Some thoughts on the Dungeon Journal

So, one of the major changes coming in patch 4.2 is the Dungeon Journal. There is a preview for it on mmo-champion, but  be careful if you are trying to avoid Firelands spoilers there (I’ll avoid from posting those Firelands pictures here).

This dungeon journal lists out information for the 5-mans and the raids. So, if your 5-man group is stuck on a boss, you can yell at them to look at their encounter journal and read about why the 100,000 damage the boss does with X ability is bigger than people’s health pools and that’s why they died.

What is included in the dungeon journal:

  • All the bosses’ pictures and some Lore (so you can know why you are there).
  • A listing of loot from the bosses in the dungeons & raids
  • Descriptions of the boss abilities (such as: X ability spews from the dragon’s mouth, inflicting X damage to nearby foes).
  • Our little blue crabby friend to guide our way (top left corner).

What is NOT included in the dungeon journal:

  • There are NO boss strategies. There are a few things like the note that it would be a bad idea to stand in the Lich King’s defiles, which would be obvious the first second you stepped into the encounter. Other than things like that, they have worked to keep subtle strategy points out of reach.
  • In addition, there is a difference between knowing that the LK’s defile is bad, and having a raid team that is successfully able to move appropriately during the Defile phase. So, knowing that you have to move out of the fire doesn’t mean you have 10 or 25 raiders who will move out of the fire perfectly every time (and if you do, well, then you are probably testing things out on the PTR because you already got through 13/13 hard-mode in this tier of content).
  • I don’t see range numbers (ie. how many yards do I have to stand from X) listed in the previews that I’ve seen (though I don’t have access to the PTR). So, the third-party sites may have some details about the abilities themselves that the Journal doesn’t necessarily always include, since “how far do I need to be?” is probably the question we have to look up the answer to most often during raids (well, maybe second after “what is the name of that thing that just killed me?”)
  • To prepare for raids, I read the spell abilities on wowpedia, and THEN I read strategies there. Then, I hop over to watch a Tankspot video on youtube and read the comments on tankspot. Given that the spell abilities are more flavor-text than helpful text, there is still information that I’ll need about abilities that won’t be in the Journal. So, I’ll still sometimes have to rely on those 3rd party sites (which, in the end, is really fine with me, since the strategy my raid leader decides upon may end up not being in any of the sources I read, anyway).

Why the dungeon journal is a really “neutral” change:

  1. Third party sites and addons did the same thing, but better and with more detail. For example, when @thexerian tweeted me that they were able to replace atlas loot after the change, @atlasloot responded to remind us that their addon has features that the dungeon journal’s gear listing doesn’t. For example, the dungeon journal: “doesn’t provide anything but loot. No chat linking, no filtering, no sorting. No faction loot, pvp rewards, crafting stuff, wish list. You can’t even use the dressing room”. So, if you want all those features, you have to keep using the Atlasloot addon (thanks for the reminder!).
  2. For boss strategies, we’ll all still be watching Tankspot videos. There is a huge difference between learning a fight by reading boss abilities out of context and having someone read out a whole detailed strategy on how to kill the boss, including showing you how they did it step by step in a video. However, after we watch the videos, how many guilds change something about the strategy to make it work for them? I bet most of us have to adapt things and can’t use the cookie-cutter strategy for every boss. For example, when first learning magmaw on normal-mode, we tried one strategy that didn’t work for us (trying to kill the adds) because our overall DPS on our 25-man just wasn’t sufficient. So, our DK tank found out from a source that some guilds were just kiting the adds, and so he gave that a try, and we’re pretty reliant on him to be our add-tank for that fight because it just works for us that way (even though we now have the DPS where we could probably easily nuke the adds).
  3. Most raid groups “spoiler” bosses before they step foot in a raid dungeon AND the groups who don’t read the strats online on purpose can avoid reading the dungeon journal (so long as they have something resembling impulse control). All the info was out in the internet before, and so if you were able to avoid it before, you’ll still be able to avoid it now. In addition, the PTR is actually the worst boss spoiler of all, because it is actually where the world-first boss kills are occurring, and where people are getting a head-start on learning the boss before it goes to the live server. We have accepted PTR as something people are going to do, and a couple months from now, the dungeon journal won’t be a big deal, either.
  4. The dungeon journal isn’t really that different from what we had before, it’s just cooler and in-game. While “straight from the mouth of Blizzard” is considered better, I am predicting that the dungeon journal will indeed have typos or errors somewhere along the way (some of the unfinished boss pictures in some of the previews are just a start, lol). So, while it is a direct source from the game, it’s not necessarily much more reliable of a source compared to the data-mining sites that pull out spell information straight from Blizzard’s code. In fact, the info in the Journal will likely be used to supplement (but not replace!) the other sources of info you are already used to relying upon. So, I’m expecting that it will be a new “fun” toy for the first few weeks, but then we’ll settle into a routine where you add it to your strategy prep: “A. read journal, B. read 3rd party fight description with strategy hints, C. watch tankspot video”. While I like the Journal in theory, because it gives you an easy reference source mid-raid (instead of “hold on while I bring up X website), it’s a supplement to existing information, and doesn’t bring you anything really groundbreaking that you couldn’t eventually find from somewhere else.

So, I’m happy to see this feature finally making it’s way into the game. However, I’m not going to worry too much about it, since it still won’t replace the time and skill that is necessary to find a strategy and implement the strategy that works for your team. The fun has always been in trying to execute and tweak the strategies available to us (and trying to make those cookie-cutter strats into our own strat that works for us). The fun of this game is not about trying to spend hours to figure out what spells the boss is casting, or how many yards you have to spread out to avoid a chain-lightning effect (the fun is in trying to figure out if you should still group up, anyway). Also, it still won’t make your raiders (or people in the 5-mans) move out of the darn fires if their reflexes just aren’t fast enough, but it can distract you with pretty pictures while they do their corpse-runs back to the group.

2 Comments

  1. Posted May 17, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    This should all be handled with quests and NPCs preparing you for battles in game. When you have to go outside of the game to effectively take on bosses, the game isn’t finished. I understand all video games operate through a strange metaleptic interdependency with game sites and FAQ boards, but WoW is one of the most heavily addicted to 3rd parties. Without the fan videos and boards, how would you ever learn in a timely fashion?

    Honestly, why you don’t have to go on a great questchain like the Illidari-Bane Mageblade quest to prepare yourself for heroics and raids, I don’t know. Take something with that large of a storyline, but instead of just well-tuned weapons preparing you for the encounters, also teach some boss specific lore. The Dungeon Journal is, I think, a coward’s/lazy man’s “fix”.

    • Lissanna
      Posted May 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      well, technically, there are a ton of “lore” quests introducing us to the raid content in the new Cataclysm areas, and they DID put in a troll-lore questline to go with the new ZA/ZG dungeons, and we get a whole daily quest area with the Firelands raid dungeon that I’m sure will be lore-packed (and they introduced some of the things related in the Hyjal leveling quests). In addition, we got to meet cho’gall in a really great cut-scene in Twilight highlands. The dungeon guide supplements things that exist already, and for people who don’t read quest text, it’s nice to have the option of having more timely reminders. :)