Soloing, going casual, and the tragedy of the commons

People talk about soloing in MMOs as if having the option to solo to the level cap was a recent innovation. Actually I remember playing MUDs mostly solo. As long as there have been virtual worlds, there have been both players who just wanted to quietly get on with their own thing and those who wanted to play with others.

However it’s the players who want to play with others who create the in game community.

MMOs are all about options. You can have soloers, raiders, hardcore, casual, explorers, achievers, et al all playing in the same virtual world. And that means you can play different sides of the game depending on how you feel.  I used to be in a guild with a Finnish guy who occasionally would /gquit for a couple of weeks to get away from the world (including guild chat). He referred to this as ‘going on holiday to his virtual log cabin’. He could have just not logged in but that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to be alone in the virtual world.

Sometimes you’ve had a rough day at work and don’t want to be hassled. Other times you really want to be around other people, and I love that the game provides these options.

But, aside from the regular flow of people who switch between soloing and grouping as their mood dictates, there are a lot of players who never have any intention of grouping with anyone they don’t know. I’ve always felt that they were a large but mostly invisible segment of the population. You don’t ‘see’ them because they don’t talk, they don’t join guilds. I remember being surprised when a guy joined our WAR guild and commented that although he’d played MMOs for years, this was the first time he had ever joined a guild. He’d just been playing with friends and never needed nor wanted the guild.

So who needs who, really?

A soloer, or a small group of RL friends who only ever group with each other, is a self contained unit. They don’t need anyone else to play in their preferred way. They don’t really need access to a guild bank or guild crafters because there are Auction Houses and trade channels.

Some may choose to join guilds because they like to be in a friendly atmosphere, and to share information, loot, and skills. But it isn’t really clear what the guild gets from having soloers as members.

Players who like to group, on the other hand, need to be around other social players. You can’t run group content on your own, by definition. And so social players tend to cluster into guilds because they like to be in a friendly atmosphere and to share information, loot, and skills, and also so that they can more easily find people to group with.

There are two types of successful guild, really. One is the very focussed one in which every member wants to do the same type of activity in game. These would be like raiding or endgame guilds. Over time they may ease the focus, let in more alts and social members, and evolve a more casual tier alongside the hardcore centre.

You can have a guild that is focussed on supporting casual members who are mostly soloers. But it’s very difficult to keep that kind of community together unless there’s a core of the guild who is a little less casual than the rest or unless you prearrange set times to play.

The other type is a larger social type of guild which is more of a broad umbrella under which members do what they like. And this kind of guild can carry a few soloers, maybe even a lot, but it absolutely must also have a critical mass of members who like to group because otherwise the guys who want to group won’t be able to find guild groups.

This isn’t just about grouping for instances or raids or PvP. I’ve been in RP guilds where we organised little RP events and were struggling to get people to come to them, while seeing half the guild online but off soloing somewhere else. Those are players who went to the effort of joining a RP guild but then when it actually tried to organise something that they could easily have joined in, they preferred to keep farming. They didn’t really want to be part of the guild or interact in any way beyond the chat channel.

And let me tell you, when you are trying to organise anything in guild and people flip you off for no real reason other than that they can’t be bothered, even though they are online and not busy, it will quickly put you off trying to organise anything else in future. This is why social guilds need to keep the number of soloers down and the number of social members up.

If the number of social members falls too low, then the rest MUST leave too for a guild with better grouping opportunities or else they’ll be very very miserable. And you can guarantee it’ll be the guys who mostly solo who will be tutting and complaining that people aren’t loyal to their guilds any more these days when they go.

The only guild that truly benefits from soloers is the solo-centric guild, made by and for other soloers. And ironically, most soloers who want to join a guild for the chat channel and crafters are not looking for that kind of guild.

Note: Yes, when I say soloers I mean people who have no intention of ever grouping with anything they don’t know iRL. I don’t have a problem with the playstyle. I still think it’s great that MMOs can cater to all sorts. And I do have friends in my guild who mostly solo because of RL issues, and we love having them around. But don’t join a guild just for its chat channel without telling them that’s all you want.

Just bear in mind that if I want to group, I need to have people around who want to do the same thing. If I want to solo (or play with a partner or fixed group), I don’t need anyone or anything. And a social player can provide all the same things as a soloer, but they’re also helping to build the community.

So why are you soloing in an MMO anyway?

Syp is tired of being asked why he would want to solo in a multi-player game. That’s a fair point, it’s no-one’s business what you do in the game as long as you aren’t harassing anyone (and by definition, soloers are very unlikely to be in this situation).

But he then goes on to explain that soloers may not really want to be alone, and thinks it’s reasonable to join a guild anyway. I beg to differ. It MAY be reasonable to join a guild, if you can find one that it copacetic with your playstyle.

He also comments that solo players may appreciate the support network that other players can provide. And they’ll provide you with this for no return why exactly? How is that not leeching? And why do you need a support network anyway if you are soloing?

But if you join a social guild, every time you are online when someone is trying to organise a guild activity and you could have taken part but you decided not to bother, you are breaking a piece of someone’s heart. But of course, you’re solo, so you’re not interested in being anyone else’s support network. Why should you care? Why should you help to support the guild, you’re only there for the chat channels? Maybe they’re the ones who  should  chill out and remember it’s just a game.

(I’m not convinced that MMOs offer more bang for your buck than single player games, though. I suppose it depends which single player games and which MMOs.)

Relying on the more hardcore

Actually, a lot of players do rely on more hardcore people to provide their player-generated entertainment. A guild leader or raid leader puts much more time and effort into the game than a rank or file member. Both types of player need each other, but one is definitely working harder.

So maybe a casual player wants to not be tied to a schedule, but still be able to log into a friendly guild and find competent groups whenever they want. In order for a guild to provide that, they need to have a core of more hardcore players who will be around more often, will play enough to become competent, and will want to group whenever the casual player logs in.

I don’t think people always see that side of things. In order for me to have my great casual friendly guild, officers and raid leaders need to want to put in a lot more work than I do. It isn’t that I’m not valuable, but I am relying on some people being more hardcore.

So … tragedy of the commons?

What happens if MMOs develop along lines such that most people are soloing most of the time? There’s no downtime built in where you might have to talk to people you didn’t know? There may not be enough of the more hardcore to form all the guilds those people might want to join? The people who would have been running those guilds are all going casual/ solo/ in small groups of RL friends instead?

Would a game like that really have much of a community at all? Is there any support network left for anyone at all?

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57 thoughts on “Soloing, going casual, and the tragedy of the commons

  1. It’s been pointed out by me and others that grouping is not the only means of support one can give back to a guild — an exchange of information, verbal help, trade, encouragement and friendships all contribute back to the guild. I guess it depends on what purpose you see guilds as having — some are strident that they exist only to tackle mass group content, but there are plenty of guilds that exclude that from their mission, and who exist to be as a social group within the game, for mutual benefits, companionship and identity.

    I appreciated your perspective on this, however. And for the record, I am not a strictly solo player — I group plenty; I wrote that article after someone in our comments section went off on another poster for being a soloer.

  2. Is there any sense of community in the real world when people live alone? They have to come out sometime. (All but the most extreme cases.) There are more connections between people than the highly visible “grouping” or guild activities might lead you to believe.

    For one, I’ve heard it stated on more than one occasion that just seeing other players in an MMO make the place feel more “alive”. Even if those other players are the digital equivalent of the crazy solo cat lady next door, they are *there*, which adds something to the world. They have a presence on the Auction House market, more often than not, driving the world/server economy in subtle ways. Unless the whole game world is instanced for each player, everyone is chipping in to the community in some way. (A common snark levied against Guild Wars is that most overworld locations are instanced, making it feel less like a community, and somehow “not an MMO”.)

    As long as there’s a game to be played, and ways to interact, or even just the presence of *others*, there will be a community. As far as that goes, there are communities of Quake players, or StarCraft players, or even Solitaire players. Forums and other methods of delayed communication still allow “communities” to be formed, they just don’t look like the prototypical raiding party or progression guild.

    • You’re right, and community is a very wide ranging concept.

      But, I don’t play MMOs so that I can have a bboard community. I have one of those on rpg.net (which is an awesome bboard, incidentally) and it’s great. I play MMOs because I want to be part of an MMO in-game community. To me it’s the one thing that these types of games offer which is truly unique.

      Seeing other players around does make the world feel more alive (and I did find Guild Wars a bit odd in that respect, although it’s a cool game in its own right) but when I think back, all the most memorable times I’ve had in MUDs/ MUSHes and MMOs involved other players … and it wasn’t just me running past them outside the bank. I just think there’s a sense in which you get out what you put in.

      • Ah, but to each their own. That’s the point. Like minded players can still find each other. You can’t impose your wishes on others and expect them to be happy about it. (From any direction.)

        Also, an in-game community doesn’t need to mean “people right here, right now, talking with me”. Players in the game always leave little footprints, and even the soloers have an effect on how the game plays. That’s the nature of a persistent world, rather than a multiplayer lobby/chat room waiting for raids.

        I’d even go so far as to say that it’s that notion of semipermanence that makes these MMOs more than just a multiplayer dungeon crawl, and soloers can have just as much of an effect on that as groupers.

      • “I don’t.”

        “I have.”

        “I play.”

        “I think.”

        Do you see the problem, here?

        I am primarily a solo player. I am an explorer (though that’s not so easy in the modern MMORPG) and I do mostly solo quests. I help people when they ask and I’m not in an instance or in the middle of an area it was particularly tough to get to, but I usually don’t go out of my way to interact with other players.

        Do I still contribute to my guild? Well, I like to think so — I dole out loot I don’t need and I’m helpful enough when people ask for advice. However, I’m not one to group extensively or run raids. They’re not interesting to me.

        You ask about who needs whom, and, though you never seem to come to a conclusion, I think that you have made the point fairly well that you need us — you need us to be social, to interact, to not be solo players. We are content with solo content and the occasional group content. If you are not, the simple fact that you may do more work than us does not mean you are more important. In fact, those truly hardcore, the ones who organize raids rely on the rank-and-file members to do what they are told. Indeed, peasants rarely needed their lords, but the lords always needed their peasants.

        Should MMOs develop such that solo content is paramount, we solo players will be fine. Will you?

        (Semi-related: Your argument seems to be predicated on the idea that solo players are not community members. You ought to examine that more closely.)

      • jdw: Yes, you’re right. Basically social players need other players (they don’t need other /solo/ players, but all other players are potential people to play with until they say otherwise).

        If solo content becomes paramount, the things I most value in MMOs will die. As a solo player, you don’t have to care about any of this. I’m not asking you to care, just explaining why I do.

        (Peasants did need their lords to defend their lands from attack btw and to guarantee their lands, that was what the whole feudal system was based on. Similarly rank and file members need leaders to guarantee their raid spots, you can’t do it without someone organising.)

  3. I used to be strictly a soloist, back when I played games where the end-game was the only goal to work towards. In recent times, however, with games which reward other methods of play, I’ve moved towards seeking out like minded players in guilds.

    One thing that always ticked me off was when people would ask why someone would solo in a genre designed for socializing. I NEVER considered MMOs to be “for socializing”. Just because you put a lot of people in the same space doesn’t mean they’re there to chat. I always liked MMOs because of their dynamic nature (to a point): where you log out is where you log in, and there could be people there, or not. You could take as long or as short a time as you want to do something. And there was always new content in the pipeline, before DLC was popular.

    I still solo a lot, but games like WAR and EVE practically REQUIRE you to guild up (well, maybe not WAR so much, as RVR can be done with a regular call to arms). I’m not anti-social, but I do look for guilds advertising as “mature, family-oriented” because those tend to not be N**is about roles and manditory atendenance.

  4. I guess I don’t really understand how you see being a soloist as purely leeching. A person who solos in, say EQ2, can go out and harvest, depositing raw materials, which include rares, into the guild bank for others to use. They can deposit loot they’ve found to the guild bank to be transmuted or equipped by others. They can do writs to give the guild status and help level it. They can do heritage quests on their own to provide the guild with status and help level it.

    There’s LOTS of things people can do solo that help guilds that they can do themselves. Perhaps it’s because you’re a WoW player and guilds really have no meaning other than to help push through content, but in other games soloists can be very helpful.

    In WoW, I agree … the soloist is less than helpful and usually they end up not knowing how to perform in a group well if they’ve strictly soloed to max level, but that isn’t always the case either. Choosing to solo means you have to think up creative survival techniques sometimes just to accomplish something that a group could easily do.

    I think that’s the draw for me to soloing or grouping with less than the max number of group members (like duoing or trioing something): the accomplishment. It’s also why I liked the hard modes in WoW when I played that required you kill something with 9 or 20 instead of 10 or 25.

    For all the arguments you make against soloists, I could just as easily make arguments against groupers:

    Groupers don’t like challenges so they find others to carry them.

    Raiders have a need to feel appreciated so they find fulfillment in people gawking at their phat lewts in town while they flex and pose.

    Have you ever considered why you even group or raid for loot as opposed to why soloist acquire theirs? In a group or raid, not everyone HAS to have good gear to get by. You can have suboptimal gear and still beat encounters if you’re talented enough. A soloist usually has to have better than average gear to accomplish some of the harder tasks and even the “group” tasks they conquer on their own.

    I remember soloing the ring event in WotLK, but only being able to do so after I had a few nice pieces of gear. Then I helped a group of scrubs do it and it was cake for them because they had a full group.

    So … if you can raid / group with suboptimal gear and win, what’s the point to the new loot? To show off. That’s it.

    • “Have you ever considered why you even group or raid for loot as opposed to why soloist acquire theirs? ”

      Well, the loot is more of a means to an end. I group or raid because I enjoy teamwork, I enjoy playing with others and interacting with others, and solo challenges don’t greatly interest me. (I personally am not very achievement oriented.)

      The loot in a game like WoW is part of the whole motivational structure but whilst everyone likes shinies, they’re not the reason I get my kicks from raiding. (Because on paper it’s very dull to farm the same raid week on week, you have to be there pulling your weight with the other people to see the appeal.)

      And the point to the new loot is so that you can better help your raid progress to tougher raids, surely?

  5. This reminds me forcibly of the “free player” vs. “subscriber” argument that pops up in Puzzle Pirates sometimes. The CEO, Daniel James, made it a point to say that free players still contribute to the game community.

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/2008/9/29/

    From his comments:
    “Every player, free or paid, adds value to the community and excitement for other players. Free players are the content, context and society that encourages a small fraction of the audience to willingly pay more than enough to subsidize the rest.”

    Much the same could be said of solo players; they are, after all, still playing the same game, influencing it in subtle ways. They are part of the “content, context and society” that makes these MMO things more than just optional multiplayer dungeon crawlers. Just because someone isn’t guilded, grouped or even effective within a group, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t part of the community.

    • It’s more like having an uncle who never comes to visit, instead they just send you expensive birthday and christmas presents. What you really wanted was their time. The presents are nice, but they’re just presents.

      They’re part of the community, sure, but I think my point is that if they get too large a proportion of the community then it will be more difficult for me (and people who like the same sorts of things that I do in MMOs) to do the things I want. At that point I can no longer say ‘sure, do what you want’ because I’ll be standing around saying, ‘wait, does no one want to play with me any more?’

      • I think that’s an unfounded fear of the “other” and the unknown. People who want to play with others purely because they enjoy doing so (rather than as means to an end like raiding can mutate into) will *always* find ways to do so. You can’t stop people from finding ways to play together.

        Solo play is not a danger to that unless devs enforce soloing. (Which naturally brings up the notion that forcing either soloing or grouping is bad; design to allow each and let players decide.)

        In other words, if people don’t want to play with you in a game that *allows* (not forces) them to do so, it’s not the game design’s fault. If they are off farming achievements or grinding rep instead of playing with you, that’s their choice, not something forced on them by the game. That’s just what they want to do at the moment.

        And that’s OK.

        Of course, if the game design is nothing but farming achievements, and it’s actually not all that fun to *play*, that’s a concern, but I tend to think that’s something that will undermine soloers and groupers alike.

  6. [apologies in advance if this appears twice, my browser timed out]

    “Some may choose to join guilds [...] to share information, loot, and skills. But it isn’t really clear what the guild gets from having soloers as members.”

    Can you even see the contradiction in what you wrote?

    When I play EQ2, as Wiqd pointed out, every time I earn status for myself, I also earn some for the guild I’m a part of, helping it level up.

    When I played Warhammer, for every mob I killed, a percentage of its coin went directly into the guild coffers to help pay for siege engines and so forth.

    Those are two very concrete examples of how someone who solos helps out the guild as an entity.

    It sounds to me like your only interest in fellow guild members is that they are a ready source of group members for you, and that being a group member is the only thing of value a person can bring to the guild.

    I could turn all this around. What good do people who’re constantly raid do for the guild? They’re just playing to suit their own needs, and are doing nothing for the greater good. They aren’t contributing status, or crafting consumables, or in any way contributing to the guild as an entity. They are just there to TAKE from the guild; to “leech” players away from doing tasks that support the guild in order to go raid for personal loot.

    I also wonder if you have any idea how offensive it is to say someone is a leech. At least in my social circles, that’s on par with calling them a thief or a cheat.

    • “I could turn all this around. What good do people who’re constantly raid do for the guild? They’re just playing to suit their own needs, and are doing nothing for the greater good.”

      Strange question. People who constantly raid are spending a lot of time with other guildies, helping the guild to fulfil one of it’s core activities (I’m assuming some kind of raid guild) and helping other players to do the same. And the more time you spend with other people, the stronger the links you forge with them. Guildies hanging out and doing group content together does a lot to strengthen guilds, in my experience.

      • “’m assuming some kind of raid guild”

        Well that is a HUGE assumption, in my opinion.

        If a confirmed solo player joined a raiding guild, that would be silly. That person wouldn’t provide much to that guild, but that’s not because he is a solo player, it’s because he has joined the wrong kind of guild.

        Your comments thus far have been very broad: that anyone who is a solo player is leeching from the guild they’re a member of. You’ve never specified “raiding guild” (which make up, in my experience, a tiny percentage of the guilds out there).

        If a raider joined a crafting guild, the raider would be a “leech,” too. But not because they’re a raider…because they’re in the wrong kind of guild. They aren’t contributing to what the guild is built around.

        If an EQ2 guild has a group of 100% raiders who never do anything but raid, then they’re not helping to advance the guild and get access to all the perks a higher level guild gives the members, so in this case the raiders are “leeching” from the guild.

      • “People who constantly raid are spending a lot of time with other guildies, helping the guild to fulfil one of it’s core activities (I’m assuming some kind of raid guild)”

        I think that’s where alot of the thinking breaks down.

        The raiders are only helping the raiders. Sure in a raid only guild, a soloer would be an abberation or possibly even a drain. Especially if they wanted in on limited raids without ever giving back to the guild in terms of time spent trying to help/raid.

        A raid is only good for the people raiding. It may be good from a tactical/cerebral point of view, like how you enjoy the teamwork. It may be good from a loot point of view, but in the end it is only good for those few people. Raiders and people who won’t step outside of their circle are as insular and removed as solo only people.
        After all if you aren’t raiding or in their group, what are you doing for them?

        As an aside, anyone who joins a game purely for the social aspect has got to deal with the most common problem in any social event. Feelings. People just may not feel like grouping, or feel like going to this zone or feel like standing around rping. Friends will probably grin and bear it for you, but unless someone is a friend, people may not feel like putting themselves out there.
        It may break their heart to not get people being sociable, but if no one was at least courteous enough to give a response or a “no thank you” then the problem has nothing to do with grouping or soloing.

        Anyone who joins a game purely to raid/group/other team thing has to rely on others to complete their team and thus make the content reachable. A soloer… well they are one online person who represents a danger to that group, they are there but not participating because they don’t feel like it. Raids work by having the people there and commited, feelings be damned.

        Some of us don’t feel like raiding.

  7. “But if you join a social guild, every time you are online when someone is trying to organise a guild activity and you could have taken part but you decided not to bother, you are breaking a piece of someone’s heart.”

    This is where I take issue with you. It wouldn’t matter if the solo player was in the guild or not, you’d still have the same number of people at your event. What reason do you have for assuming that non-attendance in your group activity from an avowedly solo player equates to a personal rejection?

  8. Solo does not equal selfish nor does support equate to grouping. The ‘support’ a solo player may enjoy from others may be limited to chit-chat and general advice. Some of the most supportive folks I have had in my guilds have been the ‘solo’ players. One instance in particular the solo player almost never participated in raids but did more farming of mats for those raids than any of the ‘hardcore’ group-ers. She even went as far as to supply potions and food to the guild bank which were distributed to others when needed.

    An MMO game definitely has more content/playtime than
    any single player RPG. The biggest single player games I can think of (in terms of playtime) would be Oblivion or Fallout 3. You can complete the main story line in both games in a matter of days/weeks depending on your play style but MMO content can easily (as in had damn well better) last for months and will typically be expanded on much more often than a single player game. MMO’s usually have more to offer in terms of replay value as well as they may have different starting zones for different races/classes, different quests/storyline for different factions. Most single player games on the other hand are designed to be entirely consumed by a single player and so everything there is to be done is offered up on your first trip through the game which greatly reduces the need/desire to play it again.

    • I agree that solo isn’t the same as selfish. I didn’t mean to imply that. But it is true that solo players don’t need to care about what anyone else is doing (that’s part of the appeal.)

      re: single player games. I really think it depends. If I look at something like Alpha Centauri I had months of play out of that. Only had to pay once though. Granted, Guild Wars is fantastic value.

  9. “But if you join a social guild, every time you are online when someone is trying to organise a guild activity and you could have taken part but you decided not to bother, you are breaking a piece of someone’s heart.”

    That’s actually complete BS to equate that purely to a soloist’s logging off because I’ve seen all too often this very thing occur when someone in the guild requests help from the rest of the guild in a certain instance, or for killing a certain boss for a quest. People just log off. Happens when a raid target is announced that no one wants to do as well. People just log off. So … take responsibility for both sides if you’re going to play that card. It’s not only soloists who hurt the guild by logging off.

  10. Unwize, Wiqd: Fair point, it isn’t only soloers who don’t support guild events.

    But I think of it as a numbers game — any time you organise anything, assume some people will either be busy, not interested, or not in the mood. But if your guild only has a few non-soloer members, the pool from which you can draw is that much smaller. Plus seeing other people not coming might encourage others not to come either.

    So I think it’s a bad thing for any kind of social guild to recruit too many soloers. A few is fine. After that … I think it can hamper the people who actually want to group.

    • “So I think it’s a bad thing for any kind of social guild to recruit too many soloers. A few is fine. After that … I think it can hamper the people who actually want to group.”

      It isn’t a zero-sum situation though, is it? Adding an extra solo player doesn’t effect the number of grouping players your guild contains. If your guild has 10 grouping players, does it make a difference if you have 1 solo player or 100? You still have 10 grouping players regardless.

      I can see why it might be demoralising to have a 10% attendance rate rather than a 90% attendance rate, but ultimately, it is your choice about whether you wish to see that as rejection or not.

      In reality though, truly exclusive solo players who contribute nothing to a guild will be very rare, so they will usually be a minority to such an extent that their effect on community spirit will be negligible.

      • I think for any guild the question ‘what is this guild about and what does it do’ will tend to evolve over time so that it represents what the majority of players want. And if you end up with a majority of people who aren’t interested in attending activities, then they’ll stop.

    • You’re also assuming that “activity” purely means going out and grouping to kill stuff. There are plenty of other guild activities that are possible.

      As for leeching… one of the things I recently helped to do in EQ2 was to level our guild from 53 to 54, and I did it without killing a single creature — purely by chaning a crapton of crafting writs, using materials I’d gathered and bought. How is that leeching?

      I know you may not have meant to say that we’re all selfish bastards who will always put ourselves ahead of whatever community we’re in, but that is nonetheless what you *are* implying — and it’s not only mean, it’s also unfair and inaccurate.

      Sadly, RL now requires me to log in and to RLish things or I would comment more — count yourself lucky! :D

      • I was talking about roleplay events too, it doesn’t have to be just knocking out group quests or instances.

        I’m thinking like this: If I want to play with other people in an MMO (I mean something like roleplaying or grouping to kill things or whatever cooperative gameplay the game provides) and part of the reason I join a guild is to find a pool of people to do it with, then what level the guild is ain’t as important to me as who is in it and whether they might sometime want to group.

        I don’t know EQ2 that well so it may be that an important function of guilds in that game is to provide items to guildies. In the games I have played, that kind of facility is a nice bonus if you can do it, but not really the main reason you join.

        I know I’m focussing hard on social types of player but lots of people like to group and we cannot do it if there isn’t the critical mass in whichever community we congregate.

        I don’t entirely agree with Wiqd that it isn’t a design issue. A game that makes grouping easy and rewarding is one that is more likely to provide people with social gameplay IF they want it. The trick is balancing that with not making it compulsary.

        Choices are good. Soloing is fine. But if MMOs evolve such that most people solo, my way of playing is dead.

      • @ spinks: You can roleplay to your heart’s content without ever grouping. Again, I think there’s a problem with lack of shared definitions here.

      • Foolsage beat me to it. I’m a soloer, and I take part in all kinds of role play events.

        In fact I think grouping detracts from role play events. Grouping excludes the rest of the community, and some of my best role play experience came from having random passersby stopping and joining in on what was going on.

      • Roleplaying is pretty wide, true. It can mean anything from random RP with people you pass in the street (/em smiles and waves as she walks past) to carefully plotted storylines and deep character progression, or even ERP.

        But if it takes up a fair proportion of your time and involves building up relationships, then I woulnd’t call you a soloist. Because you are playing with others. It does however usually involve characters being in the same physical location (in my experience).

      • Aha!

        Bingo!

        I think we just identified the crux of our disagreement. I call myself a soloist because I do not Group (often). I never said I don’t interact with people. In fact, to be fair I’ve pointed out (maybe it was at Ysh’s) that I do interact with people all the time.

        You might have missed my last comment there. Let me copy & paste part of it:

        ————-
        I also don’t think you really understand what a person means when they say they Solo. It doesn’t mean we don’t interact with other players. It doesn’t mean we won’t help out a guildie (or a stranger) in need. It doesn’t mean we walk past someone being overcome by mobs, leaving them to die. Of course we jump in and help. It doesn’t mean we don’t help when our Realm assaults the other side. We join the fight. We just don’t click the GROUP button. We still heal other members of our side. We still defend people. We still trade with people, we still interact with people all the time.

        What we don’t do is enter into a social contract that says “I’m willing to be part of this Group construct whereby if I decide I’m done playing for the evening, my leaving the Group will adversely impact your enjoyment of the game.”

        I don’t want the guilt of leaving people in the lurch, and I don’t want to feel like I “have” to keep playing or screw up someone else’s enjoyment.

  11. I think you’re trying to produce controversy where there is none. Why would a soloist join a guild in the first place UNLESS they had a specific reason, which is usually knowing people in the guild and therefore having the precluded knowledge that they wouldn’t be at most of the events?

    A pure soloist won’t be recruited into a guild for any other reason than to get guild rewards should there be some. I know some people did this in EQ2 and yes, they were viewed as leeches and kicked out. But that was purely because they didn’t do anything to actively help the guild. They didn’t do writs for status or turn in status items or raid to kill bosses for status, yet they took the guild level for themselves and bought rewards because of it. Those, are leeches.

    In your scenario: The soloist wouldn’t be caught dead in a guild, even for social reasons because it serves no purpose. The guild would be foolish for recruiting a pure soloist in the first place if they wanted someone social. The soloist may contribute to the guild, but now what you’re saying is that as a guild leader, you want to monopolize peoples’ time. What they actually give to a guild isn’t important, it’s all about the face time, which is a HORRIBLE argument and a HORRIBLE outlook to have as a guild leader.

    You should know who you’re recruiting first and foremost. You should NEVER try to monopolize peoples’ time. It makes you look petty, selfish and starved for attention.

    Of course I mean “you” as any guild leader ;)

    • “Why would a soloist join a guild in the first place UNLESS they had a specific reason”

      I was kind of going from Syp’s argument, which was that a soloer could join a guild for the guild chat and the support network. I got a sense of ‘haha, you can have it all! Get all the benefits without having to hang out with other people.’ and that’s where I was, ‘uh, hang on a minute.’

      I think as a guild leader, you should have an idea of what your guild’s main goals and activities are and avoid recruiting people who don’t share them.

      • That I can agree with. But you have to look at it as … If I’m a soloist, am I just going to go and join any guild I come across for support and a chat network? Probably not. It doesn’t behoove my playstyle and the very things that piss me off about grouping and raiding and guilds will probably come to pass.

        Now, if I know someone IRL or from another game who’s started / running a guild, I may join them simply because we’re friends out of the game. I may never see anyone or talk much in guild, but I can keep in contact with him / her should I choose to a lot easier AND the things I CAN do for the guild will benefit them.

        I seriously doubt there’s a pure soloist who joins a guild PURELY for the chat. There’s usually some underlying motive to do so that makes joining the guild worth it. An understanding, if you will, between the soloist and the guild leader that states “I’ll join your guild because you’re in it and you’re my friend, but I probably won’t be doing much in the way of guild activities.”

      • Again… your only definition of “hanging out” is in a group, killing stuff.

        A little narrow. Does me providing storage items, house items, bags, clothing, armour, all manner of other gear, help, support and advice not count as being productive for my guild? Is it ONLY productive if I’m in a group with guildies and we’re killing mobs? Pish.

        It seems to me you’re judging this purely from your own perspective and situation — and from the guild you’ve described and the raiding you do, I readily agree I probably wouldn’t fit. To go from there to saying that the me/guild relationship is one where *I* am the only one who benefits is — again — inaccurate.

  12. I’ve been in guilds in the past, even led one for a couple of years when I first started playing WoW. I joined a raiding guild in BC to see end-game content, but ended up leaving them shortly after WotLK released.

    Why? They were a great bunch of people, and I had a number of friends among them. “It’s not you, it’s me.” I’m a solo kind of person, in real life and in games. I have a few friends I will occasionally spend time with, but most of the time I prefer to be by myself.

    I find myself making up excuses and lies to get out of raiding because I just don’t feel like it tonight. I find myself getting increasingly annoyed at the conversations going on in guild chat that I don’t feel welcome in. (I keep General and Trade channel turned off on all my characters anyway because I’m not a fan of mindless drivel, I figure if I’m turning off guildchat I might as well not even be there.)

    I ended up getting all my best-in-slot gear before 3.1 anyway via an excellent regular PuG group, and made my own guild that only contains my own alts and those of my fiance and my best friend, for the sole purpose of shared guildbank space. But I have no intentions of trying to make it into a larger guild that raids together or anything. I tried that once, and it turned the game into a job.

  13. If you assume that all guilds are raiding guilds, and that the only activity of any importance in MMOs is raiding, and that nothing else that players can do to or for each other besides raiding is of any meaning, then sure, you’re quite right. Soloists don’t contribute anything and are leeches, but that’s because of your very narrow and restrictive definitions.

    I don’t make any of those assumptions though, and don’t share your definitions. It seems like a lot of other posters don’t either.

    I’m interested to hear your thoughts on my post about soloing but I don’t wish to repost the whole thing here.

    • I think soloists do contribute, just the things they contribute can be done just as easily by non-soloists. And the thing is, even in non raiding casual guilds, a lot of people want to do stuff together occasionally.

      I really think our definitions of soloist are different though, foolsage (which is what I’ll go say on your blog too :) ). To me, it’s pretty standard for people to want to solo sometimes and group other times. Some nights, you’re just not in the mood. When I say soloist, I really mean people who have no interest in grouping with others at all. They want to play solo in a virtual world full of other people doing their thing.

      I say good luck to them. But if I am a social player, I don’t want to be in a guild full of soloists.

      • Those who fit your relatively narrow definition of “soloist” wouldn’t even be *in* a guild in the first place. ;) You win that point… but only with that definition.

  14. Just so I’m getting this right — what you’re essentially saying is that the only really *desirable* playstyle is the grouping one. Because yes, people who like to group need other people to play with who also like to group, whereas people who play by themselves (however sociable they’re being in many other ways) don’t.

    That, however, is NOT the soloer’s fault. Sure, it sucks when you can’t find people to play with, but saying that soloers should change how they play so that groupers can get what they want is just as ludicrous as saying groupers should just suck it up and learn to solo.

    Most MMOs these days can be readily played in groups and readily played solo. To assume that people only solo when they can’t find groups, or only solo because they’re deluded and misguided and should be educated that grouping is the only REAL way to contribute — all those are facile. Games can be played many different ways by many different people. Some people like football (American or otherwise), some people like tennis, and some people like to play chess against themselves. Are we now going to tell the soloers/duoers in RL that they really need to stop being such awful leeches and just learn to play with everyone who likes football? That’s silly.

    And no, MMOs are NOT one giant virtual football game — they’re complex enough these days that they offer activities and enjoyment for whatever -vert one might be. (Speaking of which, that’s also a little broad. I have very extroverted days and very introverted days, and on the whole I’d put myself somewhere in between, on average.)

    I’m also going to object one last time to the notion that unless one is in a group, doing what the grouping people want, one isn’t contributing to the community. I’ve helped out scores of people over the years, ranging from random gifts to hours-long corpse-recoveries, escort runs, farming sessions, crafting help and advice, materials support, and so on. Just because I don’t join a group so we can quest or raid for four hours solid does not make me a non-contributor to my local, server, or indeed meta-game community.

    All that being said, it’s pretty clear to me that you’re judging this entirely from the perspective of a raiding guild and a raid leader. I understand your frustrations in that respect, but pinning lack of interest, apathy and lack of social interactions on soloers is specious — I have guilded with god knows how many supposedly gregarious raid- and group-types only to discover that the only time they EVER contribute is to roll on loot. How is that productive for the community?

    • “To assume that people only solo when they can’t find groups, or only solo because they’re deluded and misguided and should be educated that grouping is the only REAL way to contribute — all those are facile.”

      OK, hang on. That’s really and truly not what I said.

      What I wrote was, “I don’t have a problem with the playstyle. I still think it’s great that MMOs can cater to all sorts. And I do have friends in my guild who mostly solo because of RL issues, and we love having them around.”

      I think we’re talking past each other so I’m going to leave this now.

      • Heh aye, sorry — I was taking out an old peeve here, that had nothing to do with what you wrote. Or rather, I read A and it reminded me of B and I jumped to B in my comment. Should have said so.

        That said, I’ve been told the above — many solo/friendly types have, which might be why we get so twitchy when the discussion comes up.

        To disagree with me is fine. To tell me I’m deluded is just going to make me even more contrary. :D

  15. I’m a bit late to the debate, but…don’t rethink, Spinks! Your original post was spot on, as far as I’m concerned. A guild is founded on mutual cooperation. If you want others to help you achieve your goals, then you’ve got to be prepared to sacrifice your own time and help out your guildies in return.

    I’m not sure if everyone realizes how much effort goes into running a guild. Essentially, the job of a guild leader is to create opportunities for people to have fun. If you’re not organizing regular group activities that satisfy both the relatively casual and the relatively hardcore guild members…well, people are going to /gquit. Scheduling raids and getting them started and keeping them moving and replacing people and distributing loot and resolving disagreements…that’s WORK. You should be able to put “guild leader” or “raid leader” on your resume, because it definitely counts as work. As a guild member, I try to reciprocate by grouping up whenever I’m needed. (Probably not a coincidence that I play a healer.) I’m just glad my guild is full of people who are always up for running a 5-man, a 10-man, whatever.

    And when I’m in the mood to solo? Well, that’s why I’ve got a couple of unguilded toons on another server…

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  17. Simple analogy:

    4 kids in a park. One says let’s play 2v2 football. 2 say Yes. One says “sorry I just want to read my book.”

    That is, I think, what Spinks is talking about.

    And it’s very much a game design thing as well as a guild thing. I know a WoW raid guild with about a hundred max level members that raids with 25 of them at a time. Most people don’t get raid spots but aren’t too fussed. No one is ever letting the side down by refusing to raid because they have recruited for massive redundancy.

    Other guilds cut things right down to the wire. If someone doesn’t log on or worse logs on but refuses to join the team everyone else’s night is ruined. That’s clearly not much fun in the long-term.

    • Yup, that’s pretty much it.

      Imagine that for any random kid, they’ll have:
      50% chance to want to do something on their own, 25% chance to want to play football, and a 25% chance they’ll want to do something else with other kids that isn’t football.

      So if you are a kid and want to play football, there needs to be at least 12 other kids in the park to give you a good chance that you’ll get a game together (I’m not working out the probabilities :P ). If you just want to play with other kids and don’t much care what you do, you may have a higher chance of getting together but it’s not guaranteed — depends how many people they need for their activity of choice.

      If one of the kids takes on the role of organising regular games, or even a league, then your chances of getting a game rocket upwards, as long as you can make their schedule; /their/ chances of getting a game get even higher because they organise around a schedule they know they can make.

      Now, if the park authorities install an awesome new pinball arcade, some of those kids who wanted to play football may instead want to play pinball. That lowers your chance of getting a football game together.

      • I was really trying to resist getting pulled back in…

        So 4 kids. 1 wants to read a book.

        1) So you call him names: “Hey leech, get the hell out of here!” And he gquits and goes home.

        2) Now how are you better off? You still have 3 people for your football game.

        Calling people names because they don’t adhere to your approved play style is just rude. Plain and simple.

        Or, turn it around.. say there are 5 kids for a 2 on 2 game. If they all hate reading books, someone is going to get left out. If one of them is a Solo kid, he’ll say “That’s cool, I’ll go read a book instead, you 4 play.” and now eveyone is happy.

  18. I agree that low social members do not mix well with high social members in large guilds.

    Consider two scenarios:

    1. Guild with 20 highly social members, you log on hoping to do some social activity (grouping, teaparty, whatever), but noone else is on.

    2. Guild with 20 highly social members, and 20 less social members. You log on, and only the less social members are online. You propose a highly social activity. Noone is interested.

    One might reasonably claim the two situations are equivalent. But as a matter of psychology and morale, the latter case is much more demoralizing. You ask to do something social, and everyone refuses. Yes, yes it’s quite arguably irrational to be demoralized in the latter case, but morale does depend on rational considerations.

    The other issue is while soloists might not be leaches, they can make it harder to identify leaches. Suppose the guild does raid A once a week, which drops great cleric gear, and raid B once a week, which drops great wizard gear, but both clerics and wizards are needed for raids.

    (The example doesn’t have to be raiding. It could be teaparties and costume contests, where you need high attendance for both, but some people are excited about teaparties, while others are excited by costume contests, and the bargain is those who go to one should go to the other, benefiting both groups)

    A cleric who only goes to cleric raids is a leach. Similarly, a wizard who only goes to wizard raids is a leach. Someone who doesn’t go to any raids at all is arguably not a leach. But if you are trying to organize a particular raid, it can be hard to tell if someone is refusing to raid because they are only willing to go to raids that benefit him, or because they don’t like to go to raids at all. It’s an extra logistical hurdle for raid organizer, and potentially demoralizing for people who do go to both raids to see online clerics who do not do wizard raids (and again, it doesn’t have to be a rational reaction)

    • Once again, you’re just speaking about the population of a “raiding” or “grouping” guild. Extending the argument to an MMO’s population as a whole is a bogus argument.

      • I’m not though. I’m just making the assumption that most people join a guild because at some point they’d like to group with others. Not all the time. Not 5 days a week raiding. Just … “Hm this game lets you do stuff with other people. I’ll find a guild, maybe they’ll do that sometime.”

  19. “every time you are online when someone is trying to organise a guild activity and you could have taken part but you decided not to bother, you are breaking a piece of someone’s heart”

    Give me a break.

    So if there was
    1) a little checkbox when you log in that lets you appear offline to your guildies only, that would solve all the problems?
    2) no maximum guild size

    … would you still not want solo players in your guild? What would be the down-side?

    • There’s a reason I titled this “tragedy of the commons” and not “don’t let solo players in your guild”, and it’s to do with proportions. Most casual type guilds don’t explicitly pick goals or say what they are about. Eventually, the guild defines itself through what most of the members want to do. With a large and wide ranging guild, there probably will be support for a wide range of interests, and that’s a good thing. I think a variety of members and interests protects a guild (ie. if one activity or clique implodes, there are lots of alternatives).

      But if the majority of members prefer one style of play, then expectations start to shift. Even with no max guild size, if the majority of members want to solo then it becomes a more solo centric guild. Not a problem until you realise that most of the core community building in guilds usually comes from a core who tend to play together. Communities change and shift over time, but I really think most people join a guild with the expectation that they may want to group with guildies at least some of the time. If that becomes more difficult or stops being a focus then you’ll stop attracting that kind of player and the core community can’t hold together. If people didn’t want a core community then that’s fine ofc.

  20. @cydmab

    The distinction between high and low social members is a good one.

    When I drafted up the rules for my now defunct WAR guild, I instinctively accommodated low social players, because depending on my mood, I often trend towards that end of the scale myself. Yep, I’m obviously going to favour an ethos that suits my own preferences!

    The idea was to enshrine self-determination as the most important principle in guild life. If you want to group, you have to make the effort to join one or set one up yourself. If you find that despite your efforts there just isn’t enough interest in grouping activities, then ultimately, you should be looking for another guild.

    My vision for the guild was simply to form a community of like-minded WAR players, with guild chat, voice chat and forums to facilitate that. I assumed that most people wanting to play WAR would not be averse to grouping, which turned out to be the case, but at no point did I want anyone to feel obliged to do so.

    Perhaps a game like WAR needs a more pro-active approach to grouping from a guild’s leadership, but the issue of whether my approach was successful is muddled by the fact that most of our members’ left the game because it simply wasn’t good enough. We certainly attracted a lot of players in the early days, suggesting that there are plenty of people out there seeking a hands-off leadership approach that emphasises individual responsibility.

    So, perhaps the key to all this is ensuring that prospective members are made explicitely aware of the kind of guild they are applying to. You can’t complain about a glut of solo orientated members if the guild rules you signed up to explicitly accommodate that playstyle, and you can’t complain about being pressured to group if you join a raiding guild.

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  22. A lot of the difference between someone who prefers to solo and someone who prefers to group up comes down to their motivations and rewards.

    I’m a solo’er. I don’t really like grouping, and will avoid it whenever possible. However, I am a raid leader for my guild. Why? Because I think that people in a position of authority should be competent in their position. I saw a complete lack of people able to disect an encounter well enough to lead a raid and make adjustments as needed. So when our second ten man group was forming up and heading into Naxx, I stepped up to lead it.

    My motivation? The guild would lose members if someone that knew what they were doing didn’t step up to lead the group, and while I don’t really want the job, I’d certainly do a better job that that guy over there.

    My reward? The feeling of success as we down each boss. The pride when a chronic void zone victim finally moves without being told. Seeing my fledglings turn into competent raiders in their own right. The knowledge that most of these people now have the capability to step in and lead the raid, if I couldn’t make it.

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