Doesn’t it sound strange to play a massively multiplayer online game, alone? Yet, that is something I personally do, and prefer, even as I’m standing in a mass of other avatars that are blinged out and clipping through my character’s model.
From the genre’s name itself, I can imagine it being a complete misnomer for a multiplayer game to cater to the solo experience. However, even the critically acclaimed MMORPG with a free trial up to player level 60 and the Heavensward expansion with no limited play time has plans to expand support for solo play through the Trust System, intended to allow players to move through the story dungeons at their own pace with the assistance of non-player characters without the need for a party.
Besides allowing solo play, the Trust System is meant to give you a better sense of these characters’ personalities outside of story sequences, while you play with your favourites or learn how to form a team around them. Maybe you could even learn how to (or not) use a skill in their respective classes. Doesn’t it sound great to hang out with your NPC beau even more? Or maybe you’re just avoiding that one specific situation where someone isn’t doing their rotations in the public queue because of “RP reasons”.
Guild Wars 2’s Dynamic Events system is another way someone like me gets to enjoy the larger world. An event can pop up, and I can choose to follow along and complete it. Someone else in the vicinity can sidle over to join me, or vice versa, or have it called out in map chat. Due to the way events are scaled to the number of players, most open world activities can be completed without further assistance, barring the map-wide “meta” events and certain bosses who are an absolute pain. For the Dragon’s End meta as an example, you’re likely to be following some random Commander as often as hunkering in a dedicated Discord server organizing such runs, with dozens of people who have no idea what they’re in for.
There is a very real problem that the ability to simply drop in and out makes it very easy for strangers to sabotage your efforts and leave you to pick up the mess they make. As trivial as it can be to mute them, they can do the same to you, and ignore any of your pleas. Having NPCs such as with the Trust System have their own drawbacks, where their logic might bug out and stall an instance. If your progress isn’t saved correctly, that might be a lot of backtracking.
Nonetheless, even if you do decide to join a group, that doesn’t mean they’re completely free of problems. It can range anywhere between someone having to leave urgently, their internet cutting out or their game crashing, or worse, participants deciding to rage over the game, being “toxic” in chat. As hard as you try, it’s nigh impossible to avoid such behaviours in what is essentially a community game. Final Fantasy 14‘s GMs do work to act on reports, so much so that “GM Jail” is very widely known, with players confronted by moderators and given warnings when found guilty.
This isn’t to say I’m completely discounting the draw of guilds, friendly competition, all that interpersonal interaction that I too enjoy.
It’s just that a game should not have to be built around the social elements specifically. People can have a variety of reasons why they choose to play solo, and they shouldn’t need to justify themselves to both other players and the systems. Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect every single aspect to be solo-friendly in a multiplayer game, but it should at least be an option for a majority of content.
There’s no “major” point I’m trying to make here. Simply let me, or people like me, play at a rate we’re comfortable with. Say hi, if you want.