With a shiny new MMO out everything old is new again, and that includes discussions over the necessity of an automated Looking For Dungeon group-matching tool. I have seen a fair number of posts on other forums lately that start out saying something like, “Well obviously everyone agrees that a LFD tool is necessary…” and it makes me want to bang my shoe on a table or something.
Perhaps we can all agree on some common ground: cross-server LFD tools remove a reliance on the local server population. Yes? Right. This, I think, is a bad thing.
Plenty of people will say, “People were jerks before LFD!” and of course they’re right. However, a vibrant server community means we all know who the most egregious of those jerks are. In the pre-LFD days of WoW I would frequently know who the most progressed guilds were on the server, who the nicest guilds were, and who was a ninja. We recognized our opponents in a PvP zone. The official server forum was humming with posts and people chatting between guilds. LFD meant we no longer had any interaction in the game, and contributed mightily to the death of community in WoW.
The vacuum left by the death of intra-server activity and interests was filled by anonymous group content and, well, asshattery. Anti-social behavior, such as ninjaing or being cruel, no longer had community consequences. In LFD, the people in our groups were of no more value than digitized sprites. Give people tools by which they can monitor each other’s progress (damage meters or gearscore or whatever) and tell them that they’ll never see their teammates again, and asshattery reigns supreme. Now instead of a server community, there is just a automated channel for antagonizing.
You know what other game is famous for having an abrasive playerbase full of jerks? League of Legends. And what does LoL do? Randomly matches a huge group of people up from a lobby for the purposes of playing together for a short period of time. It is almost as though there is some correlation between people being anonymous jerks and lack of reprocussions for anti-social behavior!
An unlimited LFD system is almost indisputably bad for the community of a game. However, I understand that standing around Ironforge or the Imperial Fleet for an hour looking for a group is not fun. Personally, I found my groups in WoW and in SWTOR by asking in general chat or grabbing guildies, and my ideal answer to the LFD question would be, “Get a good guild”. (Seriously, this would solve most problems.) However, seeing as I can’t tell everyone what to do (yet) here are my two guidelines for a cruelty-free LFD system:
1) You can have either damage meters/gearscore/player monitoring system OR an automated Looking For Dungeon lobby. Not both. I think MMO players have handily proven that we cannot handle the “absolute power” of monitors and anonymity.
2) LFD should not cover new content. I understand that in a year fewer people will (presumably) be leveling in SWTOR and it will therefore be more difficult to find a server-only Mandalorian Raiders run. I say wait a year, and then stick it on the LFD. When there are tiers of level-capped group content, put the PREVIOUS tier on the LFD. Let the server community take care of the most recent content, and let LFD help new players and alts.
Thus far Bioware has said that they are not adding a cross-server Looking for Dungeon tool, and I hope they stick with that. Not everyone agrees that a LFD tool is necessary in an MMO or even a healthy thing to add to a game, and in fact I am rather at the point personally where an unlimited LFD tool would make me quit SWTOR or any other new MMO. Developers have a duty to balance convenience with the integrity of a game, and consumers have a duty to… well, to basically not be asshats. We’re still working on that one.