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[MMORPG, WoW] Solo vs Group design issues

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
It seems that every game to come down the pike wrestles with the issue of how to make solo play viable for all characters, but make group play more interesting by including real needs and differences in the characters. It seems that no game ever quite manages to hit a home run in this respect, due to the inevitable compromises that result. (I admit that I haven't read up on some of the latest designs, and might be missing something.)

I wonder sometimes if the games wouldn't be better served by blatantly including solo-only abilities? I don't mean subtle things that really only serve a purpose in solo play (or in group play, for that matter). Rather, consider if WoW simply took every character that was difficult to solo and gave them some extra abilities--and then put in a "solo-only" flag, so that as soon as you grouped, those abilities simply went away.

Yeah, blantant, anti-immersion technique to simply bypass the problem. I don't really see it as any different than handling the issue by making respec so easy. Oh say I want to be a healer druid. I can play one, and struggle somewhat, if it really means that much to me. Or I can go feral, level like crazy, then switch over to heal when I get to the level I want. If I can do that, why not just give me some abilities that only work solo and let me avoid the respec?

For that matter, in WoW specifically, you could achieve that by doubling the talent points and making half of them have the "solo-only" flag. :D
 

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Old enough to know better
Validated User
I don't know. . . .


City of Heroes seemed to be pretty soloable and certainly nowhere near as shaped by group versus solo considerations as World of Warcraft was.

As goes abilities you could only use in solo. . .I think I would stop playing the game. It was bad enough having Mind Soothe and Fade do nothing on my priest when applied to players, let alone having a whole raft of such abilities.
 

Seroster

Miw!
Validated User
I think the problem is that Blizzard tries to make some classes do radically different things depending on spec. So shadow priests are effectively a DPS class while holy are healers. Rather different from hunters whose different trees emphasize different aspects of damage-dealing and crowd control.
 

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
I'm half joking in the OP, but my serious point is that I don't think Blizzard can help it with anything like the current design. If they made a priest that had three talent trees for different ways to heal (and assume they did it well for sake of argument), they would still have the problem that the healer would have a hard time leveling. And now, they'd be undermining one of their own backdoor fixes--going shadow until the priest is ready to group, then respec.

As for making the game annoying, I guess that's a matter of taste. I find the blatant respec kludge more annoying, from a game design, immersion factor. Or at least equally annoying. (I realize that the easy respec is in there for more than this one reason--it's mainly there for player mistakes. But it does provide a crutch for the design team's mistakes, at the same time.) I figure, in for a penny, in for a pound. :D
 

AusJeb

Dreaming One
Validated User
I'm not sure what you're getting at. I have abilities that I use all of the time in solo PvE that I rarely use in group play (i.e. a DoT with a long casting time). My perception has been that one of the challenges in group play is adjusting your play-style to work best with the group (i.e. a warrior waiting for the casters to regain mana even though that means losing rage).
 

nonsense

Hey Nonny-Nonny
RPGnet Member
Validated User
As for making the game annoying, I guess that's a matter of taste. I find the blatant respec kludge more annoying, from a game design, immersion factor. Or at least equally annoying. (I realize that the easy respec is in there for more than this one reason--it's mainly there for player mistakes. But it does provide a crutch for the design team's mistakes, at the same time.) I figure, in for a penny, in for a pound. :D
I don't think they're design mistakes so much as design philosophies. The different trees are intended to suit different styles of play. Protection (Warrior-flavoured) isn't for solo play or PVP; Shadow isn't for healing (nor, in these topsy-turvy days of shadow priests actually being desirable in a dps role, is it only a backdoor way to level).
 

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
nonsenseconscience,

I'm not saying that the existing talent trees are design mistakes. I'll not make a claim that sweeping, unless I have a lot bigger dawg in the fight. What I am saying is that to the extent that the designers make mistakes, the easy respec gives them an out, even though that isn't it's primary purpose. If the designer says that A, B, and C are all equally valid choices, and then he makes a mistake so that A > B > C, it matters. It matters a lot less if Blizzard can tell people that think that, "then take A". It matters even less if Blizzard can tell people, "then take A, and switch when you are ready."

Likewise, I'm fairly sure that shadow priest was not originally conceived of as a backdoor way to level. But now it is. It's probably not originally designed to be a fix for the problem of dedicated healers having trouble with solo content, but now it is. And I''d be willing to bet that such is part of the design now (though I'm on shaky ground here, never having played one).

Jeb,

Sure, there are organic differences that arise using the abilities that a character has, because solo and group play is different. Those are the "subtle things" I passingly referenced in the OP. Now, theoretically, a game could be designed in such a way that a character had the abilities that fit the concept (with whatever variation was needed to avoid cookie-cutter syndrome). In such a game, there would be no need for abilities aimed directly at solo, pairs, small groups, big groups, PvP, PvE, etc. Theoretically.

In practice, it doesn't work that way. What happens instead is that we get endless tweaks to the abilities in every patch to try to achieve balance, and this is a never-ending saga, because of the inevitable compromises and unintended side effects of the changes. So I guess I'm saying rather than continue the endless tweaks, face up that some blatant "good gaming" parameters are necessary and do those. I used the "respec" thing as an example because it's something that I find very glaring. There's no good in-game reason for it, and only the barest of rationalization. It's there for metagaming reasons.

They could, of course, be a bit more subtle than I suggested. Sure. Add a lot more spells and special abilities that only effectively work in solo or group. Have enough of those, they can be boosted/nerfed independent of the abilities that work well in both venues.

I kind of like my idea that the druid should get another version of Innervate that was channeled, had a much shorter cooldown, and transferred his own mana to the target, with mild loss in the transfer. Totally useless solo, but potentially very powerful in groups. (This assume that one wants to make druids more attractive for group play without giving them more power. I use it as an example only because I'd find such a power very fun.)
 

nonsense

Hey Nonny-Nonny
RPGnet Member
Validated User
nonsenseconscience,

I'm not saying that the existing talent trees are design mistakes. I'll not make a claim that sweeping, unless I have a lot bigger dawg in the fight. What I am saying is that to the extent that the designers make mistakes, the easy respec gives them an out, even though that isn't it's primary purpose. If the designer says that A, B, and C are all equally valid choices, and then he makes a mistake so that A > B > C, it matters. It matters a lot less if Blizzard can tell people that think that, "then take A". It matters even less if Blizzard can tell people, "then take A, and switch when you are ready."
I see what you're saying, but I think you'll find that most people just don't find the idea of a free respec glaring in any way. I mean, sure, if I get down to the nitty-gritty of immersion, maybe it doesn't make sense, but gnomes ride robotic chickens. Water off a duck's back.

Frankly, if there weren't some way to undo poor choices or simply change up my playstyle a bit to liven up gameplay, I wouldn't play WoW. Period.

Likewise, I'm fairly sure that shadow priest was not originally conceived of as a backdoor way to level. But now it is. It's probably not originally designed to be a fix for the problem of dedicated healers having trouble with solo content, but now it is. And I''d be willing to bet that such is part of the design now (though I'm on shaky ground here, never having played one).
In this case, it's pretty much the opposite. Shadow used to be the leveling and PVP tree, with almost no group utility outside of making warlocks do a little more damage. Only now, with the addition of Vampiric Touch, has Shadow truly come into its own as a balanced and worthwhile tree in both solo and group contexts.

If anything, Blizzard has actually done a very good job of improving talent trees from the early days. I remember when druids had exactly one talent tree worth a damn, and the rest was Improved Pounce. There are still some rather poor individual talents, but I can't think of a single tree that's outright useless (with the possible exception of Retribution, which has the interesting distinction of being the game's only Level-to-35-and-respec tree).
 

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Old enough to know better
Validated User
I think the problem is that Blizzard tries to make some classes do radically different things depending on spec. So shadow priests are effectively a DPS class while holy are healers. Rather different from hunters whose different trees emphasize different aspects of damage-dealing and crowd control.
Three trees full of healing would have been sucktastic.
 

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Old enough to know better
Validated User
Likewise, I'm fairly sure that shadow priest was not originally conceived of as a backdoor way to level. But now it is. It's probably not originally designed to be a fix for the problem of dedicated healers having trouble with solo content, but now it is. And I''d be willing to bet that such is part of the design now (though I'm on shaky ground here, never having played one).
Wand specialization, Smite, and Shadow Word: Pain gave a method for levelling (back when Holy Fire was still a talent) to those who did not want to dedicate themselves to Shadow. And now it is fully possible to augment Holy damage via Discipline and Holy talents.

Shadow has not been and is not now the sole way to level a priest.
 
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