An interesting post by Ethic over at Kill Ten Rats on the whole grouping and social issue (I did some browsing following yesterday’s post telling of my own woes). The original post is good, but the discussion spawned afterwards is where the real meat lies.

One thought to spring up following yesterday’s War And Peace-sized missive was a campaign to bring Airwolf back to television (if Battlestar Galactica can be reimagined and Knight Rider can be refreshed (possibly NSFW), why not the real classic, eh?). The other thought, more sensibly, was of tutorials. Seems to me that there are beginner’s guides and starting quest lines covering all sorts of aspects of EQII gameplay – from combat to zone exploration to crafting – but none that really go into educating people into the very key reason EQII exists – online interaction with fellow adventurers.

I’m not merely suggesting a series of Very Hard quests that necessitate multiple party members to defeat (that would be Heroic mobs as far as I understand it) as these could easily be got around by out-levelling the mob in question. Instead I’m referring to a series of quests, certainly within the first three tiers of the game, that not only encourage grouping with their objectives (multiple levers that must be pulled within ten seconds of each other in differing locations, for instance), but also guide the player in the arts of recruiting groupmates in the first place.

Nothing compulsory of course, no reason to force a solo-oriented player to mix with others if they don’t want. But at least something there for people that suddenly want to dip their toe into the multiplayer waters to be able to head in the right direction.

What this also throws up, of course, is the aspect of class roles within a group. It’s all well and good to put out a quest that says “You will need three other heroes to complete this”, but far more useful might be for each class to have a ‘group specialization’ series of training quests. Could a dirge be rewarded with certain quest progression items if they successfully debuff twenty different mobs in a fight? This would require there to be a tank dealing the damage (and similarly gaining quest progression items when he performs a number of successful ‘pulls’) while the dirge concentrates on learning his particular role.

Not, I hasten to add, that group roles should be specific to individual classes only. We all know there’s a fair amount of role-crossover in EQII, so maybe a group gets to assign roles during the first stage of the quest, regardless of class – but thus allowing a player to learn just what roles are more ‘suitable’ for a particular career choice when they try a tank-damage dealing bard and fail the quest big time.

The typical bloggers’ cliché is to have a post that states: “I’m no game designer, but…” and I guess this is mine. I’m sure there are gaping holes in this idea that I haven’t yet thought about, but I figured I’d put it out there at least and see what people think (even if I now expect 90% of the responses to be about bringing back high-concept, low-budget 80’s TV shows instead).