People were not happy
The Division 2, or the third person shooter that’s pretending to be an RPG that’s pretending to be a MMORPG, is getting its first Raid. The eight person activity is intended to be the most difficult activity in the game. Beat it, and you’ll get a bunch of exclusive gear. For some, the Raid is the ultimate reason why they bought and play the game in the first place. All the grinding, min-maxing, and spreadsheet making leads up to the Raid. Unfortunately, as it turns out, the Raid will not have matchmaking. Well, unless you want to wait next to the Raid quest giver until random people just happen to walk by. In that sense, it has matchmaking in the same way that pizza is a salad because it has tomato in it.
Basically, if you want to play the Raid, you will have to manually find seven other people and group up. Chris Gansler, the Community Developer for Massive Entertainment, gave two excuses on the Ubisoft forums as to why this is the case. The first is a technical one, where The Division 2 allegedly doesn’t have the ability to create eight person matchmade teams. The second is that the developers believe that the Raid is too difficult for any group of random people to beat. “The difficulty level is designed for coordinated groups and clans that will prepare, plan and execute their strategies,” Gansler said on the forums. Ironically, there are very, very, very few real roles in the game other than DPS. Trying to tank, heal, or run a Skill build is a lesson in futility and letting people down. It also raises the question of how Massive quantifies difficulty.
To no one’s surprise, people were not happy. Putting aside the fact that this situation echoes one of Destiny’s (many) early controversies, it seems as though Massive is a bit detached from reality. Of course, it could be entirely possible that The Division 2 simply can’t matchmake that many people. The game has, until now, matchmaking for every single activity. However, group sizes are capped at four people. The UI was also evidently designed with a four person group in mind.
The technical claim does seem dubious considering how the Dark Zones require a good number of random people to be matchmade together to function, but that’s not the point. We’re also apparently ignoring how literally every single modern multiplayer game exists. Multiplayer games that tend to have more than eight people in a match without any problem whatsoever. Or that the game would have to connect eight people together regardless of how they match up.
True or not, people tend to be more accepting of technical limitations of games. What people don’t accept is the idea that they should be denied the chance to play an activity because of an active decision by developers. A decision that is based on a rather insulting premise too, if you think about it. In Massive’s defense, random people can be really, really stupid. It only takes an unlucky streak of solo queuing in Overwatch’s ranked playlist to make you question how some people get out of bed without somehow strangling themselves with their own bedsheets.
Yet, to assume that your entire playerbase is this bad is hardly any better. The same assumptions were made by Bungie with Destiny. Randoms still managed to beat their Raids, albeit with the added frustration of third party LFG sites. Admittedly, Destiny 2 did launch with a Raid matchmaking feature that nobody used. Although that’s mostly because it was terrible, with the matchmaker itself stating that it could take up to 40 minutes to find a match.
It doesn’t help that Massive’s solution doesn’t actually solve anything. Telling people to go to Reddit, or Discord, or Twitter, or whatever other third party site to find people to play with is not a solution, nor does it address the underlying issue. Granted, it’s slightly easier to avoid people who you don’t want to play with via third party sites. However, you’re still matching up with randoms. The difference is that you have to wait for some indeterminate amount of time to start a game. Time that you could be using to play. A decade ago, time meant little if you didn't have work or other responsibilities. Today, time is almost as valuable as gold to an audience that’s (kind of) grown older.
Now you may ask why a 10, 15, or 20 minute wait to find the right people will matter when the Raid itself takes hours to complete. The obvious answer is that no one wants to sit around doing nothing when they can be doing something. It literally defeats the purpose of games. It’s not like other games don’t have LFG features so that people can do mic and gear checks either. Blizzard patched it into Overwatch. It’s far from perfect, but it’s in-game, it lets you perform mic and profile checks, and you can actually meet people. The Division 2 does not have any meaningful social features by comparison, which leads back to having to find random people. If it did have meaningful social features then the lack of matchmaking wouldn't be so pronounced, but it doesn’t.
Actually, let’s put all of that aside for a second and look at the notion that manually finding people to play with means that the people are good. As literally everyone should know, knowing a person doesn’t mean that they’re good at a game. In fact, even if that person was good at a game, they may not be good at every game. Get past that, and the obligatory gear check, and you still don’t know if the guy has potato aim. Oh they have a mic? Cool, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re making meaningful callouts. Which means you’re back to square one. Then you're no better off than if the game just pulled some random guy out of nowhere to join you.
Beyond that, what about the future of The Division 2’s Raids? Limiting the number of people who can participate this early on in the game’s life cycle to people who “are motivated enough” to use third party methods is not a good sign. It’s not like you’re going to find more qualified people to beat the Raid as time goes on. Unless a game is extremely unique, player populations tend to go down over time, not up. One can only guess what will happen to the population once Borderlands 3 comes out.
That Massive is allegedly working on a LFG feature only after backlash is telling. You’d think that they’d want as many people as possible to experience the magnum opus feature of the game the moment it’s ready. At the end of the day, it doesn’t even really matter how difficult the Raid is or how many people prefer to use third party sites to find teammates. Whether or not the Raids have matchmaking is irrelevant in the long run.
It’s all about giving people both the chance and the tools necessary to easily play the game. Those who don’t want to use in-game matchmaking have the choice to do so. Yet the opposite is not true. It’s not as if having more options is ever a negative, nor is it a bad thing to be better than your competitors. If The Division 2 is supposed to be a modern multiplayer game, then it should be held up to such a standard.