Monday, December 30, 2013

WoW's "New" Raid Browser: Better off with OQueue or OpenRaid [UPDATED]

Update 2.21.14 - Since writing this in December of 2013, Blizzard has done a great job of cleaning up the issues and bugs mentioned in this article. The bugs that plagued the system during the first couple weeks are non-existent at this point. It's definitely a viable alternative to OQueue, and makes OpenRaid somewhat obsolete, unless you're looking to sign up for a future event. Thus, this article no longer holds much relevancy. Additionally, Blizzard has indicated that the raid browser in Warlords of Draenor will boast even more functionality. If you'd like to read some pieces of mine that I believe are still relevant, please check out It's Not About LFR and Why I Won't Be Purchasing a Level 90 [SATIRE].

I happened to be at my computer when servers came up on patch 5.4.2's launch day. In addition to being curious about account-bound items truly becoming account-bound, I also wanted to see how Blizzard's updated group-building feature measured up against the other well-known match-making methods: OQueue is the addon that almost everyone knows about whether or not they use it themselves. Then there's the lesser-known, resource-intensive OpenRaid (it requires opening a web browser).

Honestly, I'd prefer for the game to accomplish what these tools can. I don't want to have to consult the web or ensure I'm using the right addon(s). To be fair, Blizzard has said what we're seeing is the functionality in its infancy, and that what we'll have in Warlords will be much more robust. The thing is, though you might not remember, the raid browser was actually added to the game over three years ago during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Did you check it out then? Me too. Did you use it much? Me neither. Granted, the player pool was limited to one's sever. Still, OQueue and OpenRaid have highlighted a dire need for this type of functionality.

Maybe the playerbase has changed---we do seem to want to get in and out of content faster and easier than ever (and we've never had more options). Either way, Blizzard has decided to give the raid browser a face lift, updating it to include current content while taking advantage of cross-realm technology. So there I found myself on that first day, listing my name for a Vale of Eternal Sorrows flex using the browser. Within 10 minutes, I was in a group that ended up clearing the place without issue. Huh, I thought to myself. This is pretty damn neat. But that was only one sample, and the very first at that. Disappointingly, the tool has bugged out each time I've used it since.

In this post, I look at each of the group-forming tools we players have at our disposal, both the good and not-so-good. Too long, not gonna read? Then you may already know to just stay away from the in-game raid browser...for now.

Raid Browser

The raid browser is part of the game itself, so of course there are no additional actions a user must take to activate it other than finding its location in the UI---it's not on the LFD/LFR tab as one might think, but instead is accessible via the "Other Raids" button found on the Raid tab that can be accessed via the Social pane (default "O"). Once there, it's pretty easy to use. The first pane allows you to choose your role and select raids/battlegrounds you're interested in running. There's also a small text box that allows you to submit a comment that other players can see. Players can list themselves for any raid or battleground from Vanilla through all current content. In other words, you can use it to group for pretty much all 10p+ content except Normal and Heroic Siege. The feature isn't restricted to the solo player, either: leaders of partially formed groups can list their group in this section, too.

The second pane allows players to select a raid to see how many others are listed for that raid. Really, this is the pane for those who are leading or creating groups. If players have included a comment with their listing, you'll be able to see that here as well. If you see some players you'd like to join up with, this pane also includes methods to contact and/or invite on the spot. 

While the raid browser's functionality seems pretty straightforward on the surface, I wish I could say it worked just the same. I've had nothing but difficulties when forming groups since my inaugural run. And it would appear I'm not the only one.

A sampling of the issues I've encountered:

  • Getting auto-kicked from the listing. 
  • Browsing one moment, seeing 20+ players listed for a Siege wing, hit the "Refresh" button and zero players are listed. 
  • Whispering a listed player only to see "Cannot find player x" messages. 
  • Replying to a whisper sent by a player only to see "Cannot find player x" messages. 
  • Inviting a listed player only to see "Cannot find player x" messages. 
  • Accepting a group invite ends up auto-declining for you and produces the system message "You are queued for too many instances." 

And that's just what I can remember off of the top of my head. For what it's worth, when I searched for pre-Siege raids (Vanilla through Normal ToT), I didn't see any players listed, either. Granted, if you're not reading patch notes or paying attention to WoW news, you might have not even known about the browser. It could just be that a large percentage of the player base isn't even using the tool. I'm also not sure if the browser is truly region-wide, or battlegroup-wide. My feeling is it's not the former, and likely something more akin to the latter.

While Blizzard has required a minimum ilvl in order to even list your name for current flex content, those minimums appear to be considerably lower than the average sought-after ilvl you'll see in groups formed via OQ and OpenRaid. Given that most players I encountered when browsing didn't utilize the comment functionality to list their ilvl, forming a group with a minimum ilvl of 530 will take some good old-fashioned communication---something that is often thwarted by the bugged-out nature of the raid browser.

While in theory the raid browser accomplishes the simple goal of quick group formation, it doesn't often play out that way in practice. The good news is that this feature will be built up and improved upon for Warlords, hopefully to replace OQueue and OpenRaid. But until Warlords, or at least a small content patch that alleviates some of the browser's bugginess, the feature is simply unreliable and I recommend using it as a last resort.


OQueue is a frankly a really cool addon that seems to have been created out of the desire to form coordinated cross-realm battleground groups. However, the thirst for that type of feature wasn't limited to battlegrounds: Warcraft is severely lacking when it comes to tools for players to create larger cross-realm groups (as evidenced above). Truth is though, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with OQueue, having installed and uninstalled the addon three times now. Inevitably, I'd become frustrated with the inability to pug a group via trade chat or OpenRaid. OQueue gets installed, I use it once or twice and become frustrated with how loud, annoying and gaudy it is, and it's gone. More on that later.

To get started, the addon requires a manual install. Players used to be able to download and install it through Curse, but that no longer seems to be the case. This could be a barrier-to-entry for some players if they aren't comfortable manually installing addons. Once installed, the interface is pretty intuitive. Essentially, the addon allows you to browse groups or create your own---if you want a lengthier-yet-simple description on how the addon works, see this post.

The essential difference between this and the raid browser is how listing your name works. There's no "Hey, I'm a 544 DPS and would like to join Downfall." Instead, you look to see if there are any groups that have been created for a Downfall run, and then you place yourself on a Waitlist where the group leader can see your role and ilvl. The group leader has some nice functionality that goes beyond what's offered in the default raid browser, too. The ability to manually set a minimum ilvl requirement is huge. Being able to auto-invite those who meet the leader's minimum requirements is also a plus. As a bonus, OQueue isn't limited to raids and battlegrounds, either: players often create groups for Challenge Modes, dungeons, scenarios, and world bosses.

So what's the problem? In the intro, I mentioned that OQueue is an addon most people have heard about, even if they haven't used it. Why?


Look familiar? There's something about being spammed by those two little letters that just rubs me wrong (a necessary side-effect of how the addon works). The idea of me spamming others with those two little letters each time I log on doesn't sit well, either. I've read you can suppress these if you have the addon, and if this were the only annoyance, I might be able to look past it. But it's not.

In addition to that spam, you'll randomly get empty whispers from friends on your BattleID list. If you turn off the addon, or uninstall it altogether, the spam may increase in frequency, now coming in the form of walls of text filled with random numbers, letters and characters. In certain cases, the only recourse is to remove the offender and re-add their BattleID. That's annoying. And I don't know about you, but I have a difficult enough time keeping track of my chat windows the way it is. I don't need them popping up beyond my control. I've read there are OQueue spam-blocker addons to handle some of this, but I don't want to download an addon just to deal with the borked functionality of another.

While I'm a bit of a stickler when it comes to the UI and functionality remaining clean, my complaints above may be of no concern to most people. In that case, this is probably the best group-forming option out there. It requires a minimal amount of setup, and if you can get past the spam or figure out a way to deal with it, this addon is all you'll need to find groups quickly and easily for practically every type of group content you can think of. is a bit different than the first two group-finding mechanisms, indicated by the suffix attached to its name. It's a website that supports two distinct types of group creation: only-the-fly, ala a Looking-for-Group chat channel, or by creating events for a future time that other players can sign up for (or you can browse future events to sign up for yourself). When I first joined the site last year, the focus seemed to be on the latter, but with the addition of a site-wide chat channel, many players are now opting to pug immediately rather than use the site to plan out or join a future raid.

Why not just use Trade chat if you're going to manually search? Easy answer: OpenRaid chat is constantly moderated by staff. There's no Anal [Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker] spamming, no harassment, name-calling, etc. It's a tool that's actually being used for its purpose. Imagine that. And it works beautifully, a constant stream of players LFG and LFM for every sort of cross-realm content imaginable.

There are some drawbacks. To start, the site requires an account creation. This may be a significant turnoff to many. Plus, being able to fire up a web browser while in-game assumes the player has a machine that's beefy enough to handle the task. This will inevitably exclude many players from using it. Not only that, but the player pool is limited to only those who know about the site, and most of what players are looking for there seems to be centered on current content --- I can't remember the last time I've seen an OpenRaid group for for the previous patches' world bosses, Mogu'shan Vaults or the subsequent pre-Thunder King raids.

That all said, if you're not a fan of OQueue, you'll get a lot more mileage out of this site compared to the in-game browser, and it beats the hell out of looking for one using in-game chat. If this is the first you've heard of OpenRaid, I'd encourage you to check it out.

Does the Raid Browser have a chance?

Yes, but I think it may only have one more chance, and if it falls short of player expectations and can't do what OQueue and OpenRaid do, it's probably going to be remembered as nothing more than a half-baked, unsupported idea along the lines of the in-game voice chat. I really, really hope it doesn't play out that way.

For now, steer clear of the raid browser. It's a headache. I can't stand OQueue in its current state, but I have friends who can, and that's worked well for me. If you don't mind the more annoying aspects of OQueue, that's hands down the way to go for most players. It's smarter and more functional than the other two options and pulls from a (seemingly) much wider pool of players---it will be interesting to see if that trend stays the same as it relates to raid browser functionality come Warlords.

What's your experience been like using the in-game raid browser? Which group-forming method(s) do you prefer?


  1. I used this new feature to get in groups for world bosses, but it won't let me list my name for flex (I got required ilvl for any flex, but the game just shows me an error message). I really want to try this feature when/if it will be implemented in quality.
    About oqueue: to stop walls of symbols from appearing all you need to do is select "go dark" before you disable your addon. And while it's running, I always disable battle.tag messages from opening in new tab, current window only. This way empty messages never bother me. What DOES bother me with oqueue is the quantity of lfr-style groups where people just hate each other, being dicks and/or leave silently if they only need certain bosses (or before Garrosh -_-). Also there are so many people forming a group to be carried and setting required level 20or so ilvls higher than they are themselve. Well, I guess any pug, oqueue-formed or not, is the same. Still, for now it's oqueue for me.

    1. I figured I was missing something with all the OQ spam. That's really good to know---guildies I spoke with were perplexed, too. Unfortunately, if I don't open BTag messages in a new window I often miss them. Still, I might give it another try.

      The latter half of your comment raises an extremely important issue. No matter how many tools we have that facilitate easy grouping, when so much of the player base seems ready to rage at the drop of a pin or leave the group at the first inkling of a wipe there's not much anyone can do. This expectation that everything should be a 1-shot or we need to find someone to blame blows my mind, and it's a terrible, terrible thing for the game. And like you said, people are often so mean about it, too.

      People want their purples on their own time, and for better or worse, Blizzard has you raid to get the really good purples. Prior to LFR and now the tools mentioned in this post, it was much wiser to ally with a regular group (those archaic thing known as guilds) if you wanted to see regular raid content. I'm not sure it's a good thing we've moved so far away from that. That said, the "veteran" playerbase on average doesn't have the amount of time to dedicate and commit to set raids while newer players maybe be conditioned to getting something just for trying (simply rewarding play instead of skilled play) and aren't used to costly failure in the context of video games. It's almost not conducive to long-lasting groups. This all makes LFRs and pug raids all the more attractive---that is, until they're actually experienced in all their unorganized glory. ;)

  2. I actually tried the ingame raid browser last night. I wanted the 2nd wing of Soo for the chance as the quest items for wrathion and lfr was taking ages. A friend mentioned the raid browser which I had completely forgotten about and never used before. I ended up finding a great group first go (really hope that all groups could/will be like that) and it was much better than the carry on that I've been coming across in Lfr lately.
    Personally I'd much prefer to be in a flex raid than lfr, you generally get ppl who know what they're doing; well that's my opinion anyway, so I'll definately be using this feature more often.

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      I, too, have had dismal experiences in LFR, especially as of late. Flex is the way to go. I'm totally in agreement with you on the benefits of the Raid Browser. Looking forward to seeing the beefed up version of it come WoD.