Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Can the Current Level 60 Dungeons be Saved?

With the release of the Burning Crusade a lot of the current end game dungeons will become deserted as people migrate to the better risk vs. reward instances. Stratholm and Scholomance can be expected to become true ghost towns filled with only the undead that make their homes there. Sure an occasional tourist will stick his head in the zone and check it out but the days of a real group of players entering will be over. Thinking about it though there are already several dungeon instances which barely ever see groups.

As World of Warcraft has become more top heavy with level 60 characters most people find it easier to be run through a dungeon with a higher level character then actually build a group of appropriate level people. And yet if a dungeon has a good set of droppable items and a rewarding main quest then it will still most likely see groups of adventurers. For example the dungeons Maradon and ZulFarrak still experience a decent amount of group traffic and will probably continue to receive visitors even after the release of the expansion. Both have good quests that give rare items and a decent array of drops for casters and melees.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are two dungeons designed for players in their twenties. Both Black Fathom Deeps and Shadowfang Keep have limited droppable items and so-so quest rewards for the Alliance. SFK actually has no general quests for the Alliance but makes up for it by having some nice caster loot. Unfortunately the dungeon is not kind to most melees since most of the items for them are very rare drops off the bosses. BFD has one good quest for the Alliance but it only gives a blue shield or wand. The droppable items are poor with only the bosses at the end having a chance to drop good blue items. Just like SFK too many bosses drop green items with bad stats which are easily beaten by gear bought from the auction house.

The current level 60 dungeons are set to soon have the same problem since players in their high 50s will have the same difficulty doing Scholomance as doing Hellfire Citadel. Plus chances are that the bind on equipped items that drop from the Outlands will be better then the rares that drop from current level 60 dungeons. Blizzard really has four options they could choose to try to alleviate this issue.

1) Increase the Item Power in the current Level 60 Dungeons
This option isn't too likely since it could detract from the allure of the new dungeons. Plus modifying and rebalancing old content is much harder then doing the same for new content. Just look at the boss fights for the Tier 0.5 armor set which the developers seem to think are balanced for a group of non raiders.

2) Decrease the Item Power in the new Level 60 Dungeons
This option would go against their philosophy of basically fixing the gear imbalance between raiders and non-raiders. Also if the new items were only slightly better there wouldn't be as much demand to get the expansion right away.

3) Ignore the old content
This looks like the current option Blizzard is going with. It costs them no money and encourages people to concentrate on the new expansion. However, this really increases the rate at which the new content will be consumed since new people will skip all the current level 60 content when leveling and go straight to the Hellfire Citadel

4) Decrease the levels and difficulty of the current Level 60 Dungeons.
I really think this would be the best move for Blizzard since they could put more of a gap between the old content and the new content in the expansion. At the moment the Sunken temple is around level 50 and is the dungeon right before the current level 60 dungeons. Blizzard could easily adjust the item and boss levels of the current level 60 dungeons so that a group of level 54 players without raid gear could beat them.

Shifting the difficulty of the current end game dungeons might be the only way to prevent them from becoming a higher level version of Black Fathom Deeps. With no level gap between them and Hellfire Citadel then the rule of risk vs. reward dictates that almost all players will head straight to the outlands at 58-59. The Blizzard developers might think rebalancing the older dungeons again might not be worth the money but honestly it will help them if new characters can be persuaded to still go there. Basically its the difference between still getting some use out of the content and totally writing it off. The level 60 dungeons can be saved unlike their counterparts the level 60 raid instances which are just plain screwed over by the expansion.


Wolfgangdoom said...

Natural Selection at it's best. Why would anyone want to run a 3 hour instance when they can run a 2 hour instance and get better loot? Farewell scholo and strat, I had fun but your time is up.

Relmstein said...

Hey I believe in recycling.

A little remodeling on the toughness of the mobs, some changes to the item level requirements, and then you got yourself a fine place to spend your mid fifties in.

Kaziel said...

Part of the inherent problem is not the loot but the time requirements. Even if they dropped loot of the same quality, why would I want to run a 3+ hour instance, when I can run one that I know will be over in under two hours (even with a wipe or two)? Simply put, with the introduction of many winged dungeons with good loot for it's level, and the ability to do them quickly, there's little desire to spend the time in traditionally designed dungeons.

Grulnak said...

One other alternative I can think of - leave the current level 60 instances as the end-game for those who don't buy the expansion. There are bound to be some who don't buy it but still play the game, though I suspect these will be a tiny minority.

Saylah said...

I agree with Relm. They should adjust the existing level 60 dungeons to be achievable in the mid fifties. We consumed that content because there were no other options. Post TBC 60s, will have other options and if they consume the content too quickly, they'll be chomping at the bit for something new to do, as we have been all this time. I don't see Blizzard reallying releasing expansions every year.

Bill G said...

Blizzard has stated many times that the existing instances will not be changed.

This will lead to the common situation for MMORGs of the "hollow core". Early level content still used while leveling, and late content still used at whatever the current "end game" is, but everything in between ignored.

I think it's beyond Blizzard's capabilities to work on more than new content, sadly.