Community News

06.13.2012

A Guide to Group Finder

Hi, I’m Damion Schubert, Lead Systems Designer. In Game Update 1.3: Allies, players will notice that there is a new button attached to their minimap, for our Group Finder. Usable by any character who is at least level 10, the Group Finder should be very helpful for players who like to group up and adventure with others.

We’ve put a lot of thought and effort into making Group Finder simple for anybody to use, while still giving more control to those who want it. Our aim was to balance the needs of those who are just looking for a random group to play with, and those who are looking to play specific content with specific class roles required for their group.

Giving the player firm control over what content they want to play allows them to target specific content or rewards that they need, which is especially important given as many players are still playing through their class stories and trying to clear out their Mission Logs. If you have a mission in your Mission Log to complete the Esseles Flashpoint, we didn’t want you to get sent to Hammer Station, for example.

Still, we want as little time to pass between queuing up and jumping into a Flashpoint as possible. If everyone only queues for a couple of Flashpoints, you may end up queuing for longer, because everybody is queuing for different content. To alleviate that, we want to encourage players to queue for as many Flashpoints as are possible, so we incentivize you to do that. By default, when you open the Group Finder, the Group Finder pre-selects all Flashpoints and Heroic Missions that are neither overly easy or OMGWTFBBQ hard. If you choose to let these default settings stand (thus queuing for a random Flashpoint) and then complete that randomly selected Flashpoint, you’ll receive level-appropriate commendations. You can earn this reward once per day.

Group Finder and Operations

We don’t just limit the Group Finder to Flashpoints. We also allow players to attempt to put together Operation groups with the tool. At the outset this is going to be limited to the 8-Man ‘Story Mode’ Operations because if balanced right, most Hard Mode and Nightmare Mode Operations should be far too challenging for a random pick-up group to complete. We’re open to your feedback, however, and if there is enough demand for it we may reconsider.

We also allow players to sign up for ‘planetary destinations’. This allows players to queue up in order to try to conquer Heroic Missions or other challenges on a specific planet. We felt that this was important because our leveling content has a lot of group content to be done. Nearly every planet has a World Boss as well as a variety of Heroic Group Missions to be done, and we know we have a large population who enjoys doing them. The Group Finder should make it much easier for them to find each other.

Other Notes

We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to allow players to manage their experience in the Group Finder a little better. The Group Finder will never group you with someone you’ve placed on your Ignore list, and when you’re in a group formed by the Group Finder you’ll be able to vote to kick troublesome members. We also have a robust backfilling system that allows a group to seek players to backfill an empty party member slot.

We hope you’ll also be happy to know that using the Group Finder to assemble a Flashpoint or Operation group will come with a free teleport to the Flashpoint or Operation’s starting area, cutting down the time to get into your next adventure considerably!

Not Cross-Server

One of the questions that we get asked a lot is whether or not the Group Finder will eventually be cross-server – i.e. allow you to form groups with players on any server. The answer, at least for this version of the Group Finder, is no. This is for a number of reasons. For one, we wanted to get the Group Finder live as quickly as possible. Making the queuing system work cross-server would have added significant developmental complexity to the tool, which would have taken us longer to get this feature into your hands.

However, there’s another, more philosophical reason as well. We’ve played a number of other games, and the general thinking of the design team is that, in MMOs with cross-server queues, the quality of the community that is running group content goes way down. In particular, as a healer I found that some players play DPS classes with wild abandon, wantonly ignoring all common sense and wandering straight into fire walls, acid pits, and giant groups of elite-leveled enemies, and then scream profanities at the healer who failed to heal them. By contrast, groups formed in MMOs without a cross-server Group Finder just felt more civil and respectful. It turns out that players are more likely to play respectfully if there is a chance that they may be paired with the other people in the group again.

Some would argue that a single-sever Group Finder may limit the pool from which you can draw group members. Perhaps, but the nature of Group Finder queues is that the limitations are usually defined by a shortage of certain roles (healers and tanks, specifically) than by a shortage of potential party members. We’re already working on initiatives to increase server populations across the game, so we don’t feel this will be a major issue in the long term.

In conclusion

We think Group Finder is important to The Old Republic – so important that we internally have been calling Game Update 1.3 ‘the Group Finder patch’ (Of course, it's actually called ‘Allies’). The feature is nearly complete; it has undergone internal playtests and should be heading to the Public Test Server very soon.

Once there, we strongly encourage players on the PTS to play with it. Try it out, try to break it, and give us feedback on how we can make it even better. We’re confident that the Group Finder will make it easier for players to find other players and take on more significant challenges.

Damion Schubert
Principal Lead Systems Designer