Thursday, September 25, 2008

On looking for people

Note: This post is NOT intended as a cry for help, rather a general observation on the social state of MMORPG's.

My mage has been running around Azeroth with all of the global chat channels enabled. General? Yep. Trade? Indeed. LookingFor Group? Sure, why not. Guild Recruitment? Even that one.

Two Related, Unrelated Problems
I've been looking for a group to go hit up Direbrew for the group portion of the Brewfest event, not because I'm seriously hoping to get the rare mount I'm missing out on this year (it's been confirmed as an under 10% drop rate), but simply because turning in the quests once would save me two of the increasingly tedious keg delivery runs. People tend to advertise in just about any channel that comes to mind when they're trying to form a PUG, so I figure it can't hurt to listen. Also, I finally decided to remove the character in question from the carcass of a guild he was in; a failed attempt at a Karazhan guild that ultimately fell apart and boasts maybe one other account under its roof these days. So, hypothetically, I'm in the market for a guild as well.

The pickings on both fronts are surprisingly scarce. I simply haven't seen anyone looking for a group for the Brewfest event. Maybe they're zerging it down with friends from their T6 raiding guild and don't want PUG scrubs. Maybe I'm looking in IF when I should be looking in Shattrath or wherever, I don't know. One might argue that the obvious answer would be for me to simply get a guild to run the event with, but that too is not as simple as it sounds.

Looking for a guild on a four year old server
Players looking to join a raiding guild have, in some ways, a relatively defined path. Guilds typically aren't going to take people whose gear is more than a tier below their current progress, so you're looking at a rather small number of possibilities on any given server. (Aside: This is where it would help if, four years ago, you hadn't chosen to roll on a server that would, in the future, happen to share the name of a major raiding zone. "Hyjal guilds" recruiting are typically guilds that are raiding the Hyjal zone, not guilds that are located on the SERVER Hyjal.) But what if you don't want to raid?

Well, I've been a non-raiding member of raiding guilds in the past, and it has its quirks. First of all, you probably need to know someone to get your account in the door. Second, I don't quite feel like I fit in with a group that is focused on working together to try and tackle some goal while I mill around doing daily quests or leveling alts. They are comrades, and I am someone who is in because I know someone. Beyond the social stuff, sometimes raiders and non-raiders just don't understand each other. My mage's most recent guild master seemed at times genuinely puzzled that I actually didn't WANT to raid, even if there was an empty slot in the group on a theoretically farm night. It was as if he could understand not being ABLE to raid due to time constraints but it didn't make any sense that someone who theoretically COULD be raiding wouldn't choose to do so.

So, join a non-raiding guild, you might say? What non raiding guilds? I'm not saying that there aren't guilds that just bum around with their friends, but these guys aren't actively out and about advertising that they want new members; without the pressure of raiding, they don't really NEED new members. Sure enough, the new guild ads that (very occasionally) appear on our server's guild recruitment channel are typically guilds with maybe a handful of accounts at best that are aspiring to one day become raiding guilds. In short, the non-raiding guilds that would actually take me probably aren't guilds I actually want to be in. No wonder I found myself accepting a random /ginvite the last time I was guildless, simply so people would stop offering me slots on their third-string Kara group.

What's a lone player to do?
I suppose this is where being a loner by nature can be a problem in an MMORPG. I've been on Hyjal since WoW launched nearly four years ago, but there are maybe a dozen players I still know on the server, most of whom are in one of two guilds that are working on T6 raid content. But what if I were a brand new player of WoW (or Warhammer, for that matter, if I ever get time to actually pick a server and play)? It's not easy to get your foot in the door of a guild of folks you don't know without the ice-breaker of sorts that comes with looking for a very specific type of guild (e.g. raiding, or perhaps RP).

I guess this is where systems like Warhammer's Public Quests are supposed to help players make friends, as it were. Still, it's an interesting design question that the game's developers have only limited control over. How do you match up players with people they are actually likely to get along with (i.e. who share their goals, general level of competence at spelling and grammar, etc)? I guess the devs don't have a perfect answer either; the trend in recent game design appears to be to punt by allowing players to solo to the level cap and then hope to somehow convert them into group players once they're capped and out of content.

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