Ok, let's get two things out of the way, what am I talking about and some obvious disclaimers
1. What do I mean by 'Mobbing'? Large grouping/parties/gangs packed together. (Planning on discussing the consequences, how it may affect the game/experience, should it be considered an issue, ect.)
2. Whether you see it as an issue (or not), there's always multiple factors that cause something. For this some obvious factors for the magnitude of it include: Small population-so one person difference matters more than a normal mmo population would be, demographics of the population, organization, circumstance, ect.
And obviously working in groups is a good thing in a multiplayer environment. But my main question I raise is, "Is it too much? Chiefly does it favor/necessitate mobbing too much?" (Also please feel free to bring up other questions or concerns regarding this topic or a similar topic in the discussion. Lets take for example this past campaign:
The Trial of Maeve has come to a conclusion, and is where I feel this topic has had the most obvious effects.
Nobody can claim that balance were lacking in numbers; multiple factors such as organized guilds moving there together, people wanting to join the winning side, and also from an rp/lore perspective balance is the more neutral and wide reaching faction of the three. Ok that last one is my opinion and understanding, but I digress.
But what happened exactly and what makes me bring the discussion up? Well... the first few weeks weren't exactly... pleasant
Rolling death type unpleasant.
I was on chaos, who scored second by a good margin away from order (R.I.P. order), and at one point near the end we kinda got close to balance. But wait! I can almost hear the clacking of detractors saying "Yall got close! There was no problem see! You just countered your argument". I'd argue we only got as close as we did because balance got bored and lazy, and then kicked their 'mobbing machine' into a more active state just to secure their win.
Why would they get bored and lazy? Because there wasn't enough prey. In the spring/summer months, especially in the early spring months, you were almost garunteed to run into balance, and when you did, it was at least 5+ people. But most common in my experience was running into at least 7 man groups, and there wasnt even any sieges near me! Just roaming death squads hoping for some loot, plumping up their K/D/A ratios (Keep this in mind later). This obviously killed the mood for some people in chaos/order, especially if you weren't in a guild or were in the small guilds (We all know the kind, the small 5 man guilds that are more like friend clubhouses than anything, nothing wrong with them obviously, those can be a blast sometimes if you get the right group, but they're not exactly competitive material in most cases). So what do people do? They take a small break and think about the new situation.
So we have a large difference in registered population, organized demographic is also very different, and the already out numbered factions who also have to fight one another are losing some activity. So these death squads rolling around for easy pickings for KDA and maybe some loot aren't getting fulfilled. If 5 people find a small 2 man band, obviously only 2 kills are gonna be gained at max. And the people with these death squads are doing it because they wanna pvp, they wanna fight, they like that stuff. Some may start going in smaller bands or on their own because of the feeling of being unfulfilled, especially if they're already strong and geared up as it is.
Long anecdote and observations about it are done, so what does this mean? Well we got a list of factors that played into what happened.
1. This campaign had K/D/A be a part of the leaderboard, which that and the bragging rights it entails is our really only method of competition we have at the moment (and for some, this is the only fun that can be had in these test phases, I'm not much of a PvP person at all, I'd rather just grind xp/mats in a semi-meditative pace in some dungeon or isolated forest someplace, but I digress).
2. Sure the death mechanic got a change halfway through, but still applies to a similar degree, but the death mechanic really punished death. REALLY punished it. One death hitting all equipped gear's durability to a very significant degree. A handful of deaths could shatter a set alone, much less the normal decay and the like.
3. Related to number 2, but also the map and the fights necessitated the need for increased movement, aka packpigs. Which had only 200 durability, and cost 900 gold (Expensive thing that easy to break, but necessary for effective play? hmmm). yay for the patch that happened during the campaign allowing us to sell things to npcs for gold!
4. XP (as far as I've noticed, I havent done a test to verify) isn't split, but rather the same for each participant (If it is split, it isn't a noticeable difference, maybe a mix of split and static baseline?). So this means that it is way more efficient to go in groups (paired with the benefit of being able to always eat the R10s, the biggest bounty, even with some people being under-leveled.) so much so, you'd be considered a fool by any min-maxer/statistician/tryhard for not rolling in a group to improve. Seriously there is no point in not mobbing for this reason alone. And if you've played the game more than 2 hours, you'll quickly notice that leveling is a constant part of life. (Vessel rarities, un-resettable talents, stats relating to gathering and crafting, just to name a few reasons)
5. Everything of worth is in the pvp zones, and if the anecdotal account hasn't stated anything, they're really dangerous. And of course its part of design, but its still on the list of causes for obvious reasons. But not just the mats and scoring stuff, if you want to level past 15 on a vessel, especially past white vessels where rarity starts to matter, you have to go in pvp zones.
And this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of everything about it. But is it too much? Should we completely isolate the solo player? or the ones who play more than the few others in their 'clubhouse guilds'? Or the PvE-er who wants to farm or xp run but everyone they can access online are the pvp centrics who are farmed out this campaign and only want to roam around fighting people? Or the one harvester that can gather those nodes in an efficient manner and there's no-one who wants to join to just help keep them safe? ... See where I'm going? The over encouragement of mobbing extends far past a small solo demographic or whatever. And I'd even say harms the "beneficiaries" of this same effect, but instead of it being harm through oppression and grief, but harm through spoiled experience. Too many hunters, not enough prey. Spirit bank being available anywhere, at all times, at no limit (Also the one of very few protections on the small end, able to insure a small portion of their work) made a kill hollow. Being so big made competition virtually non existent, easy claim to resource nodes and being constantly geared, making the impact of death less on them, as if their stuff breaks they can just replace it, where the other side has broken gear being more devastating. The big side just winds up never feeling fully satisfied, as now their wearing premium grade stuff amongst outnumbered foes covered in rags wielding butter-knives. (Haven't you noticed more videos of outnumbered fights? Heck even the most recent of this post war story video was an outnumbered fight being won. *And it was a balance member, hmmm* )
Thoughts? Questions? Solutions? Throw your two cents about this in here. There's a larger conversation to be had, but I'm ending this here, this has taken a while to write as well... My biggest forum message ever I think... But I really like what this game has the potential of being, so I really want to engage, see what happens, enjoy the ride, and put in my two cents. Maybe something positive will come out of it?