This week’s CBT asks: “how can we police the bad guys without making things even worse for the good or at least not-so-bad guys?”
My answer: give us fishbowls.
At the moment, when you run LFG (and RBGs), you get an assortment of players assigned completely at random. You don’t know these people. Odds are good that you’ll never see them again. And therein lies the dickishness.
Fishbowls (based on the fishbowl discussion technique) would solve some of that.
A fishbowl is a group of 60-100 players, chosen by Blizzard, who get privileged access to one another. When you queue for LFR, LFD, Scenarios and RBGs, the game will automatically try to find other players from your fishbowl before it begins looking elsewhere. (And, in turn, will prefer to “mesh” fishbowls rather than finding players at random: 2 players from one fishbowl, 3 from another, rather than 2 from a fishbowl and 3 strangers.) In this way, you’ll slowly become more and more likely to recognize names, and you can be much more certain that you’ll know a few people when you land a new group.
How are fishbowls determined? By your playstyle and your usual schedule. If you primarily PVP from 8 to 10 PM on weeknights, we’ll put you in THIS fishbowl. If you LFR once a week on Wednesday afternoons, we put you in THAT fishbowl. Blizzard already has this data and could easily automate fishbowl assignments. (And, remember, fishbowls are always 60-100 players deep. If there are 200 players to play in the same style and on the same schedule, then you’d have two separate fishbowls of 100 apiece.)
What if there’s a funsucking dick in your fishbowl?
Well, the obvious soft solution is to maintain the current system. /ignore someone and the game will stop grouping you with them, even if they’re in your fishbowl.
Blizzard could also implement a firmer solution: if you are routinely kicked from fishbowl groups, you eventually get booted out of the fishbowl entirely.
But it is to be hoped that, by generating some degree of consistency and familiarity in who you’re grouped with, social solution would prevail. You aren’t strictly accountable to these people, but you’re probably going to see them again, and they’re going to remember you, and it’s best for everyone involved for you to get along with each other.
It’s important to note that, within this design, fishbowls don’t have hard “walls”. If your schedule and playstyle shift, then you’ll gradually move from one fishbowl to another, encountering a new group of people who, in turn, you will continue meeting and encountering regularly.
For logistical purposes, fishbowls would only kick in at level 90. Before then, you still get totally random groups. This is a concession to necessity. (There just isn’t a critical mass of players at any point in the levelling period as there is at endgame.)