My last post was about a very enjoyable normal mode dungeon run, and normals have continued to deliver in terms of fun. My last couple of heroics have been... okay, though a bit bewildering in a way. I've become more confident in my paladin tanking abilities again, but the better I understand what's going on, the more I end up being confused by the things other players do. One pull ago that hunter was happy to trap the square, why is he now trapping the skull and nuking the cross? Just why am I soloing Ozruk and Asaad for their last ten percent because everyone else somehow managed to get themselves killed? It's even funnier when I'm the only one who gets the dungeon achievement popping up at the end, shouldn't the others have known better already?
But normals, normals are cool. The other night the dungeon finder put me into a cross-server party in normal Halls of Origination that meshed so well that we ended up sticking together for several more runs in a row, and I would have gone on even longer if it hadn't been so late already. It immediately struck me how much less likely I would have been to have that kind of experience in a heroic. Not because there's no chance of meeting nice and skilled people in heroics - though The Grumpy Elf recently made a point about thoughtful dpsers being more likely to stay in normals to learn the ropes, and I've made the same observation. But heroics just throw too many people with completely different goals together. I mean, what are the chances that a heroic tank will like his random damage dealers enough to give up his satchel in favour of requeueing with them instead of alone?
There's been some discussion about player segregation lately (I particularly liked this post by Kleps), and I think normal mode instances at max level are a great example of how well it works when you do make sure to limit content to a certain group of players, and this has nothing to do with elitism. Normal instances have a minimum requirement to enter, and a point where you'll usually want to stop running them - probably once your gear (and hopefully skill) are good enough for heroics. But it's not just gear level that unites people, it's also overlapping goals. Basically, everyone who's running normals has two goals: learning how to perform their role in this particular instance and in general, and gearing up. The latter can be divided into sub-goals such as accumulating justice points, getting boss drops, completing instance quests and gaining faction rep, but the important point is that none of these are at odds with each other.
Compare this to a heroic, where you won't just have people who've never done the instance before mixed with those who could do it in their sleep and expect the same from everyone else, you'll also have a pretty harsh divide between those who only want the last boss (for their satchel, valour points or the chaos orb) and those who want to do something closer to a full clear of the instance (be it for drops, justice points, reputation or achievements). While there are more reasons to be in the latter group, they become obsolete much more quickly, while the former motivators last for quite a while. In the end this means that the chances of everyone in the group wanting the same things are pretty small, as there'll always be people who want one or the other.
I really wonder how much heroics would improve if Blizzard removed all the mechanics that make it desirable to go straight for the last boss and ignore everything else. As it stands, it seems to me that your chances to have a truly enjoyable run are much higher in a normal mode instance simply because you don't have that kind of incentive there.
The only downside of normal modes right now is that there simply aren't enough of them. In fact, at level 85 there are only three: Lost City of the Tol'vir, Halls of Origination and Grim Batol. If there aren't enough max level players online to queue for them, you might also find yourself in Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle due to being grouped with a lower level character, but the loot there is lower level too and not very desirable once you've hit 85. Burning Crusade was released with seven normal mode instances as max level, WOTLK cut it down to only four, and now we're down to three. Rotating between those same three over and over gets old quickly even while playing with nice people; no wonder that players just want to jump into heroics as quickly as possible.
(P.S.: There won't be any updates for about ten days or so since I'm going on holiday for a little over a week. Just so nobody thinks that I've suddenly stopped playing!)