Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
 
On the difficulty of intelligent discussion about MMORPG features

This is a blog about massively multiplayer online role-playing games. In general. With some posts about games in general, technology, and blogging thrown into the mix. This is *not* a "WoW blog" or a blog about any other specific MMORPG. Unfortunately it has become evident over the years that most people are simply unable to discuss MMORPG features in general, without attaching themselves to specific implementations of those features. So I usually discuss features of specific games, so people know what I'm talking about. And of course quite often the example chosen is from WoW, because that is one of the games I know best, and where I can assume that most of my readers know it as well.

The disadvantage of discussing features of specific games is that MMORPG players are so bloody tribal. Thus exactly the same feature will be described as the greatest thing ever in somebody's favorite game, while simultaneously being condemned as being utter shit in another game the writer happens to hate. That makes it pretty much impossible to hold any sort of intelligent discussion on the merits of a a features by itself.

I was thinking about that while pondering the feature of automated group formation, that is groups forming by means other than one player inviting another player. There are a lot of possibilities how that could be implemented in a game: People could flag themselves as willing to group and be automatically grouped with players in the same area. Or people could sign up to group for a specific purpose or target, and then be automatically grouped with others going for the same target.

Such a feature has some inherent advantages: By making forming a group easier, it is more likely that people end up playing in a group than playing solo; which in turn makes it more likely for them to meet new friends. Furthermore with MMORPG endgames often being dominated by group content, automated group formation makes it more likely that a player arriving at the endgame already has some basic group combat experience, and you don't run into the problem of the tank not knowing where his taunt button is.

On the other hand the automated grouping feature has some inherent disadvantages: If you only need to press a button to get invited into a group, there is no need to politely ask for an invite. Getting into groups easily means that some people don't feel the need to display any sort of even basic politeness or decency. Thus automatically formed groups can end up being either just totally silent, or worse they can become a platform for absolute jerks.

What is important to notice is that these advantages and disadvantages are inherent to the feature, and not all that much influenced by any specific implementation of it. The harder it is to form a group, the more effort players will exert to keep to group together, which means being nicer to other players. So the convenience of easy group formation goes hand in hand with the risk of anti-social behavior. A strict invitation-only system forms groups less often, and has people waiting for groups more often, but if players need to be social to get into a group they will be, and thus groups formed on invitation only are on average "nicer".

When people notice this, they usually notice it in a specific game they are playing. For example Melmoth wrote a rather brilliant piece on Rift's default-to-open group system feeling sometimes a bit impersonal and antisocial. Others blame Blizzard for having made World of Warcraft more antisocial with the Dungeon Finder. And the frustrating thing is that the WoW fans will find the Dungeon Finder great and hate the public groups of Rift, while the Rift fans will praise the Rift open groups and blast the WoW Dungeon Finder. Thus the discussion quickly breaks down to petty bickering between fanbois, and yet another intelligent discussion about a MMORPG feature, and the greater balance between convenience and social gameplay is avoided.
Comments:
The question that should be asked first, in my opinion, is why we need groups at all. Why do you need to be part of somebody's else "party" to support him? Isn't necessary in real life, after all ;)

There are a few good reasons. But to know these is the first step in designing alternative ways. Only if you know, why a feature is used can you set put to modify it. That is: Change it in a way that it still does what it has to, but in a superior way.
 
Why don't you simply moderate out the tribal comments? On the first day they would yell censorship, but then they would simply leave and not pester you any more, leaving you with the intelligent ones.
 
While you compare the LFD with the rift groups, i find the feature different : in the case of the LFD i decide when i group with strangers. In rift (or warhammer) open groups, i just am grouped passively, whether i want it or not, just by being there. It is totaly invasive and i personally dislike it, because it just might group you with someone afk nearby, or group you with a leecher, etc. The latter mechanic needs tuning, imo.
 
I'm very much in favor of intelligent, flexible automation in the forming of groups in MMOs. THhe implementation in Rift is, in my opinion, more flexible and more intelligent than previous iterations, so I have some hope that when they add a system for dungeon-grouping it will avoid some of the pitfalls of earlier systems.

I do think that allowing the player to set criteria which are then automatched with the criteria set by other players would be a very good idea. It would be nice to be able to set preferences, and not just the obvious ones like which dungeon you want to do, which quests you want to complete, what level range you want to group with.

Presumably, though, the more factors the system has to match, the more strain it puts on the server running it. How realistic it is to allow players to specify a dozen criteria and expect to get a fast, accurate match I wouldn't know. It would be nice, though, i it was possible.
 
Oh, and @MetalManu, you do know you can switch Rift's public grouping feature off? It's 100% in your hands when and if you group with anyone.

Just right-click your character portrait and set your group to "Private" and you'll never be invaded again. Well, not by other players, at least.
 
If you're getting too many tribal comments, then maybe you're just not explaining your points well enough.

It shouldn't be that difficult to explain issues clearly with both the dungeon finder and Rift's public groups - they have different issues in any case.

It's when you assume too much about your readers and their experiences that you get into trouble.
 
Just like the LFD in WoW, you get used to the impersonal and sometimes-invasive features of auto-grouping in Rift. It doesn't take much to just leave group if you would rather not be grouped at that time. Or even turn the feature off if you are really feeling anti-social.

As for the LFD, Scott Hartsman (Exec Producer for Rift), has gone on record as saying a LFD option is coming for Rift as soon as they can get one working up to their standards. It will be not be cross-server like it is in WoW.
 
As for the LFD, Scott Hartsman (Exec Producer for Rift), has gone on record as saying a LFD option is coming for Rift as soon as they can get one working up to their standards. It will be not be cross-server like it is in WoW.

If I had to name the worst part of WoW's LFD it would be the cross-server nature. So it is good to read that Rift doesn't go this far.

Nobody could reasonably argue that improving the open-channel LFD spam with some feature is bad. It's just the anonymous nature of it in WoW that is bad. And, if your care about the world aspect, the teleport is sub-optimal, too.
 
Of course, equally tribal is something that claims to be a dispassionate analysis of different systems, but always ends up with the conclusion 'WoW is 100% awesome in every way, and any apparent flaw is either logically inevitable, or going to be fixed in the next patch'.

Human beings are tribal in nature, if you don't recognise your biases and preferences, they define you, rather than vice versa.
 
when the first iteration of the dungeon finder came out I participated in a long drawn out discussion on the forums about it.

what blizzard has never wrapped thier brain around was that in spite of the annoyance factor, the global chat channel worked better than LFD ever will for one simple reason. Everyone had to opt out. I logged in I played and if some random group for a dungeon I needed to run an alt through popped up I could join it. Or if I was grinding and had made a choice not to do a dungeon if a group started forming and I changed my mind I'd go. Now the only people that get groups are the ones that actively look for one.

What would happen to any products sales if they only advertised to those that actually walked into the store and said I want some?

to be fair the LFD tool is awesome for the non social person without good friends list. For anyone with any social skills it was a step back even with current design.
 
sorry I sidetracked myself. the LFD tool arguments in wow are a perfect example though.

You had the "tribe" that hated the global chat channel and were happy to see it go.
Then you had the "tribe" that was upset they got a "half measure" to replace thier perfecty functioning advertising system.

Most from either group argue blindly that thier way is best and everyone else is stupid.
 
Anyone remember the mod, Call to Arms, for WoW? This was pre-LFD and it worked beautifully for anyone who cared to use it. Unfortunately, Blizzard broke the functionality of the mod probably because it would have been a direct competitor for its upcoming LFD feature.
 
Heh. Mindful of my thoughts I noticed I was loving the post and my 2nd or 3rd voice was just thinking, "Heh, this new non-referential approach is really working. People will have to actually think about the mechanics being discussed without automatically being in confirmation-bias mode THEN attempt to draw their own parallels to the games they've noticed the mechan-- d'oh last paragraph."

Chopping that part out would be awesome, but does mean you'd have had to tie your opening paragraph to something else...

Ahem. Critiquing writing aside...

Does anyone remember when WoW would allow you to join the LFG queue (proto-LFD - not the current incarnation) based on which elite quests you were trying to do? The only reason I can think they scrapped it might have been that not enough folks were using it. Which seems a damn shame. It was really handy; the only drawback was you were limited in how many queues you could be in, and if you wanted to queue for both dungeons AND a dozen group quests across the zone, you were kind of stuck. You had to pick which one or two group quests you wanted to do most. Since that limitation was removed in LFD in terms of how many types of instance you could sign up for, I'm surprised the group quest component didn't make it into the eventual LFD, born from the ashes of LFG and meeting stones.

...Probably something about having to search two different queues - one for cross-server/dungeons, one for group quests within the server.
 
Of course, equally tribal is something that claims to be a dispassionate analysis of different systems, but always ends up with the conclusion 'WoW is 100% awesome in every way, and any apparent flaw is either logically inevitable, or going to be fixed in the next patch'.

Challenge: Read my 3,500 posts and find me a *single* instance where I said that, or something similar to that.

What actually happens is that I write something like "WoW doesn't do X all that bad", and then I get one WoW-hater like you bashing me for praising WoW too much, and one WoW fanboi bashing me for dissing WoW.

If I had to name the worst part of WoW's LFD it would be the cross-server nature.

I never understood that argument. A server has up to 20,000 players (not simultaneously of course). For me grouping with one random stranger out of 20,000 or one random stranger out of 200,000 is *exactly* the same. The only theoretical difference I see is that I can't chat with somebody from a different server *after* the group is over. But given that I'm unlikely to chat with a random stranger after the group even if he is from my server, I don't really see that making much of a difference.

On the other hand there is a huge difference in queue time for less often visited lower level dungeons with and without cross-server functionality. So for me the good of cross-server very much outweights the bad. I'd be interested in hearing from you why that isn't the case for you. You know, with explanations and arguments, instead of the 117th repetition of the statement that you just hate it.
 
As a person on a low-population server, I like the dungeon finder. Yes, I had a guild, but I also had a job. By the time I got online, they were done with heroics.

One thing in Rift that is being ignored or is unknown is that dungeons do not use auto-grouping. You do have to send out some shouts. Now, if people know you are grouping for this, they can click the "add" button to be added to your dungeon group. Every time they have done this though, if they give no word of why they have joined, they have been kicked. And each dungeon group I've been in has been pretty social. We've chatted, joked, talked and even reset and went back in.

Public groups for invasions are rather impersonal. By that I mean they are neither more or less nice than any pre-made I've been in. Even in invasions I've seen chatter in the raid channel. Boss coordinates, cheering when objectives are met, helping the newbies figure out how to meet objectives, etc.

As for anonymous grouping vs. pre-mades, my first heroics were horrible and they were made over general chat. In my first heroic after 80 (WotLK had only been out a month), I was ridiculed constantly for my gear and dps. In another, the tank and healer got into a spat and left the rest of us to die mid-pull. All of these were pre-dungeon finder. I found the people to be quiet when using the dungeon finder, but there was less drama as well, which is fine with me!

In Rift, I was asked for help with a quest and gave it. At the end you have to kill an elite. We grouped until he found someone 10+ levels over us (lvl30), then he kicked me from group. I found someone else to help me, but the lvl 30 stuck around and helped us as well. He left, but the two of us stuck around when another person showed up who needed help. They didn't ask for help, but we knew they would need it and added them to our group.

Being a jerk has nothing to do with a dungeon finder or lack thereof. It has something to do with the person. I know you will say again that anonymous methods of group-finding encourage this behavior, but I have experienced both at about the same percentage under both systems.
 
So for me the good of cross-server very much outweights the bad. I'd be interested in hearing from you why that isn't the case for you.

The 20.000 players includes the other faction. Make that 10.000. The 10.000 includes the people that are leveling or only raiding. Make that 5000. Those 5000 includes all the pople who play during different days/times than you, make that 2000.

Then scrap 90%, because they just have a toon on the server or are twinks, but don't actively play.

200 people is a nice number.

If you don't believe this kind of argumentation, I can tell you that I used to know the majority of players that were looking for groups when I came back from work. At the very least I had heard their name before. Often I knew their class and specc. This is a fact - at least for me.

I wonder, though, how this wasn't the way you experienced WoW? Didn't you actively socialize before the Dungeon Finder? How could you have played so long without managing a long friends list? Or did you?

At this moment I cannot explain why we experienced WoW pre-Dungeon Finder differently. Maybe, because I used to play on a rather small server that had more like 5k players than 20k ?
 
@Tobold: while you are right that there is no difference between the 20K strangers on the server and the 200K in the battlegroup, the socials see one a huge one: groups and common friends.

The 20K stranger has a chance that you have a common "friend" so their bad behavior will get back to them. There is no illusion cross-server.


And you did not answer why you tolerate tribal morons on your blog. Instead of complaining, you could just get rid of them.
 
The reason why I dislike the cross realm feature is because of G.I.F.T. Now, I know that you can get this even on your own server, and the fact that you can change name, etc makes it easier to remain anonymous, but at least you can warn others about a player on your realm for his/her behaviour in trade chat (ninja looting, eg).

In addition I am sure that AD (EU) is grouped with non rp servers, and in my experience a large percentage of pve realms population seem to be arthasloldk types; the main reason why I steer clear!
 
From my perspective in WoW I would enter into the LFD and join up with 4 other random characters to blow through a dungeon steamrolling the mobs. Dungeon run done we all leave. No words spoken and half the time I barely remembered who I had been grouped with.

I Rift I still barely remember who I am grouped with but sometimes after a Rift event the group stays together and runs around to do other Rifts or even quests. A few times I have been doing a low level Rift with one or two others and when it is closed they have asked about helping with a particularly hard quest mob. Off we would go to help.
 
I had more meaningful social interactions in my first two days in Rift than I did in my entire grind through Cata content. This happened quite simply: I got into public groups or I public grouped with someone at a boss and we ended up finishing up a line of quests together. It really works and it makes sense.
 
"And the frustrating thing is that the WoW fans will find the Dungeon Finder great and hate the public groups of Rift, while the Rift fans will praise the Rift open groups and blast the WoW Dungeon Finder"

Likewise, it's frustrating when someone who should know better lumps two very different features together to try and drive home some point. The above quote is very valid; there are ample reasons to hate the DF while enjoying open groups. Commentators have already pointed out the key differences, but really, what's the point of this post when you yourself try to set up the tribal division?
 
I wonder, though, how this wasn't the way you experienced WoW? Didn't you actively socialize before the Dungeon Finder? How could you have played so long without managing a long friends list? Or did you?

I mostly socialized with my guild. The number of people I met in random groups PRE-cross server functionality was well over the Dunbar number, and thus I my neo-cortex was physiologically unable to handle that number of social relationships. Or in short, even before the cross-server I experienced the random strangers I met mostly as random strangers. I did not notice a drop in politeness or socialization when the cross-server functionality was added.

And you did not answer why you tolerate tribal morons on your blog. Instead of complaining, you could just get rid of them.

Well, apparently the approach didn't work for you, you are still complaining about morons on your blog, so even with strict censorship you couldn't get rid of them.

My reading isn't limited to the comment section of my own blog. The biggest idiots usually spout their nonsense on their own blogs, and I stumble upon comments like "LFD is the worst feature ever" by those blogs being referenced to by blogs I read, not just in my own comment section.

And censorship doesn't solve anything. It's like solving the problem by simply not reading anything any more and hiding your head in the sand. Sure, you don't suffer the morons any more, but you also cut away any potentially intelligent discussion.
 
Maybe we need to look at the psychology of MMOs just as much or more than the technology? People usually reference their personal experience first then generalize based on that. It is strange though that they always seem to fall into diametrically opposed ends of an argument, regardless of the feature being discussed.

In the example of LFD and Public groups, I think a game like Rift (and to a lesser extent wow) will have both features -- LFD both instances and public groups or chat for random events and open world bosses. Neither is perfect and both will meet with criticism both people who fail at attempts. But how often do we hear priase from those who used the feature successfully?
 
If you mean Melmoth's piece was brilliantly funny I would agree. But logically the comparison falls completely short. Rift's open group system works extremely well for its intended purpose. Doing quick group quests or closing rifts. Neither of these things require more than a few minutes of time. If you are in Zone X killing a named Elite and I run up, click to join you, help you kill the mob, drop group and carry on with my business who loses? The answer is neither of us, you got some help killing the mob, and I didn't have to wait for a re-spawn. In the case of rift closings when you join the action is already underway, being social is not why you are there, mobs must die, and your contribution is determined by casts, not pleasantries. Do you really want to have social interactions on every one of these quick public groupings. I don't, want to get on with my own business. Do you play on RP servers exclusively? I guess in the RP world it would make sense, but for servers that normal people play on its just not necessary.

Regarding this statement.

Quote: T
"The harder it is to form a group, the more effort players will exert to keep to group together, which means being nicer to other players. So the convenience of easy group formation goes hand in hand with the risk of anti-social behavior. A strict invitation-only system forms groups less often, and has people waiting for groups more often, but if players need to be social to get into a group they will be, and thus groups formed on invitation only are on average "nicer"."


While I would agree that seems logically true, in practice I find it doesn't hold up as much as you think it does. I had a lot of really great groups using Dungeon Finder in WoW. Nice people, polite, helpful, etc. I would say over the course of time I used it I had more "nice" groups than "nasty" groups. Thinking back to Burning Crusade I can remember a lot of Trade Groups that were horrendously nasty, I'm looking at you Magister's Terrace! I just don't think you can place hard rules like this on things as variable as an MMO.
 
"The harder it is to form a group, the more effort players will exert to keep to group together, which means being nicer to other players."

The possible exception is Raiding Guilds where the challenge to maintain the group whilst continuously clearing content is such that the group can actually tear itself apart.
 
There is actually a big difference between 20k strangers on the same server and 200k on a battlegroup (besides the order of magnitude). The thing that Gevlon describes as a social illusion is rather a mechanism that works well in closed play spaces such as servers.

To elaborate: while you could only group with people from your own server (via the lfg tool that predated the dungeon finder, /trade or /lfg) if you were undesirable you were excluded. People who don't preform or are rude or have any other problem that is symptomatic of the LFD today were so very rare, because you had a choice when it came to who you group with. If Legolass is being disruptive today, you will not invite him or stay in a group he's already in tomorrow. I haven't personally played Rift, but this open system inside a closed space seems illogical and vulnerable to leeches and the like.
 
I think there is far too much extremism both in favour of and against LFD. In BC and early Wrath I was one of the most prolific creators of dungeon groups on my server - I was constantly creating groups, had a huge friends list of tanks/healers and knew a fair number of people on the server. Despite that I still ended up grouping with nameless, forgotten randoms the vast majority of the time. Sometimes those groups were great, and sometimes we had to fly to oculus/botanica and then someone would leave 1 minute in and we had to port back to town to find a replacement who then had to be summoned, etc. They were a mixed bag of good and bad.

With LFD I don't have to fly to a faraway spot to summon lazy people, I don't have to port to town to get replacements, I can boot people who are griefing or being terrible/afk without having to go back to town and I don't have to sit in chat exchanging class/spec information with randoms. I just hit a button and do a dungeon. Hell, I actually *like* the game of 5 people zone in, nobody talks and we demolish a bunch of stupid dudes.

Of course, I did meet a few good people by constantly assembling dungeon groups and I established relationships outside my guild. I don't do that anymore so my social circle is mostly limited to those who are already in my guild and the server feels a little less like a place I know.

There are ups and downs to the system but overall I think it was a significant improvement.
 
Here is a rumors for you. WoW, in the last week, is down 1 million subscribers since January.
 
The question that should be asked first, in my opinion, is why we need groups at all. Why do you need to be part of somebody's else "party" to support him?

I think this is a good question. I have a strange fondness for what WoW has done with the named mob quests in Tol Barad for example, where you only have to participate to get credit. I realise that this probably isn't feasible everywhere for a variety of reasons, but it feels very natural and liberating to group up by simply working together instead of grouping up by fiddling with UI elements to form an official party (or else it doesn't count).
 
Here is a rumors for you. WoW, in the last week, is down 1 million subscribers since January.

And only one of the tribal morons would care.

lumps two very different features together

Yeah, yeah, I know. And the kill 10 foozles quests in Rift are totally different from the kill 10 foozles quests in WoW. Yet another tribal moron who thinks that the same feature in *his* game is so much better than that in another game. Excellent example of why we never get any intelligent discussion about the inherent advantages and disadvantages of features.
 
Hahaha, ok.

Glad we went from the Dungeon Finder = Open Groups to Klll X = Kill X comparisons. Totally the same thing.

On with the intelligent discussion of features!
 
And only one of the tribal morons would care.

What?
If that were true it would mean quite a lot for every single MMORPG developer out there!
 
Totally the same thing.

A feature does not have to be TOTALLY implemented in exactly the same way to be FUNDAMENTALLY the same thing. Fundamentally all "invite only" group systems share some characteristics, and all "automatic" group system share other characteristics.

The problem is that you happen to hate one of the games with an automatic group system, and like another game with an automatic group system. And your tribal thinking prevents you from admitting that the two systems share some features, because you feel the need to justify yourself for playing Rift and not playing WoW. So of course you need to claim that the automatic group system in Rift is totally different from the automatic group system in WoW. You *can't* admit that these systems have anything in common, because in your tribal mind that would be like giving points to the enemy.
 
You *can't* admit that these systems have anything in common, because in your tribal mind that would be like giving points to the enemy.

I don't think this is accurate.

Everybody here agrees that the WoW-LFD and the Rift public groups have something in common. But just because both features share one characteristic, doesn't mean that they are the same.
Also, circumstances matter. Fun is not an inherent property of an isolated activity.

You are certainly right that sometimes 'tribal thinking' blurres our vision. But in this case I don't think that's the issue.
 
Reading Syncaine and Nils comments on here is always so mundanely interesting. I never can tell if they're intentionally being obtuse or if it's incidental.

With the amount those two write on here, I don't get why they don't actually break down differences and similarities instead of "Nuh-uh, they're way different!" Maybe you did, and I didn't read it that specific comment, but then it seems odd you don't reference it in your rebuttals to Tobold if that's the case.

Though I'm actually pretty interested in the "why do we need (UI-based) groups anyway?" discussion. Maybe Eldergame or Psychochild (or others!) have some experience in implementation reasons of why it doesn't work?
 
Lighstagazi, you honestly cannot break those differences between the WoW-LFD and the Rift public grouping down yourself? Come on!

I thought about doing it here, but then decied against it. Tobold doesn't like too lenghty comments.
 
Interesting comments.

Actually, I know that in the past I have asserted that the WoW dungeon-finder encourages ass-hattery.

I have been remiss in not also pointing out a positive trend that I have noticed.

Whenever I have been tanking for someone (a friend or guildie) and chaining heroics, I did actually start to get the socialization come out from those random cross-server PUGs who decided to stay. You get more opportunities to crack jokes, basically. (Fighting the various bosses, I usually had a few quick one-liners ready to toss out to their lore-text, just to see how folks would react.) A longer time means seeing the responses to those who need to AFK a minute because this is going to be a longer session than they'd planned, etc. How people respond to careless deaths. A better measure of a person.

I think the impersonal nature of the LK heroic-DF was not so much the cross-realm nature (which didn't help, sure) as much the blistering speed with which the instance was completed.
 
Agree with Cam, as soon as you bring a specific game example into the discussion, fans will understandably defend their own experiences.

That's why abstract philosophical discussions are great, but religious ones can get a bit testy.

I think of an MMO world like a RL elementary school playground. I changed schools at least 8 times as a kid, so I know the feeling of trying to find my way as a noob in that environment.

Every playground had one thing in common. The need for some kind of security due to the tendency toward tacit or overt violence closely linked to social behaviors.

MMO's turn us into kids on a playground. And that is one bloody tribal atmosphere. And then they give us swords to boot.

If not for auto-grouping, I would rarely group. MMO's would be completely asocial experiences for players like me. And in WoW, if it wasn't cross-server, it would be a useless wait-fest.

I'm sometimes mystified by the number of people who complain about auto-grouping functionalities making the game anti-social or somehow affecting the game for them.

If you have lots of buddies to play with, why the hell are you using the functionality in the first place? I suspect that the whole obsession with "The PuG from Hell" blog posts has manufactured this opinion.
 
You *can't* admit that these systems have anything in common, because in your tribal mind that would be like giving points to the enemy.

Can you admit these systems do have some differences? If not (and I haven't seen you do so yet), then you are using the same tribal mentality. You are holding just as stubbornly to your stance.

I suspect that the whole obsession with "The PuG from Hell" blog posts has manufactured this opinion.
Which accounted for most of my poor LFG channel encounters. People weren't in LFG because they wanted to group with a stranger, but because they were at the end of their rope and had to! Funny, but when I explained Rift's invasion grouping to my sister, her first words were "you mean, like a pug?!" The disgust was pretty clear in her voice. These are the social skills /LFG supposedly gave players?
 
The funny thing about tribalism is that it is always the other guys who are tribal. We? We are never tribal, We are civilized. We stand above the tribalism, look down upon it and pity those poor wretches.
 
fortunately we have the great impartial Tobold who's emotional opinions of games never color his objective analysis. Not since Solomon has there been such a wise arbiter of The Good.

People are capable of talking about similar features in different games intelligently. If there are truly tribals out there just moderate them out, but disagreeing with you doesn't make them unobjective.
 
as far as the DF is concerned, while I agree with Nils that grouping from my own server is better, I also agree with Tobold that I would rather have a DF group than no group at all. I would like Blizz to just add a quick "try to match with people from your realm first" checkbox or as a step in the matchmaking process. Maybe they already do.

As far as open grouping vs. DF is concerned, maybe someone should write a post about how they're similar and how they're different. Then we could analyze and debate it!
 
Presenting players with the option of using a automatic grouping option to complete tasks that are much more fun and or possible with a group is a great idea on paper. What everyone has issues with is balancing what the goal of the grouping is. It's about expectations.
In my Wrath bear tanking days I had a vastly different expectation of what I expected out of grouping from beginning to the end of the expac.
Most wow players I grouped with have so little respect for what the other group members want out of the group for any of the auto of selecting grouping to work 100% IMO. Someone regularly has to settle for something other than what they expected when the clicked on the find me a group button in whatever game their playing.
Putting players in charge with a invite only model is basically what raiding is at this point and that always works because all players expect the same thing out of a raid don't they?
 
Though I'm actually pretty interested in the "why do we need (UI-based) groups anyway?" discussion. Maybe Eldergame or Psychochild (or others!) have some experience in implementation reasons of why it doesn't work?

Or for the curious, we could dissect GW2 when it comes out, since it is built upon this philosophy with no ally-targeted skills, no mob-tagging, cross-profession combos, and therefore no need to group to help the person right next to you.

Maybe it will be shown not to work. Maybe it will.
 
The specific example you use in invalid; while Rift and WoW's approach to streamlining grouping certainly has some similarities, they are sufficiently different from one another that it's perfectly legitimate to prefer one to the other. As it has done with many of WoW's conventions, Rift has iterated upon dungeon finder. Whether public groups an improvement or not is another discussion (I believe it is, but going into the reasons would probably take too much text for this comment), but at the very least it's uninformed to the extreme to conflate the two and pretend that there's no possible reason (outside of tribalism) to prefer one to the other.
 
If you want to talk about different features, why not talk about the different features? Those of us who can discuss such things intelligently will appreciate it, and respond in like vein.

If the comments are excessively "tribal" for your tastes, just delete them.

Personally, I think you'd be a lot happier if you were more sanguine about deleting comments. Gevlon gives good advice in the second comment.
 
You guys might have read another post than I, but I didn't understand Tobold as saying that the DF rocks (today – I do remember him doing so other times!) while the Rift auto-grouping sucks or some such thing.

Both of the games discussed here have auto-grouping features. If one is better than the other, then I'd say it would be interesting to discuss *why* that is. Why is a Rift public group better than a WoW random dungeon?

Could it be that the activity you are doing in that group feels fresh and different? Less... mundane, less same-old? Or is there something inherent in the way the group is implemented or connected with its objective that makes it better?

Darrell, you write that Tirion Worlds have iterated on the DF and made it better (I thought that they lifted this from WAR, but I'll try to stay on track :)), only to say that you won't go into why because it would take too much text. Can't you give it a try?
 
Can you admit these systems do have some differences? If not (and I haven't seen you do so yet), then you are using the same tribal mentality. You are holding just as stubbornly to your stance.

I already said several times that there are of course differences in the implementation, but that the FUNDAMENTAL underlying social problems are the same. Furthermore saying that "Game A is like game B" isn't tribal, because to claim that A is better than B you need them to be different.

What would you say if in an upcoming patch Blizzard introduced rifts with public quests and public groups into World of Warcraft. Would you say that this is a great move because that is such an awesome feature? Or would you complain about that being a total clone, while simultaneously claiming that of course the Rift version is so much better?

I thought about doing it here, but then decied against it. Tobold doesn't like too lenghty comments.

What I don't like is you and syncaine writing a hundred comments stating that this or that feature in Rift is totally different and much better than the identical feature in World of Warcraft, without ever giving any further argument or explanation. You just say so, so it must be so.

What exactly makes a public group in Rift better than a LFD group in WoW? I'm not interested in you listing the detailed differences in mechanics, but I want to see some analysis of why in your mind the Rift implementation works better than the WoW implementation. Look at my post, I've listed the inherent advantages and disadvantages of automatic grouping systems. Why do you think the disadvantages don't apply to Rift?
 
I see a similarity to commenters and LFD: involving other people is quite likely going to lower my enjoyment.

Luckily, playing on Tribe W's reservation, I was able to get 1-84 without grouping or instancing with anyone. At 85, running 5-persons with my guild is fun; but the hassles of trying to get the right mix of ten people to rearrange their real lives to reliably show up for a raid is very frustrating.
 
I always feel that a good group should have at least a core of people that know each other to provide direction and goals. A proto-group is formed by a couple of people via invites. After that additional people can be auto-invited.
 
Alright. You requested a wall of text, Tobold. I find it hard to believe that you don't see the difference between the two features, but .. anyway.

For starters, the rift automatic grouping is not cross-server and not even cross-area. It is the guy you just saw over there who joins you in your struggle to fight back the elementals. This somehow makes sense as we are all chosen by the gods to do exactly that.

Then the grouping in Rift can easily be switched off and you can still do the same content alone. Try that with the LFD. It's different content we are talking about here. Not only from a world-point of view, but from a gameplay PoV as well.

Then, of course, there are no teleports connected with the automated grouping, which makes it much more immersive for me.

Then, look at the enemies: Nameless elementals and sometimes one of a very few bosses that try to get through the rift. We are not a group of 5 heroes that are each the only hero there is in the lore, but a group of chosen that were brought back from the dead by desperate gods who needed us to help them and to fight those rifts wherever we encounter them.
Rift actually cared enough to deliver credible background information about who we are and why we are here!! And why we come back from the dead when killed ...

Next, circumstances matter. I might like that starship in Eve Online, but if Blizzard took the exact same feature and put it into WoW, I disliked it. Even though the feature is exactly the same. Rift does not have the past that WoW dungeons have. Had WoW had a anonymous cross server teleporting LFD from the start, nobody would have bothered to complain. It was the radical change of a very major part of the game that created strong emotions. The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past.

Look, if you just and only look at the fact that public quests and the WoW-LFD contain automated groupng, you will, of course, conclude that they are the same. Just like wodden tables and wodden chairs both are made of wood - and they are the same when it comes to that aspect. That doesn't mean that they are the same, and it certainly doesn't mean that I consider sitting on tables as comfortable as sitting on chairs.

Concluding, I already stopped playing Rift. I didn't make it further than level 25. So you tell me, how I qualify as a fanboy of that game. The endless questing is boring, rifts get old and PvP is massively unbalanced; healing is out of control. I see no reasonable endgame, except for raiding in instances to kill scripted bosses. No thanks.


And since we are at it: The pure gameplay reasons games have grouping are
1) to give players, especially healers, a UI
2) disencourage kill stealing or leeching, if kills cannot be stolen
3) to allow you to chat with a selected number of players
4) To inform the game about who participated in what you did

The whole discussion of grouping would require you to venture down to the basics of game design and ask yourself: Why grouping in the first palce? And once you know the answer you can set out to improve the feature or the circumstances in a way that makes grouping unnecessary or different. What should not be done is to take a merely intuitive understanding of what grouping was in WoW-like games and discuss it without knowing the gameplay reasons for it's existence.
 
Ok, details. I'll use two posts for each point so there's not too much of a wall of text. Here's one way Rift's streamlining of groups is different from WoW's, specifically as it applies to sociality:

Rift's implementation is open-world PGs that form in response to "dynamic" events (I'm deliberately using scare quotes here to convey my opinion that these events are only modestly dynamic) exist in the context of a game activity that was highly asocial, and even antisocial, before. In modern MMOs landscape content is both trivial and soloable so many people actively dislike grouping for this content, as it compromises their progression. To the extent that groups formed and sociality occurred in landscape, it was in order to cooperate on overlapping quests. This still happens in Rift, a PG that forms to share quest activity will talk to each other once they notice they share the same quests in order to coordinate their future quest activity. So in this use case there's no net change in sociality. Rifts PGs are additionally formed in response to landscape content that is less soloable, and that can even intrude on the players ability to solo landscape content (by occupying quest hubs/farm locations). These groups are admittedly not very social, as people are generally focused on completing the objective. BUT keep in mind, the context here is that without the "dynamic" event system and public groups, this is gameplay that would have been solo anyway. So in our comparative analysis, Rift's system is a net plus to sociality, because compared to solo landscape questing, it both provides additional incentives for players to group (in the form of challenges that are rewarding and impede their ability to solo through content), and the ability to quickly form a group in response to those incentives. Or, to restate my thesis: the system creates groups in gameplay activity that was completely asocial before, so it can't be said to be reducing sociality.

WoW's dungeon finder, on the other hand, DOES exist in the context of a highly social gameplay experience, and DOES replace gameplay activity that was highly social with one that isn't.
 
Ok, here's another point that doesn't speak quite as much to sociality, but I do think speaks to some "fundamental" differences between Rift and WoW's approach. The question is one of whether your system is proximity-dependent.

WoW's system is not proximity-dependent. Dungeon finder will group you with people across the gameworld, and more egregiously, across shards. This emphasizes the disjoined and abrupt nature of the group activity in the context of wider gameplay, because all of you were doing something completely different before the group began, and will disperse to do something completely different once the group disbands.

Rift's system is proximity-dependent. In other theme parks, this would be a problem - how often do you find a group of players physically in the same non-instance non-town lcoation, really? - but Rift has activity that is designed to draw players into proximity with one another. So a Rift PG arises when players share physical proximity with one another, and discover that their physical proximity is the product of shared objectives. The different experiential affect of this should be pretty obvious.
 
Thank you, Darrell, for these excellent answers.

In modern MMOs landscape content is both trivial and soloable so many people actively dislike grouping for this content, as it compromises their progression.

I totally agree with that analysis. But I would think that the solution should be rather in making players *want* to group, even for landscape content. For example I frequently proposed a group xp bonus big enough to compensate for the perceived lack of progression when grouping instead of soloing.
 
I agree. Darrell pointed it out quite well. The main difference between Rift PG and WoW-LFD is that Rift-PG makes sense. From a simulation-aspect/world/immersion/credibility/consistency point of view.

The WoW-LFD just puts you together with some people and while it may make perfect gameplay sense, it just doesn't make any sense, otherwise.
 
It is possible to dislike the implementation of an idea in one game and like it in another. If Blizzard borrowed Rifts, it wouldn't surprise me since they borrowed the achievement idea.

Now, I dislike WoW achievements, but I like LotRO deeds? What's the difference? I might get a mount, a pet or some fluffy items from a WoW achievement, but from LotRO, the achievements typically go toward character development. I get a trait in LotRO that I can slot. Other than the fluffy items I only get a number in WoW that is (or was) used for absolutely nothing. I quickly became bored with achievements.

As for implementing rewards for grouping, they do this as well. They have a guild leveling system as many previous games had. I joined a guild in Rift because I wanted to do dungeons and I was only going to join with my defiant. After I learned I would get some buffs from grouping with guildies, one of which is to money drops, I am ready to find a guild with my guardian as well. And I got a guild invite last night from a couple I ran a dungeon with on Saturday. We ran into each other at a quest hub and they said they enjoyed running with me.
 
Tobold,

I had a great post that was insightful and all that. But I ditched it...

I am sorry I have been a part of Tribal warfare on your blog.

But on a heartfelt note:
I will give mucho dinero and all the lint in my pocket if we can just QUIT TALKING ABOUT freakin LFG.
 
Why one or the other?

In APB (the original, don't ask me what they do now) you could either set yourself to LFG or not. If you did, the game would automatically find you other players (or existing groups) that are LFG and cobble you together into a new group. Strangely enough, I found some very interesting people there (*waves at Liara*) and actually joined a Clan. Once in the clan though, I stopped using the LFG and instead we created private groups.

Both was completely supported by the system.

And I agree with you on the difficulty of discussion. It gets worse the more you played and the longer you are in this thing. "Ultima Online? Whats that?"
 
Probably noted already, but the dungeon finder groups people cross-server. This is inherently different as most people you meet are still on different servers so there's less social obligation between you. As you may not be likely to ever run into these people again, you can afford to be far more impersonal or act like a douche.

Can you partially form cross server parties in the DF? If not, then making friends is irrelevant as you won't be able to guarantee future interaction. Let alone all the server specific activities which you'd be precluded from.
 
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