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Dungeon finders are dangerous

MMO Dungeon FinderGroup finding tools that instantly pair people together and teleport them to a dungeon are one of the most dangerous innovations to ever come to MMOs.

In themepark MMOs, they are a great addition.  Without tools like the Dungeon Finder, players in WoW would sit around in cities spamming all day.  In SWTOR, I remember experiencing nothing but frustration as I tried to find groups for dungeons that literally had no entrance in the world — players just teleport to them with a group.   The apt themepark analogy perfectly defines a situation like this: players don’t want to sit around all day when the entire point is about going on the rides.  Going through the content is the entire point, and facilitating that with ease makes perfect sense.  Getting a group is like waiting in line, and that’s the worst part.

Virtual world / pseudo-sandbox / sandbox MMOs are entirely different.  Part of the gameplay is traveling to locations.  Content isn’t something players stand around all day expecting to ‘run-through.’  The dungeons themselves become hubs of socialization.  Meeting people and staying in the area around the dungeon for days isn’t uncommon.  ‘Living’ in a dungeon is part of your character’s progression, and blowing through any content diminishes the fun.  Someone backpacking across Europe doesn’t want to instantly get to each destination; the experience is rooted deep in the journey.

Why are dungeon finders one of the most dangerous innovations? Not every MMO is or should be a themepark.  In the themeparks dungeon finders are amazing, but any other kind of game it becomes a shortcut.  The path of least resistance is so tempting for both developers and players.  On the flip side, when a themepark doesn’t have a dungeon finder then the game feels incomplete or inferior… almost annoying.  Suddenly dungeon finders have become this tool that absolutely must be in every themepark, and tempting to non-themepark devs to just include it because they think it’s what the modern gamer wants.  All anyone gets in the end is homogenization and cut corners.

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Comments

  1. Tristan says:

    Fully agree, to cite one example I know you’ll appreciate, the experience of a certain dungeon in the barrow downs in old LOTRO was greatly enhanced by the fact that it was pretty dangerous to even get to the entrance, which was deep in the back of a leveling area with a lot of dangerous mobs. I remember always getting a high level to escort us to the entrance.

  2. TheRedComet says:

    I wish more dungeons felt like dungeons. Like there were dangers around every corner and I was exploring some mysterious place.

    Not just a hallway full of monsters that require no thought to trash.

  3. I don’t think that every themepark should have a dungeon finder and of course not every themepark player want to “run-through” content or ride one toy after the other. Vanilla/TBC warcraft for example wasn’t sandbox and yet they didn’t had a tool for grouping and yet everyone believed that the game had quality and even more quality than today wow.

    So yes, devs are right to believe that dungeon finder IS what the new gamer wants and not something important for Themeparks.

    Furthermore, I don’t see it as black and white. WOW LFD/LFR tool are the worst you can imagine, but Rift is little better cause it only includes people from your server. Personally I would like a tool to help you find group, as long as it is server based and don’t teleport you into the dungeon.

  4. Imakulata says:

    I think if MMOs allowed players to effectively suspend and continue their dungeon progress, so they can split a dungeon crawl into multiple days, the need for dungeon finders would be smaller. One of the things that help dungeon finders’ popularity (in my opinion) is the fact the old MMOs forced you to find a group, make everyone travel to the dungeon, clear it as well as find replacements for players who left during the crawl etc. all in a single session. I suppose this was intended as a deterrent from people leaving the group but didn’t work well in this regard. However, it worked really well to stop people who didn’t have many hours for an uninterrupted session.

    I wonder whether and how would it be accepted today, since it is quite a change of approach to dungeons. Maybe the ship had sailed long time ago, before the dungeon finder idea came to being…

  5. I agree in principle but the shorthand labeling of MMOs as “Themepark” or “Sandbox” long-since became more of a hindrance than a help. I’m not convinced that Dungeon Finders are a universal good even in the most instanced and non-worldy of MMOs but they definitely need to be used with great circumspection in any MMO that fancies itself any kind of virtual world.

    I played Everquest yesterday for the first time in quite a while. For much of the time I was wandering through Warslik’s Woods there was a lengthy and considered conversation going on in the global chat channel about the difficulties of finding groups. It started when one frustrated player announced his intention to delete his characters and never play EQ again because he was so fed up waiting around trying to find people to do stuff with. He had a slew of characters in the 80s and was by no means new to the game, while others chipped in with anecdotal evidence supporting or refuting his experience.

    As I was listening it occurred to me that while all these people might be more or less frustrated with the difficulties of finding a group, here they were on a Sunday afternoon, playing a fourteen-year old MMO (which was bustling with players everywhere I went on Luclin/Stromm I might add) rather than enjoying the instant group-finding options of many other, newer MMOs. It’s not like the old days when it was like it or lump it. If people really don’t like hanging around LFG it’s not as though they don’t have alternatives so you’d have to conclude that there are still plenty of people out there who like the old way of doing things.

  6. Dungeon finder.. good I guess.
    Teleport to location: badddd.

    See when interest for a dungeon starts to decline you could stand for an hour at the entrance in the hope to find a group that will take you.

    Maybe you find a straggler or 2.. that have the patience to wait 2 minutes then they leave again.
    Hey a group!! Can I join? Group: no reply or sorry we are full.

    This only brings frustration.
    Dungeon finder tool makes it less frustrating.

  7. Argorius says:

    A lot of the features that add convenience and make a game better will remove something from the game and make the game worse somewhere else. It all comes at a price…sometimes less is more.

  8. This kind of ties in with the “raids are bad” thing too, really. In WoW and similar games, all that exists at max level are dungeons, raids, and daily quest grinds. When essentially all your gameplay depends on dungeons, a dungeon-finder is pretty important but the issues it introduces are concomitantly more severe. As you de-emphasize dungeons, the issues presented by dungeon-finders gets reduced even if they operate in the same way.

  9. Giovanni says:

    Seriously. Where has this blog been all my life? I couldn’t agree more with these posts. As an EQ1 First MMOer I have been playing and despising MMO’s for years. There is just so much wrong out there right now because people seem to think they want it easy but really they dont understand they want true exploration and immersion.

  10. @Giovanni: We’ve been here writing since 2007! :) Good to meet a kindred spirit. Welcome!