This morning I read a terrific article on duoing in MMOs over at Welcome to Spinksville. And it got me thinking not just about my own personal duo, but about the quartet I have been involved in and not only the problems with being in a quartet, but the incredible satisfaction that has come from it as well.
My pally and I started our WoW journey together. There were no singleton alts at that time (except for one I created and then abandoned while at home sick for a few days.) We quested together and were terribly antisocial, viewing all requests to join guilds or accept help from others with deep suspicion. It wasn’t so much that we were loath to give up our couple time, it was more that we had played Warcraft III towers online and knew online gamers as childish and churlish creatures, not to be interacted with at any cost. What did they really want? If they found out I was a girl, were we going to have to endure taunts and/or sexual innuendos? When I used to travel on subways to get to work, I would keep to myself, and my pally and I used to joke it was a good thing I didn’t have mace – else every wild-looking nutter who passed by and stopped to tell me I was pretty or “looked just like their dead friend” (and there were a few who said just that – and never the Brad Pitt-looking types) would have gotten a face-full of the stuff. We treated other WoW players the same way, and I am grateful there was no WoW equivalent for mace, at least of the face-spraying variety.
Eventually we let down our guard and started playing with a third, who brought along their own fourth, and luckily we discovered that our WoW schedules were pretty in sync, so then we rerolled characters to level together, which I have explained before is how I ended up with Tazha in the first place.
However, a lot of questing isn’t really geared towards four people working together, at least not in the fun department. Having to disembowel twenty pigs for four intestines and then do it again for three other people feels like a slog…because it is a slog. (Especially when that’s only a part of the quest!) Those quests aren’t so horrible in duo form, but in a quartet, places like Zangermarsh become unbearable. (30 Naga claws??? Each??? Dear lord!) So when we rerolled, our goal was simple – level by running instances. We researched the instances and had huge spreadsheets detailing every quest we needed to have when we entered them. We each took professions that we shared with the others in our group.
But, as Spinks noted, this foursome did not make us more sociable, but rather less so. We detested having to grab a fifth for anything. In our first guild experience, the guild master wanted us to raid, which we weren’t sure we wanted to do, and, as such, he also wanted us to split up regularly and group with other guildies so we could start to feel comfortable working together. This caused a great deal of balking and Guild-Master-Avoidance, since we all agreed that we played so we could Play Together, not so we could raid (*scoff*). Eventually this turned out to be for the best because the guild leaders disbanded the guild and ninja’d the guild bank due to major Guild Drama (not involving us.)
When we hit 80, we gained achievements together (and, in fact, prided ourselves on having the achievements pop up for all four of us at once) and did heroics together. By now, we had joined another guild – one infinitely less plagued by drama – and our guildies referred to us as The Fantastic Four. We were starting to branch out, since our instance runs were less and less possible with just four. Our curiosity about raiding had peaked, and we quickly got absorbed into the multi-guild raids that our guildies attended.
Once raiding started, our quartet was permanently hobbled – our profession and gold-sharing dwindled down to now just tossing each other an enchant or gem if we have it, occasionally a potion or two. A lot of the professions we have are now shared by our alts, making us less reliant on each other. Rep grinding is less about the group and more about the individual. We chat a lot online and on the phone (since the WoW friendship spilled over into real life with all the time we spent together), but our time instancing just the four of us is practically nonexistent.
This loss is something we mourn, but at the same time I’m beginning to realize how much of the game is out there to experience as a solo artist. There is a great deal of content that is very satisfying to accomplish on one’s own, especially once you hit the endgame. At the same time, leveling as a group in instances has distinct advantages:
- It’s relatively quick.
- Almost all WoW instances (pre-heroics) can be four-manned with the proper group composition and level.
- You have a built-in group every time you log on.
If you choose to do something like this, I can recommend a few things to curb issues:
- Make sure your play styles work well together before you reroll a fresh group to start with.
- Make sure everyone is on board with profession-sharing or not-profession-sharing. Nothing builds resentment like feeling that “you do everything for them and they give nothing in return!”
- Make sure your schedules coincide and that you have plans if some of the group is going to be gone. Unlike raiding, where you can just replace some missing members, when you are leveling, continuing on (especially at the early levels) without half the group can mean that you significantly outstrip them in level by the time they return.
- Make sure everyone is happy with their chosen role. If you have a tank who hates tanking and three-four clothies/leather-wearers backing them up, eventually your tank is going to stop playing in the group because there’s no one who can take over for them.
- Make sure you don’t turn into some sort of “cool kids” high school clique that doesn’t let anyone join. There are a lot of great people out there!
- Make sure you remember to get some alone time in WoW, just as in real life. Being around other people ALL THE TIME can eventually wear on anyone. Make sure you build in some time to just run around picking Peacebloom or hugging gnomes or fishing or whatever you enjoy doing in your WoW offtime.
Being in The Fantastic Four was an incredibly rewarding experience, and while I wish we hadn’t been so antisocial at first, in the long run we’ve learned to include others in our play and wander off to join other groups as well while retaining our core friendship. So, if this is an option open to you, I heartily recommend taking it – just like in all endeavors, be aware of the pitfalls but enjoy the trip!