Friday, April 23, 2010

Screeching Halt

That's pretty much how my play time ended last night.

Oh, I was having a good time - ran through Uldaman twice, with two different groups. Oddly enough, both times, someone commented on my gear, or lack thereof... the first time that that's ever happened, at all, ever, in a PuG or otherwise.

"Aeven? Why are you in grey gear?"

I was feeling a little bit nervous when I answered both queries... Well, one, I'm in white gear, thank you very much; and two, it may be white, but it is enchanted, at least. I think it's the last that got me the questions. I imagine it's one thing to see someone in "scrub" gear, another to see someone dressed out in vendor gear and sporting expensive enchantments.

Fortunately, in both cases, when I let the other folks in the group know that yes, this was intentional, they must have just shrugged their shoulders, because that was the only commentary I heard that night. No worries about whether or not I could tank, no concerns over dps, nothing, nada, zip. Well, a "lol gl with that" from one of the players in the second PuG. Just two pretty fun runs through an interesting dungeon.

Then, like I said, it all came to a screeching halt.

Not for any RL issues, thankfully - no sick kids, hurt pets, or anything like that. Not for any in-game issues, either. With a couple of notable exceptions, I think that just about everybody I've encountered in-game as part of a PuG or while questing has been, at worst, indifferent to the little Dwarven killing machine in their midst. I even got a couple of "thank you"s from random folks who were happy to find a female Dwarf during Nobelgarden for one of their achievements.

In fact, it was the game itself that stopped my progress. Specifically: it was the LFD tool.

So far, I've used the LFD tool to pick up all my dungeon-running groups. It's amazingly useful, and using it has meant that I've been able to avoid spamming "tank lfg deadmines pst" over and over in trade chat. All in all, it's been a wonderful tool.

Like all tools, though, it has it's limitations. Because I'm very reluctant to impose Aeven on a group in a place where she might be a liability, I've avoided using the LFD tool to run random dungeons; the sole exception there was "in the beginning", when RFC and Deadmines were the only things available to her. It's really not much of a "random dungeon" when your choices are Ragefire Chasm, Ragefire Chasm, and Ragefire Chasm, is it?

So instead of running randoms, I've been using the LFD tool to select the dungeons for Aeven to run. I've generally tried to make sure that I'm only queuing Aeven up for "green" dungeons - instances where she's at the top of the suggested level range. That way, even if she ends up in a group of higher-level characters, she'll still be able to tank, hold aggro and generally contribute.

Here's the problem: the LFD tool doesn't just impose a minimum level ("You must be at lease level 35 to enter this instance.") It also imposes a maximum level cap. That means that if, say, the maximum level for a dungeon is listed as 45, and you're level 46, then you simply can't use the LFD tool to collect a party from multiple servers and go go go. Instead, you're limited to players from your server, you have to find them yourself, and then you need to deal with the inevitable "Let me know when you have three others and I'll join" responses from folks who never bother to show up.

So, after the last Uldaman run, I was heading back to Ironforge to turn in a couple of quests when I noticed that Aeven was about 10K experience shy of making level 46. Wonderful! New skills! Another talent point! Another... wait... hold on...

Crud. The Scarlet Monastery - Cathedral has a max level of 45 in the LFD tool. If I turn in these quests, then it's goodbye quick group for SM:C, hello painful by-hand group assembly.

Yeah, yeah. I know. You used to have to do this all the time. In fact, back in Vanilla WoW, they would only let you group up for Deadmines if you were currently standing in a pile of snow, shivering and catching pneumonia while a rabid squirrel was gnawing off your nose. And you liked it. That was then, this is now, and I'd rather avoid the whole rabid squirrel thing if I can, ya know?

Why in the world did Blizzard do this? I've lost track of the number of times I've gone back to run a "low level" dungeon. You get involved with questing, and before you know it, you're level 47 and you've never gotten around to running Razorfen Downs. You'd really like to, if only because you have half a dozen quests that you want to finish off. Sure, they're green, but that's still a pretty good chunk of XP. Two days ago, you could have queued up for RFD and finished it off in under an hour. Now, it'll take you that long to just find a tank or a healer.

Now, imagine that the LFD interface could be adjusted to allow you to select any lower-level instance... but if you pick something outside of your level range, it starts adjusting the party composition. Here's how I think it could work. Let's consider the Amazing Dungeon of Doom (a very fast level 25-35 instance).

If you're in the "right" range for the dungeon, you get grouped with four other level 26-35 folks. This is essentially just how the LFD tool works now. If you're in the next level range (36-45), then you can queue up with other people in that level range... but you're only allowed to have 4 people in the party. The next level range after that (46-55) reduces the number of party members to 3. Random dungeons would always be "level appropriate", you'd just be able to select specific dungeons from a much larger list, and run them at a slight handicap.

I can't see going any further than that - if you really want to run dungeons 20 levels lower than you are, then you can hop on your magical sparkle pony and haul your own sorry butt out to Where The Wild Things Are. But for folks just a bit higher level than the dungeon's max level, it would help keep the LFD tool useful for a longer period of time.

So... LFD tool whining aside, I haven't run SM:C yet. I really want to get Aeven all the old-world dungeon achievements, if I can, so she can get the Classic Dungeonmaster meta-achievement. So rather than picking up that extra level, I called it a night and logged out immediately. Literally - Aeven was in mid-flight.

Tonight, or tomorrow evening, I'll log in and specifically queue up for SM:C, at which point Aeven will stand stock still, barely even daring to breath lest she accidentally do something that grants her experience... until such time as she find her group, and can jump back into the whole "hit things with a pointy chunk of metal" thing she does so well.


  1. I love this. Keep it going!

  2. Hmm. If Cathedral were just a little bit different, I'd suggest trying to solo it. Back when I was leveling a warlock I deliberately tried to see if I could solo parts of SM while the mobs were still all green to me. I forget how the level caps work out for this but it's something like Graveyard at lvl 35 or 36, Library at 37 or 38, Armory by 40, and Cathedral at 42 or 43?. Anyway, Graveyard and Library were doable. Armory I could get to the end, but I didn't beat Herod before leveling past the self-imposed cap (I think it's possible but you need some sort of jedi-like pet control to keep your voidwalker from getting massacred by Herod's Whirlwind). Cathedral, however, is impossible to solo at such a level, because the mobs in the Cathedral proper respawn too fast: even if you can grind your way through all those pulls, you simply won't have the dps to kill them before they come back. And the boss(es) pull them all when engaged.
    Anyway, I don't know whether a pally is *quite* as good at solo instance play as a warlock or hunter, but I'm sure they're up there. But after SM the game of instance-soloing-while-mobs-are-still-green becomes intractable because too many of the bosses are unbeatable.

  3. Yeah, that final room full of mobs in SM:C would have made soloing it extremely difficult. The rest of the instance? Well, when I ran the Library, I went back after the rest of the group had teleported out and picked off a couple of groups of mobs that we had missed, without too much trouble. I'd have to be careful with the pulls - fighting more than 3 elite mobs, even if they were ten levels lower, would be a chore - but I think that I could probably manage it.

    Overall, though, what's driving me is a desire to do level-appropriate content while undergeared. I'd really like to be able to say "Yes, skill *does* matter more than gear - and here's the proof." I may have to shift to running dungeons as ret in order to be able to pull my own weight at some point, though - we'll see.

    As Aeven progresses, the geared vs. non-geared gap is going to increase, obviously - I just don't think that, short of Northrend heroics, it's going to be enough to say that Aeven isn't viable as a party member any more. We'll see. The first real test is going to be to see if she can handle Outland at level 58, or if she's going to have to stay in the old world and hit 60 or higher before the BC content is doable.