I read a lot of debates concerning solo vs group play in MMOs, but for me the optimal way to play the game seems to be in a duo. In actual fact I also read a surprising number of blogs where the author plays in a duo, often with a partner or sibling. However, this combination seems to be often overlooked in the debate on how people play in an MMO.
Is it fair or right to class a duo as a separate entity from a group? I think it is, the dynamic is vastly different: although you have a great deal more flexibility than a solo player when playing as a duo, you often still can’t take on challenges designed specifically for a full group. You can, however, complete more of those group challenges as a duo when you have moderately outleveled them than you could if you were solo, and obviously sometimes you can indeed complete challenges at the correct level that were aimed at groups because what the developers really meant was “we don’t want you to do this solo, go and play with other people for crying out loud”; it very much depends on the classes with which you have chosen to form your duo, of course.
With mechanics such as City of Heroes’ leveling pact being slowly drip-fed into the current crop of MMOs, are we seeing the increase in popularity and mind share of the MMO duo? I certainly hope so, it’s always been my preferred way to play because it provides something close to the flexibility and immediacy of solo play whilst also allowing (in most cases) all but the most difficult of group challenges to be completed without cause to resort to the unreliability and logistical headaches of a full group.
Of course now someone will make a post on why the MMO leveling triumvirate is the best way to play…
“Co-op” does seem to be becoming more popular in games generally after a time in the deathmatch wilderness since some of the classic arcade games (Gauntlet with 4; Double Dragon, Final Fight et. al. with 2; Teenage Mutant Don’t Mention The Ninja Turtles and its endlessly reskinned clones for 4 again…) A duo is definitely a good balance between the loneliness of the long distance soloer, and the ever increasing management/admin that comes with adding more players.