WoW: My First Stupid Dungeon

The quest tree in World of Warcraft eventually starts pushing the player towards multi-player activity. There are “elite” monsters that are best tackled in teams — I’ve managed one such alone (Chet the Slime-Breeder), if a warlock accompanied by a familiar can truly be said to be alone, but the only other elite I’ve beaten (Yetimus the Yeti Lord) was accomplished the help of two strangers, an ad-hoc group of people who were in the area and of the appropriate level, assembled specifically for that purpose.

Then there are the dungeon instances. This is an area where Blizzard has gone to some length to facilitate such ad-hoc groupings. There’s a special “dungeon finder” interface, which is not an interface for finding dungeons, but for finding people to accompany you into them (and then teleporting you in as a group). Playing primarily solo, I didn’t use this until I actually had a quest in a dungeon. In fact, I didn’t use it until long afterward — because of my lack of experience with dungeons, I had no idea what the quest-givers were getting at. All I knew was that they were asking me to go to places that, unlike most quests, didn’t get marked on my map. I figured they’d show up once I entered the right zone or something. This is the first of many misunderstandings that characterized my first dungeon experience.

The first dungeon I actually attempted was Shadowfang Keep, a haunted castle where some rebels against the Undead had fled. The game recommends this for levels 15-26. I was level 26. I had a particular blockage for starting on the quest that sends you there: the NPC who assigns it is in Orgrimmar, and Pleasance wasn’t even on the same continent as Orgrimmar. The only way to reach it is by zeppelin. As a newcomer to Azeroth, I didn’t know this; when I was first told to go to Orgrimmar, I wasted some time trying to follow the quest arrow which pointed towards the other continent, then gave up and pursued other quests, figuring I’d wander into Orgrimmar eventually if I kept exploring. I have a better grasp of how to locate stuff on the world maps now, but there are still aspects of the UI that I’m shaky on.

Once I had the quest, I opened the Dungeon Finder and got in the queue for Shadowfang, registering Pleasance as a damage dealer. The Dungeon Finder asks you to choose a specific party role, you see, so that it can put people together into balanced groups. Three roles are recognized: damage dealer, healer, and tank (the guy who tries to make the monsters attack him so that they don’t attack the more fragile teammates). It strikes me as peculiar that these roles are openly acknowledged in the UI. I mean, the concepts been part of RPGs for a while, but usually there’s some pretense that they’re emergent properties of the class abilities. Putting those three roles up front is essentially admitting that these are basically the only things you can do, and that all the multifarious character classes and specializations just funnel into these three points.

Anyway, I got into a group, with a couple of damage dealers and a healer and a tank. But the tank wasn’t a very good one, apparently, and the group voted to kick him out and recruit another tank after several of us got killed by monsters he was supposed to be keeping off us. And this is where the next bit of stupidity on my part starts. Apparently the healer was willing and able to resurrect me in place, but since I’ve never adventured in the company of a healer before, I acted on habit and “released my spirit” to run back to where my corpse lay. And that was a problem: dungeons change the death mechanics a bit. You respawn as a ghost at the dungeon entrance, but you turn back into flesh as soon as you enter the dungeon proper. In order to reach the rest of the party, I would have to get past all the monsters that had respawned in the way, and which I was incapable of defeating alone.

Well, no problem, I figured. The team will know what happened and come to get me. Also, I wasn’t the only one who died, so there would be other people showing up soon. Neither of these things happened. I put out some plaintive cries for help on the party chat channel, but no one seemed to be replying. I tried making a solo run to where the rest of the party was anyway, but just got killed a couple more times. Eventually someone else left the party and another guy wordlessly showed up, and I followed him around for a while, but then he just vanished. Meanwhile, the rest of the party was conquering the dungeon without me, while I wandered forlorn and confused in the few hallways available to me.

Then I noticed that my chat window was switched to the “combat log” tab. That’s why I hadn’t seen anyone talking. Presumably I had clicked it accidentally while trying to target the monster that had killed me. I’ve had problems with this tabbed interface before; at one point, I managed to detach it into a separate window that overlapped with the general chat and prevented me from reading either, and it took me a while to figure out how to dock it back in — mainly because I wasn’t looking for ways to dock it, I was looking for ways to get rid of it entirely. I’d still like to figure that out. None of the screenshots I see online have a “combat log” tab, so there must be a way.

Once I had normal chat back, the first thing I noticed was a bunch of “where is ple?” and “i think shes afk” and other such complaints. But even once communication had been reestablished, it was difficult to communicate my problems to the team, because they were things that for them wouldn’t be problems. I was told to “port to lab”. Presumably “port” was short for “teleport”, but Pleasance didn’t have any kind of teleportation capability, and wouldn’t know where “lab” is if she did. Then someone said “talk to the guy”, which in retrospect I recognize as instruction, but which at the time I didn’t even realize was addressed to me. I’m guessing that things become clearer when you’re used to the way WoW players talk in dungeons. “The guy”, it turned out, was an NPC standing near the entrance who I had spoken to once on initially entering it and ignored afterward, because he seemed useless. He wasn’t. His use was that he could teleport you to parts of the dungeon that the party had already visited. Perhaps someone explained this at some point while I was on “combat log”.

Eventually, I sat down in the entrance and said that I’d join them when at least two people came back to help me fight the monsters between my position and theirs, because if only one person came back, they’d just vanish without explanation like everyone else had done. One person came back, and patiently motioned toward “the guy” until I got the message. We did beat the boss, but not with the party we started with, because there had been some quitting from frustration by that point.

So, that’s my first dungeon experience. If it had happened in a single-player game, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but as it was, I humiliated myself and wasted other people’s time. Worse, I was robbed of the experience. I missed out entirely on the middle section, including a couple of sub-quests to take out secondary bosses. I had to backtrack through already-conquered areas just to get the quest tokens I needed.

So after I was done I gave it another try with a different group, and it’s amazing how quickly things go when everyone knows what they’re doing.

3 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 23 Jan 2011

    To be honest, I’m kind of amazed that they were that patient with you. WoW is not really known for its patient, understanding, helpful playerbase, especially in the completely random context of the dungeon finder.

  2. Merus on 23 Jan 2011

    I’ve found that saying “this is my first time” does a lot to make people a little more patient.

    In general, you don’t need quests to go visit dungeons; there’s always an NPC standing at the entrance, ready to give you the quest. Most of the other quests directing you to dungeons simply direct you to this NPC for more information. I don’t know if this is universal – it’s a change for Cataclysm that may not have carried over to the older areas.

  3. paul on 24 Jan 2011

    I’m kind of scared to try dungeons, because this is exactly how I think my first dungeon will go.

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