Previously, we looked at some features the Dungeon Finder could benefit from. This time, we’ll muse about how players qualify for queueing for difficult dungeons.
For Cataclysm dungeons, the game calculates an “average item level” (also called iLvl) for your character, and you may not be able certain dungeons unless your gear is powerful enough. Additionally, players must discover the dungeons actual location in the world to be able to queue for them. If players form their own groups, they can enter at will, but they must satisfy these requirements to queue for the dungeons. In Burning Crusade (before the dungeon finder tool existed), players had to complete long quest lines that took them through difficult dungeons and raids in order to access harder ones. Additionally, in order to access the heroic modes of the dungeons, players had to buy “keys” for the dungeon that required high reputation with a linked faction that nigh guaranteed that they had run the dungeon many times on regular mode. Wrath of the Lich King introduced the minimum iLvl idea when the dungeon finder was introduced, making the hardest dungeons require a higher iLvl.
One of the main problems is how the iLvl value is calculated. The system looks at all of your characters equipped items and all of the gear your character is capable of wearing in your bags. From that, it takes the highest iLvl item for each slot and calculates the average. This is the iLvl associated with your character. This system has three major flaws:
- Players have an incentive to roll on items that aren’t actually better for them that increase their iLvl.
- Players can “cheat” the system by obtaining BoE items and not equipping them.
- iLvl is not an accurate representation of a player’s abilities.
The first item needs little explanation. Mages can use daggers, so why wouldn’t a mage roll on a powerful dagger that they won’t ever use, but that would increase their iLvl? Most players would consider it rude to take the dagger if there was a class that could actually benefit from the dagger in the group, but there is a clear benefit for the mage to take it if increases his average iLvl: he can queue for more dungeons. It can be tempting to be a “ninja”; you technically “need” the item in order to queue for better dungeons, right?
Using BoE items to raise your iLvl is another workaround to the system. I had to make quite a few expensive items to level my Tailoring, but why sell them now? If I have them in my inventory, they will raise my average iLvl, even if I don’t equip them. Using this idea, when I was unable to queue based on iLvl, I simply bought some BoEs from the auction house, and once I got better gear, sold it back for about the same amount. Clearly, the method they use to calculate iLvl is not an effective way to measure a player’s gear.
Finally, why is iLvl the universal measure for queueing for dungeons? I’m not “qqing about gearscore” here, but really, I have encountered a lot of really bad players using the dungeon finder, and my DPS is often higher than other player’s with better gear. Plus, most of the wipes I’ve had haven’t been a consequence of having bad gear – such as hitting an enrage, healer running out of mana, tank getting one-shot – rather, it’s pulling too many mobs or not properly dealing with boss mechanics. Cataclysm dungeons are indeed harder, but the answer isn’t requiring a high minimum quality of gear. That merely opens the door for exploits and doesn’t actually weed out subpar players. With the achievement system in the game, why not use achievements as requirements to queue for dungeons?
Here are some simple solutions: Require players to clear Throne of the Tides and Blackrock Caverns before attempting Vortex Pinnacle and Stonecore, all the way up through heroics. Add achievements with additional requirements – like clear a dungeon in a completely random group in a certain amount of time in order to queue for the next dungeon to help avoid gaming. 30 minutes is more than enough from the first to last boss – add achievements in that style to go from dungeon to dungeon and I’m sure you’ll cut back on the bad players. Have a phased gaunlet-style quest that requires you to achieve a minimum DPS by killing a set of enemies in a short amount of time by yourself in order to queue for dungeon sto set a DPS floor. Similar quests could be implemented to escort a regiment through a gauntlet alive for tanks and healers. It would be like a simple competency test/minigame tuned for different levels that gets more complicated as you level and want to get into harder content. I imagine it would be a lot of fun and great tool for benchmarking, as well as a great way to gate off players from queueing for instances for which they aren’t ready. They could even implement simple boss mechanics to practice solo, like the daily quest that let you use a drake similar to the one used in the Malygos encounter. If you are more skilled than average, you can starting queueing with worse gear, but if you aren’t as good at playing, you’ll need more gear to compensate.
All and all, you roll the dice every time you use the dungeon finder. There are ways Blizzard can really improve the system, and I hope they continue to push the envelope. The dungeon finder is way better than trying to PuG in trade chat, but it could go much farther.