Archive for June, 2009

Patch 3.2 – The changing landscape of instances

June 24th, 2009 3 comments

I’ll start off by saying a lot changes in the upcoming Patch (3.2, which is already on the PTR) so I’m focusing for right now on the changes to instances.

The two critical changes are the addition of a complete new instance, for 5 man, 10 man, and 25 man content. The second change is about the Emblems that drop off of every instance that drops one.

The addition of a new five man dungeon is fairly exciting, along with a new 10 and 25 man dungeon. For them all to be in one place is a little unexpected, but there’s a kind of precedent in the last patch of Burning Crusade which released both Magister’s Terrace and the Sunwell Plateau, meaning that the high end of casual content had been expanded, as well as the high end of hardcore content. I remember Magister’s Terrace being particularly difficult pre-3.0, so if the difficulty is akin to that, lots of guilds are in for a treat. It was a source of great pride to be able to tank 5-man content that was harder than 10-man.

It’s difficult to say that I endorse what appears to be the concept of the instances. I can understand the tournament grounds as a concept for dailies, and for rep and rewards; glory to the knights in the service of their king, and so forth. The problem comes in that I feel very attached to the idea of instances as places for monsters to live and bad things to happen, so it’s hard to get behind the idea of a tournament ground being used in such a way, thematically. That being said, there was a bit of foreshadowing about the Black Knight being an agent of the Scourge, so we’ll see if that’s how it plays out. You’d think, though, that people would notice as it’s being built about the less than subtle signs of blight growing everywhere, and cultists chanting unspeakable incantations praising the Lich King. Edit: After I wrote this section, it turns out that is just a big ol’ Tournament grounds. Still don’t know how I feel about that. Hope the execution’s good.

The more substantial change is going to be in Emblems being dropped. Right now, Emblems are dropped according to the difficulty of the instance or raid. Heroic Instances and 10 man raids drop Emblems of Heroism, 25 man raids and 10 Man Ulduar drop Emblems of Valor, and 25 man Ulduar drops Emblems of Conquest. This scaled system was meant to give incentive to people to try the harder instances (25 man content as opposed to 10), but there was a great clamor on the forums when it was announced that 10 man Ulduar wouldn’t give better than 25 man gear. The problem, as many people (including me) saw it was that there was no tactical reason to run 10 man Ulduar. The progression would not be as good as 25 man ulduar, or even other 25 man raids, since the Emblems, one of the sources of progression that is universal to people, wouldn’t buy anything new. That is to say, though certain bosses drop loot that is better for certain classes or specs, everyone could acquire Emblems. With enough Emblems, you could buy something that was useful to you, even if you didn’t get that ultra rare drop.

3.2 changes this entirely. Everything that dropped Emblems of Heroism or Valor will now drop Emblems of Conquest, and the lower two Emblems are being removed entirely. The new instance will have 5, 10, and 25 man modes, and will drop either Emblems of Conquest (the 5 man dungeon) and will feature a new badge, the Emblem of Triumph. The dungeon dailies are being reconfigured to drop Emblems of Triumph as well. This means that functionally, rewards for everyone live everywhere. You can acquire enough badges of Conquest with any raid or instance to get a large number of them to upgrade your gear, including buying you some t8 pieces. The new content is still worth while for the new badges, and heroics and normal dungeons (well, the four 80 dungeons) become relevant again.

Does this make raiding obsolete? Not necessarily. Consider that in one lock out period, you can run a pretty quick Naxx 10 (Let’s call it 3.5 hours) and get 16 Emblems of Heroism. For the same time investment, you might be able to get the same number of badges doing conventional Heroics, but you not only include more people in the guild (something a 10 man guild is interested in) but you have a good time. Naxx at this point can be done almost blindfolded. You don’t have to treat it seriously, and so it’s fun. It’s actually kind of appealing to go into Naxx and just talk about non-WoW stuff, and still get credible rewards, even help out some of the less geared people in the raid.

The equipment being put into 3.2′s raids and dungeons looks to outstrip Ulduar by a fair shake, but I think the ease of Naxxramas might be a compelling enough reason to keep running it. Additionally, Heroics are likely to surge back into prominence, given their speed and ease as well. This change might affect Ulduar 10 raids the most, as they’re the hardest content in the game currently, and since the change will give players gear equivalent to just beyond them, one could argue that they become a raid with no good reason to run. Ulduar 25 might come out unscathed, since it still provides Emblems of Conquest and has a lot of unique items (notably relics and idols) but isn’t being PuG’d on my server, and I don’t know if it is on others.

These changes are dramatic in the world of PvE. Shifting the focus away from the latest raid to older dungeons, while adding worthwhile newer content is huge. I’m not sure of the reasons behind the change, and they aren’t explicitly stated anywhere I can see, but I might suggest that they wanted to gear people up for the end game. Heroics are relatively simple to do at 80. With a little bit of gear, they become sleep-through easy, except Halls of Stone. Fuck Halls of Stone. Nonetheless, with easy access to Ulduar 25 gear that you can make a decent raid set out of, Blizzard lowers the bar as to what’s accessible, and I think that’s a great idea. Ulduar felt too hard for 10 man groups to do, unless they were dedicated raiders. My guild has recently suffered at its sadistic feet, and we haven’t cleared past four bosses. With the 25 man gear soon available to us, we’ll be able to access content that we’ve all wanted to see, but weren’t able to, despite our skill at raiding.

We’ll have to see about the difficulty of the new instance, but I’m hoping for something akin to Magister’s Terrace: a solid yet beatable instance that you might not get in three runs, but that doesn’t screw you on the RNG, and will eventually buckle to your playstyle. Blizzard has said they wanted to make all the content available to everyone, and it looks like this is a good first step.

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