Friday, 8 April 2011

WoW: the cracks are beginning to show

The tank doan wanna go, Sarge!

Yesterday Blizzard announced a plan to bribe players into tanking their horrible pugs to placate their hordes of disgruntled dpsers.

Blizzard said: In patch 4.1 we'll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.


This system is meant to address the unacceptable queue times currently being experienced by those that queue for the DPS role at max level. The long queue times are, of course, caused by a very simple lack of representation in the Dungeon Finder by tanks, and to some extent healers. We don't feel the tanking and healing roles have any inherent issues that are causing the representation disparity, except that fulfilling them carries more responsibility. Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little.

Source: 41-preview-dungeon-finder-call-to-arms

So why has LFD damaged grouping?

Dedicated tank player Kadomi explains it thus:

Kadomi said: I think we all agree that there’s a dearth of tanks using the LFD tool. I haven’t used it since WotLK, at least not on Kadomi. The reasons for this are manifold. I believe there are generally less tanks available than any other role, because it’s not as popular. The general consensus in most groups seems to be that tanks have to know every single pull, take responsibility for the run, and lead the group. Not everyone enjoys this, so there are less tanks. Add to this that LFD in WotLK created a new breed of player, who want to rush through instances at their own fast pace, and who are quick to point fingers at tank or healer after every wipe. Cataclysm heroics take practice, time and patience, and that’s all not factors you usually find in a PUG. In short, tanking can be extremely stressful.

Source: call-to-fail

I'm not personally opposed to single server LFD but I think cross server grouping has been very damaging to that other game and would be very damaging to Rift.

I've been having tremendous fun grouping in Rift, have made several friends, get regularly asked to come along to someone's groups and almost every pug I join has been noteable for friendliness and tenacity (we put up with about 12 wipes to finally get Expert Konstantin last night). In particular I've played with a number of tanks just breaking their teeth on T1 and T2 and the groups are really friendly, encouraging and supportive to the players who step up to this role. This is golden.

As for WoW, the big deal is moving the game from "I'm playing this because it's fun" to "I'm playing this because I get stuff." And them actually using the word "bribe".

Washing up isn't fun. I might have to bribe you with cookies to get you to help with the washing up.

Football is fun. I don't have to bribe you to have you running around a park chasing a ball.

If the content of your game is in transition from being like football towards being like doing the washing up then your game has issues. I think WoW is in decline and will continue to decline. I know they published very impressive numbers last year. That mainly rested on the rather tardy launch of Wrath of the Lich King in China, their biggest market. Secondarily on Cataclysm which a lot of people including myself resubbed to have a look at. Now that those two boosts have passed they're in trouble. Having to throw free bonus loot at people to do the more horrible elements of their game shows this.

It's really significant that their developers have used the word "bribe". Because it's an implied admission that their game isn't fun - because of cross server LFD


  1. LFD failure is that there is no rating system. This allows players to act like complete assholes, if they so choose, without consequences. I remember in the past, when players got a rep, they often name changed or changed servers. Now though, you can be a douchebag without consequences.

    The reason why the cross-server system worked so well for PvP is that it was needed in order to get enough people into BG's (design flaw?) and people have come to expect PvPers to be jerks. It's much easier though to ignore one jerk in a BG of 10, 15, or 40, than it is to ignore them in a dungeon of just 5 where their actions can kill the group.

    So without a rating system, the LFD fails. It also makes servers more anti-social, you don't get to know the people in your community as well.

    Personally though, I find server shards a failure to begin with. You can get around them.

  2. "As for WoW, the big deal is moving the game from "I'm playing this because it's fun" to "I'm playing this because I get stuff.""

    Yes, this. I'd argue that even the LFD pains pale in comparison with this deep core problem. I'd also suggest that this has been building for a long time; WoW is pretty much built on acquisition and achievement (even before Achievements). The LFD bribe might be a flashpoint for new complaints, but it's not the real problem.

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  4. I think eventually they will need to relent and make the Cataclysm heroics as easy as the Lich King ones were (or supposedly were, I wasn't playing then). Expecting coordination and discipline from cross server LFD PUGs is simply not realistic.

    Further, I think you are absolutely correct. If Blizzard has to bribe players into doing something, then it must not be very fun for most players.

    Sort of the same problem that gating all the best gear behind raids has in general, imo. If raiding was fun, then the gear you get could be sidegrades that have stats only useful for raiding (for example, pretty much the same as the best gear you can craft, but with more hit and spell penetration on it)and players would still do it.

  5. Disagree with Yeebo slightly. Cross-server PUGs can have discipline and coordination. It is possible.

    But not in WOW. Because the player base has simply not been trained to play that way. The player base has been conditioned to expect certain things: quick instance runs, AOE everything, no CC, endless mana.

    Most players cannot un-learn the gogogo play-style they've been conditioned for. They're simply not going to recognize that the environment has changed and that they need to adjust. No, every failure is because someone else is not doing their job.

    That's why, whatever happens, the bribe is not going to work.

  6. I've heard comments like this from a lot of forum posters and blog commentators. But this is probably the first author I've seen to come out and basically say, "Cross-server LFD is bad." I too am concerned about how this argument is going to play out in Rift. I remember the "bad old days" in WoW where you would spend all night in IF/Org looking for a Strat group. And I've spent all night in Rift trying to get a group for King's Breach or Runic Descent. It sucks.

    But... I also remember what cross-server LFD did to WoW for me. It killed any sense of proper behavior in an instance. Before LFD, if you were a jerk or a ninja, the whole server knew who you were. Good luck getting invites after your name was added to the "blacklist." Now there are NO consequences for bad behavior. You can treat people like crap, steal loot, etc. and just queue right back up again. No harm, no foul.

    It also killed any sense of server community. You got to know people on your server, run with them regularly, make friends, form relationships. Cross-server LFD killed all that. I know what it's defenders will say, "But you can still do all that now." Sure, it's possible. But why bother? What's the point of trying to form relationships when with the push of a button, the game selects your friends for you and sends you off to get your "phat lewt?"

    In short (too late?) I think a single-shard LFD tool could be a great thing for Rift. But if they deploy a cross-server model like WoW's, my first six-month sub to Rift will likely be my last.

  7. Heh, I was wondering why I got hits from the Rift forum today, when I never actually mentioned in my WoW blog that I am playing Rift.

    I don't know if LFD can be fixed at all. How do you ruin a poisoned community? I don't agree with Yeebo that Cataclysm heroics need to be brought to WotLK difficulty. I as tank didn't want to queue in LFD there either, because that's where the GOGOGO and healers pulling whole rooms for the tank because they want to be out of there in 5 minutes has come from. Without LFD being introduced at a time when heroics were already extremely easy, the mentality wouldn't be spread so widely.

    Maybe Blizzard needs to re-think LFD completely. I wish Rift had a group tool, but I am definitely not in favor of any cross-server functionality.

    As Gabe introduced us all to, Internet anonymity breeds fuckwads.

  8. To clarify a bit, I did not mean to imply that making the Cataclysm heroics easier would be a good thing. I just meant that if Blizzard wants them to be doable for the average cross server LFD PUG, while also cutting que times, they would have to be nerfed. Bribing tanks isn't going to be enough of a fix.

    Should heroics be doable in the average LFD PUG? That's another question. I'm inclined to say no, there needs to some challenging five man content for guilds that don't have the numbers for raiding. If you can do everything with the LFD tool, why get to know anyone or join a guild?

    Will Blizzard stick to their guns and keep them hard? Doubtful, they seem committed to the idea of making all of their content accessible through the LFD tool.

  9. @ Dick A rating system would have helped a lot when this feature was introduced, it would be less powerful now. People have formed their habits. But yes, I agree in principle, it certainly works very well for Ebay.

    @ Tesh. It's the icing on a cake that's been baking since WoW Beta.

    @ Yeebo. Yup, dumbing down is one solution to the current crisis but in itself it's creating tomorrow's crisis. MMO philosophy has very much followed Bartle's famous rant that MMOs are designed for newbies. More dumbing down will really test WoW's ability to retain its oldbies while making the game more newbie-friendly.

    @ Mike yup, it's what Freud called Projection, the view that problems are the fault of some other person.

    @ Aracos Rift looks like it will be going single server LFD, something like DDO's excellent grouping tool. I'm looking forward to being able to indicate availability while getting on with something else.

    @ Kadomi thanks for an excellent blog post and excuse me quoting you without permission (I generally assume that once it's out there on the net it's fair game as long as you attribute). It will be interesting to see to what extent, if any, a LFD tools encourages antisocial behaviour in Rift pugs.