In the end, this is really vindication for J. Allen Brack when he said that "You think you do, but you don't". For better or worse, Dungeon Finder is the dividing line between Classic and Retail. Now basically we have the Retail audience plus a significant minority (maybe even a majority) of the Classic audience wanting to go down the same path that the Retail devs took a decade ago.
A reader reminded me of the posts I wrote when Dungeon Finder first came out. I've always been reasonably happy with Dungeon Finder. I like running dungeons, especially at low levels. And my groups have not been particularly toxic. Though these days I do lend more credence to the idea that healers are drama-prone, which I don't see since I heal.
I generally like the Dungeon Finder, but at the same time, I'm a Retail player, not really a Classic player. I pretty much only dabble in Soul of Iron in Classic Season of Mastery. I'm not really sure it would be fair to apply my preferences to the Classic audience who really want something different than Retail. After all, if you want to play WoW with Dungeon Finder, you can always play Retail. There's something to be said for the idea that two different games should offer two different experiences.
Still, it's possible that there are two ideas in play here, both true at the same time:
- Dungeon Finder makes it easier for players to run dungeons.
- Dungeon Finder destroys the server community.
I do believe that Dungeon Finder hurts the server community. I once defined social fabric as "the bonds created by repeated, positive interactions between the same set of people." Dungeon Finder cuts directly against this. You no longer do the most common repeatable action with the same set of people. You don't see the same people or the same guilds regularly.
But maybe being able to do content whenever you want is more important than server community. Maybe Classic is really about the content and class systems that was lost with Cataclysm than about nebulous notions like community.
The real irony here is that Retail sees far less use of the Dungeon Finder than Classic would. Mythic and Mythic Keystone dungeons don't use the Dungeon Finder and automatic group creation, they use the Premade Group Finder. So really, the only people using the Dungeon Finder are people levelling, people doing dungeons to finish quests, or people gearing up a little at the very start of an expansion. Otherwise everyone is doing dungeons the old-fashioned way, even having to travel to the instance entrance in the world.
So should Classic Wrath have the Dungeon Finder? I don't really know. I do think that it would worth experimenting with the Premade Group Finder first. See if being able to post and apply to groups in a nice format with requirements listed where you can see what roles are needed. Getting notified when someone applies to your group instead of having to post advertisements in an LFG channel every minute or so.
Perhaps that would end up balancing the ability to run dungeons with server community better than the Dungeon Finder did.