Monday, August 10, 2009

Why I want to run instances that take forever

Is the Hardcore Raider a dying kind?

Yes, if you should believe Theerivs at a High Latency Life. He ended a post about the new five man instance (that seems to be the name of it; until now I haven’t heard anyone calling it anything but “The New Instance”) with this prediction.

“I got some sick stuff yesterday. With this great stuff though, why would I do Ulduar which takes forever. I sense the death of the Hardcore Raider soon.”

The loot motivation
Theerivs is probably far from alone in this mindset. On the contrary, he represents the view of the average player of today, the player that the Blizzard developers have in mind when they design the new, modern five man and raid instances. Those players are happy that the days are gone where you could spend 2 hours+ grinding trash mobs in order to complete a single instance. They don’t miss the masses of packs that infested Shadowlabs or the seemingly endless corridors of Shattered Halls. They don’t long back to Botanica, with all its beautiful, imaginative, deadly flowers growing in every corner.

Because when it comes to an end they’re in it for the loot. They most of all want to gear up their character, thus manifesting their progression in the game. It’s their motivator. And the quicker the better. It seems as if they just want to log in, have a kill-boss-and-loot-fix, and then log out and throw themselves into another activity.

In one way it makes sense. But if you ask me, this kind of game play leaves me empty, still hungry for more, in the same way as a hamburger meal that lasts me five minutes wont give me the same satisfaction as a three-dishes course at a french bistro.

The missing music
So what am I missing in the new way of designing instances? What’s my problem with the additions in 3.2, as far as we’ve seen them? And why will I rather do Ulduar “which takes forever” than grind the The New Instance and farm 5-man heroics until I’ve got all the gear I could possibly wish for? This is what I’ll try to explain in this post.

I think it boils down to two aspects. It’s about musicality and it’s about immersion.

Let’s have a look at the musical side of it first.

Even though I agree that the boss fights generally are the top moments of instance runs, in 5-mans as well as in epic raids, this doesn’t mean that the long walks through drainage pipes, gardens, caves, corridors, fighting whatever you see on the way, are pointless and boring. On the contrary.

The dramaturgy of an instance is like music. You can look at classic compositors as Beethoven and you can look at modern rock musicians, putting together a gig. They will always have slower, more gentle and subtle parts in a symphony or on a record. Because without them, the magnificent crescendo won’t be half as impressive.

Maybe I’m just a victim of nostalgia, but to me the 3.2 instances lack something in the musicality. There’s no time to build up excitement before it’s done and over. The drums may be loud, but since they’ve been going on during the whole encounter I don’t hear them anymore.

The lack of immersion
The second problem I have with those short encounters is the lack of immersion.

I’m a slow starter. Whenever I’m about to consume some kind of entertainment, be it a book, a move or a game, it will take some time before I get into the mood, leaving the real life behind me, losing myself in another world. That’s why I prefer novels to short stories and big format movies to a 30 minute TV episodes; once I’ve done the effort to get to know the characters and the plot, I want to enjoy it and stay there as long as possible.

It’s just the same in WoW. Black Temple was an awesome because we were sneaking through the pipes, scared to death by the dense darkness we were facing. The atmosphere was built up step by step and we were all wrapped up in it. We were explorers and heroes, venturing on a heroic mission in a huge, unknown world. Not gladiators, killing of the next poor monster sent into the arena.

To me raiding for 3.5 hours straight isn’t a pain, not any more than seeing the extended version of Lord of the Rings was. A full-night raid isn’t a sacrifice I make to get hold of epic loot or achievement points. It isn’t work. It’s escapism and it’s pleasure, a pleasure that is increased if it can be done without too many interruptions, such as changing instances because there were too few bosses in the first one.

If you’ve ever been into jogging, I think you know the feeling. It’s when you get into the “second stage” that it starts to be enjoyable. The 3.2 instances don’t ever let you reach that point.

Casual friendly
Finally: I know that this post falls into the “player complaining about a lost glorious past” genre. I know that the cause is lost and that there are good reasons for the change of design philosophy.

To many people (myself included), it’s quite hard to play without real life interruptions for hours. Places such as Shadowlabs were not friendly with players who had families to tend to. You had to plan for playing a heroic in the same way as you arrange your life around a raid. With the new deal you can run an instance in half an hour and if you’re up for fighting more bosses, you can just run add another instance. It’s modern, it’s flexible and it’s a huge improvement for the average player. I don’t disagree on that.

Still I can’t help hoping that Icecrown will be different from this. No one would be happier than me if we could get another place that will take “forever” to explore and conquer.

Maybe the new extend lockouts will be the solution we’re looking for. With those in place, there shouldn’t be the same need to make the raid instances shorter in order to make sure that all players will see as much of the content as possible. You can always extend your exploration to the next week.

The 5-man instances will however remain short I’m afraid. We’ll never again see another Shadowlabs. Mostly for good and just a little for bad.


Gevlon said...

I have a plan to save shadowlab. But it's a secret plan yet :-)

Klepsacovic said...

Shadow Labyrinth was never long to me. BRD, that is the long one.

I actually quit raiding partially because I couldn't stand doing it for 3.5 hours. That's all my free time during the evening.

However I still like long instances. I like an early Saturday or Sunday morning taken up by a 2-3 hours in BRD or maybe a couple hours in LBRS.

Longer instances are sometimes less fun, but they're also more world. There's a balance between fun and immersion, and sometimes it's a little bit of inconvenience and annoyance that helps transcend the game to reach the world.

Quicksilver said...

Long instances vs short instances. Interesting topic.

Running a long instance is not the problem here. Grinding it is!

Running Ulduar for the first few times, for example, is really pleasant. You see the greatness of it all and get to enjoy learning the boss fights.

The problem is with content "on farm". Farming has nothing to do with enjoying the discovery or immersion into another world. It is a pure grind for better loot, to show off or to use for the next tier/content.

So yea, doing a long instance might be fun at first, but when you are doing it only so that you can get extra pieces of gear with little upgrades on them, I think a short instance is best.

I'm more of an altoholic, because I get bored really easy of the same rotations and all. Thing is, if you dont gring these long instances for enough time to get the necessary gear, you will lag behind pretty fast. Therefore, I prefer shorter instances when it comes to updating my items.

River said...

Someone actually reads the drivel I write. I'm shocked.

Let me put it on record I too remember the old 40 man raid, the 3-4 days a week at 3-4 hours stints spent in Molten Core, and Blackwing Lair.

Here's the thing, and Okrane put it best, it isn't about not liking, or not wanting to do it. But after it is on farm the grind gets tiring. I loved BWL, and MC, but when it's your 100th time doing it the fun stops.

It's a new paradigm these days, those 40 mans are long gone. I got to say I like the quickie instance, in and out for my badges. Instant gratification is the order of the day at Blizz

Anonymous said...

Good topic Larisa!!

The only way i can see blizzard defeating the "boredom" factor is to have "randomised" instances.

15-20 different bosses with different tactics/adds all mashed up in chaotic way and order with different "scenery" aswell (like VH...but more so) I sure the big wigs at blizzard could do this.

BTW Larisa...what was the something different you did this month ?

Cacknoob (Aion player)

Stormcloud said...

Progression is love/hate.

I never had the time to progress, much less now. I wish there was an ez mode that lets you see the end game content.

Perhaps Blizz should have two kinds of servers... Raider server and EZ server. Raiders need progression and lots of stuff. EZ just drops T9 for quickie runs.

And Raiders, the Achievement points can be double or something to differ them.

Stormcloud said...

And, maybe EZ servers can unlock instances like a month after hardcore does..?

Anonymous said...

Klepsacovic already said it. I had the same feeling about the tiny instances like Shadow Labyrinth and Mana Tombs as you are now about the Trial of the Champion (the new instance!). How small and trivial it was.

Doing Blackrock Depths was intense. I remember taking someone through it fully, it was at least three long runs, probably four. There would be about a dozen quests to complete, you had to acquire the key, etc.

Sad to see how "slot machine" WoW has become.

Anonymous said...

I joined WoW after Vanilla was over but I still remember how intimidated I was about running an instance. The first instance I ever ran was Maraudon because it took me that long to get comfortable with the game. I think that first run took us three hours. I was in awe. Perhaps because they were the first three I ever did Mara, ZF, and ST remain my favorite instances. To me the immersion level was incredible and more than anything else sold me on WoW for good.

Then, because it was hard to find groups for the rest, I basically skipped right to Mana Tombs. My first reaction was a huge disappointment. I was like WTF have they done!!

My own opinion is that I agree with Orkane S. I would rather run one long instance than grind five short ones. I do not like farming instances; it's boring.

Shintar said...

I think people are on to something with the "enjoying an instance" vs. "grinding an instance" thing. I was very disappointed with the trial when I first ran it: "That's it?" But the more often I go back there, the more I appreciate its shortness. With longer instances it's the opposite, I love them the first time, but the twelveth time it gets kinda tedious.

Still, I strongly hope that Blizz doesn't continue to make all instances like this.

Anonymous said...

I still quite fondly remember wearing my Barov Peasant Caller during vanilla wow like a medal of honor.

I got that sucker pre-nerf Scholomance. It took 5-6 hours with many wipes, and re-clears of the trash to do that 5 man. I still remember who the other 5 people from that instance. It is a memory that I will always carry with me.

And to this day, Scholomance is still one of my favorite instances. I go back and do it on all of my alts that make it that level.

To this day BRD is my least favorite instance. Although equally as long, I didn't find it nearly as enjoyable. The atmosphere just didn't do it for me, I suppose =(

While I do somewhat miss the epic-ness of the old instances, there is certainly something to be said of being able to run an alt through something after a raid because it's only going to take an hour of my time.

I don't know...sometimes I feel like I "walked uphill barefoot" when I am nostalgic on some things, and this certainly feels like one of them. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel with the ongoing changes =)

Stabs said...

I think Blizzard is playing a balancing act in exploring how far they can alienate the hardcore gamers who want to play all night for some item only 0.1% of the server could have and the busy tween turned parent who really can't give the game the time they used to before they started a family.

I can't fault them for the direction they have chosen but I've left for more hardcore game experiences simply because that is what suits me.

I think it's quite possible that at some stage the pendulum may swing back the other way at which point WoW might draw me back in.

Regardless of which design direction they choose to go in it is a brilliantly well implemented game, just one that no longer suits me.

Klepsacovic said...

@Stabs: The .1% thing just sounds like compensating for a pitiful and undistinguished RL life. That's not meant to be an attack on you, I'm just saying that super-rare whatevers have little to do with an immersive world. I suspect this is a common mistake though, people mix up casual progression with having trivially short instances and mostly unengaging quest lines. Sure, short instances make it easier to get loot, but is there nothing more to do in an instance (or the entire game) than get loot?

Anonymous said...

Gevlon: You're going to privatise Slabs? :)

And Larisa, have you seen how many bosses they plan for Icecrown? I think you're going to get your ultra long raid instance ...

Zakesh said...

Yea, icecrown will have atleast 31 bosses, so thats longer instances for you. ´They probably want us to use the extend RaidID more.

And I would take a hamburger over a 3 dish french meal anyday. Doesnt mean I wont enjoy a longer dungeon. :)

Larísa said...

@Gevlon: hm… turning it into a gym, a training ground for upcoming players somehow? Looking forward to see what comes out of this.

@Klepsacovic & Anonymous: once again it shines through that I’m a TBC baby. I never did BRD as a whole. I did the Onyxia chain and a little more. But I’m completely lost if I go there, which I rarely have a reason to do. (I think I’ve spent most of my time in BRD levelling the lockpicking of my rogue). To me SL was long, especially when you weren’t overgeared and we wiped a LOT. Even the north-south-dance of the warlock was a challenge…. Oh I lose myself in memories… I wonder if the slot machine will go so far that there will be players in the future who remember the “long” and beautiful instances like the one at the AT?

@Okrane.S: Actually you’re quite right: the perspective changes over time. The trash packs that were quite fun to begin with will eventually just become annoying. Maybe the instances should shrink over time?

@River: actually my nostalgia doesn’t go as far back as to 40 man raids, MC and BWL. I didn’t play then. And I think it probably would have been too much to me too.

@Cacknoob: randomising is a nice idea. I know Ixobelle has suggested it several times. That would take us away a bit from the “copy what you see on the strategy video” concept.

Awww… you keep nagging me about doing something different. I’ve been riding an Icelandic horse over the mountain for a whole day. Does that count? And I went to a training class the other day. The pain in my body definitely is a testimony that it was something “different”.

@Stormcloud: Raider server and EZ server… yeah I’ve seen that idea before. The thing is that I think many of us are a bit of both. It comes in periods, depending on mood and what real life circumstances permit us to.

@Elnia: well, I feel a bit cheated, starting to play so late. Good luck trying to find an instance group for Mara or Dire Maul as you’re levelling your alt! You’ll find a group for ZF easily (it’s so conveniently situated, close to the questing area, I think that’s one of the reasons), but most vanilla instances are rather hopeless right now. So we’re pushed towards the shorter instances, either we like it or not.

@Shintar: I’m all with you. I don’t mind that there are instances of different sorts. In TBC Black Morass was always one of my favourites. Short and intense. I loved it. But then there were long ones as well as Shattered halls around. What I want is a wide choice of different instances.


5-6 hours Scholomance run… I just say: wow. It would probably be a little too much even to a hopeless addict like me. I hope you had some decent biobrakes at least… :)

@Stabs: yeah, you’re right, it’s an act of balance. The instances that came with this patch were definitely on the quick-fix-side of it. But it seems as if at least the next raid instance will have a decent length.

@Spinksville and Zakesh: That was indeed quick service from Blizzard, don’t you think? Just a few hours after I wrote this post they announced the 31 boss size… :)
Thank’s GC! Now, where’s my pony?

Dorgol said...

Do I miss long instances ala BRD? Not really. If I have a long gaming session ahead of me and feel the 5-man burn, I just chain run them. This is nice as it provides me a change of scenery or a chance to take a short AFK between instances.

I do miss the big "OMG how are we going to handle this pull?!?" we saw in Shadow Labrynth and Shattered Halls. When we got the 3.0 changes that added some form of limited CC to every class (more Repentance targets, Hex, indoor Roots - only Warriors ANY CC), I really hoped it was done that way to make sure no class was denied a slot for CC heavy 5-mans. Sadly, that didn't turn out.

Ooke said...

from a blue post:

"I don't know that I would say we want tanking niches. I ultimately am agreeing with what you're saying, but once we say "tanking niches" players have visions of the DK who parks outside of Icecrown until boss 4, 17 and 31 (yes, IC is that big). "

I don't think they're going to scale back, I think that 3.2 is a loot bag so people can try Icecrown which will put all of Blackrock to shame if the dev wasn't being facetious.

I think they want as many people in T9 as they can possibly get, and since you can get the first of 3 sets purely on emblems of triumph alone all you'd need to do is fight the dungeon daily every day for the next 4-6 months to get it.

I guess we shall see.

Fitz said...

I wrote a while back about hoping that Icecrown Citadel becomes the new Blackrock Mountain, and that from someone who's really only known WOTLK (I was not leveled enough during TBC to worry about heroics). I just think the epic feel of the scenery in Blackrock going to the 4 instances (BRD, LBRS, UBRS, MC) in there would be perfect for Arthas's big castle.

Although the 31 bosses comment is likely joking, I'm hopeful it means a new 5-man followed by two or three 10/25 raids that let you unlock the final fight with Arthas and his mount perhaps. Or for people like me from the WOTLK days, make Icecrown like the wings of Naxxramas with seaparate instance portals.

Kudos to the commenters who pointed out long instances are only great in the beginning if you intend to farm the content.

Anonymous said...

30min - 1 hour is usually a bit short, 1hour - 2 hours just right for an instance... of course if you are clearing a longer instance quicker... good for you.

The trash for me is important in any instance, often they are as, if not more, challenging than the boss.

They are a nice warm up to the coming events (and group synergy if there are any newcomers)

I still find it strange after battling it through trash, when we get to the point there is no trash between bosses... Mind you in Naxx that's a bonus for us, as it would mean the difference between one quick attempt on KT, or packing it in for the night.