Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 27, 2010
Dungeon Finder coverage

As I don't like questing in Outlands that much, I leveled my druid in World of Warcraft from level 60 to now 69 only by doing dungeons. And then I found that at level 69 the Dungeon Finder already queues you up for the Northrend dungeons, which give nearly twice the xp per kill and better loot. So I looked through the list of Outland dungeons to check which ones I have missed, and was astonished to find out that I missed half of them. Basically the list of Outland dungeons was split evenly into those I did at least half a dozen times, and those I didn't visit at all. Obviously it would have been more fun to have a more even coverage, visiting every dungeon a few times.

At closer inspection the culprit appears to be World of Warcraft's "level fast - stay at level cap a long time" structure. Every expansion has a lot of dungeons which are for level capped characters, even in normal mode. But once the next expansion comes out, people leveling up just rush through the old level cap, often switching to the next expansion content before they even hit the old cap. Thus e.g. the dungeons in Netherstorm, which are for level 69 to 70, never show up in the Dungeon Finder. Not to mention the "extra hard" dungeons introduced later in an expansion, like Magister's Terrace for Burning Crusade.

Once Cataclysm strikes, the same will happen to Northrend Dungeons. Somebody new to the game and leveling through group content with the Dungeon Finder will never see certain Wrath of the Lich King dungeons, like the Icecrown ones. That is a shame, because there is an obvious interest for both Blizzard and the players to make *all* old content accessible to new players.

I think Blizzard should modify the Dungeon Finder so that it covers the old dungeons more evenly. Basically somebody who levels from 60 to 70 through dungeons should statistically see every Burning Crusade dungeon at least once or twice. And somebody who levels from 70 to 80 after Cataclysm should see all Wrath of the Lich King dungeons.
I would like to see this as well but it would take more than simply altering the algorithms for player matchmaking. The ICC 5 mans, particularly the heroic versions, can be unforgiving, even for players in later raid tier gear. For someone leveling through the Wrath content after the release of Cataclysm, Halls of Reflection would be a very rude awakening and stark difficulty jump from the other Wrath dungeons.

One might deal with this by simply extending the level range for these instances upwards (ie 80-82) so that players have a chance to acquire Cataclysm gear that is substantially better than the dungeon rewards/quest gear that they would otherwise be wearing going into the ICC dungeons. However, one would then face the problem that those dungeons in their current form drop gear that is substantially worse than what one could get from just solo questing.

It's a fine balancing act and one that I think Blizzard could improve on. I really enjoyed tackling dungeons as I leveled with level appropriate groups but even so I missed most of the late Vanilla dungeons in my rush to BC and most of the later BC dungeons as well with Wrath on the horizon.
A lot fo the problem is down to the bosses in normal 60/70/80 dungeons being 62/72/82. I tried the Tempest Keep dungeons at level 67 and found the trash to be challenging but manageable with a good group at that level. The bosses however were like 10 man raid bosses and totally impossible due to being 5 levels higher than us. When the tank didn't die of crushing blows and crits, the healer went oom because the dps were missing nearly every attack.

If they lowered the bosses level by a couple when the expansion was released, that would increase the level range at which the dungeon couple be effectively run. I think this would get a lot more people interested in running them since they are a lot more attractive a couple of levels before the old cap.
Yup, basically it's Blizzards response to people who buy the game today and want to be doing heroic LK tomorrow. I can understand the push to move people to 80 at a reasonable pace - but at the expense of missing half (probably more) of the game.

If I go out and buy Red Dead Redemption tomorrow, I have to unlock stuff in the game - I don't just start with all the best weapons and gear - unless I cheat....

The same should apply to WOW, why get a game and miss out on all that content?

"Because all my friends are on LK HC ROFL - and I pay the same as them LOL"

When Blizzard say they want people to "see" the game, this isn't strictly true. They mean to say "we want to hand out as many welfare epics as we can without people really kicking off".

If people just want to "see" the game and aren't bothered about loot - then why not make a fly through of each raid like they did with sunwell?

I'll tell you why - because "see" = "grind loot".
The rewards and xp are just so much better in the new expansion instances.

Making sure that these rewards are similar would make the old instances more attractive.
Just because the dungeon finder lets you queue for Northrend dungeons at 69 doesn't mean you have to go there. I believe there is also an option to continue with random BC dungeons.

With my latest alt I was pretty burned out on Northrend dungeons (thanks to farming them ad infinitum at 80), so I capped my XP at 70 and ran the later BC dungeons and heroics for awhile. Granted there weren't many people running them, but as a tank I was able to get what groups there were, and ran almost every heroic (stupid black morass attunement chain) before heading to Northrend.

But then I also don't like the XP boost from heirlooms, so I'm probably an outlier.
I think Blizz should flatten the whole vertical character progression path period. In any case, the gap is xp and gp across expansion content is really noticeable. Since the focus of the game is end-game gearscore, all the content along the way is an obsolete road-block to the destination anyway.

Cata represents an opportunity for them to recalibrate this stuff, but I don't see them spending a single nickle on it. So players "grind" 80 levels to catch friends. Such a waste.
I believe there is also an option to continue with random BC dungeons.

No, it's either random WotLK dungeon, or a specific dungeon from a list of your choice. Specific dungeon doesn't give the added reward. And if you select one of the level 70 dungeons, you're all alone in the queue and no group ever forms.
I feel that adding more achievement rewards that are comparable with participation is key here. Blizzard could easily introduce quest lines that took players on journeys thru content that rewarded players who completed epic storylines. If Blizzard can reward the instant gratification types who can burn through content in the race to level up and acquire badge gear, why cant they also reward the exploration types who spend time to experience the content that Blizzard took so much friggin time to create in the first place?

Either way, it's a win-win for Blizzard.
This is why I'm glad for Cata they're retuning the levels of what are currently level 60 dungeons. We won't be missing a good chunk of dungeons when we hit that cusp where we move to Outland. If they could do the same for both Outland and Northrend it'd be great.

Perhaps they're looking at heroics the wrong way. Maybe all regular dungeons should be less than 60/70/80/85 at their respective tier, and you run heroics exclusively at 80 instead of a few regulars. Actually, if they added a concept of progression along the 5-man heroics, I think that could work out fairly well. Might require a few more dungeons per tier to pull off though.
No, it's either random WotLK dungeon, or a specific dungeon from a list of your choice. Specific dungeon doesn't give the added reward. And if you select one of the level 70 dungeons, you're all alone in the queue and no group ever forms.

Ah, my mistake. I knew the reward was less (certainly no emblems), but I had pretty good success by queuing for all the 70 dungeons at once. Obviously it depends on your luck with anyone else wanting to run those dungeons. And with fewer gear rewards (although Magister's Terrace gear holds up pretty well) compared with the Northrend dungeons, the BC ones won't draw as many people. But the option is at least there, whereas it was much harder without the dungeon finder.

That being said, I agree with your main point. If Blizzard could retune the level capped instances to spread across the leveling process, it would greatly increase their accessibility. They have said before they would rather spend development time on making new things rather than optimizing old ones, but perhaps the work on Cataclysm indicates otherwise.
While I would love to see Blizzard retune the end-game instances as part of each xpac to make them leveling instances (I think I only did magister's terrace once, despite having 3 characters who could have done it).

Unfortunately, for the most part they never will. Why? Because not every player actually buys every expansion, or at least that is the theory Blizzard is supporting. If you have players level capped at 70 who never buy wrath, retuning the end game instances takes away their end game content.

All Blizzard gains by doing that is transitory leveling content that will be used once or twice by a majority of players, rather than the entire endgame for a minority of players. Until Blizzard can be convinced that everyone buys the xpacs (and maybe Cata is a sign that they're seeing this data) previous end game instances will never be retuned.
@ Weapon X

When Blizzard say they want people to "see" the game, this isn't strictly true. They mean to say "we want to hand out as many welfare epics as we can without people really kicking off".

I fully agree... I have been of the mind for a long time that WoW is an express train to end-game. With everything dumbed down on the way.

And hence am not excited at all, even mildly, in the next rinse-n-repeat expansion.
Blizzard aren't giving out "welfare epics" just to hurt your epeen.

Blizzard are trying to create critical mass at end-game to maximise the amount of people doing new content. They're trying to make raiding and end-game PvP something that casuals can get into.

This softens the previously steep curve between hitting level cap as a casual, and then having to schedule your life around PvP and Raid commitments.
@ Mesar

That to a large extent destroys the game for a segment of the playing customer base. Me included.

I firmly believe the game has been streamlined far too far for that purpose.
who are these mythical "new" WoW players? I played, enjoyed, and bored-to-death the TBC dungeons 2-4 years ago.
who are these mythical "new" WoW players?

If you call them "mythical", you are extraordinarily uninformed. World of Warcraft is in the top 20 sales chart of PC games every month. And in spite of lots of players quitting the game, the total number of players remains constant, showing that there is an equal inflow of new players.
Blizzard themselves admit that only a fraction of their new customers stick past the early levels, let alone hit Outlands. Don't mistake those DKs queuing for Slave Pens for new people, they're largely alts.
Look at the facts: Alts don't buy boxes, and don't keep subscription numbers up at 11 millions.

In other words: Just because YOU hate WoW doesn't mean that the rest of the world does.
11 Million?

EU and US combined... maybe 4.5 to 5 million.

New players are largely from outside the EU and US. I believe an expansion behind still and do not pay monthly subs like we do.

As many as 7 million are not subscribers and pay hourly.

Being top 20 sales chart for PC games means nothing seeing as PC games don't really sell.

Also WoW is as cheap as chips these days.

Blizzard run a pretty good propaganda machine when it comes to figures, like all companies.

I don't believe the hype, and certainly don't think WoW is healthy anymore.
I can measure "player activity" on the servers I'm playing on by looking at the number of auctions in the AH. There has been the usual summer / pre-expansion dip in activity, but nothing to suggest that WoW isn't healthy any more.

Where is your evidence that WoW isn't healthy? Where are the server mergers, the empty servers? The players from China are playing on their own servers, so they can't be responsible for all that activity on the EU / US servers.

For me it is very clear that we will see some press releases about millions and millions of copies of Cataclsym sold, and maybe even new total player number records for WoW by the end of the game. That looks pretty healthy to me.
I didn't say numbers were unhealthy, I said the game was. And it is but an opinion.

The realm I play on, Eonar an RP realm is stale. Again my opinion.

The Sun newspaper in the UK has by far the largest readership of any tabloid in the UK, no doubt Europe if not the western world.

It is by no means a good newspaper, again in my opinion. Yet more people subscribe, if you will, to it than any other newspaper.

As journalism goes, it is a pretty unhealthy read.

An analogy. WoW may have a huge following... but again in my opinion... a stale bucket of mind numbing content.

A bit like the Sun. IMHO.
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