One of the primary reasons I strongly enjoy single player games is the time management aspect. I can pick up and play as I want. I can pause if need be. I am only dependent on myself. Online games… not so much.
EQ’s 20th anniversary brings back some nightmares of trying to find people in order to play. The open-world aspect made leveling rather painful if the spawn points were already taken, of if the groups in the guild were already full. WoW’s launch addressed a lot of that, since all dungeons were instanced. Sure, travel time was a pain in the butt, at least you could play. WoTLK brought in the LFG system, and my enjoyment of the game really exploded. Easy to get in/out (destroying WoW is another topic.)
Now there’s multiplayer everywhere, or at least the option for it. Some games do it really well (MMR games are a solid mechanic), and others make it a damn hassle (Monster Hunter World – looking at you bub). But the core issue remains – the amount of players vs. the amount of content.
In a 50v50 game, you need 100 people to get started. The 101st person needs to wait for 99 more people to join. In high population games this is fine. In low pop games, this causes insane queue times. Plenty of MOBAs and team shooters have failed on this specific topic. In games with rigid composition, then you have something similar occur if the player representation is out of whack. WoW’s notorious lack of tanks/healers has had 45-60m queues for DPS players.
The technology and algorithms used to support queues has always fascinated me. It needs to match a player’s wants vs the game’s needs. Let’s say a game has 5 activities, and player A is willing to do 3 of them. Does the game let the player pick 3, or just 1? Does the game assign a priority to the activity based on the current queue time, or based on the player’s ability to meet the need (e.g. put a powerful player with other powerful players)?
Playing in Dauntless this is all at a head since you can select either a random event, a less random event, or a specific event. If I need specific components, then I will queue for a specific target. Theoretically, queue times should be longer as I am saying I want to do 1 activity of 100. If I need generic things, then I will likely pick the less random event (which pulls from a pool of 5 activities). Why not the full random one?
Because in the large random set, there are events I would prefer not to do. The queue times may be near instant, but I’m willing to trade off 20s of waiting to eliminate the list of things I don’t like.
Dauntless will cap the queue length at a certain point and just give you a solo experience. For 95% of the content, this is just fine. And the 5% that’s left… well there are always people queuing for it since it can’t really be soloed.
Goals and Targets
Dauntless has an interesting balance perspective to manage. MHW players have already spent their money, so it doesn’t really matter how long they stay engaged. Dauntless is F2P, therefore it’s goal is to extend play times – since you need players to make the coop part work! It does this through it’s crafting system, which requires you to collect rare and very rare components for the more difficult crafts.
These components require you to break a particular monster part (potentially multiple times, or while enraged) to have a chance at a drop. Since the battles are capped at 30 minutes (and typically take less than 15), and there are no guarantees, you’re going to be running the same target multiple times. Frankly, at decent power levels you may spend more time queuing/lobby than on the actual hunt. Right now, I’m hunting the Bloodfire Embermane for his tail – and there’s only 1 queue of 100 that can give me that. I can solo it well enough, but certainly much faster with 1 other (and ultra fast with 4 smart players).
This compounds into a scenario where you will find yourself queuing a lot. Which is the genesis for this post. Depending on the hour of the day, the queue times could be near instant (there’s always a 10s delay), or it could be 3-4 minutes before you duo a target. Entirely manageable, and I’d expect that to drop a lot once the official launch hits in the summer and cross-platform is integrated (across consoles).
I think the queue system in place now works in the general sense. Should be interesting to see how it works long term.