This week, ahead of the big swell of PAX news, I had the chance to talk with ArenaNet’s Mike Zadorojny (Lead Content Designer) about Guild Wars 2’s keenly anticipated Looking For Group tool addition. The much wanted feature is being unveiled as you read this at GW2’s own anniversary celebration at PAX Prime. And you won’t have long to wait either, as it’s currently slated to be added to the game with the September 17th update. I know it seems like a silly thing to write a whole article about, but as fans of the game well know… this one’s been a long time coming. We talked about everything from the functions of the tool to how ArenaNet hopes it connects players in a community driven way, and avoids the anti-social nature of other LFG tools altogether. Read on for the full details.
To access the tool, you need simply open your contacts menu (press the Y key) and go to where the LFG area always has been… only when the revamped tool goes into the game it’ll be gloriously overhauled with the sort of utility and breadth of scope that the game’s long needed. You won’t have to flag yourself simply as “LFG” and hope for the best anymore, and you won’t need to download a 3rd party app to get into CoF. The new LFG has categories for every single kind of content: Living World (both open world and dungeons), all of the game’s Dungeons, the Fractals of the Mists, Personal Story, Player vs. Player, and World vs. World. The only two groups that won’t function across all servers in your region are WvW (because you can’t fight for any server but your own), and for the Living World open world content (because it’s expected that you’ll meet with players already on your server for this).
The left side of the tool has all of the categories, with respective things like “Story” or “Explorable” for Dungeons and Fractal Level for FotM. You can browse all active and looking groups in each category as they’re displayed on the right side of the menu. They’re actively updated by the player pressing “refresh” similar to a webpage. Groups that fill up or are otherwise “closed” gray out on the list of groups, and refreshing the menu will bring up any new groups that have formed and get rid of the closed out groups. What’s more is that groups started by friends, guild members, and so forth will automatically rise to the top.
You can start a party simply by clicking the “host party” button on the menu, and you and any existing party members will be able to start looking for more members in any of the abovementioned categories. You can set a text string to go along with your group to further clarify what you’re looking to do as well. Want to hunt down Champions in Kryta? Put it in the text. Want to tackle a specific path of a dungeon? Let people know! You can also merge parties rather easily, simply by clicking the merge group button in the UI. There’s no “confirm” button, because they wanted the grouping to be seamless, but since you’ll be looking for groups in specific categories, Mike expects there will be very little accidental merging. Worst case, you can simply leave the group and restart a new one if you don’t like someone you’ve merged with. But every system this open and freeform is bound to get trolls, right? Luckily, ArenaNet has a plan for them.
Mike explained to me that the tool has been designed from the very beginning with the community in mind. Both in terms of fostering people interacting and playing together, and in the spirit of defending the community from the more toxic players. There’s a pretty aggressive rate limitation in place that will make sure players who join and leave groups in rapid succession have longer and longer to wait between joining groups. The time limit is not unlike “deserter debuffs” in other games, in so much that it means the bad apple can’t join a group for anywhere between one and ten minutes at a time if they behave badly. Regular players who join up with each other and then realize that they can’t or don’t want to party up after all should never really be affected by the time limit debuff. It’s the problem children that the system is meant for.
On top of this automatic limitation, everyone has the ability to report players who behave poorly too, and kick them from groups. One of the freeform parts of the LFG tool is that any player can alter what your group is looking for in the LFG menu, not just the leader. So if you get a stranger who changes your group’s tagline from “Level 11 Fractals” to “Looking for animal strange” you can report them. The chat log will notify you of every single thing your group does and has done to it in the LFG tool, and it will also let you know who did what. This way you can just right-click the offender, kick them from the group, and report their heinous deeds. And of course, they’ll also be subject to the same timed limitation that ArenaNet is putting in place. Asshats beware, indeed.
The ultimate goal of GW2’s new LFG tool, said Mike, is to “remain community focused. We don’t want players not talking to each other and just running dungeons silently on end for some bonus tokens.” The goal, as always, is to make it easy to meet up with players that want to do the same things as you in ArenaNet’s world. And while it’s been a long time coming, we’re betting the new LFG tool will get more than a few people socializing in Tyria. Let’s just hope it eradicates some or all of the “Need more for Fractals, level 40” chatter in Lion’s Arch. Something tells me that’s a task no developer has a plan for.
What do you think of the newly announced LFG tool for Guild Wars 2? Will you use it? Is it the sort of feature that could get you grouping in the game? Let us know in the comments!
Bill Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things geek. He lives in Cleveland with his wife and small nerdling, anxious to teach him the ways of numbing one’s arse in front of the computer. You can follow him on Twitter @TheBillMurphy.