I have to admit that I was surprised by what I've been seeing on the official forums regarding the newly minted LFG system. True, I have some issues with it that can be easily remedied, but I think overall it's a winner. However, many people on the official forums are saying its a "social" killer and that there is no reason for "friends" to run instances together any longer. I simply can't see the point of these people. There is no less of a reason to run with friends now, post patch-3.3 than there was pre patch-3.3. I have a group of friends I run with on Saturday nights to complete all the achievements for "Glory of the Hero" and will of course be continueing until we complete all the achievements in the new 5-mans as well. That's just one example of why friends might want to run instances together, but it's hardly the only one.
The central problem with running PUGs previously was that groups were difficult to form. Players didn’t like the auto-grouping functionality because it had numerous issues, which meant that people were left with no other option than to spam the LFG channel, or leave themselves listed in LFG for up to three dungeons. Complicating this was that it was nearly impossible to form groups that were not the daily heroic or daily regular dungeon. There was no large segment of players on any realm that needed to run a specific dungeon, so it was the daily quests that drove what predominantly run that day. But also factored into the equation was continued reluctance of tanks and healers to participate beyond running the daily dungeons. And for all the same reasons. Players are often very under geared, or horrible and Tanks/healers just didn’t want to be responsible or have to partake in the consequences of it. A lot of players simply created friends groups to run their dungeons with and skipped the whole LFG system entirely.
Along comes patch 3.3 and the new LFG system, with a workable auto-grouping function. Groups are very easy to form now, not only because the LFG system pulls from a much larger pool (cross-realm), but also because the auto-grouping feature was re-written to include some intelligence. No longer do you have groups forming with no tanks, or no healers. And the feature also seems to be fairly good at matching players gear wise. It’s loose, as far as I can tell, but I haven’t been grouped with anyone in all greens yet. Yet, for all the ease of grouping, this doesn’t change the human element involved. The problem with horrible play is masked by the larger pool of players involved, but it certainly doesn’t remove it. A player continues to have all the incentive to group with friends that they had pre patch-3.3 because the reasoning to forgo the old LFG system were based in personal choices. I disliked the random PUG members who were obviously under geared, or would pull the random groups on runs, yet I PUG’ed every day. As often as I could. I also ran with friends when I could. As it were, I still do that today. I use the new LFG system to get groups, but when guild mates or friends are available I group with them instead.
The biggest difference I see from pre-patch 3.3 to post-patch 3.3 is that players can actually expect to be able to run content, largely of their choosing, on a schedule of their choosing. There were interminable periods every day where you would simply sit around trying to find groups. It was something that nearly everyone complained about at some point, yet is something the people who are now complaining that the new LFG system destroying the so called “social” aspects of WoW are seeming to forget. At most I have had to sit around for 10-15 minutes to find a random group. Most of the time I’m able to hook up with a PUG within 5 mins as DPS. When I run as Holy on my Paladin I’m grouped nearly instantly. I ask you, where is the down side here? Because I certainly can’t see one.