6 Player Groups – The Perfect Size

Everquest 2 Group

You'd be surprised at how hard it is to find a screenshot of a group with 6 players in it...

One of the biggest difficulities I had in adapting to WoW after playing games like Everquest and Everquest 2 for so long as the size of party it offered. WoW is 5 players; everything else (pretty much) is 6. Oh Blizzard, why did you have to go and try and be special? There’s a reason for the magic number 6, y’know.

To be fair, I do kinda get their reasoning. Small groups are more intimate and tight nit and most people seem to prefer smaller raids, as a collection of groups, to bigger ones (I was not a fan of 54 player raids in Everquest). I also distintly remember the massive party sizes in the original Star Wars: Galaxies and how much chaos that caused. Everything was literarly a zerg-fest of the most gigantic proportions, no one knowing what the heck was going on, and generally a lot of screaming as Tusken Raiders wrecked havoc by exploiting the imbalance of parties filled with only one healer and 14 DPS professions.

As much as I like the idea of intimate group sizes though they seem to me to have an invariable weakness when combined with the Holy Trinity model – not enough room for DPS classes. In an age when WoW players are complaining that they have to wait 40 minutes for a group as a damage dealer yet can queue instantly as either a tank or healer (one of the reasons why I always play tanks), I can’t help but wonder if having a more spaces for DPS to fill would’ve lessened this issue somewhat. Now I’m no mathmagician or anything but effectively you’re squeezing something like an extra 30% more DPS capacity into a group and thus lessening what seems to be average wait time for those classes by a good 15mins or so. Not too shabby.

Having slightly larger groups also allows for more variety in the party make up. For instance, when I played EQ2, I often rolled dungeons with two healers (Template + Mystic FTW) and it was common course, particularly on harder instances. Now I know that’s still perfectly feasible in WoW but somehow dropping your DPS members down to a measly two seems a little extreme. The balance of classes would seem totally out of whack for one plus, remember, those poor guys have a tough enough time finding groups as it is without replacing them for additional heal support.

The Holy Trinity is never going to be a perfect gaming model and just oozes imperfection but it seems to be all we’ve got right now. Making the most out of it also seems highly dependent on things like hybrid specs and class distribution. If not enough players are attracted to healing or tanking or too many pick DPS classes then the balance is wrecked and you end up with players unable to find groups. I have absolutely no statistics to back this up but, from my personal observations, 6 feels like a rather nice number when it comes to matching the spread of classes into groups and seems to fit the distribution of class archetypes more accurately.

I know it’s a minor thing really and we’re never going to see the party size changed in WoW but I suppose I am curious as to why Blizzard (and any other MMO) picked 5 player parties instead of the more common 6. Was it just a spur of the moment guess or was it a thoughtful decision backed up by statistics? And what does everyone else reckon the “perfect” group size actually is?


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Related Posts

  1. When did groups becomes PUGs?
  2. I Don’t Hate The Holy Trinity, I Just Don’t Think It Works
  3. Why Blizzard Are Going To Kill The Holy Trinity
  4. Monks, Souls, Hybrids And Life Support For The Holy Trinity
  5. Why Crowd Control Will Never Return


  1. Stabs says:

    We did quite often run with 2 healers in 5 mans back in Vanilla. It’s probably a viable heroic strategy although of course it’s hard to pull off in random dungeon finder.

  2. Klepsacovic says:

    6 players is too hard to count on one hand.

  3. rowan says:

    You mentioned EQ and EQII. Where else has it been six to a group?

  4. nugget says:

    I think it’s more of the very nature of combat (how aggro/threat etc) work in WoW that influence the groups, more than the group size itself.

    In Guild Wars, where most of the time the groups are 8 folk – and usually 2 are support of some kind, I still get to know people’s playstyles way better than I ever did in WoW’s 10-man raids.

    I’m not talking about generally knowing someone is a good player, more of – knowing who will overextend, who’s the cautious one, who can always handle themselves. And some of these people I’ve run with LESS in GW than I raided with in WoW.

    However – the fact that I know these things may again be put down to the fact that GW and WoW combat are two very different beasts. In GW, my situational awareness as a healer is rivalled only by (and not surpassed by) that of a good WoW tank. I see everyone. I know what everyone is doing.

    However, what I’m trying to make as a rambling point is, somehow generally NOT having a tank (very rarely do I ever have tankhumans in GW), and not having the holy trinity actually promotes better play, where DPS are *more*, not less valued.

    I know that for me, in GW, I *adore* good DPS as a healer because it makes things so much appreciably, visibly easier. And since ‘tanks’ are honestly, in GW pugs (and in the group runs I do, because no one cares to play that way), a rarity, this shows even more.

    And this is even in 4-man vanquishes.


    I don’t think it’s the group size – I think it’s the nature of combat. In the absence of the holy trinity, roles and respect for people’s ability to play their classes seems to be greater.

    …just saying.

    *ambles off to ramble to self in corner*

  5. Chris Braun says:

    I believe that in the original EverQuest you could have up to 6 people in your party.

    You make a great point that if Blizzard added an additional group slot it would allow for more DPS classes to get groups. Seeing as tanks and healers are already in short supply due to how stressful they are to play this would be a great idea.

    The problem is that this is another Blizzard sacred cow that they are afraid of slaughtering.

  6. The Necromancer says:

    I welcome Blizzard changing the party size from 5 to 6. Its really just a small thing, but it is these small things that make a game like this enjoyable.

    By the way, the Holy Trinity was devised way back then during the age of TRPGs (Tabletop Role-Playing Games). It was based on the fact that people playing these were usually 5 to 6 people and they needed to simplify it to make it more enjoyable as there weren’t so many people playing in these “old dungeons” at once.

    Surely in this age the Holy Trinity can be improved or replaced with something completely new. As this is the age of MMORPGs and I think we need something new to replace the old teachings of things like DnD and such.

  7. Saithir says:

    Changing it at this point won’t happen, mostly because it’d screw up the raids. They’re still 10 (and 25 but that scales a bit differently with composition). There’s just too much crap to fix if they change it so far down the game’s life path.

    5 is okay. Not too many that the healer won’t be able to handle, not too much that the tank wouldn’t have to do anything. With 4 good CC/dps why would you ever need a tank anyway? CC 3 mobs, burn the 4th. Healer heals. Tank… prances around doing not much.

  8. Daria says:

    I like the 6 player group size also. I’m playing LotRO primarily right now. It doesn’t seem to hinder the forming of groups as you can still pretty easily find 4 dps classes, it is still usually the tank or healer spot that holds you back a bit. Although contrary to WoW, it doesn’t seem that the tank or healer shortage problem is nearly as bad in LotRO. I like it because I play a Captain which is a hybrid and support class, so I can play simultaneously the healer and dps and buffing roles while still having another dedicated healer in the group. If the groups were limited to 5, people would opt to take a better healer in my place and I’d never get groups. So yeah, larger group sizes allow for hybrids to shine.

    • Gordon says:

      I think the slightly larger group just gives more room for flexibility and for DPS classes which seems to help deal with the distribution of classes a little better. I liked how in EQ2 you could run a group with only 5 members (tough but possible) and it just felt like there was more flexibility.

  9. Drew says:

    Final Fantasy XI also had 6 player parties. Of course, there was generally a fourth role of the ‘Holy Trinity’ added to the mix – that of the buffer/de-buffer (usually a Bard or a Red Mage), which could also off-heal and/or do limited DPS.

    WoW would be well-served to move to 6 player parties to reduce DPS queues.

  10. Bhagpuss says:

    Hmm… now you have me thinking.

    DCUO has a group size of four, which is certainly the smallest I’ve seen.

    I’m fairly sure I played one MMO that had a group size of 8. Was that Asheron’s Call? I only played it for a couple of months and it was a very long time ago.

    Personally I think six is perfect. Not sure if that’s because it’s what I became accustomed to in EQ.

    I see Rift is going with five (there’s a surprise). Scott Hartsman has a rationale for that beyond the obvious commercial advantage, though:

    “We’re doing five-man groups – and ten- and twenty-man raids.The last few games I’ve worked on have been six person groups. The reason we ended up going with five-man groups is if you want to create challenging content, you end up having to solve what’s called the two healer problem. In a six-person group system f you make content that’s hard, people will bring two healers to it. Two healers, a tank or two, and a couple of damage-dealers. And what happens if you balance for that kind of group is that you just make it even harder for groups to get off the ground, since healers and tanks tend to be limiting factors.” (full interview at http://www.pcgamer.com/2010/07/15/create-three-class-combos-in-rift-planes-of-telara/ ).

    Not sure I buy his logic, but since I seem to be either solo or in a full raid every time I play Rift it may be a moot point.

    • numtini says:

      DAOC had 8 I believe.

      Asheron’s Call I don’t remember having groups at all. If there were groups and a group size, it was just an artifice for talking. Everyone was self sufficient, generally with was the spell drain?, and you just zerged. Or solo’d.

  11. Epiny says:

    I’ve done alot of math on a notepad about this. However before I get into that also remember EQ didn’t have a Holy Trinity… they had a 4th pillar. (HAHA take that SWTOR!) They had Crowd Control. How many people went very deep into a dungeon without an Enchanter, Bard or Monk? That 6th spot was typically reserved for them and they would get to cut in front of any DPS on a waiting list.

    That being said I prefer 6 people too. The Raids could just be retuned to 12 man, 24 man and 48 man… or perhaps 54 man (thinking AV here)

    So some quick notes. Currently in WoW there are 18 possible role specs. That means that the 3 possible specs are DPS, Healer, and Tank. For all intents and purposes the spec of a Rogue doesn’t matter, in the end he is still fills the DPS archetype.

    That means 55% of the possible roles ARE DPS roles. The problem is that everyone just assumes that this means the 60% of a 5 man is enough. The problem arises when 100% of the actual classes can spec into this DPS role. You’ve now created a very fluid movement of how many DPS you really have.

  12. Bhagpuss says:


    That’s almost right but actually, original EQ did have a “Holy Trinity” and that is what we called it at the time. The Holy Trinity, however, was Tank, Healer, Crowd Control.

    After that, though, there wasn’t just a “fourth pillar” but a fifth, sixth, seventh… There were more roles that needed to be filled just to do ordinary day-to-day content than there were places in the group and people were expected to double up.

    Most of my time as a group player, later as group-builder and leader happened in 2000-2005. To get a group started we would look not just for the Holy Trinity, but also a Slower (when Planes of Power came you couldn’t even think of making a group without a slower and Shaman almost pushed Clerics out of a group spot because of their ability to both heal and slow), a Puller and Mana Regen. You’d also want Haste (although most who could Slow could also Haste).

    On top of these specific roles, everyone was expected to be able to offer extras in emergencies: patch healing, off-tanking, emergency crowd-control, transportation, invisibility, underwater breathing, summoned equipment et etc. You could patch together groups that could do all this stuff from a very wide range of classes.

    There were only two classes who came offering DPS as about the only thing they did and those were Rogues and Wizards. And they only got places when everything else had been covered.

    • Gordon says:

      This has a given a good idea for a blog post, Bhagpuss! I’ll try to write up my thoughts on it soon :) Essentially it’s very interesting to how classes in fantasy based MMORPGs have changed and, ultimately, been simplified. No longer do specific classes bring anything unique or necessary to the table but rather just fit into a single category – either they’re a tank, healer or DPS. Now whether that’s for better or for worse is something worth exploring :)

  13. Epiny says:

    I think you are right… and wrong. I think we experienced different levels of gameplay. When PoP came out I did 60-65 in 7 days, not played actual days. Most of my groups were about farming high level drops or AoE groups in Fungus Grove for AA/Fungi Tunic. In our guild Shamans weren’t wanted for groups. They typically went and duo’d somewhere.

  14. Bhagpuss says:

    That sounds right! In our guild we couldn’t even handle Plane of Nightmare safely when PoP launched. We all went back to Velious and spent a lot of time in Velks as I recall. Of course, most of us weren’t even 60th when PoP came out.

    Later on we spent a lot of time in the Planes but we always had to have a slower even then. I was in a great cross-guild chat channel that had people from everything from very small family guilds to some of the top guilds on my server in it and we often had channel groups of very mismatched abilities and gear. When one of the big raid guild tanks dropped in to tank for us it was amazing how weak the mighty mobs suddenly seemed.

    Anyway, better not take up all Gordon’s thread with reminiscences :P

    • Gordon says:

      Hehe. I remember when Enchanters were the hottest thing going and how to do a LDON successfully you need a class that could CC enough to ensure single pulls. As a Warrior I was jealous of Paladins who could soothe undead ;) Ah great times…

  15. [...] 6-Player Groups — The Perfect Size on We Fly Spitfires. [...]

  16. [...] been perplexed by SWTOR’s group size ever since last year — especially in light of this post I saw on We Fly Spitfires last week, where Gordon points out that larger groups allow for more variety in party make-up. [...]

  17. Mike says:

    Anyone here play Allods Online, it allows for 6-person parties as well. It’s pretty awesome for a F2P game (with a cash shop).

  18. browolf says:

    I don’t know about EQ, but in ffxi 6 works because there’s a lot of intermediate job classes. Not healer not tank not pure dps. With 6 you’re quite likely to have tank + healer + 2dps + 2 intermediates. So a party may have 1.5 healers or 1.5 tanks which is obviously better suited to deal with unexpected situations than a party with only 1 healer or 1 tank.

    Without the existence of intermediate specs there’s no reason for wow to have 6 member parties.

  19. [...] problem of decreasing group size has been noted by We Fly Spitfires, and it is exacerbated by SWTOR’s even smaller than usual group [...]

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