Dungeon Finder groups and story-gating

Bhagpuss has an excellent post on the Duty Finder system (for dungeons) in FFXIV that I read yesterday. He also talks about the gating of story within dungeons in this game.

I find myself agreeing with this post, it accurately outlines some of the reasons why I wasn’t that tempted to subscribe to the game after the free time ran out. The issues he outlines aren’t isolated to FFXIV though, they also relate very closely with a similar trend in modern World of Warcraft:

  1. Forcing players to use a Dungeon Finder / PUG system
  2. Locking story progression behind such a system

So when I was playing FFXIV and suddenly found I had to do dungeons to get on with the story I was pretty disappointed. I was in doubt whether I’d subscribe and didn’t want to go through the trial of trying to find a suitable guild only to disappear a few days after joining. This left me forced to play with random groups of players just to progress the story. Compared with LOTROs solo-friendliness this felt too rigid, or restrictive and controlling as Bhagpuss described it.

I find the WoW dev tactic of storylines gated by raids to be equally restrictive – in particular the Black Prince story arc (spoiler-filled wiki post) requires you to grind multiple raids via the Raid Finder system to collect tokens. The story isn’t bad from what I’ve seen so far but Blizzard couldn’t pay me enough to do two or more raids ten times or more through LFR; it’s just a plain bad experience (yes I know I could do normal mode or now even flex-mode for some of this but it’s still story-in-raid!).

SWTOR also has some story in its flashpoints and operations but the group sizes are smaller than other MMOs so it’s easier to fill a group of friends and family to do these. Guild Wars 2 has the dungeons as part of the personal story arc and we did about the first half of the first dungeon before deciding to never, *ever* go back to that mess. Even worse it locks the final part inside a dungeon as well!

So, devs, either give me a solo option (EQ2 does this really well and Rift’s Chronicle system too) or leave my story outside of the gear-grind dungeons!

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4 Responses to Dungeon Finder groups and story-gating

  1. Jonny 5iVe says:

    Problem is, that people tend to play an MMORPG to get into typical RPG lore (i.e., one with a lot of depth to it)… But they also want to get their MMO action on, thus the requirement to play with others.

    A lot of people (myself included), will read both those posts as “I want an RPG, but am playing an MMORPG”.

    Developers are constantly trying to force people into playing with others, and for better or worse, the best way to do that is through PUGs.

    Do you not remember the debacle of WoW, pre-cross-realm-LFG? People who say it was better without it I feel are always looking through rose coloured glasses.

    The majority of the player base never even saw pre-cap dungeons before the LFG/LFD tool came out, I know I didn’t… Not to mention, farming for tokens in the BC’s heroics with your guild was fine (if you had one), but then if your guilds tank had already done it with another group, you were stuck spamming trade for an hour, looking for someone to run instances with.

    At the end of the day, you NEED to involve dungeons and raids in the story, otherwise those dungeons and raids don’t feel epic. They don’t feel like there’s really any purpose in your character being there, and they certainly don’t feel anywhere near as fun.

    Running an MMO is a lot like politics… You can never please everyone. But they’re also a single genre of game, and I fear that people tend to expect too much out of them. They’re multiplayer. Entirely multiplayer. Therefore being corralled into a situation where you HAVE to play with others shouldn’t come as a shock. Nor should it really be unwelcome.

    • Telwyn says:

      I’m a huge fan of cooperative gaming with MMORPGs – so small group PVE is where I’m happiest. I want to spend hours playing these games with friends or guildmates. I *do* not want to be forced to PUG stuff. The solo for story is just the easiest way to implement the story-led questing experience. It doesn’t have to be done just for solo players, but sadly most MMO developers seem to take a binary approach to story vs group content. SWTOR is the shining example in the current market for the ability to play through story content (normal quests and instances) with a small group of friends.

      I’ll agree I could have worded the post a bit differently to avoid this confusion. I’m not saying I want a MSORPG (Massively Single-player…) but I would prefer to have a solo option if currently a pugged dungeon or raid is practically forced on you!

  2. lostforever says:

    I commented on Bhagpuss post as well but I am not against gating some part story behind group or raid dungeons. We can debate about the level of gating and may be agree FF14 has gated too much but gating in itself isn’t bad.

    I am story/lore hunter in MMO games. It’s like a puzzled to be solved so the new bits of story/lore is the reward for my hunting. How much I value my reward is directly proportional to the difficulty of the hunt. So by putting story/lore behind dungeons and raids you increase the difficulty of the hunt whereby making the rewards even more valuable. I guess what I am saying is that to some people gear and story are the same thing.

    The argument Bhagpuss makes why story should be solo experience is that it’s similar to books and TV shows etc and they don’t make you jump through hoops to read the story. He is right to some extent but books and TV shows surly make you grind. There were lot of times I had to read and watch crap to get to good bits! In fact in good books and TV shows you have to re-read or watch multiple times to get at the good bit since they are well hidden. Sometimes you actually need other people to tell you the good bits since you yourself can’t figure them out. The point is other mediums do make you jump through hoops to get to the story as well but MMO requires you need other people’s helps to jump through these hoops….

    I am not sure what you mean by EQ2 gives you solo option to story/lore. Yes you get some story/lore via solo means but LOT of juicy story and lore are gated behind dungeons and raids from EQ2 vanilla to even now.

    • Telwyn says:

      I focused on the point of flexibility within his wider post. I’m very against forcing players to group in a certain way for content. SWTOR is great in this sense in that you can solo to level 50 or duo or play with a couple of friends and there’s stuff to do that will challenge you as you enjoy the stories (especially heroic missions and the elite mobs in the open world).

      As for EQ2 I’ve seen there are a lot of festival related or ‘timeline’ (e.g. Qeynos) quests that are scaled to your level and are packed full of stories. It’s a great approach to storytelling I find. Sadly I haven’t seen the dungeon or raid content because my guild (like most probably in such an elder game) are all about the end-game. They’ll mentor me through a dungeon if I ask but personally I don’t want to spend 30 mins running behind a super-powered character/merc with barely any time to click an attack! That’s my fault of course as I could still see the stories unfold but it’s a game and I do want to play it at the same time as enjoying the stories – hence why I play MMORPGs, I find TV too passive a medium for entertainment thesedays.

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