Thy Dungeonman! Thy hunger! (Part 8: Finale)

Whoops…doomsday in a few hours, better get started on the final dungeon episode!

Okay, first a short overview of todays (final?) topic on dungeon instances:

  • A short look at MoP patch 5.1 and the changes to the valor/justice system since the launch
  • How dungeons changed the social aspect of WoW
  • A final overview and comparison of dungeons then and now
  • The way I’d like to see dungeons implemented in the game
  • and a bunch of old screenshots

 

Right, no time to waste! This calls for drastic measures:

Leeeeeeeroyyyy....

5.1

This is more of an addendum to yesterday’s topic on extra rewards and the development from badges to emblems to points.

With patch 5.1 Blizzard added the option to upgrade the item level of your gear through valor or justice points. Any item above iLvl 450 can be upgraded, blue items use justice points, epic items use valor points. It takes 1500 points to upgrade one item by 8 levels and while blue items will be upgraded in one step, epic items are upgraded in two 4 iLvl steps of 750 valor points each, due to the lower weekly cap.

Now the theorycrafter and min-maxer in me really likes this. I’m already working on a completely ridiculous project, making a high level set of only blue items and see how they perform versus random unenchanted etc. epic items from LFR. Should be fun and take several weeks to finish.

It’s also (in theory) a nice system to battle the RNG in WoW a little bit more. Can’t buy anything for your points (yet or anymore)? No drops from raids this lockout? No problem, you can still get a slight gear boost with the item upgrades. Your gear gets better and after all you’ve earned those points, at least some of them, by running dungeons or raids.

You usually get a much bigger upgrade when buying a whole new item from a reputation vendor or getting a drop for free from a boss though. The upgrades cost a LOT for a relatively small boost and especially the justice point upgrades make no sense at all as these points are almost harder to acquire than valor points. Blue gear gets replaced faster and it takes a LONG time to upgrade all your gear. Well, it’s almost impossible, but the system isn’t really made for upgrading a whole set of equipment and the high cost makes that pretty clear.

While I like the system for allowing me to experiment a little bit, I don’t really think it’s of much use. Players save their valor points to buy epic items (unless they’re in a hardcore raiding guild) and usually you don’t have a lot of blue gear for a long time. You might spend a couple of justice points to upgrade your last blue items when the epics you need just won’t drop or the reputation is still a couple of dailies away. Since you can’t really buy anything useful (heirlooms aside) for justice points anyway, you might as well dump them on junk gear.

The idea is nice, but it still needs some tweaking. I really like the fact that heroic dungeon boss loot is below the lowest LFR boss loot and an upgraded heroic dungeon item is still slightly worse than the LFR stuff. If there was any gearing curve left in WoW, this would really make a whole lot of sense.

 

Talk to me…

Epic 5man content

When you wanted to run a dungeon during the “good old days”, you had to talk to people. Looking for group members in the different channels or even asking around your guild or whispering people on your friendlist. Being in a guild often made things slightly faster, because you knew the other players and could assemble a group much faster, but either way, you still communicated with each other.

Inside the dungeon you were communicating as well, especially during the earlier days when there wasn’t as much routine and/or knowledge among the players. Also a lot of encounters required coordination and timing of the group, especially in the TBC heroic dungeons.

But then two things happened: LFG and easymode.

With WotLK came the easier dungeons and the cross realm LFG tool. Suddenly you didn’t need to use the chat feature even once in an MMORPG…crazy, right? But the encounters were usually self explanatory or so simple you could just blast through them. Finding a group was reduced to clicking a few buttons as well.

The harder heroics in Cataclysm didn’t fare well with a lot of players and were nerfed swiftly. Thus, the short resurrection of communication died down again. Well, it was fun while it lasted. With the cross realm LFG also came a high level of anonymity, resulting in players just not caring about their performance anymore. The low difficulty did the rest. Why bother with good gameplay when the boss dies no matter what? Aside from the occasional “OOM” from the healer and general “gogo” from restless DPS (who usually were below the tank in overall damage, gg guys!), you could easily forget the chat function was even there.

Occasionally a player would get kicked for performing abysmally bad or players would leave by themselves if the group wiped. Usually it was the tank leaving, making the group wait for a replacement. Wiping in a dungeon was commonplace in classic or TBC, but nowadays players are just not accustomed to it and ragequit the group when something goes wrong.

But dungeons were short and easy and for the most part, players would stick with the group through the end, because most people queued with the LFG tool and wanted the valor point reward at the end. Now, with MoP something has changed and not for the better. Justice and valor point rewards have been significantly lowered and a full heroic dungeon run through LFG doesn’t offer nearly as many points as it used to until Cataclysm. This resulted in a new behavior popping up: Players leaving the group right after a boss didn’t drop “their” loot they wanted. Before you’d finish the dungeon, but now the reward at the end isn’t “worth it” and instead of sticking with the group, they just leave. I stopped counting how many tanks left at Vizier Jin’bak in the Siege of Niuzao Temple (first boss), forcing a LFG queue time as long as the dungeon run itself on the group. Even if they get the item they leave the group.

Players have gotten incredibly rude over the years. Of course it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine before. If you performed badly you were called out for it and players were often quite rude. But just leaving a group without a word and kicking people out of a group without talking about the issue? That’s rough. I was onced kicked out of a group after the first (no, not bossfight) trash group because I didn’t do enough dps. Wha…?

Another thing I don’t like, and that’s just me personally, is players with high gear underperforming during the entire dungeon except for bossfights. When fighting trash they do crappy DPS and when it’s boss fight time, they suddenly triple their damage output for their damage meters. Great. I get it, trash isn’t really important or challenging, but even today boss encounters don’t last nearly as long as the accumulated trash fights in a dungeon and if they did their best there, the whole run would be over much quicker. Unfortunately this is unbelievably widespread and in my experience, the better a players gear, the less dps they do outside of boss battles. It’s literally 9 out of 10 players who do this and it’s pissing me off, because I pull my weight even during worthless trash encounters and have no way of making these people get off their lazy behinds.

 

 

Looking back:

Uuh shiny!

So, there we are, finally. Well, what’s left to say? Not that much I think.

The role of dungeons has changed drastically over the years. From a challenging, lore rich, meaningful and rewarding encounter with friends or people from your server to a quick and easy, but almost neccessary task with a bunch of strangers you have to endure for half an hour. Loot is much better now but at the same time you don’t care as much for it as you used to and neither does an item last as long as it did.

“Bring the player, not the class” resulted in removing individual responsibility from players and made the classes totally interchangeable as nobody had to perform class specific tasks anymore. Being asked to sap a mob nowadays is almost as likely as the world ending in…oh, 40 minutes? Damn, I better get this finished!

Today dungeons are isolated content with no real connection to the rest of the game. Back then they were integrated into the game world. Quests led in and out of those dungeons, often multiple times like in ZG or BRD. They also served as stepping stones for endgame content, be it with prequests or D2 in classic or very challenging heroic modes in TBC. Now they’re pretty much loot piƱatas…content you “need” to do, not because you want to, but because you need the item level for the LFR tool and you’re not valor capped yet. FUN!

Blizzard missed one important fact: Getting a slightly better item through a challenging dungeon and/or questchain makes the whole process feel much more rewarding in the end. Being fully epic equipped after one or two weeks while facerolling through content doesn’t feel rewarding at all. Maybe there is something to this whole “challenge” and “work” concept…who knows.

 

What I would do:

Just a minor upgrade, but SO worth it!

I’ll keep this short, the world’s going to end in just 30 minutes (at least in this timezone).

I’m not going to write up some ridiculous system that wouldn’t fit in todays game world and effectively be just a replica of the TBC system.

I acknowledge that players can’t really be forced to go back to the way it was, so the whole LFG/LFR situation will stay and easy dungeons will stay as well, but bear with me.

  • Bring back real heroics: Challenge modes are nice, but why can’t we have the old TBC difficulty again? Players want to run their easy dungeons at max level with the LFG tool and that’s fine, but why not introduce an additional “real” heroic level, also available via LFG, which offers rewards just very slightly above the other dungeons. Not enough for the regular LFG crowd to warrant countless wipes, but still a reward for players who’d like to be challenged
  • Blizzard says LFR is for people who want to see the content. Good! Remove the item rewards. I’m not kidding! If you have a full set of regular end game dungeon boss loot you can enter LFR and see all the content. New raids will just have the requirement of having finished the previous one. If you want to see the content and follow the storyline you don’t need better gear or loot rewards…seeing the instance from the inside would be enough reward on its own.
  • If you want to raid, you have to work for it. Gearing up through the (heroic) dungeons and polishing your gear would be a nice start. Rewards from dungeons wouldn’t be improved and you wouldn’t be able to buy raid level gear from it. Introduce a currency for those dungeons only. If you want to raid, go raid in a real raid instance.
  • I understand the need for hardcore raiders to gear alts for progress raiding and even normal mode raiders want or need to play other classes, but gearing through 3-4 tiers of raid instances can be really bothersome. So there would be a seperate raid currency, which would provide access to high level gear. If a new raid gets released, the vendor items for the currency get better. But that raid currency wouldn’t be available outside of raids or in LFR.
  • That would result in a better gearing curve, the lack of totally overgeared players in regular dungeons (thus keeping them challenging) and still allow all players to see all the content at a difficulty of their choosing. Want to see content? Do normal endgame dungeons and hop into LFR. Want to have a challenge? Do some heroic dungeons. Doing dungeons would never provide gear beyond the quality of the boss loot, so there’s no danger of outgearing the content. If you want to raid, you can do that, just as before.
  • Is there really a need for new end game dungeons added in a later patch to provide better loot than the original ones? I don’t think there is. New content and encounter mechanics should be enough.
  • (Heroic) dungeons can and should still be a stepping stone into raids (or LFR), but never EVER a skipping stone! If you enter the game late and want to gear a character to be fit for the latest raid tier, you can do it…but do it through raiding and not by running dungeons. You can do dungeons to get to the first raid tier and use THAT to skip further raids to the latest one. That way players can still enjoy challenging heroic dungeons if they want to.

Did I miss anything? Did I leave any player groups out? Oh yes, probably those who DO want epic loot from LFR and don’t care about the “content” and don’t want to work for their items. Well, nobody cares about them, right? Maybe Blizzard does…and that’s why they’ll never remove loot from LFR, because they know people go in there for easy loot and not to enjoy the super awesome Deathwing encounter 9 months in a row!

But seriously, I think this could work just fine. The 5man and raid content is clearly separated from one another and skipping raid content via other, highly inappropriate content (aka easy dungeons) wouldn’t work. If I missed anything, just let me know, I’m interested in fine tuning this theoretical scenario.

 

That’s it, we’re done for now, and with 5 minutes to spare until the end of the world. Nicely done. Unfortunately this means that you probably won’t finish this posting by the time I publish it…well, unless the world doesn’t actually come to an end. In that case, enjoy the following picture from a better time:

 

*sniff* nostalgia...