Showing posts with label uldaman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label uldaman. Show all posts

05/12/2010

Instancing from level 25 to 35

Time for another installment of my series about levelling through the old dungeons in a post-Shattering world! I'm not sure how useful it is but I really enjoy writing it. Especially as I'm sure that Blizzard isn't done with making changes yet and I like documenting the process.

Scarlet Monastery

The Scarlet Monastery becomes available a bit earlier now than it used to, with the first wing opening up in the dungeon finder at level twenty-six. Otherwise it hasn't changed much, which is fine by me as it was one of the best old world instances to begin with. Why fix something that isn't broken? I was just a bit sad to see that Vorrel Sengutz doesn't offer a quest to his fellow Hordies anymore. I guess since the devs don't want you to have to pick up dungeon quests in the outside world anymore, they also don't want quests from inside a dungeon to send you outside.

All the wings have separate kill quests for all the bosses now, which results in a silly amount of blue quest rewards from those four instances alone. On Horde side they are given by a dark ranger who's standing at the entrance with a couple of Forsaken soldiers. Somehow this bugged me. When someone in a city asks me to please go to this scary place where nobody else dares to go and defeat the evil within, I feel brave and as if the quest giver thinks highly of me. When a bunch of soliders ready for battle tell me to go ahead and throw myself into the fray while they wait at the back - it will be alright, honest - I feel like I'm being used as cannon fodder or just plainly being made fun of. Hrmph.

There's also another quest giver in several wings, an undead rogue called Dominic who wears a gas mask and appears to keep his distance from the rest of the NPCs, even though he wants to see the Scarlet Crusade go down as well. He intrigued me. Is he a rogue apothecary or something?

Razorfen Kraul

Razorfen Kraul has been bumped up by about five levels, presumably because things were already kind of crowded in the low twenties. Layout and bosses have remained the same however, except that I could have sworn that Agathelos the Raging didn't always have a name. I think he was just called Raging Something-or-other?

Even the goblin escort quest is still there, but people still weren't particularly interested in doing it after getting their "instance complete" pop-up, not in my runs at least. No really, Blizzard, telling people that they are done is an automatic death sentence for any content that you might still have in store afterwards.

What I found interesting is that the quests for the instance paint a somewhat different and more coherent picture of the dungeon than before. You used to go in there to kill the quillboar because... they were evil. No elaboration was necessary, nor any explanation of why they were the way they were. The largest bit of story that you used to get was that the last boss dropped an item that started a quest revealing a connection between the quillboar and the undead. The new quests however tell you to fight the quillboar because they are trying to take over the Barrens with a giant armoured boar. No, really. Likewise, the justification for Going, Going, Guano! is now that this strange bat poop "seems to send the quillboar into a murderous frenzy" and must be studied. Okaaay... an A for effort I guess. Too bad that they couldn't shoehorn the snufflenose gophers into this whole thing as well somehow.

More importantly though, you also get to talk to the spirit of Agamaggan, who is now an NPC towards the end of the instance, and it turns out that the quillboar have actually been corrupted by Charlga Razorflank. There is even talk of helping them "return to their noble roots" by killing her. I'm not so sure about that, but I have to admit that it's a nicer story than just "kill these evil guys".

One caveat: Agamaggan's spirit stands only a few metres away from the final boss, and if you end up with a group of imbeciles like I did in one run, they might rush in and pull the boss before anyone has had a chance to hand in the quest and pick up the follow-up to kill Charlga. Be ready.

Maraudon

Like it was the case for Wailing Caverns, the big changes that were announced for Maraudon at Blizzcon have not yet been implemented. In other words, it still consists of three parts that don't really feel quite right as instances of their own, though Blizzard at least tried to apply some band-aids to the most glaring problems.

The Wicked Grotto for example, formerly Purple Crystals, used to have only one boss, which was just silly. Blizzard decided to change that by randomly moving Tinkerer Gizlock, aka that goblin towards the end of Maraudon that half the playerbase didn't know about and the other half never bothered to go to, smack into the middle of the purple dungeon area. This feels extremely random, but then a goblin in the middle of Maraudon has always been a bit odd. I think for the time being it's a good move, as it adds some value to the Wicked Grotto and actually exposes more people to the guy. If the players don't come to the boss, the boss has to come to them!

Celebras the Cursed is now officially part of Earth Song Falls, formerly known as Pristine Waters, at least according to the dungeon map, but his placement is still problematic. Players entering this part of the instance will now spawn on top of the waterfall instead of at the bottom, meaning that they only have to turn around to get to Celebras... but unfortunately old habits die hard. In the group I was in people just ran straight ahead and jumped down the waterfall, and when the tank made an attempt to loop back towards Celebras, he was told off for going the wrong way because that boss was nothing special anyway. If you are in a position to take the lead and want to kill him - and why wouldn't you, when he's right behind you - you'll probably have to shout at the rest of your party quickly to make sure that they don't hurl themselves off the cliff prematurely.

The quests in Maraudon are now given directly by the spirit of Zaetar, which is slightly strange to say the least. It's particularly bad if you start in Foulspore Cavern, aka Orange Crystals, where he doesn't even identify himself in the quest text initially. So you just get this quest to kill some guys... out of nowhere. I would think that even in Azeroth killing people because invisible voices told you to do so would be considered slightly crazy.

That said, once you figure out who's talking I thought that the story flowed better this way and is easier to understand for someone who's new to the lore, as opposed to the old way where you'd make your way through this huge mysterious cavern and then get an infodump at the end about how this princess you just killed seduced a guy called Zaetar and blah dee blah.

Uldaman

Uldaman could take a leaf out of Maraudon's book there - in regards to infodumping I mean, as it still has that annoying quest at the end where your only objective is to click through ten pages of text about the titans, which I haven't actually paid any attention to in years. There's a little animation that alternates between a picture of a dwarf and a trogg now, possibly to intrigue you, but that's really not enough.

The quest givers on Horde side are a bunch of blood elves from a group that calls itself The Reliquary and looks like it's supposed to be a Horde equivalent of the Explorer's League. I thought that was interesting.

The rest of the instance remains unsplit and pretty much the same as before, except that it's a lot less confusing when you actually have a map at hand. I still managed to nearly get lost though...

I have to admit I got pretty excited about having to do Archaedas "the proper way" again, as I'll always remember him as the first dungeon boss for which our newbie group needed an explanation and proper strategy back in the day. It was nice to see him actually get a chance to execute his add-spawning moves again, even if they still didn't pose nearly as much of a threat as they did to us newbies back in the day. He also seems to have ditched the overpowered clone of himself at the end that used to serve as a sort of enrage timer.

As far as tuning goes, I'm generally unsure of what to think of these instances. Things have definitely got somewhat easier compared to the earliest levels, but that might be due to me having dual spec now. Still, there seems to be considerable variation between the difficulty of my runs and it's not always due to heirloom gear. For example I had an SM run where I literally felt completely superfluous, and the tank was just a warrior in levelling gear. At the same time there were also still runs where I needed mana breaks every now and then, even as resto. It just doesn't really add up.

29/10/2010

Discussing the raid and dungeon changes announced at Blizzcon

Blizzcon may not have brought us any amazing revelations this year, but the developers did provide us with some solid pieces of insight into what they are planning to do with the old world dungeons come Cataclysm.

Confirmation of more conveniently located graveyards and the addition of dungeon maps was not a surprise but still welcome. I remember desperately pressing the M key so many times during my very first Deadmines run, not understanding why there was no map for this zone, and have pretty much continued to make that same mistake over and over again to this day, even though I should really know better by now.

That said, I'm not sure I'm entirely sold on those so-called "enhanced" dungeon maps they've been advertising. In fact, my very first thought was definitely an "OMG, how much more do they want to dumb things down" knee-jerk reaction. I mean, 3D images of the bosses on the maps? Do they think we'll be unable to recognise them otherwise? Are they trying to appeal to kids that can't read the NPC names yet? Seriously...

I still find this feature rather strange, but I have to admit that the others definitely have some appeal. For example the addition of a list of boss abilities in-game: How many times have you had to explain a boss fight (or heard someone else do it) and it went something like "and then he does this thing, I forget what it's called, let me look it up..."? Might as well save people the tabbing out.

The same thing is true for the detailed loot lists. While I'm apparently in the minority as someone who never ran with any loot information addons because on the whole I rather liked the surprise, I'd lie if I said that I've never looked up a boss's loot on Wowhead for some reason or another.

Still, from an immersion point of view I find having access to all this information slightly strange once again. WoW is a fantasy setting with steampunk elements, not something set in the age of information. Not knowing what exactly lies ahead in the dungeon you're about to enter but doing it anyway is one of the things that makes adventurers stand out as truly brave. If we know our target's exact coordinates and its abilities, aren't we more like hired assassins? Or secret agents? /hums the Mission Impossible theme... actually, that's kind of cool. Maybe we can just look at it as a sort of evolution - as the gnomes and goblins develop more technology we tend to have more information available.

Now, the other major topic was that of how exactly they intend to streamline the old world dungeons to bring them more in line with Outland and Northrend ones. First off, I was really glad to see this quote: "We don't want dungeons to be left behind in the redo, we want them to be up-to-par with everything else", as this was something that I had been kind of worried about.

They said that they want to make currently confusing dungeons less so, with Wailing Caverns being cited as a prime example. I can honestly say that I'm definitely in favour of this, as there's no love lost between me and WC's winding tunnels, even though I've become reasonably good at navigating them by now. I just hope that they don't swing too far the other way and turn something that's supposed to be a natural cavern into a straight and boring tunnel. I do believe that there's a solid middle ground to be found here, where you can make a place appear to be reasonably complex while still avoiding structures that might actually cause players to get lost. I think they did a pretty good job at this in WOTLK already - while most dungeons were still very linear, they didn't suffer from "endless hallway" syndrome nearly as badly as most of Outland.

Then there is the issue of shortening dungeons, in particular by splitting them into wings. Now, in general I approve of this, but I have to say that I found the fact that Utgarde Keep/Pinnacle was quoted as a good example of this rather amusing, because I thought if anything Utgarde is an example of how not to do it. I mean, there you are, questing in Howling Fjord and getting into this whole Vyrkul storyline, you try to kill King Ymiron but Arthas whisks him away to Utgarde Pinnacle, you clear out the lower levels of the keep... and then you go and have to gain ten more levels in other zones, running other dungeons, before you can come back and get on with the story. Sorry, but I don't think that works very well. Different wings of what's supposed to be considered the same dungeon should be close together in level so people can run them right after each other and get the whole story in one go if they choose to do so. That said, places like Scarlet Monastery and Dire Maul already pulled this off very well in the past, so I have faith in Blizzard being able to get this right.

Now, a few more instances that are going to get this treatment were discussed in a bit more detail. Uldaman for example will be split into two parts, with Ironaya ending the first half and what's currently called the back door being the entrance to the second half. Now, this sounds pretty sensible to me. I do have to say though, I really hope that they buff dungeon mobs significantly, otherwise this whole split thing might turn out to be a bit pointless. I mean, I too remember Uldaman as this endless winding maze from my WoW youth, but when I recently ran it at level again, for the first time in ages, we breezed through the whole thing while killing all the bosses in about twenty minutes. If it were to stay like that, splitting a twenty-minute dungeon into two ten-minute ones would just be silly.

Then we have Maraudon, another candidate for a logical split. To be honest I always thought that the whole "two entrances" structure that forced you to backtrack considerably if you wanted to do a full clear was kind of annoying. Two halves sound about right. Currently the dungeon finder splits it into three parts, and from what I hear this separation is rather awkward. Personally I only entered the instance through the dungeon finder for the first time tonight, and just found that the purple section felt extremely short. The rest of the party seemed to agree as we simply continued past Lord Vyletongue (the purple section's only boss) and continued all the way to the princess, just not bothering to go back for the orange section. Again this actually didn't take us all that long, even though we were doing very poor dps (one guy was on /follow the entire time and me and the other remaining damage dealer were about five levels lower than the mobs we were fighting). Again I hope that they will buff the mobs so the instance will still feel like a worthwhile undertaking even when cut in half.

Hearing that they want to cut out Sunken Temple's bottom floor made me a little sad to be honest, but I'll admit that the "elemental section" as we called it was always my least favourite anyway. Still, I'm one of those strange people who always loved Sunken Temple, even back when I kept getting lost in it. I just loved the whole Indiana Jones adventure feel of the place.

The comments on BRD raised more questions than they answered in my opinion. Apparently the developers think that this one is too hard to split into sensible sections, so they added teleporters instead. I don't mind those as an addition (after all, why shouldn't the Dark Iron dwarves go with the times too), but doesn't that leave the instance at the same length at which it is now? Or will nothing prevent groups from zoning in and teleporting straight to the Emperor? If not, what do these teleporters really solve, other than shortening possible corpse runs?

We shall see.