Posts Tagged ‘PUGs’

How To Encourage Grouping In World Of Warcraft

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…

MMO Communities

Games like Oblivion and GTA IV may be great but I always feel kinda sad when I play them because I’m off exploring some vast world all on my lonesome. Probably one of the main reasons I love MMOs so much is because they are all communities, sometimes small or, in the case of WoW, sometimes the size of a real world country. This sense of community is everywhere and it creates a deep immersion. I get fed up wandering the world of Oblivion and never bumping into another living soul whereas, if I play a MMO, I’m constantly meeting people and that’s part of the excitement for me. I might bump into someone, form a group with them, and become great friends with them for years to come or I might bump into someone who’s a complete cock. You see, MMO communities are like a box of chocolates – sometimes you get a great buddy, sometimes you get a cock.

Everquest has an amazing community because there was no other way to play it. You just simply couldn’t play through the game without meeting and working with other people. Certainly in the early days, everything from gaining experience to travelling to selling items required a lot of social interaction and a significant investment of time. The latter point was no doubt the Achilles Heel of the EQ community – people didn’t want to spend 8 hours trying to sell their loot or wait 30mins to find someone who could port them home. The game evolved over the years and new concepts, like the auction house and Plane of Knowledge, were introduced to make people’s lives easier. Regardless of this ‘ease’ though, the game continued to have a strong community because it was still so intrinsic to EQ’s gameplay.

Everquest - People Selling In The Commonlands Tunnel

Everquest - People Selling In The Commonlands Tunnel

New MMORPGs continued down this trend of becoming more accessible but still maintaining the need for social interaction in order to accomplish things. It’s a massively difficult thing to balance and get right though – some games succeeded very well but others (*cough* Vanguard *cough*) failed miserably.

Everquest 2 is an example, to me, of a perfect balance between accessibility and community. Players can solo if they want but the carrot of grouping is always there. The sense of community is strong because people can easily communicate with others via global level chat channels – an example of accessibility aiding community. EQ2 also has a great mix of single group instanced dungeons and open world dungeons. There’s nothing more fun that taking a group for a dungeon run and spending a couple of hours there, bonding, celebrating each other’s strengths and bumping into and competing with other groups.

World of Warcraft, on the other hand, has a weaker community in my opinion. Everyone solos because it’s the easiest and quickest way to level up and it’s exacerbated by a talent system that forces people to chose between soloing or grouping. There are no open dungeons – everything is instanced to groups – and there are no global level range chat channels. Everyone just seems to solo from level 1 to 80 and then find a comfortable guild in which they never venture out of… I’ve never experienced a community so derogatory towards PUGs.

It might sound like I’m being pretty damning towards WoW and, I suppose, I am. It’s not out of hatred however, it’s out of frustration. I’m really enjoying playing World of Warcraft but my main experience has been that of a solo world with the occasional sense of community. That frustrates me because I see a great game that could be so much more with only a few tweaks such as the forthcoming dual-talent system and some more global chat channels. Feel free to correct me about anything I’ve said on it because I’m by no means a WoW guru.

PUG Comic

Having just made my post about PUGs yesterday, I found this excellent comic on the EQ2 forums – familar stuff to any MMO player I’m sure! :) It’s also beautifully rendered and really shows off EQ2s graphics.

Funny EQ2 comic depicting pick up groups

Click on the image to view it full size

The comic series is called ‘FTW’. Click here to view the EQ2 thread with all of the details.

When did groups becomes PUGs?

A new post on Keen and Graev’s about Pick Up Groups (PUGs) got me thinking about how grouping with unknown players seems to have changed over the years from being the acceptable and common experience to something that people seem very negative about and reluctant to do. I first encountered the word ‘PUG’ about 2 years ago and since then it’s never been used with affection but more as a derogatory term or in-joke. I’ve even had guildies who stated they would never, ever join a PUG.

Is this outlook justified? Are random groups really that bad or have we just gotten ourselves into a whole lot of negative thinking?

Before the term PUG was invented, I never had any negative predisposition to joining a group of strangers. In fact, I considered it quite normal and enjoyed it and I could now spend hours relating fun stories about random groups I had in Everquest, DAOC, SWG, or any other MMO I tried. Sure, they didn’t all work out, but that was just accepted and it never seemed to put as people off as it does now. Even during my recent time of playing EQ2, I was always a big advocate for PUGs and never hesitated to join one or create one and I never regretted it once. I didn’t want to spend hours waiting for the right number of people in my guild to log on or free-up, I just wanted to get stuck into something and meet new people. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t joined PUGs, I would never have met most of my online friends so I cannot consider it a bad experience in any way.

But  the outlook towards PUGs seems to be becoming more and more negative all of the time and I can’t help but wonder if WoW, in a round-about way, is responsible for starting it all. You see, Warcraft offers a huge amount of solo content and is very black and white with it’s talent builds which means that people tend to take the easiest approach to leveling – DPS soloing. This, of course, means that players aren’t experienced in grouping and are more likely to make mistakes when they do finally group. I also think the WoW player base is less hardcore and MMO savvy than in other MMOs. Don’t get me wrong, I think WoW is a great game but when it created an accessible focus on soloing, the inadvertent side effect was that groups in it are less likely to be successful than in other games.

Combine the lower chance of success with spiraling negativity and you end up where we are today. Everyone seems to hate those ‘PUGs’ (even though every member in one is a member of another guild and has successful guild groups) and goes into them with a predisposition for failure. Sure, maybe it’s a little harder to get good groups in WoW than it is in EQ2, but that doesn’t mean we’re justified in writing them all off. I think it’s time we were all a little more sociable and forgiving and championed the PUG a little more. You never know, you might make some new friends.