Monday, August 11, 2008

Warhammer's Dungeon Design

The first day back from a vacation is always busy and this is certainly holding true for me today. I haven't really had time to read any MMO news in depth, but a cursory glance at my blogroll has revealed a lot of new Warhammer information. The release date has been confirmed and the fans who pre-ordered are jumping at the chance to download the open beta client. I'm just excited that I'm starting to get more details on the PvE content in Warhammer. In some of the MMOs I played over the last year I was very disappointed in what they offered for traditional small group content. While I'm sure the RvR will be the big selling point for Warhammer, I know that dungeon running holds a special place in any nerd's heart.

That's why I was glad to find information on at least three of Warhammer's dungeons in an article done by Gamesradar. I had just assumed that Mythic would instance everything, but it looks like they are going to include a couple open world dungeons to spice things up. Mythic even spent some time modifying the old open world dungeon design by incorporating factions into it. Some open world dungeons will only be accessible to Destruction and others to Order. Some players might complain about faction specific content, but I think most people will just level up characters on a different server. It's a unique idea and avoids some of the problems Funcom had with public dungeons on its PvP servers. The only problem I see is that Mythic may be forced to patch new open world dungeons in pairs or risk alienating one faction.

It seems like all of the dungeons in Warhammer will be multi-wing in the same style as the Scarlet Monastery. Blizzard went the same route for the Burning Crusade and most players seemed to prefer that over the long sprawling dungeons like the Wailing Caverns or Blackrock Depths. That's not to say there isn't a place for sprawling dungeons as Karazhan was very popular with players, though poorly positioned for raid progression. On the other hand the multi-wing dungeons in Warhammer seem more friendly to casual players. The level range is smaller then the Burning Crusade dungeons, which often had a level 70 wing. Also the final boss for each dungeon is defeatable by a single group instead of requiring a raid.

Even though Mythic isn't doing anything revolutionary, they still managed to tweak some of the things that most bugged me about Blizzard's dungeon design. I never got to fight the final boss of Hellfire Citadel since it required a guild and mine always avoided him since he was an unnecessary and difficult encounter. It's also nice to see open-world dungeons brought back in limited form. I always thought Blizzard should experiment with a public or open-world dungeon since they had such a horrible LFG tool. Maybe if people could just roam around in dungeons it would be easier to grab a replacement when someone had to drop. At least trains shouldn't be a problem since modern mobs tend to have a limited chase range.

The only problem I have with Warhammer's dungeon design is that the article mentioned that the level 23 dungeon was the first one in the game. It seems weird not to introduce a dungeon until players are more then half way through the game and I hope it was misinformation. World of Warcraft had five dungeons before it's half way point at level 30. I know this is primarily a PvP game so it makes sense that it has less dungeons then World of Warcraft. However, this isn't going to stop people from making a lot of direct comparisons between the two games. I just hope the lower level range is well polished to make up for the lack of dungeons. The NDA should be dropped this week with the start of open beta and we'll have more information then.


sid67 said...

World of Warcraft had five dungeons before it's half way point at level 30.

I don't have an issue with this since for the most part such content is trivial by comparison.

How repeatable was that content once you leveled past them? And moreover, how quickly did you level past them?

Shadowfang Keep is a great instance, but even in the old leveling days I never needed to do it more than twice on any given character.

You only get a lot of enjoyment out of this low-end content if you are making a lot of alts. And if you have that many alts, are you really trying to run the instance or are you just getting a buddy to run you through it?

How often did you run Ragefire Chasm?

Relmstein said...

Dungeons might not always have the same replaybility as PvP scenarios or battlegrounds. However, a well designed one like the Deadmines or Scholomance is much more fun then running a single battleground over and over again for honor.

Hopefully, Warhammer has a lot of different PvP scenariors and is better at balancing them then Blizzard. I'm sure the battles for the Keeps will also be entertaining but I think WoW has trained most people for scenarios and that's what will be popular.

Any other under 30 dungeons?

Ragefire Chasm (once per char)
Deadmines (a million)
Wailing Caverns (once per char)
Shadowfang Keep (a million)
Stockades (once per char)
Black Fathom Depths (a couple per char)

Zelmor said...

Razorfen Kraul. And I, for one, prefer long and deep dungeons such as those of good old Azeroth. I always had a dislike for the BC ones, even if I admit that it is more player-friendly due to lenght. A good group could have finished any instances witha member dropping out midway, let it be no healer or tank. And if such thing happened, that is not the dungeon designers fault but his, whimever designed the instancing system. We should have been given a way to summon members into instances from the very begining. Now, with watered up 40 minute long instances and almost instant travelling of epic flying mounts, it is no longer necessary.

Darkfall is going with dungeons only instanced to avoid server issues, but one realm is said to run one dungeon at all times. Everyone scattered over a HUGE labyrinth is what I really liked in Lineage 2.

Mr. Gamer said...

Different types of dungeons have different pros and cons. I don't have a definite preference of any one type over another, and ideally I'd like to see all of them represented in a game.

Public dungeons
Pro: The "world" feeling, spontaneous grouping and interaction with other players.
Cons: Kill stealing, spawn camping, uncontrollable difficulty.

Large instanced dungeons:
Pro: Multiple non-linear completion paths, fun to explore, secrets and optional areas.
Cons: Very time consuming, prone to group breaking up.

Small "winged" instanced dungeons:
Pro: Quick completion, great for casual pcik up groups.
Cons: Linear and architecturally uninteresting, every run is the same.

As for the problem of outleveling dungeons too quickly, I think the problem is best solved by incorporating multiple difficulty levels and scaleable loot into the game. Dungeons and Dragons Online (a very instance-heavy game) does it pretty well.

JoBildo said...

Here's a thought, Relm.

In WoW, the idea is to groom players for PvE end-game. It makes sense then to start them off in their teens with their first PvE dungeon.

In WAR, the idea is to group players for an RvR end-game that has much more of an emphasis on PvP than PvE. Both are present at the Capitol Sieging level, with Public Quests and the King of each city being a raid boss, but for the most part the goal of WAR is to get players to engage in and enjoy RvR MORE than PvE.

Wouldn't the idea of holding off any focus on dungeons and instead working towards getting players to participate in scenarios and the keep sieging be ideal?

Also, come join CoW darn it!

Relmstein said...

That makes a lot of sense JoBildo and I hope Warhammer has a lot of low level scenarios to make that point.

I would join CoW but I'm not sure if I want to play on a closed RvR server. I've gotten used to the hunted feeling that comes with playing on the WoW and AoC PvP servers.

Bildo said...

The invitation stands, even for an alt character. :)

Anonymous said...

"That's not to say there isn't a place for sprawling dungeons as Karazhan was very popular with players, though poorly positioned for raid progression."

I actually disagree with this. Karazhan was popular for the same reason that Molten Core and Onyxia were popular: they were the entry level raids for their end games, and a required stepping stone for moving on. Nobody in my large raiding guild liked Kara and we were thrilled to leave it behind - it had WAY too much trash, took too long to complete, and required too much of a perfect class mix in its first iteration.

I think participation rates are high for Kara simply because it's the entry level raid, without which you aren't going to go on to tier 5 raids, period.

Relmstein said...

I don't know, I was always actually fond of Karazhan and most of the boss fights were highly entertaining. It was tuned for a very specific class balance in the begining, but Blizzard eventually made it a bit easier.

Also the originality of the Opera and Chess event was very different from past raids. Even fights like Monroes and the Shade of Aran had great dialogue from the bad guys.

Anonymous said...

to those of u who were wondering in warhammer there are alota of secnarios. im lvl 12 right now and i alrdy have 6 scenarios i can enter thats 2 more alrdy over WoW its a pvp game and wow is for more PvE with pvp for player who really liked that stuff.

Anonymous said...

Kara... Long sprawling... Am I the only person here who recalls the fact that kara offered a second door that allowed you in halfway through. For the people who already owned half the dungeon they just had to go through halfway and start on those bosses. Kara in it's self is one of those multi winged instances.