The Dungeon Journal, hereafter known as the Encyclopedic Compendium of Baddie Abilities™ (well, at least to me), is one of the most recent issues of contention in the World of Warcraft community. There are the hardcore raiders getting world firsts that are saying that there’s some things that need to be changed about it, and that it’s an abysmal implementation. There are casual gamers arguing that there’s no reason it shouldn’t be there, and that the information shouldn’t be left alone for the top-end gamers to find out as they’re progressing through the encounters. But what about those of us that are kind of caught in the middle?

Journal

I, for one, can understand both points of view. On the one hand, you have what the end-gamers are saying, and valuing the mystery of discovery and enjoyment of seeing a new encounter – blind or not. And I can definitely agree with this point of view. On the other hand, though, you have the casual gamers saying that the information shouldn’t be limited to the top-end raiders, and the larger playerbase shouldn’t have to wait for outside sources to learn what things do for when they get there. I can also understand this point of view.

As with anything that’s going to have a spectrum of beliefs, there are going to be fanatics on either side of aforementioned spectrum. Let me first state that any time you find yourself completely in opposition to, or completely in support of, an ideal, without taking time to understand both viewpoints, you’re doing it wrong. This is the equivalent to standing in the fire in real life. Don’t do it. This will be my attempt at possibly provoking a discussion on this with a hopefully rational and objective thought process behind this post.

The “mystique” and “discovery” of new encounters

As far as I’m aware, in most cases, a raider is going to go into a fight having some knowledge about how an encounter works beforehand, and possibly an accepted strategy for how to overcome the challenge. A top-end raider has no such knowledge, or previously, did not, because that information was not released to them in the form of the DJ. The fact remains, however, that if you haven’t been there before, you don’t actually know how you’re going to react to certain situations. This alone is what I would consider the “mystique” and “discovery” of a new encounter.

Unfortunately, the argument has gone to extreme ends on both sides. Top-end raiders feel that it shouldn’t include anywhere from all of the information, to just leaving out the heroic mode information. Some people think that it should include all of the ability information, and others seem to think that it should include strategies to boot. Both of these have extreme negative connotations.

Top-end raiders are willingly witholding information

This is incorrect. The information is available on Wowhead or any of the ZAM affiliates (Thottbot, Allakhazam, etc.) if anyone cared to look. The only thing that top-end raiders are holding back is their strategies. And why not? They’re competing for their world firsts, region firsts and server firsts. If you look at this from another context, you wouldn’t want to hand your competition your secrets, if you were the owner of a business, would you? I know I wouldn’t.

What happens when people release videos or boss strategies is simply that they become a little more accessible to the rest of the WoW public. This is going to happen at some point down the road, whether it is the world first or world hundredth. It is still going to happen whether the DJ is actually implemented or not. A strategy doesn’t even become accepted until it can be reliably repeated over time.

Cost versus benefit

The cost of implementing the dungeon finder is actually very small. In a way, it does devalue seeing a new encounter – but only if it is implemented correctly. In its current form, clearly stating in a rather verbose manner, phase transitions and every boss ability that every single boss has, it becomes more of a handbook, and less a journal. To paraphrase someone from the forums, “a journal is about recording your experiences after the fact; it does not include things that have not yet happened.” This is the heart of the problem with the dungeon journal as it stands now.

But, to get back to the point of cost versus benefit. As I said before, the cost is relatively small, and overall affects a very small minority of players, but in the long run, the benefit is pretty great. It allows further access to the players that aren’t kings of the hill. Rather, it gives us information that is not able to be misinterpreted, as so often happens in how-to videos or written guides.

The major issues with the dungeon journal from a raiding standpoint

If I were to look at this as a raider (not a raid leader), then I would probably say this is a pretty sweet deal. I get to check the loot tables, I get to see who the bosses are, and I get to see what they do. In a massively excessive format. That’s right, I said excessive. Even Blizzard themselves have admitted that they are too verbose or possibly too free with the information provided in the journal. I’m glad that they’ve recognized this point.

Now, looking at this from a raid leader’s standpoint, this becomes another monster entirely. I have to check if 9 (or 24) other people have actually looked at the thing, understand what the mechanics are, and then explain how we’re going to counter each of those mechanics – sometimes repeatedly from week to week. But, this also means that I know what to expect beforehand, what might be able to cause major roadblocks, and as a side benefit, I don’t forget what abilities are called. Actually, I’d probably call the side benefit the major bonus, but that’s more of a personal note – I can usually tell what our stumbling blocks will be just by going off of others’ kill videos (not even how-tos, but kill videos).

The idea of a compromise

There has, in the midst of all the backbiting and general rudeness, been some decent discussion on how to compromise on the dungeon journal, which can be broken into a few brief segements. The ideas are mainly to make this beneficial for everyone, without ruining the “smell of a new car” feel of a fresh encounter.

  • Leave out the heroic mode information. This goes completely against the idea of the dungeon journal as a general rule.
  • Patch in the information after accepted strategies have been formed. Logistics nightmare. This means Blizzard employees are spending time, resources and money on things that should be spent on fixing bugs, sorting out class balance, introducing new concepts and ideas for future patches, etc., not to mention keeping tabs on outside sources, which they should never have to do.
  • Patch in the information after world/region/server firsts have been obtained. This means that Blizzard is spending extra effort on creating another patch. Again, time, money and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Plus, nobody likes patch days. Nobody..
  • Have it fill in as you encounter the mechanics (raid only). This is my personal favorite. This also would make it actually act and feel like a journal rather than a handbook (except for 5-man dungeons, where the information should be included innately). Ideally, this will be guild- and battle.net account-wide, but it is apparent that this could create issues with someone further progressed going to a lesser-progressed guild and having their journals suddenly filled with extra information. I’m sure this could be worked around by guild transfers not affecting the guild journal, as it were. This would also require the least amount of resources, and overall, benefits everyone equally. Tied in with this idea was also having the information from the previous tier of content included when the following tier is released. For example, when T12 comes out, all T11 information would be available, including all hardmode encounters.

There does need to be a compromise to make the dungeon journal at its best. I am of the opinion the last option is the best one, and would make it workable for all levels of play. There’s always going to be research to be done outside of the game. Blizzard were very adamant that they are not going to include strategies. They want people to know what the abilities do – but they also want you, the raider, to figure out what to do with it.

My personal opinion

As I said above, I like the idea of it filling in as you go. However, I also feel that certain things should always be included with any given encounter. Those would be very limited, however. If I were to say, I’d likely include berserk/hard enrage abilities (and possibly timers), and also certain gimmick situations (such as the Ancient Dwarven Shields from Atramedes or Vampiric Bite from Blood-Queen Lana’thel). Regarding the gimmick situations, though, it would be kind of tough to include them without listing how exactly they’d work, and without giving away too much information that would lead to a concrete strategy from the get-go. Still, I’d think there are some things that need to be known beforehand, so you could at least be a little clued in, even if you’re not entirely aware of what will happen.