Soloing – More Than A Requirement

Solo content  is an old argument.  Should a massively multiplayer online game should bother catering to the solo player? 

I thought that the argument had been settled some time back, but then games like Dungeons and Dragons Online release without any solo content and you wonder if anybody has been paying attention.  (Turbine added solo content later, but probably after it was too late to make the game a success.)

So I was glad to see a couple of people pipe in on the subject of solo content lately.

A little over a week back EverQuest II Executive Producer Scott Hartsman was quoted in an interview on WarCry on the topic of solo content.  “Primarily, there needs to be something to do when you?re all by yourself,” he explained.

Last week over on Nerfbat, MMO Development Lesson #12 was that solo content has to be an integral and fulfilling part of any MMO.

As somebody whose in-game time is 80% solo, I agree heartily.  I want to have something to do in-game when my friends are not available.  Being able to solo is one of the things that keeps me playing a game.  Not being able to solo, at least not without great difficulty, was one of the reasons I stopped playing EverQuest.

But there is another aspect to having solo content, something beyond giving you something to do when your friends are not around.

I find that playing solo is really how I get to know a game.  Being able to run off the main path and explore, seeing what is beyond a random hill, interacting with a variety of NPCs, crafting, and experimenting with your characters skills and abilities are just some of the activities that lend themselves to time alone.  These are things you want to do at your own pace.  These are also things that bring you closer to a game, that help you become familiar with the world.

For me to really get into a game, I have to be able to spend a lot of time just poking my nose into things and figuring things out. 

Not that I am down on grouping in any way.  I wish I could find more time to group up and play with my friends.  But a group tends to be mission oriented.  You have limited time together and you want to get things done that you might not be able to manage solo.  That does not lend itself to voyages of exploration. 

When I am grouped up, I want to do things with the group.  Sometimes that can be exploration and learning, but it has a different feel to it. In the end I hate wasting a group’s time to indulge my own curiosity. 

But if a game gives me the ability and provides me the opportunity to solo I am much more likely to feel a part of the game and end up playing (and paying for) that game for a long time.

4 thoughts on “Soloing – More Than A Requirement

  1. Kilanna

    Amen!! I have a passionate view on this point and wont bore you with the long version – but the short version is this:

    There are many reasons why people want/need to adventure solo – sporadic availability of play time, inability to commit blocks of time required for groups/raiding, bad previous experiences, desire to soak in the environment and atmosphere, getting to know your class abilities, and a love of tradeskills among them.

    Even if I mostly adventure solo, I can do that while contributing to relationships in chat chanels while I play, as well as contribute to the growth of my guild via writs and tradeskills. I see this as very much part of the MM ethos of MMORPG.

    I completely agree with you too Wil – in that when I am grouped, it is definitely mission focussed, and out of respect to other members of the group I dont want to waste their time and want to achieve the things with them that i can not achieve on my own.

    As I have mentioned before, I am Australian and so play at “unusual” hours so options for groups are generally limited to weekends. Between times, I want to be able to contribute to the development of my toon and so soloing MUST be viable to keep me playing and paying:)

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  2. Hir

    This is an interesting thread and a topic on which I may have a different view than others. I look on soling as exploration time. I put on some easily replaceable eq, mem-up all my “escape/evasion” spells and walk around mapping. I have played Toril for quite some time (I’m almost embarrassed to say how long) and have still barely scratched the surface of all the various zones there are to explore and map. Zoning and Exp-ing are fine and I always enjoy a 2-3 character exp group but if I am solo, I learn a lot about the expansiveness of Toril and how much time and effort has been put into it by so many creative people. Just going around reading room descriptions is often enjoyable. To me, searching and finding a secret entrance is often as enjoyable as defeating a mob and getting a new piece of eq. Am I alone in this?

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  3. Kesselia

    Nope yer not alone Hir. I feel the way you do and the way Kilanna does. I have three kids at home….a 7 year old, a 2 year old and a 9 month old..all boys. I homeschool my 7 year old. I have to be able to come in..do a little bit here..walk away…come back later…do a little bit more…walk away etc. I love exploring…finding all sorts of stuff. The feeling from having completed a tough quest solo is what keeps me going. I do enjoy raiding but after having many bad raid experiences in many guilds it’s not so fun anymore…but I’m giving it another whirl with a different class.

    But yes, the only reason I stick with EQ2 is the solo content, the tradeskills and the collections *blush* I simply cannot pass up a shiny unless it’s surrounded by aggro or will pop the inevitable heroic or epic mob. Hehehe.

    =) Thank you Wil for giving a voice to those of us who prefer soloing over grouping. A lot of people in EQ2 still don’t get that the solo content is what keeps bringing people back to the game who originally left it. So many times I get chewed out in the game for speaking up and defending my right to play the way I want which is soloing a majority of my time in game. And gads there are some ppl who have to learn that it’s not necessary to group at low levels or send the spam blind group invite hoping some lonely schmuck will accept. J/k.

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  4. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    Oh Hir, my history of solo play in Toril is vast. If nothing else, I just opened up the ZMud map .mdb file that has everything I mapped out in Toril. 18,413 locations in 119 zones. I should pull some room names or descriptions out to see who can guess where they are. If you know Forgotten Realms, you might get some without having played Toril.

    The room descriptions in Toril, especially in the zones I played in early on, have created mental images of those places. I know what the forest outside Leuthilspar looks like, I can see it in my mind.

    Or I knew what it looked like. They redid the zone outside the gates. What is this strange new place outside of my old home? :)

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