renahzor's World of Warcraft (Collector's Edition) (PC) review

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WoW Section Review: Random Dungeon Finder/LFG

There are plenty of great user reviews here on Giant Bomb for World of Warcraft as a whole.  Unfortunately, I think WoW is far too large a game at this point to really describe as a whole unit.  Those who are interested have access to Wiki pages and other resources to see what the game is all about.  I feel an important aspect is missing here on GB, a look at some of the new systems put in place with content patches, as Blizzard constantly updates the game.
I've seen a LOT of changes over my Years of playing WoW: The honor system, PVP BattleGrounds, Arenas, 25 man raids, heroic 5 mans, 10 mans, the list goes on.  Many of the systems in WoW are not entirely original, but most of them are very well executed, and this one is no exception.  Very few changes have had an impact on the way I play the game like the new Random Dungeon Finder system has.  
At their core, MMO's are an inherently social medium.  For many years, this meant sitting in a pretty looking chat room, shouting acronyms to the masses to assemble a group of would-be sidekicks to take on whatever challenge you had planned for the day.  "LFG UBRS need 2 DPS etc etc etc."  If you didn't make long time friends who wanted to play exactly the same content as you all the time, you could be left with little to do on any given play session.  Enter, auto grouping features.
WoW's Random Dungeon Finder is not an original idea, nor has it come to its current implementation overnight.  The first time i encountered such a system that was working on a decent level was in Warhammer, and they did a good job of instantly grouping you with the people in your immediate area that had similar goals.  WoW's first shot at such a system was clumsy and ham-fisted, it took too much direct player manipulation and was generally underused in my experience.  After many iterations and subtle changes, 3.3 introduced an all new system with some very key changes.
Firstly, the new matchmaking system is entirely automated.  You click a button, pick your role (DPS, Tank, Healer), and you wait

 Quick, Painless, and free goldz!
 Quick, Painless, and free goldz!
in a que for the system to match you with a random group of people doing the same.  Only being available for 5 man content currently, it picks 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 DPS people, finds a random dungeon and off you go.  The system seems to be relatively smart about what dungeons it picks for you, and is cross-battlegroup.  For those who don't know, that means it can pull players from your entire server cluster of 5 or 6 servers(known as a Battle Group in WoW).  This increases the pool of players, and balances the que times rather nicely even if you happen to be on a low population server. 
The second key feature is speed.  Though the que lines can be relatively long (DPS times range from 10-15 minutes in my experience on Shadowburn BG), once the group is selected, you are instantly teleported to the dungeon it has chosen and start killing.  Once the dungeon is complete, you may also simply port yourself out, back to the exact spot you were before entering.  A VERY convenient feature if you want to be doing something more exciting while waiting for your que to finish.   
Lastly, the system also gives rewards for using it, allowing you to earn extra tokens (turned in for gear in large numbers) and gold for your time.  I believe this was a key component missing from previous iterations of the system, and the new incentives are a great touch, allowing for even more advanced(and well geared) players to que up and run the older content.   You can also use the system to pick specific dungeons to run and it will fill your group for you, however you lose out on the additional incentives if you do not pick random.
Of course, the system is not without it's failings.  Grouping with complete strangers can sometimes be a bit of a crap shoot, especially in non-prime time hours, you just never know what skill level the person being picked is going to play at.  this can make runs go extremely fast, or agonizingly slowly.  Leaving early will net you a 15 minute cooldown of not being able to use the LFG system, so that is an option for those stuck in a very bad group.  And of course, there is the whole anti-social aspect of the system.  I believe however, even with these shortcomings, this is one of the better features to be introduced to WoW, and I hope new MMO's take a good look at what they've done to bring matchmaking  to MMOs and streamlining some content.
 Even random 5 man groups can take on the Lich king!!!!  Or...  well...  run away from him anyway.
 Even random 5 man groups can take on the Lich king!!!!  Or...  well...  run away from him anyway.
One last point, this feature extends to lower level characters as well, allowing you to que for level appropriate dungeons as you work your way through quests, hopefully making a lot of older, underused content less obsolete!  Some of the best content is made for the low level zones, and it's nice to see Blizzard acknowledge that, allowing newer players to see some of the stuff that was fascinating to me when I first started. 

While the system is not entirely perfect, This has fundamentally changed how casual players can go about finding groups to play with, if they would like to do so.  It is simple to use, automated, and even gives you some bonus rewards.  With a little more refinement in a few key areas this feature could easily top my list of reasons why WoW is still among the best MMOs, even this late in its life cycle. 

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