Two Ideas, One Post.

I have two topics to touch on, topics that are more or less unrelated. Why put them in one post, then? Because I can! Get off my lawn!

I have a friend who believes that intrinsically all multiplayer games are more difficult (and therefore more worthwhile) than single player games. Furthermore, he also believes that all multiplayer PvP games are more difficult than multiplayer cooperative games.

To an extent, I believe he is correct. The human element adds a level of difficulty generally unmatched by a scripted encounter. Even in regards to a cooperative event, such as a raid, ensuring each player is on the same page provides its own challenge, even if the encounter itself isn’t necessarily all that difficult.

Then, of course, there are human versus human games, like competitive Starcraft, or League of Legends, or any of a dozen FPS Doom Counterstrike clones. Clearly, players learn from their mistakes (some do, at least… eventually), and will adapt new strategies. For the most part, AI encounters are static – once you understand the fight, all you need to do is refine your strategy. Against humans, every encounter is unique.

Taking all of that into account, first of all, I don’t believe it necessarily means multiplayer games are more difficult than single player games. Every game has a learning curve, as does every encounter within a game. Sure, once you’ve figured the encounter out, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes trivial. However, that doesn’t make the encounter easy, it just (may) limit the replay value.

Second, I definitely don’t believe that multiplayer games are more worthwhile than single player games. Perhaps that’s because other players are generally so dumb as to make me want to snort the mercury from an old fashioned thermometer…

Now, on to my second, “tangentially” related point. I think it would be nice if MMO’s not only allowed but actually encouraged different approaches to leveling. The early MMO’s – at least the ones I’m familiar with – essentially forced the player base to party up and grind mobs. That’s how Everquest did it, and that’s how Final Fantasy XI (shudder) did it.

Then, World of Warcraft adopted a single player questing approach to leveling. Apparently it was well received. So well, in fact, that it seems as though every MMO since has followed the same single player questing strategy. And I admit, as I may have made evident above, I’m a fan of single player leveling. It let’s you dodge the idiots. A little.

Now, however, the old EQ approach would almost be novel again. And I know for a fact that there is at least one person – not (just) me – that would absolutely love a modern, refined approach to the EQ system.

So why not create a system that encouraged all types of leveling? Sure, there would be a single player quest experience. But also the find a party and grind experience. And then perhaps a similar, yet distinct, find a party and run dungeons experience. And, of course, the single player grind, as well. And whatever else you could think of.

It could be done. Simply adjust the experience rewards for certain mobs based on the size of the party, granting an experience bonus per party member. Then design zones full of nasty elite type mobs that required a full group, but gave little reward to the solo player.

How would that be different from dungeon running all day long? Well, the dungeons would provide better equipment rewards, but less experience than a party committed to grinding could earn. It’s a delicate balance, but possible.

That said, I’m not completely sure what the payoff would be for the developer. I just like the idea. And sometimes, it’s worth implementing ideas simply because they’re interesting – let the players determine whether the idea is worthwhile or not.

There. Two ideas, posted.

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