Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Dungeon Finder in Classic

Blizzard announced that there would be no Dungeon Finder in Wrath of the Lich King Classic. The Classic community promptly exploded into a state of civil war.

In the end, this is really vindication for J. Allen Brack when he said that "You think you do, but you don't". For better or worse, Dungeon Finder is the dividing line between Classic and Retail. Now basically we have the Retail audience plus a significant minority (maybe even a majority) of the Classic audience wanting to go down the same path that the Retail devs took a decade ago.

A reader reminded me of the posts I wrote when Dungeon Finder first came out. I've always been reasonably happy with Dungeon Finder. I like running dungeons, especially at low levels. And my groups have not been particularly toxic. Though these days I do lend more credence to the idea that healers are drama-prone, which I don't see since I heal.

I generally like the Dungeon Finder, but at the same time, I'm a Retail player, not really a Classic player. I pretty much only dabble in Soul of Iron in Classic Season of Mastery. I'm not really sure it would be fair to apply my preferences to the Classic audience who really want something different than Retail. After all, if you want to play WoW with Dungeon Finder, you can always play Retail. There's something to be said for the idea that two different games should offer two different experiences.

Still, it's possible that there are two ideas in play here, both true at the same time:
  1. Dungeon Finder makes it easier for players to run dungeons.
  2. Dungeon Finder destroys the server community.
I do believe that Dungeon Finder hurts the server community. I once defined social fabric as "the bonds created by repeated, positive interactions between the same set of people." Dungeon Finder cuts directly against this. You no longer do the most common repeatable action with the same set of people. You don't see the same people or the same guilds regularly.

But maybe being able to do content whenever you want is more important than server community. Maybe Classic is really about the content and class systems that was lost with Cataclysm than about nebulous notions like community.

The real irony here is that Retail sees far less use of the Dungeon Finder than Classic would. Mythic and Mythic Keystone dungeons don't use the Dungeon Finder and automatic group creation, they use the Premade Group Finder. So really, the only people using the Dungeon Finder are people levelling, people doing dungeons to finish quests, or people gearing up a little at the very start of an expansion. Otherwise everyone is doing dungeons the old-fashioned way, even having to travel to the instance entrance in the world.

So should Classic Wrath have the Dungeon Finder? I don't really know. I do think that it would worth experimenting with the Premade Group Finder first. See if being able to post and apply to groups in a nice format with requirements listed where you can see what roles are needed. Getting notified when someone applies to your group instead of having to post advertisements in an LFG channel every minute or so.

Perhaps that would end up balancing the ability to run dungeons with server community better than the Dungeon Finder did.


  1. I never raided much nor do I care about raids. I don't like having fixed attendance times in my hobby nor do I want to follow a big group. For me, the lure of an MMO is being the lonely adventurer and small group content.

    Back in vanilla I was very much against LFD and it did indeed kill the game for me as it completely removed the "server community" from dungeons.

    But Classic is different. Back in Vanilla a much smaller percentage of player actually raided. Dungeons "mattered".

    Classic never worked for me. The much bigger server with phasing ensured that you never met the same person again while leveling - something that did happen a lot during Classic to me. And most people that run Dungeons only used them to farm pre raid bis as fast as possible to start raiding with their next alt. Dungeons never "mattered" in Classic the same way they did in Vanilla. There wasn't a "dungeon crowd" playing dungeons as their end game. People only run the dungeons on their pre bis list.

    > I do believe that Dungeon Finder hurts the server community.

    I agree. But not having a dungeon finder does not lead to server community.

    With big servers, faction transfers, and character boosting (regardless of payed or by a mage - both "didn't exist" in Vanilla) there isn't a server community to hurt anyway.

    Personally, I was looking forward to play WotLK like I play a mobile game. Log in, tank a dungeon for 15 minutes, log out, and collect a tier set from badges that way. Without a dungeon finder (can you even get badges without the random dungeon?) WotLK it's just another add-on where you only get left over bones as a non-raider. They just turned their most successful and only non-raider friendly add-on into another raid-or-die addon.

    1. That's an interesting perspective, that there is no server community on WoW Classic to destroy. I am not sure I agree with that. When I played Classic, I at least recognized the other guilds on the server.

      But you do have a point that without LFD, non-raiders and lesser geared people are strongly discriminated against for running regular dungeons at max level. It is hard to break into groups when you are just starting.

  2. I've been sitting on a post about this, and you beat me to it. (Curses!)

    Still, I suspect that (in a TL;DR) that the people who want a dungeon finder want to use the large servers but not reside in them. If we got a dungeon finder restricted to the server only, people would just bitch that the server is dead like always and that the dungeon finder "wasn't implemented right".

    1. I think server size is a whole other kettle of worms. People just gravitate to the larger servers, and for PvP to the larger faction. There doesn't seem to be anything that Blizzard can do to stop that.

  3. One thing that is (often) missing in this discussion is that most people simply played on only one server/faction and so the experience has to be so wildly varying. I do remember that my server (Aggramar-EU) had massive instability problems in Vanilla/TBC, but no queues. I think it was one of the smaller servers population-wise by the time WotLK was around, but again no real numbers. I do remember that getting people for Heroics in TBC was painful, but in WotLK I was mostly running with my guild, so I can't say if the LFD thing was great. I know from other people who hated waiting.

    Oh, and Classic seems to be different from a population standpoint anyway. When I played Vanilla+TBC Classic.. there were easy groups to be found on my server, MUCH better than in the original time. And just comparing the numbers I heard, there might be as much as 5-10x as many players per realm, so the LFD is not strictly needed? But on the other hand, is there a real community if it's already 10x as many people? I don't even know how to argue, there are so many variables. And that's not even considering that people might be misremembering...

    1. There are some less liked dungeons in WotLK. The Oculus and Halls of Reflection come to mind. I don't think it'll be easy to find a group for them without the random element of the random dungeon finder.

      I tried to run dire maul west with my warrior tank during Classic and couldn't find anyone interested in joining. People only run the pre-bis dungeons.

    2. Personally I think the bigger factor in varying experience was the extent of your personal network. If you had a list of tanks, healers or good DPS you could reach out to, it was easier to put together dungeons quickly. If you weren't that sociable, it was a lot harder.

      The question, of course, is it reasonable to expect people to make those personal networks?

  4. I've been in more pugs than is imaginable in the "live game" which I refuse to call "retail", and in a fair few in the TBC era game, whenever I can. There are so many dungeons that nobody ever puts out there in "Looking For Group". What bothers me about this No Dungeon Finder where there was once before is two fold: I think I've become one of those "No Changes" people, to my surprise. I also find it annoying that some alleged "community" who aren't evident on my TBC server, get to call these shots. These are not Private servers. They're run by the people who created the game in the first place. Why aren't those folks in control? Also, if Wrath of the Lich King was the most popular era of the game, potentially drawing in the biggest server crowds since the original Classic, why make it all wonky?

    1. Well, Wrath didn't have the Dungeon Finder until patch 3.3. We went through the first two raid tiers without it. Does that mean it is necessary or not to the Wrath experience?

      Maybe the true "No Changes" is to release Dungeon Finder when the whole Argent Dawn tournament starts.