A Public WAR
A beginner's guide.
How to play Warhammer Online alone, but together: a beginner's guide to Public Quests.
There are four kinds of conversation in MMOs: terrifyingly complicated strategising, endless moaning about imbalances, enthusiastic but awkward roleplaying and total silence. That latter is surprisingly common, a vast number of players choosing to get on with things in their own time rather than acknowledge the existence of anyone else. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning respects that. In fact, it's quite a quiet game throughout, as it's so focused on constant conflict and activity that there just isn't time to hang about complaining that the Shaman is overpowered. Crucially though, it's found a way to merge that total silence with group play.
There's a lot of talk about how WAR is a player-versus-player game. Certainly that's going to be the case in the long run for most of its players, but nonetheless an enormous part of the game revolves around traditional questing and looting, which is what quieter players are likely to stick to.
There's been this problem in other MMOs that a fair old whack of players are, for one reason or another, anti-social. They want to keep their heads down and crack on with tasks under their own steam. The trouble is that this way they miss out on the bigger baddies and bigger rewards of group quests. Public Quests are an answer to that: they're mass-scale group quests in which you don't have to share a single word with anyone if you don't want to. Just within the space of WAR's first few days they've proven one of its biggest draws.
All you have to do is stumble over to one and start hitting things: your actions automatically add to the overall task for everyone. So there's no need to roll your eyes in disbelief when a note saying you need to kill 100 militiamen pops onto your screen - even with just half a dozen players, that'll take no more than a few minutes. Once done, there'll be a second stage, which generally involves slaying just a few super-tough baddies. There's a bit more emphasis here on working together, at least compared to the wild free-for-all of the first stage, but all that really means is hitting the same thing as someone else rather than tackling an enemy on your own.
It's subtly introducing the rudiments of team-play to those who usually hate and fear it, but again, absolutely no communication is necessary. Which makes a lot of sense, really: WAR is a war, and wars generally don't involve soldiers introducing themselves to one another and politely inviting them into their party just so they can go fight the enemy together. The final stage is always something substantial: a boss foe, whether it's a hard-as-nails hero character, or some epic monster like a dragon or demon. Cue a massive pile-on and, presuming the fight goes well, a sense of heroism generally reserved for the climax of a three-hour dungeon run.
Only, this whole process has taken less than 20 minutes, and didn't require any of the tedious organisation and hanging around waiting for people to fly over that your everyday raid does. It's one of the reasons people play MMOs: to fight something really, really big. At last, it's something you can just go and do, rather than put the amount of effort required to organise a charity fun-run into it beforehand.