Forcing People To Be Your Friend

Rift Grouping

His name was Reamvin. He didnt even know we were grouped.

One of the more innovative and interesting features in RIFT (why do I feel obliged to write that in caps?) is the ability to group with others without their permission. Yep, you just select a random nearby person and, unless they’re already grouped or have disabled the setting in their options, click a small icon above their portrait and, willingly or not, you’ve got yourself an instant buddy to join your fledgling party. A great technique for burning through those kill quests quickly, I can tell you.

At first I was reluctant to use this feature as it seemed somehow rude or, at the very least, ill-mannered. In fact, the very idea of forcing some poor sod to group up without even having the common courtesy to introduce myself first was entirely alien to me after having experienced old school MMOs (read: Everquest) in which an entire life’s history was required before you could embark on the even most minor of adventures. But I got over these petty emotions pretty quickly when I realised that not only was this a perfectly valid form of playing RIFT (it’s a feature in the game, after all) but was actually widely accepted by most players without qualm. Indeed no one seems to even bat an eyelid if you suddenly appear in a group with them.

It’s an odd thing, for sure, and I can’t decide if it’s either a normal and expected step forward in the evolution of 21st century MMORPGs or if it’s a barbaric, rude and manner-less blemish on the increasingly tarnished reputation of online social gaming. Is this feature in RIFT a good thing by making social interactions easier than ever or is it a bad thing by reducing other players on the field to nothing more than resources to be consumed for our own individual goals?

I suppose, as much as I love the idea of playing a MMO in which the community is loving and kind and everyone nods and smiles and shakes hands and exchanges their sexual history before undertaking quests together I do think they are thing of the past. Sure, we might be able to recapture some of that magic with things like the EQ progression server, but the simple fact is that games now demand a faster pace of community and attract a different breed of player. Deep down, even though the forced group feature in RIFT makes me a little sad, I believe it’s a necessity in the evolution of our virtual worlds.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that forced grouping is the perfect way forward and not open to exploitation but, heck, any form of social interaction is better than none, right? I’d love to be best chums with every adventurer that crosses my path but that’s an unrealistic hope. Instead I’ll take what I can get and form quick and dirty forced groups with absolute strangers who I know nothing about other than the fact that they are killing the same thing I am. It’s better than being alone, after all.

-Gordon

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35 Comments

  1. Gazimoff says:

    I like it.

    I’ve been in groups where I’ve been the invitee and in groups where I’ve been the inviter. It’s introduced me to new people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met in-game before, and helped form spontaneous social groups.

    More spontaneity please!

    • Gordon says:

      I like it too. It’s especially handy if you bump into people who are just about compete for the same quest mob :P

      • Saithir says:

        Sounds useful, but…

        WoW recently introduced another version of solving that problem – you can help kill stuff someone else tagged, irrelevant of being grouped or not (haven’t tried with different factions, I usually rather try to kill them just likely as they try to kill me), and still get quest credit. It doesn’t work on everything, but the big mobs in Tol Barad work like that – Problim and the like that are technically “group quest [3]“.

        I like it more than the confusion of suddenly getting into a group with some stranger I probably won’t ever see again – and to make matters worse most of the time I get a group invite nowadays is when I go *out* of some place after finishing it myself.

  2. Grimnir says:

    There’s always a couple quests in a zone that are just slightly too difficult for a single person to work out, and for those the open grouping is great. It doesn’t really matter who you are, unless you plan on coming back many levels higher, you’ll need someone else to help. I think one of the best examples of this is in Scarwood Reach where you have to collect trophies of elite mobs that spawn randomly across the zone. I know a couple times I’ve called out for guildies to help take one down and randomly picked up one or two other people in the area.

    Getting help with kill quests is cool too though.

  3. Pascal says:

    Apart from AOE looting this is perhaps one of the nicer features in the game for me. And yes, I had those initial qualms about forcing your way into a group. But once I’ve adjusted to the design of RIFT – that open, fluid gameplay and teaming up, it seems so natural.

    It takes away the painful bits of waiting for respawns, throws people together and thus far almost everytime I’ve used it the groups have gone on to do other things together. Or met up again later with a hello and a bit of conversation.

    It’s almost as if it is breaking the barriers to grouping, re-introducing the concept of an MMO as a team-based, social game.

    • Gordon says:

      Indeed, I think breaking down barriers is the most important thing. I’m starting to understand that most people are reluctant to group in MMOs not because they dislike the idea of grouping but because they feel awkward doing it.

  4. Stubborn says:

    At some level, I think this might be a change in philosophy that could begin to redefine the community in MMOs. A game that requires you to “accept” someone’s group invitation assumes that you might not want to, that one might not want to be in a group because others are “bad.” On the other hand, a game that assumes everyone should want to be in a group is promoting the idea that other players are “good.”

    Then again, maybe it’s just a newish feature.

    Either way, it’s a really interesting concept, and this is the first I’ve heard of it. Thanks for bringing it to attention.

  5. My favorite part of this? No more “kill steals” from that jack off who decided to grab your quest mob.

    Click that symbol and also get credit at the same time….

    Take that griefer!

  6. Klepsacovic says:

    In real life when people have obvious common goals they’ll exchange a few words and get it done. In games we rarely have voice chat available for talking to people we run into. That leaves text, which is not only slower, it’s also disabling, forcing players to resort to clicking and mousemove to get around. Given that disability and inconvenience factor, most players prefer to just solo it. The problem is when this becomes habit rather than pragmatism and then we’re essentially doing the same thing in groups: silent soloing with people who do nothing but ’steal’ your loot.

  7. Sharon says:

    I love the grouping feature, but I find it a little disappointing that people don’t communicate much. I group a lot more in Rift than I do in other games, but the experience isn’t really any more socially satisfying than soloing most of the time.

  8. Azuriel says:

    Is this “social interaction” really more than you would experience in, say, an elevator?

    At first, I was curious about the evolving (or devolving if you prefer) behavior in LFD groups in WoW, until I realized that starting up conversations in pugs is about as useful as elevator conversations – we aren’t likely to share this elevator again, so why even bother with the social song and dance? It might be a bit different in Rift where the player is obviously around your level, etc, and thus a bit more “there” than the absolutely random people LFD throws together on different server clusters, but… I dunno.

  9. Telwyn says:

    I must admit during my first foray into RIFT I was surprised (and almost missed) my first forced grouping experience. Nothing was said in chat of course and it was over quickly as someone jumped in to get credit for the same mini-boss I was killing.

    Couldn’t play much properly last night because of disconnect errors but hopefully I’ll play again tonight and have a go at grouping up myself.

    @Azuriel – In my idealised world I think at least a simple hello/thanks/goodbye exchange would be nice – too much to hope for in the anonymous Internet I know but I do play on an RP server..

  10. Syl says:

    I see it in a positive light. A lot of unnecessary heat is created in areas where people camp the same mob or spot, and this feature makes it easy to contribute and include yourself. how many times have I whispered a group of people in vain who stood next to me waiting on the same spawn? and I never even got an answer – not very polite either. the main reason is usually not that they dont want you though, but they’re simply too lazy or miss it. now at least you can join someone yourself and as far as i see people dont mind at all.

    these chance-parties are easily disbanded too and usually people leave again when finished. I dont see it as opposing on another group so much as making it easier for people to cooperate temporarily.

    • Gordon says:

      I think once people get over the initial rudeness barrier it really becomes a great tool for working together and dealing with issues like spawns as you mention. Overall I have to give credit to Trion for implementing it!

  11. amcl says:

    This is an amazing feature. I’ve tried tried it and it totally speeds up quests! It feels rude though.

  12. Patti says:

    I haven’t tried this in RIFT (yes, I capitalize the name too) outside of the public invasion or rift quests. I’ll have to check it out.

    That said, as long as the community remains as friendly as it is right now, this type of grouping can be a lot of fun. I don’t see it working so well in other games, though.

    • Gordon says:

      I’d be curious to see how it would work in a game like WoW although, yeah, I wouldn’t expect it go down quite as well. I think RIFT benefits from the fact that players expect to form groups (such as public groups) due to the dynamic nature of the game.

  13. Daria says:

    I did this often in the first few days when the starting areas were crowded. Usually I’d group with someone to get my kills, then leave and move to the next area. But I actually had some people who left the group immediately or changed their settings to private. I’m not sure why some people would rather fight over a few spawns than work together and get it done quicker.

    It is a nice feature but I don’t see it as a community building thing because it is still a selfishly motivated act. I think most people understand you are only going to be in the group for a few minutes, and after that you can leave and have no further obligation. In the old days if someone invited you to a group and you accepted, you had this feeling that you had to stay or help them out with whatever they asked for next. I think in the modern MMO this feeling is diminishing. Even in guilds sadly…

    • Gordon says:

      I agree that it’s selfishly motivated but then pretty much all form of grouping in MMOs is. After all, we’re just trying to progress our own characters. Plus, I think even if 99% of the time no one talks, there will be that odd occasion when a conversation is struck up and everyone has fun :)

  14. Bhagpuss says:

    One of the very first things I did on first logging into Rift was to disable the “Public Group” option. I run on “Private/Invitaion Only” at all times. If people speak to me and ask to join my group then I’m very happy to invite them. This does happen and peopel who join in that old-fashioned way do chat, albeit not as volubly as we used to back in the day.

    My reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, I no more want someone to join my group without asking than I’d want someone to climb into my car at the traffic lights just because I was travelling in the direction they wanted to go. Secondly, I want ALL the crafting drops and I want to skin ALL my animals. Nine times out of ten if I am killing anything it’s for crafting materials, not to do quests.

  15. Haha, I don’t mind when people do that! This reminds me of this one time, I was in game and sitting in front of a quest mob spawn point waiting for him to come back after the previous person had killed him. When he popped, I started hitting him and tagged him, and a split second after someone coming up from behind me had jumped into my group so they could get credit as well.

    I’m glad they were able to do that, actually. The other player came up from behind, so I didn’t see them and didn’t extend an invitation I normally would. I’d have felt terribly rude even if I didn’t mean it. In this case, I’m glad both of us were able to get the credit, even if they invited themselves. Neither of us held anything against the other :)

  16. Roy says:

    I have been having a blast with it. I made a few friends but ultimately it comes down to what it can do for me.

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