So Wow.com had an article up about the new LFG interface as it can currently be seen on the patch 3.3 PTR. My reaction to said article and the attached screenshots can be summed up in four letters:
Never mind grouping with people from other servers, it's everything else that's going to change instancing as we know it. Basically, they are turning instance pugs into battlegrounds. Forget: "LF1M [instance], need tank... come on, anyone?" Forget: "Um, anyone beside me coming to the summoning stone?" In the new LFG interface, you check which role(s) you can play in a group and which instances you want to go to and then you just wait. The system will automatically build a group for you, informing you with a pop-up when it is done. Then you just have to click another button, and you, as well as everyone else in your party, will be teleported straight into the instance. Presumably you'll also end up back where you left off once you are done, just like it is with battlegrounds. This is a huge change.
To be honest my first reaction to reading this was one of pure glee. Only a little more than a week ago I praised the convenience of joining a battleground while in the middle of questing. This is going to make pugging instances just as easy and remove so many of the small everyday annoyances people have to put up with while forming a pug at the moment, like the frantic search for that last group member while everyone sits around in Dalaran twiddling their thumbs, wondering whether the group will ever actually go anywhere; or the eternal problem of people not making their way to the instance and demanding summons when nobody is even at the stone.
As far as the cross-server part of the new system goes, I tend to agree with Ixobelle about its usefulness (and lack thereof) at level eighty, but it does give me hope for being able to run instances "properly" while levelling again. In the past year I've got into the habit of just letting my boyfriend boost my alts through any dungeons where I want to get a quest done, and I used to despise boosting - but with everything being so focused on endgame, assembling a full party for a low-level instance at any time of day has become next to impossible. One can hope that there'll be enough interested players across a whole battlegroup, but we'll see.
Oh, and you'll be able to queue for any and as many dungeons as you want, regardless of level - how cool is that? Anyone who's ever tried to join LFG for an instance while levelling just to realise that they were one level too low or one level too high to queue for that particular dungeon will really appreciate this change.
Of course changes that drastic also raise a lot of questions, and the comments in response to the WoW.com post reflect that, though even there they didn't address everything I found myself wondering about. Will you still be able to disenchant and trade shards, seeing how trading doesn't work in battlegrounds? What happens if you wipe, do you just respawn at the entrance? What if you have to leave the instance temporarily, say to repair? Can you do that at all or will you be locked in? So many questions and so few answers... however, I think this is one of those things that we'll just have to sit out and wait for. I have enough faith in Blizzard to believe that they will consider all those issues and make things workable one way or another.
The only thing that makes me slightly sad about this new system is the fact that it will mean another blow to immersion in the game. As much as I enjoy the convenience of being able to quickly jump in and out of battlegrounds, it makes them feel like very isolated places - things that aren't really part of the world of Azeroth. I still remember the very first time a friend dragged me into a battleground - I think it was Arathi Basin - and how massively confused I was at the time. I had explored much of Azeroth already and thought that I understood how it all worked, but then I was suddenly teleported to some strange place, away from the middle of Ironforge, to somewhere that was supposed to be Arathi but clearly wasn't... I had explored the whole zone and there were no lumber mills or gold mines there!
I can see instances suffering a similar fate once the system just starts teleporting you everywhere. Where was Razorfen Kraul again? Pfft, who cares, it's just some swirly portal in the middle of nowhere, click this button and you'll be teleported there instantly. Things like that make me worry about the "world" part of World of Warcraft.
Still, on the whole I'm definitely anticipating patch 3.3 with a lot of excitement now. I pug a lot while often having limited time for it, and the thought of it becoming that much easier is definitely appealing.
Whatever you do, DON'T piss off a Sith
2 hours ago