Sometimes I wonder if I use a different Dungeon Finder than all the other bloggers and commenters. The vast majority of my groups are quick, clean, polite, competent and successful. Now, maybe it's because I'm a super-duper awesome healer and am busy carrying my groups to victory, but I don't really think that's the case.
Another alternative is that it's the healers who are the divas and cause the majority of issues in PuGs. Since I'm a healer, I never see them when I use the Dungeon Finder, and thus have better groups. But somehow I don't think that's the case either.
I've played several games without a Dungeon Finder, and I've never found random groups in those games to be better behaved or more competent. If anything, I've found them to be worse, because everyone seems to feel free to go AFK randomly, confident that the group won't kick them because it's so hard to find a replacement.
I mean, take yesterday for example. I ran a Heroic Vortex Pinnacle and then switched to my lowbie 28 rogue and ran a Gnomergan. Both runs were successful. There were no wipes and no drama. And that took less time and effort than setting up any of instance runs I tried in Rift.
To me, that experience is not unusual. It is what I expect from Dungeon Finder groups.1 And I really do not see how anyone can prefer the alternative to this.
To be fair though, I was never very good at creating or maintaining the network of friends that might have made running dungeons pre-LFD easier. I didn't have an extensive rolodex of tanks and healers. For the few I did have, I was never really comfortable whispering someone out of the blue and asking them to tank or heal. I always felt bad about turning people who asked me to heal down. So I stuck with scanning or spamming the various chat channels, with relatively low degrees of success.2
But maybe if you were a more social person than I was, or played more often, and built that extensive rolodex of tanks and healers, I can see how losing your network would hurt. And since you would repeatedly group with people in your network, I can see how it would forge stronger bonds than the impersonal runs of the Dungeon Finder.
However, for me, the Dungeon Finder is light-years ahead of my prior experience.
So that's my take on the Dungeon Finder. I think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. And I'm at a bit of a loss to understand why it seems that so many other people have such a negative impression of it.
Why are my random groups consistently better than everyone else's? Both are purely random, as I don't often run randoms with guildies. Both use the exact same system, and pretty much the same player pool. I'm a decent player, but I'm not that good.
There is one thing I do that might make a difference. I make a point of saying "hiya" in party chat when I join the group. Often other people say "hi" back. Maybe that's enough to get everyone into a positive frame of mind, and remind everyone that we're all friendly people rather than NPCs, and that's enough to carry the group through most things. It seems like such a small thing, but it's the only thing I can think of that might be different from any other random Dungeon Finder group.
1. Well, I was a little bit surprised by Gnomergan. But that's mostly because it's Gnomergan.
2. Especially for low-level dungeons. If there's one thing I absolutely adore about the Dungeon Finder, it's the fact that doing low-level dungeons in a level-appropriate group went from impossible to relatively common.