Monday, May 1, 2017

Some Thoughts on the Group Finder Addon Changes

A few days ago, Blizzard announced a hotfix that prevented the automation of group creation and requesting an invite to groups in the Premade Group Finder. Based on their statements, the change was intended to help restore stability by helping improving realm performance. However, this effectively broke the functionality of addons like WQGF at the time, resulting in some player backlash (like in the thread linked above), including from the author of the aforementioned addon. After having a few arguments among friends and wading through some forum posts, I wish I published some content on the matter sooner, but I guess this article will have to do instead. Better late than never, right?

The "Nuclear" Approach Was Probably Needed

I'll start by saying that I think Blizzard did the right thing here. It's a relatively heavy-handed approach, but server lag that came out of seeming nowhere that was the equivalent of having 500 or more milliseconds of latency isn't conducive to a good gaming experience. I'm surprised it wasn't done sooner but I guess Blizzard had to weigh their options and chose to break some aspects of addon functionality for the greater good. This in itself is nothing new considering that when server lag is considered, past addons like oQueue and Gearscore were suspected to cause issues and both were probably broken (and replaced with default functionality) at least partially due to the performance issues caused.

In the case of the specific functionality that was disabled, I hazard a guess that manually confirming the creation of a group or an invite request reduces user queries a fair bit. At the very least, the changes close a loophole that allows an addon to basically cause a denial of service attack. In addition, automated management of groups means they can end up being for a long time, bringing players onto a single realm in the process who, in some cases for some reason, aren't returned to their original realm which can also cause stability issues due to player density.
An example of a group made by WQGF that's been up for nearly half an hour (that isn't Mark of the Sentinax).
Blizzard isn't entirely faultless here since concepts like sharding and the conditions for whether a player is returned to their original realm seem rather messy due to changes made to how cross-realm group work in Legion. However, I do think that allowing for the automation of group management, which may reduce how often groups are delisted, can exacerbate the issue. In addition, I don't think a quick fix of disabling the new functionality would do much to prevent the server lag issues due to reasons such as the aforementioned point regarding a higher number of user queries. That isn't to say that Blizzard's current solution is perfect either and I'd argue there may need to be a better one for the long-term, but it seems to have been a carefully calculated one that I can respect.

The Problem of (Automated) Hopping

Hopping in itself is also a bit of an issue beyond potential performance issues. While in general it's useful since players on "dead realms" don't need to pay for a transfer to play with players on more active realms, it does come with its drawbacks. One such drawback, I'd argue, is players who hop on a large scale.

I can't speak for anyone else's experience on the matter, but I often found myself creating groups to do some activity in Warlords of Draenor, mainly because five people trapping animals for their Garrison Barns was very efficient. However, very often I had players joining my group who weren't even in the same zone as me. These were hoppers and they were typically camping some rare spawn with a decent drop, such as certain mobs in Pandaria.

While automatic group delisting wasn't an annoying issue at the time like it is now (for some reason), hoppers tended to fill my group, then leave only to be filled by more hoppers. These players were taking spots from players who were interested in trapping animals, who were occasionally able to join the group. While turning off Auto-Accept greatly relieved the issue, there were some persistent hoppers who tried to use the group as a medium to farm the rare they wanted anyways and often, I found myself waiting quite a while for invites to groups using manual invite when I wasn't the one leading. I learned later that there were addons that made hopping incredibly convenient, which is why turning off Auto-Accept helped a lot.

Ultimately, the point I'm trying to make is while hopping can be beneficial, it can also be disruptive to other players using the premade grouping system. This is probably part of why Blizzard made the changes they did to cross-realm grouping in Legion. However, with 7.2, the hoppers came back in full force because between rare spawns and chests that can drop Legionfall War Supplies, there was a good reason to and plenty of Broken Shore World Quest groups to use to accomplish the objective. While this is dying down now because more players are hitting Revered with the Legionfall faction, I fear this might be an issue in future. Making the process a little more manual may help to prevent it from being too much of an issue, but again I think there might be better solutions out there.

The Default UI Can Do It Too

There's no denying this change strongly affected the WQGF addon, which in itself upset players to the point some think World Quests are not worth doing because they're not the quick and easy affair the addon allows for. However, players have been given the capability to easily create and join groups for World Quests without needing the addon. This detail may have been glossed over in the 7.1.5 patch notes and, to be fair, the functionality is a little cryptic to find in some situations.

To join a group for any World Quest (and some quests too), you can do the following:
  1. In the quest tracker, right click the quest you want to group for and click "Find Group." Elite World Quests and group quests should have a convenient eye icon to click.
  2. You should now see all relevant entries for the quest in question and you can freely apply.
  3. If you want to make your own group, click "Back" on the above screen and then click "Start Group." You'll briefly see the following:
  4. Your group will now be listed for the World Quest in question with a generic description. Auto-accept can be enabled and, as far as I can tell, Premade Group Finder will remember this setting! Remember to delist your group when you're finished - be a responsible leader.
I will freely admit the default UI's functionality is not perfect or as convenient as even the updated WQGF addon that added manual prompts. In fact, I think it would be great to make searching for a group for any quest a one-click affair instead of a two-click one. However, to say World Quests are not quick and easy to do is wrong not just because many typically take minutes at most anyways, but grouping for them with default UI functionality is quick and relatively painless. With all that said, it's also worth bringing up the following:

Not Everyone Likes World Quests

This is worth bring up even if may seem obvious to some. In the wake of the outrage, there were threads like this around that seem at least mildly misrepresentative of why some people may be upset. Yes, there are leechers out there and they should try to "earn their keep" since, hilariously, it makes more sense to do so in this game than it does in real life. However, my general interpretation of the comments besides that seemed to imply a resent towards World Quests as content. This is nothing new considering they're basically an evolution of daily quests, which certainly had its critics.

I guess it's fair to say World Quests may bring a little too much in the way of rewards. They are a primary source of reputation that may be useful to learn recipes or the like, much like daily quests of the past. They also not only give a fair bit of money but now also reward gear and Artifact Power. However, when considering the content from a broader perspective, like I did with my article series on much of Legion's content in a general sense, the game has plenty to offer even for those who don't want to do World Quests even for the emissary rewards. For instance, Mythic+ rewards plenty in the gear and Artifact Power department and Order Hall missions can help to accumulate some reputation. Note that this doesn't mean the types of content are balanced but I'm sure plenty of reiteration and constructive criticism will help there.

The point I'm trying to make here there's options that involve not having to do World Quests or at least minimizing how much one does them. For example, with Emissary and extremely brief World Quests, picking and choosing is one option. Then there's the many other forms of content that may have some level of appeal. If there's nothing appealing, then it also helps to suggest more or suggest improvements. The latter option, which is one of many more, is why I try to expand upon the idea of evergreen content so heavily, especially by pairing it with content revival or borrowed concepts.

Final Statements

This concludes my thoughts on the changes, which I may also refer to as the "WQGF controversy" since that seemed to be most of where the grievance from players ultimately lay. This is why I spent a little over half the article talking about WQGF-related topics. With that said, I think this small set of changes is much bigger than making World Quests more or less enjoyable to some and I would urge players to remember that the service that comes with WoW is important to maintain to even play at all. At least I have some more article ideas now considering I'm late to the party, thus making this an opinion that will be slept on.

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