WoW: Grouping it

Last night, for the first time, I spent a little while in a group. Not a large group — it was just me and one guy from work. (I’m still reluctant to quest with anonymous strangers, although I suppose my WoW experience won’t be complete until I’ve tried it at least once.) I was using a newer and less-experienced character, an Orc rogue named Crumbcake. I may wind up using Crumbcake exclusively for social play, because I don’t want her to level faster than my friends on that server, but she doesn’t really seem like an ideal sort of character for that sort of thing. The real social roles are healing and enhancement — abilities that become more effective when you have someone to share them with. Rogues are experts at sneaking, which seems like it would be more effective when you’re alone, because non-stealthy companions are liable to get into fights that you’ll have to either break stealth to participate in, or ignore and be a bad teammate. But even without force multipliers, playing with someone else will tend to increase both participants’ survival rate. Quests tend to become available when you’re at the experience level that can just barely pull them off without dying if you’re lucky. You can overcome this by only attempting quests that are a level or two below you, and indeed I think you’re likely to do this automatically after a while just because of all the quest XP there is lying around, but with a partner, it’s much less of a worry.

Nonetheless, there are some obvious and immediate downsides to adventuring with a group, and I don’t just mean the mechanical aspects, like splitting loot. It requires coordination, particularly schedule coordination. I remember a “test” in A Tale in the Desert that involved putting together a group of seven people for a time-consuming pilgrimage to a number of remote shrines. It was probably the most challenging thing I ever attempted in the game, even though there was no obstacle beyond keeping the group together. WoW groups are of course more flexible than that — if someone has to log off, everyone else involved can keep going. But even with just two people, we spent a substantial amount of time discussing what we were going to do, rather than just going out and doing stuff like a solo player. Coordination of this sort is necessary because grouping implicitly asks you to be attentive to other people’s needs. Not only is it experienced as a bad thing when you’re kept waiting, it’s also experienced as a bad thing when you know you’re keeping other people waiting. I kept my partner waiting for an embarrassingly long time at one point while I tried to find my way to the Windrider Master in Orgrimmar — it was my first visit there, and, like all the capital cities, it’s laid out in a confusingly three-dimensional way. (It turns out that the only way to get up there was by an elevator which I hadn’t recognized as an elevator.) That’s an extreme case, but it’s a symptom of the larger disadvantage that group play isn’t self-paced. When I’m soloing, I can stop in the middle of a quest to try out a fishing hole I noticed. When I’m not, I feel like I’m wasting other people’s time if I stop to read the quest descriptions thoroughly instead of just skimming them.

5 Comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 19 Jan 2011

    I remember a “test” in A Tale in the Desert that involved putting together a group of seven people for a time-consuming pilgrimage to a number of remote shrines.

    What happened? Did you get close?

    Only task from that game I remember is the “build the obelisk larger than any of the current obelisks” one. The grinding on that one was insane.

  2. Merus on 19 Jan 2011

    I remember the Acrobat one the most. It’s an interesting idea, even filtered through ATITD’s horrid UI issues, and would be interesting to implement in a game where grouping is a lot easier.

    Rogues can bring one ability to the group table: they have an ability called Sap, which lets them stun a monster, letting the rogue start the fight on their terms. While soloing, it’s a minor advantage because most of the time you’re killing one monster. However, it shines in dungeon runs; there’s usually three or four very tough monsters at a time, and sapping one of them means that they won’t all hit at once. Most damage dealing classes have something similar, now, but back in the day rogues and mages were pretty much it in terms of crowd control.

  3. paul on 19 Jan 2011

    I think I agree about grouping. In my previous few groups, I was always questing with experienced friends, who were always running off at (what I perceived as) breakneck speed and who seemed to know every quest by heart. It was all I could do to /follow and try not to get killed.

    My preferred speed is more sedate – I like to have time to agonize about which dagger to equip, and to try to jump over unjumpable hills, and to spin in a circle because I’ve lost my bearings.

  4. malkav11 on 19 Jan 2011

    From my understanding, at high levels rogue damage either has minimal reliance on stealth or provides ways of engaging stealth on a regular basis while involved in combat, depending on spec. Played effectively (which is, of course, the trick), they can output some incredible damage, and while the healing and tanking roles are indispensable in the way that any single damage-oriented character is not, more damage means faster kills which means both quicker dungeon clears (and thus quicker access to the rewards of such a feat) and less opportunity for fights to spiral out of control and kill people.

  5. Carl Muckenhoupt on 20 Jan 2011

    Jason: It was one of those competitive things where each shrine gave your team a number of points (based on how remote it was). Every week, the team that had accumulated the highest score passed the test, and was subsequently removed from consideration. Note that the scoring was cumulative, so that you could build up points from week to week if you could keep getting the team together. But that meant that even if you couldn’t, you still had credit for the shrines you had already visited.

    My team managed to meet for only one session, but months later, I was informed that I had passed the test. The queue of teams that had scored higher than us had been exhausted, presumably because the attention of the player base had shifted to newer challenges. Some of the people on the team weren’t even playing any more at that point.

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