Massively Single Player

It’s been quite some time, really, since I decided to try the new online sensation that is the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. Since then I’ve logged several hundred hours across Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, The Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeon Runners, Everquest, City of Heroes / City of Villains, and R.O.S.E. Online.

And I’ve given them all up. For one main reason:

Trying to organize a group of strangers to achieve a common goal is next to impossible.

Take Final Fantasy XI for example. Most of the game consists of finding a ‘camp’, sending one guy out to lure a monster over to your camp, and then beating on it mercilessly until it keels over and you get somehow stronger. Especially in the early levels, it really is that simple, but you’ll get people who act like they’ve never held a controller before, will walk off from their PC / Playstation without telling you, or instead of bringing one monster back to the camp, they’ll bring every monster in a five-mile radius for an insta-slaughter.

Or World of Warcraft. You might have a quest that tells you to take a thing to a guy in the next town over. If you’ve done the quest before and you know where the second guy is, you tell your buddies and start off to deliver the parcel. You get there only to discover that one guy followed you there, one guy got lost and ended up falling off a cliff, one guy is still at the store getting his gear fixed / selling trash, and one guy went to get supper 20 minutes ago, but didn’t bother to tell anyone, so he’s two towns back wondering where everyone is and begging them to come back to help him finish up the steps of the quest that everyone’s already done.

And on it goes that way. It’s as if the people on the other end of the game were plopped down in front of the control panel of a nuclear submarine, and all of the controls were in Esperanto.

So, rather than trying to deal with that nonsense, I mostly end up playing those kinds of games in single-player mode. Which is great, I don’t have to listen to anyone whining, I don’t have to bother with trying to coordinate chunks of missions around someone’s dog-walking schedule, and I can generally do things in the order that I want to, with the added bonus that if I take down a challenge that’s meant for a group by myself, then the victory was harder fought and slightly more memorable.

Of course, that means that I also miss out on large chunks of the games, mostly because I’m not bothering to do much of the group stuff, but that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.