Yesterday my friends were having a long drawn out conversation that started out about the current Roma controversies, wound its way through discussions of any insular society… and like always an hour or so later ended up landing in the game world. Namely discussion fell onto the concept that even within small groups, cliques and teams form and the number over players it takes before that happens. Based on the discussion we agreed that likely the smallest number that really starts to occur is around seven people.
So none of this so far has any real bearing on todays post… but throughout the conversation we started talking about the openness to new players. One of the things that disturbed me a bit, is that one of my friends said that I was most likely the least open to new players, or at least the most suspicious. This went against my own personal vision of myself, considering I am constant abducting people into my guilds on a regular basis. So as I explored this line of thought further, he said that mostly it was due to my views on PUGs.
No PUGs Allowed
While this is not necessarily the thing I would like people to think of when they think of me… my guild as a whole has known for years that if they want me to tank for them, my price is that we have a full group of known good players. Usually this means that they are folks from the guild, but I am also completely open to friends of the guild in these scenarios. Basically… I don’t want to enter the group finder and play dice with humanity. The thing is… this did not used to be the case. I used to PUG players in a regular basis both in dungeons and even raids.
This got me thinking… what changed, why did I no longer even consider finding players outside of my monkey sphere to fill groups. I used to build groups on a nightly basis and even believe in it so much that I wrote a series of guides to covering the finer points of networking, communication and assembly of a winning PUG group. This was not something that was limited to WoW, but something I had done in many games previously. So I guess the question is… what changed to make me so fearful of the player base that I now refuse to pug even a single player into one of the groups I am responsible for.
Before the Dungeon Finder
Without too many leaps of logic I landed on the specific moment it changed… The Dungeon Finder. I have railed on the evils of the dungeon finder for years, but I don’t think I have really elaborated on that point enough. Essentially in the world before the dungeon finder I regularly relied upon social channels, trade chat, and other guilds to find folks to fill out my groups. I drew upon my friends list to fill the most basic elements. As a tank I knew that all I needed to do was find one of my many amazing healers that I worked with regularly, and then the dps could be filled out in short order.
The key point here is that with each player I talked to… I actually took the time to exchange a few lines of dialog with them before throwing them a group invite. It is amazing how much you can gauge about the personality, intentions and general character of a player from a few sentences. There was a very human element to this discourse, and over the years I developed and instinct about who would make for a good dungeon run by the way they presented themselves. To some extent I had learned to prune through the bad apples and seize upon the good ones only.
Additionally playing with players on your own server there was a bit of an honor code in the works. As the guild leader of one of the larger guilds on our server, I knew the leaders of most of the other guilds. So as a result if I had trouble with one of their players in a dungeon run, I knew precisely who to come to with those concerns. This lead most players to be on their best behavior, since there were potential social consequences of making an ass of yourself in public. Additionally I met a lot of really amazing people through this process, many of them that would end up in my guild or raid later on.
Playing Dice with Humanity
The Dungeon finder was the first blow to this world, but since we were dealing with mostly players from our own server… it wasn’t really that bad. I still regularly queued as a tank almost out of welfare to help the folks get those dungeon runs. I continued to still meet great players, and the bad ones were quickly added to my ignore list never to be seen again. However players complained, that the queues were still too long, and not enough tanks and healers were queuing. So as a result Blizzard started the cross server queuing madness and this was the nail in the coffin for me and pugging.
When there are no social consequences to ones actions… the worst possible behavior can be expected if not assumed. Periodically I would get convinced to queue with someone for a dungeon, and every single one of these occasions lead me to log out of the game frustrated and angry afterwards. I learned quickly that if you play dice with humanity, you are always going to loose. I met exactly ONE really awesome player through random groups, and that was only because the player happened to be on my own server. I didn’t really mind braving the bullshit as a DPS, but I refused to tank the instances any longer.
So in a whole series of events I ended up leaving World of Warcraft, and entered a game without a dungeon finder system. It is funny how quickly I fell back into the old habits of building groups from social channels. Level 50 chat served as a launch pad for groups, and quickly within a few weeks time I had built up a long list of “known good players” that I could draw into dungeons. As a result we were filling out Elite groups on a nightly basis and happily clearing dungeons. I met enough people that there was even talk of merging in with another guild at one point… but we decided against it.
When the dungeon finder was released for Rift I watched the same events play out all over again. The social channels dried up, folks no longer responded to calls for groups in Level 50 chat… and everyone went back to the wow-like ways of relying on the dungeon finder to make a group for them. Additionally the community of the server as a whole suffered. The same old wow-like behaviors came back and the chorus of “PULL BIG” and “GO GO GO” returned as well. So once more.. I stopped grouping and resurrected a rampart around myself with a sign on it reading “No PUGs Allowed”.
From that point forward my rule as a whole has pretty much been… I will tank any dungeon you want me to tank, but you have to make sure we have a full guild group before we do it. I refuse to pug in any players that come from random dungeon finder systems. I would literally rather not do dungeons, than have to deal with the random chance of finding a decent person in the system. Most of the time this is not really a huge deal since I tend to bring a large group of people with me into whatever game we end up playing. However I am running a lot fewer dungeons than I would like to, and I am not sure how I can get past my phobia of strangers. So at the end of the day… after all of this… I guess I can see my friends point.