I'll catch up old WoWers who may not have played in awhile about the system, then ramble a bit about the design and community and some things that surprised me. Then a tanking anecdote for your enjoyment.
Alright, so if you've played WoW in the past but haven't played in awhile, the new LFG interface is AMAZING. First of all, cross-realm instancing. Remember back when they made battlegrounds cross-realm? And you were so excited because you could finally get into Arathi Basin? Plus, you just put in your role, and the system forms the group, then, boom! You teleport right into the instance. No more summoning, no more traveling hither and yon. You're just there. That's the gist of it.
Now, don't get me wrong, I will always prefer instancing with friends over strangers, but I do PuGs much more often with the new LFG system. Thinking about this, I ran into what felt like a contradiction of my previous understanding about community in games.
You see, the reason I like cross-realm instancing better than only instancing with people from my realm is that it is far less stressful, especially as a tank. It used to be that I agonized over instancing with strangers, because I was worried something would go wrong, or get in a terrible group of jerky people, and I'd have to deal with potentially running into these people again elsewhere in the realm.
I feel that the new LFG system has vastly improved my quality of play in World of Warcraft, in spite of the fact that it diminishes the sense of community within the realm. Now, one could argue that it increases the sense of community in the greater player base, but there are so many players cross-realm that you don't run into the same folks as often. Plus, there's not even a means of adding another realm member to your friends list, to group with them again. The system is MUCH easier to use than trying to form a pickup group within your realm, so people are more likely to be grouping up with people cross-realm than the ones they will be more apt to run into out in the world.
There is something fun about seeing people around the world (of warcraft) and recognizing them, or having run with them before, and saying "oh hey!" and whatnot. And its fun when you have realm "usuals" (as much as I can't stand that dirty no-good Alliance priest Hutch and his ganktastic habits, it is fun to announce he's in the area and have all the high level Horde rush in to save the day).
But the quality of realm community doesn't go much beyond that. I don't know about other realms, but the Gurubashi realm forum is generally full of whining and yelling and thick wells of negativity. It's not a pretty place to be. Guilds are probably the sweet size for maximizing community benefits, but on the realm level it's pretty rough.
So perhaps Blizzard sacrificed something that added to realm community in order to improve the overall experience. When using cross-realm LFG, if you're in a bad group, it is much easier to just abandon the group, knowing that you'll get into a new one fairly quickly, and that you won't have to deal with people whispering at you and harassing you for leaving the group. This is very important for someone like me, who is very shy, and who is in a position of great responsibility in the dungeon group. It takes SO much of the stress out of doing instances!
Community is important, but it's not THE most important thing, even in an MMO. At least, if you have to sacrifice it for the sake of improving the mechanic of the game, it's worth it.
And now, a small story which doesn't have much to do with the topic other than it's WoW-related, but I just wanted to share it.
Sometimes it's frustrating being a warrior tank in a group of DPS that obviously does not have much experience with warrior tanks. We don't have the AOE tanking that the Death Knights and the Paladins do, so DPS has to be a little more careful and attentive with us. You don't find things like caution and attention in DPS these days. Being DPS with a warrior tank requires some finesse, just ask Scott! In fact, Scott could probably write an article of Tips for DPSing with a Warrior Tank. In fact, I think he should. Get on that, Scott!
Running as my shaman alt, I've noticed that when there are multiple DKs are in a group, and one of them is the tank, the others will help with the pulls, gathering the room into the AOE of the tank. I was running Halls of Lightning the other night as my warrior tank main, and a DK in the group kept pulling extra groups of mobs. At one point this resulted in things getting out of control and one of the other DPS dying.
Part of me wanted to yell at this guy for being hasty (I HATE running with people who are like "gogogo!"). Part of me wanted to ask if HE wanted to tank, since he seemed to be intent on stealing all the aggro.
Instead, I took a deep breath, figured that this DK just wasn't used to the warrior tanking style, and said "I know that warrior tanking is much slower than other types, but please be patient!"
And to my utter surprise, he DID. No whining or yelling that I just wasn't a good tank or saying "omg just go" or anything like that! He got his DPS under control and followed my lead, and the rest of the instance went smashingly!
Anyway, it just brightened my day.
And thus ends an entry's worth of WoW talk. Enjoy!