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Blues on Challenge Modes and Testing Begins

It's a big week for Challenge modes, with a lot of blue post detailing everything about them and a new batch of first testing being announced. Challenge Modes are one of the bigger additions coming in MoP and they could lead to some even bigger changes, like challenge raids or even generally a bigger focus on competitive PvE from Blizzard, so they're a very imporatnt test case. Then let's see what's being said about them and we'll start with the announce testing. I'll also highlight the really important blue posts.

We've enabled Challenge Mode in the World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria beta for Stormstout Brewery. We'd like to see as many players as possible challenge the dungeon to score your fastest times, and join us in discussing this new aspect of the game in this thread.

Here are the key things to know about this Challenge Mode test:

  • To participate, characters must have completed at least one run of the Heroic Stormstout Brewery dungeon.
  • Characters that meet that requirement will be able to set the difficulty to Challenge from the contextual unitframe dropdown and zone into Stormstout Brewery with your pre-formed party of five.
  • There is no queuing for Challenge Mode dungeons.
  • Inside, you’ll experience a more challenging version of the instance, with a timed run that begins the moment you interact with the Challenge Orb in front of you at the entrance.
  • Your gear will be normalized to item level 463, even if you have inferior gear on your beta character. (Note: This is only a beta feature. On live realms, gear won’t scale up, only down.)
  • Anyone with a level-90 on a beta realm can participate.
  • You can reset the dungeon and restart the timer mid-run if you make a mistake and feel you can do better. Simply have your leader right-click on his/her character unit frame and select the Reset option from the contextual drop-down while inside the instance.

This test will likely end late Monday, September 17. We're working on producing some non-official, test-only leaderboards for you, but don't forget -- there are going to be full-fledged, Armory-based leaderboards for Challenge Modes after Mists of Pandaria goes live.

We want players to race through the dungeon and try to get the best time possible. For many groups, simply finishing the dungeon will be challenging and an accomplishment. That’s fine, and we’d love to hear from you.

And on we go to the many blue posts, including region wide rankings, cross-server functionality, difficulty, no durability loss, exploits/specific tactics, challenge raids, etc.

Wait, so I cannot queue up Looking For a Challenge (LFC)? Guess I won't be doing challenge modes. Thanks for more content I won't be doing!
If you're looking for endgame content for which you can queue up to find a group, there's more of that for you in Mists than there ever has been in the history of this game.

You will never outgear challenge modes. One of the neat things they do is normalize your gear to a certain item level. Basically how it works is they take all of your gear and set it at a certain item level say 450 and then all of your gear becomes 450 item level (at least if it works same way as normalization in beta).
The format is actually even a little more complicated than that. Just as an example: hit cap. As you surpass the 5-player Heroic dungeon item level you'll eventually cap out hit. If we equally averaged all your stats back down to 90 Heroic dungeon levels, it'd feel crappy. In that scenario you'd be running upcoming Heroic raid content at hit cap without missing, then enter a Challenge dungeon and be missing too much. You'd then have to keep a separate set that stacks a ton of hit to make up for the loss in averages. So your hit won't scale down as much. If you're not missing raid bosses in your epic gear, you probably shouldn't be missing bosses in Challenges either.

But trinkets effects and procs will be scaled down as well and set bonuses will be deactivated.

The automatic queuing systems in WoW come with the built in assumption that those involved will have a reasonable chance of succeeding at the content they've queued for. This is not the case in rated arenas, nor is it likely to be the case in rated challenges.

All the option would do is raise false hopes & risk player frustration when they discover the pug option is guaranteed not to succeed.

Lakhesís, your statements are very in-line with some of our development philosophies regarding matchmaking systems, player expectations in random versus pre-made groups, etc.

My biggest concern about Challenge modes is the opposite. Not that they will be nerfed, but they will be hotfixed to remove semi-exploits.

Let me give an example. In a certain dungeon, it is determined that a druid, shaman and mage can use certain abilities to bust through a dungeon and crush the gold medal time. The symbiosis between those 3 classes causes them to clear the dungeon 5 mins before any other comp can.

The devs know that in no time, Youtube will be filled with vids of how to do this and that soon everyone will know that you must bring a certain comp to even get close to the record time, so they hotfix it the first month of MOP. The original druid, shaman, mage did not cheat.. so probably their record time will stand forever.

If you think I am exaggerating.. look at 75% of world first raid kills. They mostly all involve some ´tactic´ that is ruled not an exploit, but is still hotfixed very quickly to not work any longer. Of course there are other true exploits that are hotfixed as well.

My guess is that there will be a lot of challenge mode top times that come from the first 2 weeks of the expansion and last a long long time.

You bring up some legitimate concerns, Adrena. All I can say is we share those concerns and will be watching things very carefully. There will definitely be some class synergy that will work well for specific dungeons or encounters. That's okay. But we do want to make sure there's integrity in the leaderboards regardless.

If you're raid hit capped, will you be massively over the hit cap in challenge modes (and thus wasting offensive stats) or when it scales you down will it ensure you are right at the hit cap, but not (significantly) over it, and reallocate those points to some generally useful stat.

Or to ask it another way, will players want to be aiming for a cap below raid hit cap when doing challenge modes so as not to waste stats (or are challenge mode bosses +3 bosses instead of +2 as is typical in heroic dungeons)?

If you're just at hit cap in a raid, you'll be just at hit cap in Challenges. So if you swap out any hit to stack other stats you'll be dropping below cap.

This is probably a stupid question, but I'm assuming no loot or gold drops off mobs in challenge modes, yes? Otherwise wouldn't gold farmers just endlessly reset them?
No loot or gold drops in challenge modes, though you will get Valor Points for any and all completions (up to the weekly cap, of course). Challenge modes are something you do once you are fully equipped with dungeon-or-better gear.

Because no loot or gold can be obtained, we'll be disabling durability loss in challenge modes.

Seriously blizzard, if CHALLENGE modes are ever nerfed to the point say like the cataclysm heroic dungeons were, what would be the point in calling them CHALLENGE mode runs?
That isn't the intention. Now, there could be times were a particular dungeon has a specific mechanic, pull, or encounter that is more difficult than we intended in all difficulties. In cases like that you may see us make adjustments to the dungeon across the board.

But, to be clear, our intent isn't to make Challenge Mode dungeons more accessible or easier over time. In part this is also why, as you acquire more powerful gear over the course of the expansion, it will be scaled down in this setting so that the challenge remains roughly equivalent from the start of the expansion to the end. We also don't allow matchmaking for them, as they're intended to be difficult for organized groups.

I can totally see you guys nerfing a previous set when a new set comes out however. Seems to be par the course. Nerf it when it's not current content.
The Challenge Mode dungeon structure is really closely bound up with the leaderboards we’re going to have. It isn’t really possible to “nerf” the content meaningfully without invalidating those leaderboards. It may be helpful to think of the Gold medal armor sets as analogous to Gladiator mounts. We may have a new “season” of Challenges, with new dungeons to race through, but that doesn’t mean that past seasons’ rewards will suddenly become more attainable.

Hey if challenge modes are cool and go well, will we get challenge raids like AQ40 and MC??? If so you guys should have challenge mode raid achievements for each raid and dungeon just basically saying you did em cause I think that would be cool and well worth my time to play.
If players really like Challenges and we see a lot of interest in the leaderboards, there's definitely the potential there for extending the system to raid content in some form. We've already seen a lot of interest in raid speed runs -- from our very own BlizzCon Live Raid to other events that fansites have hosted with streamed races between top guilds -- and it’s compelling to us. We'd love to explore formalizing that system!

Wouldn't it defeat the point of them? Normals for leveling, heroics for that initial gearing for T14 (and they are much easier than Cata's were on launch, I've tested them), and Challenge modes for those who want a challenge. I get it, some people can spend more time on and in WoW than others, but isn't it ok to have something like this for those who want to be challenged?
Not only that, a good, organized Challenge Mode group will likely find farming Valor in Challenge dungeons to be more efficient. They're not set on a lockout like Heroic dungeons are, and the bosses reward more Valor than on Heroic, plus there's a daily quest to complete a specific Challenge Mode dungeon each day for a Valor bonus.

Conversely, a player who doesn't readily have four friends online at regular intervals will probably find running Heroic Dungeon Finder to be more efficient for obtaining Valor. Challenge dungeons are at least on par with the most difficult Burning Crusade Heroics, and death will still cost ya.

Now, in this thread I've been sharing a lot of information I've learned from Ion Hazzikostas, an awesome man, so I just want to throw in my own copper (psst, I have more than two!).

I've never been more impressed with a World of Warcraft endgame design model than I am with Mists. I think the way various prestige, vanity, fun, diverse, and power-increasing progression systems are designed shows such a commitment to the creation of gameplay with broad appeal, while preserving the philosophy that prestige can be earned through a combination of effort and exceptional performance.

Did I just go full fanboy on our devs? I'm sorry.

You never go full fanboy.

No Nerfs For Challenge Modes
If at all feasible, we're not going to be adjusting the content itself. Persistent leaderboards are the backbone of the system, and if we make the dungeon easier, then your 14:13 time last week might actually be more impressive than my 14:05 clear today, but there would be no way of knowing that. It's conceivable that we might adjust the actual Gold/Silver/Bronze cutoff times slightly if it turns out we were badly off the mark with the tuning, but we're pretty confident in our numbers.

As far as composition goes, I can't promise that every possible composition will be able to get Gold. (Apologies in advance to the prospective monk/monk/monk/monk/monk groups out there.) Every composition will be able to get Silver (subject to some fairly basic ground rules such as "you have a healer"), and every class should have multiple viable group makeups in which it can obtain Gold, assuming masterful play.

Can I do Temple of the Jade Serpent as many times as I want in challange mode per day? Or does it have a lock system?
You can run the same challenge mode dungeon as many times per day as you like.

It'll be a bit before we hear an answer on that one, as I suspect Watcher reacted to it with a "hmm, good question". I'm sure a dev somewhere has at least considered the question, but they might not have settled on their final answer yet.
We like the gameplay of adjusting talents to suit the situation. We don't like the gameplay of cycling through power cooldown talents to effectively benefit from an entire tier of choices simultaneously. Our plan is to allow the former while disallowing the latter.

Does this mean you have a workaround for the dreaded "You have entered too many instances recently" or will this be popping up during challenge modes?

I am specifically thinking of running in engaging boss 1, failing somehow and resetting. Rinse and repeat that 5x on the current system (Assuming reseting a challenge mode works like resetting a normal instance) and you'll be locked out for an hour minus however long it took you to wipe those 5x.

Challenge modes have a special reset system. The party leader can instantly reset a challenge run from inside the instance via a menu dropdown from his or her unitframe. The group gets ported back to the entrance, and everything in the instance reverts to its original state. There's no limit on how often you can do that. You may still want to finish a somewhat botched run though, if you aren't capped on Valor for the week, since each completed run will award Valor.

What's the word on profession items and weird items such as Nifty Stopwatch, Potions of Speed, Swift Boots, Rocket Boots, netherweave nets, flasks, food and other "creative items"
There are no restrictions on items or consumables.

Challenge Modes Differences
Challenge modes are more than just a timed run. On a basic level, every single creature in Challenge Mode dungeons is significantly stronger than the Heroic version (typically by a larger proportion than you see going from Normal to Heroic raiding, for what that's worth), and where appropriate, additional enemies or new mechanics are added to make sure that the threat of defeat is always present. For many players, simply successfully completing a challenge run is going to be, well, a challenge. That's why we award excellent Valor gains for doing so. Aiming for Silver, let alone Gold, will be something for experienced players to do once they've mastered the content.

Players who tested the Scarlet Halls challenge mode when that one was open, to name one example, can probably attest that the Armory section of that dungeon is every bit as brutal as anything in Heroic Shattered Halls was in Burning Crusade.

  1. Starym's avatar
    Starym 2012-09-14 20:16:07 UTC — Hm, must have missed that, thx for the correction!
  2. Maerlim's avatar
    Maerlim 2012-09-14 19:30:00 UTC — "with a lot of blue post detailing everything about them and the first testing being announced. "

    There was quit a bit of challenge mode testing the last few months, this is not the first. -_-