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You’ve come a long way, Blizzard.

December 10th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to 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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  1. Styder
    December 10th, 2009 at 09:57 | #1

    First of all, set your hearth at the innkeeper in the Dalaran Sewers to reduce lag. This one change has literally made me hate the game so much less.

    Second, I too really like the new LFG tool but it has its flaws. You were lucky to be on a server/battlegroup whose instance servers weren’t literally brought to their knees for the entirety of patch day. Kudos. I, however, was not so lucky. My typical experience would be queue up, get selected to heal (ALWAYS WITH THE HEALING. its my off-spec but if you say you can heal, good luck doing anything else ever), choose to teleport to zone, wait at loading screen for-effing-ever, get kicked out with either new instances cannot be spawned or instance not found, then have either half my group quit or me drop group and get the stupid 15 min deserter buff. I did get in a few dungeons the day after patch day and it seemed to go ok except I’ve done the first 2 instances of the icecrown 5 mans and then both times was unable to zone into the 3rd part due to instance server issues. I have still yet to see the last part.

    Lasty, I’m all for gearing everyone up and everything but with all the badges being handed out like trophies at the special olympics (an especially apt metaphor when dealing with the PUGs on my battlegroup) holy gear mudflation.

  2. Snagger
    December 13th, 2009 at 01:10 | #2

    I agree with a great deal of what you say, and to restate it would be redundant. You laid out his observations far more eloquently than I could have, so I am here to talk almost exclusively about my apprehensions.

    In the several months since patch 3.2 came out, I have begun to come to grips with the fact that Blizzard has decided to ditch the idea of guild progression. They have decided it is more important to allow the new players and the casuals to experience endgame content immediately.

    I don’t agree with it, but I can accept it and move on.

    The random dungeon system is both a boon and a bane in my opinion. Yes, it allows you to partake in the current feeding frenzy of Triumph badges. Hell, in the last 3 days I have amassed more than 200 Emblems of Triumph. It allows a new 80 to get geared in a matter of weeks, instead of forcing the entire guild to stop and backtrack in order to accommodate new players.

    However, it takes away a lot of the feel of community, and that is my primary concern.

    Since The Burning Crusade, Blizzard has been gradually making it easier and easier to ignore the social aspect of the game, which is really a shame.

    It started with Battlegroups. Yeah, it made queues a lot faster, but you didn’t have that same feel of facing the same enemies and building comraderie with your allies. You fought alongside the same people with whom you would interact in Trade chat, and relationships would form on that basis. It was a community. Everyone knew everyone else. If someone asked you about the top guild on the server, or who was the current High Warlord, you would probably know… and even if you didn’t, a quick question on Trade chat would answer it for you.

    At least it was only in pvp though. PvE was still very much a social exercise, unless you had enough guildies to always have a ready-made group.

    I have met a great many interesting, high-quality players through dungeon runs. My friend list was fairly extensive because of how irritatingly difficult it was to find quality dungeon partners. There are members of my guild whom I would never have met had we not pugged dungeons together.

    3.3 changed all of that.

    Now the process is much more streamlined, much simpler, and requires no actual interaction. I punch in my role (Tank/Healing/DPS) and sit back and wait. The computer automatically sets me up with a group, and even zones me into the instance with no effort needed on my part. Sometimes I go through an entire dungeon never saying 2 words. Why would I? These are people I’m never going to see again. I’ll never get to go on Trade chat and say what’s up to the awesome pally tank I ran with just a moment ago. Or ask him if he’s interested in running more Raids, or to join the guild.

    …and if I end up finding myself in a fail group? No problem! Just jump out and try again. You may have to wait a up to 15 whole minutes before you can queue again, but it sure beats scouring LFG and Trade chat for that healer you need so bad, right?

    Is that what an MMO is supposed to be about? I’m not sure I know anymore.

    Yes, it is POSSIBLE to continue to put out effort and make connections with the other members of my realm. But will it really happen?

    We had an entire conversation on Trade about how some people don’t even recognize the name of the top guild on the server. The one that got all the Realm Firsts. How is that even conceivable, to not know who the big boys on the block are?

    It is possible, and indeed encouraged by the new system, to ignore everyone in your Realm except for your guild. Let’s face it… it is HARD to sit on Trade chat for 20 minutes looking for a tank for the latest 5 man. It is BORING and doesn’t cater at all to our ADD personalities.

    So Blizzard has made it faster and easier than ever before to rack up all the gear you ever dreamed of.

    I hope it’s worth what we’re losing.

  3. Snagger
    December 13th, 2009 at 01:10 | #3

    Cross posted from my Livejournal. Please direct your response, if any, there.

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