I may be dating myself here but back in vanilla WoW there was a time where LFG meant hitting up general and trade chats to find people to run dungeons. It forced people on the realm to interact with one another. People were known for how well they performed in dungeons as well as their personalities.
Today groups on the realm rarely form, as the dungeon finder has taken over and puts groups together from multiple realms. The convenience of having a tool put together a group for you has had many folks ditch the /LookingForGroup channel in favor of Blizzard’s match making widget.
I have been around for a long time, started in the original closed beta. When WoW was first released I was one of the first people on my server, one of the first guild leaders, with one of the first guilds in the history of WoW. Those are things I was proud of. Especially since I had created one of the few guilds who was truly casual but was still able to raid 40 man encounters. I was able to do this at first by networking with other smaller guilds and running an alliance, later as we recruited we set out on our own.
The thing is, I developed those relationships by searching out people to run dungeons with, sitting in cities trying to find the right people, “Looking for rogue, priest and druid for UBRS” might have been something I called out. Today its a click of a button and what dungeon, if not random, that you want to run.
Now I am going to sound a bit conceited but I promise, that is not my intent. In vanilla, I was very well known, my guild was well known. If people had issues with our guild they came to me or one of my officers. Word of mouth of my guild’s reputation from running dungeons with my members helped build a strong core team through word of mouth recruitment. However with the anonymity of the dungeon finder today I find myself and my guild are less known on my realm except by those who have been here forever, Dalaran lifers I like to call them.
I miss the days of getting into a dungeon group and saying, awesome we have a Phalanx of Nod member in our group this is going to be a snap. Now I am grouped with people halfway around the country. There is no community, its all about the job at hand. Does that make those who use the dungeon finder a bit like mercenaries? Signing up for a job, getting it done, getting paid and moving on? Sounds like a mercenary to me. While I love the convenience of the dungeon finder I find myself yearning for the days where community on a realm meant more than knowing the trade chat troll and reporting him for being a moron and taking up space. When we had community, people on the realm policed their own. It quelled loot ninjas, drama queens and general ass-hats. Today with the dungeon finder we have lost that almost entirely.
I remember when you kicked someone from a guild for being a loot ninja or an ass-hat, they had a very hard time getting into another guild. However now people move around more freely, and with the automation of guild finder in patch 4.1, its much harder to weed out those shady individuals.
How can it be fixed? Well the problem is you can’t go back to not having a dungeon finder, you can’t give someone a sports car, then take it away and replace it with a unicycle, it just wouldn’t work. However Blizzard could provide an option to use the dungeon finder for only your realm. Something like a checkbox on the Dungeon Finder that says something like “Group me with only people from my realm”. Drawbacks are that the queue times would be longer for this option, and possibly you wouldn’t be able to run when you want, but for those scenarios you use the global dungeon finder option instead of realm. Perhaps provide a small incentive to build the community. This would have the potential to help get everyone to know who is on their server. Perhaps even police the server for d-bags, but also get people talking on what the realm needs more of, holy pallies or boomkins? I would love to see those conversations come back to the realm forums and general chat.
Currently convenience has pushed aside community in my mind. The only true community we have is our own guilds. I want to see realm communities make a come back. Though Blizzard can’t remove their convenience options, they can provide modifications to convenience items to help bring back realm communities. Its a slippery slope for sure.