Experience Points: The Rise of Silent Grouping

Each week, Chris "Syeric" Coke gives his unfiltered thoughts on the MMO industry. Taking on the news and hottest topics, Chris brings his extensive experience as a player and blogger to bear in Experience Points. This week he examines the troubling trends of silence and vitriol in today's groups.

In 2009 the MMO industry changed forever. World of Warcraft was midway through its second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, and players were still stuck scouring their servers for fellow dungeon runners. Queue times could ratchet upwards to two hours if you were playing DPS. Groups, while still rushed, were also cohesive and usually willing to communicate through problems; everyone knew a lengthy wait was in store if the group fell apart. Then Blizzard dropped a bombshell: the cross-realm dungeon finder, a tool which would allow entire server clusters to play together, automatically, and on-demand. It worked well and for a time seemed like a godsend. The system had the unintended side-effect, however, of making communication – even just socializing – a thing to be avoided. The dungeon finder enabled a culture of rush-to-reward where climbing the learning curve makes you the weak link. System after system has reinforced this and the genre, once based on players enjoying each other, is now more silent and toxic than it has ever been.

Experience Points: Lockboxes - Good or Evil?

MMO players are an opinionated bunch. Since the days of MUDs, we've been debating design like it's a second job. When Guild Wars 2 launched last year, it broke the mold and ushered us into a subscription-free age, reigniting the business model debate. As free-to-play transitioned from evil to expected, our discussions have also shifted from whether free-to-play games should be to how they should be. Some of the best writers in the MMO community weighed in this week and the topic was lockboxes. So let's talk, but make no bones about it: this edition of Experience Points is very much pro-lockbox and anti-naysayer.