Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The impartial computer

A MMORPG typically has solo content and multiplayer content. To get to the multiplayer part, somehow somebody has to take a decision: Who do I play with? And in the case of a MMORPG like World of Warcraft, where the fruits of a group effort can be random items, a second sort of decision has to be taken: Who receives what loot? In the early days of MMORPGs these two types of decision were nearly exclusively taken by the players. But more and more these decisions are taken by the game itself, by a random number generator and an algorithm in a computer. Groups are composed randomly by the Dungeon Finder, and loot is distributed by random numbers and rules who can roll “need” or “greed” on what item. How did we get there, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of such systems?

We all have our ideas how a perfect group would look like, and in some cases we even manage to play in one: Grouping with friends who all agree on a common purpose, and are understanding towards the individual needs of each other. Unfortunately such a harmonious setup is very hard to organize over a long duration. Thus sooner or later people find themselves either short of group members and need to find more, or they find more people turned up than the game allows to participate for some specific content. The great classic in WoW is the regular 10-man raid, where either less than 10 people turn up, or the people who turn up don’t have the right class/role setup for the raid, or more than 10 people want to play. Similar problems can happen when trying to form a group via guild chat, or a pickup raid group in trade chat.

Now there are lots of ways to take decisions like that. Sometimes it is a single person taking all the decisions, as group/raid leader. Sometimes guilds organize a council of officers to take decisions on whom to take on a raid. In some cases there are even democratic votes being held, for example in the current system to kick somebody from a pickup group. The problem with decisions like raid invites or loot distribution is that they are typically *for* one person, and *against* another person. Thus often enough the person not chosen is unhappy. And in some cases the one losing out on such a decision doesn’t accept the outcome, and starts complaining about the decision being unjust: The raid leader always chooses his girlfriend over somebody with the same class, or some similar complaint.

Taking decisions is not always easy, and given the added risk of people complaining about the decision afterwards, players generally try to set up some set of rules to make decisions more impartial. For example in my guild, if you signed up and turned up for a raid but weren’t chosen, you received “a ticket”, giving you priority for the next raid. And endless pages on guild forums and blogs have been written about loot distribution rules, with sometimes elaborate and complicated systems being developed to make distribution “fair”. Unfortunately rules do not always solve the problem. In many cases it is obvious that certain rule sets benefit certain players more than others, and then guilds start fighting over the rules, leading to potentially even bigger fights. Some rules are “unwritten”, and it is only when the moment of truth arrives that it turns out that people don’t actually believe in the same set of unwritten rules, or interpret them differently. If you persuaded your shadow priest to be a healer for this one raid, how does the usual “main spec has priority over off spec” rule work for his case?

When organizing groups with strangers, rules often have to be simplistic to be clearly understood by everybody. And sometimes rules become customary which clearly can’t work for everybody, for example pickup groups requiring participants to have the achievement for having completed a raid before being invited; obviously that creates an impossible situation for people want to pickup raid because they don’t have a guild, and who consequently don’t have that achievement. A vicious cycle, where not having the raid achievement means you don’t get a chance to get the achievement. It is telling that WoW had addons to fake achievements, created just to break out of such an impossible rules set.

Furthermore rule sets, whether for guilds or for pickup groups, are in most cases skewed in favor of the more hardcore players, and against the more casual players. This is a natural consequence of an inherent dilemma of playing together for a random chance to improve your gear: The person most likely to gain something is the person with the least good current gear, because everything is a potential upgrade. But of course that person is also least likely to contribute much towards the common effort. A dungeon or raid is easiest when all participants already outgear it. The same thought is apparent in loot rules which give priority to players who raid most, because they are the most likely to be present for the next raid, and help the progress of the whole guild. Thus rules designed to guarantee a maximum chance of success are inherently discriminating against those who play less. There is perfect logic behind such rules, but they lead to increased segmentation of the player base, or even inside a guild. And thus these rule systems aren’t inherently stable, with guild splits being a frequent enough outcome.

In a game where access to content is based on gear “progress”, and players set the rules on who to invite to raids and how to distribute loot freely, the resulting player base segmentation often excludes large numbers of players from much of the group content. Thus Blizzard came up with the idea of imposing a less discriminatory rule set, with an impartial computer AI as the judge, to handle group invites and loot distribution for 5-man dungeons. As far as we know the algorithm for getting a group together is even designed to deliberately always have some less geared players grouped with more geared players whenever possible, so attempts by players to still impose their own rule set and votekick less well geared players just end up in them getting another undergeared replacement. Of course that does not take away anybody’s freedom to rather group with his friends. One could even theoretically organize a pickup group in trade chat using specific gearscore and achievement criteria; but in practice it turns out that being grouped with complete strangers, even undergeared and less competent ones, still has a high enough chance of successfully finishing a heroic run fast enough to make trying to organize a group in chat less effective. Players are basically rewarded for taking that leap of faith, and adhering to a more inclusive and less discriminatory rule set judged over by the impartial computer.

Of course that system has social consequences, but unlike some distracters say, they aren’t all bad. There is some inherent social value in preventing stratification in a massively multiplayer game, in getting everybody to play together instead of splitting up the player base into small cliques. But the negative social consequences do certainly exist as well: When players decide for themselves who to play with, they can use social criteria as well, and exclude players who are behaving badly, or are uncommunicative. Some people make an effort to be polite to their guild mates as long it is their guild mates who decide who gets invited to a raid, but won’t make that effort towards a group of strangers picked by the random Dungeon Finder. There is also a conflict when people try to graft personal rule sets on top of the computer-given rules of a Dungeon Finder group; just watch what happens if a plate-wearing dps rolls need on a tank item, some people would say that is okay because that is the rules, others think a “main spec has priority over off spec” rule should apply in pickup groups as well. Of course such additional rules can’t be enforced, because there are basically no negative consequences to breaking “soft” rules in a pickup group. So it is no wonder that players used to social rules enforcing good behavior find Dungeon Finder groups to be less pleasant. Although part of the lack of social interaction in these groups comes not from the computer choosing the participants, but from the rather hectic “go go go” speed some people push for to maximize rewards per time unit.

In retrospect at the end of Wrath of the Lich King it must be said that the Dungeon Finder system is a success. The combination of the impartial computer allowing people to play without segregation and awkward social decisions with the convenience and rewards of the system resulted in 5-man dungeons being heavily used all the time. Compare that to some raid dungeons, like Naxxramas and Ulduar, which are more or less standing empty. Having unused content in the game is not an efficient use of scarce development resources. Thus I am pretty certain that we will see a Raid Finder functionality added to World of Warcraft in one of the major content patches of Cataclysm. Blizzard already modified the raid lockout system to make it more compatible with an automated system to put a raid group together.

Some people will certainly fear that a Raid Finder will destroy guilds. But I would say that if a guild is held only together by the fact that guild membership is the only way to get into a raid, that guild isn’t really worth preserving anyway. I’m rather looking forward to a future where people who like each other still have the option to raid as a guild, while the people with less social contacts or odd play schedules have the option to raid via the Raid Finder. Having a computer decide who participates in a raid, and how loot is distributed, might not always result in a perfect group. But at least the computer is completely fair and does not discriminate against anybody. As long as the more social options to form a raid group are still in the game, I don’t see how anybody could have a justified complaint against random raid groups. They would be optional, and anybody signing up for them knows what he is in for. Sometimes an impartial computer is better at making decisions, because at least a computer can’t be a jerk.
Thanks for your very thorough post!

You make some very important points here, and you illustrate perfectly how hard it is to come up with systems that cater to everyone's tastes.

One of your points was particularly revealing for me. In principle, I regard your statement that the Dungeon Finder system is a success because it's so heavily used as similar to saying that cows are more successful as a species than humans since there are so many of them. I wouldn't deny that the DF is very much used, of course, but I also never thought of it as a success because of the decreased social interaction in-game since then.

Reading your post, I fully agree that it isn't the DF system in itself that does this. Instead, the reason must be that the heroics are much faster to run through. It's the speed that kills social interaction, not the DF – and I'd be willing to go further than you and say that this is the sole reason. When you think about it, social interaction in heroics doesn't really exist in guild groups either. People still go about their business, kill the mobs and are out of there in 15 minutes. Perhaps a few more smilies will be seen, but that's about it.

This is a change from before. Dungeons used to take a whole lot longer to complete, and there was way more downtime, for corpse runs, recuperation etc.

If a heroic took 5 hours to complete (like my first Maraudon run I did, or that horrid first stab at Botanica... ) you'd inevitably have more interaction with the other players.

Of course, this reduced time is probably a necessary requisite for the DF system to work. If the random dungeon can't be completed in less than 20-30 minutes a group completely randomly formed will probably start breaking up, rapidly decreasing "efficiency". So the DF didn't kill social interaction, but it's feasting on the corpse! :)

Thinking about it, this may be one of the reasons why there isn't yet a random raid finder. The raids generally take more time and require ever-so-slightly more coordination. It would work well for VoA and OS type raids where you zone in, kill and leave, but for the bigger raid instances it may not be a good option.

Thanks again for the nice post!
I doubt PUG raids will be very interesting for people in Cataclysm. Most PUG raids in the last year (in my experience) have been held together by a core of players who are in normal raiding guilds, are geared and specced appropriately, know the encounters, etc. These people might run 10 mans in their guild but still be available for 25 man PUGs.

Recent raid lockout changes mean that you will not see the pool of geared experienced people in the PUG raider pool in Cata, because we are now limited to one raid lockout a week instead of two.

This means that PUGs will be much less successful in Cata than they have been in ICC. PUGs are typically quite intolerant of many wipes on the way to learning a new fight.

I really think that the raid finder (if implemented) would be contrary to Blizzard's stated intention of getting us all in guilds and would not be that popular anyway.
Oscar is somewhat right, however speed is also just a consequence of "easy".

Since the 5-man is "pull and AoE before the healer falls asleep", ANY non-destructive player is good.

Now let's see what happens IF a Cataclysm dungeon cannot be facerolled: LFD group wipes. Wipe brings namecalling, that brings ragequits and kicks. Soon everyone will go with guild groups.

LFR is impossible, as even the "easy" WotLK raids require a minimal DPS and knowing the strategy: not running from yellow ooze = wipe, merging two little oozes instead of little+big: wipe. Not biting: mind contol-wipe. Standing in the raid with frost bomb: wipe. Standing in defile: wipe.

Imagine how far an ICC raid would go with LFD people? Now imagine it with harder cataclysm raids.
Dungeon finder has indeed been a success in the short year that it has existed. It still has a few problems (as I mentioned in "A Draenei in the Deadmines") but they are easily surmountable, and in fact the biggest problem has already been addressed: adventurers being queued for dungeons whose entrances they have not yet found. (I almost finished that sentence with " in the real world").

The outstanding problem is still the lack of social interaction within dungeon groups, and that is not a matter of rules; I think that is caused by a over familiarity with the instances in question, and overgearing the instances: people were running instances only to receive emblems of frost. Take away that shiny, and we would reduce the number of bored "gogogo" emblem collectors queueing, leaving mainly people who run the instance because it is new-ish to them, and they can still benefit from the gear dropped in the instance.

I think that the frost and triumph gear, although successful in gearing players for ICC, resulted in a player base that was bored with everything but ICC.

Many people (including yourself, Tobold) have made the very good suggestion that gear from dungeons should only be enough to get you to the introductory raids for a particular level: in other words, Naxxramas for WotLK. In general I find this appealing. However, it makes it hard to add new, more difficult dungeon instances later in the cycle: who would attempt HoR if it only dropped ilvl 216 gear or less?
"Blizzard's stated intention of getting us all in guilds"


Blizzard seem to be disturbingly interested in social engineering for a game company.
I'm grinding a twink via Dungeon Finder since the last couple of weeks. This is someone who plays WoW since beta 2 writing and before that camping 5 years in EverQuest. Dungeon Finder as a concept is a double edged sword. If you measure its success on the number of groups it forms than yes, this thing is the best thing since instanced dungeons. On the other hand Dungeon Finder only works in an environment, where content is very easy to master. If Blizzard has the guts to keep Cataclysm Heroics the way they are now, you will very soon love to hate the Dungeon Finder. The moment content gets demanding, playing with total strangers becomes a barrier. This is why we don't have a Raid Finder yet. The level of player material in current Dungeon Finder is awful at best, across all roles, not just DPS and who can blame them. WoW conditioned its players to underperform and still succeed. Current Cataclysm Heroics and even the Normals to a degree don't work like that and it'll be interesting to see when and if Blizzard caves and nerfs everything into slacker mode again. Think Magister Terrace Heroic level of difficulty back when it was released times twice at least and you get a sense of things to come soon.

My main gripe about the Dungeon Finder as a concept in this game: Dungeon Finder rewards bad social behavior. It not only ignores to penalize it seriously, it rewards it for the individual douchebag and penalizes the group instead. We all witnessed tanks leaving the group, cause their loot from boss 1 did not drop or it did. Blizzard could easily enforce better behavior but they don't. Want Dungeon Finder 2.0? Measure player effiency - they already do this - and alter loot roles on individual players performance. Modifie loot rolls of players based on their performance. Give players a reason to play better. In a way Dungeon Finder should be even more automated, especially when it comes to loot. This is why people play and that's why it should be more rigid and depend less of players doing the right decisions cause they won't.

And for the love of god drop that zero-mana-rule for spec-switching when in a dungeon group. It makes no sense and is just annoying.
In a lot of ways Blizzard's approach the this game seems like a planned economy to me.

Instead of giving every player freedom and social responsibility they remove social responsibility and then remove freedom, too, to make the game more fair.

Instead of using social peer pressure to make sure that people do not ninja loot, they remove any social penalthy from doing so and then limit our freedem to do it with hard rules.

I consider this appoach inferior and, more importantly, less enjoyable.

On the DF: Numbers or participants alone are (once again!) an insufficient tool to measure success.
Sorry Bhagpuss, you are right, I can't find the citation (although I'm sure I've read it somewhere).

In the absence of a stated intention one way or another, how shall we infer whether Blizzard want us in guilds or not?

Well if you are in a guild you get extra XP, extra gold, cheaper repair bills, unique mounts, a free raid rez, extra bank space, faster mount speed, shorter hearthstone cooldown, instant bank access outside cities, increased honour and justice point gain, faster movement speed while dead, more health and mana on resurrection, more mats from gathering professions and reduced prices from vendors.

So, do you think that Blizzard is trying to entice us into guilds or not?

(I feel like John Cleese in Life of Brian!)
I agree that any guild that would fall apart because organizing raids got easier regardless of guild deserves to fall apart.

If anything, even more effort to make raiding easier across guild lines would, horror or horrors, push people to join guilds they liked the social atmosphere of rather than the ones they like to raid with!
If there is a genuine concern about lack of social talk/behaviour in PUGs would an new Social button next to the Tank, DPS, Healer etc buttons in the DF screen not be an idea?

This indicates the player is looking for interaction and prefers it over e.g. the speed the instance is ran. I for sure wouldn't mind a DF 1-80 standard dungeon taking me 5 - 15 minutes more if there is a good laugh to be had. Anyways this is just an idea following mentioned concerns.

I for sure would love Blizzard to start experimenting with a Raid Finder.
1) Nobody complains about lack of social interaction in an online multiplayer first-person-shooter match. Why shouldn't a game offer a system in which people can simply play together without having to exchange polite conversation?

2) Lacking any objective criteria for "quality", the only measurable criteria we do have for the success of a feature is quantity. We might agree to call the Dungeon Finder "popular" instead of "successful", but the fact remains that the DF got more people into dungeons, and leads to a more intensive utilization of content. I consider unused content a failure.

3) I do agree that harder heroics and/or a Raid Finder would require a significant change in how well people play in a pickup group. What I don't agree with is everybody's assumption that the majority of players is unable to up their game. I do not believe that the observation that some players play badly in current heroics is sufficient proof that these players are unable to play better. I think it is perfectly plausible to believe that some people play poorly *because* there is no challenge. With heroics now being so easy, players A) aren't trained to play better, and B) don't see the necessity to do so.

Certainly, the first random pickup groups might well be a disaster. But after wiping repeatedly in different pickup groups most players will get the message, and either opt out because there are no rewards for wiping, or start using better tactics, like crowd control. Over time the playstyle of those players who *do* visit random dungeons will improve up to the point necessary to beat the dungeons reliably.
@ Tobold

1) This is really a question of what game you would you like to play. Games without conversation are not inherently bad. But they are not the kind of MMORPG I would like to play.

Then again I like FPS without conversation.

2) The usual: Just because there is no practical better way to measure something does not make the one practicle way a good one.

3) DF for raids will only work if raids become considerably less challenging. They are still too hard for this. I would enjoy this, btw. But I would also like to have traditional content that would be too challenging for a DF-Raid.

4) I agree that players will become better. But it will hurt !! I am not sure if blizzard will be able to withstand the crying. Blizzards seems to ignore player complains in the short run and be driven by it in the long run. It should be the other way round.
Excellent post, agree with every word, and as you rightly point out, the flexibility of a raid finder for those of us with odd play schedules would be very welcome.
I'd also like to see a raid finder. I belong to a small guild (frequently difficult to get even a 10 man ICC togther) that I enjoy. We're socially compatible but RL interferes enough it prevents us from becoming a successful raiding guild. We will never see the LK until we're 85 and going back just to get the achievement.

All that said, I agree a RF will be hard to implement. Especially so in the beginning. However, just as people have learned all the 5 mans they will also learn the raids if given the opportunity to do so.

I think the RF and DF should start implementing criteria for player skill, detrimental party actions (leaving before completion - excess kick voting or being kicked), and experience (ie - times in a particular raid/raid type). This may help make it more viable by ensuring there's at least some skill/experience in a party.


Some of these same criteria could also be used for the loot mechanism in order to determine who could/would be best for a loot drop along with actual need measures such as GS/item level improvement measures. If someone's actually more likely to use/benefit from the item they ought to have a better chance of getting it. Not a lock by any means - chance should always be part of the formula - but at least a roll modifier. If someone's been hitting the raids 10x more than me he ought to have a better chance at it. If the improvement 200 vs 20 GS improvement for me vs them, I should get a better chance at that item via that measure.

Of course the weighting on all of these factors would be up for debate, but I'd like to think that someone who has ran a particular raid a 100 times in order to get their epic ought to almost be a guaranteed winner on it.
Some people will certainly fear that a Raid Finder will destroy guilds. But I would say that if a guild is held only together by the fact that guild membership is the only way to get into a raid, that guild isn’t really worth preserving anyway. ... As long as the more social options to form a raid group are still in the game, I don’t see how anybody could have a justified complaint against random raid groups. They would be optional, and anybody signing up for them knows what he is in for. Sometimes an impartial computer is better at making decisions, because at least a computer can’t be a jerk.

I seriously doubt this conclusion. You've overlooked maybe the biggest incentive to LFD --> the extra rewards you get for queuing up. By adding more badges/gold and making heroics faceroll, it gave the playerbase a tremendous incentive to queue up. If similar rewards are rolled into a LFR system, then it will wreck havoc in the raiding order by pulling away all the fringe players. Semi-skilled 25-man and semi-skilled 10-man guilds will get consumed, and middle-class raiding guilds will get put under numbers-stress.

On the other hand, if there aren't enough rewards; or as Gevlon says the raids are too hard to faceroll, then fewer people will queue, leading to longer wait times, which will lead to even less using it, etc. It's like trying to queue for AV late at night, sure you can try but there's no one else there.

As someone who allegedly embraces social gaming I can't imagine why you'd be in favor of LFR. LFD worked because it was easy and gave everyone a nice reward for a very low time investment. I don't think the same people who made 30-minute dungeon sprints successful will similarly embrace a multi-hour investment that they have no social loyalty stake to participate in.

Put your raiding alt on a high-pop server if you want pugs-on-demand and don't have the schedule to raid with your guild. High pop servers are amazingly dynamic.
Great post. I do, however, have a quibble with:

"As long as the more social options to form a raid group are still in the game, I don’t see how anybody could have a justified complaint against random raid groups"

A few people have already raised the point previously but dungeons, even the harder 3.3 heroics, ask less of players in both time and skill. Dungeons in WoW (at least the expansions) are compact experiences where players have the expectation of completing them in a timely manner. For the most part, they don't require extensive coordination by the group of the sort you often find in raids mediated by third-party voice chat, special chat channels, and specific UI mods.

With one exception, I do not think Blizzard is interested in implementing a raid finder for Cataclysm raids. I think they understand what a powerful amplifying effect coordination has on a raid's success. They have stated before in reference to the Dungeon Finder that they're not in the business of dictating more specific loot rules or standards of etiquette, issues that take on larger importance in the high stakes of multi-hour raids.

I agree with the sentiment "well if you don't like it, then don't use it" but Blizzard has all players' experiences in mind. An option that will on average be a poor experience is an option best not implemented.

The one exception I can see is Tol Barad, the Vault of Archavon style raid in Cataclysm. These raids are almost exclusively pugged to begin with and are relatively short/simple as compared to the others, others that in Cataclysm Blizzard hopes to make more involved from a player skill perspective if also less time consuming.
I believe the changes to lockout, specifically that you get saved on a per boss basis is laying the groundwork for L F R. People will Que and the impartial computer will match them to a compatible raid that is replacing someone who had to leave.
"... a computer can’t be a jerk."

Sure it can. Depends who's doing the programming.
I am having fun right now in Lineage 2. It strikes me as a much more team oriented game. You pretty much have to get into a clan to get anywhere but joining a clan feels a lot more like joining a family. There is a list of what gear people need and the whole clan works together to get the drops or get the mats so it can be crafted. Gearing up becomes much more of a guild wide goal than an individual goal. Certainly this also has its down side be you certainly do have to work together to get things done.

I enjoy WoW as well and I am looking forward to the expansion but when ever I play I feel much more alone and on my own, even when I am in a guild, even when I am in a group.
Actually, I haven't seen this talked about as much, but isn't LFG going to be very different this time around? When LFG first came out, I would say a great number of people had already outgeared heroics. Most of us just went back because we wanted the emblems.

But now, we're all on equal footing. The go-go-go mentality isn't going to work for at least a few months - the time to get to 85 and to start running heroics/raid content to get your gear.

I'm curious what it's going to be like for a the next few months.
I’ve been in guilds with as many as 400+ people when I played EQ and as few as 15 in WoW. In the end all guilds seem to come down to one thing, groups of cliques. Regardless of the total number of people in your guild, typically you still hang out with the same people.

You find people that compliment your play style that you get along with and try to group with them as much as possible. Typically the rest of the guild was there to facilitate the raiding requirements of people/classes. The LFG window essentially removes the need for you to be in a guild with anyone beyond your 4-10 person cliques. Maybe I’m anti-social, maybe not. A lot of my friends I still play MMOs with over the past 10 years are like this, I guess that is why we are still a clique though.

A LFR system would benefit me. I work 50-60 hours a week, have 2 small kids, I’m going to college and in the Army Reserves, time is a scarce resource to me. I can’t plan to make a raid any night of the week, so I’m fairly useless to any sort of guild.

That being said you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If a LFR system works as well as the LFG system does it will hurt the server community. It will be one more step away from WoW being a World and just another Online Game. Look at Group Finder compared to how many people quest. Before Group Finder most people just ground out quests as the primary way to gain levels. They would go but that was it. Now with the new LFG Group Finder you see very few people going out and questing. On my Shaman I’m leveling I actually have to sit in a city when I queue. I get groups so fast that it’s pointless to stray away from my trainer or merchant.

You can’t increase one aspect of a game without decreasing another. Everything in a MMO is either on the left or the right side of a scale and it seems like a lot of people ignore that fact. You can’t have strong solo content without hurting group content. You can’t have strong pug raiding content without hurting the premade raiding content. As soon as something becomes “more efficient” than the other way everyone flocks to it. It’s a land slide effect, as more people use the LFG/LFR tools there will be less people forming raids in the old way, thus everyone will have to use the LFG/LFR tools.
Agree with you, Tobold.

Yes, random DF groups will wipe on the new dungeons. So will guild-formed groups. I was the high-GS player in an HoR random last night and we wiped twice (after breezing thru the hard part) on the escape section.

Nobody raged. Nobody was an asshat. The tank quit after the 2nd wipe although we were all willing to give it another try. Everybody waited the 5 minutes for the next tank.

I really think that bloggers and commenters vastly exagerate bad behavior in randoms. I just don't see it that often. And when I do, the other players typically band together to oppose or just make fun of them.

I'm a casual, more mature player with limited ability to schedule uninterrupted play times of more than an hour.

The DF allows players like me to actually learn how to play in groups, and to be able to play whenever I can. I'm looking forward to working on new content, even if it is with a group of anonymous players.

I anticipate that random groups will slow down, type more and bounce less if they want to get anything done. Maybe more will be kicked. That's what the function is for.

I have faith that people will figure out how to succeed just fine.

And I think a server wide raid-finder could work to fill empty slots in pre-made raids. A raid leader could browse from a queued list and inspect/select players, as well as hunting in /trade.

Might even allow a few good (and highly motivated or just crazy) leaders to form an entire raid.
brilliant post Epiny
Great to read a balanced comment like this. Thanks Epiny.
VIP, very interesting post Tobold, thank you!

fair computer decisions
I think the computer being impartial is not the reason why computer decisions help avoid fights amongst players. The real reason is twofold:

It's too much work to appeal against them ("Code is law", as Lawrence Lessig put it).

And, law doesn't primarily need to deliver fair decisions. It's function in society is more about delivering accepted decisions in situations that can't otherwise be resolved so that people can get on with their lives (see sociologist Niklas Luhmann, "Das Recht der Gesellschaft").

So, the reason why automatic loot distribution avoids drama is because it provides rules and automatically applies them.

@Mike said:
"... a computer can’t be a jerk."

Sure it can. Depends who's doing the programming.

less chatting in groups
The dungeon finder makes for quiet groups because the players simply don't know whether their group members would be nice to play and chat with or not. Because any further conversation after the initial "hi" raises the risk of hurried players leaving the group.

Plus, hit the nail: Dungeon Finder rewards bad social behavior. It not only ignores to penalize it seriously, it rewards it for the individual douchebag and penalizes the group instead. We all witnessed tanks leaving the group, cause their loot from boss 1 did not drop or it did.

If there's anything Blizzard has a horrible track record for, I'd say it's the management of the social space that wow provides. So, if you just want to play fast, the Dungeon Finder in its current form is an excellent tool. But it comes with a foreseeable price: less chatting in groups. Because even if that one special soulmate on earth is in your Dungeon Finder group, you're not going to find out. And that's not because of speed or ease of these dungeons. It's because the game rewards players for playing against the interests of the other group members. Think of game theory: In a one-shot game, you won't find much social behaviour. It's only in repeated games that collaboration appears because reputation can build up.
Now, nobody needs reputation using the dungeon finder.

A similar thing happened with cross-server battlegrounds: waiting times got reduced (which is a fantastic feat), but social interaction, and reputation-based cooperation, dwindled.

If Blizzard asked me what was the one thing they could improve in wow, I'd recommend they analyze social interaction as thoroughly as they do other aspects of the game. These mistakes can be avoided, while preserving the reduced waiting times of the dungeon finder.
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I'm just wondering how many of you saying that dungeon finder has no chatting have actually tried to start up a conversation? I have a few times and atleast 2 other people tend to join in. I don't want to call people out, because I am aware of the potential back lash, but it seems like everyone has already given up on even trying to chat in a Dungeon Finder group.

Here is everyone's homework assignment. Join a Dungeon Finder group and TRY to make friends with people. Talk and then try and see if you can keep the group together.
I have, and I understand why it didn't work. Whereas on my way to 60, I leveled exclusively in dungeons, and kept a friends list of 200.
@epiny: there is a difference between asocial and anti-social. Moreso, I don't play WoW for the social aspect of chatting online and pretending to be friends with people I don't even know, even if I'm in a guild with them.

In my mind a guild exists for MY benefit because blizz FORCES me to jump through all these worthless social hoops in order to experience all of the game content that I am paying for monthly.

I hate having to deal with lazy punk kids that don't take the time to learn their classes or learn the raid mechanics or learn the instance mechanics. It wastes my limited time worst of all.

So, yes, it is VERY evident that blizz has, for a long time now, been pushing everyone into guilds and more social interaction due to some social-engineering idea of rainbow puppies and unicorns flying on clouds and having us all hold hands and sing koombya and making the world a greener place.

I think blizz needs to stop forcing these social aspects on all players and make it much more automated and computer-based. I think LFD/LFR can be way more automated than it is, and I hope they make it that way. I appreciate not having to talk in chat when doing pugs of any sort. I want to focus on the task at hand and not waste my time and energy engaging in worthless inane prattle with someone I don't know or care about. I would actually enjoy being able to have LFD assign me 4 companion NPCs that do everything mostly correctly in a 5-man! Kind of similar to Unreal Tournament, I can hear it already: M-M-M MONSTER KILL Kill kill kill!

I guarantee I'm not alone in the way I think, just read Greedy Goblin and see for yourself. I only play this social sub-game in WoW because it's required for me to be able to complete tasks that I cannot solo. The same as walking down a hallway at work and having to answer people when they catch your eye and say some dumb thing like "how are you doing?" and we both know they couldn't care less. If I'm not "nice" and don't "pet" every guildie then I won't be able to get them to help me complete a certain hard quest or do a special old dungeon run. gg blizz :(

Interesting point of view. Do you mind, though, if I ask why you are paying a subscription for a multiplayer game? There are some truly excellent single-player experiences out there that gameplay-wise are miles and miles ahead of any MMO I've seen.
Oh, and Epiny: a friendly attitude certainly never hurts at all. My experience is exactly what yours is. It's like I said up top – I realise now that I've been blaming the dungeon finder when the real culprit is the lowered difficulty and shorter time from start to finish.

Sharing a few laughs certainly works. But I dare you to make friends with anyone in 15 minutes while the tank is pulling new packs by the second. :)
@oscar: I frankly love the entire concept of the "World" of Warcraft and don't have a lot of time to research other games or download/play demos. Was thinking of grabbing LotR now that it is "free" since that's the same genre of game but just haven't gotten around to doing that, perhaps in the next week or two before Cata hits.

I'd like to ask *you* something however: does it matter what I'm thinking or feeling when I fake-compliment someone, if the end result is the same? They still feel good about themselves and go off with a warm fuzzy, and I still have them "on my side" when I need to accomplish something that I'm unable to do myself. My first inclination of anyone, in-game or IRL, is that they are just another sheep...until they prove otherwise.

The fact that I'm faking it and couldn't care less about them shouldn't have *any* bearing on the end result...correct? What are your thoughts?
Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I actually have TWO WHOLE TOONS in my /friend list! So yes, I may be asocial (not anti-social, there is a difference) but that doesn't mean that there are no people that I "more than" tolerate. :)

Thanks for your frank reply.

As for your question, I'm not sure. I think you're absolutely right that it doesn't matter to that other person, at least not until he/she finds out that you weren't being sincere at which point I suppose there may be a whiff of harm. Although probably not as much in electron-land as in the meat-world where these things seem to carry a bit more weight.

But from your original comment, it does seem to matter a bit to yourself. I'm not trying to psychologise here, but your language sort of indicated that you'd much rather not speak than have to fake being nice to people you really couldn't care less about. So in that way, I suppose it does matter a bit.

And I hope I didn't seem disdainful before – I certainly didn't mean to be (not that you'd know if I were faking it then... or now, come to think of it :P). And for some great single-player experiences, try the Fable series, and perhaps Dragon Age (but turn off the disgusting blood!).
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