In which we complain about solo quests in an MMO world

I realised last week that the most frustrating moments for me in MMOs are not losing in PvP, nor being yelled at in a PUG, or having a wipe night in a raid, or being beaten to a mob (in old school games in which that still is a thing). Nope. It is being forced to do a solo quest that I can’t do.

In all of those other situations you can take a break and come back and things will have changed – maybe you’ll get a better random group, or raid makeup, or find a quieter time. Maybe you could grab some friends/ willing strangers to help. But the solo quest is potentially going to block your progress forever. Plus just as it’s frustrating to be asked to find a group if you had been happily soloing, it is annoying to be forced to solo if you’d been duoing or playing with friends.

Mirkwood in LOTRO has issues with this design. It’s still one of my favourite zones, but the epic quest there does love its solo elements. Which can be fun and all when you can do them, and crazy frustrating when you are struggling. Especially if you had been duoing (or playing in a group) and now feel that everyone is waiting for you but no one can help. Arb and I have been enjoying playing our alts through Mirkwood lately, but some of those solo quests are pretty non obvious (yes I’m talking about the one where you have to help a dwarf escape from a prison via using barrels of poison to send some of the other inmates to sleep) – not hard once you know the trick, but non obvious in a frustrating way.  I’m not sure either of us were prepared for how failing a solo quest just makes you want to log off and never play the game again. (At least for awhile).

This is partly the specific quest design – a well designed piece of game will at least give you some clues as to why you failed one attempt and how you can improve next time. But it’s also because an MMO is not the same as an offline game. Most MMOs don’t optimise solo quests for specific classes (SWTOR is the exception) so the difficulty is probably not only fixed but also likely to feel unfair if it doesn’t favour your class strengths. Which is especially frustrating if you had been duoing with someone for whom that isn’t the case. It can make a huge difference if your character has strong AE, or heals, or a pet.

The legendary WoW quest

Speaking of frustrating, I’ve tried to complete the solo stage of the legendary WoW questline (Celestial Blessings) several times on my shadow priest, for both the healing and ranged dps versions. I can’t do it at all. I’ve read tactics. I’m not really interested in trying any more.

So what does this mean really? Aside from killing my enthusiasm (admittedly waning anyway) for this expansion, I guess I’m just not good enough.

I can live with this. I don’t like PvP and I’m not big on trying impressive soloing adventures. I’m a decent healer and dps on my priest but I’m not a great or talented soloer so maybe I don’t deserve cool epic things. What I find more frustrating is  feeling trailed along by this stupid questline all expansion to the point where I will have to give up. When they put in a PvP section to the legendary, people complained but it was actually very non-PvPer tolerant  (just had to win a couple of battlegrounds, which you can pretty much do by queueing repeatedly until random chance gives you a good set of team mates). So how come the solo section can’t be non-soloer tolerant too? Why is this the point where the game decides to get elitist?

I don’t know the answer to that because there is no reason. It makes me feel stupid (for assuming that the quest was aimed at the same level of player it had been from the start), as well as wanting to quit.

How do you feel about solo (I mean forced solo) quests in MMOs? Does anyone else get as frustrated as I do?

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25 thoughts on “In which we complain about solo quests in an MMO world

  1. To have a game at all, there must be tasks where you win or lose based by your actions. “Press any key to continue” is not a game.

    You lost. Get better and you’ll win.

  2. The Legendary Quest is genuinely hard and unless you’ve got full normal or heroic Throne gear, you probably are better off waiting until the next patch. That’s pretty much all there is to it. I’ve got LFR gear and when you get down to it, it’s simply not being able to put out the numbers.

    • IRT the Legendary Quest-it’s kinda funny, I think fewer casual players were upset about Legendaries back when they were locked behind the glass and you had to be handed the key to it by a guild. They knew that ‘hey, I play casually and maybe hit up LFR once in awhile/just chill around with alts/I will never see this thing.’ Now they took it out and put it up on a big wall and said ‘Alrighty, have at it.’ ‘But..I never took climbing lessons.’ ‘Oh well!’ I sometimes think Blizz’s way of trying to ‘appease both audiences’ ends up sometimes working, but sometimes working poorly for both sides.

      As for me, I don’t mind solo stuff. I have a bit of optimizer in me, so I can usually manage to figure something out for it. But I do feel for those who aren’t at a higher play level. I can’t help but feel ‘elite mob quests’ where you need to group(okay, some classes could do them solo) are almost better than ‘very hard solo quests’ in that way. At least with the former, you KNOW you’re supposed to group, and it doesn’t make you feel so bad if you can’t do them. There are times where I think that either A. Games that are fully casual from beginning to end or B. Games that have pretty clear cut ‘you must be this tall to ride’ areas have easier times than a game that tries to be everything but in the process somehow manages to irritate both sides.

  3. I guess it depends on how fair or well designed the quest is. I haven’t played WoW or LOTRO long enough to experience those particular quests, so I don’t know their issue specifically.

    If, let’s say, the quest is skewed to favor a specific class and biased against say, healers or a pet class who can’t control where the heck their pet moves or whatever, then that’s pretty harsh unless the game in question is built around being able to swap alts or character classes at will and flexibly change up your ability to handle the challenge.

    Or if say, the quest is made so that you have to grind stats to be past a certain threshold before you can magically do it without problems, then that’s just dumb. It doesn’t actually improve the skill of a player, just time-gates it.

    When I hear the phrase ‘solo quest’ though, the first thing I tend to think of is something like attempting some of the really hard missions in Guild Wars 1 alone (with or without henchmen / heroes as needed.)

    In this case, the goal is to improve one’s skill at the game by both thinking one’s way through the specific problem (so many bleeds, or so much burning, ow ow ow, therefore I must equip skills that counter that next time) and practising applying that theory. Reading someone’s elses strategy or guide may give one ideas when one can’t think up any more.

    Failing can be frustrating and a roadblock. (In one case, I was effectively blocked for a year or two, but when I finally got enough courage to re-tackle the mission, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I had been having a problem then. In the intervening time, I’d learned and understood more about the game to solve the challenge.) But it doesn’t mean one has to throw one’s hands up and give up for good. It may be worth taking a break for a while then going back to it later. (Probably not as long as I did, of course, I got distracted by a whole new shiny MMO then.)

    Nothing should really be forced on a player though. In theory, it would be nice to have say raid gear be equivalent to the rewards from a hard solo quest so that each player could choose their preferred path to it, Then one could say that defeating the solo challenge requiring a certain performance out of a player is similar to the challenge involved in requiring a certain performance out of each player in a raid too.

    Does it solve the problem of what to do with players not performing up to the expected standard of designers when they made the solo quest or raid? That’s another separate issue entirely and nothing to do with “solo” or “group.”

  4. Forced solo play is as bad as forced group play and the problem becomes that much more marked when a game that was previously emphasizing one suddenly switches to the other. The long solo quest chain that culminates in a battle that requires a group or even a raid is a well-known nuisance going back to the days of Everquest and presumably the MUDs that preceded it. The unexpected solo instance is less-familiar but even more annoying.

    The Secret World suffers from it a little, the most irritating part being the inconsistency. If you’re duoing, as I was for a while at the start, sometimes a questline instance will let both of you in and sometimes it won’t. You don’t find out until you get to the instance, zone in and find yourself alone. It seems logical to me that as long as the reward is unchanged it makes no difference if you do something alone or get help. There seems to be no benefit whatsoever in forcing people either to solo or to group, whereas there are enormous benefits in allowing people a free choice.

  5. Are you also having problems with that solo reputation quest in Mirkwood given by the two dwarves at Thangulad?

    I haven’t been able to reliably complete that quest with any of my characters. I’ve only completed it a few times on my Hunter.

    I’m annoyed by those kinds of quests as well. They are so tightly tuned that a player seems to need a specific class, specific build, specific attacks and positioning to complete it.

    The quest you had problems with is a timing issue. You need to put the enemies to sleep at just the right time, then the dwarf just runs through the rest of the corridor with no enemy in his path. It is annoying, I agree.

    • I’ve never been able to do that solo reputation quest on my main (burglar) either. It didn’t bother me that much because it always felt very optional, although I’d have loved a version tuned for burglars.

      I thought the escape with Dori quest was interesting because you’re right, once you know what you have to do it really isn’t hard at all. The frustration I felt was completely out of proportion to the actual difficulty (which was mostly because they hadn’t made quite a few of the mechanics as clear as they should).

      By comparison, the WoW quest is frustrating because of the difficulty/tuning/lack of useful feedback. And like the Dori quest, it’s a roadblock in a legendary/epic questline.

  6. While it might be too hard at the moment, as Simon said, you can come back again with better gear at some point and beat it that way. Perhaps it is more as Gevlon suggested that you want to just go onto the next stage with a skip button rather than put more effort into beating it.

    It’s very much like Heroic raiding in my view. The top guilds race through the content, while those of us who are less skilled struggle until we have geared up enough to overcome our deficiencies.
    Back in Cata we had over 300 wipes on Warmaster Blackhorn before we finally beat him. The final time we of course had better gear than when we first attempted him, but I don’t feel that we somehow failed because at the start we just weren’t good enough with the gear we had.

    I’m doing the Legendary questline as well, and as I only do LFR these days, it’s put me a long way ‘behind the curve’ so to speak, so at least you have made better progress than I have. I still have a few weeks of collecting runestones to go before I can even try that quest.

    What I find annoying about solo quests is when they are exactly the same no matter what your spec is. To open all of the quests on the Thunder Island, I had to go through those solo scenarios with my healer and I don’t have a dps off-spec at the moment. Now, while I got through them ok, it was incredibly tedious having to dps down 4-5 bosses with 2 million hp each and me only having 10k dps or whatever. That wasn’t fun.

    • “Perhaps it is more as Gevlon suggested that you want to just go onto the next stage with a skip button rather than put more effort into beating it.”

      I would love to skip the difficult boring part that relies on a skillset I have never been interested in, for sure ;) I don’t see that as a personal failure.

      But also I’ve played this game long enough to know when the difficulty isn’t well tuned for me, to the point that there’s no real reason to keep trying until I have better gear or it gets nerfed. It’s a design issue.

      Good luck with the legendary, a lot of it is very fun and I think they’ll nerf this part at some point.

      • I hope they don’t nerf it. It’s supposed to be a legendary quest. How legendary is it if it’s easy? The secret to completing the DPS challenge here is to avoid avoidable damage. Doing damage to the target isn’t very important. Avoiding damage to yourself if. At least as a priest you can heal yourself liberally. As a mage, I have to rely mostly on getting out of the fire.

  7. If you haven’t already, you can try buying the August Celestials’ “buff when near a celestial” item, as well as a pile of the Commendation buffs from the Operation Shieldwall / Dominance Offensive folks in Krasarang.

    I couldn’t quite beat the tank challenge (not enough DPS while maintaining my self-heal per sec as a paladin) without bringing along a Shado-Pan companion, which made it much smoother.

  8. That legendary quest took me quite a few tries on my shadow priest as well, and he’s in itemlevel 545 heroic gear. It’s one of the major flaws of the spec: it does well on stand-and-shoot fights, but is absolutely horrible once movement enters the equation, with only one spell that can be cast on the move, which does pitiful damage. And there’s a lot of movement going on these days: don’t stand in the fire, soak this, run there, run, run, run.

  9. The content is made to keep people from accomplishing it, outside of a small group. Otherwise they’d get ‘lol free legendaries’.

    There exists a certain type of player – who can not enjoy a game unless they can prove they are better than others. To use an example – I take shin megami tensei 4 – recently released for the 3ds. This game has the ability (if you die a few times) to change your difficulty (because it’s known as a ultra-hard core game) – and after you change to ‘easy’ mode you can change back to ‘normal’ at any time, and vice versa. It’s a single player game – there are no achievements – no difference in story, gear, rewards or anything else regardless of how you choose to play – if the normal game is too hard you can still enjoy the game by lowering the difficulty – and if you feel confident or want a harder game change it.

    This simple feature – has some unable to enjoy the game. Again – it’s a single player game with no rewards and/or way to validate your difficulty setting. Yet the simple fact that it is there has some unable to enjoy the game because they feel cheated that someone could play the game and change to ‘easy mode’ for some bosses – while playing the rest of the game on ‘hard’. These same people pine for some kind of trophy, reward, or game notification saying they never changed the difficulty.

    Because ultimately – some people only get enjoyment from activities when they can show they were better than others.

    I believe the gradual slide in WoW to cater to these types of people are what eventually made me loose interest in the game – I play to have fun, and my ‘fun’ doesn’t require that it come at the expense of someone else. I think it’s a design direction that, in the coming years, we will begin to identify as anti-social and games will start to shy away from. I think single player games are already starting to understand this – and I think that MMO’s when they get that feeding that type of player poisons the playerbase – will eventually get it as well.

  10. Given how there are typically far more Questing options than Raid options, and PvP not really offering any options at all (you don’t get to chose your opponents), I don’t see why some solo-content shouldn’t be hard, the more because almost invariably there are ways to improve your characters chances (be it by getting more gear, more levels and/or improving as a player) and often you can also get help from others.

    In other words, people tend to be a-okay with mandatory Group content like Raid content gating Crafting, Lore and the strongest Gear, and such content involving wipes, looking up tactics, consumables and what not, but now balk when there is some suitably interesting ‘lone wolf’ content as well.for those who can’t or won’t commit to scheduling-intensive playstyles.

  11. Pingback: QOTD: Virtual Worlds | MMO Gypsy – Wandering online Worlds

  12. I don’t have a problem with them, personally. I did the rogue legendary questline in Cataclysm and, while challenging (one portion took me about 5 hours to finally get), I found it engaging and was glad that there wasn’t really a way to “game” it short of waiting until I had more gear. I gather the quest for the Firelands legendary staff was similarly challenging to finish off.

    The Celestial fights seem, if anything, more fair since for many toons there are multiple options on how you want to do it. Are they difficult? Sure, and they should be, you’re getting a hell of a reward for succeeding. Within the lore, Wrathion is trying to weed out the weak and only kit out the best of the best. If you can’t do it today, try again later after more gear, or put some more practice in on it. If it’s possible for a WARRIOR to do the dps challenge, it’s certainly possible for a priest to do it.

    And as a fall-back, if you’re not looking for that kind of challenge in the first place then give it a pass. It’s not required content, it’s just there for folks looking for a challenge or those who really, really want the cloak.

  13. I greatly disliked some of the personal questline parts in GW2 until I realized you can get a buddy as bystander to help you. considering I am pro playstyle variety where it doesn’t hurt the greater game (as in some titles or rewards should be group or pvp or raid-only but not others…endgame), I find it unnecessary to enforce solo rules on things like personal or class questlines or lore chapters. why create so much content for only a select bunch of people?

    when it comes to legendary achievements, I guess it depends on how we define difficulty. too often difficulty boils down to “time spent” in MMOs (time spent grinding usually), so there I am more in favor of keeping things unique and special, with hard benchmarks for both time and ‘skill’ – although that latter is usually a matter of time, too. legendaries should really be few and far between.

  14. I got stuck on the rogue legendary quests in DS. In the end, I decided I didn’t care enough about it to find a way past my roadblock. I never got the daggers and I’m OK with that. Legendary quest lines are all optional. Really, in most MMOs and unlike in many single-player games, everything’s optional in time. Eventually the world will move on and running Molten Core becomes a fringe activity.

  15. I had a bit of mental whiplash seeing “solo” and “elitist” in the same phrase but this is an argument that I had in guild when the Isle of Thunder solo quests dropped. I like them, but I like solo content and especially enjoy hard solo content (not that the island quests where hard, more tedious).

    I do, however, understand how you feel. I hate forced group quests and what finally drove me out of GW2 was enduring the hideous “personal” story only to find that I needed to get a group to finish the stupid thing. That really made me feel like I’d wasted hours just enduring the bad writing and inane plotting they put into what, for me, became throw-away content.

  16. The legendary quest chain is intended to keep you grinding and playing. So if the LQC becomes frustrating, my inclination is to strike back at the designers by doing the exact opposite of what they intended I should do: stop playing. I will likely unsub for most of the last tier.

  17. I’m curious, can you really not get a group and the PvP part of the Legenday with a group? Do you have to do it randomly?

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