When most people think of MMOs today, it’s kind of obvious to assume that the community is an important aspect of whatever game is being played. Due to the brutal nature of Wildstar endgame content this is definitely one of those games. That wasn’t always the case, however, and it used to be possible to be involved in an MMORPG for months, or even years, without joining a guild or banding together with a solid group of friends. Even now, there are still a handful of MMORPGs that cater to those wanting a single-player experience but on a more grand level. A generous amount of content in Star Wars: The Old Republic was treated as a single-player campaign and the companion system even encouraged some players to avoid grouping. There was obviously content that involved grouping, such as PvP battlegrounds and flashpoints, but it was possible to have a positive gaming experience without getting involved in either.
The first MMORPG experience I ever had was with Runescape; I played the game for months without ever grouping with more than a couple of friends. There wasn’t ever a benefit to large groups because each quest had to be completed individually and most quests required a specific set of skills in order to progress. It wasn’t until I quit the game and then came back a few years later that I joined an online community. Without a legitimate in game guild system, besides those hosted by NPCs, most communication was done through forums or discussion boards. Occasionally we would all get together and form a “player killing party,” but the biggest benefits were trading, swapping crafted goods or figuring out who had the coolest house.
SOLO PLAYERS JUST WON’T SURVIVE
Even in more recent, and larger scale, MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars I was able to avoid joining an active community, or guild, until max level. World of Warcraft continues to dumb down content and now even raids can be “pugged.” Guild Wars was convenient to play alone due to the henchmen and hero companions that could be customized almost as well, if not better, than other players. In Wildstar, however, playing alone is just not an option; the game is based around highly coordinated team efforts. This is apparently even in the lower level dungeons and 20-man world bosses scattered throughout the leveling zones.
It’s not that players can’t hit level 50, or continue to endgame content, without a guild, but it’s more that the game is simply not enjoyable by yourself. Trying to finish gold/silver dungeons to complete attunement, or acquire gear, is brutal with random groups because there’s no cohesion and the skill levels vary immensely. It might be the first run for the tank, but the healer wants to rush and finish gold or the DPS might need weapons from specific bosses. It’s all one big clusterfuck. Once players get to the veteran dungeon part of raid attunement it’s almost impossible to obtain silver in every dungeon without a guild. Earlier this week I tried to clear a single boss in Veteran Skullcano, and then Ruins of Kel Voreth, to obtain an item imbuement with a public group. Let’s just say I ended up with a huge repair bill and still had to finish my imbuement with my friends.
Having competent teammates isn’t just essential for PvE, however, because the battlegrounds are currently dominated with premade groups. During peak times, approximately 3-11 p.m. EST, nearly every Walatiki Temple or Halls of the Bloodsworn match will have a guild group or two. Every time a player solo queues during this time period they’re already playing the odds before the game even starts. Currently my PvP rating isn’t amazing, 1350, but last month I tanked it to 1100 by trying to solo queue. Making friends with a circle of like-minded PvPers was the only way to get my rating out of the gutter. Wildstar is definitely a team game and the only way to make solid, steady progress is to form a group of players who are willing to work together.
For some players clearing content is the most important aspect of any game, but for others it’s the bonds they create and the lasting friendships. It’s about those times when you meet another player doing the same level 10 quest and you become instant friends. You might go your separate ways later on, but you know they’ll always be your tank and you’ll be their healer. I’ve made friends in MMOs that I still talk to 10 years later and others that I’ve become real-life friends with. Having already gone through a few guilds in Wildstar, there are definitely a number of friends I’ve made along the way whom I still form groups with.
Don’t just take my word on how important community is in Wildstar. Recently I posed this question on the forums: How important is the Wildstar community to you?
Typrop said, “For me in any MMO community is either #1 or #2 on my most important factors. I’d honestly be gone if the community was poor and or non-existent. However I also make it a point not only to reach out to others, but to treat people how I would want to as well and it goes a long way.”
“Personally community is very important,” said NepheleVG. “It’s the thing that can keep you going when the game gets frustrating, and it’s also the thing that can make things even more awesome when the game is fun. I’ve quit a lot of good games that had poor communities, and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of a lot of imperfect games that had great ones.”
“Coming from a sociology standpoint, WildStar will only survive and thrive as long as there is a community,” according to LordJJag. “So much content is aimed at the group that without strong bonds the content that maintains a solo player will force them to become bored and stop playing.”
Wildstar simply can’t survive if the community falls apart because it’s players coming together that hold MMORPGs together. When you strip away all of the player interaction, all that we’re left with is a sub-par single-player experience. It’s not that Wildstar isn’t a good game, or has less quality content than other MMORPGs, but its foundation is the MMO first and the RPG second. Remember that next time you’re running around an MMO world, whether it’s Nexus, Elonia, Kalimdor, or Tamriel. Instead of ignoring the other players, while you grind out your boring dailies, strike up a conversation and maybe you’ll make a few new friends, or at the least your evening might be a bit more interesting.Related: Column, Community, MMORPG, Sci-Fi, The Nexus Times, Wildstar