Bias LFD in favor of same-server

| Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Cross realm dungeons are a very good thing. If you've ever logged in at times when no one is on, such as as I'm writing this (10:40 CST), you might have noticed that things are quiet. Too quiet. That's the sound caused by 90% of the player population being at work, school, or unemployed and already too drunk to remember what a computer is. The remaining 10% are 90% bots and 10% sick people, 'sick' people, and unemployed who can no longer afford alcohol.

This makes it very hard to form a group based on only the population of a single realm. To make it worse, a low population or highly imbalanced realm can be like this all the time. So clearly forming groups across servers will help get things rolling.

But there is a problem: It's on all the time. When it's 8PM and approximately the population of Greece is online at the same time, it is not hard to form groups from a single realm. At that time he cross-realm ability is unnecessary and serves only one function: to group up people who will never meet again and therefore have zero interest in each other or their reputation. Cue ninjas, assholes, ninja-justifiers, and more assholes.

Add a few seconds to queues. Use this time to delay group formation to see if players from the same realm will appear. As players come on, shuffle the order slightly to group up players of the same realm. On average queues would be unchanged, pushed up sometimes, pushed down sometimes. On average groups would have more players from the same realm.

This system should have three goals. First, use the cross-server element when needed for rapid group formation. Second, keep the group formation tool for convenience and speed. Third, bring together players of the same server more frequently without removing or ignoring the previous two goals. In other words, telling people to use trade chat isn't the solution.

P.S. If you read my blog obsessively like I do you might have noticed that most of this is copied from an older post. I did that because starting a post with a Godwin's Law attack on subatomic particles often distracts from the actual point of the post.


Zurqa said...

So, I'm a random blog reader who's just stopping by. I love the tagline about regeneration, and I like the angle of your suggestion. I'm a healer, never done much tanking. Mostly casual these days, though I've been around since early Vanilla release, and raided solidly through late TBC (40 man Molten Core, 3-4 hours at a pop, woo hoo!).

Understanding that you'll never please all of the people all of the time, it does seem evident that Blizzard has a real problem on its hands. The problem also seems unequivocally to be the anonymity of the playerbase, the raised expectations of said playerbase, and the resulting randomness in the mentality of your PUG once it cues. What if you could put in a few refinements to your random queue request? Like how fast you wanted to go? Do you want to use CC? How many times have you run this dungeon at this level on this character in this role? (1-5, 5-15, 15+), are you in for all bosses or just some, gearing up or just a VP/JP run, etc. Surely there are lots of other clarifications. Then, you could maybe get matched up with group who mostly thinks like you do, and has the same expectations? It wouldn't be perfect, and you could still game the system by saying one thing and doing another, and there probably wouldn't be any clear way to hold people accountable, but at least it would let the honest people try to group up with others of a like mind, which could increase the positive aspects of pugging, and would then, as an intended side effect, be worthwhile for more tanks to queue.

However, here's the thing. Surely there's an opportunity cost. If Blizz programmers are working on this non-trivial task, that's less assets left to work on things like talent trees, Firelands, patch 4.2 and beyond content, etc. So, what should the priority be for Blizzards vast, but ultimately finite resources be? That, my friends, is probably the million gold question. I'm pretty sure Blizzard realizes the direction the playerbase MIGHT be going, and certainly they want to improve that, but on the other hand, they have access to TONS more data than the average blog reader, and maybe in the bigger picture, there isn't any problem in terms of subscription and cash flow. I dunno. I like that they tried, I think its worth any small improvement to queue times, but I gotta believe there's a better, more holistic approach that helps resolve the root problem instead of artificially influencing behavior of a small group without real change to the environment. Keep up the good blogging work.

Stabs said...

Same server queues stop you being a dick (because people won't want to play with you).

Your proposal still lets people be dicks in return for longer queues at 3 in the morning. That's not really enough.

Nils said...

Careful. Your posts become more and more focused lately. People might think you actually have a point and that makes you vulnerable !

On topic: Good compromise for WoW. If I were to decide I did it like that. Just before I'd tell my boss that I want to work on Titan instead.

Klepsacovic said...

@Zurqa: The idea of being able to pick goals in LFD is one I liked when I first heard it and I still do. As for the opportunity cost, they have different teams for different projects, though I imagine this would still end up leeching from the bug fixing, at the very least by making some new ones. But if it would keep enough players, it would pay off, just like all their content upgrades are intended to do.

@Stabs: Wouldn't it be the reverse? You won't be cross-server until late at night.

@Nils: I know, I know. I'd better be sure to get into subjective irrational ramblings about nothing before it's too late.

JoeNavy said...

Klep...why are you so adamant about same server interaction? Would it be so bad if people from different races, oops I mean servers, played together? You know the Nazi's had the same...shit, Godwin was right.

Tesh said...

A decent band-aid idea, this. Of course, I'd propose more radical surgery by allowing anyone to jump servers more or less at will (W101 has a nice, free "switch server" button on a 60 sec. cooldown that works wonders) and give players a "whitelist" that they can add others to. They would then be preferentially matched up with whitelisted players for the LFD system.

Klepsacovic said...

@Joe: I'm not a serverist, I just think people of the same server belong together. Nothing good happens when you start mixing Thralls and Sen'jins.

@Tesh: What if I've just started? Do I have no list and have to wander into the mess, hoping to find people to add? What if my list people aren't on?

Telling people to just magically find great people on their own is as absurd as the "just use trade chat and friends list" solution. If the community is rotten, picking out nice bits and pieces can only get you so much.

Shintar said...

I thought the opening paragraph sounded familiar! And yeah, I could get behind something like that. Cross-server is good when it allows you to run instances at silly times or to run low-level dungeons at all. Though I could also get behind a checklist for preferences. I have no problem with waiting, and I'd happily wait longer for a party that has similar goals as me.

Tesh said...

Of course a whitelist requires getting started.

**So does everything else in the game.**

It's not that you'd *only* be matched with whitelist players, just that they would be preferred. Beside, your objection could be levied against the "your server only" groupfinding, too. There's no way that being locked into your own server will guarantee good players, especially if you had the bad luck to start on a bad server. They don't advertise the community at the selection screen, y'know.

Klepsacovic said...

Being stuck on a server doesn't guarantee good players, but it does provide incentive for improvement. As for getting stuck on bad servers, I would prefer if there was something like one free transfer per account, with transfer meaning anywhere between one and all characters on a server. If you do start out in a bad place, you have another chance (and know to do some research this time), or if you want to join some friends, you can pick up and go at no cost.

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