EQ II) and lower their level temporarily to help out a lowbie.
    5. Give higher level experienced players a good reason to help out low levels players. Let them still get rep rewards for quests they’ve already done, or make it a good way to grind out skills, talent points, or AAs.
    6. Instances scale in difficulty to match party size.

    Those are the most obvious to me, and I can’t think of a single MMO that has done more than three of them. Most MMOs do none of them.

  3. TickledBlue
    July 9, 2008 at 00:52

    Another ‘Bravo’ vote here. I also think that this should be expanded to have developers look for and join guilds of people they don’t know. The majority of MMO’s have attrocious party, guild and chat interfaces and yet these are the core tools used for the social aspects of the game.

    @Yeebo your points 1, 3, 4, and 5 all assume a certain type of MMO, namely one that is based on the Diku/EQ/WoW model with classes, levels, the only thing for people to do is grind mobs and loot. A model which is common but doesn’t translate to games such as Eve online or Ultima Online for example. Point 6 is only relevant for games that have instances, and some would argue that this automatically removes them from the MMO genre – what do you do for games that don’t have instances?

    I get what you are trying to say and think they are good sugestions for these types of games but what they do is more clearly highlight the weaknesses of these game types when it comes to grouping. In most of these game types the only reason a group is required is because the bad guys are more numerous or tougher than what one person can handle – is that the best way to encourage a group (which is effectively just a private chat channel and the ability to see everyones stats on your screen).?

  4. Yeebo
    July 9, 2008 at 01:51

    Indeed, my points do apply mainly to class/ level based games with adventuring instances of some sort. You could certainly argue that such fixes would merely be duct tape over a deeper problem with that basic design. My main point was that such changes are obvious for that style of game, yet most of them are rarely implemented.

    Whether devs should be making games of the Diku MUD/ EQ/ WoW style is another issue, and one worth considering. However, as that is far and away the most popular style of MMO at the moment, I think my points retain some relevance 😛

  5. sente
    July 9, 2008 at 13:36

    It is certainly relevant even though it would not apply to all sorts of MMORPGs, or virtual worlds if one wants to expadn the view even further.

    The player interaction is something that seems to be taken for granted and that it will happen as soon as one introduces elements that require and benefit from multiple player grouping toghether in a specific way, i.e. the grouping mechanic seen in most games.

    I think a game that did not “invent” any new combat mechanics and used familiar/old settings but put an emphasis on improving player/community interaction in various ways could do very well.

  6. Sok
    July 11, 2008 at 20:44

    “When the game designers play their games before release, chances are that they pretty much always have some people around that they know and can team up with and perhaps also at a similar pace. The issues dealing with strangers in the game does not come up.”

    One way to get around this is to play other games and learn lessons from there. Think about various questions while you’re playing: What does the game do to encourage me to team within the game? What obstacles are there to forming a group, or joining one? What makes the experience fun… or annoying? Is it easy to get this ragtag bunch of players operating as a unit, or are people constantly working at odds — and what is the game rewarding to encourage divisive behavior? Apply the lessons learned to your own game.

    I loved PuGs in City of Heroes. I can’t find one to save my life as a relatively new WoW player. So, another “Bravo” from here.

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