Editorial: Modern MMOs Offer Speed And Convenience But Often Lack Camaraderie

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor July 31, 2020

A few months ago, Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime shared some thoughts about the early days of World of Warcraft, particularly its social nature. In those days, there were no dungeon finders and few people had guild websites or voice chat to organize activities. Despite its relatively solo-friendly nature, you still needed to form groups, usually in-game, or join a guild to tackle difficult content and carve out some serious time to get things done.

These days, things have changed. It's easier to solo content, easier to find groups, advancement is quicker … basically, everything is faster and more convenient than it used to be. Morhaime acknowledged that without outright condemning it – as some have – saying “that's a question of accessibility and time investment.” He also said that “the social experience, the ability to share your entertainment with others is core.”

I'm a very new-school MMORPG player. I didn't play EverQuest back in 1999, or even WoW in 2004. I'm just old enough to remember having to wait half an hour or longer in City of Heroes or The Lord of the Rings Online to get a healer and so I love dungeon queues and never want to go back to a time when they didn't exist. I like megaservers, account-bound items and achievements, fast travel, and especially convenient inventory management. Oh, and I like free-to-play games, too, but you should know that already.

But I also agree with Morhaime, that today's MMORPGs, with their drop-in-drop-out action, are less social than the games of the past. And this really hit me with a new pastime I've taken up lately.

I recently wrote about Board Game Arena, a site where you can play all sorts of board and card games, simple and complex, for free. For a while, I had a regular Saturday night group with my nephew and his friends and occasionally got into games with his brother, my other nephew, when he's online.

We haven't played together for a few weeks, though. In the meantime, I played a few games with random people on BGA, which is an easy enough process, similar to queueing for group content in an MMO. But it's just not the same. I barely chat in text with the strangers in my game of 7 Wonders or Colt Express, and certainly don't get into it the same way I do with my nephew and his friends over our video sessions.

I feel like I had a similar experience at one of my earliest conventions, a Gen Con in the mid-'90s. I distinctly remember getting into an RPG session that sounded cool in the event booklet, only to realize that, as the game progressed toward the end of its allotted four-hour time slot, I just wasn't having fun the same way I did when I played with my friends. It's not that we were antisocial, or not chatting at all, but trying to form bonds with random people I wasn't going to see after that day just didn't feel enjoyable. Even though I liked the game itself, playing with people I didn't know diminished from my sense of fun.

I think those experiences are similar to what Morhaime was getting at. Gaming with a set group of friends is probably the most fun you can have, but it's hard to set up, hoping that everyone's schedule matches up and you're all going to be interested in the same thing. Finding a group via something like a dungeon finder is easy but, like my RPG group, relies on the game mechanics to provide most of the entertainment, rather than any actual enjoyment from doing an activity with other people. Even if you enjoy the game, that can be difficult, especially given the grindy and repetitive nature of most MMOs. “Grinding is more fun with friends” someone told me long ago, and it's still true.

That doesn't mean that you can't have a good time when playing with strangers. We were all strangers to our favorite MMO at one point, and probably made a few new friends along the way. It's good to meet new people and develop new relationships, because you never know when the next person you meet will become a lifelong companion.

Even so, I think the heart of Morhaime's point is that there's an inverse relationship between accessibility of group adventures in online games and the general quality of those experiences. You can form a group with your friends, which takes time and effort, but probably yields a better experience, or quickly and easily find a group with random people, which may not be as enjoyable. It's a perplexing dilemma for players to navigate – and for developers to plan around – but I think I prefer that we at least have options for both these days.

Now, who wants to be my friend and go on some grand adventure?

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (5)

Fatboy 1 year ago
yea i miss the days of actually earning and feeling good about accomplishing something now a days u just hit auto and everything hunts for u and u get like 100 lvls after a few quests given things to make the game that much easier and after about an hour the game is just boring and plain gumbo in a pot of i dont even know just like wow original was fun to me cause u met people hunted with them and didnt have to speed thru a dungeon just to prove u were faster than someone wow now a days is pretty much cake walk with the addons and stuff they added in game to make it that much easier i like it alot more when u had to hunt a quest item without the sparkly stuff where it took time to complete a quest where level 60 took it felt like a year to get now i can get lvl 60 in a day or less easy it just became so much easier damn millennials (jk) but it does seem to be like every game is getting that much more easier to get things done than in the past i def miss playing everquest and uo ahh the good ol days

EnterMurmillo 1 year ago
I have never been a big MMORPG player and so I never really stuck around in any of them for more than a couple of weeks, except for SWTOR where I had to do a 4-player dungeon. It was all with random people, but it went so well that at the end of the dungeon we just formed a clan and I ended up playing with them for about a year or so. That was the best fun that I've ever had playing online games. Of course, this was back when you actually had to look for a group in SWTOR in order to beat a 4-man dungeon - as far as I know, they have made some changes since.

View 1 reply
Allwynd 1 year ago
Old MMOs on the other hand can be too long-drawn and tedious with their slow progressions.

For example Vanilla WoW, since that's the image of choice for this article can be played solo, at least the leveling part, but becomes really slow and tedious to the point if you're not playing for the first time, leveling feels more like a chore than a hobby activity.

Urthemiel 1 year ago
It's very little about camaraderie and very much about the mmo games being the same, extremely stale, re-skinned and old jumbo we chewed on for decades now.
Can't form any camaraderies if you're bored after the first 5 mins of gameplay.

"Now, who wants to be my friend and go on some grand adventure?"
By adventure you mean lessgo grind xxx billions of mobs, again?
Or maybe xxx billions of other players in pvp?

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