I'm back from my hiatus to talk about the newest skill! Dungeoneering is a skill where you crawl through a themed dungeon filled with puzzles, monsters, and locked doors while searching for new equipment to use to defeat the unique boss monster at the end. For example, you might defeat some Moblins in a Fire Dungeon to find a Small Key and unlock the door to a room with Bombs that help you defeat the King Dodongo boss.
Dungeoneering has a lot of problems, but before I talk about them, let's be fair--for all its flaws, there are definitely some things that Dungeoneering does right. Examples:
- Creative, interesting, well-designed boss fights
- True team gameplay, on the level of Barbarian Assault (Stealing Creation wishes it could be Daemonheim)
- A rare instance of the combat triangle being balanced, rather than dominated by melee
- Appealing audio and visuals
- Some of the rewards, despite being nigh-impossible to obtain, are pretty good. (I like the bonecrusher and the new Void Spinner prayer, and I'll give them credit for remembering to let you repair your equipment with cash.)
- And at least they didn't forget to put a teleport to Daemonheim on the ring--I was scared before I figured that out. (This is also a great unlimited bank teleport for free players.)
So it's obvious our good folks at Jagex put plenty of effort into it in some places. The trouble, of course, is that it needs to be this good in all places, because being a skill, it's not the sort of thing you want to be only mostly done. Were it a minigame, it could get away with appealing to only a subset of players the way Shattered Heart or Familiarization or The Blood Pact are, but as a skill, it needs to have something for all players. Skills don't have the liberty of saying, "Well, if you don't like me, don't train me." Well, I mean, yeah, they can say that, but it's bad for the game when they do because they're such an intrinsic part of the experience.
Summoning was pretty lame at its first go too, but after a big patch a few weeks later, it's now widely considered a great skill. I'm fairly optimistic that given a sufficient patch a la Summoning Batch 2, Dungeoneering will end up being a perfectly good skill too. Now, in no particular order, here's what I think it needs after looking over some of the issues players have raised and some analysis of my own.
- Fix the price of the rewards and possibly scrap the token system altogether.
There are all kinds of reasons why it doesn't make sense. I want to say it's like Mobilizing Armies because of how slow it is without much return in between, but the truth is, MA actually has a better rewards system--with MA, once you reach the requirement to buy a reward, you generally have more than enough points to buy the item you want. Sure, you might not be able to buy all the rewards, but at least you can imbue your archer ring once you make it to 300 rank. It's good that we can bet more to get greater point rewards and then spend those points with our limited budgets. But with Dungeoneering, that whole dynamic is upside-down. When I get to level 21, I'm not excited that I can now use a bonecrusher. I'm angry/sad/annoyed/disappointed because I should be able to, but I can't.
- Make the rewards tradable.
There's no reason for them not to be. Really, there isn't--they all have Dungeoneering requirements anyway. Why aren't they tradable? Tied to the previous point. This is part of why people are saying it feels so much more like a minigame than a skill. You don't need to make a skill product untradable if it has a level requirement to use.
- Content that lets you utilize the skill outside of Daemonheim.
I was about to say "other dungeons," but then I realized we kind of have those already, don't we? (This might be something to release as separate future updates rather than as part of a Dungeoneering 2.0 patch.) This is another big part of why people are saying it feels more like a minigame than a skill. I'm sure there are plenty of ideas out there amongst the player base. A few off the top of my head: maybe alternate entrances to Daemonheim, maybe the ability to use special underground passages as portals for transportation (like the mine cart in the GE--which, while I have your attention, could really use a right-click option), maybe additional lower levels to existing dungeons that are too dangerous for inexperienced spelunkers, etc. There just needs to be something to keep it from being so self-contained.
- Having every item be new is way more confusing than it needs to be.
It's an unnecessary barrier to entry to have to learn whether Fractite is better than Argonite or which items you need to make a Prayer Potion or how much HP you heal by eating a Blue Crab or whether you have a high enough summoning level to make a pouch from the Stegomastyx bag you just picked up. Look, flavor is nice, but function has to come first--just put the level in the name like with Stealing Creation.
- Gathering locations can be hard to pick out of the scenery.
This is made worse by the fact that most rooms have lots of inactive versions of hotspots that might be used for a skill--ponds that have no fish, obelisks you can't click on, etc. This should be easy to fix by adding icons to the minimap and dungeon map just as they would be in the overworld.
- We need to be able to bind more items.
I get a level 11 pair of boots from the boss. Okay, great...except they disappear as soon as I leave the dungeon that I just completed. When we need to remake everything from scratch besides one or two weapons, it just isn't worth the trouble to make much of anything. Why not give us an extra bound item every 20 levels? That lets players gradually work their way up to eventually being able to bind a full set of weapon, shield, helm, plate, legs, boots, and gloves. Seems fair, right? Remember, the more items you can bind, the greater flexibility you have in customization--with only one, you'll take a weapon every time, but when you get more, you need to choose how to distribute your choices between the combat classes. So you get more depth, see? It's an improvement all-around.
- Spread rewards more evenly through the levels.
It is quite literally impossible to get any reward from the skill before level 53. Impossible. There is no reward available. What the hell? What's going on with that? And the reward you can get at that level is a gem bag, which, unless you love killing Goraks for some reason, is more or less completely useless. Add to this the way that experience scales with levels (xp comes at a snail's pace at low levels), and for the vast majority of casual players who don't get past 50 in Cooking let alone Dungeoneering, the skill offers literally nothing to the rest of the game. This is clearly not okay.
- Solo players need to be able to get back into a dungeon if they log out or lose connection.
This is probably the way it is now because of game engine issues, so the difficulty of fixing it may seem disproportionate compared to the benefit, but trust me--it's incredibly important. This is not a little thing. If I lose connection at the end of a long dungeon and I can't go back in and come back to where I left off, I'm not going to want to log in at all. I'm going to want to shut off my computer in frustration. And if I know that I won't be able to leave a long and complex dungeon without losing my progress until I finish it completely, there's a good chance I just won't do it. The ability to pick up where you left off is vital to the solo gameplay.
- The bosses need drops.
As I mentioned, these are awesome bosses even only having seen the lowest-level ones. The designs are creative, the tactics are interesting, the dynamics change with a team, etc. But there needs to be something to attract teams here in the first place. Can we get some boss drops that we can take out of Daemonheim or something? Because right now, the bosses pretty much drop nothing...maybe some backstory, maybe an item you maybe want to bind, but otherwise nothing. Why create these awesome bosses and then go and make them irrelevant to the rest of the game? Give us a reason to kill them. Maybe give them each a unique drop that we can use in Runescape proper, even if it's just cosmetic--a little ice spider egg that can hatch into a pet at the pet shop's incubator from the lady who summons ice spiders, for example, could be one of the lesser rewards, while a higher-level boss might drop things like the bonecrusher. (And if you already had one, it would presumably be tradable so you could sell it, and thus preserve the incentive to come back again later.)
- Resources deplete too quickly.
If skilling is supposed to play a relevant role in the team gameplay, the skiller needs to be able to cook enough fish and smith enough armor for the whole team. When the resources run out the way they do, it becomes very difficult. I realize that this feature probably exists to keep the xp balanced, so I imagine it could be easily replaced with a decrease in xp the more you use the resource, or something like that. Sound fair?
- Most importantly, when in doubt, pump up the power level.
Guys, it's okay. It's a new skill--it's supposed to be a big part of the game. You don't need to worry about breaking anything. Make the rewards plentiful, make them powerful, and make them useful at all points in the level spectrum. It worked for Summoning, didn't it? You were too conservative with the power level at first, and it was poorly-received. When you made training easier and made everything stronger (except fishing familiars), the skill only got better. Be conservative with minigames; don't be conservative with skills. If you can do for Dungeoneering what you did for Summoning, and I know you can, it could easily become one of my favorite skills in the game.