It would appear that patch 3.3 has revolutionized World of Warcraft and ‘improved’ the game immensely, as everyone is discovering the amazing joy that is multiplayer in MMOs (Massively is still missing from the WoW equation, but one step at a time now) and previously abandoned instances are seeing (for now) new life. Although if Tobold’s post and comment section are any judge, it’s not the same type of multiplayer that has been the staple of the genre since 1997 (or before, but UO is an easy ‘starting point’). Rather than the pure enjoyment of simply doing something with others, 3.3 is being hailed as a great addition because the final hurdle for the solo-hero, group instances, has been conquered without compromising the solo-heroes greatest trait, the all-about-me attitude.
Finally all of the solo-heroes in WoW can rid themselves of the annoyance of a guild and go it alone, queue’ing up as easily for an instance as they have been for battlegrounds, reaping the benefits of showing up without the hassle of being concerned who else is there. It’s both an incredible leap forward in solo-hero gameplay and a sharp reminder that the WoW crowd is very different from the MMO crowd. It also makes you wonder how long such a benefit will last, or if eventually it’s a real benefit at all. While access to content is all well and good, once that very limited content has been absorbed, moving on will be a bit easier without any sort of social structure keeping you interested. At least in a guild-oriented environment, even if you are personally done with something, running it again (and again and again) with a guild group is common, and prolongs the need for something else. That ‘run it again’ approach is what has keep many subscribed while they wait for their 6 month update.
It’s somewhat interesting, from the outside looking in, that such a feature would be cheered in an MMO in the first place. Personally the social aspect has always been a huge draw for me, not just the aspect of playing with a set group, but also how that group’s progress and reputation is regarded among other groups and the virtual world as a whole. While personal glory is all well and good, being a part of something highly regarded or reviled is just another motivator to log in, work together towards something, and reap the rewards of some group-centric goal, a goal that is usually far grander than anything possible solo. It’s that same history of success and failure as a group that keeps people playing together, keeps certain rivalries going, and adds a layer of interest to whatever your group is doing. There is no better motivation to get something done as a guild than to know your main rival is also pushing for that very goal, be it raiding progress or PvP conquest.