Friday, May 28, 2010

Are Dungeon Finder Leveling Dungeons WoW's Public Quests?

I've been saying some less than positive things about WoW's automated dungeon finder of late, so it seems only fair to give equal time to one area where I've been getting a lot of benefit from the system - groups for leveling dungeons.

The logistics of LFG
Historically, I've always simply skipped over leveling dungeons. The nebulous (generally lengthy) amount of time it would take to find a group before you even start the actual dungeon run was too much unpredictability for my schedule. On top of that, dungeons often represent the culmination of the storylines in a given zone, meaning that you will be out of stuff to do in the neighborhood by the time you have all the relevant quests. Though WoW did have dungeon summoning stones, at least two party members needed to travel to the stones (often as many as four of your party members may presume that someone else will summon them), and the greatest concentration of players looking for groups for a given area are often located in that zone's local chat.

The dungeon finder blows all of these concerns out of the water. As a DPS, you're going to be looking for something like 15-30 minutes, and you can do whatever you want with that time, as you will be teleported to the dungeon automatically when a group is assembled. As a result, my Warrior has been doing every dungeon in Northrend as soon as the relevant quests become available, earning significant gear upgrades in the process. I've even queued up for random dungeons when I feel like I could use a change of pace from solo questing - my warrior has already banked a handful of emblems and stone keeper shards from these efforts.

A different take on the public quest
When Warhammer Online was getting ready to launch, I was actually very excited about the concept of public quests. The idea, as Mythic described it, was for players to get to enjoy high quality group content without having to deal with group logistics. Unfortunately, because these quests were non-instanced events located in the outside world, population worked against them. You might show up at a PQ and discover that there weren't enough players there to complete it, or you might find that too many had shown up, making the content trivial. Worst of all, you had to travel to the quest areas on foot, and could arrive to find that the party was over.

The way that the random dungeon finder has worked out in WoW is very similar to the end goal of the Public Quest - but with much of the random chance and logistic inconvenience taken out. Your group will have the right number of people and correct balance of classes for the content (though they may or may not be overgeared). You do not need to worry about travel, or even knowing where it is that you should be going (though this can be a problem when players die and don't know how to get back to the instance).

There may be no removing the social downsides of working with strangers in group content. I also maintain that the system should do a better job of maintaining difficulty by using appropriately geared players when possible - one random Old Kingdom group, a level 74 dungeon, ended up with a level 80 tank for some reason. When it comes to the actual goal of making group content accessible to players as they level, though, this system is a huge success.


Yeebo said...

If I do try WoW out again between now and Cataclysm, it would be to level a character 1-60 largely in instances using the Dunegeon finder. I'd say I have cleared less than half the leveling instances in WoW (at least at an appropriate level), and it would be fun to see some of the ones I missed.

Klepsacovic said...

In the case of the tank, it could be that he'd intentionally picked it (the level range is wide) or he'd picked a regular random and that happened to be the first in queue.

I'd like to see the cross-server aspect removed at 80. There should be enough people by then, what with everyone chasing badges.

Green Armadillo said...

@Klep: I have mixed feelings about the cross server portion of things. On the one hand, it would be great to have a bit less anonymity. Same server grouping would also offer a great way to get to know other players on your server, and get invited to a guild if you're on the market.

On the downside, I'm less convinced that the numbers will be there without the cross-server aspect. In particular, I could see longer queues on less-well-populated factions, and it might paradoxically be DIFFICULT to get a group in prime time if most of the level capped players are raiding instead of running 5-mans.

The entire system ceases to be usable for me if queue times start hitting an hour, because you still need time after you get the group to actually run the dungeon. I can see an argument against extending the dungeon finder to raids, though - five man content would remain available for the quick PVE fix, while quick and easy entry level raids serve as a more community-based activity.

roaot said...

I was just talking to my guildies last night about how I feel like a cheap whore when using the Random dungeon tool. At least for the daily. I queue up as DPS or Heals and generally within 5 minutes I get called to heal. Which is my offspec.

So here I am, with 4 strangers, in total silence clearing dungeons we've been clearing for long enough.

Then when its over. A quick "ty", a slap on the ass and then instance port back to whatever you were doing.

I love it. But I hate it at the same time.

I feel bad for the "pure" classes though. You DPS only people and your high wait times.

Klepsacovic said...

Maybe they could add a bias towards same-server groups. Add a 5 second delay to group formation to attempt to get most or all of a group on the same server. It will still make cross-server randoms if needed, but we'd see a lot more on the same server.

Alternatively, I wonder if it would work to add another badge if the group is formed before queueing. Would that be sufficient reward to encourage people to play with their own server? On the other hand, I don't think it's good to further encourage badge-chasing.

Green Armadillo said...

@Klep: The rate at which groups can fill on the group finder depends entirely on the rate at which Blizzard can convince groups with empty slots (and/or lone tanks and healers) to queue for random dungeons. The last thing that Blizzard should be doing is encouraging players to form guild pre-mades instead. This would actually be WORSE than the status quo before the dungeon finder, because tanks and healers will finish their dailies in guild and would not have any good reason to re-queue later as randoms.

What's my main Again? said...

You know I find it interesting... STO has a grouping mechanic for instanced "quests" in which you will get put in a group with someone else who (I assume) is entering the instance the same time you are.

I haven't put a ton of time in STO... still a LT commander rank 4 atm... but of all the groups I've been in I've only actually had someone say something to me once.

Is the silent run so different because communication was essential before in forming a run prior to lfd? The silent run in STO seems natural and I wonder if LFD was in place from the start of wow would it have been silent outside of occasionally dealing out CC orders? Or perhaps its the fact that there is no CC... no communication required for the runs to succeed. Right now that is how STO is as well.