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Patch 3.2 – The changing landscape of instances

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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  1. Snagger
    June 24th, 2009 at 15:13 | #1

    I have a problem with changing the game so that you can get Ulduar 25 level gear by doing the same old Heroics and Naxx runs. It just strikes me as wrong.

    Heroics are trivially easy to any group with a fair amount of experience and better gear than quest blues. So yeah, Blizzard isn’t -exactly- handing out Tier 8 for free, but this is the next closest thing.

    My second concern is that we are now given greater rewards for the same old content, which doesn’t exactly promote progression. Players can now run heroics, gear up, and skip Naxx and Ulduar altogether if they like.

    Why run Naxx? After all, the gear in there is now a joke, and the badges can be found much more easily and conveniently running Heroics. In the four hours that it takes Terra Finitum to clear Naxx, we could clear up to 8 Heroics, and we’d only need 5 people to do it.

    I am not going to be quitting over this… hell, I’m not even that upset. I simply disagree with it. I think that progression doesn’t mean having access to the latest raid. To progress properly, you should have to run Heroics until you are geared enough to run Naxx, then run Naxx until you are geared to the hilt in epics, then move on to Ulduar, etc.

    This way, you are actually PROGRESSING. You are taking the stairs, instead of being given a magical elevator that lets you skip straight to the roof. You work through content until you are ready for the next step, and old content becomes obsolete, as it should.

  2. June 24th, 2009 at 15:41 | #2

    “Why run Naxx? After all, the gear in there is now a joke, and the badges can be found much more easily and conveniently running Heroics. In the four hours that it takes Terra Finitum to clear Naxx, we could clear up to 8 Heroics, and we’d only need 5 people to do it.”

    Why leave five people out? Udie, Ivora, any other recent 80 could use the help. Why beat our heads against the wall of Ulduar when we don’t have to, especially when Naxx is just goofy now.

    Progression for us at Ulduar apparently stops at four bosses. I can’t say why. I don’t think it’s skill, and you don’t think it’s gear, but clearly, we can’t get past the Iron Council or Auriya or Ignis. I appreciate that Blizzard wants to open up the content, and don’t mind a bit that they’re changing the Emblem system to do it.

  3. June 25th, 2009 at 10:14 | #3

    “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.”

    While I obviously can’t comment on the difficulty of the new raid, Blizzard has many times come out and said that Magister’s Terrace was way overtuned and that they did not want that level of difficulty again. For better or worse, I don’t think the Colosseum will be anything nearing that difficulty. This is only cemented by the fact that no raid in WotLK (including uludar) has been anywhere near the difficulty of vanilla wow raids (such as AQ40, and Naxx 1.0).

    As far as the badges being changed to conquest, it’s basically sacrificing Naxx raids to revitalize heroic instances (which are all but dead currently). I really don’t have a problem with it, as with the 3.2 raid comes “tier 9″ level loot, and conquest can only be used to buy tier 8 stuff. Blizzard has long allowed you to buy the last level down of gear for cheap as sort of a catch up. It kind of cheapens working on uludar stuff now, but there will always be the “I had it pre 3.2″ factor. Also, the standard of people who have the gear NOW will have the jump on the people who have to grind heroics for badges for the gear. Also, you can only buy 2 set pieces with conquest badges (IIRC), so it’s a good jump to even out gaps in gear, but by no means a complete solution.

    I’m more upset about the changes to Wintergrasp, frankly. I’d rather have it lag than have a 1 in 100 chance of playing every 2.5 hrs.

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