Lately, I've seen some discussion here and there about why FFXIV is great/not so great because of the lack of mandatory party play, outside of first time dungeon clears/endgame. So I thought it would be nice to see where exactly we as a community stand on this topic. Do you feel that FFXIV would be much better if we were forced to create parties for leveling and quests? Or do you feel that FFXIV's current environment of being able to largely solo your way through the levels and story is best? Let's see where the discussion leads!
Keep in mind, the following is spoken in the context of leveling and storyline only. I'm not touching on other aspects such as endgame, because as far as I'm aware, no MMORPG out there allows you to completely solo (relevant) endgame content. If I'm mistaken about this, feel free to bring it up!
First, my opinion on this: I support being able to solo your way through the levels and the storyline that FFXIV currently has in place (with the few mandatory dungeons requiring a party being no problem to me as well). This is coming from someone who's very first MMORPG was FFXI and grew up playing the game, so I'm entirely used to forced grouping for almost everything as the way to go. There are several reasons to why I prefer the solo trend. First reason: I'm antisocial for the most part both in real life and in-game (in before "why are you playing a MMORPG?!"), so I love the fact that I can just hop on, see if anything is going on in my FC, and if not, I can carry on and do my own thing with no hitch. Second reason: I grew up. I know that's a little vague so to put that in detail: I no longer have the free time that I did when I was playing FFXI years ago. When all I had to worry about was school and doing homework, I didn't mind having to wait around for a party or taking the time to put together my own, because I had the free time for it. But now that I have a job (serving in the Navy), have bills to pay, and various other things that come with that pesky thing we call growing up, I no longer have the free time I used to, and I really do envy those that do have that kind of time, even into adulthood. Lately, I've hardly had time during the weekdays to get my game on, so I have to wait for the weekends to really get hardcore. And even then, that's not guaranteed to me. So, the fact that I can just log on and say "hey, I feel like getting a level or two today" or "hey, I wanna carry on with the storyline some more today" and don't have to worry about hoping a party comes up when I'm on limited playtime is wonderful for me.
Now, I realize that there are pros and cons to everything, so I'd like to list those pros and cons (in my opinion) for both solo adventuring and forced grouping. Feel free to agree or disagree.
1) You don't have to wait around for anyone else.
-For the player who only has an hour or two of free time but wants to get on the game anyway, this is a great thing. You can log on, decide on what you want to do, get it done, and log off feeling like you accomplished something that day.
2) You can actually experience a large chunk of the content.
-You spend less time building parties/waiting for shouts and more time exploring the world and getting things done.
3) You do not have to worry about getting stuck on quests if they can be completed solo.
-This is a big advantage to me. In my opinion, the developers of this game really want each player to experience the main storyline as much as possible. After all, Final Fantasy is always about epic storylines. Why wouldn't the devs want you to see it all for yourself? I'll admit that later in FFXI's life, the fact that it became extremely hard to complete storyline content because everyone else was past it and didn't want to go back and help really irritated me. I believe there is one member around here (think it was Catwho) who said she was stuck on a certain Wings of the Goddess mission for THREE years because she simply could not find the required help to complete it. To me, that is completely unsat.
1) Solo play doesn't teach you about group play.
-This one is usually high in debate. People will say that a solo adventure doesn't teach about the required grouping roles that's bound to come up sooner or later. While I somewhat agree with this, I also believe that a good player will research their role no matter what type of adventure they're going on, so this may not such be a big problem as some people believe.
2) The game's in-game community appears weak.
-When people do not have to form groups to accomplish a majority of the content, this may become a subject of contention.
3) The world can seem lonely at times.
-For those gamers that thrive in social settings, the lack of forced grouping can be quite the disappointment.
1) Forced grouping leads to stronger in-game communities.
-When you have to work together a majority of the time, you get to know people, and the good players on your server stick out in your mind as people to form bonds with, while the bad players on your server stick out in your mind as people to avoid at all costs. This leads to Friend List invites, LS and FC invites (and perhaps even forming LS and FCs), and maybe the occasional Blacklist addition.
2) Working together can feel a lot better than working alone.
-I'll admit, there's nothing like that feeling like facing what appears to be an insurmountable task, pooling together the strongest aspects of your group, and overcoming what's in front of you. This can be a solo thing at times too, but it's more common in groups. As for simply leveling, it can be nice to have other people to chat with while you're out grinding at times.
3) Reputation begins to matter.
-If you're a good player, people will seek you out. If you're bad...well good luck getting anything done.
1) You have to wait on other people.
-For those players that only have a limited time to play the majority of their gaming time, forced grouping can become a hindrance if they can't get parties quickly.
2) It's not as easy to experience a good chunk of content.
-What happens when a majority of the playerbase has completed content, and you're trying to play catch-up? It may become difficult to get a party to get what you need completed.
3) Progression can easily come to a standstill if you're unable to get groups.
-This is something that usually isn't a problem early in a game's life or at its peak, but can and will become a problem later in the game's life. Once again, I point to my FFXI example of a player being stuck on a mission for years because they could not get a group for it (and people apparently can't be bothered to just be a decent fellow adventurer and go help someone needing assistance for free). This doesn't just apply to storyline content either...even leveling can feel this problem if it's not addressed (where are my old-school DRKs from FFXI at? You know what I'm talking about! However, that can also be blamed on bad job balance too).
Whew...I didn't expect to type that much on this subject. It's just something that interests me a lot, and I'm eager to see everyone's opinions on the matter.