Dungeon finders: the tool we love to hate. There hasn’t been a more divisive mechanic introduced into the mainstream since questing itself. If you frequent the forums of games that feature such a system, you’re likely to trip over the number of threads surrounding it. If the game doesn’t, but still has dungeons, there will be threads wondering where it is and when it’s coming. In either case, you can expect players decrying the evils of the auto-group boogey-man and others begging for it like a cool rain. With dungeon finders quickly becoming a staple, it’s time we take it to the podium.
The Issue: Are dungeon finders good or bad for the industry?
Bill “Fast Access” Murphy: Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG and believes dungeon finders are good for the community in more ways than one.
Chris “Bring Back /LFG” Coke: Chris is a columnist and podcast host and longs for the days of sought out groups and casual dungeon chat.
Grab your gloves, boys, the round is… DING!
Chris: I was excited when you suggested this topic, Bill. I have a love/hate relationship with dungeon finders. Back when they arrived on the scene, they were a godsend. As a DPS, and even a tank, I remember advertising in /LFG for hours just to find groups and then having them fail when one person dropped out early. For a long time, I loved them. These days…
You know what I remember most about the pre-dungeon finder days? Everyone would work to put together a party and then tried to stick it out. People joked around and helped each other because no one wanted it to fail, by wipes or by someone feeling unwelcome and leaving, exceptions excluded. Today that’s just not the case. Players drop at a frail wind -- and usually with a not-so-nice comment.
Bill: It’s no secret that Dungeon Finders have done a number on cohesive group building in MMOs. But similarly, they also allow players to group easily and quickly, without having to try and spam channels for players. The benefit of Dungeon Finders is that they can bring the barrier of entry down when it comes to group content. If a player just has to hit a couple of buttons and wait to be paired up, that’s far better than telling them they need to spend 20-30 minutes or more looking for people in crowded chat channels. I’m not disagreeing with your reasons for disliking them, but I still see Dungeon Finders as an improvement in player quality of life. It’s not perfect, but it’s better.
Chris: Dungeon finders were introduced with the best intentions, but I don’t think anyone anticipated just how much of an impact they would have. The biggest, in my opinion, is that they’ve changed the culture. Everyone wants a speed run. Nowadays, if you’re learning a dungeon for the first time, even if it was just released, asking for help is a good way to become trimmed fat. Running dungeons after a prolonged break is almost nerve wracking. Dungeon finders made players the meat grinder and not the bosses.
Bill: I think this is where WoW’s Dungeon Finder spoiled the bunch. Along with their tool, they also dumbed down the dungeon content quite a lot, because they assumed that players who didn’t know each other couldn’t learn tactics to proceed. But they never gave us a chance. I think the Dungeon Finder would have applied just fine to old Zul’Gurub, Stratholem, and BRD. People follow leaders, and there’s bound to be one in every group. Some would be bad, and others would be good, but there’s always someone who knows how to take that role, and if not? The players would learn as they go, as is intended. Speed Runs came about because the developers almost made them an integral part of the dungeon experience. It needn’t be that way, and it’s not the group finder tool’s fault.
Chris: You know, the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s really not the anti-social behavior that bothers me. It’s that players would rather not talk at all. I don’t think that’s our nature; it’s a result of the “gogogo” atmosphere of dungeons today. When was the last time you made a friend running a PuG? (You too, commenters). I made a lot learning to tank and I loved it. I had a pocket healer and a couple DPS I knew only because we played at the same hours and were able to group a lot. These days, and with things like cross-server dungeons, groups and even whole servers, don’t mean as much. Dungeon finders devalued the biggest M (multiplayer) of our MMOs.
Bill: I might get some flack for this, but I’m a sociable guy, and I think the more games incorporate VOIP, the better. You’ll still have folks that won’t talk, but most MMOs these days are getting harder and harder to play while typing in chat, so people avoid doing so. If VOIP were present, you may find some “bad apples” hollering at you, but at least there’d be more of a chance for human interaction in the dungeons. As long as there are tools to silence folks you don’t want to hear, VOIP can be integral in forming relationships online, as voices do more than text ever will at connecting you to a person.
Chris: Thinking on the unexpected, would you believe if I told you I longed for raid finders before even dungeon finders went live? Back then, I looked at raiders and saw players who put in the time and dedication and reached new levels of gameplay. The game rewarded their effort by letting them dig deeper. I couldn’t play at their hours but wanted to experience that content on my own terms. Today, with that promise delivered, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The lines are blurred. Instead of the game (WoW in this case) rewarding players who put in extra time, the doors are blown open and everything means a little less as a result. We’ve lost a piece of what we’re supposed to aspire to.
Bill: I hear you there. I longed for a Raid Finder too. We always needed just a few more people, and could hardly find them at the right times. But again, I blame Blizzard for the bad decisions in opening those floodgates, not the finder itself. The tool’s main idea is grand. It’s the execution that’s lacking. They let the pendulum of ease swing too far in one direction.
Chris: My ending thought it this: I appreciate the good that dungeon finders have brought but at what cost? I would be lying if I told you waiting in queue for three hours just to have the healer drop halfway through was a lot of fun. It was frustrating and usually meant being done for the entire day. But delayed gratification is powerful and extremely satisfying. Working for something made it better and more clearly drew the lines between players and how they played. Dungeon finders have propelled us into a generation of “have it and have it now” that has bled far outside of dungeons themselves. I believe in accessibility. That part is good, but I can’t help but feel there must be a better way.
Bill: Absolutely agreed. I think we’re both coming to the same conclusion. Dungeon Finders can be good, if not great for MMOs. But they need refinement, and hopefully they’ll be getting it soon.
That’s all from us, folks. Let us know what you think of dungeon finders in the comments below!
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.