Removing Grouping – Part V

The last thing I want to approach, and it is last only because I wracked my brain for weeks and could only think of five things a group mechanic provides (communications, status updates, rewards, content gating – everything else was purely social and not tied to the mechanic itself), is balance.

Many games these days that have groups use those groups to affect the design of the classes/characters in the game.  Some players may not think so, but a lot, and I mean a ton, of time is spent tuning things like “what should the mana cost of this spell be?” and “what differences should there be between the single target version, the group version, and the area effect version?”  You can look back at EverQuest and see that clearly in their buffs.  A single target version of a spell might have a 2 second cast time and cost 200 mana.  The group version has an 8 second cast time -making it harder to cast during combat- and costs only 700 mana -making it a big savings in both time and mana when casting it on a group of 6 players.  The area effect version has a 30 second cast time, costs 3000 mana, and uses a pearl, making it impossible to cast in combat, wipes out the mana of the caster and costs in-game money, but it lands on “every player within a radius of X” making it fantastic for casting on a ten group raid at the beginning of an evening of raiding or for spamming buffs at the bank but little else.  Every game (in the Diku mold) does this to some degree, using the group as an element of balance.

In Lord of the Rings Online, there are even group maneuvers where one player starts an action that opens up options for other group members to continue the attack.  Without the group mechanic and the built in selection of who to notify of a group maneuver, the game would need to move indicators of group actions to the target itself so that a random collection of people without a formal group structure could pull off the same action.

Like with rewards and content gating, the group structure here is a fundamental element of the design for balance and weighs heavy in lots of the decisions made in what players can and can’t do.

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