Archive for December, 2009

You’ve come a long way, Blizzard.

December 10th, 2009 3 comments

This week, patch 3.3 went live for WoW. MMO-Champion had been predicting it for a while, and we all knew it was going to be messy and chaotic like patches often are, but out of the stampede of players, clamoring to get new content, something amazing arose. In the hubbub and the hoopla of tens of thousands of people trying to storm the new five-man dungeons and 10-/25-man raids, the random instance tool came quietly, and changed the way I play this game.

It might be the single greatest thing seen over the last two expansions. Honestly.

For those of you who are still reading and don’t know what the system is, the LFG engine has been redesigned. They opened up instances to be battlegroup-wide, just like battlegrounds. You queue up in much the same way, except that for an instance you declare what you bring to the party, in terms of tank, healer, or damage. You can choose to enter the queue with a group that you already have, filling in the last few spots you don’t have, or you can just queue in solo and get a full party. That’s when the amazing parts start happening. You immediately get teleported to the instance when the group is formed and ready, saving a lot in the way of travel costs. You suddenly don’t have to be in Northrend all the god damn time, and indeed, I was thinking of setting up my hearth in some place that isn’t as laggy as Dalaran tends to be. Maybe Shattrath City, but honestly, I think my Tauren is ready to go home to TB.

After you kill the last boss in it, you get a reward, which is a small gold amount, and some badges. If this is your first random heroic dungeon of the day, you get two badges of Frost. If it’s not, you get two badges of Triumph. On patch day, I managed to pick up 47 badges of triumph, more than I have in two weeks of 3.2. Granted, all the bosses in Northrend drop Triumph badges now, but the speed involved in just tearing through dungeons radically redefines the fun I have with this game: I don’t have to stop chaining heroics together once I know that my group works. We’re like the God damned Energizer Bunny. I ran through the three new five-mans, OK, VH, HoS, CoS, Nexus, and Drak’Tharon Keep last night, in the span of about 6 hours. 9 dungeons, three of them brand new content, on a patch day. This is fast.

Now, it isn’t all plums and roses. Sometimes, you’ll get a fail group. It happens with every randomized action you take, in real life or not. I got a terrible warrior, who had never even run the dungeon we were in (Old Kingdom), and was proud of his 1.2k DPS. The chances of a fail group go down however when you get people you know in your group, and only allow one or two spots to be filled, particularly if those spots are damage dealers, and as more people get used to the system, especially with the amount of loot being tossed around, I imagine these failures will become less and less.

All in all, I think the random instance tool is a great success, and will be very happy with it for some time to come. There are a couple of other of features about 3.3 that note some attention:

I was hoping for something slightly different with the new disenchanting tool. I was hoping it would just let you break all the greens down into enchant mats, but it requires you to have an enchanter of the appropriate skill to do it. That’s both good and bad news. It means that enchanters aren’t useless, but it also means they are in fact more useful. Not having a main who is an enchanter in the guild will get to be a bigger and bigger problem, especially since the guild has been using a lot of materials. I only got one group randomly with a ‘chanter who could help me, and failed to win any of the items that were sharded. Oh well.

The five-mans are very well constructed, but I fear the heroics to be a bit daunting for players. They seem to be a bit on the long side, and I worry how casual players will get to see this content, because it’s very challenging. The bosses in the Heroic Pit of Souls for example have almost one million hit points, far more than any other boss in any five-man. Hell, the trash mobs almost as much health as some five-man heroic bosses. I suppose I should count myself lucky to have finished it with no wipes on heroic on the first go, but it was very intimidating, even for someone who has two BiS items.

I’m sure, as with all patches, it will eventually become commonplace. For a lot of new players, or recently-turned-80s, this is what will be normal. They have always gotten Triumph badges from heroics, and the LFG system always worked this way. But for me, it seems a small bit of heaven. I don’t get to have to be bogged down by the weight of the game, I can just do what I love doing most about WoW: taking 20 minutes and tearing through some fantastical dungeon.

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