Why MMO Dungeons Are Irrelevant & 5 Ways to Change Them

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I stand my ground in front of the hulking monstrosity, blocking every blow from his giant axe. The mages in my party weave complex spells of healing and destruction, and eventually the monster is no more. On his corpse I find a long-lost relic of significant power, and I resolve myself to use it. A day later, the process repeats, and I wonder if I’m stuck in some kind of time loop.

Everyone who has ever played a role-playing game is familiar with the concept of dungeons. They litter the landscape of games – from tabletop to MMO – with promise of forbidden loot and difficult challenges. While standard MMO design approaches dungeons in a competent and straightforward way, all designs can be improved. Dungeons are no exception to this rule. They lack relevance for players that aren’t in the endgame, and their overly linear focus makes running them more rote memory than skill.

As they exist now, dungeons are fun. I can’t deny their appeal, and I enjoy running through the colorful environs and killing enemies that require teamwork to down. I did dedicated raiding and heroic dungeons on my World of Warcraft main, after all. As I implied in my exploration article, however, there’s more to fun than just moving like a rat through a designer-made maze. Give players greater freedom, and they will gobble it up. So while dungeons are serviceable, I think they can be better. If you don’t, feel free to let me know just how wrong I am in the comments!

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2 Comments on Why MMO Dungeons Are Irrelevant & 5 Ways to Change Them


On February 8, 2013 at 11:43 pm

The best dungeons I’ve been in have all been a part of the original EverQuest. They were massive maps with different paths, different endings, different styled areas, paths that went down and up rather than a straight line. They were large, confusing and very fun.

Modern dungeons are a straight line from A to Z, but then again, so are the games. You follow the set path of this quest to that quest, to this quest hub to that quest hub, until you hit the end. Freedom has gone from almost all new MMO’s, until the developers can open up the actual worlds, the parts inside those worlds, the dungeons, are going to be just as linear as everything else.


On February 9, 2013 at 6:27 am

I’ve played World of Warcraft for several years, and being a dedicated healer I’ve always enjoyed dungeons more than anything else – and yet I agree with your points. Personally, my favourite dungeon areas were Blackrock Dephts and the Dire Maul complex (East, West, North): vast, diverse, with extraordinary landscapes and many different challenges. Bar fight? Check. Arena? Check. A run when the party had to avoid the bosses instead of killing them? Check! It was extremely rare to find a group wishing to do it all, but the very few times I could clear the entire DM and BRD with decent parties were some of the best hours I’ve spent in WoW.

Of course, such dungeons fell out of flavour. The Burning Crusade still had some interesting ones (and a great raiding dungeon, Karazhan), but The Wrath of the Lich King consisted pretty much on short, linear and pretty much irrelevant dungeons.