I've been playing quite a bit of Star Wars: The Old Republic over the last few days. I want a max-level character, so I can stop before I have to pay for another month. As I played, I kept noticing something I hadn't seen in a long time — people looking for group (LFG) in the general chat.
World of Warcraft was like that at first. You were presented with group quests all over the place, and the only way to find groups for the instances and raids was to advertise either in the general-chat channel or in the LFG channel. I can easily remember the days of having to search for a group in these channels if I wanted to get anything accomplished, especially at max level.
Of course, World of Warcraft has evolved to the point where players don't really have to do that anymore. It now has a tool that matches people together automatically when they choose to queue for a dungeon or raid instance. It pairs characters of the same level and balances the group to succeed. It was a major innovation for the game and has even evolved to work across servers.
I was a little surprised when I noticed that TOR didn't have this option. The game has been in development for a while, and the design document for the title was probably finished a long time ago. An LFG tool, however, seems like something Bioware might have wanted to devote some resources to implement. The idea of recruiting others in a chat channel is almost archaic.
I don't like to group much in MMOs. I hate relying on others, but I have done a few group quests and instances here and there. As I engaged these quests, I came to realize a second thing. People were much chattier and livelier than those in World of Warcraft.
I believe LFG has ruined a lot of the social side of the game in WOW. The LFG function was a convenient thing to add to the title, but it also facilitated the creation of quick parties that didn't have to communicate at all to succeed. I can't tell you how many dungeons I ran through where no one said a word. The norm now is to simply shut up and do your job while being rewarded with loot and quest progress.
The simple act of forcing players to seek people out with a bit more work has brought back some of the social element that has been slowly fading from WOW for years. Joining a group and chatting a little in between fighting mobs is nice. The lack of an LFG tool in The Old Republic might be inconvenient, but the omission sure makes things more entertaining.
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