Thursday 31 October 2013

NBI 2013 - Aftermath Eternal

With the dawn that ends Halloween, so ends the Newbie Blogger Initiative this year... or does it? It has the structure to continue going despite the end of its term but I guess that's more a decision for the organizers. I'm pretty glad I joined in, as it spawned a few of the blog posts I had this past month.

It also got this site a number of links, boosted those graphs and numbers I'm not meant to be looking at, learned a few things, and given me a whole bunch of new blogs to follow and comment on myself (you can see from the extensive "paths I travel" on the right. If I missed yours or you just want to be added - let me know)!

Lastly, if you are or know of a newbie blogger then I strongly suggest visiting the site, regardless if it's on-going or not. Lots of tips to be learned and easily built bridges to be made.

What the picture doesn't show is the wealth of information and community that dragon is sitting on.

Also I thought that for a change I should put down what things you might see appearing on this blog during the upcoming month. Can't make any guarantees but if it's in the game plan, there's a good chance I'll blog about it!

My to do list for November (no particular order):
  • See the Tower of Nightmares for myself in Guildwars 2. (can't log in)
  • Investigate the werewolf attack on Conarch Village in Age of Conan. (done)
  • Complete all missions on Warframe (only around 50% done).
  • Finish that second quest in the Neverwinter Online Foundry.
  • Write the first part of my guild's history, it's NanoWrimo afterall.
  • Check out Path of Exile as suggested by Doone. (done)
  • Check out Atlantica Online as suggested by SynCaine. (done)
  • Finish mapping the Aria Reservoir in Wizardry Online.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Masquerade of Liars

You know what's better than grind? DOUBLE GRIND!

That seems to be the thinking at NWO for their Halloween Event that runs this week. Basically it's a variation of "collect stuff that has a chance of dropping on monsters" event. Previously you collected whatever and then could trade a number of the whatevers for rewards. This time the item you get from killing monsters must first be traded in to illusionists scattered around the main city hub. The kicker is that they trade at a 1 for 1 ratio and you cannot trade with the same NPC again until you've traded with four others. This means you will be doing laps in meaningless busy work to convert your loot into useful currency. Coupled with mediocre rewards (in comparison to previous events) your best targets are cosmetic masks (cost 200) or a low level skeleton companion (cost 600).

Ironically it is more painful to do the conversion than it is to simply get the required amount, and with so many other good events on in other MMO's I don't think this one competes at all. That is quite the problem these days, MMO's forget they are not the only game in town. Add stupid time wasting crap like the above and you can expect people to abandon you for greener pastures where their time spent is better rewarded.

Speaking of grind, Wizardry Online also has a Halloween thing going on hosted by the aptly named Mr. Pumpkin (a porkul in a pumpkin hat, I guess the Mad King's influence is far reaching?). My favourite part of it, other than the npcs dressed as reapers (you can see one in the background), is this lady, Madam Candy who gives free candy to anyone wearing a pumpkin hat. Best part? Eat the candy and you die (possibly permanently in that game).

Guess that's the "trick" part of Trick or Treat!

Monday 28 October 2013

MMOs: Zone Population Balance

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

Casual Aggro has a post where he questions the point of GW2's up/down levelling. Basically he wonders why it's there at all because as a low level character (up levelled) you still get caned by high level mobs while at high level (down levelled) you can still curb stomp everything. One might argue that if you are at max level, being defeated or having a really tough time fighting the level 0 chicken or bunny in the starter zone would kill any sense of progression you may have had. I'd prefer to look at the "why" they included that system to begin with.

It'll chop your head off.

In a standard MMO (without scaling) the higher level people would gravitate to the higher level zones as that's where they would still be able to achieve or earn something. Usually if they returned to the beginner areas they wouldn't really gain much in the way of advancement. This creates a ladder where slowly but surely those high end zones are getting more and more packed and veterans were less likely to return to help the newbies. The GW2's scaling system was supposed to reduce this, so that high levs could return to the other zones and still be rewarded for their efforts, and in a way it worked. However since players prefer the path of least resistance now the high levs camp both the top and bottom tier zones leaving everything in the middle mostly empty, save for when events happen there.

How would I fix it?

While this would be easier to accomplish in a new venture, for GW2 first I would add more currency. Yep. Karma doesn't cut it. This currency would be called "Fame", and would be tracked individually per region. Unlike other currencies, fame is fickle and will decay after sometime (even if you are offline) back to a value of zero. Then I would add a new tier of items (or rework legendaries). Purchasing said gear requires fame from multiple regions. Furthermore, the more fame you have across the lands, the more powerful those items would be. They can potentially be the most powerful equipment in the game but if you don't maintain the fame (in ALL the zones) then they will be as weak as starter "whites". This will encourage people to log in more often, and to run around all the maps to maintain their strength.

You can even make another set for WvW which increases in power the more people you kill, but that counter decays too so you'd need to be constantly killing to be at maximum power. Those are just rough ideas but I believe they would work. In short, without the threat of decay I don't think anything can really flourish.

Sunday 27 October 2013

A Week Full of Bullets

If there's one thing I learned from playing Battleground Europe: World War II Online, it's that war is boring. Just to clarify, the combat action parts of this MMOFPS are good (though I spend most of those lying face down in a puddle of my own blood wondering what the heck just killed me) but given the scope of the game where a pretty large chunk if not all of Europe is open for travel it can get a little dull in-between conflicts. As a test, I set my guy up to auto-run from one friendly town to the next one over which was hostile. I then went and had dinner and watched a bit of TV. When I came back I had -just- bypassed my destination. That's bloody far. Turned around and entered the town but was quickly killed by a sentry.

At least it's realistic in that one shot will probably kill you. Also, I think the people who fly planes would get a pretty good flight simulator from this one since your "playing space" is huge unlike in the Battlefield series where wandering off the (much smaller) map makes you despawn after awhile. There are boats too but I've not yet encountered them. Another slight issue for some might be the graphics - they are very simple, but effective enough. Destroyable terrain and buildings makes up for that. You can even dig your own trench/fighting position as an infantry man which is cool.

Really the only thing I don't like is all the waiting. Waiting to attack. Waiting to defend. Waiting to get to the next town. Guess it's true that waiting is the hardest part?

So... when are the Allies arriving again? 

Oh and I don't like their pay scheme. You can play as a recruit level (and the gear that entails) for free forever but you'll never advance unless you subscribe (bribe the officials). Guess that means it's uninstall time for this game. At least in Warframe you can still get all the gear without paying - it just takes a bit longer.

Meanwhile in space...

Speaking of Warframe I'm surprised to report it DOES have an underlying story that evolves as each patch is released. The current event is "the Gravidus Dilemma" wherein you must choose to either aid the expansion of the ruthless Grineer empire who enslave colonies but will in exchange return any frozen Tenno (that's your group) they find, or save the colonies with the Corpus merchant guild who will keep any frozen Tenno for themselves for experimentation.

In practice I think most people are just picking whatever side offers a better reward per mission, but I can see how the story can then progress depending on which side had more victories or participants. If only Guildwars 2 could do something similar with their living story instead of a very stale political vote or worse, a railroaded path. Adding moral choices usually makes them just that bit more important.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

MMOs: Cheaters in the Third Party

[Part of my MMO Design Folder] 

"It's ok to cheat if you don't get caught."  That line of thinking seems to extend into MMO's.

In most MMO EULA's I seem to recall a line wherein "the use of third party software" is a punishable offence. This might not be the case anymore (I tend to gloss over EULA's these days) but if it is then there would be a lot of people who commit that crime (ooooh cyber crime, so futuristic). I think we should pop on some definitions though for clarity. Let's define "third party software" as code created by a company or person, unaffiliated to and/or not endorsed by the game publisher/creator, which gives the user an advantage over someone without the same software while playing the game. That's pretty fair isn't it?

I think we'd all agree that someone who has code to give them god-mode would be pretty unfair (happens regularly in GunZ the Duel I might add), and the guy that runs faster on foot than someone flying in a jet plane is probably hacked. Throw in the farmbot plague which is impressively far reaching when you think about it. These are usually very obvious and no one, other than the exploiters themselves I imagine, would really have an issue with the game masters going after these particular players (or robots, whatever).

But what about that program that changes the font for your client so you lag slightly less, or the one that lets you see the specific durability value of items, or the mod that changes your HUD to make it less cluttered than the vanilla version? Do they give you an advantage over someone who doesn't use it? Let's blur the lines further and ask - what about teamspeak? Or that program that lets you monitor the real time auction house prices (like gw2spidy)? What about youtube walkthroughs? They are all technically software.

Ofcourse the game might actually endorse some 3rd party stuff (eg. GW2 put Dulfy -in- the game, so I take that as an endorsement) in which case those should be absolutely fine - but as for the rest? Guess justice isn't so much a solid line and more a wavy faded noodle, around which the "cops" tread lightly and are fearful or are simply too impotent to go uphold their own laws when it becomes difficult or inconvenient to police (mirrored in real life). That leads to the question - if something is not policed, is it still "cheating"? At what point does "being resourceful" cross the line? I guess the answer to that comes down to you.

It's ok, she's not looking anyway.

Sunday 20 October 2013

The Maddening Grinds

Part of my Explorer of Tyria journal - you can find the rest here!

Apparently opening sealed, magical coffin-like boxes wrapped in heavy chains that radiate evil is a bad idea. This particular one contained the vengeful son of the Mad King, and if there's anything I know about spirits it's that they can hold a grudge! Fortunately his only weakness is plentiful this time of the year, and we easily pushed him back into his prison because we're such nice guys.

Oh, how I missed thee clock tower!
The Mad King himself is about too, and with him returned his clock tower - still one of my favourite jumping challenges around. I did prefer racing against charrs and norns instead of wisps though but that's ok. It's all muscle memory now. The Labyrinth also has more bosses too, which alas, do not scale down and do not cater for the solo roamer. Even some areas the "regular" mobs there who can do a combination of push, pull and paralyze (in addition to just killing you) are pretty dangerous meaning it's not very productive to be there alone.

This meant that after I did what I needed to I headed back over to Neverwinter to grind up some Coins of Waukeen (a special event this week). Boring? Slightly. Just a little worse than the current living story achievement grind in GW2. Difficult? Nope, and very appealing since you can participate solo instead of relying on a zerg. Rewarding? Still very luck based, but in my case it paid off to the tune of five hundred twelve thousand astral diamonds (and a bunch of other gear)! That's worth quite a bit more than a silly pail or useless minature offered in Tyria, and for a much heavier grind I might add.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

MMOs: Consequences of Choice.

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]
 Often the most important choices you make in an MMO are your first few, when creating your character. This is because you'll have to live with that decision or start all over if you don't like it. Afterwards at best we only get the illusion of choice where all actions will lead to the same result anyway or worse, there is only one path forward as if we are actors following the script in a play. As a result the choices you do -in- the game are of little consequence. This is an area that needs improvement. However, I actually think the problem is more of a technical limitation than a design one.

Currently when you make any choice worth remembering, something is saved against your character, probably a little string of numbers, so that the game knows what you did / have done and can do something "different" for you (consequence) at specific parts of the game - usually in story instances separated from the open world, as to not wreck or spoil anyone else's experience. I say we move some of those consequences back to the open zones and this will in turn make an otherwise static experience something more lively. 

To start, I'd introduce NPC faction ratings, a sort of invisible "like-ability meter", which is what the Elder Scrolls series runs on. This more than just Horde/Alliance. No, it would need to be extensive. Each group, each town, each society and in some cases each individual NPC should have a hidden rating of how they percieve each player. This extends to groups of what other people would deem as monsters (like, bears of this forest, bears of that forest, etc). Database wise this is probably nightmarish, but it's still just a bunch of numbers. By doing this you could have the following example play out:

Bob the mercenary did a job for Town C who wanted him to raid a goods caravan between Town A and Town B. After returning the goods his rating in Town C improves, but Town A and B dislike him more (especially if he let anyone escape). Maybe Bob kept the goods for himself (didn't hand it in within time limit) which means Town C also dislikes him. Maybe Bob is happy living with the wolves in the white forest who he feeds and hence they like him now, but must remember to be wary of the wolves in the nearby black forest since they still don't like him.

Groups that favor you will trade for better prices and possibly won't attack you, while groups that dislike you probably will trade only select goods and not give you more rewarding quests. Groups that hate you will most likely attack you on sight, forget about trading. They may even send bounty hunters to come get you. What happens if one person in the party is wanted but the rest aren't? Well, if they attack an otherwise non-hostile NPC (non-hostile to them) their rating would drop really fast. That rating should not decay on its own. Players must actively do something to alter it.

Town NPCs should also be killable, and should be the target of quests too. That blacksmith who broke your armor? You can kill him. Or rob him. Or be paid to execute him. Or kidnap his daughter. Same goes for the morally ambiguous wizard in that dark tower. How would this work though? Easy! All shops or NPCs of interest are within solo instanced zones. A house, a room, a tent, whatever. Mabinogi even forgoes this, just having some people see particular NPCs while others cannot.

Freddy may have killed the blacksmith, so when he goes in the shop is empty, or can't go in at all. Bob who is in Freddy's party can still enter, since the blacksmith is alive for him. Sure, Freddy can get Bob to buy and repair stuff for him at the said Blacksmith, but that's extra maintenance and would get annoying. Also, Bob might then run off with Freddy's gear. That's the price of his choice. Not to say that Freddy is a crazed murdering bastard. Maybe Freddy simply took a quest to slaughter that entire town becauase they were cannibals.

That moral shade of grey is important, as is giving perspective from all sides. Never mind if the players don't look for all sides of the story, but make sure it is there if they choose to make an informed decision. That's really what it should be about. Let them earn their heroism, let them own their decisions and not be railroaded down the path which is convenient for "the story". Done properly I believe this system will have everyone living their own story already anyway.

150 Shades of Grey? That's probably overkill.

Monday 14 October 2013

NBI - Armchair Game Designer

[Part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative: Talk Back Challenge]
[Part of my MMO Design Folder] 

Armchair Game Designer: Take the parts of current games you like, listing the specific features. Make a game out of those features, any type of game, any genre. You could also mention features that you would never use under the same criteria.

Lyledark has a neat little list that he'd like to see where as Liore specifically targetted designing an MMO player economy. Some good ideas on both, and for kicks I decided to make a list of my own... which turned out to be quite long... :P

I might be doing this wrong because of the "current games" section of the brief given most of these come from either Ultima Online, Mabinogi, Knight Online, Wizardry Online, Neverwinter Online and Guildwars2 with some original ones thrown in the mix. Anyway this would be my (undoubtedly incomplete) list of things I'd want to have, starting with the ones that need little to no explanation (or I've talked about them previously):

- No Pre-determined Classes, no over-all levels. Each skill gains through individual study and use.
- School to learn combat and life skills.
- Exams to attain higher levels of skills.
- Gear will break, ammo runs out, hunger must be catered for
- Text bubble above the head of who is talking, not disembodied chat window
- Emote window for ease of access to all character animations and dancing
- Typing a smiley face would actually put that expressions on your character's face
- Crafting and skill mini games
- In-game supported voice chat in a party or squad channels
- Musical instruments, freedom to compose your own music and jam with other players (possibly using MML)
- Open world Ship travel, people can join for the ride and you manually steer where to go
- Non-territorial Enemies have no leash, they'll chase you to forever.
- Mounts! - Shared mounts (two people on a horse)! Flying mounts! Mounts (and pets) that can fight!
- Customizable and useful housing/homestead items.
- Interactable furniture. I like chairs I can sit on.
- Dangerous Traps can be avoided by just knowing what to look for, or disabled temporarily via minigame
- Open world quests / Dynamic quests - anyone in the vicinity can join
- Open world dungeons with "boss" chambers instanced (long cool-down per player to prevent spamming).
- Foundry, player made content!
- Guild Management Tools that let you see the last time someone was on, and lets everyone leave short messages
- In-game Calendar so people can see when the next releases are due, what events are on and for how long they go.
- Magical gate travel to cities only. All gates travel to one target city which changes based on moon cycle.
- "Summoning" Spell/Scroll to summon one party member to caster's location (lengthy cool-down).
- No return to town spell, or return to wherever unless a mage is summoning you.
- Blacklist feature. Always handy.
- No auto maps/radar. Cartography as a skill can make map items for the local region you are in.
- Story Instances. Can be added by patch yet are "permanent" in that all characters can then run them once.
- Content geared primarily for solo play. Scales up (instead of gearing for group and scales down).
- Each character can only join one guild at a time.
- No auction House. No gold. Barter system all the way. Even with NPCs!

And now for the ones that need more text...

- Not so Diverse races.

This is more of a money constraint (I'm designing on a budget :P). I like Neverwinter's races where a dwarf is a short but stout human, an elf is a slender human, a tiefling is a human with red skin and a tail etc. Apart from minor facial differences (horns/pointy ears and what have you) the bulk of each character is basically the same, just scaled differently. Why? It's easier to release new armor and clothing items for just one model. Compare it to Guildwars 2, where the races -are- quite different. Ever wonder why most of the living story rewards are either weapon skins or back items?

- No voice actors.

Again more of a money constraint. While I can put near limitless text on the screen, if I then need someone to read out the lines that's going to be painful on the budget. More so if it's multiple VAs doing the same lines (numerous protagonists). If there are no VA's the development staff will get more money to produce more content, and it will be slightly faster to roll out (and be a bit smaller file size too). To compensate, must have a fantastic music score (that can be reused more easily). Age of Conan level or better. :D

- Dangerous combat relying on Player skill over Character skill.

Isn't all combat dangerous? Well, Mabinogi takes the cake for me here and I'd love a version of their rock-paper-scissors-shotgun combat system in my MMO. Most battles are very short but not in the fast paced way. Either you use the right skills and curb stomp your enemy or you screw up and get curb stomped in return. My character is over level 2000 yet a regular skeleton can still kill me in 4 hits (or less) if I mistime my moves or use the wrong counters. In comparison a skilled player can beat the same skeleton with a week old character, if the player behind the screen fights well. It just may take them longer to win.

- Death is to be Feared

Upon dying you become a ghost who can no longer see the living (or undead) nor interactable objects like levers, doors and buttons. You can only see other spirits (dead players), NPC healers and statues that will ressurect you if you manage to run back to them. If you make it you have a 100% chance to be revived. Wait, -if- you make it? What's stopping you? 

One of the most terrifying NPCs in all my MMO adventures.

Yep, the reapers from Wizardry Online. They chase you and will try to permanently end your existence - the only thing you can do is run. Each time you are "caught" you are returned to your body and the chance of your revival drops by 10%. If you fail your revive roll then your character is gone (seriously, they become a tombstone).

That's in Wizardry Online, but I know most people don't like permadeath so in my version - the % is how much of your skills are retained on revival, so if you got caught 3 times then all skills drop by 30%. You'll have to go retrain them. Oh, there's also still a "roll" on the % too. A fail means all your equipment is obliterated, but don't worry - there's no character elimination whatsoever (though losing 100% of all their skill puts them back as a newbie anyway). See, I can be a nice guy. ;p

Sunday 13 October 2013

NBI - Guilds: What For?

[Part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative: Talk Back Challenge]

Guilds: What For? What functions do guilds serve in games and what kind do you prefer? You can talk about your experiences in guilds, what attracts you to them, and their role in the games you play.

Ocho at Casualaggro suggests it is possibly for selfish reasons that people guild, especially those whose main aim is to reach the "upper echelons" of the game. Lonegun from Away from Game echoes this somewhat, finding that while the raiding guild he was part of taught him a lot about stats and his role, he had a more fun time when he switched to a less elite, more casual crew - a theme I'm continuing with this post, though I think I go off tangent a little!

Despite the functional merits of being in a guild, such as shared resources and ease of communication through guild chat channels, the best part about guilds for me is simple: The people! Not only do they provide you with a "regular gaming group" but depending on your circumstances and goals they can quickly become your friends in and out of the game.

In all my years of MMO playing I've only been in three guilds. One I'm not so active in Wizardry Online, one I'm a rare guest in GuildWars 2 (as it is run by a friend), and lastly my main guild. The one I've been part of for thirteen years and counting.

That guild doesn't exist in just one game. It doesn't exist in just MMO's. It's wherever it needs to be. It is a bit particular in who can join though, but not based on how skilfully you play, what rank you are, or how powerful your gear is. Just the quality of the person behind the screen. What's the goal of such a guild then? Both silly and simple at the same time. Though the code is a bit more long winded, the basic bare bones of it is "to be good". That's it. Help people that need help. Cheer people up who are down. Make people smile. Obviously we're not really into PvP huh?

As you can imagine, it's a very small and diverse group of people that find themselves in our ranks - but they're no longer just characters on the screen. They're the twins from Canada, the mom and daughter in Ohio, the Belgian lizard lover, the Israeli guy who was drafted into the army (hope you are ok), the absent-minded doctor who literally falls asleep at his keyboard, the Londoner terrified of zombies, the mysterious dude in Holland who seems to have high level characters everywhere, the guy in Thailand that works with glass sculptures, the miner in West Australia who is now a dad, the closet-gamer who only plays when he's not preparing for boxing or iron man competitions, the little girl who is a bit -too- skilled at shooting things in the face and so on. We've had some visit from overseas and we've traded games with others. It's all very cool.

My most memorable activities in MMO's have always been with the guild, not doing solo content and not doing stuff with a bunch of randoms (as much as I like doing both). I've always wanted to share our story (or my version of it anyway, where I look awesome *cough cough*) but was having trouble finding the right medium. Flash cartoons take way too long, involve too much work, and my pacing is shocking. Should be something where I can type a lot and throw in a picture or two... like... like this blog? Hrm, didn't think of that till now actually.

Anyway, getting side-tracked. So, in short I like my guild(s) - and that's most likely because all of them have no intense "we'll be the best" charter or rigid scheduling of social interactivity which can cause problems. We don't fight for the best loot after a mission is complete, we just pool all the treasure and divide it by who needs what, and we never really have had any conflicts about it. We just go with the flow and enjoy each day as it comes.

I'm sure there are many more like us out there. You just have to look! :)

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Ode to Mabinogi [Pic Heavy]

Crumena is Red,
Legatus is Blue,
I love Mabinogi
and so should you!
You can go to the forest to kick a bear
You can dress like a cat anywhere!
Take flight and soar into the sky
don't worry Milletians can't really die.
You can take your elephant on a boat
and catch stars as they fall down
hope your river raft stays afloat
and bring trade goods to each town.
Tend to your crops, build a home,
or through the vast lands roam.
Train your pets, dance like a fool.
sure, save the world a bit - it's cool.
You'll face demons and gods
and devious challenges true,
but that's ok because eventually,
a demi-god is you!
Be warned, with so much to do
you might end up with a wife!
Still, this game is worth a try,

Tuesday 8 October 2013

NBI - Poetry Slam

[You can blame the Newbie Blogger Initiative for this post. :P]

What should I write about?
Lady Syl asked for a poem;
Maybe about my new pet's snout?
Or reaching the lab of Goemm?
The dragon in that murky swamp
he hasn't appeared for me,
but many others I did stomp
for the sake of gold and glory.
Across distant stars and lands,
no journey is too great.
My killing spree, it just expands
even to those fiendish krait.
Most people would think me mad,
a criminal and a serial killer
but in MMORPG's it's not too bad
to be a pixel-blood spiller!
And so it goes through time and space
slain foes laying all over the place
but weep not, they are not truly gone
in a few minutes they'll just respawn
then I'll slay them all once more
and take their stuff as my own.
Most games do have a violent core
and it's more fun if you aren't alone.

Now that's what I call loot!

Thursday 3 October 2013

MMOs: Focus content for Groups or Individuals?

The lowest common denominator when it comes to MMORPG players is one. That occurence, the lone wandering gamer, has a 100% chance of appearing in any MMO. Sure, he may be an individual in a group or perhaps a whole bunch of groups but the one thing he can often be is on his own. It is for that reason that when designing my Neverwinter Online Foundry Quests I am balancing the encounters against what one person can handle, despite being able to bring up to four other people (plus their companion pets). Sure it will be easier in a group, but - isn't that the point? Strength in numbers.

I much prefer it that way than design content for five people which might then exclude the solo gamer. It seems the growing trend is to design for the maximum number though, with some instances (looking at you GW2) requiring multiple people through specific mechanics, like standing on pressure plates or pressing buttons simultaneously. That's pretty cool in a group, but there should always be a bypass for solo runners otherwise I just feel it is bad design. Heck, Warframe (which is a SHOOTER) does it - there's no excuse for an MMORPG not to. Personally I also feel that it's less of an accomplishment if I needed 79 people to help me bring down a dragon. That's just me.

I think part of the problem is the "shared" loot system some games have. In GW2, 80 of you kill a mighty dragon. Each of you gets 2 boxes (just an example). If you somehow managed to kill the thing alone you would still get the same 2 boxes, hardly worth the added risk and effort. My way of thinking, if you managed such an impressive feat alone you should get 180 boxes. The less of you there are, the harder the task but the more rewarding - and vice versa. Unfortunately due to the design, there will rarely be that much less of you since it's almost like you NEED a huge zerg to succeed. Huge zergs do form, but 100% of the time? Unlikely. That leads to simply ignoring the content if there aren't enough people around.

If you focus content for individuals, will it make people less likely to group? Yes and no. The people who like to group will still group up. Those that don't, won't. This is still a better design than anything with forced grouping which often leads to more unwilling participants and elitist bullying - "Change your armor! Change your skills!". No thank you, I'd like to play the game how I WANT TO PLAY IT, with MY OWN character, thanks. The elitists will still have a place with the individual focused content though, they'll be the ones saying - "hah, I did that solo". The ones that like min/maxing will be saying - "hah, my group did that in 5 minutes". The best part is, you won't ever have to group with any of them if you don't want to. Choice is a powerful and wonderful thing.