Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meeting People in MMOs

I re-subscribed to Star Wars: The Old Republic recently, and I almost immediately got pulled into a Flashpoint (a sort of highly-scripted group quest that isn't related to any one character's story). I was still kind of getting the hang of playing again, so it was kind of a trial by fire. Still, it reminded me of one of my favorite aspects of playing MMOs: getting to know people.

Adding tot he trial by fire was how strange this Flashpoint experience was. Usually the're automatically geared toward characters within a certain range of levels, but I wasn't paying attention when I joined the Group Finder queue, and my level 18 character ended up grouped with three level 50+ players. Also, the Flashpoints usually group people so that there's at least one tank, healer, and DPS, but for whatever reason I was a tank in a group with three healers.

Anyway, the Flashpoint automatically boosted my stats to suit the mission, so I wasn't nearly as useless as I was afraid I'd be. The group dynamic was perfect, and the other players were clearly pros. I did my job, they did theirs. They were familiar with the final boss of the mission, which was apparently a pain in the butt, yet we handled him with surprising ease. We also chatted a bit, which is a rare for me. My character was a bounty hunter named Aarthur (since Arthur was taken), and the other guys were all sorcerers, so we joked about King Arthur and his three Merlins. It was a good time.

Almost immediately afterward, though, I ended up grouped with an impatient player who was clearly new to the game. When I first joined the group and noticed that his level was well below the planet's recommended minimum I should have recognized it as a red flag. Still, I've made groups work despite under-leveled and inexperienced players. All it really takes is two experienced players to make most groups work, and that was the case here.

When our group of four entered the mission area one of us immediately had to go AFK for a couple of minutes, but the under-leveled player was impatient and decided to go on without them. Myself and the remaining guy shrugged and followed. The under-leveled guy almost immediately got killed in the next fight, but me and the other guy managed to survive just fine. The under-leveled player demanded to be revived, but I couldn't since I'd just revived him a few minutes ago, and non-healers have a long cooldown for revive abilities. The other guy was, in fact, a healer. However, he responded, "I'm not going to waste mana on that." He and I continued the mission for a bit until the under-leveled character (who, by virtue of starting the group, was the group leader) kicked the other guy from the group.

I believe that was the first time I'd ever intentionally left a group in the middle of a mission. Afterward, me and the healer guy laughed a bit at how strange that experience had been, then we went our separate ways.

And that's the most interesting thing to me about the experience. I meet these people very briefly, we help each other out, and then we go our separate ways, likely never to meet again, especially given the incredibly slow rate at which I play these games. It's fascinating to me to observe the play styles of this endless stream of anonymous strangers. Sith and Republic alike have their cool, friendly people and their butt stallions and, interestingly, the personality of the players seems to have no correlation to their Light Side or Dark Side meters.

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