After taking a few days off of leveling my Warrior I sat down on Saturday morning and queued up again to see if things would get any better.
Between the time I started and when I took a coffee break, I ran 3 or 4 dungeons. Most of them actually went pretty smoothly. The groups were nice enough, the DPS did a relatively good job of not trying to tank for me, and I didn't run across any major jerks. I even ended up in one group with a Hunter that was an obvious fan of Jane Lindskold's Firekeeper Saga. So we chatted about that a little while going through one of the Dire Maul wings.
I gained a couple levels from the runs, putting me somewhere around 47 when I stood up to take a break.
Once I did get out of the routine of leave-queue-run, though, I found that I was extremely reluctant to get back into it. I started doing anything I could to delay sitting back down in front of my comp and queuing again. I even started cleaning the kitchen.
I took a step back and realized that, even with the better groups than I ran with last weekend, I just wasn't having fun. And the only reason I'd continued to queue as long as I had (pretty much everything past level 30) is because I said I was going to level to 85 by tanking dungeons and that was that.
What makes WoW fun:
I've been playing this game for over 5 years now, and I'm honestly well past the point where the game itself is enough to keep me interested in playing. That's not a knock on WoW. It's still an amazing game. I don't think it has a lack of things to offer...I just think I've done and seen more of it than not.
There's two main things that keep me coming back: social interaction and challenge.
Low-level dungeon running has neither.
The social aspect of this game is huge for me. I've made a lot of friends over the years and if they were to all scatter, I probably wouldn't stick around long. But even outside that, if I'm in a group with people, I want to feel like I'm in a group with people, not silent robots on auto-pilot. I can power run a dungeon with the best of them, and I don't always mind doing so. But if there's not some kind of talk or banter going on, it just feels like a slog.
Talking with the "Firekeeper" Hunter I mentioned above was actually fun. But it was easy to tell the rest of the group wished we'd just shut up and go faster.
The challenge aspect is obvious. I love raiding with my guild, because I love tackling those challenges. It's actually tough. There's effort involved.
Of course, I would never want to try to tackle those challenges without those same social connections I mention above. They're what keep it fun and light in the face of wipes and such. So there's a hand-in-hand aspect there.
Outside of those two factors, though, there's something else that started to notice:
I'm not convinced dungeons are actually faster than questing.
It's no secret that running dungeons while leveling can rocket you completely past zones. It's been a well-posted fact ever since 4.0 dropped. But I think that has less to do with how much experience you gain through dungeon running and more to do with how tightly tuned questing is now.
Prior to level 30, you definitely rip through the levels while you're running dungeons, no question. I would often ding more than once from beginning to end. This is especially true the first time I hit each dungeon and had quests to turn in at the end.
But as time went on, even with tank insta-queue, I felt like leveling speed had actually slowed to a crawl. I felt that even my two Worgen (Grevioux and Maeniel) that had gone 1-60 with no heirlooms had leveled faster post-40 than Sanele was. Or it could be that I was just enjoying it more. Either way...
The leveling-via-dungeons experiment is over
After that last run, I just decided I wasn't feeling it. There was no reason to play the game in a way I wasn't enjoying for reasons that I wasn't sure were even valid. So I stopped queuing and headed out into the world.
Since I was already stocked up on all the Prot plate gear (and out of JP on all my 85s), I decided to just stick with it and see how it would go. I figured, if nothing else, the bonus XP would offset any speed differences.
Two things happened:
1) I started having fun again. How novel.
2) OMG, I'm ripping through levels. Due in no small part to how easy it is to kill things.
With just about every character I've ever played before, if I was running along on my mount and accidentally pulled something, I'd just keep going and hope it didn't catch up. If it did, I'd kill it and then keep going.
On my Warrior, I'll look around first to see if there's at least 2 or 3 other mobs I can pull. If so, I'll stop and mow them all down. If not, then I'll try to keep going. A Prot Warrior can kill huge groups of mobs just as fast and more efficiently than a single one. And that's gobs of XP every time.
I've started playing games where I see how many mobs I can pull before they all start leashing or overwhelm me. In some areas of the Blasted Lands, I was able to get upwards of 15 on me at a time and drop them all.
Now that's fun.
My play time this past weekend was somewhat limited again. Much of my time Saturday was spent with my family celebrating the birth of my new nephew. And there was a lot of housework to be done on Sunday. Still, I managed to make it to 61. I did run Ramparts once, when I got the quest to do so. It was a good change of pace from the leveling grind and gave me a good chunk of XP. I plan to do Bloodfurnace once I turn in that quest.
In Outland and Northrend, I think this might be the way to go. Mix it up. Run dungeons when the natural progression of questing asks you to and leave them otherwise.
Obviously, this doesn't work in the old world anymore, where all the dungeon quests have been moved inside the dungeons. There's no real breadcrumbs leading you inside.
And, of course, this is just my preference. But it's what felt fun and stress free, and isn't that why I play games anyway?
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