Fun is Where You Make It

By Shayalyn

“Whee! That was fun. Let's do it

That's what I remember saying after completing the Stormcleave instance
in Dungeons & Dragons Online for the first time, and my teammates
heartily agreed--it had been an interesting zone with a fun quest, and
was worth doing over. I've also never grown weary of Sorrowdusk Isle.
(I tend to like zones that involve wide open, outdoor spaces.)

“Whee! Let's do that again!”

I said it sarcastically after struggling through a quest that started
in House Phiarlan, the name of which I've blocked out because it was
just that traumatic. I should've known that a quest issued by a
hobgoblin could only end in tears. Aha! Tear of Dhakaan--that was the

Listing the best and worst instances or zones in any game is a
difficult task. For one, it's subjective--one person's fun challenge is
another person's nightmare of death and despair. (Okay, so I'm playing
it up a bit...but that Tear of Dhakaan quest resulted in enough exp
debt for me and my group that the thought still makes me shiver.)
Instead of giving you a list of my own favorites and not-so-favorites,
I've decided to offer up my thoughts on what makes an instance fun...or

The Challenge Factor

Fun and challenge are difficult to balance. If an instance offers up a
quest that's causes a group of average gamers (and by “average” I mean
not too casual, and not too hardcore, but somewhere in between) to
struggle and curse and die repeatedly, then the challenge factor is too
high and most players simply aren't going to enjoy themselves. On the
other hand, if a quest is so simple that running through it seems
trivial, then the challenge factor is too low. If, however, the quest
poses enough danger to make it fun, but not so much as to make it seem
impossible or frustrating, then it's going to rank high on most
people's lists.

Risk vs. Reward

href=""> alt=""
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 150px; height: 113px;" align="left"
hspace="4" vspace="2">I don't know about you, but I'm more apt to
want to risk my character's neck (and that little line indicating debt
on my exp bar) if the rewards of a quest merit the danger. This was one
of the factors that ruined Tears of Dhakaan for me. In my run through
it (I've never attempted it again), not a single one of us received an
item worth bragging about, or even worth keeping. Our group wiped
several times, and in the end we had nothing to show for having
completed the quest. It was a lengthy exercise in frustration, but had
the reward been significant, it might have (almost) been worth the
struggle. Players are willing to risk more when they know that their
reward is going to be something of value to their character, whether
it's a significant amount of experience, or the phat loot most of us
crave, or (under the best of circumstances) both.

Repeat Offenders

There are certain instances DDO players who've been around for any
length of time will never want to enter again. Waterworks is one such
quest--everyone does it, and for every character they have. You can't
progress beyond the harbor without completing Waterworks, and so it's
not high on anyone's list of fun things to do. After the first few
trips through, it amounts to little more than drudgery.

Admittedly, my two favorite quests, Stormcleave and Sorrowdusk, leave
some people cold. Many have done them often enough that they're weary
of the same old same. We're driven to repeat quests that offer good
rewards (in terms of loot or experience), but when the repetition
becomes just another form of grinding, entering the instance becomes a
chore. Although Turbine has wisely limited the amount of experience a
player can grind from a quest (quests cease to give rewards after
they've been repeated often enough), most quests, if not all of them,
become tedious long before they cease to give experience.

Designed for Fun

A well-designed and unique instance can make up for a lot of other
flaws. While the loot may leave something to be desired, or the
experience may be better on other quests, if the quest itself offers
something that goes beyond the same old dungeons with the same old
monsters, the fun factor increases. This is why extremely difficult
quests gain high marks with some--by their design they pose a challenge
that other quests don't offer. One could argue that a room full of
rapidly respawning hobgoblins in Tear of Dhakaan, plus a waterfall leap
that tests one's jump skill (not to mention real-world manual
dexterity), makes the quest both different from others...and
significantly more intriguing. Can intrigue equal fun? Absolutely! (It
just wasn't fun for me. But I digress.)

href=""> alt=""
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 150px; height: 76px;" align="right"
hspace="4" vspace="2">Another subset of the design aspect is
story. While I'll admit to a certain degree of impatience when it comes
to gaming (I enjoy myself most when I'm out with my group slaughtering
monsters, not reading some NPCs lengthy explanation of why I should
undertake his quest), I'm still a sucker for a good story.
Occasionally, the story behind a quest will captivate me. Even the
dreaded Waterworks manages to have a good storyline for those willing
to take the time, at least once, to fully explore it. I'm of a mind
that DDO really isn't the ideal game for those who like to rush through
quests, because repeating them can become so mind-numbing. But if you
take time to explore and enjoy the story, they can be truly fun. I've
had some good times with the folks I occasionally get together to RP
with, because we take our time to enjoy both the story the game has to
offer, as well as one another's company. Speaking of company...

The Company You Keep

Entering an instance with a good party can certainly make it fun, and
entering an instance with a fun party can make it memorable. My best
times in DDO have been spent in the company of some of my guildmates,
all of whom seem to have great senses of humor. Even the worst of
quests can end up being enjoyable overall when you spend the time in
the company of people who have the dual gifts of humor and sarcasm.
There's also something to be said for marching through a dungeon with a
group of solid gamers who know their stuff (the same people, in my
experience). When a group knows how to play the game, and knows how to
have fun together, there's nothing stopping them from having a great

When I asked Darkgolem (one of our staff writers) for his take on the
fun instances in DDO, he mentioned to me that there were several he had
a love/hate relationship with. This seems to be the way things go in
Stormreach. It's true that every dungeon has its good points and its
bad. Some have a high fun factor but lousy experience or loot. Others
have great loot and experience, but are done to death and have become
repetitious. For some, the group you're with can mean the difference
between a fun experience and a lame (or even painful) one.

In the end, perhaps there's no such thing as the perfect dungeon; it's
all a matter of what you make of it.  

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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.