Friday, October 30, 2009

The Deserter Debuff and Random 5-mans

WoW's new random cross-server LFG feature has so many caveats and exploits with it that it made for one of the longest walls of blue text I've ever seen in a single post on MMO-Champion. The one that interests me from an incentive design perspective is the use of the deserter debuff.

The idea is that players will be locked out of the system for 15 minutes in the hopes of discouraging them from fishing for better groups/dungeons. This kind of sort of works in battlegrounds because battlegrounds are intended to be run repeatedly. Deserting a match because you don't like how things are looking means spending 15 minutes that you were planning to spend on PVP waiting out a debuff.

By contrast, many players will do the new random daily 5-man feature precisely once per day, because you can only earn top-tier raid emblems once. A good group can clear many heroics in under 30 minutes, but there's no upper limit to how long a struggling group may take.

If you're only in it for the emblems - and the emblems alone brought many people back to 5-mans in patch 3.2 - you weren't planning to do another dungeon run after this one anyway. That reduces the effective cost of deserting, because you can just do your daily quests, auction run, etc while you wait for the timer instead of after the dungeon run ends.

Bear in mind that patch 3.3 will have 16 possible random 5-mans dungeons. Of those, four offer loot that's 1-3 tiers above the rest (the 5-man Icecrown dungeons should be approximately on par with anything up to 25-man TOC), and another handful are quick and easy for even the weakest group (e.g. HVH, HUK). If you don't get a good dungeon, or it looks like you group can't hack it, the incentives say that you should quit and try again. No amount of restrictions and exceptions that Blizzard adds to the system will stop players from doing just that.


Charlie said...

I don't understand why that's a bad thing. The goal is not to chain players to an idiotic PUG for hours. If you get in a bad group, you should definitely have the option to leave. The fifteen minute penalty is enough to make you have a decent reason for leaving, but it's not so harsh that you'll lock yourself out of 5 mans if you draw a terrible group.

What's my main Again? said...

What I wonder is if the vote kick feature will leave the kicked player with a debuff. If so then I can see groups of 4 people randoming one more just to kick them out and screw people over for 15 mins.

If it doesn't give a debuff then that means that people who are trying to chain heroics.... but got into a bad group are likely to do everything in their power to get kicked from the group. Ninja pulling, bad mouthing, anything to get kicked out of the group and into a better one.

Stripes said...

"I don't understand why that's a bad thing. The goal is not to chain players to an idiotic PUG for hours."

I would guess there are two goals:

(1) get all the instances (at a given level) equal exposure. I call this the "Occ problem"

(2) get all the players a decent chance at running something they can complete

I'm not sure the 15 minute deserter debuf really solves either of these. For (1) a "you get the same random dungeon next time sucker" debuf that lasts some number of hours would be better. So I would imagine this really is focused on (2).

I had heard they were attempting to match folks up with content based on their ability to clear it. I'm not sure if that is based on gear ilevel, or number of completions of similar difficulty content, or both.

That should help out (1) a fair bit, if you tend to only get an easy instance "at random" if you have done no heroics, and you tend to get other folks at a same level you will tend not to get someone who decides the rest of the party is too lame for their ├╝berness and leaves. Then again it means the folks who are just barely able to DPS through UK gets the healer who can't quite get through the boss without going OOM and the tank who gets crit'ed. So I'm not sure what effect the "matching" will really have.

Maybe in addition to the "deserter debuff" there needs to be a stacking debuff (24 hours) that once it hits say 5 locks you out of the random system.

Then agian...


Ok, the kind of folks that are likely to ditch a group if there is no nasty debuff are maybe the folks you don't want to force into groups. They won't make the experience for others pleasant.

So maybe the best thing to do from a game design point is keep the debuff mild to reduce the impact of unpleasant people.