Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dungeon Blues

Well, the new LFG system has been out for just about a month now, and the reviews are…decidedly mixed. It seemed that when the system came out, everyone jumped into LFG/random and loved it. Within a few days, heck, maybe even hours for some – people were gathering Emblems of Frost and were piling Emblems of Triumph at an unprecedented rate, and shelling them out again in an orgy of spending entirely appropriate for the season. Even the World’s Worst Paladin (who is in my guild, and no, it’s not me) decked himself out in 4 pieces of T9 in short order, though I doubt it will help him that much. The concerns about the potential clash of server cultures and the fears that people would use the anonymity of cross-server groups for evil seemed to be largely unfounded. Bosses went down at ridiculous rates, the emblems poured in The world was new again, and everyone was happy (unless you had the misfortune to get Oculus multiple times).

As the month wore on the cracks began appearing in the foundation of the new system. It started up with complaints in guild chat – ‘OMG, this group is FAIL’; ‘This tank can’t hold aggro’, ‘We wiped on the first pull so I dropped’. Perhaps the worst was my GM (Retired) who was Vote-Kicked from a PuG on his druid. Why? They didn’t like the way he was healing. Nobody died and there were no wipes to that point, they just didn’t like something that he was doing (disclaimer: he hadn’t played his Druid in a while and was admittedly rusty, but he’s Ulduar-geared and a good player). Meanwhile, forums and blogs began to fill up with horror stories: DPS running off and pulling mobs from all over; tanks who pay no attention to anybody; bossy healers teleporting out of dungeons mid-fight for slights real or imagined; tanks showing up in the wrong spec, with the wrong gear, and under the defense cap; players of all classes and roles who seem to show zero aptitude for the game, and either an inability or unwillingness to learn. Meanwhile, the tolerance level of skilled players for anyone not equally good sinks lower and lower, and we hear more stories of people being openly scornful of those who are not up to those standards.

It may not be as bad as it sounds. After all there are plenty of times my guildies make no comments whatsoever about the PuGs they’re in (and they pug a lot. There’s plenty who log on and jump right into LFG without ever checking to see if anyone in guild wants to join them, but that’s a rant for another time), and bloggers are more likely to blog about memorable experiences – which typically result from bad experiences. For myself, the few Pugs I’ve run have been brisk, business-like affairs: efficient, but with all the warmth of a politician’s handshake. I have no horror storiers of my own, but then again I’ve pugged with exactly 8 random people since the new LFG launched (yes, I do run random heroics, but I stick to guildies and friends).

Yet the ‘Dungeon Blues’ continues to be sung, and I think Starets Sayas may have put his finger on the cause in a comment he left on a Matticus post:

"When the dungeon finder first started, evidently there were a lot of powerful toons signing up and it was great. But evidently a lot of those toons are back to guild runs or something. Because the last few days, it seems like I’m being asked to carry more and more groups. I’m not always up to the task."

Read more:

WoW players love new content, new achievements and pets. When 3.3 hit it brought a lot of players out of the woodwork; a large number of these were quality players who had cleared the old content and had little reason to play. Now they had a reason to play again, and these players flooded the LFG system. Within a few weeks however, things started to settle down again. I suspect that many of these players farmed the heck out of the emblems of triumph initially and used them to pick up whatever they needed from those vendors. At this point, top-end players are looking exclusively to the Icecrown raids and Emblem of Frost vendors for upgrades, not heroics, and they’ve already got their Perky Pugs. The loss of these players leaves a smaller pool with a higher concentration of ‘lesser’ players – this explains to me why we’re seeing more complaints of bad play. In the initial weeks, you were more likely to find yourself in with ‘better’ players because there were more of them in the pool.

While this can explain the declining quality of play reported in Pugs, it does not explain the declining quality of people. There’s no correlation between playing skills and people skills. It’s this decline that worries me more – I can handle being in a group with a bad players, but I can’t tolerate people who are rude, inconsiderate or downright mean. Perhaps it’s nothing unusual. Perhaps it’s just that the new LFG system has given the Trade Chat Heroes of the realms something to do besides the Murloc game. Maybe they’ll eventually get their fill of emblems and go back to doing what they do best and we’ll hear less about them. As for me, I’ll continue to avoid them by running randoms with my guild or my friends. I’ll still get my emblems, and I won’t have to put up with loot ninjas, name calling, or vote kicking. And if I never get a Perky Pug, who cares? I’ve still got Sleepy Willy.

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