My goal with this Treatise on Occulus is nothing short of creating the definitive examination of what is wrong with the Occulus heroic dungeon and how the Blizzard developers might go about fixing it. This is not QQ. This is an acknowledgement of a problem that is very real and negatively impacts every WoW player who has ever used the new random dungeon finder. Though I do, of course, have personal feelings about Occulus, I will strive to look at this issue objectively; so that we might arrive at useful conclusions and solutions that could actually be implemented to improve the experience for every player, not just a niche. These solutions should help retain subscribers while improving the experience for the widest and deepest range of people.
But first: what exactly is wrong with Occulus? Depending on your attitudes toward the dungeon, you have undoubtedly experienced at least one of the following issues. But, as we will see, these tangible issues are all a manifestation of the same core problem.
- Painful grouping experiences: if you decide to “stick it out” and run Occulus with a poor pug, you have experienced this at least once. For reasons I will get into in the next installment, Occulus is in a league of its own when it comes to the potential for things to go wrong in a heroic. If you go with a good group, you’ve had some good runs of the place, but you’ve also undoubtedly had some bad runs, especially with PuGs.
- Leaving Occulus: On the opposite end of the spectrum, some leave the group immediately if they get randomed into Occulus, accruing a 15-minute penalty. This causes the next two:
- Getting ditched in Occulus: you may plan to stick the dungeon out, but too many group members leave as soon as they see which instance they got, leaving you stranded, and in the worst cases, waiting in Q through a procession of tanks who refuse to do Occulus.
- Getting Occulus when you random Q much more often than you get any other dungeon. I’ll explain the causes of this in Part 3, but it is a real and widespread phenomenon, and NOT a case of selection or perception bias. It is definitely actually occurring.
As you can probably guess, Problem 1) is the main cause the other three: people have bad experiences with PuGs in the dungeon, so many of them refuse to run it. But that is not the true cause. Problem 1) is the result of a more abstract Problem Zero: Occulus is a starkly different play experience than anything else you’ve ever done in your preceding WoW career.
This leads to two abstract sub-problems: Occulus is easier to screw up than any other heroic, and is more likely to be not fun for a given player than any other heroic (which is the other reason some players leave it immediately). If you got to level 80, you probably enjoy the normal WoW experience of using your class’s abilities in a 2D plane and running relatively linear dungeons made up primarily of hallways. However, your enjoyment of WoW gives absolutely zero indication of how much you will enjoy using a limited selection of unfamiliar abilities in an enemy-crowded 3-D environment (ie, riding the drakes).
We'll explore this idea further tomorrow in:
AToO, Part 2: “The New Heroic” & “Like a Different Game”