Syp on “good dungeon runs”

Syp, of the Bio Break blog, had an interesting post this week on “what makes a good dungeon run“. It’s a personal list of characteristics that he would expect in a good or bad dungeon experience mixing elements like the design of the dungeon and the behaviour or performance of the other players.

Dungeons have certainly changed rather a lot over the years, tending towards shorter and less complicated in layout. Difficulty rather depends on your point of view and skill level, I think it’s fair to say that in many of the MMORPGs that I play dungeon difficulty has probably been reduced somewhat over the years.

Sprawling dungeons were cool

Sprawling dungeons were cool

I can remember back to the time in World of Warcraft, pre-Cataclysm or even earlier, when many dungeons were complex in layout and took hours to clear unless you were significantly over the expected level or gear-level. Spending an entire evening wandering around an old-era dungeon in WoW such as Blackrock Depths or Wailing Caverns was normal to us as we didn’t rely on guide maps and we would usually clear all the content in there.

Dungeon running has changed by design in some more modern games. Pickup groups (pug) are the norm nowadays with randomised groups put together by queue system. My main experiences with such grouping has been in Final Fantasy 14 and even in that game, where friendly player behaviour is encouraged by design, the majority of groups were mostly silent and were ‘efficient’ if not outright rushed affairs. People might well say hello, or communicate a boss strategy tersely but there wouldn’t be much chatter beyond that.

Good dungeons but not often very social

Good dungeons but not often very social

The fact that story progression in FFXIV is locked behind pugging such dungeons is abhorrent game design in my view since the general community wants everyone to “skip videos” when you are in dungeons, meaning you are pressured to miss the clips of storytelling at the time the game is trying to show you them in context!

That illustrates where Syp’s view and my view of good dungeon runs divert. When I’ve enjoyed group content the most it has been because I was grouped with friends or guild-mates taking the content at a leisurely pace and chatting as we play. Syp’s top  characteristic on the good list is “will clock in at 30 minutes”, which I see as a negative, it implies that dungeon runs should be “quick and over with”, something that contrasts with my reasons for wanting to play them in the first place. I enjoy playing dungeons with friends as small group content but dungeon design and layout are the background to the enjoyable part – the banter and the shared effort of tackling encounters with a varying group of characters.

Chain running quick dungeons for the gear rewards or tokens makes the experience too mechanical for me personally. For quick gaming sessions I’d rather just run some quests solo or duo in the open world – without the pressure to rush to the end in limited time.


I can think of our recent experiences playing SWTOR flashpoints (dungeons) as a trio or four and they’re really good dungeon runs. They often take us an hour or longer, partly because we never rush and partly because we’re just not that familiar with them yet. We have fun gradually wading through the trash fights and working out (or trying to remember!) the boss mechanics.

So my good and bad dungeon run characteristics would be as follows.

Good dungeon runs:

  • are where the group sets own pace that all are comfortable with
  • are long(ish) with some optional paths or dead-ends to make give some variety to repeat runs
  • have challenging boss fights and easier trash fights

Bad dungeons runs:

  • feel rushed either by group members or by dungeon design (e.g. time limited run)
  • see you missing content or not really “taking in the dungeon” due to pace of group
  • feel like a treadmill – you are running down that same “corridor” dungeon for the Xth time
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8 Responses to Syp on “good dungeon runs”

  1. Shintar says:

    I can appreciate a quick 30-minute run, but as another one of Syp’s commenters said, speedy completion runs completely counter to at least one of the other points that he listed, that it should be a memorable experience. I’ve been playing on a private Vanilla WoW server on the weekends and those old-school dungeons that take multiple hours are a very different kind of fun – pretty much like raids for fewer people.

  2. I’m pretty much in agreement with Syp’s list, honestly. 30 minutes as a hard cut-off is maybe a little extreme, but I think it’s a good ballpark estimate for how long the average dungeon run should be.

    I definitely don’t get why you would conflate a shorter dungeon with feeling more rushed. I’d say the opposite is true. If a dungeon takes an hour or two (or more) even if the run is going smoothly, everyone’s going to feel a lot more pressure to finish on time. I know I will. A shorter run creates a more relaxed environment.

    Personally, I think the ideal is dungeon complexes, like Scarlet Monastery or Frozen Halls. A big dungeon divided into multiple wings. Those who want a longer dungeon experience can run all the wings at one go, whereas as those with less time can do a wing or two and then come back to finish the rest later. Everybody wins.

    • Telwyn says:

      Shorter dungeon runs do not fit my playstyle especially with friends. Pugging dungeons almost always equal rushed dungeons sadly in my experience. Also shorter dungeons are usually woefully linear and repeating them faster doesn’t stop me getting bored with them in the longer run. Your idea of wings is nice but I would be concerned at least where pugging is concerned whether you’d get to see more than the quickest and most efficient routes? I think I’m right that Shintar has posted a number of times about the reluctance of pug groups to do optional bosses or avoidable mobs in SWTOR flashpoints.

  3. paeroka says:

    I agree with you on the longer dungeon runs. The most fun I had was when I ran through the WoW dungeons with my friends. Especially (before they nerfed the vanilla dungeons) trying to do them with only three players. However, those two things have to go together: Longer dungeon run + friends.

    If I have to do a dungeon with pugs, I want them to be fast and relatively easy. That just saves a lot of frustration and potential rage moments from the other players when somebody makes a mistake.

  4. Craig says:

    I like your idea Tyler. I would like to see developers make dungeons non-linear with a number of objectives which the group can decide on – let them decide on their adventure, and where it will take them. An idea which was posted elsewhere that was inspiring is that dungeons be large and span a large level range, so that they are not ‘efficiently’ done, but have content which can be returned to. It is about time bloggers questioned the status quo and evaluated if current designs are fulfilling player’s needs in MMOs.

    • I think you’ve misunderstood what I’m saying. I don’t mean make dungeons more non-linear or anything like that. What I’m saying is more along the lines of make a big dungeon, then chop it into separate instances so people with less free time can do it in bit-sized chunks. Again, if you’ve ever done the Frozen Halls in WoW, that’s my example of how dungeons should be.

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  6. Sylow says:

    I can support all points of this posting. I also prefer to run dungeons with friends and Cabal members, and while we by now clear many dungeons in limited time, the speedrun is not the intention but rather a result of gear and trained cooperation… lucky us, there are the harder dungeons, where we can spend some time, too.

    At the same time I have to admit that I don’t use a dungeon finder too much. If anything, I rather switch on the “noobmares” (*) channel and see what team I end up in.

    *: This channel is specific to TSW, so I guess it can use a little explaining to non-TSW players: It’s one of several player run channels, which are dedicated for helping and assisting players. This one very much is “new players looking for help, both in firepower and in information, to do dungeons”. Generally such dungeon runs take significally longer than in a trained and geared group, but unlike “hurry… hurry…” LFG groups, the atmosphere is nice and friendly, making it a good deal for me.

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