Sunday, 3 October 2010

A Draenei in the Deadmines

I have recently been levelling my first Draenei, and I can tell you, I've really enjoyed the experience: it's completely different to my previous experiences in the old world.

Firstly, the low-level experience is set at a particular point in time: just after the shaceship "the Exodar" crashed on an island off Kalimdor. Your tasks are all centred around the immediate aftermath of this event, as you try to help fellow victims of the crash, and repair the damage caused to the land you crashed in. You quickly discover that you've been followed to this world by your enemies, the Blood Elves, and you make first contact with some of the other species in your new world. The story is told immersively and you just can't stop playing, so much do you want to get to the next episode.

In contrast, all the WoW vanilla starting zones are set in a fairly timeless period, and the quests are more concerned with teaching you the mechanics of controlling you character, rather than immersion. So it's kill ten kobolds in Northshire and steal their candles. For no good reason other than that somebody asked you to.

So I really enjoyed the work I did on behalf of my fellow Draenei on Azuremyst Isle and Bloodmyst Isle. The first jarring moment in this immersion came when I reached the Exodar itself. There, Draenei commoners were celebrating Brewfest! What? How did we get involved in Brewfest? Did we meet the dwarves? I only just made first contact with our nearest neighbours, the night-elves, along with an expeditionary naval force from Stormwind.

Never mind. That was just unfortunate timing. I found a ship that took me to Darkshore and continued my explorations there.

When I started a night-elf, long ago, I found Teldrassil (once out of the starting zone) to be quite an immersive place, also. Plenty of good stories to be a part of, and not all of them involved killing ten rats. The night-elf quests in Darkshore and Ashenvale continue in this vein, and are among the best stories in Azeroth, even if there is quite a bit of Naga bashing and Murloc murdering involved. But the night the music died for me was the night I was given a quest in Blackfathom Deeps.

It is no longer possible to gather a group to go to Blackfathom Deeps simply by asking players around Astranaar and Ashenvale. They look at you as if you had two heads. A knowing smile crosses their face, the word "noob" forms at the back of their mind, and they tell you to use the dungeon finder. Another crack in my immersive experience.

So I did. I queued up for a random dungeon and found myself in the Deadmines. What the?! How did I get here? I wrote before about the gripping story of the Defias Brotherhood that leads up to the killing of Edwin van Cleef. What a sorry, half-baked version of that story my draenei met. Why on earth would he want to kill these miners, those goblins, yonder pirates and the various other denizens of the Deadmines that he met? What a horrible, horrible experience it was to be in the Deadmines without having been through the quests leading up to it. I thank the light that I at least experienced the world of Warcraft before the introduction of the Dungeon Finder. Boy, it isn't even a year old, at this point, but it has irrevocably changed the way we experience the world.

I remember how it used to be, how difficult it could be to get together a group, and I can see all the advantages there are to using it; I remember trade full of desparate requests of "LFM UK normal" and so on. All the same, Dungeon Finder as it currently stands completely breaks the immersiveness of the questing experience. I understand why Blizzard did what they did when creating the Dungeon Finder: they had already tried to fix the problem of putting together groups a couple of times, and each time it had failed, for various reasons. This time, they threw in everything they could think of, to give it every chance of succeeding. And succeed it did! Now it is almost the only way people do 5-man instances (I would hazard a guess that more people solo instances than put together a 5-man team without using the Dungeon Finder).

How could it be fixed?

Well, as I said, Blizzard threw everything that they could at it, in the hopes of making it a success where they had previously met with failure. Unfortunately, their over-egging of this particular pudding has been the cause of its problems (which are problems of success, not problems of failure, let's remember). Now that Dungeon Finder is well established, perhaps its time to remove some of the eggs from the pudding.
  • One idea would be not to queue you for instances that you haven't yet found the entrance to, or at least the summoning stone of. I think this must be foremost in re-establishing immersion.
  • Only form groups with people of your own realm, or at least give you the option of only queuing with people from your realm.
  • Drop you and your group at the summoning stone for the instance, not in the instance itself (I know this might cause problems with cross-realm parties, but they are not insurmountable).
  • Do nothing except create the group. After all, the problems people previously had was simply in getting a group together at all. It could previously take half an hour of barking in the trade channel to do it (how little the LFG channel was used!). Just form the group, and let the members take it from there.
  • Remove the free emblems or satchel of helpful goods. There should be life outside of instances as well!
  • You don't really want people entering the instance for the first time to be doing it with people doing it for the hundredth time. That takes all the magic out of it for the first timers.
I'm sure you have better ideas than me. I'd love for Blizzard to think about them.


  1. They are adding the first bullet in cataclysm, you'll have to discover the dungeon entrance before you can queue for it, this is mostly to stop the "I CANT FIND THE ENTARNCE REZ ME LOL" stuff however.

    I don't know why you think the second bullet point would help immersion.

    The third point would be solved by the first point, I think, at least you would remember where the entrance was, (well maybe not deadmines or mara, those places are mazes)

    The fourth point is interesting, although at the end game there would be a lot of instances no one would queue for, like occ, and people who needed those particular instances for gear would be screwed.

    As for the 5th point, I've heard of tanks and healers just using the Dungeon Finder to level, but I could never do it. The low level LFD is filled with so many loud, immature, unskilled players that I might go insane if I used it more than occasionally.

    6th point. Yeah, immersion wise, this is fine and dandy, but if all 5 players had no idea what to do, especially in some of the cataclysm dungeons, it would just be a wipefest. There's a boss in BRC heroic on the beta right now that has 3 adds who have lasers attached to them, unless 3 of your party blocks the lasers, the adds will transform into giant dragonspawn and kill everyone instantly. I believe the only hint that was given by blizzard for this was an achievment that says "let no dragonspawn spawn during the fight" It doesn't tell anything about the lasers. So, for a completely new group, this could be a huge source of frustration.

    Basically, if you want immersion, leave General, Trade, and LocalDefense, turn your guild chat off, and never use the Dungeon Finder. There's going to be too many insults or "megan fox is soo hot" (to quote Gevlon) comments flying around. To be honest, if immersion means that much to you, I'm wondering why you didn't choose a RP server to level on.

  2. I really enjoyed this post; it captures that sense of wonder you have as a new player very well. And the mention of the immersion-breaking Brewfest is both amusing and a little sad.

    One point I have to make in defense of the dungeon finder: if you wanted to run BFD, you could have just queued for that in specific. I never do randoms on my low-level characters myself, because as you mentioned, ending up in the middle of a completely different story is just strange. The satchel of helpful goods that you get for going random is not that amazing anyway, and your queue times don't get significantly longer for choosing a specific dungeon either.

    Otherwise I agree with most of your suggestions. I intend to write a post about ten months of dungeon finder myself soon, where I'll probably talk about some of these things in detail.

  3. @Daniel:
    Thank you, Daniel, for being the bearer of good news! I'm so pleased that Blizzard will be fixing my number one problem with the Dungeon Finder in Cataclysm!

    I agree that number 2 is not so directed at immersion, but it is a problem that DF caused: the facelessness of groups, the lack of social interaction. Reducing the pool of characters that I might be grouped will bring its own benefits.

    You also mentioned "if all 5 players had no idea what to do, especially in some of the cataclysm dungeons, it would just be a wipefest."

    Oh, I do hope so! I hope the days of facerolling "heroics" are on their way out.

    One other thing: immersion and roleplaying are not quite the same. I want believable stories, and a credible make-believe world, and when I'm playing, I want to be in that world, saving injured draenei from radiation poisoning, or slaying evil lich-kings; not sitting at my computer pressing some keys. It isn't about roleplaying, per se. It's about storytelling.

    Yes, I know I could have selected a specific dungeon, and I should have! I was just on autopilot that day. I would gladly have done without the satchel of helpful goods to avoid what I inadvertently experienced!

    Anyway, I look forward to reading your post!

  4. I don't particularly mind if they make it so you have to find the dungeon entrance before being able to queue for it... but that could get tricky for an Orc looking for the Stockade, or a Dwarf looking for Ragefire Chasm. That means even less early dungeoneering (or more repetition), which makes me a bit sad.

    So... more early dungeons, and more breadcrumb quests to lead you to them?

  5. I know what you mean, Tesh, but actually, I don't think orcs should be in the Stockade. Really, before going in there, our brave adventurers should have a reason. For instance, Warden Thelwater might have asked them to quell an uprising. Otherwise, what are they doing there? And of course, Stormwind guards shouldn't be asking such favours of orcs. So I'm happy with the Stockade being an alliance-only dungeon; and Ragefire Chasm a horde-only dungeon.

  6. One of the things about the Draenei is that they are coming out of cryogenic suspension - so actually alot of stuff could have happened since you crashed on the planet, since you slept through it and on for some time.

  7. That's a good point, Callan. All the same, it seems that I was one of the first out of cryogenic suspension, since I was the one tasked with making first contact with our nearest neighbours, the night elves, tasked with clearing radioactive debris and revivifying affected flora and fauna. I suppose it isn't impossible that a comrade who was resuscitated earlier managed to make first contact with the dwarves (though how he avoided meeting elves on the way is beyond me), or simply that they stumbled upon us.

    I haven't tried the new post-Cataclysm starting zones for the vanilla WoW races. Have they changed much?