Tag Archives: TorilMUD

Group Size, Group Flexibility

Getting ZMud running again put me back to thinking about MUDs and groups and how things evolved when MMOs came along, at least from my own limited perspective.

Origins in the MUD

Back in the day, back in Sojourn/TorilMUD a group was the only team unit, and it could contain up to 16 people.  There were no raid groups.  If you needed to do something and it seemed like it needed more than 16 people, you were probably doing it wrong.

All text, all the time

But the way the game was structured, there were pressures to keep group size small in the form of experience and loot.

Experience for each kill was divided up equally among the group.  The less people in the group, the more experience for everybody.  Likewise, fewer individuals in the group meant bigger shares when the coins were split at the end of the day and less competition for valued drops.

So for some things, like experience groups, you wanted to keep the team small.  But there is always a balance.

The pirate ship, as an example, used to be a key experience zone.  It had a variety of tough mobs that gave good experience.  Granted, beyond level 40 or so, there were relatively few mobs that one could safely solo with all classes, though some classes could manage better than others.  But the fat experience mobs on the pirate ship were not soloable.  (Hush you rogues, your assassinate skill wasn’t all that reliable and had a long cool down.)

I have been in two person pirate ship groups.  There were some mobs that a healer and a tank could do, if they expended everything they had and rested between fights.  But while the experience from each kill was good, kills were very slow.

At the other end, the right six person group, or even the sloppiest seven or eight person group, could slaughter the whole ship and be sitting around waiting for the zone to repop for five to ten minutes.  Experience wasn’t as good, but downtime was very low.  The zone itself was the restriction.

Somewhere in between was an optimum group, but you had to figure that out.  And the optimum group would change depending on who was at the keys and what classes they were playing.

A three player group had to have an enchanter with the spell dragon scales, a damage reducing spell that would keep the tank from losing too much health for the healer to heal.  A well equipped tank and a good healer were also required.

That group got great experience per kill and wasn’t slowed down too much between fights.  But if you added the right fourth player, some massive damage dealer for example, then you could clear most of the ship before repop.  Experience was still good and downtime was low.

And even when you hit an optimum group size and were racking up experience, there was always room for a friend if they logged on.  Or if you knew somebody had to leave in a bit you would try to get a replacement there, and if they arrived early, you could just carry the whole group around for a bit until the other person left.

Anyway, this is a long series of examples that really just wanted to show that there was a degree of flexibility in groups back in the day.  You could optimize for what you wanted.  For experience in a known area, you solved for a good balance between exp and down time.  If you were going to explore some brand new zone that the devs put in, you might drag along a full group of 16 people just to ensure that things didn’t go awry, death having consequences and all that.

Dawn of the MMO Age

Then there was EverQuest, which was in many ways, as I have often said, influenced by TorilMUD.  Like TorilMUD, there were quests, but they were about getting equipment, not about earning experience.  You did experience the old fashioned way, you went out with a group, camped out an area, then proceeded to slay.

Group size was reduced to six players, but for grinding mobs there was usually a happy optimum group size of three or four players, with the usual trade offs in downtime versus experience per kill.

Yes, raiding also came on the scene, and raid groups grew way beyond the 16 player limit that TorilMUD imposed.  But a group was still a pretty flexible unit in EverQuest.  I don’t recall ever feeling we couldn’t go do something because we didn’t have a full group of six players.

WoW and the Perfect Ratio

Time passed.

EverQuest II and World of Warcraft arrived on the scene.  The cult of the quest was born.

Both games used quests as the main method of experience gain.

EverQuest II had (back at launch) a good portion of quests that required a group, and a group was still six players.  There was still, however, flexibility in group size.  In our guild we ran off to do group quests, especially writs for guild progress, with three or four people.  We delved into the Qeynos sewers, Stormhold, and the Ruins of Varsoon in like sized groups, optimizing for downtime versus experience.  It was probably out of habit, since quest rewards were not affected by group size.

But in World of Warcraft, a group was five players.  And not just any five players, but a tank, a healer, and three DPS players.  This was the optimum group and there was little room for flexibility when it came to group content in general, and instanced dungeon content in particular.

You could go after instances at level with four people, but the first boss would let you know exactly how much margin for error you really had, if you had any at all.

And the dungeon finder has cemented that 1/1/3 ratio.  You want to do an instance with dungeon finder, you have to get five people willing to fill each of those slots, no exceptions.  And no flexibility.

We have been very fortunate in our regular instance group to have exactly five regular members.  And despite wavering from the perfect ratio at times, there was a stretch when we were effectively 2/1/2, we were ultimately most successful when we adhered to the group dynamic for which the content was designed.

What Price Success?

And while we were successful, sometimes success isn’t everything.

The lack of flexibility, the lack of that extra slot in the group, meant that while we have a number of friends, relatives, and acquaintances who play WoW, nobody outside the group can really expect to come along with us on an instance run.

If we are all there, the group is full.  If one of us is missing, then the friend has to be the right class, the right level, and on the right server.  So in four years I think only two or three times has somebody outside of the regular group gone on an instance run with us in WoW.  And I think that person was Gaff each time.

So as much as I appreciate how well WoW instances are tuned for the 1/1/3 group, I do look back at the old days when groups were somewhat looser in scope and wonder if the group dynamic had to be set so firmly in stone.

In LOTRO, for example, you have some controls to play with, should you not have the right number of players to fill out a group.  The content is set for a group of six there, but you can reduce the level of the instance or skirmish to help compensate for coming up short.

But I wonder if LOTRO would be so accommodating if they were closer to WoW in subscriptions.  And they certainly do not have something like the dungeon finder to form up groups that meet a predetermined group dynamic.

And then there is EVE Online.  If you want to bring a fleet along with you to your solo mission, go right ahead.

EVE Mission line of battle

You guys work out how to split the drops and the salvage and the game will split up any faction points and cash rewards for finishing the mission.

EVE is very MUD-like in that regard.  However, EVE’s focus isn’t very PvE and if you want anything more challenging than a soloable level 4 mission for your fleet, you have to expose yourself to PvP.  And, as in most games, PvE does not train you for PvP in EVE.

So Where Is The Balance?

It is tough to say that WoW should change, because they tune their content so specifically to the 1/1/3 ratio.  Automatic scaling is a nice idea, but do you assume that you always have another DPS player along?  The odds are likely, but what if you end up with a protection pally instead?

On the other, it would be nice to have some flexibility in groups beyond which three of us are going to be DPS this time around.

November in Review

The Site

The site goes on.  I’ll be at home on a Sunday evening and wonder if I will have anything to write about in the coming week.  I seem to find something almost daily.

I did get some money from the ad experiment, which paid my WordPress extra storage fees for next year.  I have to be happy about that!

I was hoping to have some more EVE Online Blog Pack profiles to post, but that Crazy Kinux has been jet setting around with the “Who’s Who” of the EVE Online world.  I hope we’ll get back to that this month.

And then, of course, there were all the expansions that came out in November.  Too many choices, not enough time.

One Year Ago

I was going on about MMOs on a single server again, focusing on EVE Online and why its unique set of circumstances allows CCP to get away with everybody on one shard.

I was thinking about all that vendor trash that just disappears.

I was moaning about EverQuest and accessibility again.  I need to get over that.

I hit level 60 for the first time in EverQuest II and was also claiming my four year veteran rewards.

I hit 10 million skill points in EVE and bought my first Drake. (I’m now past 27 million points and on my third Drake!)

My daughter and I were playing LEGO Star Wars: The Compelete Saga on the Wii.

And the instance group was finishing up Sunken Temple in a way that gave us a before and after snapshot of the WoW 2.3 patch.

New Linking Sites

Please visit these sites that were kind enough to link here to help show my appreciation!

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  3. Cats in the Commonlands
  4. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  5. Level 50 Dragonite Event
  6. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  7. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG?
  8. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  9. The Ride to Utgarde Keep
  10. WAR’s Trumpet Fades
  11. The Salesman of Waterdeep
  12. The Expansion of LOTRO

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EVE Online

With Northrend to explore and Norrath to revisit, I have not had a lot of time for EVE.  My goal was to buy a freighter by Thanksgiving. Financially, I was set by that date, with a nearly a billion ISK set aside in reserve for post purchase economic activity.  But with time limited, I have opted to run missions and such rather than haul trash.  The nice thing about EVE is that once you have your sales position set, it will run for a while by itself, so ISK continues to come in.

Meanwhile, I have been doing the usual training fun, sharpening up combat skills for both my main and my alt.

EverQuest II

Gaff, Potshot, White Kitten, and I have been back in EverQuest II for a while now.  In general it has been a lot of fun, though I am surprised that, four years after launch and to machines later, I still run into performance problems in the game.  I had to draw down the graphic settings (which were set to balanced) to be able to move smoothly through Nektulos Forest.  And at peak hours the responsiveness of the game seems less than ideal.  Press a button… wait a few seconds… action happens.

Still, EverQuest II has a lot to offer.  And being part of Revelry & Honor is great.  Having access to their guild hall… well… it almost feels like cheating.  Plus it is the most amazing and opulent indoor location I have seen in the game.  It takes as long to load as some zones.  I just dread the day when it will be my month to pay the rent on the place.


My 15 year anniversary with Toril MUD has spawned some nostalgia and a few posts, with a couple more to come.  I have even played a bit with my friend Scott, who got me into the game way back when.  I even managed to get in on a zone group today (for Cave City), which was very confusing after more than three years away.  A lot of colorful scrolling text and me trying to figure out what to do.  I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much in the effort.  I only died once despite being somewhat lost the whole time.

World of Warcraft

Wrath of the Lich King has really delivered.  Was it worth nearly a two year wait?  I am not sure.  But it is fresh and smooth and funny and interesting and beautiful and many more things.  Blizzard proves again why they are #1.

Coming Up

A bit more TorilMUD nostalgia as well as reports from Norrath and Azeroth.

We’re coming up to the end of the year, so I’ll have to score my predictions for 2008. (Oh, and my EQ2 predictions as well.)  Tobold isn’t running Blizzard yet, but there is still a month to go.

And, if I get my act together and finish it, there will be another Christmas story.

October in Review

The Site

The EVE Blog Pack and the profiles are both bringing more traffic here and sending more traffic on to other sites in the pack, so things seem to working out well in that regard.

And while I linked a column on Wired about blogging being out of date because you’ll never be famous or get a decent Google page rank, somehow I keep ending up on the first page of searches on which I have no business being.  Currently I am the third result if you search on SWTOR and for a while this month I was on the first page of results for getting access to upper blackrock spire.

Lesson?  Google is a force of nature? Google is mystery wrapped in a riddle and located in Mountain View?

One Year Ago

A year ago I finally finished my training and was actually flying a Hulk!  Being mining focused, I went out and calculated which asteroids were the most profitable to mine.  Veldspar rated surprisingly high.

I also figured out that with 120 billion ISK and a year of training, I could fly a Titan, but I couldn’t fire the main weapon system.

The instance group finished up Zul’Farrk and started in on Mauradon.

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising was put on indefinite hold, which lead to a headline contest.

And, as usual, with the coming of Fall, the rains, and a new expansion I again became nostalgic for EverQuest.

New Linking Sites

Please visit these sites that were kind enough to link here to help show my appreciation!

Most Viewed Posts in October

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. EVE Online Makes The Daily WTF
  3. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  4. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  5. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  6. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  7. SWTOR – Let the Hubris Commence
  8. LEGO Batman Unleashed
  9. Five WAR Quest Log Gripes
  10. Scholomance – Round 2 – Plus Dire Maul West
  11. Hauling Trash, In Style
  12. Screw Job in the Altdorf Sewers

Best Search Terms

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EVE Online

Another month of wealth accumulation as I try to build a big enough buffer to keep economic activity going after I purchase a freighter.  I have not spent much time mining, so I am running low on raw materials that I can use for production or sell, but buy orders have been helping to keep my finished goods supply going.

My goal: A freighter before Thanksgiving.


It started raining yesterday.  Can nostalgia be far behind?  Hmmm… mercenaries.


Speaking of nostalgia, my committing some memories of the last 15 years of Sojourn/TorilMUD has stirred a bit of interest in the game.  Xyd, Gaff, and I were on at the same time for a while the other evening, something that probably hasn’t happened in five years or more.  And now I have prodded Chandigar.  I don’t think this will suddenly lead to the instance group rolling characters, but a few people have been dusting off their ZMud licenses to see if my favorite text-based version of Forgotten Realms is still alive and kicking.

Warhammer Online

The Warhammer Online experience has paled for the instance group for now.  In our email discussions this week, we all seemed to agree that big open RvR battles were really fun, but that they were so few and far between that they were not really the defining experience for the group.  Instead, we spent more time roving the contested areas looking for action (and Kendricke), and nobody wanted to continue to spend our limited play budget on the hope that maybe NEXT Saturday we would have a lot of fun.

World of Warcraft

The 3.0.2 patch came along.  It was a big download and a rough post-patch experience for some, but it has some really interesting changes.  As I said elsewhere, they made the hunter even better, which is tough to accomplish when you consider it to be the most fun class to play already.  And we all got a 3 day credit for the inconvenience caused by the server issues.

It looks like the instance group might be back in Azeroth.  We need to warm up with the changes that went into 3.0.2 before the Lich King shows up on the scene.

Coming Up

OMFG… what ISN’T coming up?  November will see Wrath of the Lich King, Mines of Moria, and The Shadow Odyssey released.

Plus The Chronicles of Spellborn is coming along, a title that is pushing “story” as a defining element of the MMO experience.  We shall see if that foreshadows how Star Wars: The Old Republic will do in that regard.

And my Warhammer Online account still has a few weeks to go, so I can peek in to see what they have planned to stave off the Lich King.

It will be a month of too many topics, not enough time.