Beginners Guide: Dungeons and Instances
For players new to an MMOG many of the terms can be very confusing, especially once you start talking to other players in game. Just think back on all the terms you learned from the first time you started playing MMOGs. Terms like adds, agro, DoT, HoT, and many more. In this huge new vocabulary some of the terms get lost in the muddle. It is easy for anyone who has played an MMOG before to simply assume everyone know what some of the basics are, and there are not many more basic than Instance, Dungeons, Raids, and in WoW the term Heroic.
Players that have been around for a while forget very easily though that we had to learn those terms at some point too. We also learnt over time what it was that made those four of the best terms in an MMOG. So, let me fill in all the new players on what makes those four simple words some of the best things about an MMOG.
Dungeons and Instances
I am going to start with the very generic term of Dungeon, and give just enough information to purposefully keep it vague. Simply put a dungeon in an MMOG is a very specific place to explore, generally with a group of other players. Most players think of dungeons as an underground place with monsters and evil wizards, and this isnt that far off in WoW. The thing to keep in mind though is that a dungeon can be below ground, above ground, in a building, or outside. All it really means is a very specific place to quest and explore.
Now onto instances, which is a term generally referring to the same thing in WoW as a dungeon does. In WoW terms you can use the two interchangeably in most cases as pretty much all dungeons in WoW are instanced. What I mean by this is that when you and your group enter a dungeon a separate version of the dungeon is created on the server for just you and your party. While an instance is technically any instanced area, in WoW terms most players consider a normal 5 man dungeon as an instance.
Now that you understand what an instance is, why would you go there? Well for many players it is all about the gear. In an instance the bosses drop much better gear for the level than any of the quest rewards or random drops you are likely to get anywhere else. While leveling this is important as better gear means easier and faster leveling. While at max level, better gear means you are able to progress onto harder instances, heroics, or raids.
Beyond the gear that is dropped in instances, there is also the chance to learn more about your class and a chance to learn to play better. When soloing you are limited to what you need to do to survive and level, but when in a group there is a chance to do much more. You get to single target DPS, AoE, CC, and more. Also in a group players get to step into roles such as dedicated healer or tank, thereby learning even more new skills.
Lastly and probably most importantly, since this is an MMOG, you get to socialize! If this was a single player RPG you could be excused from never talking to another player, but this is an online multiplayer game. The most important thing in the game is to make new friends so that you can group again to explore harder content together.
Heroics are very simply dungeons / instances that are tuned for players at max level for the expansion they were created for. So Wrath of the Lich King heroics are dungeons and instances that are meant for players that are level 80. They are also made to be more difficult than a regular level 80 instance. How much more difficult depends on the actual instance that has been made into a heroic. Heroics are always normal instances that can be entered by setting the dungeon difficulty to Heroic and then entering the normal dungeons entrance.
Heroics are the next logical place to adventure in and collect gear from once you have hit level 80 and gotten a few pieces of gear from regular instances. Do not be too eager to jump into them though as they are harder and not meant to be easy. You really should finish the regular instances first and then once geared start going into the easier heroics.
When you defeat a boss in a heroic it drops gear that is a much higher item level than the normal instance. The boss also drops badges that can be collected and turned into a vendor for even better gear rewards.
Raids are the next step beyond heroics, they are however still really dungeons / instances in theory. They are more difficult than a heroic and require more players. They can be done as either 10 or 25 man versions.
When you defeat a raid boss the boss drops several pieces of epic gear, badges, tokens, and sometimes high level crafting materials. The badges are used to turn in for more gear and are the same or similar to those found in heroics. The tokens are also turned in for gear but usually on a one for one basis. Lastly the bosses also sometimes drop crafting items required for high level crafting, for example the enchanted saronite bars found in Icecrown Citadel.
Where to go now
So now that you know what all of these critical elements of the game are and want to get involved with them, where do you go? Well the simplest way to start doing instances is as you level. While leveling you will get quests that lead you to the various instances appropriate for your level.
If you are still not sure what levels have instances and where they are you can find a complete list on TenTonHammer here: World of Warcraft Instance Guides. If you are interesting in running an instance but are not sure what is appropriate for you, you can always use the random instance tool to find a group. The advantage here is that it will find an instance appropriate for your level and a group for you and teleport you into the instance no matter where you currently are.
Once you have run the normal instances and are max level you can start looking for heroics as well. One of the best ways to run heroics is with the Random Heroic Tool. If you choose to do a random heroic you get additional rewards. When you get to the point where you are running heroics it may be time to check out our Guide to Running Chain Heroics.
Once you have a feel for group play and have geared up in them and through badge reward items, you may be ready for raids. You can usually find groups by watching the trade and general channels in your factions capital cities, or by using the looking for raid tool found in the social tab.
Hopefully exploring all of these different places to play in WoW will help you enjoy the game even more and to make additional online friends. Have fun!