Not Merely Solo Quests in an MMO World

So, I got carried away with a wall-of-text comment reply and I’m -still- not done mulling on the issues brought up. Best to post this on my own blog, no doubt.

Spinks over at Spinksville expresses frustration over facing solo quests in an MMO world. It’s a bit of a rant that covers a number of game design topics and I just keep feeling that they’re not being properly broken down into their component bits to be examined properly. “Solo quests” is too general and may end up going down to the old and stale solo vs group debate road all over again.

Spinks conflates a number of issues into one, I think.

There’s having problems with:

Badly Designed, Unfair Challenges

That do not clue you in on the correct solution or offer good feedback towards this.

Or that are unfairly skewed towards a particular aspect of combat – eg. if you can’t dps this down within a certain time, you’re screwed. Fuck healers. Fuck tanks.

Or if you can’t heal this squishy escort NPC, you’re done for. Sorry, all classes without a heal. DPS moar and pray. Taunt it a second time, maybe.

This is especially bad in MMOs that aren’t designed for character classes to be flexible or re-specs to happen easily. If one is say, in RIFT or some such, one at least has the option of completely changing up one’s character to tune it to solve the challenge (though some would still complain that this is “forcing” them to play in a way that contravenes their preference. One could argue though, that proper mastery of a class means knowing how to play all its aspects.)

On the other hand, if the correct solution can be arrived at by reading the quest text, or by taking some time out to readjust one’s skill build (eg, in TSW or GW), or if there are multiple solutions to overcome the challenge that all classes have some access to, then that’s a lot more reasonable design in that any one player on any one character might possibly be expected to manage this.

Then there’s the challenge that doesn’t really offer any learning opportunities for the player. It’s really a time-gate. Grind this much repeatedly so that you can earn this set of gear with incrementally higher numbers that will now allow you to pass the challenge that you couldn’t manage before because the punching bag’s hitpoints are really that high.

I’m prejudiced, yes, I find this boring. But I suppose if you’re playing a game where nearly all the challenges are set out this way, then that’s how that particular game works. If you play it, you’ve accepted its premises. The challenge has to be consistent for that particular game.

Which leads us to…

The Bait And Switch

Seriously, stop this one. It’s dumb as fuck.

Here’s a trail of breadcrumbs on how to steadily progress with my game…

Now whoops, here comes something completely different, involving a diferent playstyle which may not be to your preference, WHAP, do it and enjoy!

The player is left blinking, going, hey, where’s the game I was enjoying before this blindsided me? Am I going to find more of the stuff I liked after finishing this weird shit, or do I face a future of this? Maybe I should be re-evaluating my future with -your- suddenly new and different game.

Don’t plunk a solo quest in the middle of a whole bunch of group quests. Don’t plunk a group quest (haha, fooled you, go spam LFG now!) in the middle of a solo quest sequence.

The ‘real’ game is raids. Now let’s spend the next five years trying to fast-forward raiders through the leveling game that they don’t appreciate going through to begin with.

Oh, the leveling through quest experience that you enjoy? You can still do it, but you’ll never be as strong or powerful as those playing ‘the real game’ and be forever looked down upon.

I have no idea what they’re trying to pull here. Give me a game where the PvPers get to PvP in peace with their separate progression and arenas, and the PvErs do PvE stuff, and everyone progresses in their own way, any day. For those who enjoy both, well, hooray, lateral progression paths! Do both!

Solo or Group Preferences

Are just that. A preference. Stop blaming soloists or groupies (or content designed for them) for all the ills of the earth.

It’s a false dichotomy anyway. Lots of people both solo and group. They do both solo quests and group up for dungeons and raids.

They may like doing one or the other more. That’s preference.

What we more often hate are that we have no alternatives. No options. Backed into a corner because -somebody- decided it would be a good idea to have this solo quest or group raid be completion-required-for-overall-progress or the only content drop in an update with a game-changing, playing field-unleveling shiny attached.

Forcing Players Into a Playstyle They Dislike (or Face Progress Blocked For Good)

No contest here. This is highly unpopular.

Make an “I-only-PvP” player PvE for gear just to be on an even playing field with their opponents, and the howling will be just as loud as forcing an” I-only-PvE” player into a PvP zone in order to get a shiny.

Making it a requirement for people who prefer to solo to group up for the best rewards and to see new content yields a whole bunch of very surly, possibly bad-at-working-in-a-group loners joining PUGs and everyone having a miserable time.

Just as making it a requirement for people who prefer to group all the time to separate and wait for each other to pass a certain solo threshold, “be-this-good-by-yourself-or-your-path-together-is-blocked” yields a very frustrated person who will wield the “M” is for multiplayer stance like a bludgeon.

Devs may still do it, as they may be aiming to lay a trail of breadcrumbs to lead players into trying out a certain activity, or they simply have no time to create alternatives or options but I’m sure they brace themselves for the complaint storm ahead.

Y’see, part of why this is so complicated is the large group of in-betweens who might be willing to do both. If tempted a certain way. And getting them to do both gives them variety. But I do think this should be “soft” encouragement and temptation, rather than “hard” roadblocks and forcing.

A cosmetic item with the same stats, but looking very much special and prestigious and unavailable elsewhere, is one idea. No one is forcing you to get it – in the sense that your playing field will still be level with or without it. Or a reward that can be gotten in a few places, so that players have at least a choice of the least onerous they would prefer. Or extra helpings of a shiny obtainable elsewhere or through other means, so that it’s most optimal to go for one path over another. (As long as it’s not ridiculously hard or lengthy to go the other route.)

Not being able to advance to next level, or get the next quest in the questline, or having no other means to get a reward with incrementally higher stats? Forcing. Bad. Prepare for tons of player protest.

Adjustable Difficulty Levels and/or In-Game Tutorials

Finally, we have the problem that I touched on in the comments but failed to resolve there.

What can we do with players who are not up to the challenge? That, for whatever reasons (some may be good ones – have a handicap, legally blind, ill, etc.), are not performing as hoped?

It’s harsh to have just one benchmark and say, “You must be this tall to pass. The end.”

That leads to elitism. (Though one might argue that in some games, both devs and players don’t give a shit whether they create an elitist community or not. It may even seem like their goal is to glorify the hardcore at the expense of everyone else.)

That leads to people failing to make the grade being miserable, pissed, frustrated, angry, feeling hopeless and all in all, ready to dump your game and move on to a more reasonable one. (Did you want their money or did you not care?)

I think the solution is obvious, but no doubt, hard to implement. Adjustable or scaling difficulty. With commensurate rewards, if you like.

The easiest difficulty is baby mode. Handhold them. Make it easy. Tutorial mode your special gimmicks. Just let players see the nice graphic models your artists spent so much time and hard work on, and maybe the story if there is one. Let any blocking progress be unlocked. That’s reward enough.

(I know I personally appreciated Super Adventure Box’s Infantile Mode before I graduated to jumping the normal course that most just started out with. Whee! Rainbows catch clumsy charr from falling and splattering to horrible doom! Except when charr chooses to keep leaping for sneaky hidden secret room of his own accord! Charr took 7 hours but finally got comfortable with it!)

The idea is to just get shaky players familiar with their surroundings and either content to be “done with it” or comfortable enough to move on to practising a slightly harder challenge now that they’ve managed to grasp a few necessary concepts (rather than learn how to juggle, pull, kite, fight, use strange skills,  heal stuff and not stand in fire all at the same time while getting beat on in completely unfamiliar surroundings that are a maze of twisty passages and getting yelled at by their supposed “teammates” or feeling pressured to succeed alone because someone else has finished and is waiting for them.)

Optional desirable shinies are to be attained at harder difficulty levels. Introduce the more advanced concepts. Bring in the more complex dance routines and gimmicks and so on. If they want them, then they must improve to the standards being demanded of them by the challenge.

But make the first progress-unblocker doable by all.

Because if you don’t, the player won’t have a reason to even play your game any longer.

GW2: How Inclusive Should the Molten Weapons Facility Be?

So… let’s talk dungeon. Specifically, the potentially controversial Molten Weapons Facility that has made an appearance as the next stage of the Living Story – Flame & Frost: Retribution saga.

The raging controversy at the above linked thread is the old debate about having the option to solo vs “forced” group content. One of the major beefs is the ol’ bait-and-switch over time, especially with the lure and promise of a narrative to be completed. Players are suckers for a good story, and want to see it from beginning, middle and end. Throw in a 5-man dungeon to cap off your story, and it’s the Personal Story => Arah Story dungeon WTF all over again.

Two other subsets appear to have issues with this. One, the antisocials and/or ‘friends and family only’ small group less than five folks who are rather dismayed at having this appear to cock block their story or achievement progress (and let’s not forget the tempting vanity shinies too.)

And two, the for-whatever-reason movement-impaired, ie. those who cannot dodge or jump well, possibly physically handicapped or having a disease or have poor ping, etc, who know very well that they will either soon be left out or excluded due to accessibility issues, or don’t want to deal with the emotional drama/stress/tension that is bound to arise from having a not-so-great player in the midst of a group focused on getting to the end as quickly as possible.

(Now before any of the above take major umbrage at my description of them, know too that I also habitually fall off cliffs, through gaps, fail dodges, and jump poorly, nor does it seem to be helped by having a latency all the way from South East Asia. At least it’s not Australia?)

I dunno. I think I have a point I want to make about inclusivity vs exclusivity, but it’s not quite well formed yet.

Oooh, that's deep.
Oooh, that’s deep.

Instead, let me tell you about my experiences with the Molten Weapons Facility so far:

Round 1 – Random PUG, all level 80s, same server, on cookie cutter guardian

Since the dungeon had bugged out as the patch dropped, and I was simply too sleepy to wait any further, I tried to get on as soon as I woke up in order to catch the wave of people who still hadn’t done it yet. As pure random chance would have it, I did find such a group. Good, it’s my favorite way to experience a new dungeon, and just like the launch crowds only happen once, you cannot take away knowledge once it is learned.

We were all 80s, the group consisted of 2 warriors, a mesmer, an engineer and moi. The warriors were using shouts and banners, there was me on the ye olde AH shout hammer guardian, and I am not conversant enough with the other two classes to know what they were doing, but I am sure there was a good mix of control/dps/support going on. We learned the mechanics via experiencing it, there were barely any deaths, whole thing ran very smoothly. I had a hammer knockback, which was very helpful on the protectors, found my stability shout pretty heavily utilized, and made a mental note to take in hallowed ground next time as well.

Round 2 – Guild group, 4 level 80s and 1 lvl 40, same server, on cookie cutter guardian

For my next run, I joined some guildies, three of which were running it for the first time and one of whom, along with me, had done it once before. Group composition, mesmer, 2 necromancers, a lvl 40 warrior and me. I brought hallowed ground, swapping it back and forth with retreat as needed.

The two of us checked with the three who hadn’t done it to see if they were open to spoilers. They were, and wanted strategy tips but they didn’t want to rush through, which was a-ok with me because I loathe speed runs with a passion. (More on this later though.)

Noted the ore appeared to be on cooldown or a per-character basis. I’m still not sure if the karma items are on an account basis – I failed to receive one of them when my inventory was full and I’m going to be a little sad if I miss the little conversation snippet because of this. Thankfully, no achievement linked to it.

All in all, a relatively smooth run. A few more deaths than the previous round, and one wipe on the boss as folks figured out the mechanics. I believe most of the additional deaths came from trying to rez each other, because getting locked into place rezzing during a high mobility required fight is always tricky. We ended up finishing the ranged boss with two people, or one really, as I collapsed one second before it died (which joyously rallied me, even before the others rezzed up for the super-saiyan boss version.)

Round 3 – Random PUG, 2 level 80s, a lvl 52, a lvl 25, a lvl 4, same server, on experimental spirit weapon build guardian

Now that I had the facility under my belt, so to speak, I was curious to see if a new character would reset the ore or karma items. I was also curious to see if spirit weapons had been improved any. Well aware I was going to be a LOT squishier, I decided to chance it with a random PUG.

Group composition: Me, a lvl 80 engineer, a lvl 52 warrior, a lvl 25 elementalist, a lvl 4 guardian. I checked the achievement points of the lowbies, and they were all only at a few hundred. The engineer had 3000. I’m sure some of you are laughing on the floor right now. Me, I knew very well this wasn’t ever going to make it to completion and sighed inwardly. I briefly considered logging cookie cutter AH alt on to maybe soak more pain and give more group support than the more selfishly built one, but what the hell, it was going to be a test of how the designers had scaled/balanced their MWF!

The good news is that we managed the Molten Alliance veterans just fine. The bad news is that we popped a Champion Ember as the boss in the hall after the dredge tunneling machine, instead of a Champion Ooze. This, if you are not aware, spawns a great variety of Ember minions of normal and veteran quality and KEEPS spawning them. All of which throw a ground based lava font aoe.

This utterly decimated the team. Over and over. We tried pulling the whole mass back into the tunnel, which helped us take down everything not-Champion for a short while and dink 1/5 of the Champion’s health bar off. Concentrated ground aoe in that chokepoint is a killer though, and took squishy ol’ me out in four hits or so, once I’d used up all dodging capacity, blocks, invulnerable, the works. Let’s not even talk about how the lowbies fared, between not having developed dodge reflexes, underdeveloped traits/skills, and naturally very little toughness/vitality.

So we tried the Ember in the hall, which helped me survive it a little longer by virtue of kiting it around internally screaming my head off that this is entirely the wrong build for this sort of thing, except all the lowbies fell over in three seconds when the other Embers looked at them crosswise, and then I fell over when eight lava AoEs appeared under my feet before I could even hit the dodge button.

I swapped to projectile reflects and absorbs, which did nothing for the ground based aoe damage. I wasn’t traited for shouts, and had a grand total of maybe 200 healing power, so I doubted it would work either. Long story short, we called it. They did, however, very gamely give it their all over and over, and it was just very obvious that these were all inexperienced or new Guild Wars 2 players, while I wasn’t on a cheaty optimal group-focused build either and had been hoping to sneak in and get ‘half-carried’ by other stronger builds.

Round 4 – Random PUG, all level 80s, same server, on experimental spirit weapon build guardian

So immediately on disbanding, I jumped right in to another group LFM, and what do you know, the slightly less experienced level 80 engineer in round 3 had popped right in to the new group with me. I was quite gleeful about this, tbh, because this evened out the variance between dungeon experiments.

Group composition: 2 mesmers, a thief, the engineer and me. I took one look at the group and decided to pre-warn them that I wasn’t in your typical AH hammer guardian tanky build. Fortunately, the spokesperson of the group who had done it before was very accepting and said no problem, it was all about skill and knowing when to dodge/jump, etc.

As luck would also have it, we spawned the Champion Ember. This, I noted with some amount of vindication, did knock over one or two level 80s with the ground based aoes – BUT with the dps outputted by five level 80s (and probably some aggro tanking from mesmer clones) , I was able to survive long enough for the Ember to fall over before all my helpful survival skills ended up on cooldown. I did have to bounce between melee and ranged, instead of just face-tanking shit with a hammer though.

Veteran Molten Alliance seemed to go down somewhat faster. Protectors were harder to manage as the shield knockback doesn’t launch them far enough out of the circle, and the spirit hammer knockback is hard to control/precisely position.

The boss fight was on an order of distinctly more challenging. The two mesmers were very skilled and kited well with their clones and had the shockwave timing jumps pat. The engineer, as expected, spent most of his time facefirst on the ground. I wasn’t far behind from that, along with the thief.

Some of it just seemed to be bad luck though. The loudest, most skilled spokesperson still fell over when the berserker landed a chained up knockdown or some such on them. I come out of loadscreens a bit more slowly than most (either lousy computer or ping or both) so when the berserker boss superpowered himself, I had just enough time to see the flame circle sweep towards me but not enough time to react with a jump, dodge, or run away – which somehow one-shot me. Wonder if it critted. I did eat a few more shockwaves during the next go, because I was trying the ‘jump over’ method spokesperson was recommending, but I think ping was a problem. That or being on a charr or my overall timing. I had MUCH better success with dodges or blocks (or stability, which I resolved to slot in the next time, as the spirit weapons were just getting splattered by the boss – so much for hp buffing.)

Despite the multiple deaths, we did actually kill the bosses (two tries each) and complete the dungeon.

Round 5 – Picky PUG, all level 80s, same server, on cookie cutter guardian

I was actually hoping to be a masochist and subject one or two more random PUGs to my ‘horrible’ guardian. However, the only group advertising in map was someone looking for – I quote – “shout/banner warrior, AH hammer guardian or TW mesmer.”

As is my usual custom, I ignored such pickiness (like, I suspect, most people do) and watched the group leader advertise two more times. Then I decided I was bored enough to go do one more experiment for the sake of science (and this blog!) and also, I kinda wanted another try at the jetpack pop chance at the end of the dungeon.

It helped that the group leader had engaged in a civil mapchat conversation with someone who was expressing that their previous group had wiped on the last boss and was feeling the dungeon to be extremely hard, whereas said group leader said, no no, it’s very easy, here, join my group and I’ll show you. (Then promptly renewed his advertising for the new GW2 trinity.)

So I sent them a tell, told ’em I’d log on Mr Cookie Cutter, and joined them.

Need I really say anything more about how it went?

Oh well, if you insist. Group composition: elementalist, ranger, necromancer, warrior and me. The necromancer had minions out, the warrior had banners and shouts going, combo fields were dropping left, right and center, almost no one’s hp bar moved except for maybe mine, which would just bounce up and down between full and half in the manner of AH guardians. One crisis moment of nearly dropping necessitated a brief backing off to staff empower up to 3/4 health, and there was one mind-blanked-out face-tanking hammer-humming moment which caused me to eat a flame circle and drop downed, because I plain forgot to even watch out for it.

So… what is the moral of these stories?

I dunno. It actually just makes me sad. I WANT to be inclusive, dammit.

I don’t want to reject non-level 80s from, what is essentially, an event dungeon group.

You know who those only-in-the-several-hundreds ArenaNet achievement points players are? They are our game’s new blood.

I’m sure people could probably “carry” one or two of them in a very strong dungeon powerhouse builds kind of group. But I wonder if they want to be “carried” or if they’d really rather just contribute.

I’d really love to take in non-standard builds to a dungeon whom ArenaNet -claims- that any group of five players can manage. And I gotta admit, I did complete the dungeon successfully with one. But I do worry about how much of a drag down I will be on the group as a result.

Then as icing on the temptation cake, I find that I actually crave the rewards that pop at the end of this dungeon. The jetpack looks pretty nifty, but I’d really kill for a mini firestorm and to be able to construct an endless potion of his berserker brother.

Now to perfect my miniature shrinking ray...
Now to perfect my miniature shrinking ray…

With THAT kind of goal in mind, and a 14 day time limit on this dungeon, doesn’t that add up to a distinct designer pressure for achievement-oriented players to run this dungeon back to back as many times and as quickly as possible?

I’m probably still going to bring my squishy Charr into MWF one or two more times, for the heck of it and because I’m going to master dodging and jump timing, dammit,  and I’ll apologize in advance here for any group wipes and repair bills and extended runs this might or might not cause some unlucky random PUG.

But after I get being stubborn and experimental out of my system, expect to see me on the Asura hammering my way to victory repeatedly for a few vanity shinies.

Taking bets now on when speed runs and the MWF farm become the only “proper” way to run this dungeon, and what the ‘expected’ strategy everyone is ‘required’ to follow ends up becoming.

Making People Group – GW2 vs The Old Way

I’m a month late to reading this post on Guild Wars 2, where Milady expresses an argument that defends “forced grouping” as having significant benefits for players to make social connections with each other, and suggests that GW2’s new system of incentivizing sociable activities makes the actions players take comparatively more meaningless than in the traditional forced group MMO setting.

I beg to differ.

You can motivate people by forcing them somewhere with a stick, or encouraging them to approach with a carrot. Personally, I know which one I’d prefer.

One liners aside, I’d agree that “forced grouping” does provide a compulsion to interact with others, and an opportunity (in that there is a captive audience) for those who would like to exercise the free choice to socialize with people.

However, there is another not-inconsiderable-in-number subset of players who do take issue with the compulsion and the “force” because it reduces their freedom of choice – to make game progress with whomever they want, alone or with others. By feeling like they have no choice in the matter, there’s even less incentive and desire to connect with others, beyond making use of them to get to wherever they want.

In a scenario like this, it becomes important to be able to tell these players apart and not befriend them overly, because you run the risk of getting stabbed in the back and having trust betrayed when they ditch you for greener pastures, possibly making off with all your items or what-not.

I’d argue that in Guild Wars 2, far from making social interaction an automatic meaningless reaction to get rewards – the aim of all the incentives, all the systems working in tandem, is to move past all that in-group out-group nonsense by making everyone on your server in-group.

Everyone is a potential person that you could make the free choice to open up to, chat with, and befriend. There is no lack of free choice with GW2’s system either.

I believe the degree of incentivization may be crucial as well in helping GW2’s system function appropriately.

The default option of many MMO players (especially if they’re trained by WoW) is to go their own way and solo. (Among just some of the in-built incentives to this option: not needing to wait for someone else, can pause or sidetrek at any time, no exposure of vulnerability to other players required.)

If you over-incentivize with a carrot, say if you gain a lot more xp in a group than you would solo, then yeah, you’d see lots of people clamoring to get into groups and travel together. But no deep social interaction occurs – people group, farm xp, leave when their objective is achieved with nary a word.

Some people may take advantage of this enforced audience to build social connections, through chatting, through personal exposure, through performing a group combat role well, through good leadership, etc. but there is free choice at work here. Others may very well not bother to connect.

Very soon, the over-incentive to group is perceived as “forced” grouping. I may want to solo, but I cannot progress my character at a good clip without “having” to group up. Free choice is lost. And then people complain.

There’s also the real force with a stick option. That’s the typical raid mechanic. If you don’t participate in this group activity that -requires- such and such amount of people, no progression for you. Or to take xp as an example: no xp when alone, you only get xp with others. Do you have any choice in the matter? Only a very binary one, play it and get the reward or not play and forgo the reward.

But what if you defuse some of the built-in incentives to soloing by providing (approximately) -equivalent- alternative options  to gain rewards with other players?

At any time, I can choose to walk away from other players and solo and gain a set rate of xp and rewards. In most typical MMOs, if I choose to walk towards other players to group, my set rate of xp doesn’t change much, or it may even go down – “omg, u’re killstealing frm me.” To maintain or slightly improve my xp, I’d have to pause, invite everyone to the same group, lead, converse, organize and keep talking – that’s an increased amount of effort for not very much reward.

Milady argues that putting up with this mild disincentive proves how worthy a “friend” another player is, because they’ve made the choice to value a social connection over self-progression. Fair enough, if your criteria for friendship is only with people who don’t mind un-optimizing themselves temporarily in order to connect with others. That’s one way of forming an in-group, only connecting with those who think more of the good of the group than personal gain.

But why would we want to lose out on the opportunity to build connections with the rest? Plenty of people balance both community good and personal gain.

In Guild Wars 2, the aim is to remove the disincentivizing barriers to grouping with others. If I walk toward other players, and help out on their mobs, I’m not taking away any xp from them, and I’m helping them kill faster, benefiting all. Social interaction doesn’t have to be a zero sum game – I put up with irritation in order to help you more? Both of us can benefit from the interaction in GW2.

Rezzing people is not the only way to gain xp in GW2. If it was, then yeah, I’d say that would promote meaningless exchanges because everyone would be racing to rez people for progress. Rezzing people is an option, and by performing it, you gain a reward. You could also happily ignore the dead person, and continue to swing away at the dynamic event boss, because when he dies, you get a big reward. That small reward for rezzing people just provides positive reinforcement, a ‘good job!’ signal for people who make the free choice to reach out and help someone – often facing the risk of coming under fire in combat to do so.

I actually think there are a couple more critical factors in this rezzing mechanic than just reward optimization encouraging automatic behavior. As Chris Bell proposes at GDC, social interaction requires vulnerability in order for people to become open to trusting another. Being defeated and about to die is about as vulnerable as it gets without harsher mechanics like the risk of item loss or permadeath. Naturally, you take note of those who come to your aid, rather than the rest of the masses who are still unthinkingly automatic firing at the boss. A little bit of trust and respect is built, paving the way for more chances at future social interactions.

I’d argue that by encouraging these sorts of iterative and positive small gestures in a game, it has a subtle effect on the entire community of the game. It becomes more welcoming, more willing to respond to someone in need and help, rather than taking the default option of treating others like a stranger who will bring more trouble than he’s worth. City of Heroes was a much nicer place when people ran around giving out free money to lowbies because they had no other use for it, instead of now being incentivized to hoard the cash to buy better loot for their characters.

As for the not-so-good apples, or those who put personal gain over anything or anyone else, Guild Wars 2 actively strives to ensure that they can never perform actions that harm others while doing so. Whatever they do, will still indirectly help others on their server.  That’s a far better design goal than tacitly permitting them to do harm.

Is it crucial to be able to tell them apart in order to judge who is worth being “friends” with? I don’t believe so, they likely have very little interest in getting to know you anyway, so they won’t make the free choice to open their mouths and interact, or even bother to travel together with you.

Guild Wars 2 is the next stage, the next experiment, in players socially interacting with one another. To move from a system that has less “I win, you lose” interactions, and more “I win, you win” ones. It’ll be interesting to see where it takes us.