Thereâ€™s a distinction between group quests and content and actual grouping.
I play all the aforementioned games, including Star Wars: The Old Republic, with my friends. While people were raging about SW:TOR the â€œsingleplayer RPGâ€, my experience couldnâ€™t have been further from that description. Every quest in Star Wars: The Old Republic was a group quest for me. Why? Because I played with a group! I donâ€™t need the game to force me to group by gating my progress with group content and if you truly are such a social butterfly and play MMOs to interact with other players, thereâ€™s absolutely nothing stopping you from doing so. You have a group finder and you have general chat â€“ use it!
On one of my first nights playing The Secret World, another game that doesnâ€™t force grouping, I ran into some random fellow doing the police station zombie defense quest outside of the Kingsmouth police station. He randomly invited me to a group. We finished that mission and proceeded to play through the rest of the night together doing all manner of quests and solving puzzles together. None of the quests we did required a group, yet we had a great time. Â
AAA MMOs are never going to go back to forced grouping. Itâ€™s time to let it go. And you should be OK with that, because if the crux of the issue is you want to play with others, you donâ€™t need the game to force you to do that. If youâ€™re as social as you would seemingly claim, youâ€™ll naturally group with other players you meet in the game. I met some of my best friends through my adventures in the ultimate sandbox (to me) that was Star Wars Galaxies, but guess what? SWG didnâ€™t force me to group. Sure, there were dangerous areas of the game you werenâ€™t likely to survive without a group, but I made most of these friends even before seeking out these challenges.
Heck, one of the very first things I did in Star Wars Galaxies was get together with over 40 other random newbies and try to survive running amok on Endor during the first week or so of launch.Â
Developers have been trying to tackle this issue in creative ways over the past couple of years, going all the way back to the prototype of dynamic group content in Warhammer Onlineâ€™s Public Quests, to Trionâ€™s RIFT, and now to Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet in particular has, I feel, best identified (and dealt with) this social interaction deficit in MMOs. Guild Wars 2 has been designed around allowing for seamless, scaling group play any time you want it. I feel this is the right approach. Instead of designating group content and/or forcing groups upon players, Guild Wars 2 simply makes grouping and cooperatingÂ simple, hassle-free, accessible, and more importantly, integrated into the core experience of playing the game. Weâ€™ll have to see how it ultimately plays out later this summer.
The fact of the matter is this: Gamers who want to play with each other will simply do so. It doesnâ€™t matter if the game is a sandbox game or a themepark game. It doesnâ€™t matter if you can solo to level cap or not. The beauty is that we now have options to experience these games how we want. Could MMOs use more group centric content to give those so inclined more challenges to tackle? Maybe. But complaints that an MMO that clearly has group content (whether it has enough of it is subjective) is a singleplayer game because it doesnâ€™t explicitly force you to play with others is just ridiculous.