State of the LFD: Repetition, repetition, repetition

Patch 3.3 in WoW was released in the US back on the 8th December 2009. That means we have had the random dungeon finder for almost three months – my how time flies when you’re having fun.

There’s no doubt that the new tool has been a great success. It has never been easier to find a 5-man dungeon run on any toon at any level than it is right now. Queues are still virtually instant for tanks, and not much longer for healers, which just shows that there are more dps wanting to run instances than there are tanks and healers. So tanks in particular make up less than 20% of the population and a lot of people on hybrid characters aren’t interested in tanking. None of this is surprising. And the wait for dps to get into a group is still a lot less than if people had to form up on their own servers using trade chat.

However, there have been some big challenges for the new tool also.

  • Throwing people with wildly different playing styles together leads to friction. Not only that, but this can put a lot of pressure on new 80s, newer players, and people trying to learn new specs.
  • Cyber-bullying. People find new and interesting ways to grief each other whenever any new functionality is added.
  • Can the hardware cope with the added activity?
  • Burnout.

Throwing random people together into a group can lead to friction, but can also work out. It all depends on the individuals. So it’s a challenge, but not by any means an impossible one. The player base just needs to decide whether it’s able and willing to work together on common goals or not with random people. Issues like rolling need/ greed on frozen orbs, rolling on offspec gear, and the like will sort themselves out in the wash. We won’t all end up agreeing, but we will all end up with some variety of widely accepted compromise.

Cyber-bullying is a larger subject than this post (maybe a future post, or series of posts), and has been going on ever since people have been able to communicate online. It’s nasty and pernicious, but in a PUG you always have the option to just leave and log out. And to put the offender on /ignore, which guarantees not only that you never have to hear from them again, but that the dungeon tool will never group you with them again either.

Hardware is a problem that can be fixed by throwing more money at it. In fact, I haven’t seen a full instances screen at all lately, which makes me think that this is exactly what Blizzard have been doing.

So let’s talk about burnout

People burn out on games for all sorts of different reasons.

  • Run out of goals. You’ve done everything that you want in the game, and you’re bored.
  • Hit the brick wall. There are barriers preventing you from doing your remaining goals in the game, and you see no way to overcome them. And so you’re bored.
  • Repetition ad infinitum. There are goals remaining for you in the game but you would rather skin yourself alive with a potato peeler than set foot into ((overly repetitive content of choice)) ever again.
  • Dramageddon. There are goals remaining for you in the game but you don’t ever want to play with these people again and they’re in your guild, on your server, and you may even know them in real life. You can’t get away from them without leaving the game. But doing stuff with them is driving you nuts.
  • Future goals trump current goals. There are current goals remaining for you in the game, but you choose not to pursue them because it would make it harder for you in future. For example, you choose not to level a new alt now because you want to save it for Cataclysm. So you’re bored until then.

Often many of these conditions apply at the same time. If you are bored anyway because you have run out of goals, you may be more irritable with your guild (and vice versa if many of them are also bored.) Hitting barriers in game also tends to dent the mood, especially if other friends don’t face these issues. (Maybe they just have more time to play.)

Repetition, however, is the game killer. All PvE MMOs rely heavily on some kind of grind, whether you need to grind for crafting materials, or daily quests, or instances, or raids. And for happy players, these grinds are a bonus. They let a player settle into a comfortable daily routine in game, which is fun for a lot of people.

It’s the same comfortable grind which makes so many facebook games so appealing. MMOs aren’t so very far from that mould. It’s just that while levelling you don’t see the repetition so strongly as at endgame. So when a player is bored of the endgame repetition, something’s got to give.

Wrath has encouraged more endgame repetition than any previous expansion in Warcraft. Doubling up of the 10 and 25 man instances has meant many people run the same raid instance several times a week. Ease of gearing alts has meant that people  can (if they choose) run heroics several times a day on different alts. And then raid several extra times a week on those alts too.

So there are plenty of ways for a player to fill in the extra hours in WoW – and even easier if you raid and are on a busy server with lots of pick up raids running. But they are extremely repetitive. The thrill of playing and learning a new alt will wear off in time, and it will wear off more quickly in Wrath because it’s just that much easier to access the content.

So whilst improved access to content is removing some of the barriers which had been causing burnout before — people getting burned out because they needed to run those heroics and raids to gear up but just couldn’t get the groups — instead people are playing more and then hitting repetition burnout.

Bored players, +  5-man random heroics = ???

I’m not saying that everyone is bored, that would be silly.

But increasingly I’m finding that I get sloppy in 5 mans. I can’t be bothered to tackle the pulls neatly, and we’re over geared enough that no one cares whether I do or not (except me) and it won’t affect the result anyway.

This increase of well geared players who simply don’t care as much as they used to is starting to drag the instances down. People still run them enthusiastically, they still want the badges, and they still want to play alts. But increasingly, I’m seeing people very obviously not bothering to play as well as they could. And while it’s fine to chill out in 5 man instance runs when you are over geared, I think that all the repetition is taking its toll.

The LFD tool isn’t doomed by any means. It’s holding up well. But it might not be a bad thing if some of those bored players took a break from random 5 mans for awhile, both for them and for the rest of the player base.

And as for the state of the game? Blizzard are taking the smart step in the next mini-patch with nudging bored PvE players towards battlegrounds, where the repetition is broken up by getting to compete against other players.

Plus a new-mini raid with some dragons, and new shiny loot to entice everyone who isn’t Arthas’ed out on raiding this expansion.

And perhaps more enticing still … hints of new pre-Cataclysm changes, and quests, possibly heralding more content for solo players too.

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19 thoughts on “State of the LFD: Repetition, repetition, repetition

  1. I wonder if scaling to party size can be the answer to 10/25 man raids. It was a beginning to offer two raid sizes, after all.

    But it is also a lot of work, and the scaling does not always work. STO simply adds extra enemies per player, not taking in account anything else. LOTRO did not support duo “skirmishes” so far, it was either 1,3, full party or raid sized.

    Then is also the question of gear rewards. Players will for sure say, how comes a solo or 3-man-player gets the same gear drop as our 40 man raid? IMO: Introduce the boss/loot chest system of Guild Wars. Everyone has a chance to get everything by chance. But there will only be a 3% drop chance for Shadowmourne… ;)

    Some adjustments to the importance of loot (loot lust may be a strong motivating factor, but it is also one of the most primitive, as are excessive tits & boobs in advertisment) and also a change of the focus of a game and the player mentality would be necessary as well.

    REPETITION: One of the ideas of the Guild Wars model was that players get bored, move away, but come back for the next chapter. But slowly they added more grind to the game that promised to have no grind.

    Somehow MMO players hate repetition, but in the end cry for “something to do”. Thus the daily quest was born. I call it the unimaginative daily chore in place of proper new content or meaningful things to do in the world.

    But Blizzard is working on the MMO of the future already… and I wonder if years of experience, polishing and improving established game designs/mechanics plus the luxury of being able to release “when it’s done” might not end in the creation of the next holy grail of MMO design. :)

  2. I just can’t wait until my priest is past Gnomer level. I’ve attempted to run the place twice on her, and both times some prick decides to pull a whole bunch of mobs and leave for no reason. I mean the tanking was fine, the healing was great, and things were dying, but all the sudden someone gets an urge to dick it up.

  3. I’ve recently picked up playing WoW again and I’ve been leveling my paladin alt. I just wrote about it last night actually on my blog. My goals are to learn how to tank, heal and dps properly in BGs and dungeons (while leveling). I feel that the random dungeons, being so easy to access, are a way of having people play their characters up through 80 and trying different specs on the way up. I have several 80’s that didn’t touch any alt specs or even do a lot of the cool classic vanilla dungeons that I really loved because no one would group. I used to just level in greens and got to 80 as fast as possible. And then it was hell at 80 trying to learn how to heal a huge raid. I knew a lot of players who just rushed through to end game as well, another reason no one wanted to group back then in vanilla dungeons!

    The RDF is probably one of the best things I’ve seen Blizz implement in a long time, it’s been great for my alt anyway. I also noticed it seems to be other players in my battlegroup even though it’s a dungeon finder, so it’s probably using the same technology to find you “random” players, but it seems to be battlegroup related. Is that what you’ve noticed?

    Anyway when they get the random bg finder going, my shaman is going to be very happy, I’m more into WoW pvp anyway.

    • Well spotted. The dungeon finder is based on which battlegroup you are in, which is why you’ll only see players from the same subset of servers.

      I think on RP servers, we’d prefer to run instances with the other RP servers, but ofc the battlegrounds were devised to give a good mix so I doubt that will ever happen.

  4. Cyber-bullying is alive and well. It’s getting to the point that I’m considering queuing as a healer and not dps to try and get around it.

    Two days in a row now, I have had carry more than my weight. If this keeps up, the kick system needs to be revised.

    Last night’s experience was terrible. After a 15mins queue, I get into HAN. Turns out I’m the pug as the other 4 are guilded. The other 2 dps proceed to go afk for the ENTIRE run. My option is to plug ahead and deal with it and wind up with a slightly longer than normal run, or drop and waste an additional 30mins of my life. (15mins debuff + 15mins queue time as dps) They needed on every possible item despite the disenchant option being available and did almost no damage for the entire run. (They were all 4500-5000GS.) I hope this won’t become a new trend.

    Sorry for the rant.

  5. I’m with you on 5 mans causing some problems related to sloppiness. My issue with them, however, is that they contribute to sloppiness in raids.

    For undergeared and appropriately geared people, 5 mans are a great place to hone your skills. In particular, they’re a great way to get exposure to a variety of playstyles and boss mechanics.

    For the overgeared, however, 5 mans encourage bad habits. People run a bunch of heroics all week and get used to not watching Omen, neglecting their interrupts, not precasting, not watching their buffs/soulstones or using consumables, and attacking whomever they want. Then we all get together for raid night and wonder why it’s so sloppy for the first hour.

  6. I have to say that I don’t like what I’m seeing in the LFD… its creating a lot of rudeness out there… and afk abuse… they aught to disable the “follow” feature in these instances… because a lot of “professional” levelers are signing up with two accounts/toons and dragging one along… claiming all sorts of ridiculous excuses like… its my girlfriend or little brother who’s playing… baloney.

    Not that I’m against girlfriends or little brothers play… I happen to be a father of a 10 year old and we both love WOW… but the rudeness is giving me pause in my thinking concerning letting him use LFD.
    For example (QQ) the other day I just got with a group in BRD… i’m working on my Warlock alt… and the pali tank goes blazing forward while the rest of us are still buffing up… soulstones.. etc…

    When we catch up our death knight dps death-grips the single mob the tank has been hammering solo for the minute before we all caught up to him… the tank freaks out in disbelief! Ok… I agree weird move or maybe a jumbled keystroke… but the DK says he’s sorry and the tank says he’s kicking the DK first chance he gets. The DK then says “i’m olny 9 years old”… and I chuckle and start writing a quick note on dungeon etiquette… in the mean time the tank responds “I seriously could care less how old you are” and the poor DK kid abandons the group. That left me so flat (maybe its because my son is 10 and I get it) that I left the party too… who needs that kind of intensity anyway?

    What ever happened to the days of comaradery and helping eachother out… and laughing at the occasional transgression? As a tool for leveling LFD is great… but as a tool for enjoying the game it comes with a lot of caveats.

    • Is not the minimum player age 12? At least in the EU?

      Now I say this not becuase I’d be rude or ‘cos I think a 9 year old cant play well (I’ve seen 9 year olds who are far brighter, mature and capable of skills and abilities than a lot of folk, including myself) but becuase I know several parents that let their kids play and it worries me. I mean there are some real scum out there and some of them play WoW. ‘Deeprun Tram is a nest of ****philes’ to mis-quote Penny Arcade. Ofc the only one I followed up on had Dad in attendance and chat turned firmly off! But still. I recall my wife helping some newbie out and getting the kid stalk her, tell her he was 9 or 10 and his real name. Now my Mrs used to work in schools and is still CRB (Criminal Records Beureau) registered as a person safe to have around kids/sensative data…so she told them to a)stop following her and b)never ever tell people online your name or age! But heck its worrying. I in no way impune your parenting here Kanobi….just an unease about kids in WoW.

  7. The biggest problem leading to the boredom, I think, is that the dungeons were designed to provide a challenge to people just getting decked out in top-end blue gear and earning an epic or two via Emblems of Heroism. Except we’re running them and getting gear that’s a solid four or five tiers above that, making most of the equipment in the instance almost irrelevant and making the power curve ridiculous.

    For instance: back when the expansion first launched, people would struggle to get Anub’arak down fast enough in Azjol-Nerub to get the achievement. Now, it happens almost without trying, so much so that my wife’s freshly-80 healer picked it up during a routine run.

    Equipment has always had a bit of a deforming effect upon WoW’s endgame, but never moreso than this expansion, where T9 has now become almost the baseline for players, and any subtlety to the fights is lost amidst massive health pools and damage portions.

    Standing in things is irrelevant, as healers can power through the damage.

    Damage spikes are irrelevant as tanks have soaked up huge amounts of health and damage reduction.

    Add are irrelevant, as they can be slashed to ribbons in seconds.

    The only way most bosses get to use any of their special abilities is by fixed timers that prevent players from speeding past them, a la King Ymiron’s boats. And even then, it’s unlikely in the extreme that most of the abilities will amount to anything.

    We’re now all strutting about in equipment far ahead of the actual difficulty curve in Heroics. We’re bored because they’ve stopped being even remotely challenging and started being badge pinatas with a full set of tier equipment as the candy within.

  8. I tell ya when our alt DK tank pulled a load of packs in Utgarde t’other morning it woke me up bigtime!

    That and the Druid Tank with 26k health fully buffed in Heroic HoL have been the only real healy challenge I’ve had outside of raids recently. For a little I did start getting sloppy (Sorry Mrs Spinks!) but then I buckled down and said – I’ll stay healy for it all unless its CoS or VH and we have a maintank along and do my job right. I find myself more and more letting alts heal the ‘Uber runs’ and dropping my healer into low geared alt-tank runs or flat PuGs just to keep my game up….that Druid had already lost his first healer and must have thought X-mass had arrived when the full t10 Resto Shammy ported in. :)

  9. I had a bad day in PUGs yesterday. Luckily, Spinks was alongside me for most of it, which meant we could still laugh about it. Name calling is rife – I am a noob, should be banned from playing, etc. Interesting, given that the name calling started after someone said ‘gogogo’ and, err, went. I sat at the back, watching them die… I could have rescued them, but basically – some people don’t heal stupid. I don’t tank stupid, right now.

    Is this attitude of ‘gogogo’ purely boredom? It’s guaranteed to ensure I make people wait a couple of minutes before I start. But you also get ‘Need to run fast, I have raid in ten minutes’. Well yes, some of these things can be run in ten minutes. But not all. CoS? What would people do, just drop the moment they enter? Why yes. Yes, they would.

    Boredom is, in part, an issue of the player’s own creation. I had much more fun pottering through three back to back heroics with Spinks on various alts yesterday than if I’d gone alone. LFG doesn’t *replace* running with friends. And having a friend or two means you can laugh at those moments again. Or at least have moral support as you quit the party in disgust. :-) Enjoy the social interaction as you go. Those moments of laughter can make the whole thing much more enjoyable.

    I just wish that a few other random people I’ve grouped with could take it a little less seriously and at least enjoy the scenery and comradeship on their travels. The fights/instances are currently boring. My friends? Never.

    • Very true. The most fun I’ve had of late has been running randoms with other members of my guild – we’re still being sloppy, but it has less to do with boredom and more to do with bad jokes and laughter. The enemies are not our main focus.

  10. I hear ya on getting sloppy in heroics, I have to really clamp down on myself to tank with anything resembling skill.

    My guildie healers always complain that its too easy for them to heal and I tend to get sloppy about standing in stuff when I hear that, or even intentionally stand in stuff just so they have something to do. I’ve even played “spin the dragon” a few times by getting a DK to pop army.

    I’m not yet close to burning out, but only because when we do guild runs in heroics we tend to do stupid stuff on purpose just to keep it interesting and fun. Misdirect to the healer is one of my favorites, it at least keeps me on my toes to keep them alive.

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  12. I burned out after a month and a half myself. According to my armory feed I have only run two heroics in the last two weeks. To be honest I’ve hardly logged on other than for scheduled ICC raids in that time – I’ve been mostly playing Atlantica Online, and this weekend having a bit of a play with Darkfall’s one dollar trial.

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