Random Thought About Solo Play and “Aloneness”

Assuming no limitations or restrictions on time, schedules, desired rewards, whatever:

1) Would you prefer to play an MMO mostly solo on your own? Or would it feel more enjoyable with friends/company?

2) Are you comfortable eating out at a restaurant alone? Or would it feel somewhat weird or less enjoyable?

Just a completely random thought out of nowhere.

I’m wondering if there’s any correlation between the two activities, or no.

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Blaugust Day 3: A Great Many Trove Firsts

It’s amazing how much you get done after writing things down.

Here’s what happened in Trove in two days:

  • Tried a Shadow Arena (Uber 2) for the first time, solo, and won (albeit with some fancy-footwork tactics)
  • Bought an Elysian Flask from the store using cubits (zero real money spent so far)
  • Leveled a Tomb Raiser class to lvl 10 and thoroughly enjoyed it
  • Gained Mastery Level 20 and got my first set of free neophyte wings
  • Leveled ringcrafting to 250
  • Obtained 3500 cubits (just 500 shy of a store-bought raptor mount, one more day should do it)
  • Fished approximately a hundred times
  • Decided I could spare 600 glim to buy the cheapest and lowliest (but functional) boat to tide me over while collecting more resources for the nicer models
  • Found a Treasure Isles merchant selling buddybot soultraps and bought a few
  • Found a Treasure Isles merchant selling cat soultraps and bought a few (popping a rare Prowling Shadow ally on the 5th try! And then popping another while buying a few more for the hell of it, trying to collect the common rarity allies.)

What’s left on the list is get a mount, gardening, fish a lot more, and then it’s time to find new grindy goals (of which, Trove has plenty, never fear.)

Apparently, as apology for a spate of crashes and extended maintenance downtime (every time this happens in some other game, I remember that ArenaNet’s back end team is fucking amazing for creating a game that almost never goes down and never has regular weekly maintenance,) Trove offered up a free class coin and a bunch of cubits to each player that logged on that weekend as an olive branch.

Works for me.

I leapt at the chance to purchase the newest and most expensive class, the Tomb Raiser, for the wonderful price of free.

I’d been eyeing it for its reputation as a really good soloing class.

It didn’t disappoint when I put it through its early paces.

Left mouse button was a basic magic attack, and right mouse button called up a dinky little bone minion that fought monsters for you.

smallminion

Its passive attracted little deep purple ‘souls’ that orbited the Tomb Raiser. Each was a charge for summoning one of those itty bitty bone minions. Souls are regained over time, or when something dies, creating a snowball effect of an increasing swarm of minions that tilts the battle towards victory.

I had visions of the City of Heroes’ mastermind all over again, and it’s done even better in Trove, as the minions can do a respectable amount of damage, along with ‘tank’ by holding aggro / body blocking.

tombraiserskills

Skill 1 converted the basic attack into an AoE effect, and gives you 90% damage resistance, allowing the Tomb Raiser to dive into his minion swarm and AoE burn enemies down while healing his minions with the same skill. Drawback: it ends when you run out of energy.

Skill 2 gathers up all your existing minions and makes them form up into one giant bone goliath, Devastator-like.

largeminion

I was already chuckling to see the three-headed monstrosity that I’d gathered from the three minions I had out, just about my height or the height of the boss. (Three souls, right?)

Then some chance spamming of itty bitty minions gave me 5 or 6 out at one time (killing stuff returns a soul charge back, yeah?) and I hit button 2 for the hell of it.

rarrrr

RAAAWRRRR.

Omg, I’d created a MONSTER.

And it was MINE.

It engaged the boss, towering over it and me, and cheerfully swiped the boss into oblivion with a few hits.

You may picture me in full-on maniacal laughter at this point as I thought “Best Mastermind/Summoner Class Ever! I am so leveling this for keeps!”

(And yes, you can create further itty bitty minions while this monstrosity is following you too. So much ❤ ❤ ❤ for the skeletal horde.)

Creates tanks, does damage, doesn’t have to get into melee if it doesn’t want to, I can see why the Tomb Raiser is considered a really good soloing class.

Deciding what to do with the free bonus cubits was a lot harder.

I eyed the store raptor for a long time, before deciding being a little faster mounted could wait, and picked up the Elysian Jug I’d also been eyeing. The default Elysian Flask heals 40% health and has 8 charges.  The store-bought Elysian Jug heals 100% health for the same number of charges.

This might be an arguable case of paying-for-power, except there are two ways to obtain it: credits, earned via a real money exchange, or cubits, earned via playing over time (doing dailies, leveling higher up in Masteries, etc.), so it becomes more a case of paying for convenience or to circumvent a time-limited grind.

The flask options are also pretty interesting in terms of lateral choices available. You can also pick up an Elysian Bandolier, which heals 20% health, but has 18 charges. Good for those that like to spam, and apparently for those that want to frequently trigger accompanying emblem flasks that also provide various buffs. There’s a Balanced Elysian Flask version that heals 40% but has more capacity, and the lazy man’s Death-Defying Vial that heals 30% health, with 10 charges, but does so automatically when low on health – good for those that tend to die with half their flasks unconsumed because they forgot or couldn’t use them in time, I guess.

In this case, I’m still too broke to think about buying Emblems, and all I really want at the moment is more effective health to prolong my characters’ survival.

A 100% health recharge flask does that very well, as long as you have nerves of steel and dare to drop to a sliver of hp remaining before quaffing.

I’d taken my highest level Knight (16, +2 from two pieces of Shadow gear) out to do his daily Star Bar and was ambling around comfortably in a Uber-Level 2 Adventure World. (He was within the level range to go to U3, but I found it a little slow going with the current gear he had, and dropped to U2 for something better paced.)

Then I saw it.

A Shadow Arena.

The second I’d seen in my Trove play so far.

Entering the first was a moot point, as I hadn’t earned enough Shadow Fragments to create a Shadow Key yet. But the second… well, I had enough for ONE key.

Did I dare? Test out if I could solo it? Something meant for 8 people? At Uber-Level 2? (I mean, oughta try soloing a U1 first, no?)

Oh, what the hell, I was more nervous about grouping with unknowns to enter an unknown place, than just wandering in myself into said unknown place to see what it was like and get my expectations set properly.

So I made the key, opened the portal and stepped in.

shadowarena

A hasty scan of a wiki revealed something about 5 waves of monsters, with one -big- bad being the 5th wave.

The first wave wasn’t so bad, a lot of small monsters, just back away a lot and kite and keep AoE cleaving with my knightly sword. Spam flasks and my elite heal when my health dropped.

Ditto the second and third.

It started becoming obvious somewhere around wave 3-4 that I was running out of full-heal flasks at too fast a rate.

Dammit, and I still had a giant boss monster to go on wave 5. Was I screwed?

With one flask left on Wave 4, I knew I had to come up with another strategy. Stat.

There was to be no climbing, every last surface was spiked, and I heartily doubted that this arena would let you place blocks. I couldn’t stop anyway, the mobs would catch up and knock my health bar into next week.

And just like that, I realized my only hope. I -couldn’t- stop. I had to kite. Big big circles so that the melee mobs couldn’t touch me.

Why?

To buy time.

Because I had a pretty damn high health regeneration rate, and every second that a mob wasn’t hitting me was pulsing my health bar back up to full.

Plus, my elite was cycling off cooldown, and this is an elite that heals you to full AND gives you 7 seconds of 75% resistance to duke it out with something.

That’s 7 seconds of dps that I can swipe away at the monsters, before legging it around the mulberry bush in the arena again.

Wave 4 down.

Wave 5 came up, still one flask left for emergencies, time to -really- make this strategy work.

There were a couple heart-stopping moments when I realized the big bad also shot out purple energy balls when one got too far from it (like you might when you’re kiting it in a giant circle), but desperation is the mother of invention and I did my best to triple jump every time I heard it make a strange coughing noise that seemed to herald a ranged attack, and pretty much every other time too since jumping would likely put me out of range of a chance attack.

It got close a few times and flung me into the spiked walls, taking off huge chunks of health, but knights have that really high regen and health pool, so it was a mad scramble to get up and run rings around him again.

Every time my elite came up, I’d dive back into the fray, get a few hits in while it knocked off almost all my health, sprung the elite, then got 10 or so hits in relatively safety, before breaking away before my resistance shield came down.

sadone

Eventually, VICTORY.

Completing the little tutorial pop-up quest that had been hanging around for umpteen levels never felt so good. Completely achieved under my own power. Fragments earned painstakingly, boss solo’ed and killed.

It was pretty obvious though that more gear would improve performance on this front… like an actually useful ally, emblems, better stats and what not. (Sighs, such are the vagaries of vertical progression games.)

But it was still damned satisfying that good movement and tactics and the action combat allowed me to get away with something like this, slow going it might be.

The next day was work on the to-do list day.

Trove’s systems are really elegant in their simplicity, while still remaining interconnected.

Finishing the leveling of ringcrafting required 1100 shapestone ore.

I mostly did it super-casually, stopping to mine any purple ore cubes I saw, in between traveling from one lair or dungeon to another.

If I stumbled across a procedurally-generated mine/tunnel/cavern glistening with ores, I threw aside the “Destination: Lair” plan in favor of chasing after one shiny vein or another.

Now and then, one would organically end up mining together with some other players, speeding up the proccess, before just as organically (a la GW2) separating and going our own ways.

groupmining

Yet, it is possible to be even more optimal or organized for even greater benefit, if so motivated. See this Strip Miners Reddit thread, where whole groups of people apparently teleport to one location, throw a bunch of bombs for the quickest mining possible, and all reap the benefits. (Each bomb costs about 10 shapestone ore to make, so it’s a bit prohibitive to use when solo mining shapestone, imo.)

After crafting the rings, it is amusing to see that the rings turn up in boxes that you open to see what randomly generated stats turn up. This, of course, is a sneaky way of getting players used to the feeling of opening lockboxes, even if these particular lockboxes are entirely generated from in-game resources.

They sure are shiny when tossed on the floor like that though.

ringsgalore

Then I went fishing. Lots of fishing.

Realizing that I probably ought to collect the lowliest boat and ugly ragged sails anyway for the sake of completing the collection and earning mastery points (all those interconnected systems), I decided not to be cheap and spent the 600 glim to buy the really basic dinghy / raft thing.

Since I had it, I might as well go sailing around the Treasure Isles for a while, right?

Then I stumbled into the merchants. The first sold Buddybot soultraps, which were not the cat soultraps that I wanted, but eh, it was only 300 glim for an ally, and when you have a grand total of zero of them, any lockbox containing an ally is a win, right?

I bought a couple. Got a few cute bot allies, some that reduced damage taken, some that increased physical damage. Oh well, didn’t seem too bad. Better than Diggsy the mole, which only increases mining speed.

Some more sailing later, I found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The cat soultrap merchant.

catsoultrap

Eh, it wasn’t as if I had that much glim left to try my luck, but what the hell, I bought 5 and thought I might get a few common cat allies.

prowlingshadow

On the fifth lockbox, this popped out, nearly causing me to hyperventilate.

THE Prowling Shadow ally that was supposed to give really good lifesteal and be great for Knights and Dracolytes for effectively bolstering their health.

After spending only 1500 glim.

That seemed ridiculously fortunate for a ‘Rare’ drop.

Ironically, I decided to buy 10 more lockboxes because I wanted to see what other cats I might be able to add to my collection, and after being dismayed at some seven repeats, and oh, one uncommon skeletal cat, -another- Prowling Shadow dropped out.

“…..”

I tucked it into the bank for now, awaiting the day I get brave enough to figure out how to use the trading system / trading post and *ugh* manually trade. (Something I’ve always loathed and never did in Guild Wars 1, and only did once -super-nervously- in Path of Exile.)

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a dive into Uber-3 after that, with a Prowling Shadow out, and could immediately feel a pretty solid difference in Knightly survival.

Soon, it’ll be time to collect enough resources to make an Uber-4 portal and then figure out just how much more I need to buff out my gear to handle that.

It presumably gets grindier and grindier from here on out, but I do have alt classes to amuse myself leveling with, and I’m not really racing with anybody regarding gear progression. As a secondary game, it’s more of a “let’s play every day for an hour or two, accumulate whatever progress is possible, and we’ll see what we can manage to achieve in 2-3 months from now.”

Assuming I don’t get distracted by something newer and shinier.

This post was brought to you by the letter B for Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 3.

A Single-Player MOBA?

Tobold has come up with an intriguing, if heretical, idea: Why not a soloable or single-player MOBA (or game mode?)

It’ll catch a hitherto untapped audience, those that prefer PvE or those that can’t commit to the length of a match with other players (without a pause button to periodically go AFK) or those simply too nervous to learn the depth of a MOBA while facing the habitual toxicity of its regular audience (and provide a stepping stone training mode for those who might not mind PvP but want some extended practice by themselves first.)

The imagined protests that immediately cross my mind are those that shriek, “OMG, the very POINT of a MOBA is to group up to defeat challenges! Teamwork and communication are critical! The very feeling we’re craving is in that practiced coordination and super-smooth execution! Go solo somewhere else, like a singleplayer RPG, and not in MY game!”

Amusingly, it seems to be a similar protest to those who oppose soloability in MMOs, or soloable dungeons, or what-have-you.

There appears to be an underlying fear that they won’t have anyone to play with, if a solo option existed.

But frankly, that seems to be a completely off-base assumption, given the example of both solo and group options co-existing in MMOs. The social players still party up and complain bitterly about instances that force them to solo, the solo players still wander off by themselves and complain bitterly about instances that force them to group, and if the devs manage to hit that magic “no-forcing, solo or group as you prefer” option, then everyone seems more or less happy, or at least, content to deal with it.

Creating alternative game modes is great for variety, offering choices for people with different preferences.

The danger seems to be mostly overwhelming a player with options (which basically means they need a linear progression path or some kind of signposting or a “do this activity for more bonuses today!” promotion), plus the issue of having to devote sufficient developer resources to tend to that game mode.

Some people might wonder, “Well, in many MOBAs today, you can already play solo, in a sense. What’s he going on about?”

It’s true. Many many people solo queue into a match that contains other players on both sides.

Still others will solo queue into a co-op game, in which players are all on one side and bots on another, which is the equivalent of GW2-like social engineering – everyone on the same side, incentivized to cooperate against a computer-controlled enemy team, essentially PvE in a MOBA.

Anyone can easily set up a bot game in which all other nine players are bots, where they are completely alone and left in peace to do whatever the hell they want, or a custom game where they can tweak some variant of this player-bot formula to however they like.

But I think Tobold is implying something a little more. That developers can explore this as yet unexperimented-with space or niche further.

An easy analogy is that of dungeons in an MMO.

People expect to group up, to have roles and experience teamwork while defeating a sequence of enemies (with complex mechanics to learn) for rewards at the end.

However, we have the example of Guild Wars 1, which turned the concept of dungeoning on its head a little by letting players solo their way through pretty much all instances with henchmen or heroes (and mind you, some players still grouped to do the harder dungeons faster and more efficiently.) Ditto The Secret World, if I remember correctly, some instances were soloable.

We have Guild Wars 2, which has experimented with the idea of the Queen’s Gauntlet, a solo-only series of challenges (with complex mechanic to learn), as well as inadvertently produced a challenging side activity of soloing dungeons meant for groups (which appeals to another subset of players.)

Why not create MOBA game modes with a little twist to them?

One interesting possibility that comes to mind goes back to a MOBA’s RTS roots. Just like you could have one player control a number of heroes in GW1, why not let a single player control multiple MOBA heroes?  That would probably be a great multi-tasking, micro-taxing, control-group practice singleplayer challenge right there. It’s not as if MOBAs don’t embrace that concept already, with heroes that can summon other mobs or illusions.

Something else players of singleplayer modes do expect is some kind of narrative or progression path to follow. Why not throw in a story mode in chapters bookending MOBA fights, perhaps with preset groups of opposing or allied heroes?

It’s not like it hasn’t been done before. Duels of the Planeswalkers is a Magic: The Gathering game that some players buy for its PvP, and some of whom merely buy to play its singleplayer chapters or puzzle challenges, unlocking cards along the way.

One might protest that without other players to show off vanity cosmetics to, that the whole revenue stream of a MOBA might break down.

However, one could also offer hero unlocks a la League of Legends or Marvel Heroes, or even content unlocks where each hero has a ‘story mode’ that you could pay for in microtransactions. PvP players who don’t give a damn wouldn’t be nickle and dimed at all, while PvE players who like that sort of thing might be convinced to pay $2-5 for several more hours of unique gameplay/maps/puzzle/story DLC.

Unlocking special achievements or increasing levels are another easy way to keep a singleplayer gamer solo farming or engaging in speed runs or mastering Dark Souls-difficulty challenges to their heart’s content. Get X number of last hits or creep or hero kills, win Y as hero or other, defeat Z mob with some kind of mechanic or finish the match in a set amount of time or whatever.

You could have leaderboards for this version of asynchronous competition too, again akin to certain competitive mode challenges in Guild Wars 1, or even in games like Batman: Arkham _Whatever_, where you have combat and predator challenges for a single player to test themselves against, improve their score versus other players’ scores and so on.

In my opinion, the singleplayer MOBA (or variant game modes thereof) is certainly worth a company’s time to experiment and tinker with. It’ll be interesting to see which MOBA decides to eventually branch or innovate in this direction, or if they think grabbing their handfuls of the competitive PvP / eSports pie is more than sufficient to focus on.