The WWI is up, and the WoWInsider coverage is interesting, especially the non-linearity of instances.
The Burning Crusade offered us many instances to run, either as levelling - which many of us skipped, having never personally stepped foot in half of Auchindon until downing half of SSC - or as level 70 instances, with the heroic versions to attempt to keep interest and allow "raid"-level gear to be acquired in a small group environment allowing anyone with sufficient time and gear level to reach T4.5, T5.5 gear through Badges of Justice. These instances are however rather boring, maybe because we spend so much time here for the rewards, badge gear is viable, and often the best in slot for many "hybrid" classes and especially for "off-spec" talent builds. You run the same dungeon, with the same enemies (with a small variation in each group normally barring set mobs) and in the same way, the dungeon layout is always the same.
Diablo II allowed semi-dynamic dungeons, the world layout changed slightly, and this made it more replayable, imagine entering Shattered Halls and being presented with a truly epic citadel, long passage ways, rooms, large swathes of monsters and bosses. Within the same instance you could have multiple paths, the easy long trash filled path, the short brutal path through the elite's barracks or the stealth path with chaining patrols, one mistake and you become swamped by mobs. Of course removing the linearity of an instance does not help with replayability, eventually you will have done every path, many times, and pull like there is no tomorrow along the best path for your group. This is where randomness comes in, different groups, different patrols and to an extend entirely different fights within the citadel, the layout of the citadel can be relatively constant, there are paths between bosses with the final gauntlet section on the timer being the most fixed to ensure its possible, Blizzard knows the pull distances of mobs, it knows the relatively difficulty of mobs combined with the size of groups, setting this up to be generated would not be that difficult, processor intensive for a short while yes, but interesting yes.
Bosses can also be random, clearly not totally, rushing through Shattered Halls to find Kargath went out for a while, but his Lieutenant is there, but doesn't drop the axe... well that would be terrible, most people play the game with a purpose, being foiled through a resettable mechanic seems wrong considering the effect this has from MgT, the third boss's adds can with some groups present an insurmountable issue to progression, step outside and reset it. Instead something more like the Opera event on early bosses, which of Kargath's Lieutenants will you encounter, or even a boss that paths the whole instance, requiring you to fall back and engage, or even having to fight him while engaging other enemies, multiple tanks and healers within a 5 man becomes possible if you have to engage multiple groups that cannot be held by 1. This was demonstrated well in MgT, its not to say that its a nice instance, frankly normal is set on a difficulty with most heroics, and heroic is not really much harder if played correctly, what it does offer is a multiple options.
Taking MgT, the first boss is tanked, spanked and his fight mechanics ignored, not dpsing the crystals has no real downside beyond him not attacking for longer, and his aoe going on longer, the Steam Vaults encounter like this, missing the tanks is a problem, even in T4.5-T5 gear 2 tanks missed will nearly kill me, 3 basically guarantees my death. The second varies based on your healer and group composition, can you rush him, ice blocking and aoe healing, do you go slowly and let the buffs disappear or do you combine the two, the healer and group setup dictate the fight's progression, but in no way restrict its completion, its a hard but in many ways perfect fight as it requires thought and focus to down. Skipping the third fight we have Kael'thas Sunstrider, in many ways harder than his Tempest Keep version as the Phoenix is nearly a guaranteed wipe if left up, again though the fight has interesting mechanics and changes slightly based on group setup. The third boss though is the key, firstly it has no tank (well you can tank Delrissa, but she resets aggro too much for it to be really viable), however her adds completely change the fight, going from soft, to insane. Of course the encounter is actually badly tuned, a bad add setup or minimal CC often results in a failed run or swapping out, but the principle is good, a dynamic fight, one which you need to identify threats, cannot tank in the traditional way and forces people to react and depend on each other. This is the key to real replayability in dungeons to my mind, a fight in a dungeon that has a large number of possibilities, with a unique gimmick (untankable in this instance) that forces you to work around a traditional 1 tank, 1 healer, 2 dps and the 5th man group composition.
You then have the heroic mode, the older heroics seem less tuned than MGT, but they are a good example still, they are more difficult than a normal version of that instance, however in so doing they present a level of attainment that is not forced upon normal players, my groups can clear any heroic in under an hour, often making 20-30 minute runs, however for groups just starting the instances, and the heroic once you have the gear need to be viable and completable. This is where I think there needs to be a change like MgT, the gear available from the normal and Heroics do not really overlap, my warlock is still trying to find a group for normal to go and acquire the cloak, a T4-5 player with an incentive to run normal instances is good, it draws the player base back together and offers help through what can often be a difficult transition for players, moving from solo-play to instances and from levelling instances to normal and heroic end-game instances. The tips and tricks still apply, they just need to be passed on. The same is true though for heroics, they are too easy once you reach a certain level of gear, what would be interesting is the same mechanic applied to Zul'aman and Shattered Halls, timers.
Timers don't increase the difficulty of an instance, the bosses and trash remain the same, what they do offer however is a benefit to completing quickly (besides the obvious time benefits), extra loot, and they stress a higher level group, its no longer a case of take each pull nicely, wait for mana, full health, it becomes a survival race, can I pull at 50% healer mana and survive, can the dps keep drinking while I build threat to let them go full out while I take a break mid fight? These would actively draw higher end players into heroics again, the reward could simply be extra badges from the end bosses, or as with Shattered halls some primals and pots, it doesn't have to be big, but something attractive to players. You could even present rare lootables, ultra-rare world drops, or anything in these runs, they are only accessible by high end players, their rewards can be minimally better than anything else, but its a draw into the instance, and it gives people something to aim for.
So really what would be interesting, generated dungeons tend to be worse than hand crafted ones for obvious reasons, but a partially generated and partially hand crafted dungeon with multiple paths, a variety of boss fights and differences between runs would be a wonderful addition, no longer is it "that long corridor to Kargath for my 5 badges thank you", its a Citadel, with patrols, bunk houses, and bosses we need to think about the encounter with. Adding a proper heroic / normal split to ensure both get run, and a function such as a timer to make it more interesting and to try and push groups would add a significant draw to many players like myself, those that enjoy the small end game as much as the large, enjoy helping, but would like to really be pushed, be it in 5 man, 10 man or 25 man raids, give us the option to make it as hard as it can be, no one will complain that a bear is seconds away from your Zul'aman group, instead you look to shave off those seconds and win the bear.
Hopefully we will see something like this in the future, true epic scale and replayability, but with a decent volume of content, it does force auto-generated content on us, but it would make life more interesting.
Sometimes you think to yourself that a blog is a good idea, other times you think its a terrible idea. At the end of the day, no matter which way you feel sometimes you just want to express yourself and maybe say something that might be worth recording, I don't know if I will keep posting, or even if my posts will be relevant, I think most of the time this will be a literal dump for thoughts, theories and anything else.
So starting on the foot I would like to continue, an actual post :D.