With update 1.3 looming over our heads, the biggest feature people are looking forward to is the LFG feature. In a recent interview conducted by Darth Hater we get the following quote:
DH: One of 1.3′s biggest features is the Looking For Group tool. Can you explain how it will work and what areas of the game players can use it (i.e. Flashpoints, Heroic Quests, Operations, etc.)? If not initially in 1.3, will a future release make it cross-server too?
Damion Schubert, Lead Systems Designer: At the launch of this feature (Game Update 1.3), we will not be doing cross-server flashpoints. There are a couple of reasons – first off, it’s a significant technical achievement, and we felt that pursuing it would not allow us to get the feature to you guys as quickly as it needs to happen. Secondly, most of the design team thinks that it’s not necessarily good for the community. When the odds are very low that you will never group with another player again, there is very little social pressure to not be a complete jerk to that person, which is not a particularly positive game experience. We may revisit this decision in the future if our metrics show that flashpoint queues are not firing enough, but in general, queue firing should be more about distribution of key roles (tank, healer, DPS) than about overall population.
For us, this is a big failure in the system. If Bioware’s main reason for not launching a full cross-server LFG system is technical, we can understand that since the systems needed are quiet complicated. However, Damion’s second reason, emphasized above, is a pretty ignorant of the genre as a whole. With SWTOR losing subscriptions and now after a round of layoffs, they need all the positive gameplay elements they can get.
Let’s take a look at gaming history. With the debut of the system in Warcraft, it was one of the most highly praised systems to hit the genre in a very long time and revitalized a game completely. Not only were people spending more time in game, playing with more people than ever before at level cap, the leveling portion of the game saw new life as old dungeons were being run again.
Fast forward to RIFT, who launched a LFG feature shortly after launch that was server only. That was soon corrected as queues never popped or players had to way 40+ minutes for it to trigger. By now, there should be enough examples in the industry to show that you need to take people from the largest pools possible.
The latest MMORPG to launch, TERA, has a cross-server queuing system in place already, and it’s wildly popular. Players often only have to wait minutes before getting into a dungeon they want.
So why does Bioware think that cross-server queues would be bad for the community? You have to balance the random person being a dick with people having fun playing your game. Let’s be honest, people are used to having fast queue times after playing TERA, RIFT and WOW. Why does Bioware think they are different?
If Bioware is concerned about building communities, then they need to develop social tools for players to create their own circle of friends. For example, you group with random guy and you enjoyed playing with him. Give him a +internets, and next time you are queued for a dungeon, players with your +internets are prioritized to be grouped with you again. The whole scoring system can be internalized and no one would ever know what their scores are.
Bioware should be less concerned with random people causing a problem in a group, and be more concerned with getting players to play their game longer. More time waiting for a group to pop gives players more time to decide to log out.