Wednesday, November 2, 2011

We Don't Have Anyone Else to Blame

It's a popular topic whenever Dungeon Finder systems come up in conversation that they are the cancer, the reason communities are dying in theme park games. The topic came up in a podcast I recorded this weekend with ForceJunkies and the main response was that it would be a mistake for SWTOR to release without it, as RIFT tried to not incorporate it and buckled soon after. The idea that server-only Dungeon Finders was shot down as well as not being feasible due to long wait times.

City of Heroes has a Trial match-making system that is a Dungeon Finder system. It is server only. Yet, I still see people forming up groups to do these trials in Broadcast chat, and then using the queue to teleport there instantly. Groups are still getting formed without a cross-server Trial finder.

So...we have a limited example of this working. Is it us? Are we, as gamers, just too lazy these days to work to put a group together for these runs? Especially after the introduction of it, has our collective patience been whittled down due to being spoiled by 2 minute queues for Tanks and Healers?

With systems in place to teleport directly to the dungeon, we no longer need to worry about everyone flying to the entrance or summoning their lazy asses. We no longer need to worry about everyone being dedicated for a long dungeon run, as many of them take 20 minutes tops if you're prepared, 30 or 40 if you need to explain it, unless for some terrible reason you're playing some terrible game with hour long dungeons and pointlessly difficult encounter mechanics. I can't imagine a game like that might exist.

So really, the only job placed on our shoulders is to put the group together ourselves, either through our guilds or through broadcast chat. Many games have central areas where people congregate naturally at end-game, so finding like-minded individuals shouldn't be that hard. And with the other conveniences to the system, the only problem that might wreck the community is somewhere between the chair and the keyboard.

Are we wrecking our in-game communities? Did the introduction of extremely short dungeon finder queues encourage anti-social behavior rather than try to discourage it? We can blame all the weather-themed video game companies we want, but at the end of the day isn't it us who took these mechanics and used them to shield us from other people?


  1. I think one root of the problem is that developers wanted to make group content available instantly and at the same time removed the single-player content (the world).

    It's a bit ridiculous, really. In the past if you wanted to just log in and get into the action, you would do something on your own in the world. If you had more time, you grouped up with some people, organized something and had fun.

    Nowadays, there is no single-player content at endgame left really, except for dailies. And I have yet to meet a player who actually likes dailies. At the same time, all original multiplayer content was replaced by instantly-accessible anonymous multiplayer content.

  2. Accessible anonymous multiplayer content sounds more like how TF2 and Call of Duty is set up. You don't know, need to know, or even care about the other people on your team as long as they do their jobs. Unless you go out of your way to join a clan and socialize you never have to interact.

    I would like a return to some meaningful single player content for solo'ers. Dungeons became solo content with the dungeon finder. Even though you are doing the dungeon with other people, there is no meaningful social interaction there at all.

  3. I haven't played City of Heroes, but the effectiveness of any DF system comes down to one thing: incentives to group.

    Recall that the original WoW didn't have one and finding groups was relatively quick. It got slower as the game got older, and expansion after expansion incentive diminishes to independently find groups for long time players: they're guilded. So how did WoW try to fix it? Devs designed a system based on the premise that those needing groups are the unguilded and/or unorganized/unskilled players who therefore need to be force grouped in order for it to work.

    I've written much about DF systems so I won't repeat myself here. The point is, incentives. But not just incentives, but group tools which enhance the experience, not destroy some experiences in order to prop up others. It's not the players. We are playing within the rules set by the designers.

  4. Reduce accessibility: increase interactivity.

    How meaningful are people's textings? Sure, there's a usage, but the interactions are a far cry from filling. How much can you talk about with a close friend you haven't seen in a year? The interaction is huge, wide-ranging, meaningful.

    Backstepping for a second: all these features in games these days remove the need to develop the skillset required to actually perform once the feature 'drops you off' into the action. I don't practice my ability to strike up a conversation when forming the group, I'm less apt to strike up a conversation about tactics when the proverbial hits the fan... I'll just lean on the feature again to shuffle the deck and drop me off with a group that *does* understand. Of course, ad nauseum, with no one interacting, no one gets on the same page.

    Candians might not get along between themselves, but when Winter's Worst makes her visit, differences are set aside. They are set aside because no other option exists for survival.

    The communities of MMORPGs of yesteryear were far greater because of both the practices required of each individual, and the necessary evils of shared hardships. The communities were sculpted, shaped.

  5. I like your point of view here Ahtchu. Survival is an interesting point to bring up given that many games give individual players the ability to survive without relying on others. This is a complete turnaround from the days of Everquest where, as most classes, you needed a partner or two to survive and level up.

    Despite being forced to interact with others to survive, we enjoy it. This cultivates cooperation. Nowadays we find players telling themselves (and games telling players) that they are the best and they don't need anyone else. You can imagine where this brings people once they reach end-game and must cooperate. You shuffle the group once more because the only person you are convinced that you need is you: All the other players are replaceable.