This past October, like many others, I was following the Blizzcon live feed at home, awaiting anxiously for news on Diablo 3. I had long since left the lands of Azeroth eight months prior, frustrated by my inability to heal as effectively as I could in Wrath. I understood the paradigm shift that Blizzard was trying to achieve; making mana a more important resource, making trash pulls less forgiving, etc. Maybe I was spoiled by what people claimed were “easy” heroics, though at the beginning they certainly were not. Maybe I had lost a step in understanding the new and varying healing mechanics introduced. Either way, I simply became frustrated to the point of quitting WoW. So I watched that live feed, awaiting updates for Diablo 3, while seeing what WoW would have to offer up ahead.
A few weeks prior to Blizzcon, rumors were spreading like wildfire that the next expansion would be announced, bearing the name “Mists of Pandaria”, and would have adventurers encountering what many were mockingly calling “cute, fluffy pandas”. I did not care. I wanted those Diablo 3 updates. So I watched, and waited. The news came trickling in at the start of the ceremony. Mists was announced; I was surprised in that I was hoping for a bigger surprise. I did not know I would get my request answered.
The announcements were flying in at a flurrying pace. I was happy with most, to be honest; bringing the players out into the world, having the story focus on new lore figures, bringing back the Alliance/Horde rivalry, etc. All the things they said were fine, but one had caught my eye; scenarios. PvE scenarios would allow players to group up in unrestricted group settings (i.e. no required tank/healer) and have the players complete objectives. Not much else was known at the time, but I didn’t care. Scenarios, I later told my wife, were my way back into the lands of Azeroth. Once they announced the Annual Pass, essentially giving players Diablo 3, I had to jump at the opportunity.
Fast forward about six months later, where just yesterday the floodgates of new information came out regarding Mists of Pandaria. Blizzard lifted the press NDA after many media sites visited Blizzard HQ just last week. Many interviews given, many questions answered, many surprising bits of lore and story and game mechanics were given. I was most looking forward to hearing about scenarios.
Here’s what we know about scenarios thus far, according to the varying reporting sites. At level 90, players will be able to queue for a scenario in a system similar to LFD or LFR. There will be five available at launch. Blizzard is implementing scenarios and reducing or eliminating group quests, which will be interesting to see. They will not require a dedicated tank or healer. They are expected to take between 10-30 minutes. They will reward reputation with the corresponding faction, as well as Valor points (more on those in a bit). They will be expanded upon depending on how well they are received at first.
There is still much we don’t know, however. Will you be required to enter a queue solo, or can you group with friends? Will they be repeatable in the same vein that heroic dungeons are if ran through the LFD tool? Will there be a weekly cap on how many you can do for Valor? If there is a cap, will they still award reputation? Will there be any sort of gear upgrades available through these, other than via Valor? Most importantly, will they be fun?
I think they will be fun. I assume they will reward gold as well. If they are repeatable in the same way that LFD heroics are, I assume there will be a weekly cap on Valor granted from scenarios. I also assume that given the “ease” one could obtain reputation and Valor, the gains will be lower than through heroic dungeons. I assume that a weekly overall reward cap will be instituted to slow the gains of reputation and gold. Perhaps the most intriguing outcome that I want to see, depending on how easy it is to complete the scenarios, this could, in theory, lower queue times for heroics for DPS players, although maybe not initially upon expansion launch.
We will have to wait until Beta to really know how things will pan out, but the potential for scenarios is exciting. Scenarios will provide a potentially easier way to progress your character, which Blizzard is trying to broaden in Mists. Scenarios will probably be more engaging than kill-and-collect or gather quests, but without a dedicated tank or healer, I doubt they will be in the same vein of group quests like the Ring of Blood and similar chains. Speaking of, if Blizzard is in essence eliminating the group quest paradigm in place of scenarios, what will happen to our level 90 Ring of Blood quest? I would certainly hate to see them go.
The potential for scenarios is really limitless, if you think about it. Even the devs stated that they could see updating them in the future to allow profession skill-ups or other perks. In that sense, scenarios could end up being like the Darkmoon Faire; short, engaging quests with a good sense of reward, though DMF is capped at one week out of the month. Regardless, scenarios will provide something to players that Blizzard intends on giving more to us in the future: character progression. And that’s where the Valor comes in.
According to interviews and reports on the various sites (wowhead, MMO-C, WoWInsider, etc.) Valor is being reworked. Valor will be used to upgrade the iLevel of your current gear, meaning that if you like the itemization of a specific item, you could potentially upgrade it to infinity. To be honest, we don’t know enough about the Valor system to make an educated guess, but I will say that I doubt Blizzard will let us upgrade a starting piece of gear all the way through the expansion. I’m guessing they will require a minimum iLevel to add itemization upon using Valor, and they could adjust it at each content patch. Again, just a guess at this point.
Why am I making a big deal about scenarios? Because I am afraid of healing in the current environment of the game. I am afraid of failure. “Failure” is a trigger for me, and having people die on my watch makes me feel like I am failing everyone else, even though I may not be. Perhaps it dates back to Burning Crusade when I was told I wasn’t a good healer. Perhaps it was in Wrath before people understood how valuable a Disc Priest would be, when they scoffed at my bubbles. Perhaps it was in Wrath on my Shaman when I couldn’t figure out how to co-ordinate the healing on Anub in the Trials raid. Perhaps it was when I last tried healing a heroic, Stonecore, on my priest, dying to the worm and getting kicked. I don’t deal with failure well. I want to perform well. Sometimes, there is just too much information flying across the screen for me to keep up with, or I miss-click, or my wireless has a hiccup and I lag spike. While friends and peers would be more forgiving than a PuG in a LFD or LFR, the guilt and shame and utter sense of helplessness still exists. As DPS, if you die or screw up, nine times out of ten, maybe even 9.99/10 times, its your own fault. I wish more DPS players would admit this in PuGs, but such is the way of the game. I know I admit when I make a mistake, or if I’m confused I ask.
This brings me to an other boon to scenarios, at least for myself. If you can queue for them in groups, then I will be able to spend more time with my wife. Heather likes to play as well, and she has less time to devote to WoW than I do. On the rare occasions we play together, Heather wants to run dungeons. She wants to progress her character as much as anyone else, and she has many of the same issues I do healing, only she likes to play DPS. She isn’t the most proficient DPSer, but she doesn’t stand in fire so that’s good. Scenarios, in Mists, can provide us time together doing relevant content, albeit in spurts. It can also allow her to progress her character like never before. For me, that makes me extremely happy, and I can only imagine how it would make her feel to equip an epic piece of gear while the content is relevant.
Scenarios are intriguing for a number of reasons. Overall, they have to be fun and they have to have a reason to exist. If Blizzard pulls them off as well as I hope they do, as well as I think they will, then I may not run dungeons at all. I probably will, but I know that I will be able to do so at my pace, that I can have fun at my pace and not have to sit in a 20 minute queue in order to enter a 30 minute dungeon at the hopes I can progress my character. Alternative progression is the future, and I applaud Blizzard for realizing that and taking positive steps to include even the most casual of casual players. The future, in Mists of Pandaria, looks promising indeed, and I certainly hope that’s the scenario that plays out.