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WoW Dungeon Challenge Mode: Pros and Cons

Posted Mon, Oct 31, 2011 by Messiah

Of all the things announced at BlizzCon 2011 there is one that really peaked my interest because it was relating to something that I talked about as being a good idea at the end of the last few expansions. What I am referring to is time attack speed run on Heroic Instances and the new Dungeon Challenge mode.

At the end of Burning Crusade expansion some friends and I got bored, we were done all the content and looking for something to do. So we started to run instances as time attacks trying to get them done as fast as we could. At the end of the Wrath of the Lich King cycle we ran into the same thing and tried it all over again. We even started keeping track and seeing what we could do.

Around the same time several WoW log sites started putting these stats up online and allowing you to check who did what the fastest. I have refered to these runs as Speed Run through many of my editorials in the past, and asked a few times for a way to rate these for those that really don’t like PVP so that PVE players had a way to compete against each other. Sure, you can go by first kill for raiders, or date they killed a boss the first time, but how about non-raiders?

Like I said there are sites out there that can track speed through dungeons but it all means running mods and uploading logs, therefore it is not done by everyone. Therefore you really don’t know if you are the fastest, or slowest, since the data size is so small relative to the WoW player base.

Now however the newly announced Dungeon Challenge Mode will offer all of this in-game with the added bonus of some cool looking items to use for transmogrification (meaning they have no stats, they are just for appearance). While still in a very early draft form, from what was shown at BlizzCon it could fill a gap for players that like to be competitive, but don’t want to raid or PVP.


Dungeon Challenge Mode – What is it?

Challenge modes are a new way to do instances coming in the next World of Warcraft expansion: Mists of Pandaria. While a lot is subject to change before now and release, the general ideas should stay pretty close to the same. How it is described now is as follows.

  • A harder mode dungeon than Heroic
  • Gear will be normalized to ensure everyone is at the same level
  • They are essentially a race to complete in set times
  • You can earn bronze, silver, or gold level rewards by meeting pre-set time goals, or fail entirely.
  • You’re times are recorded and tracked
  • There will be a leader board someplace so you can compare
  • Item rewards will be for appearance only (Transmogrification)

This is described in a little more detail on Blizzards site here: Dungeon Challenge Modes.


Dungeon Challenge Mode – The Good

Now that you understand what Challenge Modes are, let’s take a look at the good points about a system like this coming into the game.

Dungeon Challenge Modes

First up, the biggest item for me is that it is a competitive form of PVE, which has been missing from the game so far. If you are a raider, then you can compete for world or server firsts that are recorded. If you are into PVP you can compete in the Arenas for rankings and titles. However if you don’t like PVP and either don’t like raiding or can’t find a group of 10 or 25 friends, then you have been pretty much out of luck doing anything competitive.

With Challenge Mode coming into the game it gives all of us ultra competitive type-A personality types something to compete at. Better yet, it lets us do it in a small group with a few friends in a small amount of time, and is recorded for all to see. Even better, through normalization of gear it means that everyone is at or near the same footing going in.

Next I in theory I believe that this will make for better PVE players in general. Since right now unless you raid, PVE content is so simple (even heroics) that it is laughable, there is nothing that pushes the casual PVE player to get any better. I mean really, it is so easy to get to 85 and clear every heroic within a day of turning 85 that there is no incentive to try hard, you beat it already. This system will show players that they need to improve by certain amounts to beat each level.

For example if an instance requires a time of 15 minutes for gold, 20 for silver, 25 for bronze and it took your group 30 you know you need to improve by a set amount. Since gear is normalized that all comes down to play style and ability. In the case above you would have to increase your groups effectiveness by 20% to get bronze, 50% to get silver, and 100% to get gold. Players will have specific, measurable indicators to show how well or how poorly they really are doing, instead of “I beat instance X, therefore I know how to play”. When really they may have beat instance X but wiped 10 times and taken 5 hours, do they really know how to play?

Obviously there are more good points as well, but those are the most important to me.


Dungeon Challenge Mode – The Bad

While I like many things that this new system has to offer, I also see some issues with it. The worst of the issues in my opinion are normalization, class differences, and gear.

Normalization of the items is something that I can see as a required need for this type of system, so that the times mean something compared to one another. However while needed it has a real downside in that it minimizes the feel that it is your character. What’s the use of getting different gear if it is just normalized to something else. This could be a big detractor to many since gear is the way to make your character unique and this just trashes that completely.

Also, how items are normalized will make a big difference. If for example all the stats on items are rounded up or down so that the item is lets say ilevel 450 and you have ilevel 480 and were tuned to just make hit cap, will you still have hit cap? If you were just making the next hast break point on your DOT’s as a warlock or HOT’s as a druid, what happens when you lose the haste? This really needs to be thought out by Blizzard. Worse, if everyone is given a standard idea gear setup for their class, who’s ideal? Blizzards? What if the person that decides what gear an Affliction Lock should have doesn’t play the same as you do?

Next up, if there are leaderboards and players are competing for the world best or server best times, group composition can make a huge difference. This could mean that just like in the Arenas class differences could make or break a record attempt. For the super competitive players will these mean some classes will be completely excluded and some players will not have a chance at records because of their class? I believe it will mean exactly that. While not important to the casual player, it could be critical for hard core players.

Lastly, the gear rewards… it’s all statless gear, so really, who cares? I know it will probably look really cool, and many people will care, however unless something looks absolutely rubbish, I don’t worry about the looks and will equip it anyway. For all those that will Transmogrify their gear, it probably is a big deal, for me, it doesn’t matter at all. I believe that for the really competitive players out there that will be using this system, the gear will be meaningless.


The Messiahs Word on Dungeon Challenge Mode

Just remember, that I started this article saying that the Messiah called this long ago as being a good idea, so I have to support it now that it is in the game!

While I do see some issues with the system as described, I also see a lot of positives. Better yet, I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives by a long shot.

Sure, I don’t like the fact that the gear is useless and a waste of artist time since it has no stats, but that is countered by the fact that the system is in the game at all. If they had just put in a leader board and no rewards or points or anything else, I would be lined up to compete in the Dungeon Challenge system. The fact that it will give players something in return other than just bragging rights means it will draw more players in, which is better for the system overall.

Best of all I believe that this really has the potential to improve the quality of the casual PVE player. By giving anyone measurable repeatable goals you give them yardsticks to measure them selves by, so that they can aim higher. The only caveat here is that speed doesn’t always equal quality, so this system isn’t perfect, but hey it’s better than what we had previous in the non-raid PVE environment.


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