While playing on Siori or Tumunzahar, I notice they have an incredibly long friends list. I also notice, I can’t remember more than half a dozen people on those lists combined. For that, I blame the Random Dungeon Finder. Don’t get me wrong, the RDF is a decent tool and people with alts have been able to enjoy the rewards that comes with it (though the Satchel of Useful Goods is rarely “useful). However, we’ve all been in that group, or twenty, where next to no one utters a word the whole instance. It’s go in, burn it, get out. Random people from a random server, so what’s the point?
That’s not to say everyone is like that, but it genuinely is the greater majority. Once upon a time it wasn’t like that. The biggest reason is because you couldn’t queue for a dungeon. You had to actually advertise you wanted to run something and hope to find someone else in the same bracket and looking to do the same thing -on your server. For those that weren’t around for those days, you’re probably terrified at the idea. Personally, I miss it.
Back when the only people you could run instances with were people on your server, the wait was sometimes brutal. But that’s where you were usually farming or questing, or just chilling (these days it would be swearing while you run around for Archaeology). Slowly but surely you would pull a group together and head off to your battle destination. In doing so, you all wanted to complete it and most of the time worked better together because of it. When you wait a couple hours to run Dire Maul, you don’t subsequently want to be in there all night. This made people communicate (and accountable too!). You were able to get a feel for your fellow players, kickstart some in-game friendships and often times this is how guilds grew.
Using the tiny social guild I’m in as an example, I remember how nearly every non-RL person joined us. It was either a dungeon run, a raid “PuG” person, or even something like getting attuned for Onyxia (I do miss that). We would laugh, and have fun. We’d succeed together or fail together. Whenever any of us found that personality that seemed to fit our guild, we’d tell them if they ever wanted to pop an alt into Claws to just let us know. In most of the cases, main toons ended up coming into the fold as well. They became our friends. I can recall receiving offers in a similar manner too.
Now, that doesn’t happen. If there is communication in your dungeon finder (and I mean talking, not swearing at each other) it ends with pleasant farewells and nothing more. You can mention to one another “if you ever roll on my server, look me up” or something equally as cordial and sincere, but that rarely actually gets followed up on. People group their toons for the beauty of things like BoA’s, and nearly all have a circle of friends they play with that are on that server. They devote their time to it. There’s a chance you could Real ID connect, but it’s very slim at best. The player base basically remains divided.
Someone suggested to me the Guild System and perks deters that, but I don’t really see it. Okay, there are the benefits when you land a guild that you feel at home with and a part of. Otherwise, it’s rampant abuse. Pre-85’s use the larger guilds for the bonuses to things like XP and gathering, but then take off to the guild they were probably always headed to. On the other side, guilds send out blind invites to thousands of new toons (some at least with a tell first, detailing the guild) just so that a few fish will hook on and start generating income (be it gold, achievement contributions, etc). Barring some revelation, these recruits will never be the frontline members of the guild and almost as equally not feel like they’re a valued part of the guild (for lack of a better way of putting it), unless they basically form their own group within the guild.
I know you shouldn’t rip on something without offering a way to fix what you see as wrong, but in this case I admit there’s no right way of solving the problem. There is simply no way the player base is going to give up the Random Dungeon Finder (though more and more have avoided using it for Heroics for just reason). The Raid Finder will make the social aspect even worse, as now you won’t even need a guild to run end-game content. You hit 85, you can run randoms or probably even buy the gear to get you raid equipped and off you go an hour later. Sure beats hoping the other five dps in your guild has an absence just so you might go on a run tonight.
If I sound bitter, I’m actually not. I just realize that while Blizzard is focusing on making the game better and more appealing to the casual player (this is a good thing), they (indirectly) aren’t doing enough to encourage one of the most important aspects of an MMO -the social relationships.