All right maybe I’m a bit of a dork about a lot of things…like learning that the National Science Foundation has teamed up with Teachers and Grad Students from several universities to study social interaction in Warcraft [Read article or Visit WowLens ] which leads to an add-on to rate your group mates. I find it rather fascinating personally. The social interaction we have in game: the cooperation, coordination, strategical planning and of course back talking (come on you know you /w someone you know in the group ‘I can’t believe this tank/healer/dps’ ) is unlike anything we do in real life on a constant basis.  Its unique because over the course of a single day of grinding dungeons you meet dozens if not hundreds of people for 30 or so minutes going from total strangers to either a cohesive team to accomplish a common goal or well… you know a fail PUG.

In school we have random groups for projects of course but we also know most of the people in our class, or by the end of a week in College we have an idea who the overachievers are, the slackers, the people who are just there for the credits and we don’t even know their names. Before the LFG tool we depended on our own server for resources for PUGs and we got to know the good the bad and the… guys we never want to see again. Now its even more of a mixed bag. It is rare to see the same people twice unless you started out with them in the first place or que up a few times with the same group.  Has this grab-bag interaction changed the way we interact with people? Has it altered our expectations and perspectives? And another question to pose: is it changing the quality of players in groups for good or ill?

A few things I’ve noticed most recently in groups has altered the way I play in lower level dungeons. I have also given healing a shot on my shammy and I won’t lie its a lot of fun and gives me a new perspective to my usual job of pew pew. Maybe some of these are pet peeves, maybe just observations but I am putting serious consideration into actively watching my groups for what happens on a given run.

  • Upon death players not knowing how to get in the dungeon – Mostly because they have never been there before, you know on the outside, while some of us know where it is and can even name the flight point near by or the continent its on. People leveling via the Dungeon Finder only rarely see any place beyond the 10-15 zones as they spend the rest of the time parked at the trainer in a city constantly waiting for a que or in BGs to pass the time. They strive to get to 80 asap and don’t seem to care about the rest of the world that’s out there. This I’ve noticed leads to a lot of kicks or wasted time.
  • Wanting DPS meters – Yeah we like to see how big our numbers are and for many this data can prove informational… but to most its just to prove who’s better and who is on top. A massive E-peen stroke. Some players are down right obsessive over it. At lower levels it… kinda doesn’t matter. Maybe it provides a form of motivation in those who are competitive or simply a distraction from surviving the dungeon.
  • B-line to the Boss – Some of the larger dungeons have been broken up into smaller more digestible chunks and there are in fact many bosses hidden with in the depths of some places ( like Maraudon) that just get flat out skipped in the effort to reach the boss that earns the achievement/bag of ‘useful’ goods and means the end of the run. Some groups just motor right to the end skipping trash and other bosses in hopes of getting done faster.
  • Nitro Boost Runs – At 80 we can smoke through most things fairly damn fast… case and point the Heroic Speed Run. You get a group, know the content and way over gear it and beat a burning, bloody path to the last boss irregardless of whatever lies between the portal and the end other than not dieing and making the best possible time. Well 80s seem to keep this habit with the low level dungeons where its highly likely that people don’t know a laundry list of things that could mean longer runs and endless frustration. Or as I have experienced lately chugging mana pots for Tanks who don’t stop for mana and the endlessly life-tapping Warlocks. I play a warlock… now I know what that means when the healers yell at me. I digress. These speed runs of old dungeons can save time sure but put a lot of stress on people who aren’t geared, skilled, or prepared for such a pace.
  • AFK-OE – Away From Keyboard On Entry… I’ve noticed an increasing trend and over conversations with folks on vent speculate that perhaps the people who join the que then stand at the portal of the Dungeon as everyone else runs in to fight may be people using power leveling services or gold farmers. Or just super lazy. Now I’m not a big PvP nut but didn’t they nix the whole AFK for Honor a while ago?  We still have to wait for a period of time to kick these folks and often they engage just before we are able to or just as the group gets to a boss. I am not sure what is up with this but having to 4 man a dungeon meant for 5 people isn’t always a breeze. It’s down right rude and annoying as far as this elf is concerned. And it is always a DPS class as far as I have observed. I’ve never been a fan of carrying people who do nothing, some effort ought to be put into things and maybe that’s an outdated impression.
  • Where did these Dragons come from? – Not knowing the dungeon. Something that happened pre- Dungeon Finder and even pre-LFG tools: you got people together and went in to a Dungeon either having been there before or going all over the place to know the mechanics. A lot of this you can read up on now or just bother people you know and ask questions. A lot of the Dungeon Finder groups seem to have a lack of knowledge of Dungeons, mobs, heck the zone and where the place is to begin with. Not sure about what I’m talking about? Ok picture this: You’re in Sunken Temple… you’ve killed the trolls in the above circle, you’ve cleared out most of the dragons you had to in order to get to Jammal’an the Prophet, and are now about 5% from killing Eranikus’ shade. He drops, people get their goodie bag, the loot, the quest item and in that few seconds before people start to leave or ask if you want to re-que you and your group are inundated by waves of dragon groups and possibly another pair of drakes and your healer is out of mana and no one has cooldowns. Alternatively ever have a tank in Scarlet Monastery after clearing part of the Cathedral walk up and smack Mograine only to get hugged viciously by every one you haven’t killed yet? Its moments like this that can be awesomely epic or amazingly horrible. The worst part… is it keeps happening in new groups… a lot of times coupled with those who just want to get it done quickly or any other condition from the list above.

And this is just a short list… but it makes me wonder what kind of players this is creating. I know a good deal of people are simply on an alt but there are others who are new to the game and I feel personally they are missing out on a lot of the game simply by rushing to hit 80 and play with the big boys. I noticed this too back in BC that people who played simply in dungeons or were run through a lot of things lacked the skill and knowledge many of us other older players had or those of us who leveled via quests and dungeons combined. What does this mean for the community at large? Well as I see it, this could mean that a lot of people are depending on the knowledge bases of others to get things done, or the dedication of others.

In short… they want to be carried. To win the most items / gold / achievements / exp with minimal effort or thought involved.

Even going so far as to /following someone else in the group just so they don’t have to run…I may use my Aspect of the Pack to be a Hunter Taxi… but I am not a chauffeur.

Or maybe its my own perception at the excitement of doing things myself? The great feeling of learning and educating myself on the things I need to know to be a useful member of the team. Perhaps its this belief and effort that gives others the idea that they can do less because I will pick up the slack, or simply the bare minimum because someone else in the group is doing so much to make sure we win. This happens in real life too… remember that College analogy? Ever been in a group that has a project, set goals, a time line, and a division of labor to everyone involved? Well how many times have you seen someone take the lion’s share of the work or have it thrust upon them by someone else on the team who doesn’t want to or can’t pull their weight and contribute to the group as a whole despite the impact the project will have on their grade and ultimately graduation? Not all students are there to learn. Many go for the social aspects of parties, women/men, sex of course, and all the things popular culture say college is about. This leaves those who are there to learn in a situation where they feel as if they are the only ones really trying or interested. Now this isn’t always the case – you can get your diploma and your kegger too – but you do see both sides of the line with a good mix of people in between.

Not to say that not doing your job in a pug will ruin your real life future but I see it as an aspect of human nature to either be self motivated or lazy if there is the option to be lazy. This is why I find this study and PUG rating tool rather interesting. A lot of people put faith in gear and enchants and gems as the key to winning just about anything, but there is a modicum of skill and knowledge needed to attain these things first, and no victory is ever facerolled. The current system and belief in how leveling should be done  in place at the moment allows people to meet a lot of people with different habits of game play from the speedy tank to the cautious healer or overzealous dps. It gives opportunity to group with amazing players or with those who just suck up resources and time and try patience. We all understand what this means for us as players in this group but what does it do for those in the future, when these 15s-79s hit 80 and start hitting the Raid LFG.

Will this encourage people to try harder to fill in spaces or simply grind out BiS gear and badges and do just enough to get by? Are we seeing a rise to quality raiders or warm bodies to fill raid spots? With Cataclysm coming over the horizon and a new level cap, dungeons and raids that apparently are implementing things some players have never even seen before (and yes I have been asked ‘what is CC?’ ) will those who have the skills prevail or will we seek to simply be lazy and just try the method of bash it till its dead? Will we carry more of our raiders with a core of skilled players or will everyone choose to step up to the plate?

I for one intend to lend assistance to the scientific community in providing feedback and data regarding PUG feedback as well as my own observations. A lot of things we find as pet peeves may in fact become trends in how the game is played and can have impacts upon what is possible in the future.

So people out there in blog land… any observations or opinions on the subject?