A mechanic’s Workshop: the story of the prison regime, fractals and LFG

Just so this is clear (I would hate to mislead you), this isn’t a discussion about the dungeon mechanics themselves. By and large the story mode dungeons serve their purpose. They are simple, straightforward encounters that are slightly more challenging than your average dynamic event chain. The Fractals I’ve done thus far have all been a blast as well. Every time I’ve tried either story mode or fractals I’ve been successful, even with complete packs of scrubs I found LFG’ing in map chat. This is a discussion about that last sentence there, and why it’s ruining my days.

It has become painfully aware to me other the last week or so just how asinine 100 people all spamming LFG in Lion Arch’s map chat really is. As part of the initial launch wave of players, I got sidetracked on my Mesmer a bit and missed some of the story mode dungeons as I leveled. Initially I was going to do all the story mode’s in order, prior to doing Arah and the big bad. The lore of the game, and the story being told of Destiny’s Edge really only makes sense when the dungeons are done in order.

The allure of completing my personal story overrode my desire to follow the story as intended and I pugged for Arah story mode before completing Sorrow’s Embrace, Citadel of Flame, Honor of the Waves, and Crucible of Eternity. So I’ve spent these last few weeks trying to go back and complete those dungeons, and having little luck.

Now with Fractals in the mix I’m completely hopeless. I was on holiday for the launch of FoTM so I was already trying to play catch up. Add into that a few disconnects during my play sessions and I’m stuck on a low difficulty level practically begging people to join me for a Fractals run. I’m not the only one having this issue since there is no reason to go back and do lower level fractals once you’ve progressed pass them. I think low level Fractals and Story mode fill a similar space in the design content of the game. They prep you for the harder dungeons by introducing you to the landscape without punishing you with the content.

ArenaNet has mentioned in the past that story mode is meant to be puggable, and this should apply to FoTM as well. And Arenanet was completely successful in the difficultly aspect. As I said, anytime I get 5 people together (assuming 2 aren’t just completely incompetent) we can get through the dungeon without much headache. And during the initial surge of players to level 80 it was easy as pie to find a group for story mode dungeons. And right after the event weekend there were tons of requests for low difficulty level FoTM runs.

But here’s the problem. Story mode and low level Fractals are one time content. There is no reason (and as of recently, disincentive) to replay story mode after you complete it. And unless you are lacking Infusions, the same is true for lower level Fractal runs. I understand why this is, but the impact on someone like me (or new players to the game) is tremendous.

Put simply, you can not find 5 people who want to do a story mode dungeon anymore. At least not without concerted effort (aka luck) or a guild of players who will help you. And this is on top of dungeon runs being incentivized now by the monthly achievement making it easier. The fact of that matter is 90% or more of the population falls into two groups: those who have completed the story mode for the dungeons and have no reason to go back, or those two have no interest in dungeons whatsoever. Getting the remaining 10% to log in at the same time, all be spamming LFG in Lion’s Arch at the same time, and all looking for the same dungeon is simply not working for the game.

I can’t imagine what new players are going through. Imagine leveling up and you get to level 40. Your herald sends you a lovely letter about a meeting at Caudecus’s Manor with Logan and Zojja. What would any new player do but travel to Queensdale and try and find a group. But good luck with that. Even as a starter zone I recently went there and tried to find a group for CM story mode and had no luck after an hour. Why would a player think that the current LFG tool in Guild Wars 2 is “spam mat chat in Lion’s Arch.” It’s not intuitive, and it’s especially not logical if the player has never spent time in Lion’s Arch before this (which assuming they aren’t doing their personal story is likely).

And currently Lion’s Arch map chat serves two purposes. People LFG’ing for a specific FoTM difficulty, or people complaining about LFG’ing for a specific FoTM difficulty. The only way to find players to do this content is to overflow hop and assemble a party from various servers (yay community). If you are like me and had a combination of events put you behind the curve, this problem is magnified. Imagine coming to this game in a month. How on earth would you ever find 5 people to run FoTM difficulty 2 at the same time?

Let me be clear. This is an issue where a lot of potential solutions cause more harm than good. I really really don’t want an official LFG-crossserver, ruin the server community, make dungeons essentially solo content-tool. That has just as many side effects as it does remedies.

I think the real issue is the fact that the percentage of the population who likes running dungeons has no reason to run lower difficulty modes (including story mode). They are all busy LFG’ing in Lion’s Arch for various harder dungeons. The current loot tables for chests and monster drops make it a gigantic waste of time and effort for those players who are most progression oriented, not to mention the complete lack of dungeon tokens in story mode. Fixing the reward structure for lower difficulty dungeon repeats would be a huge help in the short term (and word is Arenanet is already looking to do just that).

Another simple remedy, and one that should theoretically require little development time: give LFG it’s own chat channel, with the same range as /map. Some servers do something similar for WvW by using /map for general chat and /team for strategy communication. That way I can filter it out of my normal chat window conversation if I don’t find relevant. Because as bad as not finding a group can by while you are in Lion’s Arch, it’s almost equally as bad when you are sitting there crafting having to listen to a constant stream of players LFG.

Shoot, you could give each dungeon it’s own chat channel and make it have the range of your whole server population (but only shown to those people who also lfg for that dungeon). So that way anyone who types /lfg CM is put into a chat room of sorts for everyone on their server who is also /lfg CM. This would essentially be like a global /whisper channel specific to that dungeon. Imagine being able to /lfg FoTM 2 and instantly being able to talk to everyone else who is looking for FoTM difficulty 2 on your server. I could actually go play the game instead of waiting in Lion’s Arch for a party.

These solutions use tools ArenaNet already has at their disposal, and it simply expands them. No LFG tool dungeon queues, not cross server garbage. Just nice simple ways to bring people who want to be together, together. And that’s what we all want. However, these solutions only mask the problems. And the addition of Fractal difficulty tiers have emphasized the problems with the design.

Arenanet has essentially introduced 30+ raiding tiers into the game in one patch, made each tier completable in 45 minutes, and gave exactly zero reasons to go back and do lower tiers (Infusions aside). What this has done is to take a population that was finally starting to come together at level 80 and split them into 30 different tiers and divided them all in purpose. It was just silly and shortsighted design. Yes we want to progress our character, but the current FoTM tiering design is a perfect (sad) example of what reward based progression tiering can do to a game community.

We see the effects in game already. Just try and as an experiment and LFG for “Fractals Difficulty 4” in Lion’s Arch and see how long it takes to get a party. It’s laughable how ineffective this is, and indicative of a larger problem. For a game whose mechanics do so much to bring players together, why is the content seemingly trying to pull them apart? And why do I have to completely stop playing the game and sit in Lion’s Arch in order to do this content? The recent AMA this was acknowledged by ArenaNet as an unforeseen consequence, so we can cross our fingers for a timely remedy.

However, the real solutions to these problems require a rethinking of several systems at a core level, including the reward and difficulty tiers of entry level dungeon reruns, that is outside the scope of this piece. I’ll leave the comment section for that discussion.

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