25
Nov
08

Leveling instances

utgardeI have been thinking about the release of Wrath, and trying to put my finger on why it seems so different to me than the release of BC. I think I’ve finally hit on one part of it.

I remember when BC was released. One of my friends was a powerleveler – moving from 60 toward 70 very quickly. At one point when he was around level 65 or 66 I asked him about his experience so far. He went on and on about the Coilfang Reservoir instances, the amazing beauty of Zangarmarsh and Nagrand and how much he was looking forward to running all of the Auchindoun instances.

At that time, he never mentioned Karazhan, or Serpentshrine Caverns, or Gruul’s Lair even as a goal or something to look forward to.

Of course, that is just one anecdote, but that’s the way I recall Burning Crusade’s release. I remember it as excitement about leveling, and looking forward to all of the new instances. At the time, the idea of “instance hubs” was new – three instances plus a raid zone at Coilfang, four instances at Auchindoun, three and a raid zone at Tempest Keep. (Blackrock Mountain was something like that in original WoW, but not exactly.) So, in my remembrance, the instances were the “stars” of the BC release.

In Wrath, no one talks much about the instances. Everyone is focused on the level cap and Naxx. In fact, I’ve heard so little about the leveling instances, I had to go look them up just to write this post. I couldn’t name more than four off the top of my head.

Burning Crusade had…

  • Hellfire Ramparts
  • Blood Furnace
  • Slave Pens
  • Underbog
  • Mana Tombs
  • Auchenai Crypts
  • Sethekk Halls

all before reaching level 70. Then once you got to level 70, you had

  • Shadow Labyrinth
  • Shattered Halls
  • Mechanar
  • Botanica
  • Arcatraz

before you started raiding. That’s twelve 5-man instances you could run before you ever did a heroic or a ten-man raid. In BC, your progress through the game was almost measured by the instances you had done.

In comparison, Wrath has

  • Utgarde Keep
  • the Nexus
  • Azjol-Nerub
  • Ahn’kahet: the Old Kingdom
  • Drak’tharon Keep
  • Violet Hold
  • Gundrak
  • Halls of Stone

then when you hit 80 you get

  • CoT: the Culling of Stratholme
  • Utgarde Pinnacle
  • The Oculus
  • Halls of Lightning

That’s eight leveling instances for 5-man groups, and then another four for level 80 groups before you start heroics and raiding. Its the same number of instances, but not the same amount of attention.

Instances are part of the story, not a challenge of themselves

I suspect its because of Blizzard’s new approach toward making raiding accessible. In BC a lot of guilds went in with the knowledge that raids were a possibility somewhere in the future. Instances were the immediate challenge – tuned to be a good test when done at the appropriate level. Most importantly – instances were an expected part of your preparation for raiding.

I remember wiping repeatedly on the last boss in Ramparts when we didn’t have resist gear on our tank. I recall the last boss of Mana-Tombs being really tough the first few times in. I know we spent at least five hours in Shadow Labyrinth our first attempt in there.

In Wrath the instances seem almost like extended quests. They are designed to be fast – no five hour SL runs this time around. They are not terribly challenging, from the accounts I have heard.

In BC, Instances were preparation for raiding

For those who raided in BC, imagine if someone asked to raid with you, and then admitted that he had never run a single instance in Outland. You’d have questioned him and told him to go run some heroics to get gear.

In Wrath, the qualification to raid seems like it will be to have a functioning keyboard and a pulse. That’s not the requirement to be a good raider, but the barriers to raiding have largely been torn down. They have been removed so effectively that toons are powerleveling to 80 still wearing their level 70 gear and jumping right into successful Naxx runs. That would never have happened in BC. This process has completely devalued the instances. You don’t need them for gear, you don’t need them to “learn” to raid. What purpose do they serve, other than XP and sightseeing?

The gear jump was not steep, so you instance gear is not needed

In BC the initial gear reset made almost all pre-BC gear obsolete by level 62. That meant that you were forced to get new sets of gear every few levels. You ran Hellfire instances to get BC gear for the Coilfang runs. You ran Coilfang instances to get gear that would be good for Auchindoun instances. There were must-do quest lines that gave great upgrades.

This also led to instance grinding. Some of the boss drops were so good that players would run the dungeons over and over to get their drop.

In Wrath, Blizzard made the gear jump much, much smaller. For those who had tier-level gear from BC, you aren’t going to get many upgrades until level 75-ish. That removes a lot of the incentive to run instances. With no boss drops to look forward to, you can run them once just to see them and then move on. No instance grinds, either. Just sightseeing.

Right now I think that the majority of the player base is still in the level 72-74 range, and still running Utgarde Keep, Nexus, and Azjol-Nerub. Those are the instances I mainly see people asking about in the chat channels. I am hoping that later instances will be interesting enough to cause some “buzz” so there is a desire to run them.

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10 Responses to “Leveling instances”


  1. 1 Rogosh
    November 25, 2008 at 10:22 am

    You make some interesting points.

    Entering Wrath, I was in a mish mash of T6, T4 and badge gear. I leveled very quickly and now, having been 80 for a little while now, I’ve replaced my trinkets, my rings, my cloak, my boots, my belt and my neck piece. That’s it. Some of the gear from rewards is VERY close, especially in Icecrown but I’ve yet to replace any of my tier gear, only the badge gear and random drop pieces such as my cloak, etc..

    When TBC dropped, those people in T3 had a much similar experience and didn’t really begin replacing gear until very close to Kara or in Kara. This seems very similar to now. It seems I’ll replace a few pieces through heroics though most upgrades will come through Naxx and beyond. I would say that the gear jum was certainly less in your face this time around. I remember replacing gear regularly on my way 70.. i’m now leveling my mage who is in mostly T4 and tailoring pieces and he’s already replaced quite a few items so it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out as he moves forward.

  2. November 25, 2008 at 10:58 am

    I know what you mean. I remember the first time I went to Ramparts, I could barely tank the last boss. Now I am tanking instances 2-4 levels above me. I have replaced a number of my tanking items at level 77, but that is only because you need so much damn defense to be uncrittable now.

    I remember clearing Shadowlabs for the first time. It took about 5 hours and 14 wipes. It was that bad. Now I can AOE pull every group in every instance I have been in. It is alot easier, but I prefer the 30 min-1 hour instances as opposed to Raid length instances.

  3. November 25, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Absolutely, the role of the 5-man instance has changed. I think there are another two reasons:

    (1) The audience has changed. For Crypts, in the mid-60s, you brought a spec’d tank, a spec’d healer, and a lot of hope. In Wrath, instances are built around off-specs being in those roles. If you take a properly built group, you steamroll things.

    (2) The consolidation of the loot tables means every drop is more likely to be usable by someone. A drop from Azjol-Nerub is a piece you don’t need to grind Old Kingdom for. Also, most Wrath bosses have a three item loot table – down from 5 or 6 in TBC – so you just don’t need to run an instance as many times.

    That said, I absolutely love running 5-mans. When I’m looking to fill a dps spot or two, even if the /lfm queue is empty, I’ve never had trouble finding people. A quick note in the zone’s general chat, and I usually have my pick of classes – I’ve once had the whisper flood so severe that it broke my chat addon (WIM).

    It seems that people are interested in running the instances, but not in setting up the groups. Not enough tanks? Healers? Just too many other things to do rather than watching the /LFG queue?

  4. 4 Jacob
    November 25, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Darraxus wrote:
    I know what you mean. I remember the first time I went to Ramparts, I could barely tank the last boss.

    I had the same problem with Ramparts. But I never played classic WoW, and so I did not have tanking gear. I tried to tank Ramparts as a Druid wearing stamina greens. I tried once at 60, once at 62, once at 64, and failed all three times, got killed by the last boss all three times.

    Inexperience may have contributed to my defeat, but lack of gear also hurt. Not understanding the cause, I decided tanking is a fool’s game, and that I wouldn’t do it. Multiply my bad leveling experience by many other post-BC levelers, and you can guess why some servers have a tank shortage.

    Northrend, in my opinion, is getting it right. The dungeons are tuned to be done by someone in leveling greens. Yes, this means they feel too easy to the current players with superb gear collected over months or years of BC. But that doesn’t matter, what matters is whether the dungeons properly train the new players, who join post-Wrath. It is important that players in bad gear are able to have fun in the dungeons, so they keep coming back at 80.

  5. 5 Hrog
    November 25, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Changed my main to resto druid, and got the Northrend dungeon master-achievement at 76 last night. Granted, the tank was level 80, but still.

    Not e-peening here, just to show the changes. Like hell would I’ve been able to pull that off in SL, Arca or Shattered halls. I’d probably been stuck in Mana Tombs or Crypts.

    I love the instances design-wise, they look GREAT! but there’s no real challenge in them. Looking forward to heroics, I hope they’ll be difficult.

    P.S. not sure how things are on your realms, but on mine Naxx is pugged allready :S

  6. November 25, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I know your just talking about regular 5man instances but

    When starting in Naxx you still need blue gear from heroics … the only exception is if your whole raiding guild is bt/sunwell geared. Don’t expect to Clear naxx wearing quest rewards leveling to 80. Not gonna happen unless you are getting carried.It’s still a tough instance but

    Our guild has cleared 25man naxx and were still doing some heroics =P.

    Heroic 5man wise, yes they did shortened everything which is a good move but don’t expect it will be as short as the normal version =P

    As you do heroic later on you’ll notice the quality of the epics have the same ilvl of those in 10man naxx. So I wouldn’t count heroics out yet.

  7. November 25, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    wow i didnt finish my sentence on the first paragraph

    I meant to say “it’s still a tough instance but the learning curve won’t be as bad as BT/Sunwell”.

  8. November 25, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I’m on the fence about this. When I complain that the instances are too easy, I feel like I’m the old guy talking about how he used to walk to school in the snow, and that “you whipper-snappers have it too easy!”

    On the other hand, part of any game is the challenge. Why else do you play? Without challenge, there is no sense of victory or accomplishment. If the instances have no challenge, then perhaps they don’t need to be in the game at all.

  9. 9 Warstory
    December 3, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    The one thing that I’ve done specifically with my rogue was grind instances. I actually leveled him from 19 to 68 with really only doing instance quests and repetative instance grinding. The time leveling was cut in half compared to doing those pesky “Go kill 10 dudes” quests. But, I have to admit that the only way that really worked was because I had a steady team that I played with all the way up. Which worked out nicely because we all eventually got every drop we needed. So with that being said, when I got into Northrend at level 68 I planned to do the same. Unfortunatly I didnt find instance quests as abundant as I did in Eastern kingdom, Azeroth, and the Outlands. Luckily the quests are way more fun in Northrend. Hopefully that changes after I get out of Utgarde Keep and Nexus.

  10. December 30, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Last night i tanked drak (im lvl 72) i had a 72 priest healer. our DPS were all level appropriate. (dark is lvl 75ish) the bosses are 76 and 77. i TANKED it at 72 and only once did i almost die. Yes, i got crushed but, WOW blizz, you fucked up WoW.


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