Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 28, 2009
WoW cross-server LFG

So as a side remark from some dev panel at Blizzcon it appears that we will get cross-server dungeons, complete with a cross-server looking for group system in patch 3.3. Which is a nice idea, because the larger the total pool of people is from which you can recruit for a group, the higher is the probability that the group will actually happen. And while players are always tempted to shout their LFG requests in trade chat instead of using the LFG system, they can't do that cross-server, so the underutilized WoW LFG system might see some more use.

Now Ixobelle points out correctly that a larger pool of players doesn't help all that much if all of them are dps. Quote: "The issue is that no one wants to fill roles that require anything resembling responsibility. I'm not going to qualify that 'responsibility' statement, as it's ground I've covered before. People want to DPS because it's easy (not simple, just non-commital). There will now be 700 little sword icons in LFG, but the lack of little PLUS or SHIELD icons will stay the same. Multiply any large number by zero and the result is still zero."

I think Ixobelle got the effect right, but not necessarily the cause. That is especially easy to show for the leveling part of the game. Why is it hard to find a tank or healer for Blackfathom Deeps? Because nobody in his right mind levels with a tank or healing spec! I did it with my first characters, my warrior and priest, but that was in the context of a guild environment with frequent grouping. The new characters I play now, the druid and the paladin, they level with a dps spec. Grouping during leveling is such a rare occurrence, and having a tank or healing spec is such a penalty to solo leveling speed, that it takes a special sort of masochist to level as tank or healer nowadays. And at the level cap the situation changes only for those who group or raid often. A casual player who spends his time doing daily quests, PvP, and the like, and groups rarely, still will favor a dps spec because it is simply so much better for his purposes.

But there is a bright side: Cross-server LFG will increase the probability of grouping during leveling, which will increase the interest in a tank or healing spec. With gold being so easy to come by nowadays, respec costs have become cheap, and at level 40 you can have dual spec. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that in a LFG system with "700 little sword icons" you'd better respec to tank or healer when you want to go to a dungeon. So it is quite possible that things won't be quite as bad as Ixobelle fears.

A reader wrote me about cross-server LFG, observing that this system will help World of Warcraft when server populations decrease. That is certainly correct. I wouldn't go as far as to say that Blizzard is introducing it because they foresee a decline, but with activity numbers already dipping between expansions and during summer holidays, any system that alleviates the problems of declining server populations is welcome.
It's a welcome addition.

I only fear that it destroys server communities even more.

When will there be cross server raids?

A long time a ago you played in a world with a pool of people and those who played often knew each other.

Tomorrow they will allow us to just change servers, like AoC does. I might even welcome this; then. ;(

How credibile and immersive is an MMO that is completely instanced? We really need (even) more powerful technology ;)
The main advantage to cross-server LFG is the same advantage there was for cross-server battlegrounds; it pretty much removes the likelihood of having nobody available to even start the instance. It's especially noticeable on small servers, where there can often be less people looking for group than you'd need to fill said group, even ignoring roles. If one person in ten (say) is willing to tank or heal, you're much more likely to get a successful group at all from a pool of a hundred+ than a pool of ten, since there's a chance in the latter case there'd be nobody at all. It even causes a feedback loop of sorts; it's hard to find a group, so nobody even bothers queueing, which means it's hard to find a group, which means...

It's not a perfect solution, of course, as having roles be undesirable will always result in them being bottlenecks. But it'll definitely smooth things out in the pre-expansion short term.
Personally I find the whole crossrealm pugging thing a horrifying idea, despite the positives I can see. Why? Well, as I mentioned on another blog I read when this issue came up:

Hello ninjas, people who don’t give a shit, and all your usual server jackasses, only this time in worse concentration. Accountability for what you do and the way you treat people is low enough on the server that people don’t even blink when they act like flaming arses —- guess how they’ll act when they have zero incentive to even TRY to be a decent human being or at least not treating other players as though they were digital manifestations of computer AI servants?

They don’t even have to deal with fallout from being a selfish jackass on their own server anymore -- let's have them be idiots on all the other servers too, without any consequences to shitty behavior, not even the shadow of a threat of being "blacklisted" (even if only temporarily).
As a side point, I found it much easier levelling as prot than ret as a paladin. I had prot/ret dual specced from 40 and never really bothered with ret again. Nigh-indestructibility and strong AoE attacks made a lot of the grindier quests easier.

Of course, a prot levelling spec is slightly different to a pure tanking one (more concern about pure dps output than threat gen) - but it's still a solid enough tank.
I played a holy paladin for a few years, and eventually changed to a DPS class, and even swapped my paladin to retribution (eventually getting dual spec when it came out and the offspec was holy).

The problem with playing the class parts which 'involve responsibility' is that if you are in such position, when people die in a group you're almost always blamed if you're the healer.

It's irrelevant to most PUGers that they pulled aggro and got killed, or that the reason you didn't heal is that the tank did so little aggro that with the first minor heal you threw in you got aggro from several mobs and were a) trying not to die b) dead, thus not being able to heal at all.

Generally speaking, most players don't take responsibility for their actions and often prefer blaming it on the easy targets - the healer and/or the tank.

To me the change was mostly a chance to escape constant unfounded complaints by idiots.

Blizzard won't be able to fix the group issue with cross-server LFGing. This is because the problem is not one with a cause based on game mechanics, but one with social origins.

And there is no game-mechanics solution that Blizzard can implement, which I think can fix this.

The only way is for people's mentalities to change.
Since when do you need a tank spec to tank low level instances and healing spec to heal in those?
I have healed as a shadow specialized priest all the way to the BRD, and had friends tanking the instances on their DPS-specced warriors.
You do not need tank-specced tank, healing-specced healer and 3 dps-speccec dps-ers to successfully run an instance. You only need folks who know what they are doing!
While Blizzard is copying Steam and XBox Live into, they might as well copy the matchmaking with friends feature as well: Let people form groups with their friends, even if they have characters on different realms.
Looking forward to this feature.

One thing about the lack of support or responsibilitly roles, that might be to do with the attitude of some under-endowed people towards these roles.

I'm quite happy to play the support roles; I have a healer who does quite well. I've had only 3 occasions whereby I was blamed for a wipe because of not anticipating things correctly. The other times, I've had no problems and no suggestion of blame - whether we've been successful or not.

In one event, the others in the group rounded on the leader, suggesting it was his fault.

in the other two, there was some awful language from all people in the group. I simply told them that I was doing my best, and this was a game, and those that echoed back further hate were promptly ignored, and reported.

I have no patience for people waving their undersized body parts at me when I've done nothing wrong, and if they think I'm going to shout and swear back - or even worse, actually think that's appropriate behaviour - then they will be disappointed.
I think limiting the dual-spec feature to L40 was a huge mistake. The place where it would be the most use and contribute the most to grouping would be the lower levels.

If people had the choice to be able to switch between a leveling/DPS spec and a grouping spec, they'd be much more inclined to group at lower levels. Why should that only open up at L40?

I do think the cross server LFG sounds like a great idea, but I'm withholding judgement till we have more information.

As many have said, there's no reason for players to behave like decent human beings with this system. They barely had a reason when they had a reputation on their own server to worry about, when it's a group of strangers you'll likely never see again, "Gabe Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory" will prove itself correct again.

I sincerely hope Blizzard builds in some sort of system similar to X-Box live where you can choose never to be matched with a specific player again. Or at least some other persistent system of rating players. Perhaps by the number of time they've been kicked from groups or something.

Failing that, the only recourse left for group leaders is to kick often and kick early. If somebody even makes you think they may be a ninja-looter or an idiot, it's in your best interest to boot them and grab somebody else from the near limitless pool of players waiting.
I do agree with Ixobelle as it's the reason I'm not tanking (often). You got to know the instance and you usually end up leading the instance. It makes me nervous and I'd rather just have some fun.

And I suppose prot pallies are an exception. And I could also see bear levelling working. But levelling as a holy priest? Makes no sense. I never found it worth the time to do instances while levelling so there's no use to level as a tank or healer. Instances can offer nice XP if you picked up all the quests and run it a single time to finish all those quests. But it often takes way too long to get a group going, let alone being able to finish th endboss. I find it not to be worth my time. Maybe this will change that. At least the long waiting times to get a group going might change. Having a bunch of noobs and not being able to finish the endboss however? That won't change so I'll probably still not bother.
The notion that you need a tanking spec to tank a normal "leveling" instance is false.
I had no problems tanking "leveling" instances with my warrior using an arms spec, just grab a sheild and your good to go.
The real problem its most WOW players these days are to dumb or lazy to realise what they can actually do with their character.
SO with cross server LFG, how will you be able to summon people to the zone? Or will we be back towaiting 30+ minutes for people to show up?
I enjoy DPSing because I can always get better at it even in a run of the mill easy instance. I can always strive to get just a little more DPS on the meter. On the other hand, once you can tank or heal an instance to the point where it's run of the mill there is no tanking or healing it better. Its just boring.

Having said that, I wouldn't mind tanking or healing when needed in pugs but:

1. Then I can't roll on gear I need for my "main" spec.
2. I don't have great gear for the offspec role.

Gearing and speccing into a role you only do once in awhile isn't very efficient for more casual players.
I see your point - however, the fact remains that there are less people who are WILLING to tank or heal than there are those who are willing to DPS.

And it's a simple numbers game. For every three DPS, you need one healer and one tank. Otherwise, there will never be an available healer or tank on LFG for more than a few seconds.

Given that there are 4/10 of the classes who CAN'T tank or heal, assuming equal class distribution and every who can tank or heal being willing to, that leaves us at 3 tank/healer to 2 DPS. Assuming that half of them are willing to tank or heal, that puts us at 3 tank/healer to 4 DPS. Fairly obviously, the tipping point is 33% of classes who can possibly tank or heal being willing to.

Do you think 33% of DKs, Paladins, Priests, Warriors, Shamans and Druids are willing to either tank or heal? I'm not sure they are.

(Obviously, this is over-simplified math, but I think the more complex math makes it even worse!)
Do you think 33% of DKs, Paladins, Priests, Warriors, Shamans and Druids are willing to either tank or heal? I'm not sure they are.

Neither am I. But I'm not sure either that this willingness or unwillingness is inherent to the players, or whether it is a consequence of game design.

I've heard people talk that as part of the cross-server LFG system there would be incentives for whoever organizes a group. What if you gave out incentives for tanking and healing? How many people would be willing to tank or heal if tanking and healing gave twice the xp of doing dps, or extra badges or something?
I'm currently levelling a druid through the soon-to-be-defunct old world, and i keep getting whispers asking "are you healing specced?"

Now I've yet to come up with a witty riposte to this ingame, but basically - I'm level 20 and trying to level, therefore it is unlikely that I will be specced for group healing - if i WAS, then i would be forced to level with a friend or friends - in which case I would not NEED to join a pickup group, and consequently still would not help you with whatever dungeon you need me for.

So ends my grumpy rant :)
You don't need to be a healer or tank spec to heal or tank perfectly well until at least the BC instances.

You just have to be competent. And your group has to be halfway intelligent.
This will make bad pugging experiences even worse and more numerous. Also, I suspect we will still have the problem of finding a healer for low level instances (even heroics unless it's the daily). Why? Because no one does instances the old way. People pay for runs instead.

Many instances requiring real strategy are still not puggable. ie. Maly, and several heroic achievements. Those will not benefit from the cross-server LFG.

What Blizz should do is modify the LFG function to allow more than 3 selections, allow posting on ALL levels (for achievements or paid-run offers).

Otherwise, just stick with your guild.
As far as I know currently each server has its own instance pool and if that server has a large population then sooner or later instancegroups will face that dreaded "cannot launch additional instances" message because the limit is reached and the pool is exhausted.

So cross-server LFG means cross-server instances which means some kind of load balancing with regards to the instance pools. Instead of one pool for each server there is now one large pool for all servers (of a cross-server group).

I agree with Ixo that there wont be an improvement with regards to findings instance groups. The real improvement is a higher availability on instances for all the players.
I agree with what others have said here, in that the pre-60 dungeons (i.e. about up to BRD) do not require a specced tank or healer. I easily healed instances as both a shadow priest and a retribution paladin, and this was over 3 or 4 years ago. I even occasionally tanked the same level of instances, as that same paladin no less, back when warriors were the "only" tanks. Nowadays, it is almost trivially easy in the early levels for any DPS-Tank or DPS-Heal hybrid to fill these roles, no matter their spec. You just have to not remain willfully ignorant of your class's abilities, and carry at least a little bit of off-spec gear.

Therefore, I have to agree with Ixobelle that the problem is not game mechanics, lack of dual specs before 40, or that people don't level with tank/heal specs; it's the responsibility. When a group fails in these lower level 5 man dungeons, where things like hard enrage timers don't come into play, the tanks and/or healers get the lion's share of the blame. And most people just don't want to deal with that. Not to pick on warriors, but I've run into so many during the leveling stage who won't even carry a shield in their backpack...they're terrified of even being asked to off-tank something.
Like other commentators, I'd like to point out that you don't need to have talent points in a tree to perform the role. At least until the middle Outland dungeons IMO.

Certainly anything under 60 lvl dungeons I've healed/tanked with DPS specs (priest/warrior/paladin), just throw on a different set of gear. I'll save the off-spec pieces from quest rewards, works fine for me.

Will cross-server LFG really make any difference? I know it does for battlegrounds, but that's because there's no selection criteria - all people who queue up are given equal weight.

For LFG, let's say you're a dps. You might have a 5% chance of being selected when you're LFG because you compete with all the other dps classes. Now turn on cross-server LFG and you merge your chances with all the other servers where any given dpser on those servers has a similar 5% chance. Now you still have a 5% chance of being selected.

How long until cross-faction instance PUGing is added?
Any predictions?
You might have a 5% chance of being selected when you're LFG because you compete with all the other dps classes. Now turn on cross-server LFG and you merge your chances with all the other servers where any given dpser on those servers has a similar 5% chance. Now you still have a 5% chance of being selected.

The difference cross-server LFG makes is not in your chance to get selected as dps, but in the chance that a group gets going in the first place. Just do the following experiment: Log on some alt who is not yet at the level cap. Open the LFG window. One after the other select all possible dungeons in the looking for more tab to see how many people are "in the queue". Even during prime time my bet is you won't find a single dungeon with 5+ people wanting to go there. A 5% chance to be selected would mean you'd be one of 20 dps waiting for a dungeon. There are never that many.
I agree with other commenters here regarding the lack of healing/tanking in lower level instances.

I don't think people aren't available - I think people are lazy. In an instance with people you don't know, someone has to be the one to lead, input strategies, sometimes assign roles. If you are in a group with anons, how many people are willing to sit and listen instead of being defensive?

I have leveled up many healers and a tank here and there and like Tobold said, it's just easier to level them up as DPS rather than pure spec. I can't even tell you how many times I've gotten asked if I was the "healing spec" even after I offered to heal.

Not only do people want tanks and healers but they want them to be the mold spec. LFG cross-server isn't going to fix that sort of elitism attitude.
I wrote a blog post about how is could be a nice meeting tool for bloggers as well. Especially if they do eventually open it up as an all US and all EU LFG.
Summoning will probably work like the Guild/Raid leader ability. The party can be summoned to the party leader within the instance.

The normal restrictions for trading items between players from other servers will also apply.
I agree with Nils... not that there is much server community left.

I see lots of pros with this though. You can recruit for guilds on other servers via the LFG cross server window if you play it right.
Well, maybe just maybe is a solution for pugs but as many other pointed out:
- Instances are even less part of the world as before, I remember epic journeys to SM from Stormwind with the instance group, now most likely you will travel alone.
- More ninjas? Maybe, reputation and accountability are less important if server are mixed up.
- Tank and healer problem solved? Dont think so, the vast majority uses guild/friend runs to avoid bad pugs as plague.
- Maybe it will be good for levelling tho, doing the forgotten instances. I leveled a warrior as prot tanking my way from lv 40, with no rush, doing as much instances as possible. You know, when its the nth time you do the same quests levelling is boring, instancing is always better! imho
It wont actually work Tobold. It's not about speccing, its about mindset. Relatively few people overall like tanking or healing to do it long term.

We had huge debates on alla about things like this for FFXI. The general consensus was that even if you added a new tanking job, it wouldn't help, because only the tank players would stick with it long enough and be skilled enough to make it any use, and there weren't enough tank players period.

Cross-server play might even be a worse idea, because other servers can now poach your tanks. Usually in a level range you don't have many tanks at all, and it tends to be constant except for when you hit cap and have too many.
There is something that will help Tobold. And that is the leveling instances, done at the right level, don't really need specialized classes.

My priest, leveling shadow, healed more than enough for most of the trash, on multiple runs, in DPS form in SM.

On bosses my non-healing specced heals were more than enough to keep appropriately leveled non-specced tanks up.

I think there is enough wiggle in the leveling instances that you don't need dedicated tanking/healing.

I also don't know how well that is known.

If you are in a cross-server instance do you think you can trade with your party members? As a "should be yes" example shouldn't you be able to hand the mage who has run out of runic manas a stack of runic mana pots, and maybe get the right amount of gold back?

As a "maybe not so hot" example what if you just use cross-server instances to move frost lotuses from a server where they are common to one where they are rare? Or gold sellers moving gold from place to place? Trading motorcycle parts (or keys!) for eternals?

Seems like either cross-realm groups are constrained in ways that could be bad for groups, or cause realm a bit of an inter-realm trading system to emerge. Some breaks could be put on it (only X gold traded, and Y stacks...only consumables...whatever), but they either only make the bleed through smaller, or run into issues a "normal" person could detect.
Funny, I wrote an article on this very topic myself today. I won't rewrite the whole thing here but I think that on the whole it's a very positive thing. It will push us further away from real server communities and thereby decrease the meaningfulness of server-firsts once 10-25 man functionality kicks in. Fair enough trade-off though, considering that this opens up raiding to the daytime audience more than anything they've done in the past.

I elaborate more in the post. Check it out here if you're interested.
I don't find it difficulty to find a tank/healer for vanilla instances (through the 40's, anyway), because until you hit the 50+ stuff you can get away with having off-spec healers and tanks. When I was leveling my druid I did all three roles in one Mara run due to having to replace people.
i think those that are leveling will get the biggest benefit out of this.
Always when Blizzard introduces something new, people tend to discuss it as though it were the one and only way to play from then on.

Same for cross-server-grouping. It is an OPTION. If you find yourself 10 reasons why you do not want to do it, then don't! If, though, one finds just ONE reason why it may be a good option for him, then he will use it. And chances are that in his realmpool there are a hundred people who also like the option.

Same for cross-server raiding, as it was mentioned somewhere earlier. If it happens, then just consider it an option. Nobody forces you to to invite someone from another server, for all the "risks" there may be, however, if you are desperately looking for the last one or two people to get started, I am sure many will welcome the option.

I don't understand the discussion whether it is a good, or bad idea. It is only about making use of it, or not.
I look at this as a huge boon, as long as they can figure out a good ninja preventer. I level alts all the time, but pretty much have to avoid dungeons (even on my healers) as it just takes hours to find groups. Easier as a healer, but i honestly got tired of people DEMANDING (yes, all caps) that i help them through. The only problem with most pugs (and it's all i ever do, it's a different game if you go guildless, everyone should try it) is that most just want to zerg through. They don't have the care of how they behave as it's not guildmates who can DKP them. Anyway, i look forward to this, it may be chaotic, or crazy, but it will change the game a lot (for the better i hope).
Back when the battleground queues first landed in WoW, long before cross-server battlegrounds, people on the more populated faction of their server (i.e. Alliance, at that time, almost everywhere) quickly discovered that they faced long queues for a game, whereas the underpopulated faction had queues that popped instantly.

A lot of people rerolled. And the servers which launched after that were absolutely dominated by Horde.

People are willing to change if it means getting to play rather than sit in a queue. I predict plenty of hybrids will be willing to tank and heal while levelling once they realize that dps sits in a queue for a long time, and tanks and healers get straight into a group.
My gut feeling is this will be like pugging at lvl 80. Ninjas/bad tanks/bad healers/drop-outs, or a couple of good players and the rest noobs.

On the plus side it will make lower dungeons play a bigger part in the game and provide a break from the usual grinding of quests to level.
I'd love to be able to select lower level dungeon in LFG. I'm level 80 but trying to complete all Burning Crusade dungeons and raids, it's almost impossible.
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