Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why do people solo?

Lot of people complain that modern MMOs discourage group play, solo play is the optimal way to level up, those who do the social thing and group are punished by slower XP gain. I never believed it, especially since I play with my girlfriend every time we can and never found it slow. But anecdote does not prove anything, unlike math. So I made some calculation: (if math is not your field, just skip to the bold sentence)

The equations above have the following variables:
  • Xq: XP reward for completing the quest
  • Xg: XP reward for grinding during doing the quest (killing quest monsters and those who aggro on you while questing)
  • tq: time required to travel from the questgiver to the quest area and back, time needed to read the quest text, searching quest monsters, waiting for spawn or whatever that you do to complete the quest except fighting
  • tg: time required to grind the monsters mentioned above
Most quests need to kill the same amount of monsters if you solo or with another person. These are the "kill named monster" or "kill 10 wolves" or "find the lost key" or "go to the altar" quests. The "collect 10 wolf pelts" or "collect 10 artifacts from the ground" are different, but since they are a minority among quests they are now neglected. Anyway, unless there are not enough wolves for 2 players and need to wait for respawn, the 2 players can act independently, so this case it doesn't matter if they solo or duo.

If you have to kill 10 wolves, you get half XP if you do it in duo and do it in half time. Actually the latter statement is wrong, but on the safe side. 2 people kill 10 wolves 2 times faster only if they act independently. If they act as a team (like tank+DPS or DPS+healer), they can round up and AoE them faster. But let's just count with half time. The below statement shows the XP/hour of the duo on the left and the solo on the right. Since all quantities are positive numbers, +-*/ operations do not change the "bigger than" sign. I want to prove that left side is bigger.
Nothing yet, as all four variables are present, so which side is bigger purely depend on their value that can change from case to case. But, let's see another equation, where the solo questing and grinding are compared:
We got the very same equation. It means that the two statements are either both true or neither one. So as long as questing is higher XP/hour than grinding, questing with a partner is higher XP/hour than questing alone. Since the two statements are absolutely equal, we can also say that "if solo-questing is N% better than grinding, then duo-questing is also N% better than solo-questing"

Considering that people want to level fast and they use whatever mean to optimize it (questhelper addons to the point when Blizzard had to implement his own), it's pretty surprising that they don't use the simplest optimization: quest with a partner. Don't say "I don't have a friend who is exactly on the same stage of the quest". You can just go out questing and if you see someone there, you could just /w him with the quests you are doing there, offering to group up until you are done. If any of you just want to go AFK, BG or instance or completed the quests or whatever, you just drop group.

In WoW, there is (or could be) addon for everything. If people would want to group, but don't want to whisper, someone would surely make an addon doing that, strike that, if the other person has the addon, the two addons decide if it's worth grouping and you just get a message "Questbuddy found player XX to be a good partner, press Y to group".

If we add that in a duo you are much less likely to die to an even level opposing faction player or some bad pull and helping each other is the most social thing to do, it's surprising that people solo. I mean it's the rare occasion when "being helpful" and "being effective" are the same things. Why do people hate it to the point where "forced grouping" is a curse and a signal of a terrible game?

The solution: people don't do the social thing because they are social. Let me explain: for socials, every human-human relationship is viewed as social, meaning emotional and norm-driven. For me, grouping with a person in an area is an equal action to visiting an NPC to sell vendortrash or buy reagents. For a social, it means a commitment to be
  • nice: chatting, responding positively to his conversation, compliment him and so on
  • helpful: if you have 5/10 wolves, he has 3/10, kill 7 wolves and don't leave after 5
  • understanding: if he write "brb 5 mins pizza" wait for him, or keep questing for half grind XP instead of dropping group instantly (and may regroup if he returns)
Of course these are pretty costy things, especially if most of the prospective partners are M&S. So socials rather give up on the optimal XP/hour than pay these prices. I never had to pay them. I always offered grouping, and enjoyed the fast leveling. Of course I got lot of whispers "u r rude" and "why did u not wait for me" or "I need 5 more, plz help lol" from the people I grouped with, but never cared. After all, it's equal to machine noise.


Klepsacovic said...

We solo because if we're going to interact with everything as a NPC, it might as well be a NPC.

Sven said...


Your calculations assume that the grinder is grinding on exactly the same mobs as the quester, i.e. Xg and tg are the same in both cases. Often that isn't the case, as grinders will often choose specific grind-friendly mobs (typically tightly packed, melee only) that yield higher XP / hour than the ones that you need to complete quests.

Secondly, your calculations assume that both characters are of equal soloing ability and can thus kill mobs at the same rate. This may well not be true, either because of differences in player skill or differences in the nature of classes (e.g. BM hunter vs holy paladin). If that's the case, the greater good may be served by grouping together, but the fast-quester is effectively subsidising the slow-quester. This makes it a poor deal from a goblin point of view. So people who are (or believe themselves to be) in the fast-questing category may choose to go it alone.

Kaaterina said...

I have not studied your equations in-depth, but there may be some other things that prevent grouping even for non-social people.

For example, I have no knowledge of whether that guy I'm supposed to group with isn't a total liability (like pulling extra mobs, giving us more work to do that I had to do when alone, fearing mobs so they pull half of the continent, or other regular idiocy.)

Since I know that from personal experience most leveling people are utterly dire, I'd rather not have to put up with them. I figure out that the time lost for not grouping with them is time saved in burnt neurons and gray hairs.

Anonymous said...

You might be right from a purely mathematical perspective, but there is also the dreaded 'fun' factor to consider. Call it 'challenge' if you prefer. Leveling content has been nerfed to the ground and low level toons buffed into little supermen. If you are playing solo there is at least some chance to make a mistake and get in trouble if you stay in orange mob zones. And the threat of PvP becomes more significant when playing solo.

Duoing makes the whole process even more mind numbingly easy. For those of us who used to enjoy finding challenges in our journey through Azeroth, duoing can suck what little life is remaining out of the leveling zones.

Anonymous said...

Again this is very situational. No need to be: nice, ok. not understanding, indeed, but if the difference is only 2 mobs, I will be helpful, especially in low populated areas and when follow-up quests are involved.
Not when you have 10/10 pelts and they still need 8 of a low drop rate item (but then you grouped too late probably).
The most annoying ones are the ones that you meet in an instance or during questing and then whisper you a few days later: "Can you help me with quest X" or "Please come and help me in [random location on other continent]"

Anonymous said...

"...for a social, it means a commitment to be nice"

And you wonder why all your plans That rely on other players helping you FAIL. The Undergeared Project, the Ganking Project, etc.

Have you ever considered NOT failing?

Nextweek said...

The dungeon finder killed off world grouping.

If I am in a queue and group with someone I get kicked out of the queue and have to rejoin.

If I am in a group and another group member goes AFK when the enter dungeon dialog pops up I get kicked out of the queue.

As a DPS my queue time is 15 to 45 mins depending on the time of day, since dungeons are by far the quickest way to farm experience they are my number one priority.

World grouping for me would be highly situational, it would have to be with a tank but they just level through dungeons.

mV said...

first: 3 < 6 and 6 < 9 are equivalent, but 6 is 100 % more than 3 and 9 is only 50 % more than 6. So your statement about the %-based comparison is plain nonsense.
second: i agree with you that grouping has it's advantages. I recommend the "free for all" loot option if you know the other person. Saves lots of extra time.
third: I wonder what your girlfriend does when you leave after the 5 wolves ... (assuming some bug made her miss one of the kills)

Anonymous said...

Me and a friend are currently using the RaF to run through as quickly as possible.

We leveled in three groups;

HunterHunter was the best for questing. We ran up to level 30 before we got tired and started over with another group

PaladinWarrior was the most fun and what i thought was the most effective. We ran instances all the way as a healer and a tank. Even if it wasn't the quickest way it was way more fun. The entire levels 50-60 was through BRD, the (IMO) best instance in the game.

MagePriest was different. I leveled the mage alone to ~45. After that we grantleveled a priest on his account, and duoleveled. As LFD took longer time, we quested or leveled in BG's. Even there the XP was tripled and thus, we had a huge boost timewise. (We also had a bit fun over his priest being level 50 with about 3 hours /played)
Although we got bored of that aswell.

My point? LFD is by far the most fun way to run through the game. It's alot more fun especially if you are the keyroles (Tank, healer) to the group. As your post about the Dire Maulgroup, they found it alot more fun as it was a very huge challenge compared to Ramparts. We ran these instances aswell, and with a decent DPSgroup we cleared it really quick, and gained one to two levels per run (RaF that is).

Trying to wrap up my post i just want to add that i got stuck with the paladin, which im almost done leveling with. The mage is stuck at 52, and i leveled enchanting on him which is stuck at 360 or so. So i found that LFD was the most fun, which made the time and levels fly away in a rapid tempo.

Jan said...

Suggesting to play Dungeons and Dragons Online - It's so different than WoW, as it has "second hand economy", Questing in group does NOT divide XP, as you dont get grind XP, but just Quest XP (every quest is a dungeon), there are MANY challenges, you know, as three toons level 2, you may still have big problems with level 2 quest on hard difficulty, maybe impossible to do "Elite", yet it is still playable as solo player, when you select "Casual" difficulty.
These difficulties differ in treasure, XP and monsters' levels, numbers etc.
Also, many attacks / traps are "dodgeable" meaning you can jump, tumble, or move to avoid them. Speaking of Traps: a single trap on elite difficulty can usually kill you, or at least bring you HP to half from full.

Anonymous said...

Questing in a group is indeed more effective provided the partner(s) are reasonably competent.

Unfortunately, the next great sub 1K DPS huntard in heroics is out leveling as we discuss this.

I personally experienced this two weeks ago while leveling a toon in STV where the next great melee hunter was so focused on his "1337" skills with a dagger that he didn't realise his pet was chasing every fleeing troll and brought back half of STV back with him. Having played a hunter previously I tried to help him out with a few tips him and was rewarded with the wisdom of every great M&S, "lol."

I promptly left the group and placed him on my ignore list only to see this weekend that he had joined the guild I was in, I shot an mail off to the gl explaining that if that was the type of people he was taking into the guild I wanted no part and /gquit.

I have decided to fly solo until I hit 80. Leveling guilds might have served a purpose prior to LFD, but I see then now has completely useless. As a geared, skilled and well-informed prot/holy pally I figure finding a decent guild to raid with shouldn't be to difficult.

Yaggle said...

I do not group up for quests because I am lazy and I want no obligations. I don't want any obligation to follow somebody around, to avoid adds, to hurry to next objective. Most of the time I play, I play slowly and I like to get up for coffee, or use the bathroom, look up something I was thinking about on the internet, or anything else, and not to tell anybody. I want to do whatever I want, whenever I want, including just standing still. I want to be able to log off at a moment's notice without explaining myself. I want total control.

Backthief said...

I think that downtime, just like raids, is the big time spender. You go to Bathroom, have a meal, get a coffee, look at the window, talk to your dog, kiss your gal, your doorbell rings....

And, leveling in groups, the different pace people have is the key. If you are lucky your gal have the same pace you have, you might be correct, but generally its just plain wrong. Mostly you would get stuck waiting for the slower partner to understand whats going around him.

I could safely make any bet i would level much faster alone.

Wilson said...

A lot of effort, but pretty much a waste. The analysis is valid for "kill 10 whatsits" quests, which is why on the rare occasions when someone is killing the same quest mobs as me and they are the same faction, we almost always partner up. As soon as you hit a "gather 10 unsharable medallions / heads / spleens with a 1/3 drop rate" however it goes out the window - the equation changes, and the faster-killing player now has a very strong incentive to solo and get out fast rather than allow the RNG to divide the items.

Aeonus said...

An interesting observation is the distinct lack of comments on this post, or at least those comments that passed your moderation.

My primary suggestion is to restructure your formulae in order to provide easier reading, as the subscript on the variables renders them less accessible for people less capable in maths.

Charlie said...

I don't think your equation is correct. Grinding itself is generally faster with two people together than two people separately. There are lots of variables (mob spacing, mob difficulty) come into play, but having two characters opens up grinding tactics that aren't available to a solo player. Not to mention that you have access to group quests (even duo'ing instances if you're

The biggest minus is shared wait time. When one person has a class quest or needs reagents or has completed a quest that the other hasn't, you've got potential down time. You can sometimes fill this with grinding while you wait to meet back up, but that's still an efficiency loss for you.

Take an extreme example, where two characters of the same level enter a zone where one character has completed 75% of the available quests and the other hasn't completed any. Grouping is a huge efficiency gain for one, but a pretty clear loss for the other.

Brian said...

What I've finally realized is that behaving like a goblin in grouping situations makes sense...even if you sometimes feel like being social.

The key is the realization that in the kind of negative grouping experiences Gevlon is talking're the only one being social. The other player who wants you to help him do things you don't need to do, or expects you to wait around while he gets a pizza, isn't a fellow social...he's just using you.

Now if you're doing those things as well, it's all fair. Except I'd bet that 99% of the time you're not, because the "brb 5 min, pizza" guy is usually not the type to wait around for someone else to do that. He's trying to take advantage of YOUR social nature, but he himself is a parasite. You can help him kill the 5 extra boars he needs for his quest if you want, but when you're done and you ask him to help YOU kill 5 more spiders he doesn't need, I bet he's "got to run, lol".

Nils said...

Every formula cuts thenumber of your readers is half.
They say that about books :).

I'd say the number of commenters, obviously, was decreased below 1.5.

Nees said...

For some reason MMO players expect smalltalk and everyone being helpful. It's the reason why I don't like to group with random players in WoW. I enjoy the game and good teamwork, but I'm not interested in the players themselves at all.
I prefer the way players behave in Diablo 2. Everybody joins a game to get things done and leave when they're done. And it works that way without smalltalk and people telling you they think you're rude.
The dungeon finder changed things in WoW though. Groups are starting to look more like those in Diablo 2, no bullshit, just get the things done and get out.

Jujee said...

Geez at the equations...

From my experience, people will solo if grouping causes them more trouble than it's worth.

Foo said...

Thanks for the update. Best wishes with your issues.

The social in me is incurable. (Hopefully I can get over the moron part)

Nick S. said...

If you coordinate, working with someone else is absolutely faster. The coordinating is too hard for most, though.

Anonymous said...

I recall the number of "collect 10 x" to be about as common as the "kill 10 x" quests.

But by far and away the biggest reason why solo is more efficient is the effort to find a partner. If you are leveling with a partner - say trying to get from 70 to 80 a level a day with someone with your schedule, then grouping is better. But without a efficient grouping mechanism like LFD, then the fact that duo may be faster while leveling together, does not make the duo behavior better if you have to wait for people, they need to pick up the ooze bag in Ironforge, or they did not bring the linen or mitril tube ahead of time, they need to repair or empty food at a different rate.

Barring the nonexistant addon that efficiently finds someone in the same area (so you dont have to wait) with the same quests, the efficiency gains of grouping are just not worth it. If you are gettting 50 XP per second in Northrend, then without an addon, the finding the person, seeing what quests, they have, waiting for them to get there, is just too inefficient to be overcome by gains when you are together.

If you want an efficient multiplayer now, just use LFD - say get from 30-40 by grinding SM a dozen or two times.

Maso said...

You made some flawed assumptions:

A) You incorrectly excluded the impact of Collection Quests believing they are less plentiful than kill quests. Most quest chains contain both types of quests, sometimes Collection First, sometimes kill first. This is very meaningful, as skipping collection quests will result in having fewer kill quests available. Kill quests are very group friendly (as your math shows) but collection quests are very group unfriendly. You can skip all colleciton quests and only do kill quests, but you'll be traelling from quest hub to quest hub more frequently as you will be exhausting hte initial kill quests for each hub and not unlocking the later kill quests for that hub by completing the collection quests.

b) You incorrectly asserted that pairing halves the time needed to kill. Wihle this seems logical, many oreas of the game do not have a sufficient spawn rate to support a group. To optimize kill rate the group would want to spread out and kill as things spawned; but you have to be within a certain proximity to get credit for one another's kills.

You also excluded the biggest reason grouping individuals is less efficient than solo questing: Because it is veyr difficult to keep your quest logs 100% in sync. Unless you play as a group all o fthe time, you are going to run into man cases where you have a quets they are ineligible for, or have already completed or the opposite. Any of these quests are an inefficient use of the other persons time as they get no additional bonus above the grinding XP, but incur the same travel or scarcity costs. This is the biggest reason that people quest solo, because they don't want to have to help someone else on or wait for someone else on quests they have already done or are ineligible to do yet.

Kirby said...

Well I would say that sometimes it might be more beneficial to help them kill those two wolves. Two wolves would take an estimated thirty seconds more, as there are two of you. That thirty seconds would most likely be much less than the time it would take to find another, and if they actually know how to level, then they would easily be better than the next person you would find. Of course this all depends on the server and the person, but dropping a great group with someone just because it would take thirty seconds is a rather large detriment, and the chances are you will see him again, although again this depends on level and server.

Yaggle said...

Here is an example for my previous comment. I am horde questing in Feralas right now. I killed some hippygryphs and ogres in the southern area, then I needed yeti hides. I went to the yeti cave area and I kept going further after I got all the yeti hides because I knew there would be mining nodes further in. I mined 4 nodes in the cave and kept going to the back of the cave to killed the named yeti that dropped a green. I have skinning as well as mining right now so it was not wasteful killing extra yeti. Then instead of going all the way back out of the caves, I hearthed back to orgrimmar, vendored, and took flight path back to Camp Mojache while I got up and got some soda and surfed the net for a few minutes. You can't quest this way with a partner unless it's just for a few minutes to kill some yeti. I will do that once in awhile but if I get a tell, "let's group for some quests in Feralas(for example)", of course I will say no. I can't play this way that for me, in my opinion, is maximum efficient use of my time to finish quests and also hit some nodes, basically what I consider the smartest way to play. And yes, I do need to mine the nodes because this is my first character on the server and I want epic flight at level 70, not 75 or 80.

Anonymous said...

^^^ Yaggle *2 & Maso

While it is nice if your partner is competent and a complementary OP class, the main requirement is that your partner must have complementary play times and willing to coordinate quests so you are in the same place in the chain. If so, it can work well. Otherwise, the overhead and constraints on your time are not worth it even if your XP/minute is higher when you are both collocated and on the same quest.

Otherwise, solo is considerably faster - if you are ready to continue playing another hour or log on for quick 20 minutes while doing the laundry, you can as solo. And not having to coordinate my coffee, bathroom, snacking and phone is much more pleasant. Leveling with a cohabitant is quite different than some cyber contact.

Tarrke said...

I'm currently levelling a new toon, a warlock and I solo everthing but dungeons.

Every quest I take is meant to be fast and take some time so I can get a dungeon via the LFD system. As a spell cast what do I need to get more XP in a group while questing ? Thing simple, I need to find someone that allows me to kill something I can't do myself, or someone that allows me to kill it faster than I can do myself. So basicly anyone.


I need someone like me. Don't spend time on quest reading, as I know theses quests. No new player as I not in the mood to teach avery day. No healer, this isn't helping me to heal something, I can do it myself. Some tank ? Maybe worth the try if we can ae the mobs, but then he have to be good (can't count the instance I've tank with my voidwalker...). Another damage dealer ? Then we should learn how to play together, the time we know each other is the time to find someone else.

I think that playing with someone you know and that got the same play time and hours is good. Grouping with strangers is bad. This is true in the global way, false on particular cases. While leveling an other toon I've meet someone in a dungeon, then went questing with him a while week. We went so fast to level 60 (at this time) that I was amazed, but I've never found an other player like him while leveling other toons...

People solo ? Not every ones. I can't count the number of two members groups I've found while grinding quests. A quest may be longer if we are 2, but for socials it is easier, and some time the only way to complete it. Only people who are good players will find soloing faster than grouping.

An other story from levelling my warlock to make a point. I've met an other gobelin while questing. This was an interesting meeting. I was questing solo near Stonewatch Keep in Redridge Mountains doing the Wanted: Gath'Ilzogg quest at level 24 so yellow quest. During the cleaning of the path toward him I met a drood lvl 32 and he wanted to group me. I said yes and he asked me if I want him to stay back so I can solo the quest but he'll get the reward and the quest item.

Following this we stay in touch via wispers and chat all the night while we were levelling on our part. We got each other someone to talk to about anything, but we were both soloing for more xp.

My point with that story is this one, I don't need a partner to kill mobs, but getting someone to talk to while doing boring quests is fun. Some need other to kill, some nee other to talk to, some don't need other at all.