The Forsaken

WarlockDuring the past year, I've spent significant time with two MMORPGs: City of Heroes and World of Warcraft.  By "significant time" I mean something far less than the typical author here would mean: my top avatars in each are under level 20 (aka ub3r I am not).  But since these two particular games were designated by Computer Gaming World this month as top games of the year (WoW winning best game and CoH, oddly, winning best MMORPG), I though I'd offer a casual gamer's comparison and some thoughts.  My main reaction is that unless you're a power gamer, World of Warcraft is a comparatively solitary place--especially for an undead warlock.

My /played value for both games amounts to a handful of evenings every month -- far far less than the oft-quoted 20 hour per week average for MMORPG players. So joining a serious guild or some other virtual clique in either game is out of the question.  But with City of Heroes, this is no impediment to social interaction -- casual grouping is the norm and nobody turns down an extra tanker for a quick mission.  And when you group in City of Heroes, the social aspects seem deeper than most MMOGs, in part because the customization features mean that just looking at costumes tells you something about your fellow players.  Also, in CoH, the virtual spaces seemed designed to encourage a sense of social activity -- going back to level up with Ms. Liberty in Atlas Park feels like going back to the living room in LambdaMOO.  There are always a bunch of people there hanging out in public -- it's a real community space.

Cgwmarch05covWorld of Warcraft is different.  I'm playing a Forsaken warlock and I have yet to be invited to join a casual group.  I also have no choice but to look very similar to every other undead player.  And I have yet to see anything approaching the social space that is Atlas Park.  Sure, there have been interesting places and moments--e.g., co-defending Brill from some random Night Elves or sharing a Goblin dirigible ride with some l33t d00dz--but they have been brief and far between.  Which makes me think that Computer Gaming World is right--while World of Warcraft is certainly a great computer game (the graphics are fantastic, the grind is so slight it's negligible, the creativity is amazing), City of Heroes is the better MMORPG.  And part of this goes back to what Nate and Damion have been talking about, I think, along the lines of worldy v. gamey MMOGs. City of Heroes feels and plays more like a society, whereas World of Warcraft feels and plays more like a movie with high production values that just happens to involve other visible people.

There's probably something else going on, though, that deserves a mention.  I wonder if at least some of the sounds of silence emanating from Brill might have to do with the undead "race" I'm playing?  The Forsaken certainly are not the most popular "race" to play.  I've dabbled with the highly-popular Night Elves, and it seems to me that the people who play Night Elves are, on the average, actually a little more chatty than the undead.  Doesn't this naturally follow?  People are going to self-select the "race" that matches their personality type, because (as Richard has said backstage here) "it's a train ticket to self-actualization central." If you're a Bartle-type "socializer," you'd prefer an avatar and society that meets your needs.  The Night Elf has the sought-after visual appeal.  They even hang out in a meditative, wind-chimey, new-agey picnic land with Pottery Barn furnishings that you just know would smell of sandalwood and/or potpourri.  Perhaps this explains in part why, when I tried a night elf out, my first impulse was to escape back to the mainland.  On the other hand, if you're, say, somewhat anti-social, you'd naturally gravitate toward the Forsaken. See, e.g., penchant for black, elitist disdain for the living, constant gloom and gallows humor.  When you make that first "race" choice, whatever it is, you're then tossed into a starting realm filled almost exclusively with other people who made the same choice.

Any thoughts about the "racial" subcultures in WoW?  There are probably similar identity dynamics in Dark of Camelot -- I've met rather rabid DAoC Hibernians, for instance, who think that their allegiance to that realm has something to do with being Irish.  I should note that, for what it's worth, it seems there are a statistically disproportionate number of undead and warlocks in the game studies crowd.  But I won't name names.


Comments on The Forsaken:

Mike Rozak says:

Shhhhh... You'll clue in all the Tolkien-raced MMORPGs that they aren't providing enough racial differentiation.

Although I think WoW could even include more racial differentiation... How about lizard (wo)men, an insect-like race from Arduin Grimore (a pen-and-paper RPG from way back), or the mechanical race from Eberron (D&D world), or the classical cat/wolf/animal (wo)man (WoW has Tauren), or intelligent shades of blue (Hitchhikers guide)?

A related technique that WoW uses is that new players start out in a small village, all villagers of the same race, and do quests for the village. Then, they move to the "big city" of their race, and do quests for the city. Then, they move out of their racial area and mingle with either the hoarde/alliance and do quests for them. Its a good way to ensure idenfication within a group, and an impetus for quests... "Save our/your village from the evil marauding hoards by delivering this envelope!" is much more compelling than, "Deliver this envelope to the tailor and I'll give you $10."

Posted Mar 4, 2005 5:35:13 PM | link

Jamie Fristrom says:

Being antisocial and filled with ennui was only part of the reason I played the undead in WoW - the main reason was that undead was something different.

Posted Mar 4, 2005 6:05:45 PM | link

Thabor says:


In WoW the choice of my primary avatar was determined mainly by visual appeal, and the value of the special racial characteristics.. IE: I'd rather stare at a well drawn female with stats well suited to my preferred playstyle (rogue) than a dead guy with part of his jaw missing, who's good at holding his breath..

Its not just social selection though, its also a degree of min/maxing. Probably one of the most valued characteristics of the night elf, is the speed bonus for corpse runs.

I would characterize dwarves as the most social, and that seems to follow naturally from some of the world characteristics. Ironforge is a hub for alliance travel, and commerce. Night elves are geographically isolated from their capitol, the only thing really uniting for them is PvP.. Astranaar seems fairly social because it frequently gets attacked by the horde.

All that non-withstanding, I think you'll find that dynamics shift as primary characters max out. Players start to use different character races, if only for some variety in content. Unless you are truly restricted to one race/class across the entire game I don't see the distinctions as being very informative.

Posted Mar 4, 2005 6:28:39 PM | link

Will Jordan says:

I'm surprised that you haven't yet found much of a community center in WoW. Have you ventured to the main cities yet (Ironforge for alliance, Orgrimmar for horde)? These cities, and especially the auction houses, are where most of the server-wide social interaction and player economy is found.

5-man groups don't start until you're about level 25 and you need to begin entering the first instance dungeons specifically designed for groups. From then on, you can expect to find yourself needing to network a little more regularly, but not all the time. Similarly, raids (6-40 person groups) don't start until you're at least level 55 (I didn't join my first raid group until after I was 60).

It's been my experience that very little matters on the server-wide scale until you're level 60, which is when the heavily strategic 40-man raid groups on the high-level instances begin. At that level there's little else you can do that doesn't require joining a larger group. Now that the game has been out for several months, most 'ub3r' guilds won't even look your direction unless you're already level 60 (at least this is true on the Warsong server), so that's really when the heavy social interaction begins.

Posted Mar 4, 2005 9:03:46 PM | link

Marty says:

Do you send out random group invitations? Do you monitor the Looking for Group channel?

Honestly, I haven't done a whole lot of pick-up groups since I joined my current (third and final) guild, somewhere around level 30. I really don't recall what it was like before then. Nor am I very familiar with the group potential of a warlock. Hardly see 'em.

Another thing to think about: Population. The Horde is horribly outnumbered on every server. There just aren't as many players running about on that side. The popularity, if you can call it that, I attribute to the fact that folks that tend to like Alliance races are almost morally repulsed by the Horde races, while Horde fans don't feel as strongly against the Alliance. My friend joined WoW and wanted to be a Night Elf so bad that there was no point in arguing ... so I went along, and I'm a Night Elf. I'm sure there are many more cases like that.

Posted Mar 4, 2005 9:20:05 PM | link

greglas says:

Will> Have you ventured to the main cities yet?

Yeah, I've been to Ogrimmar a few times, and it seems populated enough. But there's a difference between populated and social.

Marty> Do you send out random group invitations? Do you monitor the Looking for Group channel?

Well, no. But to be clear, though I'm singing the praises of CoH to some extent for making a more social game, I'm not personally looking to group or socialize in WoW just for the sake of grouping and socializing. I'm just observing a difference between CoH and WoW in how things seem to pan out. You can have game architectures that encourage you to interact with others, work to enable it, and nudge you in that direction -- or you can have ones that discourage it. City of Heroes is much more the former and that was fun. World of Warcraft feels to me a little more of a solo game, and it's still fun. But it seems to neglect the "massively multi-player" bit of the reason for the genre.

Re the relative population of Forsaken affecting things -- yes, the Alliance races (esp the Night Elves) seem to be much more popular than the Horde races from all the stats I've seen. The least popular race is the trolls, I think. Just based on that, my hunch is that there's got to be something to the idea of identification with the race -- even if Thabor says it's all about min-maxing and corpse retrieval speed from the power gamer perspective.

And re the high end game being more social -- I've heard that too and it must be true, but I'm just not that ub3r yet nor will I likely be that ub3r anytime soon.

Posted Mar 4, 2005 10:59:49 PM | link

Brask Mumei says:

I've always felt that name filters are a bad idea. I *want* the idiots of the world to self-select themselves out of my viewspace! Disguising B0ned3wd as Brangarius doesn't change the player on the other side.

- Brask Mumei

Posted Mar 5, 2005 1:12:44 AM | link

Nick Cassidy says:

There are couple things to consider here...

One, WoW was designed to allow the "grind" to be at somewhat of a minimum in comparison to classic MMORPGs. Being that this is the case, the necessity for group interaction is lower being that the only necessity to group is when completing instance zones. Keep in mind that as Horde, other than Rage Fire Chasm the next instance zone available isn't until mid 20's (Wailing Caverns). So the situation isn't lack of comrade, its lack of time committed within the world.

The second thing you mentioned pertained to Undead being the least played race. Actually server wide the Undead are bar none the most played race on the Horde side. Race discrimination, although interesting, isn't the case by any means. In fact the reason being that Undead are the most populated is attributed to the fact that they tend to be sought after as the best Horde casters available.


Posted Mar 5, 2005 3:59:08 AM | link

greglas says:

Nick> The second thing you mentioned pertained to Undead being the least played race.

Well, I didn't mean to imply that they're the *least* played -- they're popular among the horde, and it looks like they're actually more popular than gnomes. :-)

But I'm relying on things like this:

http://www.wowcensus.com/overall_stats.php
http://www.warcraftrealms.com/census.php

So I don't know how close those come to the actual figures.

Nick> In fact the reason being that Undead are the most populated is attributed to the fact that they tend to be sought after as the best Horde casters available.

Quoting Nick Yee here: "Players think of and relate to their avatars in very different ways. Some choose to identify and personify their avatar with their own personality, while others objectify their avatar and see it as a pawn in an abstracted playing field."

http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/000431.php

Posted Mar 5, 2005 7:03:54 AM | link

Jez says:

Rather averagely, I'm a Night Elf Druid, but I have to say my perception of interactions with other races totally changed once I got a level 21 quest that allowed me to explore more of the Alliance territory and even some of the Horde areas. Interacting with Horde players purely through emotes is fun; defending Astranaar from a huge group of level 30-40 Tauren and Orcs was less so; going straight into Human and Dwarf territory to do higher level quests was particularly fun as I got to meet people with a whole new set of skills, and the Looking for Group channel buzzed nonstop. I've done a huge number of quests in groups and most of the time I've been the only NE in those groups. So, perhaps the original author should try levelling up a bit and then re-analysing the situation? I certainly found life very different after level 20. It shouldn't feel like such a milestone, but it did :-)

Posted Mar 5, 2005 8:18:32 AM | link

RedWolf says:

World of Warcraft is an awesome game that I currently totally addicted to, yet at the same time I realise that it feels a lot more like an iteration in the Diablo series than an MMORPG. It has the same quest system, the same skill system, the same item system and the same lack of social interaction. The only real difference is that the server is for 5000 people and not 4.

Hopefully Blizzard will do things to make player co-operation more common. I think the addition of chat bubbles is definitly a step in the right direction. At the moment though, most of my conversations are in guild chat.

Posted Mar 5, 2005 9:04:40 AM | link

Richard says:

Greg -- I'm interested in your comment about game researchers being undead warlocks in WoW. Any guess as to the preferred classes/abilities in CoH?

Controllers might be a good place to start...

Posted Mar 5, 2005 11:44:09 AM | link

Lisa Galarneau says:

Nick: One, WoW was designed to allow the "grind" to be at somewhat of a minimum in comparison to classic MMORPGs. Being that this is the case, the necessity for group interaction is lower being that the only necessity to group is when completing instance zones.

I don't get this whole idea that encouraging players to group is what constitutes the grind. In my mind the grind is the same small set of tasks played out over and over with little surprise or spontaneity to break up the monotony.

I wrote tons about this very topic a while back. WoW plays like a single-player game to me, as well (and no, I didn't make it to level 20). As Greg says, sure, there's the ability to group, but where's the encouragement to group?

We also had a discussion on mud-dev about whether UI plays an important role in the socialness of a game. Someone suggested that all games have the same basic social functions, but I think this is a huge point of distinction in CoH. The UI makes it so easy to group that the investment is minimal (no standing around trying to group, just set a flag, and go on your way), so the pay-off is greater. As a result, grouping happens a lot from very low levels, often very haphazardly in a way that injects just enough chaos into the mix to keep things interesting. It's the thing that makes what could be a pretty simple, boring game full of instanced missions quite a bit of fun.

And yes, I definitely have a preference for controllers. Uh, and defenders. That's another thing... the variation in avatars makes CoH a much more social game, as well. There's a much more intense feeling of knowing the person behind the avatar, given the level of customisation that is possible... toons can be silly, whimsical, serious, offensive, derivitive, immature, or incredibly clever. As a result, I often feel that I'm navigating through a world of faceless people when I play games where all the avatars look alike, or are small variations on a handful of themes. They just don't have the same soul to me.

BTW, since I know I sound like a hopeless CoH fangirl here, let me say that while it's my favourite MMO at the moment, I think we still have a lot of territory to explore. I don't think it's perfect, by any means. But it's a step in the right direction, at least for the social gamers among us.

Posted Mar 5, 2005 2:31:11 PM | link

greglas says:

Jez> So, perhaps the original author should try levelling up a bit and then re-analysing the situation? I certainly found life very different after level 20.

I would level up, were I to have the time. :-)

RedWolf> ...it feels a lot more like an iteration in the Diablo series than an MMORPG

Yeah, and I got the feel from something Dave Rickey said on a prior thread that it might have been designed that way too. Great stuff to play, but not the greatest MMORPG around today. What I hope is that the developers don't think that the game's success has something to do with the avoidance of the social dimension.

Richard -- AFAIK, people were all over the board in CoH, mostly following divergent play styles. And like I said, I'm not going to out the other undead warlocks. :-)

Lisa -- Thanks so much for the link, I hadn't seen your essay before, but I agree completely with what you're saying. Esp. with the dislike for the need to self-label as a "casual gamer" -- the vibe I'm getting here is that I've got to get past level 20 to start seeing social dynamics. Which is fine, but since the stats show that most players are playing under level 20, it tells you something about the game.

And I agree about the avatar customization. In WoW I look at another Forsaken and I know that he/she went with jaw or no jaw, but not much more than that. In City of Heroes, most people paid attention to creative costumes, which, for me, added a lot to the game.

I still like WoW a lot. If I Bartle-typed myself I'd probably be 90% explorer. But I'd like to explore a world where social interactions are a significant part of the landscape.

Posted Mar 5, 2005 3:17:11 PM | link

Lisa Galarneau says:

Greg: I would level up, were I to have the time. :-)

Embarrassing confession: I thought really seriously about buying a level 38 WoW character that someone was selling on eBay. Also came with 300 gold or something. Only AUD$160. I thought it was a bargain, but couldn't bring myself to 'cheat' like that (not so much for moral reasons, I was just sure it would be obvious that I didn't know what I was doing!). I've also played my husband's lvl 50 CoH character... It sucks to be a researcher without enough time to build up our own characters! Or maybe the problem is that I just have too many characters going in too many places!

Now I've resorted to observing high-level game play via my study participants. But I'm sure it's not really the same...

Posted Mar 5, 2005 3:49:47 PM | link

Nick Cassidy says:

>Greglas

The census figures I worked from are actually from the devs themselves. wowcensus.com as well as warcraftrealms.com relies on the census UI tool that is distributed with the Cosmos UI. The problem is that the census tool relies on "whoing" players and retrieving information from a separate database. Currently Blizzard's network infastructure is designed to allow for a slight delay between when a "who" command is issued and when a second can receive a response. The problem is that every second census command issued is basically ignored, thus creating inaccurate census parses. This does no however explain why the figures are disproportional to the actual numbers, but it does point to an inherent flaw. (If you’re interested I can get an up to date census from the devs when I get a chance.)

In regard to the quote by Nick Yee... I tend to agree when the distinction between race choice is only based on aesthetics or minimal race advantages. The difference is that Blizzard has designed races such that each has its own inherent benefits to certain classes. I'm not saying this is a new concept to MMO's, but it's weighted more heavily than games past. Whether it be a race specific ability or race specific class spells, theses benefits have a tendency to outweigh aesthetic preference or minimal race advantages when selecting a class / race combination. To reiterate, I’m not saying that Nick's point is false, I'm saying that Blizzard is imploring players to make race decisions based on multiple factors rather aesthetics or marginally small advantages; And that many times these decisions are a result of these advantages being out of proportion with other race / class combinations. Undead just seems to fall under this category nicely, call it imbalance of game mechanics.


>Lisa Galarneau

I enjoyed your feedback and I'll push some of your thoughts on to the devs. Basically the inherent need to group in WoW is two fold.

First, it allows players to receive quest drops simultaneously with each kill. Meaning it reduces the need to kill a quest npc multiple times for the same quest essential drop. (In turn reducing the time necessary to complete quests) This is an extreme advantage to any of you that have experience the hell that is completing quests in Everquest.

Second, as said before, groups are essential in completing 5 member instance groups as well as 40 member instance raids. Honestly the issue that you experience concerning instances is attributed to the lack of levels acquired. Although this does perhaps raise the question of lack of group instance content at lower levels.

-Nick Cassidy

Posted Mar 5, 2005 7:51:59 PM | link

Nathan Combs says:

Greg>

City of Heroes feels and plays more like a society, whereas World of Warcraft feels and plays more like a movie with high production values that just happens to involve other visible people.

In EQ2, I recently made mid-teens. To this point, the quest ladder made it unnecessary to really interact with any other players. I think I was only forced to group twice to "crack" a couple of quests - for very limited amount of time.

Aye, CoH feels more social, but to my experience its social spelled "stilted": too much rushing off to those instanced battles where things happened too fast to really converse with anyone 'cept in SMSese. The virtues of those "long journeys" of worlds of yore, which have become increasingly streamlined with every new MMORPG rev, it seems.


Posted Mar 5, 2005 8:19:14 PM | link

Brian 'Psychochild' Green says:

[S]ince the stats show that most players are playing under level 20, it tells you something about the game.

Be careful with those stats! For example, I have about 3 characters between levels 15-20... and one level 60 character. So, although this small sample shows that 75% of the characters are under level 20, things might not be what they first seem. For the record, I've done a fair amount of grouping with those characters with guildmates that I played with up to level 60 on my primary character. Looking at pure stats can be misleading.

I think it's interesting to observe that most people seem to be talking about "game vs. world" in social terms. In gameplay terms, I think that CoH is more "game" and WoW is more "world". There's a lot more depth to the world in WoW with items, tradeskills, trading, economy, and all that frill. CoH, at least when I played it, was very simple in the gameplay department. Go beat up bad guys and upgrade your powers as you gained the appropriate levels and enhancements, all with almost no economy to speak of. Yet, I can completely agree with the depth of social interactions and how much avatar customization has to do with these social aspects. Perhaps there's more distinctions than just social interactions and gameplay in the "game vs. world" continuum? Perhaps this isn't the best way to describe social interacts due to confusion with discussing gameplay?

Some thoughts,

Posted Mar 5, 2005 8:50:18 PM | link

AFFA says:

I have an Undead Warlock. Of course, I have six characters now, so I don't think this says anything about (former) game designers. I appreciate the options of a Warlock (it has everything I want in a class--preparation, strategy, and twitch), and I think the Undead quests/zones are somewhat better than the Orc/Troll ones, but I got tired of being shunned. Other players were not as friendly to my Undead character as they were to my other characters.

There may be good reasons for the Undead being shunned (other than the obvious cosmetic ones). At least on the roleplaying servers, some of the Undead do a great job playing cold, wicked, heartless, bastards. For instance, there's going to be a human sacrifice tomorrow evening at 7 PST. I've been thinking of making an Orc or Gnome Warlock instead.

Anecdotally, I haven't noticed much "world vs. game" difference between CoH and WoW. They both seem firmly on the "game" side to me. They are both casual friendly and, at least at low levels, they are both light on socialization.

I do wish WoW had CoH's character customization (among other things), and I wish CoH had WoW's chat interface (among other things). Somewhere between these two games lies half of my Ideal MMORPG. The other half is the "world" side, and I don't think anyone has done a good job of that yet.

Posted Mar 5, 2005 11:43:05 PM | link

Nathan Combs says:

Brian>

Perhaps there's more distinctions than just social interactions and gameplay in the "game vs. world" continuum?

This brings up an interesting question. What is the role of socialization in worlds? Sure groups need to form group dynamics/function need to be supported. But does socialization need to extend to small talk? To small talk about RL? etc.

Posted Mar 6, 2005 9:26:36 AM | link

Nathan Combs says:

I wrote>

role of socialization in worlds

I mean this in the context of "world-y" worlds vs. "game-y" worlds

Posted Mar 6, 2005 9:43:11 AM | link

Gordon Calleja says:

The thing with CoH is that its easy to get into groups, which is a good thing, especially if you cant invest a lot of time in the world. On the other hand I cannot agree that with placing it in the worldy games section simply because it lacks a number of essential elements like an economy and more importantly a geographically varied WORLD, which makes me feel like I m in a very sociable game, not in an interesting virtual world that I can explore.

WoW has the world aspect but like Greg I found that its very difficult to group with people. The only sort of interaction and networking I got going was from trading materials needed for making stuff. Indeed after a few levels this seemed to be the most important thing to do. I found myself spending more time picking flowers and turning them into potions to trade than anything else. Then at some point I realised that I couldnt really get into the main game till the higher levels and simply decided to stop playing, knowing fully well that I didnt have that much time to invest in the world. I'm sure there a lot of other players that get discouraged by this and see it as a major design flaw in the world out of the pointlessness someone like me feels after the initial novelty of the world wears off at level, say 10-12.

Another thing which annoys me to death in WoW is the limited amount of avatar customization. Is it possible that out of all the resources invested in making such a beautiful world such a measly effort was invested in a critical element of avatar identification. The last thing that really bugged me was the lack of input into chracter progression. Not only do I look like every other night elf of the same sex around but I m also very similiar to every other night elf of my class at a similiar level, which makes me feel like I m guiding a factory produced avatar rather than being immersed in a world.

Posted Mar 6, 2005 3:07:32 PM | link

Lisa Galarneau says:

AFFA: I do wish WoW had CoH's character customization (among other things), and I wish CoH had WoW's chat interface (among other things). Somewhere between these two games lies half of my Ideal MMORPG. The other half is the "world" side, and I don't think anyone has done a good job of that yet.

Amen, brother. But here's where I think the problem lies... Many MMORPGs are simply extensions of their heritage in single-player games with a few, arguably basic community features added on. The community/social experience must be designed as central to play, otherwise we'll always have these enviroments where the social stuff feels artificial, contrived, awkward or stilted. So how do we do that? First we have to understand what works and what doesn't in environments where social behaviour has emerged spontaneously. I find it ironic that the greatest examples of this lie in player-developed or player-requested constructs, rather than developer-created ones. Second Life realises this, which is why the developers have enabled the residents to address their own needs. But this doesn't always have to be the case... it's more about anticipating basic social needs and scaffolding new ones on the fly. I'm really not trying to rationalise my academic existence here, but I wonder... do MMOG developers do ethnographic research to understand how people are really playing, grouping, socialising, etc., then use that data to design community/society enabling constructs? If not, what is the point of the massively multiplayer game?

Posted Mar 6, 2005 5:00:34 PM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

Lisa> do MMOG developers do ethnographic research to understand how people are really playing, grouping, socialising, etc., then use that data to design community/society enabling constructs? If not, what is the point of the massively multiplayer game?

They (or some) play, discuss and analyze what players do. Isn't that ethnograpic research?

Good or bad... The most popular MMOs are those that take the single-user approach...

(Btw, many MUDs were/are spontanous-social)

Posted Mar 7, 2005 10:56:45 AM | link

Neil says:

I cringe whenever someone writes about "game architectures that encourage you to interact with others". Game architectures should avoid the "my character needs to be in a group or she get slaughtered" approach. That's the cheap way to do it, and most players would rather see a more single-player-friendly architecture. Designers should make more of an effort to put more "organic" motivations for grouping into a game. Using WoW as an example, here are a couple of examples:

- Horde are slaughtering Alliance in a particular location. Alliance can't perform quests or get to quest NPC's. Call for help on the Local Defense channel. Groups may form.
- One or more character(s) are trying to take on some content that is higher than their level. They could solo this content at a later time, but opt for the challenge. Grouping gives them a better chance to succeed.

Instances feel like forced grouping to me, so I won't list them as an "organic" motivation to group. Grouping is the only way to get to instanced content.

Having soloable characters isn't the problem in WoW that makes it feel like less of a MMOG. There just needs to be more opportunities to be motivated to group with others. Battlegrounds will (apparently) provide this, and the PvP honor system may provide some motivation too. But this is optional content that shouldn't infringe on us players who enjoy playing in a MMOG world alone (ganks excepted) most of the time.

Reading the Groovy thread reminds me why I often don't enjoy being in a group. If grouping was required most of the time, I wouldn't still be playing WoW (and paying the monthly fee...). I abandoned other MMOG's pretty quick because of their grouping "encouragements". Or should I just be playing single-player RPG's...?

Posted Mar 7, 2005 1:42:34 PM | link

James Grosbach says:

The vast majority of my social experience in WoW has been in guild chat. CoH had a much more limitted guild system (limitted, literally, in the number of characters that could be in a supergroup) which pushed the social channels out of that mind-set a bit. In WoW, the limit is much higher (500) and the overall guild interface more robust. The general feeling of the game is much more related to guilds than I observed in CoH.

I very rarely interact much with folks who aren't in my guild, with exceptions being friends-of-friends type networking, but I spend far more time in game socializing and generally just hanging out than I do levelling. For me, and from what I observe, for many of my guildmates, WoW is very much a social game.

That is to say, I think the question is not which game is more social, but rather what is it about the games which cause the social interaction to manifest so differently with regards to where that interaction takes place?

Posted Mar 7, 2005 3:12:34 PM | link

greglas says:

TN friend Clive Thompson writes for Slate about WoW v. CoH, and how they're both good, cites to Dmitri's "/played" entry. Thanks, Clive.

http://slate.msn.com/id/2114354/fr/rss/

Posted Mar 7, 2005 5:42:39 PM | link

Shane King says:

I used to be a MUD player, but WoW is the first MMORPG I've tried, and I have to say, the level of community is almost non-existent compared to the MUD I used to play.

I put it down to a few things:
1) More players, hence less chance of getting to know them all
2) No global chat channel that reaches everyone in the world
3) No easy way to see every single person online at the present time
4) Can't even talk to half the people on the server at all due to faction issues.

All in all it's quite a change. My previous experience was of everyone knowing everyone. Now it's like 10x more people, but I know nobody.

World of Warcraft strikes me as an excellent single player game, which for some reason has unfortunately been made into a MMORPG. I'd actually be happier if it was a single player game, I'd gladly trade the occasional social interaction that goes on for having no lag.

Posted Mar 7, 2005 6:46:30 PM | link

Mike Rozak says:

Brian Psychochild Green wrote - Perhaps there's more distinctions than just social interactions and gameplay in the "game vs. world" continuum? Perhaps this isn't the best way to describe social interacts due to confusion with discussing gameplay?

Do you think there's any correlation between players that like gamey-games vs. worldy-games, and gamey-socialization vs. worldy-socialization?

Posted Mar 8, 2005 1:57:18 AM | link

greglas says:

Brian Psychochild Green wrote - Perhaps there's more distinctions than just social interactions and gameplay in the "game vs. world" continuum? Perhaps this isn't the best way to describe social interacts due to confusion with discussing gameplay?

That's certainly right. Seasonal and other scheduled world-wide changes, modifications to the world that become persistent, complex ecosystems & economies, etc., could all probably be put in the "worldy" category. I haven't played Fable or the Elder Scrolls games, but I take it that's the goal with them -- a more "worldy" solo game experience. But I would say that the minute you add people into the equation, esp. people with some sort of constructive power and a need to interact, you've got a different kind of "worldy" game. It's a potent ingredient, though -- the end point is Second Life or ATITD or a MOO, where the game can get obscured by the world. I thought CoH handled the balance nicely, though I agree with Nate that some of the world depth was missing in CoH. Still, like the Slate article by Clive says, the extreme depth of a game like SWG or the original EQ makes it fascinating to study and fun to play if you want to make the investment, but that kind of depth takes a while to crack and can be rather difficult for the casual gamer to enjoy.

Posted Mar 8, 2005 6:36:03 AM | link

Foopei says:

Im a lvl 54 undead warlock (on Blackhand) and I haven't had too much trouble getting pickup groups. I've been playing 2-4 hours a day since release-I'd call that more or less casual.

Part of the problem in the game is that there is such a variety of things to do at any given moment that you have to spend a little time finding people who want to do the same instance or quest that you do. I also agree the first 20 levels are more or less solo, so once you get beyond that hump it should be more social. As someone mentioned above, the capital cities are the most chatty areas but I've chatted with random people in just about every zone I've spent any significant time in, grinding and questing. That's mainly because I feel compelled to chime in on general chat every time I detect an opportunity to make a wise-ass comment . . .

One thing that helps is that a couple of people have promoted faction-wide chat channels that anyone can join, regardless of zone, for the purpose of raid alerts and looking for groups.

One sociological point I'll add is that I think a lot of people were drawn into WoW from Warcraft III and other Blizzard games, and thus represent a new population to MMORPGs in general, whereas CoH may have drawn more from experienced veterans of EQ, DAOC, etc.

Finally, Wow is adding a new feature in the near future that will make it easier to find groups--'meeting stones' I think they're called. Not sure how they'll work but sounds like a needed improvement.

Posted Mar 8, 2005 11:50:37 AM | link

Bart Pursel says:

I didn't get a chance to read all the comments, so I'll backup to the inititial question about race choice.

For my first character, I chose what class I wanted to play based on 2 considerations:
- What faction are my friends playing (which turned out to be horde)
- What starting location is going to be the fastest area for me to level?

The answer to number 2 was good 'ol tristfal glades and deathknell/brill. Getting to level 10 is painless, then to 20 takes a little more time, then by 20 you hit the barrens where you can turbo level through about 28-30. For my second character, I chose more of a race that I thought was interesting and had some neat emotes and an overall 'feel' that I could associate to...which turned out to be a troll. btw, durator is #2 behind Trisfal glades for lvling/time ration. I then started to play a tauren periodically to see what mulgore was all about...and it's just brutal. Quests are generally more spread out and slightly more difficult then the other starting areas (or that could be due to my char, a druid).

I currently have 4 horde characters on a pvp server, and 1 alliance on a PvE. After getting a taste of each starting area, each new character I create on the horde side will probably be undead. This has nothing to do with personal identification or something, but almost everything to do with speed. O yeah, and one other small consideration when choosing race is how cool the mounts look at level 40 :) For the horde, I prefer the raptors, and for some odd reason I really dig the mechano striders on the alliance side.

Posted Mar 8, 2005 1:42:15 PM | link

Thabor says:


I really don't think you can get an accurate social picture before at least the mid levels. Mechanics are completely different. Its like trying to gauge the social dynamics for CoH based on the tutorial.

By way of note http://www.warcraftrealms.com/census.php seems far more accurate than the other site. I'm judging based on difference between personal observations, and specific stats for the realm I play on.


>I cringe whenever someone writes about "game architectures that encourage you to interact with others

There are postive ways to do this as well, not just the sort of "forced grouping" that comes to mind when you first hear it. One of WoWs biggest failing's and CoH's biggest strengths is the ability to view other party members mission status.

Posted Mar 8, 2005 2:33:44 PM | link

greglas says:

Thabor> Its like trying to gauge the social dynamics for CoH based on the tutorial.

Well, it's more like what it is -- namely, trying to gauge the social dynamics in CoH based on the first 20 levels vs. the social dynamics in WoW based on the first 20 levels. My observations go to that limited experience, and the fact that WoW is fairly solo during that period is something I find interesting.

And again, I'm not completely dissing WoW because of this -- it's still a good game. I'm just saying that it isn't as interesting, socially, as it could be during the first 20 levels.

Posted Mar 8, 2005 2:50:06 PM | link

greglas says:

Hmm... per Nick's data, undead *warlocks* (my class) are generally less sociable sorts (like EQ necros) -- so that makes sense.

http://blogs.parc.com/playon/archives/2005/06/grouping_ratio.html

Posted Jun 17, 2005 6:23:07 AM | link