After writing about just how social an experience SWTOR can be, I finally managed to discover one area of the game where grouping actually has a negative side effect. A-ha! This area is companion affection.
It took me a little while to notice, but it really became apparent once I began to seriously level my first alt. On my trooper main, I've been trying to make friends with my first companion Aric for a while. At first I found him annoying, but he's really grown on me over time, and he and my trooper actually end up agreeing on a lot of things. (Except when she flirts in front of him, which always gets a -1 of Shame, but I can forgive that because it amuses me. It feels like playfully winding up a friend.) The problem is, my increased affection for him is not reflected by Aric's affection for my character in game. At first I thought that it was just a naturally slow process, but once I started to level an alt I was immediately taken aback by how much faster she gained affection with her companion. My Imperial Agent is only 19, and her companion Kaliyo can't stand her patriotism (I reckon that I get about three -1s for every time she approves of something), and yet her affection is already soaring.
Then it finally hit me: it's because my trooper is constantly duoing, so she only gets to talk about half the time during conversations, and you only gain companion affection if you win the conversation roll. So that's my affection gains already halved, but if I get unlucky on the important rolls it can be even worse. There was this one quest where our little squad agreed to do something really goodie-two-shoes - but while my boyfriend got to cheer about massive affection gain with his companion, I was left with nothing, even though I had made the same choice and I knew Aric would've loved it. Sadface.
I kind of wonder whether Bioware could be convinced to change the mechanic so that you gain affection based on your conversation choice regardless of whether you get to talk or not. It wouldn't make any sense from an immersion point of view, but then you also gain light/dark side points based on what your character wanted to do instead of what they actually let their group mates get away with, so I don't think it's that much of a stretch.
I suppose the bright side is that even if they leave it as it is, it's unlikely to matter in the long run as the game seems to be designed around gaining huge amounts of affection via gifts anyway. (If you think Vette liking snark fifteen times more than she dislikes receiving electric shocks is odd, just wait until you give one of your companions an epic shiny and they'll pretty much forgive you for killing innocents three times over.) Right now it just kind of feels like my dear cat-man is really dragging his feet, considering how well we've been getting along.