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The Mechanic's Workshop: Story Mode Dungeons, Fractals, and LFG

November 28, 2012 - 9:38am -- innuendo
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Just so this is clear (I would hate to mislead you), this isn’t a discussion about the dungeon mechanics themselves. By and large the story mode dungeons serve their purpose. They are simple, straightforward encounters that are slightly more challenging than your average dynamic event chain. The Fractals I’ve done thus far have all been a blast as well. Every time I’ve tried either story mode or fractals I’ve been successful, even with complete packs of scrubs I found LFG’ing in map chat. This is a discussion about that last sentence there, and why it’s ruining my days.

It has become painfully aware to me other the last week or so just how asinine 100 people all spamming LFG in Lion Arch’s map chat really is. As part of the initial launch wave of players, I got sidetracked on my Mesmer a bit and missed some of the story mode dungeons as I leveled. Initially I was going to do all the story mode’s in order, prior to doing Arah and the big bad. The lore of the game, and the story being told of Destiny’s Edge really only makes sense when the dungeons are done in order.

The allure of completing my personal story overrode my desire to follow the story as intended and I pugged for Arah story mode before completing Sorrow’s Embrace, Citadel of Flame, Honor of the Waves, and Crucible of Eternity. So I’ve spent these last few weeks trying to go back and complete those dungeons, and having little luck.

Now with Fractals in the mix I’m completely hopeless. I was on holiday for the launch of FoTM so I was already trying to play catch up. Add into that a few disconnects during my play sessions and I’m stuck on a low difficulty level practically begging people to join me for a Fractals run. I’m not the only one having this issue since there is no reason to go back and do lower level fractals once you’ve progressed pass them. I think low level Fractals and Story mode fill a similar space in the design content of the game. They prep you for the harder dungeons by introducing you to the landscape without punishing you with the content.

ArenaNet has mentioned in the past that story mode is meant to be puggable, and this should apply to FoTM as well. And Arenanet was completely successful in the difficultly aspect. As I said, anytime I get 5 people together (assuming 2 aren’t just completely incompetent) we can get through the dungeon without much headache. And during the initial surge of players to level 80 it was easy as pie to find a group for story mode dungeons. And right after the event weekend there were tons of requests for low difficulty level FoTM runs.

But here’s the problem. Story mode and low level Fractals are one time content. There is no reason (and as of recently, disincentive) to replay story mode after you complete it. And unless you are lacking Infusions, the same is true for lower level Fractal runs. I understand why this is, but the impact on someone like me (or new players to the game) is tremendous.

Put simply, you can not find 5 people who want to do a story mode dungeon anymore. At least not without concerted effort (aka luck) or a guild of players who will help you. And this is on top of dungeon runs being incentivized now by the monthly achievement making it easier. The fact of that matter is 90% or more of the population falls into two groups: those who have completed the story mode for the dungeons and have no reason to go back, or those two have no interest in dungeons whatsoever. Getting the remaining 10% to log in at the same time, all be spamming LFG in Lion’s Arch at the same time, and all looking for the same dungeon is simply not working for the game.

I can’t imagine what new players are going through. Imagine leveling up and you get to level 40. Your herald sends you a lovely letter about a meeting at Caudecus’s Manor with Logan and Zojja. What would any new player do but travel to Queensdale and try and find a group. But good luck with that. Even as a starter zone I recently went there and tried to find a group for CM story mode and had no luck after an hour. Why would a player think that the current LFG tool in Guild Wars 2 is “spam mat chat in Lion’s Arch.” It’s not intuitive, and it’s especially not logical if the player has never spent time in Lion’s Arch before this (which assuming they aren’t doing their personal story is likely).

And currently Lion’s Arch map chat serves two purposes. People LFG’ing for a specific FoTM difficulty, or people complaining about LFG’ing for a specific FoTM difficulty. The only way to find players to do this content is to overflow hop and assemble a party from various servers (yay community). If you are like me and had a combination of events put you behind the curve, this problem is magnified. Imagine coming to this game in a month. How on earth would you ever find 5 people to run FoTM difficulty 2 at the same time?

Let me be clear. This is an issue where a lot of potential solutions cause more harm than good. I really really don’t want an official LFG-crossserver, ruin the server community, make dungeons essentially solo content-tool. That has just as many side effects as it does remedies.

I think the real issue is the fact that the percentage of the population who likes running dungeons has no reason to run lower difficulty modes (including story mode). They are all busy LFG’ing in Lion’s Arch for various harder dungeons. The current loot tables for chests and monster drops make it a gigantic waste of time and effort for those players who are most progression oriented, not to mention the complete lack of dungeon tokens in story mode. Fixing the reward structure for lower difficulty dungeon repeats would be a huge help in the short term (and word is Arenanet is already looking to do just that).

Another simple remedy, and one that should theoretically require little development time: give LFG it’s own chat channel, with the same range as /map. Some servers do something similar for WvW by using /map for general chat and /team for strategy communication. That way I can filter it out of my normal chat window conversation if I don’t find relevant. Because as bad as not finding a group can by while you are in Lion’s Arch, it’s almost equally as bad when you are sitting there crafting having to listen to a constant stream of players LFG.

Shoot, you could give each dungeon it’s own chat channel and make it have the range of your whole server population (but only shown to those people who also lfg for that dungeon). So that way anyone who types /lfg CM is put into a chat room of sorts for everyone on their server who is also /lfg CM. This would essentially be like a global /whisper channel specific to that dungeon. Imagine being able to /lfg FoTM 2 and instantly being able to talk to everyone else who is looking for FoTM difficulty 2 on your server. I could actually go play the game instead of waiting in Lion’s Arch for a party.

These solutions use tools ArenaNet already has at their disposal, and it simply expands them. No LFG tool dungeon queues, not cross server garbage. Just nice simple ways to bring people who want to be together, together. And that’s what we all want. However, these solutions only mask the problems. And the addition of Fractal difficulty tiers have emphasized the problems with the design.

Arenanet has essentially introduced 30+ raiding tiers into the game in one patch, made each tier completable in 45 minutes, and gave exactly zero reasons to go back and do lower tiers (Infusions aside). What this has done is to take a population that was finally starting to come together at level 80 and split them into 30 different tiers and divided them all in purpose. It was just silly and shortsighted design. Yes we want to progress our character, but the current FoTM tiering design is a perfect (sad) example of what reward based progression tiering can do to a game community.

We see the effects in game already. Just try and as an experiment and LFG for “Fractals Difficulty 4” in Lion’s Arch and see how long it takes to get a party. It’s laughable how ineffective this is, and indicative of a larger problem. For a game whose mechanics do so much to bring players together, why is the content seemingly trying to pull them apart? And why do I have to completely stop playing the game and sit in Lion’s Arch in order to do this content? The recent AMA this was acknowledged by ArenaNet as an unforeseen consequence, so we can cross our fingers for a timely remedy.

However, the real solutions to these problems require a rethinking of several systems at a core level, including the reward and difficulty tiers of entry level dungeon reruns, that is outside the scope of this piece. I’ll leave the comment section for that discussion.

 

tzahr
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I must say I find myself in a very similar situation with the story mode dungeons and the fractals.  I wanted to finish my fractal and dungeon runs in order to get my monthly complete, but like you I skipped a bunch of the story dungeons and did not quickly pursue the fractal curve.  As a result I ended up repeatedly PUGing level 1 & 2 fractals in the hopes of expanding the playerbase who could move up with me.  Then I went and did the SM at CM three times because I had pity on groups of people who had never done it and needed bodies.  Luckily the SM counts towards your monthly dungeon runs, so it was not a complete waste of time.

I agree that Anet needs to give some incentive to get the lvl 80s back into the general population.  I am an alt-a-holic and as I have been leveling an elementalist it is really shocking how few people are in the lower level areas as compared to the relatively active areas like the Cursed Shore.  It's not just the dungeons that need the playerbase to spread out.  As a whole the server populations have become severely tilted to the level 75+ areas where karma farming and the hopes of a rare or exotic drop keep people entertained.

innuendo
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It's such a shame that a game like this punishes players for helping people run lower level content. They do so much right in this respect (down leveling players0, but punish them on the back end with worse loot.

It's like arenanet is so afraid of easy gear progression they are shooting themselves in the foot to prevent it.

s3rvant
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The LFG server-wide chat channel is a good idea. As for giving incentive to player lower level content, how about scaling the upper players' loot based on lowest player in the party?

Examples:

Couple people want to run story mode for first time. Few people who've already ran it join in. The newbies get normal story mode loot. The experienced players get loot (including tokens) just as if they'd ran the explorable version.

Someone is spamming FotM lvl 1, so some higher level players invite them into their group. Level 1 player gets their level 1 loot and advances to level 2. Higher level players get their current level version of the loot, but remain at their current level.

The easy loot for experienced players should be plenty reason for anyone to jump at the chance of helping a newer player get in their story mode / low level content. Only real problem would be analyzing how abusable such a system would be.

Proverbium of Epic Muffins [EPIC] on Dragonbrand

Noviere
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"The recent AMA this was acknowledged by ArenaNet as an unforeseen consequence, so we can cross our fingers for a timely remedy."

This is what concerns me the most. How could they possibly not see this?

innuendo
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I could not agree more. I wanted to write a lot more about that, maybe in another piece.

Ian Smith
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Hadn't thought of the chat channel system but it seems to me a listing system would also work, similar to what WoW use to have before the instant que but with a bit more detail.  The ability to list as a group or as a single player.  Checking boxes as to what you are looking for in each dungeon and what level.  Maybe with an extra note box for just in case reasons. They seem to have this already in place except it has no functionality right now and can only be seen by people also in the same zone.  So why not expand on it.  I personally would never want an instant que like WoW has gone too again but at the same time, I don't see a "list it and forget it" system being a bad thing.  Communication would come from the whispers of asking each other if they want to form a group.  Other than that, I pretty much agree with all you said.

Aside from the lack of some sort of useful "LFG" system being in place the spam filter is just a crock.  I was on my asura mesmer doing map completion in the sylvari starting zone and thought, might as well get a group while here to do the story mode.  While I already was aware that Lion's Arch was probably the better place to go to try and form a group, I did not expect to take 3-4 hours to get a single group.  I thought there might be people just hanging out at the dungeon entrance.  Apparently that is not the case but then maybe they were and they missed my message of looking for a group.  We'll never know because I kept getting message suppression every 10 minutes.  If you consider saying "LFG TA Story" every 5-10 minutes, then yes, I guess I was spamming. That said, I was only able to do that once.  See, I asked once, waited 5 minutes and asked again.  Waited 5 more minutes and asked again but was suppressed instead.  Was like ok, I'll wait 10 minutes to ask, nope still suppressed.  Waited 15 minutes total and was finally able to ask for a group again.  Waited 10 minutes after that to ask again. Was suppressed. Had to wait another 15 minutes before I could ask again.  This continued on for the next 3-4 hours.  Didn't matter how long I waited, I got suppressed.  Even after changing the message of asking for a group to another statement, I would still get suppressed.  Strangely enough, as long as I didn't ask for a dungeon group, I could carry on a conversation in map chat, but i couldn't dare ask for a damn group. 

After about 3 hours of this, I gave up and just worked on map completion.  Luckily someone else finally said LFM and I was able to get it done. I was happy to get it done but I found myself grudgingly getting the map completion and just logging off in disgust.  While I have consider that maybe there was a "bug" at play, this is not the first time something like this has happened to me in this game.  I would like to do the dungeons but honestly, I just don't want the frustration.  I cannot fathom as to what legitimate reason Arena.Net has beyond them just having not figured out how to make a system work, which I do consider a real reason and an acceptable one, in my opinion, as I know nothing about code programing (or any other kind).  The "communtiy' reason is BS, however.  Seriously, who believes stuff like that?  I would much rather they just said, "We don't know yet how to make an LFG system work but we are working on it", even if that was BS too.  At least lie to me with a straight face.

scyth02
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It's weird but I didn't have these issues finding groups for low level dungeons in WoW. Is it because here the dungeons aren't as integral to the leveling progress or to other story elements? There are more than enough options exp and gear wise to not give dungeons a second thought when leveling, although they are great for building play experience with your class.

Anyways, seems the best way to fix the dungeon issue is to element story as a prerequisite for explorer. Ultimately WoW ended up removing most prerequisites because it segregated the player base. That does suck lore wise, but maybe they can sneak the story into explorer, or give some sort or solo story mode option with NPCs?

FotM is a bit tougher because of the granularity, but they could be a bit more forgiving, allowing a few levels above the lowest level player. Not really a clear fix but an improvement.

chaosgyro
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This sort of thing is actually the thing that worries me most about the game. (which is probably a good thing considering other potential issues :P )  Everywhere you turn you come across the problem of "viability of earlier content".  Specifically for story mode dungeons, I think Anet should just bite the bullet and make them a solo experience that is fully integrated with the personal story.  After all, that's really what they are.  Story steps are analogues for GW1 quests, while the story modes are more comparable to missions.

With fractals, an entire revamp of the difficulty scale mechanism should be implemented...to what I don't know...and pretty fast before this whole thing gets out of hand.  No amount of LFG tool is going to help players in the long term as a higher and higher percentage either progress to upper difficulty levels, upper tiers of difficulty levels (since Chris Whiteside pontificated about groups lvls 1-5 and so on) or simply ignore the FotM altogether.

katstrut (not verified)
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I agree 100%!!!!  It should be solo-able for the personal story by way of NPCs to assist.  If I am able to find one person to do story mode with then the NPC group could be adjusted accordingly.

It honestly should be a choice depending on play style and/or availability of other players to join you.

In fact as a new player, I tried the personal story dungeons solo (Minister Caudecus's) and died repeatedly.  I did mange to do some significant damage but there was no way I could stay alive long enough to finish the job and I tried about 20 times.  It was not 100% clear to me that I really HAD to get other players, I thought that was only required the non-personal story mode.

I do not like holding up progression and they really should make it easy for people to progress whether grouping up or not.  I also had the same issue when LFG or LFM in terms of  chat suppression. what are you supposed to do?  I have not completed ONE story-line dungeon for this reason and I am so pissed off.  It's ruining the game being held to ransom like this.

In addition to the great ideas above, please make it solo-able and scalable depending on the number of players you manage to get in the group.

katstrut (not verified)
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I agree 100%!!!!  It should be solo-able for the personal story by way of NPCs to assist.  If I am able to find one person to do story mode with then the NPC group could be adjusted accordingly.

It honestly should be a choice depending on play style and/or availability of other players to join you.

In fact as a new player, I tried the personal story dungeons solo (Minister Caudecus's) and died repeatedly.  I did mange to do some significant damage but there was no way I could stay alive long enough to finish the job and I tried about 20 times.  It was not 100% clear to me that I really HAD to get other players, I thought that was only required the non-personal story mode.

I do not like holding up progression and they really should make it easy for people to progress whether grouping up or not.  I also had the same issue when LFG or LFM in terms of  chat suppression. what are you supposed to do?  I have not completed ONE story-line dungeon for this reason and I am so pissed off.  It's ruining the game being held to ransom like this.

In addition to the great ideas above, please make it solo-able and scalable depending on the number of players you manage to get in the group.

Entombed
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The chat grouping system proposed isn't a bad idea.  However, for younger players, I really do feel like that would not be intuitive.  There would have be to some default pop-up when they reach Ascalonian Catacombs explaining the system. 

However, I really do not understand how a LFG tool ruins the community.  I understand that it is a prevailing thought in the MMO genre, however, to me it's nonsensical.  If I do spam map chat, find a good group, and complete the dungeon etc, I very rarely ever stay in touch with that person afterwards.  Becoming connected with someone after the dungeon run, seems to seldom happen in my experience.  

I would much rather have quicker start-up time entering the dungeon.  Even when I played WoW with a LFG for nearly every aspect of dungeons and now raids, I rarely encountered people who weren't willing to cooperate.  If someone was failing, and was not willing to learn, we would boot them. (In the current system, it's almost harmful to the group to remove someone especially in FOTM)  If someone was doing a great job, we would thank them.  Just because crossserver LFG's remove the person from your realm, doesn't mean you can't have fun with a random stranger.  

Just my two cents, and I think I'm in the minority opinion on this one.

chaosgyro
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Nah, I agree with you.  I've yet to hear a truly convincing reason why "wow-style" LFG tools harm community.  People constantly complain that while GW2 encourages you to play around other people, it doesn't really encourage you to play witn other people.  I would see an LFG tool as actually helping in that regard.  I'm more likely to talk to a person with whom I'm grouped than one who's simply running around the map; no matter how I got into the party with them.

gabal
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A good tool that helps with LFG issues is this web-site that I advertise wherever I can:

 

www.gw2lfg.com

 

People leave posts that they want to do this and that dungeon or fractal level that and that and leave their in-game name so you can contact them. As my guildies overtook me in FoTM level I pug-ed last 4 levels of fractals with that and it is especially useful for other dungeons which are now done much rarer then before.

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