A trend has manifested itself in mmo gaming over the recent years: The move towards soloplay and casual short time play.
The greater mass it seems, has no real desire to be dependant upon grouping in order to accomplish things, and no desire to spend hours doing a certain task/quest thus game developers create their games with the ability to solo from level 1 to max without ever having the need to find other people and group, sure in a group you can kill larger things, but there is no need. The same with quests, apart from some of the “epic” quest lines in games, they can all be soloed more or less.
That brings me to another thing which again ties into the solo aspect of current mmo gaming. The lack of a true support/buff class which in my definition. is a class, that by itself is not a strong class, but in a group they shine, and provide so many benefits to the group, that without such a class, a group could be struggling to achieve its goals.
Old mmo games, like Everquest 1, Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online relied heavily upon support/buff class and they were fun to play, because groups wanted you, these days with such a tendency towards solo play, no one needs a buff class, and since they were tough to solo with, they are more or less gone, Rift (new mmo) does have a few support/buffers. It seems that SW:Tor (the next big thing to hit stores) is continuing where World of Warcraft left of, ie. all classes are geared towards solo play. In my book it is sad, because once again, the social aspect of a mmo is being neglected.
I want games back the allowed you to solo perhaps from level 1 to 30ish, but then from 30ish to max (50-70) you needed to be in a group. Because lets face it, if you don’t want to group, play Dragon Age. MMO’s offer such rich enviroments for groups of people to be creative in and in the meantime expand their horizons and developing basic social skills, instead of this harsh way of thinking, that “unless you fit into this mold I believe is the best, you are a n00b”
Mmo games offer something for everyone these, instead of focusing on a niche, that in return means that certain aspects of the game suffers, in order to allow room for other aspects.
This brings me to group sizes, currently group sizes is around 4-5 people (WoW/SW:Tor), that doesn’t leave room for much variance either.
Everyone goes with 1 tank, 1 healer and 2-3 dps. If you allowed for larger groups you could much more easily accommodate for variance, one group might want two healers, or two tanks, and still be equally good and completing the encounter, and allowing the group to flex up and down in play styles solely depending on what classes they wanted to bring, instead of what they have to bring.
It seems though that Rift, with a near perfect launch, is doing things differently, and lets hope they have the courage to break the mold, and create a game, that does things differently than what the establishment does, and still be successful, I think they will continue to be successful if they continue to think outside the box, and create a game, that caters to a specialized audience, and not just everyone.