Does easier content make for friendlier MMO communities?


A pretty WoW screenshot, being able to fly does give you a good choice for perspectives

It has become a truism in MMOs that behaviour in random pick up groups can be really atrocious. There will be elitist jerks urging everyone to gogogo, pulling extra packs of trash mobs themselves if they think the group isn’t moving fast enough, there will be people acting like idiots purely to annoy the rest of the group, there will be insults, aggression, rage quits,  intolerance towards newbies. It’s like a war out there, put on your kneepads and body armour before venturing into LFG!

It’s also widely held that smaller, more coherent communities tend to be nicer to each other. I’m not so sure this is always true, but guild groups certainly tend to be nicer and more successful because of being willing to work together.

And yet, while I’ve been running at least one heroic a day in WoW, and LFR raids every week too, I just haven’t seen much of the horrible behaviour that gives PUGs such a bad name. The worst I’ve really seen is people leaving the group mid-instance, possibly even mid-pull (which is bad behaviour, yes), and a bit of frustration on raid/party chat which is as often countered by people telling the speaker to chill. It isn’t just that I’m on a more chilled out RP server because LFG/LFR is cross server. Although the world boss groups (Sha of Anger et al) on my server have tended to be particularly chilled out and willing to welcome any warm body who is able to help, even when people are annoyed at being beaten to the pull by Alliance – which happens reasonably often because they outnumber us on the server.

So while it’s not possible to change human nature, I think PUGs have become nicer in MoP than they were in Cataclysm. While this isn’t great for having funny ‘it came from the PUG’ stories to relate in blog posts, it probably does mean that the player base in general is having more fun (where being in aggressive LFGs counts as less fun). The only factors I can put this down to are:

  • People who left because they didn’t like pandas were some of the really annoying folks so the game is nicer without them (I don’t really see why this would be the case but you never know)
  • The instances and LFR are generally easier in MoP and less dependent on every individual performing well. Easier content means that there’s less stress on a group. If people just settle down, chances are they’ll get through it in reasonable time.
  • Less odd trash pulls which need specific tactics (Shado-Pan excepted). If you are looking up instance tactics, they tend to focus on boss fights so making these the main content in instances means there is less for new players to learn.
  • The more hardcore players are still motivated to do regular LFG/ LFR for the tokens, but less gated by inexperienced/ bad players. ie. If you are a decent dps player, chances are you can pull a group through a heroic even if the other two dps get themselves locked out of fights, die in the fires, etc.

I also think Blizzard has done a good job of making the boss fights generally fun, even though the group difficulty is a bit lower. There’s lots of movement, add switching, things to dodge, and all the other stuff that generally switches games up from pure tank and spank fights.

But really, random groups need easier content to make up for the fact that they won’t have as much experience at working together, are less likely to communicate, and are likely to contain players of widely differing skill and experience levels. We’ve seen this in the GW2 dynamic events also – they’re easy, and there’s no group size limits, so any warm body is welcome. I am glad Blizzard have twigged this, because their group content is one of the strong points of WoW and making PUGs more fun for everyone (newbies and hardcore alike) is a huge win for the game.

Bashiok actually says as much on the official forums:

While you may go in with a ((random)) group and all learn something, that a specific mob needs to be CC’d, or a certain boss behavior to avoid a wipe, those lessons are more than likely out the window with the next group you’re matched with ((…)) and most people don’t want to spend every run waiting for everyone else to learn all those same lessons. That can just be a frustrating experience. So instead of trying to force a group of strangers to be so heavily coordinated (maybe even having to jump into voice chat) just to complete the first steps of progression, we reduce the complexity to a point where the random groups that are being put together can most of the time be successful without needing to be hyper-organized or educated on each pull. Instead, that organization is far more important for the organized content where random people aren’t matched together: normal and Heroic raids.

Do you think the WoW community has become more pleasant in PUGs in this expansion?

23 thoughts on “Does easier content make for friendlier MMO communities?

    • I remember that from CoH too, from my limited experience. Both that the group content was less difficult, and also that the community seemed friendlier in groups.

  1. Wish I could agree, but on my Mistweaver monk, I have had some of the worst experiences of my now seven years of WoW experience. Atrocious. The worst is that it’s usually the tanks displaying some of the worst behavior, in a horrible mix of rudeness and sheer sense of entitlement. Some samples:

    – druid tank doesn’t win the roll for the drop he wanted (good luck with two monks in the group), pulls the next two rooms and drops mid-fight.
    – warrior tanks throws a hissy fit after a wipe when the shadow priest who’s back in the instance doesn’t immediately rez him and objects to being called ‘priest’. After first boss is dead, tank tries to votekick the spriest. Votekick fails, so he bullies the priest until he leaves of his own accord.
    – Tanks who aren’t really tanks (ret pally queuing as tank) and like to yell abuse at their groups.

    Of course the crappy behavior is not limited to tanks. 95% of all instances is dominated by DPS pulling willy-nilly and tanks trying to keep up with the pace. Tanks complain and get ridiculed for it. In one example, the tank in Scarlet Monastery announced a short afk (which wasn’t really short) and in that time 3 different DPS pulled Brother Karloff + trash, causing a wipe. Three wipes in under 5 minutes. When the tank came back, the 3 folks votekicked him, reason being ‘faggot’.

    But maybe there’s hope. Yesterday I did Scholomance, and the tank and two DPS asked me to please not heal the warrior that displayed all the above mentioned examples. The warrior pulled whole rooms, never waited for the tank, and need-rolled on everything. I have no idea why they didn’t kick him, but as I didn’t heal him, he spent a lot of time on corpse runs.

    To me, this is a low point in WoW community. The misery started in the 20s, and my monk is now level 42 and it’s still much the same. I can only hope this balances out in higher levels. The few heroics I have pugged as tank have been fairly pleasant, unlike the bottom of the barrel of the lowbie instances.

  2. Experiences like what Kadomi commented are what made me stop doing dungeons altogether. People being complete and utter asshats and ridiculing other people, being rude and vicious, and just generally acting like the world owes them everything because hey, no one else has feelings, right?

    Sorry, I’m not putting up with stupid crap like “gogogogogo lol omgwtf l2p” aimed at me or someone else.

    People act in shitty ways because there’s absolutely no consequences for their behavior.

  3. I think it depends right now. I can honestly say that as far as low level BGs go, there’s absolutely no difference between Mists and Cata. There’s still a high volume of asshats and jerks out there, but the main difference for me is that because I’m now playing a Rogue I get to gank them if they’re on the other side.

    What I think you’re seeing, Spinks, is the effect of so many dailies.

    If too many people are trying to run the same content over and over to get the necessary badges, then you’ll see the asshats more frequently. But dailies as an alternative (or necessary) component is available, and the need to do dailies will spread out the number of people queuing up for a heroic at any given time, and the asshats are also correspondingly spread out.

    From what I can tell, WoW hasn’t returned to pre-LFD era politeness, and it probably never will. But I’m also not sure what is better: a succession of lower annoying asshats in several instances, or a string of nice instances punctuated by a colossal nerd raging idiot (or two) in the last one.

    • I don’t know that pre-LFD WoW was significantly more polite than it is now, it’s just that the people who didn’t have a guild capable of running content were often invisible to the people who were. Think about behavior on the Isle of Quel’Danas. I remember just as much idiocy as you see now, it was just more dispersed.

      • I was thinking of the impact of your reputation as a player if you were an asshat in the pre-LFD days. In the era of the multi-server LFD grouping, there’s no social pressure to not behave like an asshat, whereas in the pre-LFD days you and/or your guild ended up with social repercussions in-game if you developed a reputation for asshatery.

        Believe me when I say that I like what LFD did for the game, because it enabled folks like me who play at odd hours to get some instance running in. But at the same time, it’s also a tradeoff, because people feel that they can get away with anything in an LFD. And they often do.

    • I’m not really thinking of pre-LFD WoW, because I don’t know how well I trust my memory on that. But I definitely have experienced MoP LFG heroic (and LFR actually) groups as being better behaved than Cataclysm ones, so I guess I’m wondering if other people have seen that too or whether it’s just fluke.

  4. Unfortunately, they seem to have unlearned the lesson for LFR this expansion. I’m not finding it to be much fun. If that doesn’t improve I’ll be out in December when my current month expires.

  5. I don’t remember groups in Cata being all that terrible. Oh yeah, you had the occasional jerkass, but nothing that would lead me to believe that everyone is like this. Some of the worst groups I had were back in TBC and Wrath pre-LFD. Back then you were far less likely to just kick out a jerk, because there was no easy way to get another one.

  6. Coming back to Mist after having not played for almost 2 years I’ve refused to Tank in PuGs unless for my own guild or Friends. Not much friends after all that time away and I’m still the only lvl 90 in my barely active guild.

    Back in TBC and in Wrath I was a poster boy for Tanking All thing PuGs and Heroics like no tomorrow. I’d Tank everything back then, there couldn’t be a group too bad to Tank in. That was how I became a great Tank forged in PuGs back then. In Cataclysm PuGs got so bad and LFG in general it played a huge reason why I quit WoW and only just returning for Mist.

    Today, given state of WoW with LFG and PuGs I refuse to go in and tank fir any PuG group period! I’ll DPS, but I’m not Tanking in any.

  7. I just wanted to comment that I feel a community with longevity and commitment probably helps the attitude a bit. However, I’ve never enjoyed casual PUG experiences and frankly found it very stressful and unpleasant in WoW, enough so that I avoided it because of the horrible people and attitudes; I’m just too polite in game to not get walked all over. But my point of contention is about whether liking pandaren is a sign of “bad vs. good” and I think that’s irrelevant; I’m a very courteous and friendly player but it doesn’t change the fact that I am weirded out by the pandaren and dislike the “furry” cartoon look of the race. I’d have picked up MoP by now if I both hadn’t burned out on WoW and found other, friendlier communities in other games, as well.

  8. I honestly have had very few problems with bad attitudes in LFD so far. Oh, there’s certainly been a couple cases where a tank throws a hissy fit, pulls, and leaves, or similarily a DPSer, but for the most part people have been polite or at least quiet.

    LFR is a mildly different story. With the ilvl barrier, there seems to be an interesting pull between people who are capable but are generally asshats, people who are incapable and god knows how the heck they managed to get into LFR because judging by their behaviour they probably stood in all the fires in LFD and caused their healers no amount of stress but are really vocal about other people failing, and the grand majority of people who are in the middle, non-vocal and quietly sufficiently competent. And what I’ve noticed so far? The complete asshats are usually running with their guild of 10 – 15 people, in little danger of being vote-kicked.

    I mean, we complain and all, but I’d have to say that most of my experiences have been neutral to positive.

  9. @Ardent Defender I encourage you to give tanking a go in LFD. It is MUCH better than Cata LFD. Firstly the instances are much better tuned for a casual relaxing run. The DPS are much better behaved, with the worst being people dropping after a boss didn’t drop their loot, who are easily replaced. Plate DPS will roll on tanking gear, but then I’ll roll on DPS gear, so we’re equal. 🙂

    Finally vengeance encourages you to keep pulling providing the healers have mana.

  10. Interesting theory. I can’t comment on MoP pugs, but I would have expected the opposite, that harder content makes for friendlier communities, because there is an actual benefit to co-operating with your fellow players in such an environment. Also, I’m not sure I would describe a community where people more or less ignore each other because they’ll succeed regardless of everyone else’s behaviour as actively “friendly”.

    • Personal observation is that what caused the issues in Cata (and I personally did have problems running instances in Cata even Deadmines) was the change between Wrath and Cata. In Wrath instance were fairly easy, in Cata they got more difficult and the go-go-go people with short fuses who expected 20-30 minute runs lost it. I took advantage of a come-back-to-WoW offer about 3 months after Cata’s release and I played for a week. In that week I could not complete a single instance

      I think harder instances do make for more social PUGs. When you have to talk about tactics and assign roles beyond tanking and healing such as crowd-control and buffing then the communication barrier breaks down and people start talking to each other.

      To sum up: I don’t think that the Easier Content makes for Friendlier Communities theory necessarily holds true. For one thing how do you measure friendly, because the current WoW community would seem to fall very far short in that regard. I do think that introducing ‘hard’ content to a community that expects face-roll content is going to lead to a lot of frayed nerves.

      • You’re right, it does depend a lot on how you define ‘friendlier’.

        I take the view that people are far far more averse to angry, aggressive groups than they are biased towards chatty ones, so my definition is mostly around how to minimise the amount of nastiness. I don’t care if people aren’t pro-social (well, I do, but for the purposes of this exercise I’ll count ‘says nothing’ as being friendly).

        But even beyond WoW, I’d say that public groups are going to be friendlier – at least to newbies and less experienced players – when the content isn’t too challenging. I’ve seen that in Rift and GW2, the public dynamic events aren’t hard if you have enough people and public groups are fairly chilled out. I don’t think they would be if the content was difficult.

  11. I don’t know about difficulty – I think matching levels of capability makes for better groups. A lot of the PuG drama seems to come from tension between the uber-geared guys doing this dungeon for the millionth run and the newly levelled guy here for the first time. Groups learning a dungeon together seem a lot more tolerant of wipes and delays than when you have some people learning and others farming.

  12. I find pugs generally well behaved and competent enough to finish instances. My worst experience comes from before LFD, I played a hunter and was on a half dead server. If I was out of luck and my tank friends completed their daily, I could have kissed goodbye to doing instances. LF 1 more DPS – mage is what my pugging experience boiled down to in those days. I am probably one of the silent masses who actually benefited from the system.

  13. I’ve found my experiences in MoP to be the opposite of what you’re encountering.

    Cataclysm was rough near the beginning, but I really believe that after a few months, the difficulty of the dungeons caused pug groups to develop at least a certain amount of patience, cooperation, and some tolerance for mistakes. I found it far more enjoyable than the LFG environment in late WotLK.

    In MoP, the gogogo mentality is back in force, DPS pull when they feel like it regardless of the tank or healer’s readiness, people leave or kick at the slightest inconvenience, outbursts of profanity for no reason, and a strange refusal to call people by their names (When did so many people decide it was to was too hard to call me something other than ‘tank’? I’ve always seen that as a bad sign)

    All these behaviours have been part of WoW since the beginning, but in MoP the number of incidents seems far higher to me. I used to enjoy pugging as a way to meet new people in the game, but now I’m retreating more and more into a close circle of guildies and a few RealID friends.

  14. Pingback: Around the ‘Sphere: Maturity | T.R. Red Skies

  15. Well, we all know the pitfalls of making generalizations from anecdotal evidence, but I don’t think gameplay has that much of an effect on community at all. It’s the crowd itself. People tend to be ‘nicer’ in novel situations and smaller communities. WoW is an old MMO with a large population of jaded/power gamers. To them, other players are just necessary evils of the genre. The community may become friendlier when this group moves on.

  16. The issue with player behavior primarily is due to the LFD/LFR tool.
    Pre tool – Back in BC, you had to manually (and often slowly) form groups from tradechat or area chat.
    If you got an idiot or douchebag in your group, word quickly spread to your guild, other players in the run guild, and eventually the whole server.
    I can remember more than a few players who were essentially banned from running heroics as their history of bad behavior had caught up with them.

    Then came LFD. At first the self imposed good behavior of players seemed to work, but it didn’t take it long to begin to degrade.
    People quickly caught on that there were nominal repercussions if one acted like a douchebag. Sure you might get votekicked, but just queue right back up once the timer had expired. – and the timers for kicking people allowed quite a large amount of mischief and annoyance to be done before they could be kicked.

    As long as there are no significant downsides for behaving badly, people will continue to do so.

    The nerfing of content with the panda expansion is just making it easier – both 85-90 content and the massive difficulty nerfs with leveling dungeons.
    You can deliberately pull all sorts of stunts and not die.

    Ive been leveling up a protection paladin (with heirlooms) and at around level 60 after a woeful group I realised it was easier to solo instances from then on than run with a group of retards. Sure instances wouldn’t be completed as quickly, but I would be getting FAR more exp from the trash (rediculous amounts actually), no run sabotage and all the loot :o)

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