Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Challenge Modes

Challenge Modes are the evolution of Zul'Aman bear runs and Culling of Stratholme drake runs.

Like Pet Battles, Challenge Modes are a non-gear based activity. Gear will be normalized to a set item level. Where Pet Battles are solo, Challenge Modes are aimed at small groups. Challenge Modes are also indirectly competitive. Total times will be compared, but groups don't directly challenge each other.

I think Challenge Modes will shine a spotlight on tank classes, more than any other role. I think that we will see differences in the tank classes be magnified on the forums, and one tank class will be declared the best, three will be average, and one will be known as the worst.

I think Challenge Modes will be a good addition to the game. It's small scale, somewhat transient content. The emphasis on speed means that actually completing a Challenge Mode dungeon takes relatively little time, and should take less than an hour.

I don't really know how well Challenge Modes will work with a random group, though. My gut feeling is that running Challenge Modes in the Dungeon Finder will be less fun.

But on the other hand, if you still get the Valor/Justice points, it might be better to run Challenge Modes instead of heroics after you've finished gearing up. You don't need the gear drops and the people you group with are also focused on speed. From a strictly-rewards point of view, after you've gotten your gear, there's no downside to doing Challenge Modes instead of Heroics.

That means that the "Go Go Go" people are filtered out of Heroics and into Challenge Modes. Which would make Heroics a more pleasant place to be, with people who are actually interested in gearing up and killing all the bosses.

I don't know if that will actually happen. Maybe random Challenge Modes will remain a ghetto, with most people doing Challenge Modes in premade groups, to ensure the best chance of success. The effect of Challenge Modes on the "normal" dungeon runs will be very interesting to observe.


  1. I think class balance will be more complex because of the gear scaling. Blizzard have a tendency to tweak classes to the current top gear tier and content. That tweaking is going to have different effects on different classes at the scaled-down level.

    We could well come to a point in 5.2 where, say, Paladin tanks are king of the 5-man challenge, but well balanced in raids. Just like back in the Heroic Shattered Halls days. :)

  2. You make a really good point about Challenge Modes possibly pulling some of the "gogogo" types away from LFD dungeon runs. VP quests and scenairos could have a similar effect, too. I wonder how much of the "let players do what they want to earn their VP" is about getting players to self-select into more like-minded groups?

  3. I agree that class balance will become a real issue for the challenge modes, especially for tanks and healers (we'll see healers who can do better damage while healing being preferred, I suspect.)

    It's one of the reasons I'm ambivalent. Sure, it's fun to work on speed runs, but not if your own class automatically makes the group uncompetitive.

  4. The downside to Challenge modes is the fact that, theoretically, they never get any easier.

    And after the first content patch, running a normal heroic should be a faster source of VP anyway. The GOGOGO players will still be in your heroics, as they will both be easier and faster. Nevermind how many LFD pugs will drop out if the Challenge group doesn't look like they will make their time.

  5. Maybe it's wishful thinking but I don't think the "go go go" players will be driven to challenge modes. I believe the reason is that completing a normal heroic increases your chance to complete further ones or makes it easier (as you gear up and get experience) while completing a challenge might decrease your chance in completing further ones or make it harder (if you're too good, you'll get a debuff in subsequent tries). I don't think that the debuff can be considered "no downside" either.

    @Spinks, AFAIK dealing damage as healer requires the incoming damage to be lighter and it might be possible for players to just opt to pull more mobs so DPS can deal more damage via AoE while healer concentrates on healing instead of pulling few mobs and letting healer and tank help with DPS. On the other hand, it's possible that over time, players will chose and require one of the approaches and shun the other.

  6. They never said challenge mode will be easy or fast. They only said that the gear will have no impact and that it's against the clock. But they could scale the gear down and make a challenge mode take 3 times as long as a normal heroic in T17 gear.

    And it would still be a challenge to get a "gold medal".

  7. What I'm more interested in is with VP being allocated from daily quests, how many raiders, and more importantly, raid tanks, will turn their focus for VP capping to dailies, where they don't have to subject themselves to the frothing masses of LFD. How's that going to impact queue times? The more you bifurcate queues the longer each queue gets. Even if they shorten instances down to Wrath era levels, between the people who leave LFD for dailies, and the split between the heroic queue and the Challenge queue, queue times for DPS might actualy get worse.

  8. From what I see, there won't be Heroic or Normal instances in the traditional sense, only varying ends of the Challenge Dungeons.

    Inertia being what it is, I suspect that most runs will be of the 'gogogo' variety, whether people are trying to complete Challenge Mode or not. Blizz is just giving the 'gogogo' types even more reason to slam the accelerator to the floor.

    Now, if instances would scale for gear beyond their original maximum --like how Wrath H5-mans and now Cata H5-mans are with current and future raid tier drops-- that might shake out some of the 'gogogo' types. They just won't run instances, which for my mind would be all to the good.

  9. I would be more interested in Challenge modes if they were not against the clock, but had carefully graded bosses of increasing difficulty, and the challenge was to kill the bosses.

    Just think - freed from the shackles of varying gear, they could be much more carefully balanced to as to provide an increasing challenge in difficulty. They could be a new and better "really heroic" mode of heroic dungeons.

    I find racing against the clock boring. I also find 5-mans boring quite soon after an expansion, as they get too easy. But now there is a way Bliz can make nicely difficult dungeons that (i) don't ever get easy, and (ii) won't annoy the "it's too hard" brigade because they're optional.

    I hope they have some non-time oriented challenges.

  10. @Kring, to beat a Challenge Mode, you'll be skipping bosses and as many trash packs as you can. That's where you get the majority of your speed, and that's what the "Go Go Go" crowd want to do.

    As for tuning, I don't think they will be tuned differently. I think a Challenge Mode will be the Heroic Dungeon + gear normalized to whatever item level heroics drop.

    Like ZA and the bear runs.

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  12. @Rohan, in T15 - I would even say halfway through T14 - there will be many people in heroics with better than heroic gear so changing to heroic gear would slow them down.

    I remember it was said you receive a debuff for subsequent runs of the dungeon if you're too good (i. e. get a gold medal) but didn't find any mention of that on the US battle.net page so they might have scrapped that already.

    That's the downsides to challenge modes and I believe they will be sufficient to keep many of the "go go go" people in normal heroics although I'm not sure whether they'll be sufficient to keep most of them out of challenge modes.

    (I reworded the previous post as there was apparently unconfirmed information.)

  13. You did not notice that challenge mode doesn't reward gear or anything remotely useful. So you take extra difficulty for nothing. The outgeared dungeon can be ran faster than a challenge.

    Also, challenge modes might draw noobs who expect to be carried to "l33t mountz lol", ruining the run.

    While I have no doubt that it's a great addition, it won't be commonly used. You go with your well-known team once for gold and never look back.

  14. @Gevlon, heroics don't reward anything useful after you outgrow them either. The only thing you get is Valor points.

    The advantage for heroics is (potentially) extra gear. The advantage for challenge modes is a group focused on speed, and probably more skilled than average.

    The disadvantage for heroics is that you might get newer players looking to gear up, or people who want to kill all the bosses instead of skipping. The disadvantage of challenge modes is that your gear is fixed.

    I don't know which will win out. I'm just wondering about the possibility.

  15. This will be a first step before they implement it into BGs and arenas where it really needs to be. They just need to test it before they piss off all the l33t 2500 rating teams and their exclusionary l33t weaponz.

  16. First, I don't think we're going to have dungeons that would require skipping bosses, based on the devs at Blizz stating dungeons are going to be shorter, so I'm thinking that won't be a factor as some have posted.

    Second, I hope there's no achievements tied around this as I'm not overly fond of speed runs based on timers. It gets old fast and I'd rather be spending my limited time tanking raids, but unfortunately I'm an achievement whore so we'll see how this pans out.