Normal dungeons were too easy, as was getting to level 85, so heroic dungeons that had any form of expectation were going to be asking too much.
For me personally, they weren’t too hard at all – in fact, they were markedly tame in comparison to what I went through in Outland. In fact, a small group of my guild mates and I completed the meta achievement in particularly short order while we waited on other members of the guild to gear up ready for raids. Nothing particularly brutal about them at all, it must be said. But some reading this might recall my last outburst on this topic approaching a year ago and the reaction it got. I won’t go over old ground, and my opinion hasn’t much changed.
What has changed (or rather caved-in) is Blizzard’s stance toward heroic five-man content.
Please tell me this isn’t another rant…
I just need to draw your attention to the latest blue post related to difficulty in Mists of Pandaria.
”The 4.3 heroic dungeons and Dragon Soul when the patch was released are a good measure to get an impression on how the content will look difficulty wise”.Okay, so pointlessly easy five-man content is once again to be the norm.
Now actually, this doesn’t bother me. My own misunderstanding led me to believe Challenge Mode dungeons wouldn’t fill this particular hole because they’d just be heroic level difficulty, but with a stopwatch attached. Untrue. They’ll have a gear leveller and higher tuned mobs to contend with rather than simply seeing how quickly you can zerg your way through easy content. That’s a step for the better, despite the slap to skilled casual players who won’t be allowed to queue for them.
I don’t even have a problem with the idea that future raid difficulty will be in line with Dragon Soul at launch. It’s already suffering from what will henceforth be entitled “Icecrown Syndrome”, with people unable to distinguish between its original incarnation and the heavily nerfed version they’re currently running. In fact, if you think about it, the general difficulty curve of the instance was significantly better than it was in Firelands where you cleared 6/7 pretty quickly and hit a brick wall when confronting Ragnaros. From Morchok to Deathwing, the bosses definitely become harder the further into the instance you delve (despite the anomaly of the Spine encounter being rougher than the Madness) and, Morchok aside, it was probably challenging enough.
No, I have no real problem with them setting the difficulty of the future around the 4.3 launch level.
There’s a “but” in here somewhere, isn’t there?
There could be something of a “but”, though I’m not sure where it is…
But it doesn’t appear to me that any real thought has gone into what made this seemingly reviled content so unappealing.
The difficulty of content is almost wholly subjective outside of generally accepted truths amongst certain groupings, but what was it that made Cataclysm heroic dungeons so painful on the community, when the tougher and more exclusive versions found in Outland were hailed as a great success?
Sure, the inclination is to point out that the community has changed dramatically but that’s an oversimplification in my humble opinion. Contrary to popular forum-goer belief, I don’t accept that wise, veteran players have seen wholesale replacement with spoiled, entitled children with Attention Deficit Disorder. I don’t. To be blunt, I don’t even think “difficulty” is the problem here because, if it were, encounters such as the Spine of Deathwing would be more widely revered rather than despised. The reason I think moving to the Hour of Twilight model for five-man content would be dreadful isn’t really to do with how easy it is at all.
It’s more how mind-numbingly DULL those instances are.
Other than the visual beauty of the Well of Eternity, there’s absolutely nothing to recommend the Hour of Twilight instances at all. The trash was sparse and pointless (often both), the scenery and mobs were reuses and, worst of all, the bosses were absolutely meaningless. One of the biggest examples was Murozond and his time-displacement mechanic; because neither his single-target nor his AoE damage was even remotely threatening, a reasonable level of performance was enough to kill him whether you reset the encounter or not. We could also look to the mechanic that buffed critical strike chance while under Illidan’s cover of darkness – what exactly was the point in it, other than to inflate numbers in a way that could have been dealt with via mob tuning?
They’re not crap instances because they’re easy, they’re crap instances because they’re boring.
Equally, the Cataclysm launch heroics weren’t viewed as crap because they were difficult, they were viewed as crap for reasons I don’t think Blizzard have really tried to identify.
Some alternative reasons for the dungeon-hate.
Here’s a list of what I think are more likely culprits for people just not engaging with the dungeons and not enjoying them.
- The busted learning curve made people wholly unprepared.
This topic has been done to death, but it’s no less true. Getting to level 85 is a dawdle, but getting beyond that into decent raiding gear wasn’t. If you were new, there was literally no way of learning how group dynamics work, or even how your own class is expected to perform, prior to wiping constantly in heroic dungeons.
- The lore leading into and out of them was often broken.
Frankly, this has more to do with immersion than people will admit. The worst example is what on earth happened to Neptulon at the conclusion of the Throne of Tides, but that’s not the only one. Blackwing Descent? What possible reason to I have to go up there? Oh, MMO-Champion said so?
- The class balance, particularly with healers, was way off.
Another old complaint and another that’s no less true with age. If you were a healing paladin you were okay when the content launched, if you were a priest or a shaman you were pretty far from it. Hell, it took them until 4.3 to bother giving priests a decent raid cooldown and, even then, it needed propped up by talents.
- The trash was unidentifiable as particularly dangerous.
The example I ALWAYS draw is the Murkblood healers in the Slave Pens and how you could easily identify who was spamming up the naga you were trying to kill. But who the Hell summoned the earth elemental in the Stonecore with the lethal AoE? I’ve absolutely no idea without dying several times to it.
- The dungeons themselves were far too long, too often.
I don’t mind long dungeons, I really don’t – I love ‘em. But when your only reason to go somewhere is for valour, taking 45 minutes to mow down trash in the Deadmines is as far from fun as you can possibly go. Had they cut certain instances in half, I daresay players would have felt more inclined to get through ‘em.
- The early mechanics were far too punitive on entire groups.
Without opening a can of worms, one person making a mistake shouldn’t wipe an entire group. That’s what happened. It makes for a terrible learning environment when you don’t know what killed you, made worse by being abused for the audacity of being new. This lack of forgiveness absolutely hammered new players’ enjoyment of dungeons.
Now of course, this is just my opinion. Everything I’ve listed could be totally wrong, or could be totally on the money. More than any other factor, I think the removal of “heroic play” is what made people heart-sick of the Cataclysm launch heroics. By “heroic play”, I mean when one or two people recover from insurmountable odds and manage to kill something that common sense told them they wouldn’t be able to. During The Burning Crusade, there were some nasty mechanics running around but you could find ways to lessen them significantly, and particularly gifted and quick players could turn around certain defeat into extraordinary victory. In Cataclysm, and probably not by design, this wasn’t possible – if a mechanic was designed to wipe you, that’s exactly what it did. There were no ifs, buts or maybes about it. One person gets something wrong, and the group will cark it regardless of how good the tank or healer might be.
Punitive mechanics are a necessity for learning, but brutal mechanics that obliterate groups due to small errors in judgement? Not so much. Even the 2.0 heroics, rough as they were, had major mechanics that were manageable and could be recovered from. This, unfortunately, extended into raids where the Firelands decided to shoehorn all depth out of the game completely.
You can’t drive Rhyolith’s legs? Wipe.
You can’t manage Beth’tilac’s web? Wipe.
You can’t manage Alysrazor’s tornadoes? Wipe.
RPG players enjoy problem solving, not console-style mastery by repetition (and luck).
Meh, I’m going on and on and on and on. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s not entirely due to “difficulty” why Cataclysm dungeoneering and raiding was unsuccessful. It was a lack of depth, a lack of interest and a lack of understanding about what makes a mechanic interesting or fun. Sartharion 3D was probably easier upon the launch of WotLK than Spine of Deathwing was, but was one of the games greatest encounters because of the sheer depth involved in how your group wanted to handle it.
If I had a message for the developers, it’d be this:
Stop tuning the “difficulty” knob as the single solution.
Have a proper look at why something might not be fun and take steps to solve specific issues. Blanket nerfs that just make content guarantee success isn’t a way to engender involvement and, in fact, simply leads to the “quick in, quick out” rate of content consumption that’s happening now.
Seriously, the Hour of Twilight dungeons are hopeless. Any more with that dearth of quality, and I’ll give up five-mans altogether.