World of Warcraft is a fantastic game, no doubt about it, but I’ve always had one major bugbear with it – grouping sucks. OK, let me qualify that statement – grouping sucks at lower levels. Seriously, for a Massively Multiplayer world it’s a pretty unsociable game until you get into the higher tiers. Ironically enough, it’s got nothing to do with lack of players either because I see hundreds of people running around from levels 1-60 every day.
I love socialising in MMORPGs. Sure, maybe I don’t want to just sit around a campfire and swamp stories – I need direction and a point – but I want to experience teamwork and commradary. If you contrast WoW’s grouping with games like EQ2, you’ll see that these others place much more emphasis on the group experience.
World of Warcraft’s major issues are that it rewards soloing questing too much and grouping too little and also that the player base as a whole is just genuinely less mature and sociable (I know it’s a cliché but, lets face it, it’s true, it’s the nature of the game). We can’t do much about the second point (and would we even want to?) but we can certainly address the first.
Ogrebears had an absolutely fantastic idea for encouraging grouping in WoW, so great I had to write this article about it. He proposed the elegant idea of simply introducing social achievements such as grouping with new people and doing different things with them. I think this is a wonderful idea. Players love achievements so lets give them a carrot to get out of their stubborn ways and try grouping with new people. It honestly inspires me to run a campaign called ‘Embrace PUGs Today’ (-> a light bulb just went off over my head).
There’s definitely other things Blizzard could do to improve grouping and socialising but social achievements would be a start.
Oddly enough, whilst writing this article I’ve started to have the nervous thought that everyone is going to come back and comment on this and say that the grouping experience in WoW is tremendous and the social experience couldn’t be better thus rendering me with the sole thought that I can’t get any groups because I’m an asshole…