Keeping a sense of community while still meeting the needs of the community as a whole is a huge challenge for us. We fundamentally believe that having a sense of community is an important thing for the long-term health of the game. However, we don’t think the way to foster that community is to force players to spam global channels trying to find groups. Dungeon Finder and Raid Finder have enabled a lot more players to run dungeons and raids regularly and we’d be very reluctant to ever go back to a world without them. – Nethaera
In fairness, that is true. Spamming chat channels does nothing to build community, and the dungeon finder is a better tool for organizing groups and getting them into dungeons if that is all the players are interested in. Doing it through a chat channel is just less efficient, it doesn’t make you care any more about the other people in your group, and if you don’t care about them or want to build connections with them, they might as well be random. That isn’t Blizzard’s fault, it’s the players. – Kobea Thris
For the sake of this post, let’s assume Nethaera speaks for Blizzard, and wrote what she wrote because that’s what she has been told/heard in the Blizzard office; that Blizzard did not see value in looking to form groups in a chat channel, and so ‘solved’ that problem with the DF. Kobea’s comment drives this thinking home.
Sadly it misses the point IMO.
Is the DF easier and faster when it comes to putting a group together and getting them into a dungeon? Yes. 100%. And if speed or ‘accessibility’ (by reducing the delay and hence the total amount of time needed to complete a dungeon) of the content is your only concern, the DF is brilliant. If you play WoW or SW:TOR as a single-player adventure that happens to be hosted on a server, the DF is exactly what you wanted because you view other players as slightly more (or less…) advanced bots.
But in a discussion about community, I don’t think we are talking about viewing other players as bots, are we?
Spamming a group channel was slower, at times annoyingly so. But the value of that channel has nothing to do with speed. Its real value is that you see who you are inviting/joining, and this creates familiarity (that guy is a great tank, invite him. That guy is a loot ninja, pass). Familiarity builds community. Maybe the group looking to fill in its last DPS spot is a guild group looking for new members, and when you join up and do well, they might extend an invite. When you are in the same channel every day looking for a group, you might not be as likely to ninja loot or go off on someone, knowing your reputation will follow you back into that channel.
(Quick note about gearscore here: Gearscore also kills community by reducing players to a number. Due to encounters being tuned around gearscore (or even the perception that they are) rather than player skill, you ‘validate’ the “player is a number” groupthink)
What is important to identify here is what kind of game environment you are aiming for. If the goal is to create an elongated single player adventure that still charges a monthly fee (SW:TOR, current-day WoW), then community is less important, and accessibility is king. While this model might work in terms of initial sales and retaining someone for a month or so, you don’t benefit from the “players are content” aspect that MMOs have traditionally relied upon. You can’t expect 6 months+ retention, because you just don’t have that kind of content.
Long-term it’s simply impossible to sustain a player because they consume dev-created content faster than it can be produced, but if you adjust expectations, and accept that players will leave after a month, things can still work. Not sustain subscriptions or a stable community, but these are not necessarily important factors for an online sRPG. If BioWare’s business plan is to have their players leave after a month, and perhaps come back half a year later for another month, community is a non-factor.
But if community is a non-factor, are we still talking about an MMO?