"Massively Individual Online" Gaming is The Wave of The Future
I'm going to start this by saying that I'm probably wrong. The way that I play MMO's is, in all possibility, the wrong way to do things. See, I tend to think of MMO's as a team game, and I'm starting to see that this is simply just not the way things are. Instead, it's starting to be a "Massively INDIVIDUAL Online" game now. But I should explain. I always should explain.
Last night, I was thrown out of an 8-player raid in DC Universe Online. I was livestreaming at the time, so it has been recorded for posterity if you want to watch the entire downward spiral. The short of it is I spent 90+ minutes as a healer, doing everything I could to keep suicidal characters standing. I watched the entire roster roll over four or so times as players left, got kicked or asked to be excused. Then, without ceremony nor explanation, I was kicked out myself.
My investment in this raid was not small. The time spent is one thing, but in-game resources are another. I had easily spent over $10,000 in game currency on repairs and healing potions. In-game money spent, and never getting it back. It was quite a sting, pun intended. But let me explain why I'm angry at this.
A month ago I asked DCUO on twitter to defend the "deserter debuff", a 10 minute time penalty given to players for leaving a group early. The response I got was this :
Ok, fair enough. I disagree with the thought process, but let's operate on this principle. You're hurting your teammates when you leave. The punishment is meant to discourage hurting your "teammates". Now a second opinion from a GM at DCUO when asked to defend the kick mechanic :
So the message is mixed at best. "Kicking" a player, for ANY reason, is acceptable behavior as long as it's not done "excessively to harass". Getting thrown out of a group is a kick to your resources. It HURTS YOU to get kicked out. But regardless of performance, regardless of reason, there is no repercussions for OTHER PEOPLE kicking people out of a group. This goes against the explanation for the "deserter" debuff.
The message : It is "bad" to hurt teammates you don't give a damn about by leaving if the team isn't performing up to your standards, but it's "good" to hurt teammates who are actually doing all they can to succeed if they aren't performing up to your standards? I'm trying to figure out what behavior is actually punished and which is actually rewarded, and the end result is disturbing to me.
The punishment for leaving an instance is a 10 minute time-out, which in MMO culture is meaningless. We'll spend 15 minutes flying from end to end of a continent, what makes you think 10 minutes hanging out in a lobby is a penalty? It's simply time you can use to do other things. It's not a punishment as much as it's an opportunity to stand up and stretch or "bio".
Ultimately, you choose this path. You see the situation, decide that the group won't carry you to victory, and leave it. So you can take a 10 minute penalty and be out nothing more than time. A player who gets kicked from an instance is out in-game resources as well as time investment and experience to learn how a specific mechanic works without choice nor chance to defend themselves.
Or to put this another way, it hurts an individual player more to be kicked out more than it hurts a team to lose a quitter.
So let's spin the idea around. Conversely, to an individual player, it is better to kick out players from a group than it is to quit the instance. You get to stay, they're gone and out resources but that's not your problem. They should have gotten higher DPS or more heals, right? You can increase your personal odds of victory, and they should "L2P" anyway. You don't even need to give a reason for kicking, as most players will blindly agree to kick a player out as a scapegoat after a single wipe in the current culture of the game.
When I look at it in that light, the true punishment is to the team player who acts selflessly, not the individual who acts selfishly. To that end, I'm honestly thinking that I'm playing MMO's wrong. I should not play as a team player, I should be playing as an individual in a mob of individuals. I should be taking more control by kicking players out that may hurt my chances of success, regardless of circumstance. I should constantly shift blame as to why "we" failed but do so for my own purposes. As long as I have fun, that's all that's important.
Or I could continue to play like I do, which comes more naturally to me. I could help new players where I am able, accept that losses are a part of the game and assist teams quietly with the intent of "we all finish together". I could continue to play support roles because its not sexy but its a foundation of the game. I could continue to say "Ok, this is the team we have, we can make this work," and then do all I can to make it happen.
But the more I see this trend in all MMO style games, the less I am inclined to do this. If the game truly rewards selfish behavior, why am I working against that reward? That in mind, I think we might begin to call these games what they are. "Massively Individual Online" games. Lots of people to play with, but they only exist to carry you from reward to reward. Anyone who can't, throw them out, get a new body in here who can.
So yeah, I'm playing this whole genre wrong, apparently.