[GW2] The Underflow – Bringing People Together

Before working on my WvW exploration, I tried to work on my personal goal of working through every story mode in the Guild Wars 2 dungeons before hitting Zhaitan. I joined a party of two that had been sitting in Lion’s Arch for half an hour trying to get people to join them for Sorrow’s Embrace. We exchanged pleasantries and the group leader starting saying that I had been the only bite for the mid-level dungeon’s story mode in quite a while. She was clearly depressed at the thought of working for another hour to pick up another two party members at that rate. I decided I might not have time for the party wait plus the dungeon and excused myself.

ArenaNet has been adamant against creating a “LFG” system that would bring people looking for the same activity together. There is a lot of confusion both for ArenaNet’s decision and their definition of a “LFG” system.

To begin with, there is a “LFG” system in Guild Wars 2. In the social menu, a player can tag themselves as “Looking for Group”. However, this feature is constrained to the instance the player is in. A player in Lion’s Arch will only see other players “LFG” in their instance of Lion’s Arch. A player “LFG” in the explorable map will likely never be seen.

I get the feeling that most players want an expansion of this same system to simply find players across the game world interested in joining along for the same dungeon. Going to a random auto-grouping system similar to World of Warcraft would be a significant step beyond what I believe the vocal player base is asking for. Yet it seems unclear whether ArenaNet does not intend a “WoW-type LFG system” or simply no expansion of their own LFG system, period.

This is a feature request I have seen in many post-launch interviews. Players that can play together, stay together seems a simple enough reasoning to add it. Another MMO, Star Wars The Old Republic added their LFG system months after launch. How many players would have stayed had it been easier to group up for instances? I don’t understand why it took BioWare so long for what I feel is an incredibly important feature. How long will it take for ArenaNet to buckle to the vocal players?

I don’t buy for a second the emphasis on server community for anything other than WvW. More and more it feels like my Guild Wars 2 community is within the entire game instead of server-based. I was in overflow most of the Mad King’s events, and I was having a blast with people from all over. My secondary guild has players in quite a few servers. Even now I can invite anybody from any server to join my dungeon. Overflow is sometimes a better place to be. Take the next step, ArenaNet.

Another interesting spark in the community has been discussion of adjusting explorable area population with underpopulated areas by going the route opposite of an overflow server. Basically a few people from each server will create a lively explorable area. This was best named, in my opinion, by Reddit as an “underflow server”. GW2 Hub also writes about this issue as well. The underflow server is a great idea, but would likely require some updates to technology by ArenaNet. I feel it is one worth pursuing, at least in spirit.

The problem then becomes as one Reddit poster puts it, the bottomless bucket issue. If there is one person in their home server, they would get moved to underflow. So there would be no people in the home server. If twenty people from the same server are in the underflow, it would make sense to move them back, but I think too much moving around would create issues and players might want to stay where there are forty players from a bunch of servers. An interesting idea would be assimilate servers on a map per map basis. For Dredgehaunt Cliffs take five servers and make them share that map. Heck for Dredgehaunt’s map smoosh all the servers for each region together. Still significant tech would need to be introduced for this “small” feature.

Population control is a very tricky thing in MMOs. I get the feeling that for most MMOs it’s more akin to wizardry and voodoo in deciding when to merge servers, and it is done in usually very blunt ways. Guild Wars 2 has some great technology in place already that blurs the line between discrete servers. I feel that much of the community has solidified around these features in great ways both on a server level and an entire game level. I hope ArenaNet can continue to push technology to let people play together easily without relying on archaic community structures.

During development ArenaNet spent significant time and resources to develop story mode in dungeons (being voice acted by not inexpensive voice actors) and the mid-level zones. I think it’s great that ArenaNet is continuing to add mid-level content, like the Modus Sceleris events, and obviously they are still working on dungeon rewards. Still, it would be a shame if these areas became avoided simply because of poor population segregated to each zone or server. I don’t want to eventually hear that I should save crafting XP for the middle areas so that I can avoid doing those ghost towns. This is for the long tail though, and ArenaNet really seems focused on rewards (see 21:10) at the moment over additional features.


9 thoughts on “[GW2] The Underflow – Bringing People Together”

  1. I still think that, for good or ill, WoW’s Dungeon Finder has become the de facto standard and the more your implementation strays from that, the more the appreciation of it will fall short in the eyes of the players.

    It would be one thing if that same Dungeon Finder would have been designed and appeared in some obscure, niche, sub 50k players title, where it could have reasonably been dismissed for whatever reason. But no. It came from the top dog itself. Millions of players used it and even if they are not playing pandas right now, those millions of players carry the ease of use of that experience into whatever else they play and form natural expectations.

    It’s become the QWERTY of LFG systems. It doesn’t matter one bit if it’s been scientifically proven that with enough practice you can get more wpm out of a Dvorak – when you sit at any computer, you automatically expect a QWERTY.

  2. Nope, I’m German, we have QUERTZ (which is very often forgotten by game designers that think RTY is a great choice for non-customizable hotkeys – may they burn in hell) :P

    The WoW Dungeon Finder has a lot of enemies even amongst WoWers, so I don’t think ArenaNet would make too many enemies when not using it.

    I do however agree that the LFG-tool needs to be improved, but not much. All they would have to do to make it useable is making it server-wide or even cross-server, if they ever get off that damn server-community-train, categorize the content (personal story, normal PvE, dungeons) and offer a field for a bit of text, like they already had in GW. No automation needed.

  3. Is there a reason you are not simply calling the “underflow” system CRZ (i.e. WoW’s Cross-Realm Zones)? It might have a bad connotation in WoW right now, but nearly all of WoW’s issues with the system simply don’t exist in GW2; there is no ganking, no resource competition, no fight over quest mobs, etc.

    In any event, ANet severely dropped the ball when it comes to Story Mode of dungeons. Not only is there no proper LFG (nothing really more than Map spam), but the hugely diminished rewards from subsequent Story Mode runs basically ensures that no one will ever run it more than once. The pool of available players willing to run a Story mode always decreases over time, and there isn’t even a way to easily get the ones that remain into a party together? Did this really never come up as a topic in design meetings? Ugh.

    1. CRZ I guess would be more like my smooshing suggestion. I think colloquially “underflow” servers are more temporary…. the opposite of overflow servers.

    2. They already said that they want Story Mode to give tokens as well, so they’re probably already working on it.

      1. I heard them say tokens would be rare drops in dungeon. So I guess that is about it though. More rewards or a small daily reward would be nice.

  4. I get the feeling that most players want an expansion of this same system to simply find players across the game world interested in joining along for the same dungeon.

    Interestingly, this is exactly what SWTOR had at launch, and most people never used it and acted like the system didn’t even exist. (See also your comment that SWTOR “added” their LFG months after launch, when they just changed from the existing system to an automated group finder.)

  5. Global chat channels (serverwide anyway) would go a long way towards remedying this issue. Right now it’s not clear if you need to be in the zone of the dungeon or in lions arch and there’s really no way to just pick up on a group you might be interested in while farming/exploring. I hope they don’t implement an actual finder ala WoW as that created the worst social experience I have ever seen in an MMO.

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