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.

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