A day in the life of cross-server PUGs

twilight_zone-rod-serling <<twilight zone music>>

Imagine that you have had a flash forward in time, to an alternate future. In this future, Blizzard’s planned LFG changes have gone live. How will your game change?

You level up through a series of levelling zones, queuing for level appropriate instances as you go. You’ll likely not find one immediately you start to look but hopefully it won’t take too long, and when your instance comes up you will immediately get ported there with your 4 new friends who could be from any server in your battlegroup. You may never find out where the instance entrance actually is in the gameworld, if it even has one. You don’t need to talk to the other people in your group if you don’t want to – you won’t ever meet them again.

When you reach max level you can sit in the expansion-appropriate city for the rest of your endgame. Every day you can log in, queue up for the random dungeon daily quest and the random daily battleground and mess around with the auction house while you wait for the group to fill. Again, you’ll be ported directly to the instance or battleground when the group is ready. You can even queue for the random weekly raid instance if you have a bit more time and feel like a change of pace – in patch 3.3 the random raid group will only work for people on your server but surely if it is successful then it will also be expanded to the battlegroup.

If anyone in your random group turns out to be a jerk or a useless twat then the other four can vote to kick them out.

Maybe in each patch Blizzard will add in a new area with some daily quests if you feel like a breath of virtual fresh air. And if you’d rather do things old style and group with people on your server, there will be a LFG global channel (in cities) where you can compare achievements and put together those 10-man class PUGs.

My current thoughts in summary: A lot of people will benefit from this (people who don’t like feeling forced to be part of a community will be cheering). The game will be improved for many. And it could be so fundamentally game changing to the community that I don’t know where it will lead. We’ll have to wait and try it out and see. So my thoughts right now are phrased as questions.

Is this virtual heaven?

For some people, this will be a dream come true. While the LFG can never be greater than the sum of its parts (ie. you’ll still have the same people in the pool), it could benefit anyone who:

  • Likes PUGs and would like a bigger group of people to PUG with.
  • Don’t want to be part of a community but still want to do group activities
  • Don’t like travelling outside your city of choice, either because you think it’s a waste of time or just don’t like it
  • Wants to run lower level instances but finds that there aren’t enough people on their server — but there might be enough people on the battlegroup

So really, most people could benefit, depending on how good the group matching tool is.

The new system will now work to match at least one experienced player for the assigned dungeon with less experienced players in the group.

This quote in particular makes me nervous (call me harsh but boosting other people’s undergeared alts through heroics isn’t my idea of a fun time, friends excepted), but at the end of the day you’ll still be able to arrange groups old-style using the LFG channel if you want to know in advance who you will be with.

Those of us on servers who have really good PUG communities right now will lose out, though. I’d comfortably say that 9/10 of my PUGs are really pleasant experiences at the moment. Argent Dawn is a great place to run a PUG. That can basically only get worse if we introduce more battlegroups into the mix. But I suppose that’s what happens when you even people out – a lot of other players will benefit from having well behaved AD players in their groups now.

Or is it the end of the virtual world and the server community?

Server communities have the same issue as social players in general. They work because some people love them and work very hard to pull them together, and lots of other people don’t care but will participate if the work is done for them and the rewards are there. Together, the people who do care and the people who aren’t bothered but will go along with it make up the server community.

So what happens if all the people who aren’t bothered are given an easier way to get to the group content that they want? (Remember, they don’t hate the server community, they just don’t care either way.) But server communities have been valuable for people. By running server-based PUGs, new players can mix with existing ones. It has been one of the standard ways that people find guilds (or guilds find people).

Do most players even care that their game takes place in a virtual world or would they really rather sit in Dalaran and bitch on the trade channel until their next instance or battleground or raid comes up?

The sad thing about the players who say that they don’t care is that they won’t find out whether or not they really do until it is too late. Maybe the most hardcore gamist won’t miss seeing sunrises over the Grizzly Hills, or watching protodrakes swoop down and carry off woolly rhinos in the Storm Peaks (they totally do this, btw). Maybe they don’t enjoy the feeling of soaring between mountain peaks or experiencing the virtual world around them. Maybe they don’t have an attachment to the little starting village where their character first learned how to bind and use a mailbox.

But the experience would be less for a lot of other people without those things.

And what does it mean to be in a guild?

For a lot of people, a guild is their passport to group activities in game. As well as an in-game community, the guild provides a pool of people with whom to run instances. The guild may also have organised activities such as PvP or raiding.

But what if you could do all those things without a guild? What does the guild mean to people then?

And again, back to the social conundrum. The people who enjoy being in a guild will still guild up. But the people who didn’t care and were only tolerating the guild in order to get to the content may find it easier not to bother.

If the random raid PUG really takes off on a server, a lot of raid guilds will find it increasingly difficult to recruit. Why would you sign up to a guild with a fixed raid schedule when you could just log on when you had some free time and find a raid then? Maybe if you are really committed to the hard modes it would still be necessary (until Blizzard include a hard mode looking for raid interface with extra checks).

Ultimately, this really is a good thing. People shouldn’t feel forced to join guilds and work at their schedules just to get to the group content. They should join guilds because they want the community and feel of being in a guild. The game will be much more pleasant for everyone if the people who prefer not to be part of a community have the option to opt out.

Some things never change

One thing is for sure though: no matter how many servers are thrown into the mix, there will still never be enough tanks or healers to go around. But at least the random dungeon won’t have to be the Oculus.

I’m planning to keep a diary of my PUGs after this feature goes live, to see how it goes. I’ll run at least one random dungeon a day. So if nothing else, you’ll be able to see how I cope with the unwashed PvP-server masses … and vice versa.

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24 thoughts on “A day in the life of cross-server PUGs

  1. yeah, there’s a lot of things to ponder upon. I’m definitely not done with my own thinking!

    About the threat towards the raiding guilds if the Looking-for-raid feature becomes cross-realm: I don’t necessarily think it’s one thing or the other. I love my raiding guild and attend all 25 man raids I possibly can. But I just can’t make any 10 man, since the schedule doesn’t work for me. So I pug, for the fun of raiding, for practice and for gearing up. It doesn’t replace my guild. It’s a complement. And I think that’s the case for many of them who are doing raid pugs.

    • Now imagine how many people in your 25 man raiding guilds would be just as happy running 25 man PUGs (or at least, what they lose from the community, they gain from being more in control of their own schedule).

      I think if nothing else, we’ll see which raid groups have the best communities and keep most of their players.

  2. This is actually a great change. I guess I may even return doing 5-mans (that I’ve never done since ages)

    It’s also a tool to make crazy premades cross servers. That will be my Monday post.

  3. Oops, just read after it, it’s yet unclear how much the group would be able to kick those who don’t belong to the premade just turned up randomly.

    So I rather wait until I see it with my own eyes and be sure it works as I hope.

  4. I think guilds have been fading for some time.

    At their best WoW (and EQ before) guilds are Communistic. Everyone works hard for the common good. People use their trade skills, run people through attunements, etc etc.

    This reached its peak in TBC when the demands on certain members of the guilds was extreme. Backflagging for Tier 5 before they lifted attunements was a terrible chore. Some tanks had done Heroic Slave Pens hundreds of times just to backflag people in guilds with high churn.

    My last WoW guild had 4 people who put in the extra work and 30 people who didn’t. After a while 2 of those people burned out. Then I quit.

    We were stuck in a perpetual loop of having 20 or so people for 25 man content and only 2 of us recruited on a server where recruitment was very slow. By the time we got 3 new people 3 people would have got fed up and moved on.

    So I think this is a very good solution to a basic problem: the cooperative goodwill that players HAD to develop to play Everquest and which dominated early WoW raid culture has been fading and fading over the years.

  5. Don’t forget that guilds will have talent points in the next expansion – including extra experience and extra gold. I think the better guilds will have no problems recruiting in 4.0.

  6. My biggest concern is not mentioned sofar. I like pugging I do it all over on my server. And it is running pretty well. ToC and even ToGC raid can be pugged with my mage.
    Sometimes it consists of 50%-80% guild members sometime it is a wild mixture. And beside of ToGC we have been pretty successfull.

    But:

    I am playing on a RP server. Mainly because of the naming convetions for players. I would really hate to be in a group with ROXXOR KILLER UBERMAGE or what ever you can think of.

    If I will loose the image of being in a virtual fantasy world. This may be the nail on the coffin to leave this game.

    But lets see. I am looking forward to your PUG dairy.

  7. as it happens, just had a guest posting yesterday which kind of was in connection to what I had planned to write today, and this post just helped me to coin my thoughts in a coherrent whole.

    I may be seeing only doom and gloom in PUGging, but…

    C out

  8. They should introduce an LFG channel which can be joined from everywhere in the world but the main cities. That way you would have a useful channel with all the useful people in it and you would exclude the /trade spam kids.

    > but at the end of the day you’ll still be
    > able to arrange groups old-style using the LFG
    > channel if you want to know in advance who you
    > will be with.

    Not really. There is an additional reward for using the interface, therefore people will use the interface and there will not be enough people left to PUG with then without the interface.

  9. I faction transferred my Draenei Priest to a Blood Elf Priest on Argent Dawn and have been pugging ever since and I’d had not one experience of a bad PUG. They ahve all gone really well, sure we’ve had a few snags along the way (I hate King Dred) but everything has gone great, I’m picking up badges and gearing up. I look forward to some day casually raiding like I did on my Shaman. Obviously I am worried about the scare stories from PUGs (I’ve got some of my own) and opening up cross-server to groups does offer potential for them to get worse.

  10. This is an half-assed feature with benefits and drawbacks, but it is still a crude bandaid.

    Basically, they created a server-based game and now want to have the benefits of the one-shard model a la Champions Online or Guild Wars.

    Which works perfectly if the GAME is suddenly to run the same holes in the ground, aka dungeons & raid dungeons, over and over.

    @Dlangar forwarded this recently on Twitter:
    @mmpow: Removing the World from Virtual Worlds – http://bit.ly/1bZOzd [A great read.]

    I think this is going on there. Travel in WoW has become so fast and convenient that the sense of scope and the whole world become really small by now. The paradox is that I am all for convenient travel, getting into Moria from the outside is a pain in LOTRO e.g.. But someone said on Tobold’s blog “Now I will never ever have to leave Dalaran again” -> ha, he clearly does not do daily quests! ;)

    But I think this is a fundamental change in World of Warcraft. They created a wonderful WORLD of Warcraft, why are they now reducing their own game to this?

    They should call WoW from now on DUNGEON RUNNERS, the game recently went down, maybe they can buy the name. SCNR.

    I am not sure if they are going to entice more people into returning to WoW. I wonder if Cataclysm is going to have staying power. I thought they wanted to re-vitalize the WORLD of Azeroth, but such things only confirm the mindset to rush through the levelling content even faster to finally reach the blasted endgame.

    • this.

      Also, the WORLD of Warcraft was what created the huge success in the beginning. Not the stupid raids no one cared back then about.

    • i NEVER do dailies. it would be like rewarding blizzard with my approval of the design of dailies. i”ll raid, but fuck heroic dailies, wrangling nether rays, or playing simon says.

  11. I don’t think this is a terrible idea, and part of the reason I feel that way is that I dispose the “server” concept and the server community mentality. It was a nice sense of comraderie at one point, but the pain of having to find friends of 12 different servers, or meeting new friends that play your game that you’d like to play with only to find out that you’d have to start all over to do so is just unnecesary. That’s why I actually prefer the instances games like Champions because then I know if someone is playing that game, I can play with them.

    As for the guilds, I think you may have a valid concern. I think what will happen is you’ll see the creation of mega-guilds, who want to focus on guild points and leveling, and the ressurection of the small, 6-man guild of friends who just enjoy playing together and who don’t mind PUGging everything.

    • Good luck, if you’re hoping the random function put you and your friend from another realm in the same PUG. :-)

      They don’t remove the disadvantages of realms with that system. They only take away the advantages. :-)

  12. Newp, no interest whatsoever. Good on whoever decides to do this, but I’ve personally never had issues getting a group on my server and I don’t PUG so … I’m not really interested in changing that.

    Now if WoW were just 1 seamless server like EVE, it’d be different because it’d be ingrained that we were all one community. As it is, the battlegrounds that do this welcome all manner of mouthbreathers from other servers and is one reason I don’t do BGs outside my guild.

  13. Guilds would have to be about 1) the social aspects and 2) getting a guaranteed skill level and attitude match from your group.

    Since gear no longer means anything, a pug will be full of people of disparate skill levels and you’ll have people who won’t flask or people who have green gems or people who are excessively elitist pricks, all mixed. I think guilds will still be attractive. :)

    • They’ll certainly still be attractive to people who like guilds anyway.

      The more I think about it though, I think the best players will tend to always be guilded because good guilds just offer the best and most supportive environment in which to learn to play. I know I’d much rather go into a new instance with 4 guildies at my back than in a PUG.

      • True.

        It’s just nice that guilds will no longer be a requirement, just an option for people who like them.

        Also if you are in the position we were in of having 20 people for each raid you don’t have to recruit or die. Nor will people have to recruit any idiot just to fill out the spots.

  14. Here’s another take. I’m a casual but decent player. I got into group play/raids with a very patient and instructive guild, which unfortunately lost most of it’s membership last Spring. Now we scramble to get enough people to sign-up for 5man Heroics once weekly.

    I haven’t done VoA since the new bosses were added despite running WG 5x a week. I can’t get invited into a pug because I can’t guarantee 3.5K DPS and I’ve not done the fights yet. I can only offer 2.7K self-buffed on a dummy which doesn’t seem to turn heads.

    Reading the above comments is certainly one reason that I rarely try to bullshit my way into a pug. People can be DICKS to new/casual players trying their best. People typically just want to blaze through an instance for their 100th time and move on. It’s intimidating and NOT FUN.

    All you studs who handpick pugs will have no problem getting your pugs when this new system drops, it may even be easier because the casuals won’t be bothering you anymore.

    I am looking forward to being able to try the daily heroic without sacrificing my pride, or wasting 2 hours begging for a group that rarely happens. Sure there will still be dorks, and I may get kicked occasionally, I may also be able to find others like me who are patient and trying their best.

  15. I think many of those who have raided will agree that PUGs can be a pain. My take on this new feature was that it would make finding a group for the non-wrath dungeon content easier. Am I just being naive, because I don’t really thing this feature is going to bring down guilds.

    I just think this will eliminate the hassel of finding groups, saving everyone some time.

  16. ou may never find out where the instance entrance actually is in the gameworld, if it even has one.

    this totally didn’t occur to me, and is a pretty HUGE deal, world cohesion-wise.

  17. Pingback: A holiday, a holiday, the first one of the year! Best of 2009. « Welcome to Spinksville!

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