Robin asks and Crow delivers.
Taking a break from all the Connected Realms discussion, the other hot news story going around right now is about the recently-revealed bug where players can apparently get themselves scaled down in certain dungeons. Chilton confirmed back in the 5.4 interviews that this tech was effectively implemented (MMO-Champ even points out that it appears linked up with an instance-type called “Timewalker”) but that they just didn’t have the right rewards structure for it yet.
So if the question is “should players get scaled to lower-level content” my answer is a resounding yes, with the proper caveats.
- Scaling content ought to be limited to the Timewalker dungeons (which is the term I’ll use to refer to scaled dungeon content, principally because it’s a cooler shorthand), since I don’t think the mechanism works as well when extended to questing content, a la Guild Wars 2. I’ll go into the main benefits of this individually, but the core here is that this is a great idea for dungeons/raids and a bad idea pretty much anywhere else.
- It really ought to be an option. Want to go to a scaled version of a dungeon from a past expansion where all of your effectiveness will be reduced to the proper level? Choose Timewalker. Don’t want to do that? DON’T CHOOSE TIMEWALKER. And if you want to go to the dungeon and stomp it at max-level, that option isn’t gone, but you’ll probably have to hoof your way there instead of getting a free port, just like you do today.
- I’ll go into rewards later, but doing Timewalker dungeons should be something that augments the list of things you can do at max level instead of being the only thing you do. The reason there’s always been a little bit of blowback about remixed dungeons like Deadmines, SFK, and ZG/ZA is because some players have already given those dungeons the attention they need, and they want to see new stuff. That’s not a wrong perspective to have.
There are some pretty clear benefits to doing this.
- Enabling max-level tanks and healers to queue for low-level dungeons helps to ameliorate LFD queues in the lower ranges, which helps players get to the endgame faster, while also being a good change of pace for the max-level characters while also netting a proper reward for their time invested.
- The change of pace benefit can’t be overstated. Players burn out when they see the same content over and over again. There are plenty of players who came in with Cataclysm and MoP, and straight-up never experienced many of the older dungeons/raids without being rocketed through by players sporting heirlooms. Having Timewalker dungeons in MoP would have turned the pool of endgame dungeons from less than 10 to over 75, assuming at least one version of all past 5-mans are used.
- Extending this to raids would breathe new life into the old-school raiding scene, allowing players to get a challenge out of the old fights without having to roll new alts locked to discrete XP levels. My dream scenario is that (in the inevitable balance pass that Encounters has to make in order to address potential problems in these raids) this means we get achievements added to specific encounters in joints like Molten Core and Black Temple, because I’m kind of a whore for achievements. ^_^
There are some drawbacks, of course. Having a Timewalkers queue where tanks and healers are going to get old content means fewer tanks/healers in the current content heroics queue to do current content. While many of the pre-BC dungeons were fairly light on mechanics more complicated than “tank it whilst thou spank it” there are still plenty of dungeons where those mechanics would need to be known by the tank in order to succeed, and that’s a lot of mechanics to track. Also, many of the pre-BC dungeons weren’t really built to be efficient loot runs; I can imagine a situation where someone goes into the Timewalker queue, gets Blackrock Depths and immediately says NOPE.
I tell you, though, I would cheerfully do Timewalker runs specifically into Wailing Caverns and Blackfathom Deeps just so I could Leap of Faith noobs over the gaps. I can’t think of anything that makes those runs take longer more than people not knowing how to jump the gap. ^_^
How to Reward Timewalking
The way Chilton tells it, one of the problems they ran into in implementing this process was figuring out how to make it rewarding to players without taking away from the current content. I might have some fixes for that:
- Completing a Timewalker dungeon gives you a buff to Valor Points gained in current content. Assuming the same Valor avenues exist in X5 as they do today (dailies, weeklies, heroic dungeon runs, LFR, challenge modes, scenarios) then this would make doing at least some Timewalking lucrative for endgame-focused players.
- Satchels. More specifically, throw in a satchel for your first Timewalker completion of the day that gives a bonus roll to get rare pet/mount drops that are locked to dungeons. You could sweeten the deal by making the drop chances from this satchel greater than the %s found in the dungeons themselves.
- Go large with the Timeless Isle’s established themes, and introduce a currency specific to the Timewalker difficulty. This currency can, in sufficient quantities, get spent on endgame rewards, OR on Burden of Eternity-like items that allow for Timewalker-acquired items to get upgraded in subsequent content. (This idea stolen from a Certain Individual. You know who you are. Also <3.) This currency could also introduce a full-on grind component to getting super-rare mounts like Anzu or A’lar. Just put a high enough price on it and you’ll see people work towards it.
- Make Timewalking a Guild Challenge. Hell, make a guild perk that rewards bonus experience if you’re running a Timewalker dungeon with low-level guildies. Want to see people pull every old alt in the guild out of mothballs?
Making Timewalker dungeons dovetail into existing systems isn’t really terribly hard. However, this makes me think that Blizzard pulled Timewalking at the last minute because they knew that they’d be shuffling up a lot of systems in X5. Maybe there won’t be such an emphasis on Valor, or Valor is getting changed dramatically, due to the blowback about daily quests. Maybe they wanted to see how the Timeless Isle and its currency went over with player before putting their whole scaled-content main course behind it. Maybe they didn’t want to run the risk of having Siege of Orgrimmar have low tank turnouts in multiple difficulties because of everyone going on a nostalgia trip in Timewalker dungeons.
Whatever the reason, the feature got pulled and left little bits behind, like the bug that triggered all this speculation, the inexplicable dungeon journal entries for BC/Wrath dungeons, and the scaling enchants mechanic. And now it feels like something that’s getting polished up to be an expansion feature.
All I can say is bring it on. ^_^