Now that Have Group, Will Travel has been removed as a guild perk, raid groups are once again turning to meeting stones to summon their fellow raiders to the entrance. Meeting stones have a long and uneven history in WoW. They were despised and ridiculed when they were first patched in. They've gone through periods of high use and periods where they were all but ignored. What was their original purpose? How have they changed over the years? Read on to find out!
The original dungeon finders
Even in early vanilla, Blizzard was trying to find ways to make it easier for players to run dungeons together. In those days, most dungeons formed either in guild chat or trade chat. Players made their own groups and then took zeppelins, flight points, etc. to the dungeon entrance.
In March 2005, patch 1.3 gave us Blizzard's first attempt at a grouping system: the lowly meeting stones. In their first incarnation, meeting stones could be clicked to place you in a queue for their dungeon. The queue tried to match you up with players of a similar level and to find a tank and a healer.
Players hated meeting stones immediately. It was a deep and abiding hate.
There were several reasons for the negativity. For one thing, they required you to travel to the dungeon you wanted to run in order to click the stone. This took you away from cities where groups could form in chat channels, so to some extent the stones forced you to choose between one or the other. On PvP servers, stones were sometimes ambush points for ganking. The stones only allowed you to queue for that given dungeon and no others.
The game also had a difficult time matching players up. People who went through the trouble to visit the stone often waited for hours, in vain, for the system to form a party for them. The patch notes claimed that the stones would become "less picky" the longer you were in the queue, but it never seemed to work out that way.
Most of the problem was easy to identify. Nobody was using these things.
Improvements help not at all
Blizzard tried to salvage meeting stones in patch 1.5. They gave innkeepers the ability to act as meeting stones for nearby dungeons. They relaxed the system to help groups form more easily.
They also tried to make sure the groups that did form had a realistic chance to complete the run. Dungeons back then often had a wide level range of ten levels or more. If everyone was on the low end of that range, the group was going to have a rough time of it deeper into the run. The tweaks sought to make sure this wouldn't happen.
It was all for naught. The stones already had a reputation of uselessness and it was a self-sustaining cycle -- the more people that give up on them, the less useful they were, leading to more people giving up.
Honestly, no one used meeting stone in vanilla. No one. I defy you to show me proof that you did!
A warlock's best friend
Vanilla WoW had a problem. Dungeons of all levels were located throughout the two huge continents of Azeroth. For example, Dire Maul and Stratholme were both max level instances, and they almost couldn't be any farther away from each other.
With no dungeon finder to port you to the dungeon automatically, players had to hoof it. If you had a higher-level warlock in the party and two other people willing to travel, you could summon the other two players (and that's almost always what happened given the choice -- ask any vanilla lock). A warlock was the only way to cut down on dungeon travel.
Chain-running dungeons at 60 meant long periods of flight-pointing and riding from dungeon to dungeon. (Remember, too, that flight points didn't connect back then. You had to select a new flight every time you arrived at any point.) For low-level players, if you didn't have the flight point near a dungeon yet, you were in for a very long walk.
Blizzard finally gave us a solution in patch 2.0.1, The Burning Crusade's prelaunch patch. Meetings stones were the answer! They were given the added functionality that only warlocks once had to summon players. The idea was a good one, and meeting stones are, of course, still used for this purpose today.
However, the stones had an aggravating limitation. You had to be within the appropriate level range of a dungeon to be summoned by its stone. That meant high-level players who were helping friends to blow through a dungeon for loot couldn't be summoned to it. It also led to weird situations where you wanted to run Heroic Hellfire Ramparts at 70 but the stone would refuse to summon you because the normal mode was for level 60. If you wanted to kill the Headless Horseman during Hallow's End, you sure as heck weren't getting a summon from the level 40 Scarlet Monastery stone.
Blizzard finally fixed this issue deep into Wrath. They removed the level requirements from all the stones in patch 3.3. (You still have to be at least level 15 to use any of them, though.)
Have group, ignore stones
Of course, the real dungeon finder made its debut in Wrath and the stones were once again almost completely ignored. The only use for them at that point was to summon players to raids, but at least they still had a use. Once guilds leveled up in Cataclysm and received the Have Group, Will Travel perk, even that limited purpose fell to the wayside for many. The stones were still there, however, proudly standing duty outside of their respective swirly portals, ignored and all but forgotten. They were a relic of the past, and it was likely just a matter of time before they were patched out altogether.
Then Blizzard decided that one player summoning an entire raid was taking too much world out of Warcraft. Meeting stones have a job again. Players aren't so thrilled with this change. We are once again stuck using these old rocks to get everyone to the raid entrance. It feels awkward and inefficient compared to the perk, but at least we don't all have to use flight points (or rely on warlocks) like the old days.
Blizzard may change their mind on summoning perks sometime in the future. For now, though, just remember: every time you click a meeting stone, you're making it a little less lonely.
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