"Massively Individual Online" Gaming is The Wave of The Future

You can tell a lot about a culture based on what behavior is rewarded, and what is punished.

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...

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.

Featured Contributor

I'm a gamer. I'm a reality junkie. I'm a cynic. I'm a dinosaur. I'm a writer. I'm so much more than a paragraph can say. You want more? Ok. I started a video game show on the internet some time ago. See, I've played video games since Intellivision and Atari 2600 and PONG back in the day. Retro-gaming doesn't really fire me up as much as seeing how the community ticks. And after seeing way too many "I'm too young to have played this game when it first came out but it MAKES ME SO ANGRY" reviewers who would happily eviscerate my childhood for lulz... yeah I tossed my hat into the ring. the quickly scooped it back up, I'm told I have a bald spot that needs...more »

Published Aug. 25th 2013
  • ShadowAssassin_3526
    Ok DCUO is like the only type of mmo game I have played, so I can't really talk about anybody else stuff. I have read the first couple of comments. To LFK comment and tygers comment on what LFK had to say. I empathize with both of you. Now to tyga I see all your bad experiences and I understand the kick thing and most kicks are about the person lvl being too low, but what about the guys that been sticking thru the raids investinh their time and pulling thru everybody w/o kicking anybody sayinf no to just about all kicks. Only time they do agree is if its necessary, like the person haven't moved for who knows how long. All yhe stuff they did for the group. Not giving out that much damage but hesling the hell out of everybody sometime almost all by their selves and holding their own while still keeping everybody alive. The moment they can't get past about they start getting piss. You tell them what they doing wrong and giving good advice. Half listens and the other half ignore. Just a huge waste of time, but that's ok because no matter what you will get thru it just got to wait for the right people sure it hurt your money but it will be worth it. That is until tge people who wouldn't listen kick you because you are annoying them by speaking the truth or just because you go the opposite way of them even though their way is the wrong way. They kick you and your freakin screwed and you can't get back in. What about those people. No matter how good or nice you are when people start getting pissed off you will get kick. NOW THATS A BITCH.
  • grjmmr
    I came across your article(s) after I started looking for a better way to play my tank on DCUO. I had left DCUO because I got tired of the D-bags that were more concerned about their score then having fun. I came back after a year, because I missed the game and found the D-bags were worse than ever. I understand they want to get through the area as fast as possible, but if I have never been in the area, I may not know how the boss fight is going to go down. I agree that tossing someone out is a bad idea if it is all about the score. I also agree the system may be a little broken. Hopefully I run into more players like and less like I got last night.
  • Kazz in space
    Featured Contributor
    I'd still suggest finding a good clan/guild is the way to go. I appreciate you've had some bad experiences but having the right bunch of people to play with (and that's what you need to find, not just any old guild) makes all the difference. When you play with a PUG you don't mean anything to anyone so no one really cares about booting you out. I'm not saying it should be that way but that is the nature of random groups. You have to be happy with what you can get. I agree with the suggestion that a timer on kicking would be a good idea though.
  • Fantasyphil
    I have NEVER kicked someone form a group but have had the bitter of experience of being dumped MANY times because I failed to meet whatever criteria some bully in the group I was in decided made me a liability. I've also been left hanging in groups where someone has bailed because they've decided that the chances of success aren't high enough for them to get where they want to go fast enough. Both SUCK and need to be discouraged. :( How can I learn to be a better player if I don't get to play (and no, ! don't want to spend hours watching walk-throughs of dungeons on You Tube!)? Thankfully this is my experience of PUGs whereas a good guild will have your back every time. :)
  • Synzer
    Guide Editor
    My question is do you play other mmo's? You encounter this a lot but not as much as you seem to be in DCUO. I haven't played it beyond the starting area but it sounds like a horrible community. I have not had such a horrible string of bad luck as you have. I've been in plenty of groups that were not rude to players or kick for no reason.

    I have encountered more players that actually bring the group down due to various reasons than actual players that are not that good but still try and get better.

    Maybe I'm just lucky and I'm okay with that but I've been in multiple good guilds that do progression and don't require anything other than willingness to raid. A few times I actually look on websites for certain guilds. Most of the time if you just join one without knowledge it probably won't end well.

    From what I hear of your experiences I will stay away from this game.
  • TygerWDR
    Featured Contributor
    https://www.gameskinny.com/s99ol/why-i-play-dc-universe-online Followup explaining why I pay $15 a month to play a free to play title. I wouldj't play the game if I didn't like it. There ar problems with DC, but they're fixable.
  • LFK_6324
    The problem seems to be that the raids aren't balanced to accommodate fully PuG groups, leading to heavy turnover and, eventually, rage kicking. Also that, apparently, the vote to kick doesn't have a weighting system placing restrictions on kick-happy people.

    The idea of reparations is balls. Under no circumstances do I want to pay the repair bill for some AFKer purely to get them out of the group. There are a lot of legitimate reasons to kick someone from group, some deal with toxic behaviour, some deal with bad luck (sorry your internet went out, but we're not waiting 30 minutes for Comcast to sort it out), and, yeah, some deal with people who just aren't cutting it.

    MMOs are complex, but they're still a numbers game at their core. Well meaning and spunky only go so far.

    Something I find interesting is that you seem to insist that you play socially, but resist using any of the social structures like Guilds. If you're not joining a guild, not building a circle of acquaintances and contacts, and are just bouncing from PuG to PuG, then aren't you already playing a Massively Individual Online Game? Being nice and quietly wishing that "we'll all finish together" isn't the same thing as being a team player. In fact quietly wishing is the opposite of being a team player. It's clamming up and riding the tide, hoping that it takes you where you want to go.

    If you know the encounter and can see where things are going to hell, then say so. Healers are usually in a pretty good position to see what's killing people.
  • TygerWDR
    Featured Contributor
    In scattershot order :

    I don't join guilds because, well, I've had many, many, MANY bad guild experiences. Lemme see, one wanted me to join then fund thier bank, one wanted me to join with the promise of raid content but then "Oh, yeah, you're low geared, bye." Another did tdo raids, but only if you sucked up to the guild master he'd let you into the 25. Another guild was "social" and got mad at me for not being "chatty enough." And the one good guild I found? Yeah, they invited me to part 1 of a raid, then told me to piss off he next night in favor of someone outside the guild because "we want to invite him in".

    And those are the tame stories.

    As far as groups, I draw from real world in which I play paintball in a "pug" situation all the time. Teams are "whoever showed up and we split sides". We don't kick people from the team, we teach, we help, and barring that we plan around people who want to "sit back and snipe". It works in the real world where the "disband group" mechanic does not exist. Give people the option to leave, and it's a different story.

    Reparations : I'd like to see it myself. I know, I know, there are DOZENS of reasons to kick a player legitimately. I know. However, most of the time what I see is the "low kick". Meaning that the low DPS or low power or low healer gets booted for the crime of being "undergeared" for the party's liking. Reparations would slow that down somewhat. It's HARDLY a perfect solution, but it's better than what we're doing now which is nothing.

    MMOs are a numbers game, and I know they keep metrics, so it's a matter of writing code to tell if a player is AFK or DC'd. Hell, DCUO put in a "dsconnect" thing on public server, or tried to I guess. So why not have a quick check to see if somoene has produced damage in the last "X" minutes?" Oh, right, abusive players. Ok, you lobby to a tribunal (LoL style) and it doubles as reporting the player for abusive behavior. win/win.

    To kinda skip back to the end, as a healer I can't tell ya how many times I get told "shut up and heal" when I pipe in with what's going wrong. Or "WE KNOW! STFU!!!!" more likely.. Gamers are stubborn by nature, it seems, and don't take criticism at all. So I generally let other people general. And I don't claim to have the expertise to actually know what to do all the time, especially in raids I never get to see to the end for reasons talked about above. That and I've seen arguments ending in a kick when two people can't agree on how to beat a mission or a segment of one.

    Last bit. "well meaning and spunky only go so far." Well, every top-end raid has a minimum number of something to enter. In DC it's "Combat rating", a gear score. Same goes for World o fWarcraft, and every other MMO. So if my gear score is too low, I shouldn't be able to access the instance anyway. IN THEORY,by getting into the instance I shoul dbe able ot finish it by the numbers. If I can't, that's not MY fault. The game should eithe rbe adjusted to a higher rating to get into the instance, or the players should be able ot pass it with "spunk and well meaning".

    And my typing has gone to hell in a handbasket. Had a concussion 3 weeks ago playing lazer tag, still feeling it.
  • LFK_6324
    Here's the thing that has to be considered with gear score: the rating required is the number to enter and, in theory, be effective. Not the number needed to complete. It also factors in two opposing goals: ensuring that PuGs stand a reasonable chance by being high enough to force a certain quality of gear, and allowing guilds to quickly gear their alts/new members by being low enough that it's not an overt hassle to get undergeared characters in. So the rating needs to strike a balance between these ends. But, as I said, the rating to enter doesn't mean the rating to finish, and GearScore isn't SkillScore.

    From the sounds of it, DCUO's raids simply aren't balanced for PuGs, and that makes a huge difference. A lack of coordination and leadership sets a raid's functionality back considerably, and in many ways PuG culture relies heavily on overgeared, knowledgable players to brute force the encounter. Even WoW's LFR still assumes that a decent chunk of any given raid will be overgeared players looking for easy valor.

    Also you can't say "oh man, this game is pushing me to play alone" then staunchly refuse to participate in the social aspects. There's a guild for every pace of life out there, and there's always, always the option of making your own and recruiting friends and randoms you get along well with. Even without a formal guild there's still the simple Friends List functionality.

    Not to sound brutal, but it sounds like you're kinda just... bad... at a lot of this stuff. If you're getting told "STFU, WE KNOW" over and over across many different groups, you're probably approaching things wrong. If you don't have a friends list and can't find a guild that isn't exploiting you then there's a solid possibility that you're not fun to play with and aren't terribly good at the game.

    I mean, the simple fact that, from your point of view, they're "doing nothing" really says that you're on the wrong side of a vote kick way too often. Everyone's going to get vote kicked at some point or another, justified or not, but if you're being routinely kicked, often enough to become angry at the system, well, I'd start to take the criticism seriously. I know that all of us born after 1980 are all special snowflakes and we just have to be ourselves and everything will eventually work out because everyone else should love us for who we are, but that's actually bullshit.
  • TygerWDR
    Featured Contributor
    Front to back. I just got done livestreaming for 7-8 hours, so I'm not in a very cohereny mindset here. Misspelligns ahead, deal with it.

    Gearscore : If the rating to enter is NOT the rating to compete, then there's something wrong with the entry rating.

    If the "Pug Culture" as you put it "relies on overgeared" players, then it's broken. IT's that simple. It's like relying on a metal forge to cook hamburgers. If you do, there's something wrong with your burger formula. If you can't pass the instance without overpowering it, retool the instance or make the entry score higher.

    Friends playing, I do that. But at weird times of night / day, not everyone is on. Can you convince me that you'll be on at 5 AM when I'm up? Probabyl not. PuGs have somoene up tho. And the guilds I've been in, well, I didn't like the idea of metaphorically sucking up to the guild leader so I MIGHT get a shot at the "C" squad to run an instance once or twice before I get dropped because I'm not telling the guild leader how cool he is 24/7/365. EVERY "Raiding guild" I saw was like that. ALL OF THEM. Suck up to the leader to get into the decent raids. If I wanted to do that, I'd go to my job and get paid to suck up.

    My skill level. I never said I was GOOD. I'm competent. There's a difference. I tell people at paintball games that it's not the guy who brags about his gun or his accomplishments tha tI'm concerned about. It's the quiet guy who doesn't have anything to prove that scares me. Competency is skill with confidence.

    And thank you for tellign me I suck. No new news here. A lot of peopel think I suck at healing, power output or DPS. Usually after a wipe and they need to displace blame from themselves. Old joke. "HEaler dies, blame tank. Tank dies, blame healer. Party dies, blame hunter." But if you play the scorecard, I'm up there. I just don't play the social BS games. I've gotten too old to put up with narcissists who run guilds to feed their own egos.

    But you see, the probelm isn't me, it's the system in place. The kick mechanic is broken as it does not do what they set it out to do. I know there are reasons it exists, and I have no problem with it. But I've seen WAY too many people abuse it for their own ends.

    It's also possible that I'm gaming a hell of a lot lately due to injuries, enough that I'm hitting more kicks than you because I'm playing a boatload more instances, raids and content. It's also possible that I've been doing this since MUDs and MUCKs and I know what the hell I'm talking about. It's also possible that I've played enough real world counterparts to online games that I have a comparison point to know that gamers expect unrealistic results and will punish those who can' perform to standards they themselves can't possibly reach. It's also possible that I'm a cynic, a dreamer, or a velociraptor. Anything is "possible"

    And finally, your "special little snowflake" comment, that's sweet of you to make me younger than I am. I was born long before 1980. I remember seeing Star Wars in the theater, the first time. I played the Atari 2600 when it was new in the box and Pong when it was in restaurants. Not arcades, restaurants. If you want to pull age rank on me you've got another thing comin' boy. As soon as I can get outta my rockin' chair and I put down my pipe I swear I'll flip you like a pancake ya young whipper snapper!
  • Mops1_1981
    I keep telling you tyger, Come over to DDO for a bit.
  • Stephen Johnston
    Founder
    There should be a debuff on the ability to kick or ability to get replacements. Simple as that.
  • TygerWDR
    Featured Contributor
    My idea is a little more radical. Reparations. Every person who votes to kick someone out has to pay a percentage of total repair costs, including current armor damage. So 5 guys vote you out, everyone ponys up %20 to your overall repair bill. That'd stop kickers in a heartbeat.

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