16 Mar 2010

Escaping the Vortex of Suck

Lets be honest, the Dungeon Finder tool can be an invitation to torture. What started out as a way to find groups and gain some excellent rewards quickly deteriorated into an all out slugfest. Nowadays you’re as likely to find a group where the players are openly hostile to each other, or where some use it as a tool to deliberately cause grief to others. The worst thing is there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

It probably started easily enough. The tank complains to the healer that he’s having trouble keeping up. The healer has a go at the DPS for being mindless zombies that should goddamn move out of the void zones. The DPS moan at the tank for failing to keep aggro on fifteen mobs while they’re going full-tilt on three different targets. The complaints, taunts and snide remarks go round in a circle, with everyone blaming everyone else. It’s a circle of despair – a loop of misery that feels endless.

It doesn’t end there. The proliferation of addons to measure, calculate and assess an individual’s performance means that players can be subjected to intense scrutiny – more than they’d have with their own raid group. People are now using Recount and GearScore to check a character out, even though the dungeon might have incredibly low requirements. Fail to come up to scratch and you’ll soon know about it, either by being booted from the group as soon as it’s possible or being subjected to humiliation for the entire run.

Why should people care though? I mean, it’s not as if you’ll regularly come into contact with the people you find in your random group. Most of the time they won’t even be on your server, so what have you got to worry about? Besides, if people behaved like an asshole to you then you have every right to be an asshole to anyone else that doesn’t measure up.

It leads to a Vortex of Suck. The conditions in the random groups continue to get worse. You try to suck it down, grow a thick skin and ignore anything said in party chat. After all, if it’s only used for hurling insults why should I even have it in my chat window? You end up at the Eye of Bitterness – the quiet at the centre of the Vortex. It’s where no-one says a word because everyone has just one mission on their mind – get in, get the badges and get out with as little pain as possible.

Of course, you may decide you’ve had enough of pugging. Your experience has left you hating the Dungeon Finder tool with a passion, and you find yourself wandering the Plains of Pug Exile. A good guild or group of friends may help fill the gap, but you won’t always be able to rely on them being around or wanting to run instances. If you’re determined to cut loose from the Dungeon Finder, you may find yourself with a fair bit of free time.

Does this represent a failure of the Dungeon Finder? Does it demonstrate that social design collapses when confronted with Gabriel’s Theorem? Or is there something wider here, that without some kind of release or control valve you end up with a chaotic system that starts to collapse in on itself?

I’m not sure if the Dungeon Finder can be classed as broken, or if it can truly be fixed. There seems to be a general feel that something needs to be changed. But what that something is or how it should change remains difficult to answer. It seems that for a while at least we’ll have to weather the storm.

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