Part of why I started up WoW again was for science, and by science I mean so I could evaluate WoW with firsthand information. Actually my original goal was more of the "let's get facts to justify what I'm already saying", but then I went and had a good bit of fun at the start. That just ruined everything.
I actually found myself having decent experiences in the random groups. At this point players seem to be overgeared enough that things feel approximately as trivialized as they did in late LK (post-LFD). But the players aren't acting the same.
Oh sure, there have been those sort of people. You know the sort: the DK who drops group after saying everyone else sucks or the person who is really insistent that we skip the extra boss, which makes no sense at all for a DPS who isn't maxed on justice gear. What are you in a rush to do, wait around for another long queue? Stick around and get more points; it's as if you got a quarter of an instance with no queue. And leveling instances resulted in a few bad apples.
Beside that though, people have been pretty chill. Sometimes quiet, sometimes with a hello, though rarely with any actual conversation. Still, it seems a lot better than what I remember from LK, with very little "go go go", gear-bashing, or whining in general. I've seen some wipes and people tended to just run back and try again, sometimes with a bit of chatter about what to fix, sometimes with whoever made the mistake seeming to recognize and fix it without any more issues. I can't really say it's any better than bots, but it is at least not any worse, which is a huge step up from what I experienced in early Cata and post-LFD LK.
For a casual player I can see that being a good bit of fun. Do a few of these a week and max out valor, get some bits of gear, kill some stuff, get honor points for no apparent reason. Maybe run a few of the less-boring dailies. I can see that being worth $15 a month for a lot of people.
I don't know quite what changed to fix LFD. Maybe all the idiots quit after early Cata heroics killed them a few too many times. But I don't think they quit. Instead, they just found a new place to ruin:
I ran Dragon Soul. It felt like a bunch of people running around aimlessly, with no consequence for their failures, trash-talking everyone else. I ran as DPS, but of course was I watching the tanks and I didn't see them dealing with anything particularly interesting. It was a perfectly awful combination of boring and chaotic. I felt like I was in a casino with no money, so all I could do was wander around and see how the RNG was treating other people, with no actual impact on anything.
At the end I got a cool new trinket. I'm not sure of the point. What is this gear meant to do? Am I supposed to be gearing up for guild raids? In that case, why the hell am I running this gimped mess pretending to be a raid? It's not as if there is anything to learn when the mechanics do nothing and the raid is uncoordinated. It felt like a vertical scroller, except I never lost and never won, I just got pushed past everything regardless of what I did. Then I got a trinket and an achievement. I skipped the last cutscene because I'd seen it before. Maybe that was the problem, that I'd already watched the final cutscene, because in the end, I realized that that was the only worthwhile thing in the entire run.
Three months ago I said "If you want to see content, go to YouTube." I thought I was exaggerating a little, being a elitist a little, but generally being right. Turns out I was 100% correct. I would have been better off watching a YouTube video stringing together the cutscenes with a few clips of actual raiders doing bits of the fights so I could hear Deathwing yell about the end of the world. There was nothing gained by actually 'being there', because in effect, I wasn't there. I was just one of a bunch of pointless jackasses running around pretending to be good at something that was so heavily nerfed that it is hard to be bad.
I don't think LFR was poorly-implemented. Good raiding is incompatible with quickly-formed random groups of people with no connection. Good raiding requires overcoming a challenge with cooperation. These groups aren't very good at that and have little incentive to try. It's not that random groups cannot coordinate, I failed to mention an extremely good Blackrock Caverns group I had, but increasing the scale, in terms of players, complexity, and time, makes it exponentially harder to coordinate and to identify mistakes. If we had wiped, I think that would have been a failure on the part of the devs, because such a setback has no place in that setting. LFR is the best it can be.
I'm grateful for LFR. If it cleaned out LFD, then it saved me a whole lot of annoyance and made my couple weeks so far a lot more fun than I expected. It successfully sorted players out, removing the swarms of loot-whores and noobs from LFD, leaving that mainstay of the soloist and newb as a safer place. As a newb, based on my gear and all the stuff that changed, I needed that. If LFD had been the same thing it was in early Cata, I might have stopped a week ago. Now they just need to make an even higher level of trivial, over-rewarded content to filter out LFR for when new players start going in there too...
1 million gold
32 minutes ago