Just musing about the automated group finder function that has spread from WoW to Rift and now to LotRO… while I’m still not really a fan of the dungeon finder and its brethren, I can’t deny the convenience it provides and I’ll admit to gleefully taking advantage of that when I fancy a quick dungeon run as opposed to the old-fashioned method of setting half your evening aside to get a group together. The other interesting quirk of the dungeon finder is that it applies its own criteria of whether your character qualifies for the dungeon in question, which tend to be a lot more forgiving than some players are when they try and put together a PuG manually – a lot of those people shouting out LFM in public chat are asking for specific class combinations that aren’t strictly required, or looking for over-geared or over-levelled characters to make the run go smoother and faster. If those guys won’t take you, chances are the dungeon finder will… and your group will succeed.
With that in mind, there are four groups of players who really benefit from having a dungeon finder and would probably have to skip group content altogether without it:
The Time Poor Player simply doesn’t have the time to stand around while a group forms the old-fashioned way. There’s only so much time free between putting the kids to bed and dinner with the wife. But hey, he doesn’t mind healing and that time is enough to log in, queue as healer and finish the dungeon before the food’s on the table.
“Billy No Mates” doesn’t mind any effect the dungeon finder has on the community, because he’s not bothered about ‘community’ anyway. For the person who likes the ‘lots of people soloing together’ model of MMOs and wants to carry that style over into group content, then an automated LFG is a godsend.
The Asshat wouldn’t get a group any other way. His reputation precedes him. Maybe he’s a loot ninja, or outstandingly incompetent, or a loud-mouthed offensive twat. Whatever the reason, while word of his less-than-endearing qualities may have got around his server, the dungeon finder continues to serve a never-ending buffet of companions who haven’t actively put him on ignore yet. But they will.
The Non-Conformist hasn’t optimised his character. He plays something that’s fun for him, and good enough to get the job done (if he couldn’t hack it and persisted, he’d be an Asshat instead). Maybe he’s a Guardian that insists on filling a DPS role in Overpower instead of tanking like all good Guardians should, or maybe he has some unique and interesting hybrid build. If he asked to join a group, a lot of players who know what’s ‘best’ would refuse him, but if he’s placed into a group he can carry his weight.
Now, of those groups I’d love to find a way of keeping the Asshats out, but truth be told, genuine Asshats are relatively rare and the other groups, each of whom are more numerous, deserve their crack at dungeon content. I still don’t like the dungeon finders – I think they reduce the chance for players to get to know their virtual neighbours and build community, and the anonymity encourages a lot of players into a sort of defensive minor asshattery where for example they roll Need on everything because they’re convinced that the others in the group will do the same to them. Having thought it through, on the other hand, I do think they open up and improve the game for a lot of players and that has to be a good thing.