The stress of new instances

Arbitrary at Nerf the Cat writes an impassioned post about how miserable she felt when being rushed through a dungeon that she hadn’t seen before.

We’ve all been there. I know I have. That moment when the initial euphoria of ‘Yay! I have a group and am going to a new instance’ fades to the mild panic of, ‘Where did everyone go? Wait, what’s that? Why did none of these tossers tell me that add had to die first? I’m lost, oh shit. I hate you all! Why am I so rubbish?’ etc. I remember feeling a bit stressed out the first time I went to Gunbad because people were running off and not explaining what was going on and I was struggling to keep up and process it all. And that was with friends, just not at my pace.

This isn’t just a gaming issue. It’s very easy in any new situation to tip the balance between learning how to do new stuff and feeling panicky and out of your depth. It happens any time you end up in a new job and it can be down to daft things like not being able to find the stationary cupboard or accidentally using the wrong mug for your tea (some people are … uh … surprisingly proprietorial about random inanimate items).

Just in games you have to deal with other players and they’re often impatient and lame. And the thing is, it’s just as frustrating when the rest of the group is too slow for your pace too. I have run in groups where the tank took several minutes before every single pull — maybe because they were a bit nervous (which is fine), or maybe because they were a TOTAL CONTROL FREAK and wanted to give everyone else detailed instructions all the time (less fine).

It’s not been such a big deal for me in WoW because,

  1. like Arbitrary, in this game I run new instances with groups of friends/ guildies and we stop to talk about stuff when we aren’t sure what to do. I’m also very familiar with the game and its conventions (stuff like aggro ranges, being able to avoid casters by getting out of their line of sight, spotting a void zone from 20 paces, etc.)
  2. In WoW, I play a tank. So I set the pace. Also, I have loads of armour and a shield and a healer who is supposed to be healing me so I’m set, dunno about the rest of them  🙂

I was thinking about this the other day when one of my guildies, who also plays a warrior, asked me if I ran the level 80 instances as a dps spec to learn them before I started tanking.

I didn’t, but I understand where that comes from. I had the advantage of levelling at the start of the expansion so when I was learning the new instances, so was everyone else. She was feeling a lot of pressure from PUGs to know those dungeons as well as someone like me who’d been running them for a few months already. Or rather, some of the PUG guys had been in groups where the runs went very smoothly and brought that expectation to her too. Except she’d never been there before.

That’s pretty darned stressful. And it’s common enough in WoW that it’s easy to understand why people like to lean so heavily on walkthroughs. I’m pretty sure we looked stuff up too for the bosses when we went though the first time. It’s not the same as really learning from scratch but no one likes to keep wiping. Thinking about it, it’s one of the fun things about non-WoW games when they are new. You really do get to learn the fights without the social pressure to just look it up.

It is true though that you can truck through instances as a dps and most of the time, it won’t matter if you know the place well or not. Stuff will be marked for you to kill, if you mention that you don’t know a boss someone will give you instructions. It isn’t like tanking (or healing) where to make the run smooth you need to memorise every pull and every patrol. I don’t mean that a savvy dps who knows an instance backwards can’t be amazing to have along — just my experience on my widgy warlock is that no one really cares. I can just tag along and DoT stuff, and as long as people see my pet and get their buffs (well, soulstones/healthstones in this case) no one will ever stress me out.

And in the worst case, if you die you’ll just get ressed afterwards and it won’t be a wipe.

Having said all that, there’s a point where you just have to put on your big girl pants,  go tank the new instance, and have confidence in your ability to handle anything unexpected that happens due to you not knowing the place.

As a healer though, you’re stuffed, and most players are not good at briefing new healers (as a tank, people will at least tell you where the patrols are if they remember). The only way to really learn where the heavy proactive healing is needed is either to get it wrong at least once or be on a class that can switch it up with some emergency heals. Knowing this, I do try to check that my healers are OK with the pace if it’s an instance they don’t know. I try to be aware of which mobs hit me the hardest so I can let them know, because walkthroughs won’t always mention that.

And as for my guildie, I told her to grab her tanking gear and I respecced dps to do the run with her, so I could let her learn to tank the place but give some helpful pointers from the easy seats.