Single groups are the core of Everquest. Since the old cities opened their doors onto a wilderness filled with the horrors of rats, bats, and spiders, we have joined forces with our friends to stand up against such terrible darkness. Today, seven years later, grouping continues to exist as the core of Everquest.
It is our battles beside our friends that differentiate Everquest from single player games. Grouping is the strength of massive online games over traditional role playing games, the primary features to offset the clear advantages of single player gaming not the least of which includes that greatest of life improving treasures: the pause button.
There are many ways to group. Some group with their guildmates. Some only group when they have to and spend most of their time in raids with 18 to 54 other players. Some build a tight knit group of friends and hunt on a schedule.
But the pickup group is the strongest of them all. Before you scoff, cry out, crumple this ancient sheaf of vellum and toss it into your living room's roaring fire, consider the rest of this discussion. Think back over your times hunting. Remember the moments where you first met that close knit group of friends with which you hunt or raid. Where did you meet them? Think to the people you met in Everquest that you never knew previously. Think how your guilds originally formed. You might have met them in a variety of situations but very likely you met at least some of them in a pickup group.
Pickup groups offer many advantages. You hunt when you desire to hunt. There is little waiting around for that one last friend to log on. While you may have to wait for that one last class before you can hunt successfully - a limitation and a topic covered in previous ancient scrolls of vellum - there are no schedule conflicts. You hunt when you want with those at hand. You will hunt with those of your strength and power. Rarely will you find a circumstance where you must hunt with those far below you or those far above simply because the duration of your hunting time and that of your friends differ.
Friend groups are where you hunt with those you already know. Pickup groups are where you meet new friends. There is no greater treasure than a full friends list. The friends you meet are the true strengths of Norrath.
Pickup groups are also good for the survival of Everquest. With fierce competition, we have all watched old friends move on to newer games. It is an evolutionary path that, while we might curse and despise it, is inevitable. Only in our comfort hunting with those we do not yet know will we continue to grow even when old friends move on to the clearing at the end of the path.
What of the raiding guilds? We all have watched the raiding guilds loom in the sky above us, crashing together or splitting apart as life rolls on. Where will new members join these great powers? How will those fallen heroes, risen from the ashes of their once powerful guild, meet new friends and create even more mighty guilds? Pickup groups.
There are many who hate pickup groups. There are many who only wish to hunt with those they know. There are those who do not like grouping at all. I can do little to convince them except to ask them to occasionally try either forming or joining a pickup group. Think of your whole server as a single community, not just your small circle of friends or your guild. You will find new regular hunting groups and new guild members often come from this pool of hunters who, like you, want to meet people and go on adventures.
What of Sony and the creators of the West? SOE would do well to consider pickup groups the core of Everquest. They should do all in their power to support these groups with both new content for the widest range of players and new tools to make pickup group building easier and faster. As the numbers grow and shrink, the pickup group will remain strong. There will be days when no one faces the like of Overlord Mata Muram. There will be times when no force can stand up to the firey breath of Vishimtar. When these times come, it is the content faced by the loose band of adventurers that will keep Norrath strong.
By no means do I claim these ink scratchings to be the definitive word on this issue. We all have our views. This is simply the view of one old pale cleric of Tunare, sitting at an oak desk with a strange gnomish fountain pen, a candle burning low, and a page too full for anyone's good.
The second of June in the year two thousand and five.