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In today’s article I’d like to pick something up from our latest podcast. During the hour-long conversation we briefly touched on how dungeon side quests could introduce different challenge tiers in dungeons. To illustrate what I mean I’d like to take you back to Module 1 and the original Malabog’s Castle. It’s probably still a little known fast that the dungeon features an optional boss. I couldn’t find a good description or video, but entering the long corridor on your way to Malabog you can choose to encounter the same group of adventurers that you also find within the “Cragmire Crypts”. To get an idea just look at this footage. The group, as usual, turns right after the stairs, but you can also go left, open a door and fight the optional boss.
Now the interesting part of all this is the rumors surrounding the competing adventure party. Back in Module 1, the bosses in MC used to drop important resources to craft best-in-slot weapons. And legend had it that killing the optional boss would enhance the drop rates of these resources. In the end it turned out to be a myth, but I actually like the idea. How about some dungeon side quests that tweak the difficulty of a dungeon, or, more precisely, takes a bit away?
Dungeons and Resources
Before I get deeper into the concept of side quests let’s talk about a major issue of dungeons and resources in Neverwinter. The devs pretty much can only design one piece of group content per module, if at all. They have tried to counter that by giving Underdark content or Illusionist’s Gambit different variants and reward tiers, but that hasn’t really helped to make the dungeons appealing to different kinds of players. Generally it’s really hard to find a challenge level that both pleases the endgame crowd while not excluding too much of your casual players. I’d say it’s even impossible. In the past we’ve talked about systems that could help with that issue, like adopting Mythic+ from WoW or some other type of tiered challenge.
I still like that approach. Giving players options to artificially increase the difficulty for more loot is great, and I’d very much like to see that. Side quests could kinda do the same, but subtract from the the challenge instead of adding to it.
Dungeon Side Quests
Within such a system, a dungeon would start at insane difficulty. The baseline would really be high, maybe even too much for “bis” teams. But then the dungeon would offer additional quests that “nerf” mobs, or bosses. Let’s say you run with a group that can’t possibly beat the first boss. How about an optional wing of the dungeon that you can clear and make the first boss substantially easier? Maybe at the end of the side quest there’s an item to loot that you can activate and that takes away half of the bosses HP, or whatever. What if there are five of those side quests, that take a couple minutes extra?
Options are plenty. You could make most mobs in a dungeon optional, but base boss strength on the percentage of them killed. Or let the groups clear repeatable mini-instanced quests for certain buffs. Suddenly teams could decide, based on their strength, to invest more time and make the dungeon beatable for them. You don’t even need to offer all side quests within a dungeon by the way. Players could also run additional dailies or weeklies that grant one-run buffs to them or the party.
That’s certainly a different approach, but could add more variety and tiered challenge to dungeons than what the devs have tried so far. Just to give you a more concrete example, let’s say you could choose to extend the elevator phases of Cradle. It would work like the vote in IG. After each phase, the team (or its queue leader) could choose to go through it again or move on. For each additional run, the Atropal’s HP would get increased slightly, but damage and the pull/push phase nerfed. Of course there’s diminishing returns involved so the more repetitions you do, the less effect they have.
That way, the fight would take much longer (additional elevator runs + more Atropal HP), but would become much more manageable (less lethal attacks + easy pull/push). It would obviously make dungeons much less of a make or break, but more a matter of how much time you’re willing to invest to beat the content. It could actually be an interesting way to introduce challenge tiers without having to design multiple dungeons. The best teams could just run Cradle like they’ve always done, but for less powerful teams suddenly a new avenue opens up. Combine that with a baseline difficulty that is a little bit higher than current Cradle and you even create a PVE race to the perfect completion (aka no side quests used). So what’s not to like?
More Content Without More Content
The one catch I see is that the devs repeatedly stated that they intentionally got away from these super hard, super long content. Apparently this game is mostly played by folks that log in at the evening, run a dungeon or two within an hour and log off. Side quests do not really fit that as they could extend dungeons significantly. Other than that though, I can’t really see any downside.
I think we can agree that Neverwinter needs more endgame PVE content. Since the Cryptic is unlikely to just double their dev team and suddenly be able to put out multiple dungeons per mod, they have to get a little creative. The side quests are an interesting concept that could both add to the longevity of content while at the same time make the hardest dungeons available to casuals that are willing to invest more time.
What do you think about the concept of side questing in dungeons or for dungeons? Do you like it or would you rather see something else in terms of dungeons and challenge? Share your thoughts on our social channels, in the comments below, or the corresponding thread on our message board!
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