Recently Blizzard implemented the Dungeon Finder tool in game in coordination with cross realm dungeons. These 2 features changed the WoW 5 man experience for a ton of people especially casual players. The bigger question now though, is how will this change how we do dungeons going into the next expansion, Cataclysm.
For those who have been living under a rock and don’t know what I am talking about, the Dungeon Finder allows you to queue for either a random or a specific dungeon, including old world dungeons like Scarlet Monastary and Deadmines. However instead of only looking for groups on your own server it now looks across many servers, similar to cross-realm PvP. If you queue for a random the first of the day grants you 2 frost emblems, after that you get 2 bonus triumph per random that you do. Also if you choose random, there is a chance you can run the same heroic twice in one day, lockout be damned.
Now from what I have seen has allowed people to group up much more easily than in the past of sitting in trade or LFG and spamming “DPS LFG Occulus”. Which is great for alts, and even for some mains who are looking to fill out certain gaps in their gear either through emblems or drops in higher level 5 mans (i.e. the new ICC 5 mans). Now granted Tanks have the least amount of problems finding a group as they are in short supply, followed second by healers. DPS unfortunately needs to sit around for 10-15 minutes waiting for a run but its still an improvement over the past hope a group is put together.
What we have also seen recently because of this tool is that certain dungeons are less desirable than others. *cough* Occulus *cough*. Why? Well sometimes its poor design, sometimes its just not fun, and sometimes the loot just sucks.
But regardless of the reason, we have seen that Blizzard is not above giving out perks to people to do these less desirable instances. In Occulus’s case they added a sack of gems at the end that will reward the person with random blue uncut gems, an extra triumph emblem and in some cases a chance at winning a blue drake mount, that previously was only available as a drop from Malygos. In the Old Kingdom we are seeing Blizzard remove some trash mob packs. We are also seeing the reduction in certain abilities that bosses in these heroics perform in the interest of speeding them up.
So what we are seeing is that Blizzard wants heroics to be fun, rewarding and accessible. But now we are also seeing Blizzard wants them to be fast, looking to maybe average 30 minutes or less. This design seems prevalent in their latest dungeons for ICC 5 mans, where their are no more than 3 bosses in any dungeon, and in some cases the dungeon design is meant to be quick, as in the escape from the Lich King in Halls of Reflection. Now with the speed, I am not saying that any pug will be able to do some of these, but if you have the skill and ability then no 5 man heroic in World of Warcraft should take you more than 30 minutes to complete presently.
What does this all mean to the next expansion in Cataclysm? Well Blizzard has stated that with the creation of the dungeon finder it has changed how they are looking at instances in ‘Clysm. So many people have pondered what this means. Well my best guess is we will see most 5 mans to contain about 3 bosses. We will continue to see a scaling of emblem drops from heroics as new tiers come out. Also when appropriately geared and having gained knowledge of said instance, no dungeon will take more than 30 minutes to complete. The instances will remain more linear in that Occulus has been perceived by the WoW community as a failure in part to its confusing nature.
So in summary my money is on Cataclysm instances to have the following for 5 man dungeons
1. Linear design
2. Around 3 bosses total in any instance (some may have 1 more or less)
3. Designed to last around 30 minutes to complete
4. More focus on the bosses, less time fighting trash
5. Bosses to not have or limited “pacing mechanism” abilities, like bosses causing you to stop attacks or not be able to attack for a period of time