Community Aspects

Nils is reaching the end of his WoW rope in his latest experiment, and my response probably fits better in a post than comment. Nils says:

In the past there was a community, but there is no community now. WoW doesn’t actually put you into any community. Everything is random groups. Sure, I could try to get into a guild. But I don’t feel like it. Blame me if you want: I bet I’m no more different than a lot of other players.

WoW has NEVER put you in a community. At all. The most you could say is that in the early days people had somewhat of an incentive to seek out strangers because it would be impossible for them to complete (group) content otherwise – something that sounds more like Facebook games now that I think about it. The “community” could be summed up the sort of proto-typical “LF1M tank H Ramps” spam, where the alternative was having nothing to do. But if Nils doesn’t feel like joining a guild, he probably would not feel like joining a random Trade chat pug either. Or perhaps he is saying that since you can press the LFD button, one has no incentive to join Trade pugs?

Honestly, there was as much community when I finally quit as there has ever been, and I saw people trending towards tighter guild/social bonds than ever before. In TBC, the only way to see content was to “trade up,” leap-frogging Kara guilds into SSC/TK guilds into BT guilds into Sunwell guilds. Choosing friendship and sociality meant you simply dead-ended, unless you won the guild lottery and got into one that progressed. Incidentally, this was my fundamental problem with articles like the one I talked about yesterday, insofar as those never seem to be written from the majority standpoint of raiders whose expansions just end mid-tier because the guild is not good enough to progress (be it skill, drama, or other).

Nowadays, at least pre-Cata, you could have your cake and eat it too, progressing with friends at relatively your own pace without having to worry about people trading up. Yes, solo players have no “real” incentive to join guilds/groups since they can get groups formed for them. Then again… well, as we’ve seen from LFD, some of the groups you get are so horrible that there is every incentive to do LFD runs with as many people you know as possible.

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Posted on October 11, 2011, in Commentary, WoW and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. You’re right in that WoW never advanced or pushed you into a community at all. We had to do that ourselves. But there was more of a community feel, I think. When all you had was “LFTank H-Arcatraz”, you added people to your friends list. I was a tank, but I’d always have a bunch of healers on my friends list, as well as some trusted DPS. And those led to quite a few friendships that have lasted throughout the time I played the game (till this August) and even outside of the game. It created a situation where you did pay more attention to the people on your server, because you had to group with them. You made sure you knew a lot of the healers or the tanks, and you participated in the social aspect of an MMO, so that you could advance and do those things. It was a pain in the ass, but it was there.

    Since the LFG tool was released, that’s really disappeared. I stopped socializing with most people on my server, because there simply wasn’t a lot of reason to. Even when doing your Argent Tournament dailies together, it was pretty silent, because you knew you’d never encounter this person again. The only people on my friends list are guildies (mostly alts outside of the guild) and one or two non-guilded friend, because guildies are the only people I interact with. Trade chat is no longer used for looking for group (which, while it was a shitty implementation, did force everyone to use it, forcing you to take part in the game socially), so it’s only used for selling things (which is generally as social as trading in D2 was), or shitposting.

    On top of that, the most important community building aspect of the pre-LFD system is that you were INVESTED in the groups and the other people on your server. As a tank with an instant queue, I’m a bit of an elitist when I’m in LFD. Frankly, I don’t need to put up with stupid shit. I can drop queue, do the dailies I planned on doing anyways, and then try again instantly. Before LFD, I was always a group leader, I was patient, I helped explain things, I did everything I could to make the run go smoothly, and I didn’t drop groups and such because I worked to get the group together, and I had a vested interest in making sure it worked out (making new friends so I didn’t have to spam LFG, getting the loot I wanted, helping improve other players so that they could better participate and fill more of these dungeon spots in the future, etc). With the LFD tool, all of that incentive to give a shit is gone. You have no investment at all. So you have no involvement. So you have no community.

    You’re absolutely right that WoW didn’t create the community, nor even make a necessarily user-friendly way to be a community. But those communities developed out of necessity, and out of the investment you made in them.

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    • Point taken with the Friends list. You are also right about being invested in pre-LFD groups, but said investment usually (for me) stemmed more from the fact that non-guild groups were such a rare experience that you did everything in your power to make the ones that did form complete the heroic or whatever successfully. That is ostensively better than random LFD strangers you don’t (and can’t) care about because you’ll never see them again… but very rarely do I see any mention of the cost of that system. Namely the infrequency of grouping to begin with.

      All that being said, I do reject the notion that there is a “net” community being lost. The people taking it upon themselves to organize groups and run down their Friends lists for tanks are social people already – the only “community-building” benefit of TBC days would be the social people inviting the introverts or the shy to heroic runs. Arguably, Cataclysm has made things MORE social insofar as even introverts and non-socials would be dumb not to be in at least a placeholder guild, where those same Friends-list interactions exist as before. And if the fun of being social doesn’t drive them into each others’ arms, then the hellish experience of a full LFD pug will.

      Perhaps a sense of server-specific community is being lost, but certainly not to the apocalyptic degree that is oft described. And I even wonder how much server-specific community deserves to be preserved, considering the vast majority of players are essentially thrown into them at random, having done no research ahead of time, and cannot escape without a $25 ticket. I would not have selected Auchindoun had I known what a Recommend server meant… but then I would have never met the 3-4 lovely people that made the four years worthwhile.

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      • 1) “infrequency of grouping” was less of a problem at the time. There certainly was a problem, in that running a dungeon was a logistical nightmare. However, we also didn’t need to run nearly as many dungeons, as there were no badges or Justice Points till near the end of TBC. This is more true too when you figure in the amount of raid content available in TBC, particularly with Karazhan, as we moved further from 2.0.0. Running a dungeon was a challenge, you were more invested in it, and the entire thing was more meaningful because you did it less often than you do in Cataclysm, where it exists almost purely for a large number of players as “hit this button, get some free badges”.

        2) You’re right in that current WoW Trade Chat is NOT a server-specific community worth being saved. I know lots of people who don’t even enter Trade Chat anymore. Personally, I still do, and that’s a hangup from TBC/Classic. Less people left Trade Chat, because Trade Chat was necessary to the game. It was the only way to speak to groups of people outside of your guild or the area within 15 yards of you. We all knew it, so we didn’t turn off Trade Chat, because while there was a lot of bullshit going on in there, there was useful shit going on too. I’d actually liken it to something like Craigslist – you have to put up with a lot of bullshit, but there’s also a lot of worthwhile things to be found if you weed through the aforementioned bullshit. At that point, it wasn’t necessarily that Trade Chat WAS the community, it was a tool that allowed the function of smaller communities. That disappeared with LFD.

        3) I was plenty social in TBC, but I’m not very much so anymore – I don’t need to be. I have instant queues. I have a guild that I’m in. I don’t need anything else. In TBC, I knew a lot of the players who played the same time of day I did, because you’d see them in the Trade Chat or in the Orgrimmar Bank or whatever, and you had to make sure you knew them, because creating those social contacts was how you progressed in the game, whether via a heroic dungeon in TBC, or setting up an alt Karazhan raid on your alts. Nowadays, I still do notice a lot of the same players being on at the same time as me, but I don’t bother talking to them for the most part – I have no need. Cataclysm increased social aspects within the guild, with guild levelling, but it created walls between guilds (no one wants to leave a guild and lose their “perks” even if their friends are in another guild). Similarly, LFD created walls between myself, and the random folks on my server. If I don’t raid with you (meaning you’re a guildie), I have no reason whatsoever to talk to you, or to even be considerate or helpful towards you, because I don’t need you. Everything I do will either be soloed, done with randoms (LFD), or done with guildies (raiding). I don’t make friends anymore in WoW because I just don’t have any reason whatsoever to begin interacting with anyone at all. Well, that and the fact that I’m no longer playing.

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      • I agree with Joe here. We did run much less instances but that wasn’t the cost of the system. That was another advantage because it allowed the dungeons to be something special. If you don’t have to run a dungeon every day, the few dungeons you do can be designed with a different goal. It doesn’t matter if dungeon takes 2 hours if you feel like running a dungeon now. But it does matter if you just try to cap your badges.

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  2. I don’t see eye-to-eye with you here at all. The community bonds built in Classic and TBC were THE reason I played the game for so long. More-or-less hardcore raiding got me together regularly with likeminded people who I enjoyed socializing with.One of my guildies from early on is actually crashing in my living room right now because he moved over here from Finland and needed a place to stay for a while. This was made possible by the fact that the game facilitated and required tightly-knit communities in order to raid properly.

    Even outside of raiding, I had much more of a community feeling before LFD was introduced. I knew many of the people that regularly ran the blue instances back in classic and they knew me (if only as the crazy priest who wand-pulled the groups in Scholomance because he didn’t trust his tanks to do it properly.) I, too, had a friends list full of people that I enjoyed grouping with and would, from time to time, find new gems to either invite to the guild or at least group with more often.

    Early on in TBC, grinding certain reputations was relevant and done in dungeons. Through my server-only grouping experience, I knew a set of people who needed the same reputations I did and would bond with them over the umpteenth heroic Mechanar run.

    It is not that the sense of a server-specific community is replaced by that of a global community. Instead, you don’t get to be part of any community at all since it is just so efficient to run with new random people every single day.

    I can say for a fact that WoW without the social bonds facilitated by the lack of a dungeon (or raid!) finder wouldn’t have kept me for a year, let alone five.

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    • More-or-less hardcore raiding got me together regularly with likeminded people who I enjoyed socializing with.

      I apologize if I was not clear. I absolutely agree that raiding brings people together, and that that is good. I absolutely agree that guilds are good. Indeed, guilds were the only reason I stayed around for four years. I am just about the only officer in my guild that has not scheduled an IRL get-together; the other officers drove from Florida and Arizona to Delaware to meet each other.

      What I am saying is that guilds are as strong today as they ever were, and arguably stronger than in TBC when you were encouraged to guild-hop to see content. Ergo, when people talk about losing the “community” feeling, they MUST be speaking about the sort of Trade chat pugs and random server-specific grouping. Which is something I do not see as especially valuable or worth lamenting. At least, with the understanding about what we have gained in exchange (i.e. the ability to actually run heroics when we want).

      I believe guilds are more valuable than the open-world grouping, or going down the Friends List looking for a healer. So when LFD decreases the drive to group spur-of-the-moment, it is not as total of a loss (if any) in comparison to the driving together of people into guilds by virtue of Guild Perks and doing LFD groups with friends (because truly random LFD pugs are so horrible).

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  3. Azuriel, you started WoW with WotLK?

    You may be right that WoW never put you into groups, but the way I came in contact with the server communities in classic and TBC were instances and battlegrounds. I met the same people (who played at similar times like I did) again and again. Eventually we would start talking; putting each other on friends lists to be able to invite each other when we wanted to do a instance – or even farm elites in the open world.

    We started to know each other. Eventually people would tell me that they finally want to make their own raid and if I wanted to join – just a test run tomorrow evening?

    This is how it worked. This is not how it works anymore.

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    • Azuriel, you started WoW with WotLK?

      Nope. Started around patch 2.1 in TBC. Joined a leveling guild, helped turn it into a Kara-clearing guild, got through half of ZA, and then we hit a brick wall.

      If you resisted being invited into a guild, then I could understand a difference between TBC days and today. However, even the most introverted and shy person would be ninja-invited before they got out of the starting areas these days. And while not all of those kind of guilds are especially social, they are arguably MORE social than the sort of random moments when the stars align and you meet people “out in the bush.” It happened to you, it happened to me (but I joined their guild), but how many other tens of thousands DIDN’T meet someone and otherwise fell through the cracks of circumstance?

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  4. I’m in agreement with those above regarding LFD being the downfall of WoW’s community – I’ve made similar remarks multiple times across other blogs as well as my own.

    From having a Friends List filled with good tanks and healers during TBC to finding a “home” in WotLK with a great group of people – exactly as you described, progressing together at our own pace – those were the “glory days” of WoW for me. Today? WoW is effectively dead to me. My guildies had split up and moved on early into Cataclysm and I have no desire to use the Dungeon Finder alone.

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  5. I don’t really think you could say that the community is still strong because more people are in guilds these days. I think that the game has changed from wanting you to play with strangers and getting to know them to wanting you to play with friends you already knew before.

    I might be a bit behind my time as I have not bought Cataclysm and only played in a niche-kind of way since WLK. But the few perk guilds I’ve been in has been scarily asocial. Being in a guild of 300+ online members and seeing the guild chat empty for hours. That’s… I don’t have words for it. That’s not what I remember a guild to be. A guild should be a group of friends or people who work together to achieve a common goal. Not a group of random players who doesn’t give a shit about anyone else in their guild. The few social activities I’ve seen in those guilds has been a copy of the trade chat, really.

    Even the raid policy, “bring the player, not the class” is actually working somewhat against the idea of building a community. It promotes groups of real life friends. To build a community, you want people to have to interact with others outside of their groups as often as possible.

    I have tons of memories of old friends and contacts from Vanilla. In Burning Crusade, my social experiences are fewer. I’m not quite sure why. In WLK, I ran an old-school casual guild for a while, and that gave me quiet a few fond memories. But since that guild fell from people leaving to raid, my social experiences has been very scarce.

    And that’s not so strange. Where did I use to meet all these friends of old? Well, mostly from group quests and dungeon runs. And none of those exist in the same form they used to.

    Even in traditional guilds it can be tough to find new friends. If it isn’t a perk guild, the guild is mostly run by a couple of real life friends. It’s tough to get into their group. Very tough. And not something everyone can do. The best way I know of to get to know new people today is to start my own guild. It works for the most part. But that too is getting difficult. For one, I don’t have time to run my own guild anymore. But even if I had had the time, the perk system makes it difficult to run smaller social guilds today.

    To sum things up. No, I don’t agree. I think the community in WoW is crippled to the point that you really have to work hard to find social interactions, whereas you just had to log in to play to find them before.

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    • The difference would be that I believe you are wrong about the why of things. This still would have happened (arguably to an even worse degree) even if Blizzard continued the vanilla model. You actually ran into people doing/wanting to do group quests because it was still new content in those days. With every expansion, the bulk of the player population gets farther and farther removed from said grouping – one can imagine an accordion getting stretched out. Keeping outdoor elites and group quests around in that environment really becomes a question of whether the handful of individuals who will look for a group for it is “worth” that content being skipped by everyone else.

      Moreover, no matter how asocial the guild, it is better than being guildless and/or relying on completely random, emergent social occurrences (which, incidentally, can still happen in Cataclysm). If I hadn’t tanked a Scarlet Monastery run in 2007, I would have likely never encountered those Invictus members, many of whom now hang out outside of WoW (since most of us quit). Would I have joined a different guild and had different friendships just as strong? Maybe, maybe not. If SM was as much of a joke as it is today, or if LFD existed back in TBC and I queued with random strangers, would I have met them? Probably not.

      All that being said, I do NOT believe the “random happenstance” is a better system than what we have. Both are bad, but I’d argue the Wrath model is the lesser evil, especially since people of differing skill levels can actually participate in things together. It might even be a shifting of the zeitgeist, because I have little desire to socialize at all in ANY game because I already found the people I like playing games with.

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