Normals are where it's at

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!)


  1. LK was at least pretty good in the mid-70s. It seemed like Cata never had many normals for a level range.

    Have a fun holiday! Or relaxing. Whichever you're going for.

  2. 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.

    You know, even though I don't get the gear, I don't mind getting the lower instances. Odds are going to be good that some of the lower level toons in your party will die, so you'll have to take on more responsibility anyway. That forces you to prepare for that eventuality in a Heroic.

    I also don't mind helping people along and teaching them the ropes on an instance, but they do have to meet me partway on this and admit that they need some help. The last thing a party needs is the macho attitude that you can just blow through the content and not figure it out. Sure, that's more possible in a Normal, but I've found that if people are willing to learn in a Normal, they perform better in a Heroic.

  3. I started to read your post and was thinking, I have to leave a comment on this because I am loving normals while learning my Rogue and noticed you linked me, thanks and glad to see others noticed it as well.

    The sense of community in normals even if it is with people from other servers is fantastic it seems. More often then not it seems I get grouped with people that want to play and learn and that is better for everyone involved.

    Lets face it, you barely ever need to do normals before you can get into heroics. When my tank reached 85 I got some rep items, crafted one item, did 2 normals and got lucky enough to get drops and was heroic ready. Then a mere 4 heroics later I was Zul ready. It moves by so fast and people do not develop the skills they need to actually contribute well at the next level.

    Being I only tank for guild it is not an issue but this is why so many bad people are in heroics, they never need to do normals to get there.

    With that in mind, it really does seem like the people in normals are there because they want to be and not there because they have to be and playing with people that want to play is more fun than playing with people that are only doing it because they feel like they have to.

  4. I've been leveling a couple of my alts through the level 80-85 dungeons and I'm starting to have a lot of experiences similar to heroics.

    I'm not sure what exactly changed but even the normal dungeons seem to have become Wrath AoE fests and lots of the other players are all "Gogogogo - we're skipping this boss".

    Maybe its the new heirloom gear guilds are starting to get their hands on. I dunno.

  5. @Grumpy: Like you said, it's pretty easy to skip normals these days and I think that's exactly why they are so much fun. There's little pressure to be there, so people join because they want to.

    @Anonymous: I've seen some gogogo-ing and people overestimating their ability, but I think I have yet to see anyone ask to skip a boss on normal. Seems rather odd to me, considering that the reward for completing a normal random is not really much better than what you'll get from each individual boss.