So I went off the deep end a little there in the previous article. Maybe its cuz my kinship left me on Lotro this last week (except for three faithful friends) to go to greener pastures. This is nothing new, its happened in every game where I don't have enough time to be on all the time and keep them entertained.
Anyways, what are some things that can be done to make grouping fun?
1. Well made dungeons is definitely number 1. I still loved running the Deadmines or Scholomance or Maraudon long after these dungeons were worthless to me for gear/whatever. There are some dungeons in Lotro which make this bar now, I'd say Urugarth is one. It's still fun to run, even though its gotten pretty easy. I like Agamaur also, though its too low level for most people to even spend enough time on to beat the red maid. Of the new dungeons I've tried, Forges has annoying trolls you have to walk through on every corpse run and Fil Gashan has annoying alarms. Grand Stair is good but it's run too often and the end boss is a joke if you do him right. I like my end bosses to be challenging even if you do know what you are doing, but not impossible the first time to beat either.
There aren't really any dungeons in Lotro that people can run "just for fun" like Dire Maul and Blackrock Spire in WoW though. Really. They are all about gear lately, not about running for fun. I'm not saying they aren't fun, didn't I just say a few of them were quite fun? But they lack that "this is so fun I want to just run it just because it's there to do" quality. They need that because its sorely lacking in the game.
2. OK Number 2. is Accessibility. This is dangerous. Give people too much accessibility to dungeons and they become less exciting. If its too easy to get there it doesn't seem like there's any reason why this place is so dangerous, if its in town, why haven't the city guards taken care of it already? If you can select it from a hot menu and warp there, then it doesn't seem like its a part of the world, its more just an extra battle room on Battle.nat/gamespy/Team Fortress/whatever. Give people too little accessibility though and you end up with 1 hour to get your group together at the dungeon entrance before you can even start. And every time you die you have to go rescue the guys who died so they can get back to the dungeon from the respawn point. Not really ideal either. the happy medium is somewhere in the middle. City of Heroes did a really good job on this I think. Players moved fast enough across the map that wait times were negligible, and they could teleport others when in the same zone. But they didn't get the overpowered warlock port that should just be replaced with a UI button that queues you for dungeons and/or lets you pick your group from those also queued. I both love and hate the queued scenarios of WAR. They were a good example of how to reduce wasting time, but at the same time, they wasted my time by making the rest of the game appear like a waste of time and thus you couldn't wait until you got into another scenario to fight people cuz that's where the action was. I loved though that they auto leveled you up to a certain level, and that they popped so frequently. I wonder how well the "skirmish" system of Lotro will work? I hope they have thought about the other effects it will have on people if its too fun or too rewarding or whatever.
3. Randomness: example the rare spawn miner boss dude in the Deadmines who drops the blue shield. He's not there every time, only like one in four times you run the dungeon. But its fun to see if he's there or not. Another example: the dungeons that change in shape every time of City of Heroes and Diablo 2. Third and last example: puzzles that don't ever have the same solution twice, like bejeweled on steroids.
4. World grouping quests that are fun and give GOOD rewards. Different rewards than what you can get soloing in the world but not as good as dungeon rewards. They make these huge worlds and fill them with trash mobs and only occasionally add some neat dragons and stuff. They should have plenty of normal bosses which you can get repeatable group quests to do. (Dailies or whatever.) Lotro did this recently with their bounty quests. Its a good start but now there's some freaking huge monsters running around in ... odd places like the marsh of the shire. WoW did this better with many good quests "outdoors" like the drum one in the Hinterlands where you have to fight through lots of elite trolls to kill a boss troll and fix a drum on an altar or something... I can't remember all the details honestly.
5. Reward variety. Reward varying tactics. I haven't seen a game yet who does this well. Reward people who pull stuff off in unusual ways. Reward players by not forcing them to run a dungeon with a holy trinity group, maybe they could all be hybrids or something else entirely. Mostly dps? that's fine! Maybe some people have weak healing and ok tanking or CC (Crowd Control) or whatever. Great, you can pull it off. Have the dungeon adapt to what they have. If they have CC make it so the dungeon has more monsters. If they have lots of healing in the group make it so the monsters do more aoe damage but have less life cuz healers tend to do less damage. If they have tanks tank tanks, make it so the monsters do more single target dps or put bleeds that stack or something cuz the tanks have a lot of hit points and can swap off. Make things require intelligent solutions, not just pat answers. Don't always react the same way. Surprise the players. If they have all dps then the monsters get tanks, and you can't shoot through them, you have to fight them. (If you don't want to implement collision detection just do a blood pact though collision detection is better)
6. Listen to your players. If some encounter or dungeon isn't fun enough or doesn't have good enough rewards, ramp up the fun or the rewards. Fun CAN be programmed. It involves witty banter, funny looking items, stuff for players/rogues to do (see traps, locks, puzzles, picking pockets, etc..) and varying up your themes and making sure each pull takes something slightly new. Add fuzzy logic to the AI and it's minions. Surprise players with reactions to what they do. Make them fight themselves after a manner of speaking.
7. Make sure EVERY boss, including the gatekeeper outside, gives good rewards. Nothing saps fun like having to kill a sack of hitpoints that gives you nothing in return except access to the dungeon (see Annuminas). Even if its a 1 in 4 chance, its better than nothing, but why couldn't there be 4 1 in 4 chance items that drop off it/him/her?
8. Make boss encounters more than simple tank 'n spank.
Try something where your party has to split into two groups and one of them has to run up past trash mobs to a switch while the others continue beating back the boss, until the switch is thrown, so that the boss's super shield goes down or something. Or at least an occasional "Go stand over there, or take damage from cave-ins" or a logical order to defeat encounters involving more than one enemy at a time.
9. What are your ideas?