HoTs and DoTs: A Restoration Druid and Shadow Priest

The Steamvault Revelation, Knowledge Transfer and Level Design

The Steamvault

The Steamvault: Have you been doing it wrong too?

I’m currently clearing Heroic Steamvault each day for a chance at the rare tailoring pattern. The helm model that I would like to own for my future transmogrification look comes in two items available to me, as a Priest. The Battlecast Hood is one of those items.

The Battlecast Hood pattern eluded me, and Lathere for that matter, all the way through the Burning Crusade. It drops off the very last boss in The Steamvault, a level 70 dungeon and like many tasty patterns of the era its chance to drop in Heroic mode is higher than its chance to drop in Normal difficulty.

The Level 70 Approach to The Steamvault

I spent quite a lot of time in The Steamvault during the Burning Crusade. I do remember lots of important things about the instance and some not so important things. I know that the first Naga boss, Hydromancer Thespia, insults you by calling you a “warm blood”. I remember quite keenly the exact position of the chest you open to retrieve part of the Karazhan attunement key quest even though I only did it once or twice myself.

At the time we most certainly did not have dungeon maps. Click your map shortcut while inside The Steamvault during the Burning Crusade and you would have been presented with a map of Zangarmarsh helpfully reminding you that you are, in fact, still inside Coilfang Reservoir. No kidding.

These days The Steamvault has a map. It’s actually quite helpful and shows me that the first cavern you walk into is huge and that there are three bosses. It doesn’t tell you what order to kill those bosses or how you should get to them.

The Steamvault dungeon map

The Steamvault dungeon map

When I returned to The Steamvault at level 85 I came back without a tank. It’s easily solo-able. I’ve actually never played a tank.

I started clearing mobs just in the same fashion that I would have with a group at level 70: hug the right wall and kill the giant marshy dudes. Soon you reach a pivotal point. You have a pack of 5 Naga on your right, guarding a corridor entrance and behind those 5 are a smaller group of Naga that patrol said corridor. I know this well.

This was often the first wipe for a group of level 70s. If you took a step too far away from your hug-wall position you risk pulling extra groups. The Naga groups are filled with a nasty mix of melee and spell-casters, some of those spell-casters will heal and some will fear you to hell and back if you let them. The general method of dealing with this tricky spot was to kill both the 5 Naga protecting the corridor and then quickly kill off the patrol (someone would inevitably pull them anyway) just to create some breathing room.

You see, I never once, ever, actually went down that corridor with a group. You would only clear the entrance but instead of turning south to follow the corridor down you cut clear across to the north side of the cavern and kill the previously mentioned “first” boss. I never questioned this. I certainly never questioned why we would hug the wall and then madly dash to the opposite side. I just assumed, as a new player is likely to do, that we were following the most direct and efficient path through the instance.

After killing the first boss, and clicking the weird Naga organ looking thing behind her, you then jump into the lake and swim down a winding tunnel, do a near 360 degree turn up a winding ramp and head left to kill the “second” boss. Again activating the weird Naga organ looking device behind him.

Then you backtrack most of the way and hang a left and-

You Are Facing the Wrong Way

This is when I realised that something was off. From this point on and towards the now unlocked last gate/boss of the instance all the mobs are facing the wrong way. They are expecting you to come from the other direction. They are not involved in some kind of RP. They are not yelling at their slaves. They are quite simply set up to be approached from the other direction.

How did I never notice this?

All this time… The Steamvault has been designed so that you clear these mobs from the other side of the corridor. It must be designed that way. If the designers intended us to approach the instance in the same manner that is commonly held to be the one true way they would have faced the mobs towards an approaching party of heroes.

I wish I could put some kind of spin on this (you know, we’re sneaking up on these stupid, unsuspecting Naga) but finding these mobs facing backwards just pulls me right out of the game play. Whatever the opposite of immersion is… well I’ve felt it. Felt it while staring into the back of these Naga.

Level Design

Something has clearly gone wrong. Well, not “wrong” but not as intended. Clearing jumping into the lake and swimming up a tunnel is some kind of shortcut – although not one I would recommend if you can’t turn into a mutated seal or walk on water – and perhaps there is a more intuitive, slower, method to navigating The Steamvault.

Fortunately for me – and you! – I have had many nights since to ponder the map of The Steamvault.

For starters I don’t believe that hugging the right wall through the first cavern is necessarily the intended method of clearing the start of The Steamvault. Frankly you can’t see shit. Your camera, no matter what distance you like to set it to, is always covered in moss and shrubbery. The walls aren’t straight which is mildly annoying. And it’s very easy to step right onto an enemy mob. And that’s at level 85! I’m sure I must have proximity pulled at least once doing this at level 70.

Unfortunately center of the cavern is patrolled by a group of fast moving Water Elementals. And I think this explains so much of how The Steamvault came to be Hug The Wall Vault. At level 70 you had to use Crowd Control to get through an instance like The Steamvault without losing your tank. And having mobs that will heal and/or fear you just make that even more important. But, at the time, Elementals were immune to near abouts all methods of Crowd Control. I think Druids could banish them or something but I only ever ran with Druid healers and usually asking your healer to CC was asking for no heals and certain death in the near future.

So in order to avoid a group that couldn’t easily be CCed, groups started killing off the Naga packs and giant moss lurkers (or whatever they are!) on the right side.

I did eventually take that corridor to the right (instead of dashing across to the “first boss” across the lake front) and cleared the way, face-to-face with my enemy. Surprisingly, it leads to the locked door sealing the final boss away from sight. But you can follow the path further and clear to the “second boss”. This way all the mobs are facing forward.

Could this be what was intended? Clear the center of the main cavern, turn left/north and kill a boss, walk south and enter the corridor go past the final gate and continue on to another boss.

Either method leaves you to backtrack. In fact the path I describe directly above contains quite a lot of backtracking. It sure as hell contains a lot more enemy Naga than the one used in practice.

And why create a way to swim to the mechanical “second” boss if you don’t want players to use it?

Knowledge Transfer

All these leads back to my hazy thoughts on knowledge transfer between players. I may not have been at the forefront of dungeon goers at level 70 but I certainly wasn’t months behind the rest of the server.

And even if you factor in all the reasons why it was hard to share knowledge:

  1. No cross-server dungeons
  2. No Dungeon Finder
  3. General unwillingness of tanks to tank for anyone outside their guild
  4. No call-to-arms
  5. Player trend to invest in one main and not alts

I can’t quite figure out how I learned my method of clearing The Steamvault. By the time I joined a group, and I don’t even remember the occasion, someone in that group already knew the way and I followed them blindly. That someone must have been a PuGed tank (possible but unlikely) or perhaps a more knowledgeable guild member who had PuGed with others.

I Blame The Internet

Blizzard have long pointed to the advent of knowledge sharing amongst the raiding community as a reason for the divide between memories of difficult raid content and actual difficulty of more recent raid content. The argument goes something like this (numbers below are made up):

At the time of Molten Core:

  1. Only 5% of players were experienced with the raid content in Molten Core
  2. There were fewer servers and overall much fewer players
  3. Guilds had not yet established long histories of credibility and authority
  4. Thus less people have first hand experience that they can turn into a boss strategy guides for other guilds
  5. Thus even fewer people knew whose strategies and guides were worth following

At the time of Icecrown Citadel:

  1. Close to 75% of players are experienced with the raid content in Icecrown Citadel
  2. Less than 2% of current players are both experienced with the raid content of Icecrown Citadel whilst also having played in Molten Core in its day
  3. There are more servers and high subscription of players
  4. Many guilds are established and have long histories proving their credibility and authority
  5. Many people are experienced first hand and are knowledgeable enough to put together a thorough boss strategy guide for other guilds
  6. Easier to establish credible guides and to watch them first hand from video capture

And of those 2% that experienced both raiding environments they compare the learning curve of figuring out their own strategy (Molten Core) vs following sensible suggestions from world firsts posted online within 24-48 hrs of the raid content being released (Icecrown Citadel) and mistakenly decide that the encounters in Molten Core must have been harder than the encounters in Icecrown Citadel.

I can see the reason in this argument and I think it’s absolutely correct – there’s just not a scarcity of raiding knowledge anymore.

And the only difference between the two scenarios is that we’re much less isolated to the knowledge available on our own server, the knowledge handed down to us from a Class Leader, and the knowledge that we learn for ourselves.

We take it for granted that bloggers and top players will share their knowledge, share their strategies, share their raid composition and share their expertise.

Dungeon Knowledge Transfer

And I think if it’s true of raiding, to a lesser extent, it’s true of the 5 man dungeon content too.

Although I do think that it’s almost taken for granted that guildies will consult another guild’s strategy guide before attempting a new raid boss (and I think that’s a shame). I don’t think it’s expected that players read up on a new dungeon before trying it firsthand.

While there are huge amounts of boss strategies for raids out there, Wowhead does a pretty good job of explaining how to defeat a bosses inside a dungeon. I guess dungeon bosses are just easier all around: less risk, less reward, less abilities, less phase changes etc.

It’s probably a good thing. I think I’d prefer to turn to a stranger in a 5 man and ask: “How do we defeat this boss?” and get a simple, straightforward reply that takes no more than a couple of lines of text.

It still doesn’t tell me what the original walk through of The Steamvault was. It doesn’t explain how the very first groups – with no outside knowledge – cleared their way through. Which way did they go first, instinctively? Which bosses did they kill first? Did they figure out the organ/gate unlocking mechanism? And it certainly will never tell me how we got from that to the widely accepted Hug The Wall + Water Walking approach that I take each and every night.

ps. No pattern yet :)


13 Responses to “The Steamvault Revelation, Knowledge Transfer and Level Design”

  1. jay (formerlychaotic on twitter)No Gravatar says

    Such a well written piece. I enjoyed reading this and the short trip down memory lane.

  2. AngelyaNo Gravatar says

    To be honest I did know at the time that we all did Steamvault the “wrong” way. I just assumed we always took the water shortcut because the other way involved killing loads more trash. I have no idea why they put the tunnel in but I always thought it was kind of neat that they did.
    I guess it’s similar to the way we always used to dash across to the middle then the right side of the first big room in Slave Pens (where Ahune appears) to avoid wandering patrols and such. There are loads of mobs in that room that probably have never met adventurers!
    How did I learn to do the dungeons the way that everyone does them? Originally from my guildies who had done them already. I assume they got the knowledge in a similar way!
    Angelya’s last post: Get the Look: Additional Resources

  3. RedbeardNo Gravatar says

    You know what’s funny is that when I ran normal Steamvault when I was leveling a few of my toons, we never took the waterway. I didn’t even realize that was a shortcut until I started soloing those instances for rep at max level.
    Redbeard’s last post: Humor Alert: The Oatmeal

  4. KurnNo Gravatar says

    Chalk me up as another Hugger of Walls. I also have no idea how I learned that, but that’s what we did. We often did clear the trash up the ramp, though, after doing the “first” boss and hitting the switch, since most of us couldn’t water walk or swim quickly. I did go through the tunnel anytime there was a shaman who could water-walk us, though. It felt like I was sneaky or something! ;)

    Good luck on your pattern hunting and thanks for the post — interesting food for thought!
    Kurn’s last post: First Reactions to the Nerfbat

  5. The DewdNo Gravatar says

    I don’t know who first figured it out in my guild but we always did the wall-hugging thing, too. We’d clear the trash to that hallway, corner pull the hallway trash before the pat, kill the pat, and then use the hallway to LOS the next packs between us and the first boss. I think we *always* swam to the 2nd boss because it was “faster” or “has less trash to kill”, though I’ve heard that, even at 70, the time you gain by not fighting is lost by having to swim.

    Given that fewer trash pulls are, generally, faster than more trash pulls, I bet you’re right that people tried going straight through and just gave up. I remember those Naga packs being annoying, especially when you tried to pull without getting the elementals. (And for the record, Druids can’t do anything useful to elementals other than roots.) :)

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      Maybe I’m getting Druids mixed up with Warlocks or something :)

      I think – at the time – a slightly longer swim to the second boss was deemed safer than potentially wiping on more trash. The trash in SV was pretty punishing.

  6. FarfallaNo Gravatar says

    Also never used the Hug the Wall method. We always just cleared through the middle of the first room, went up the ramp, came back down the ramp, through the tunnel, on to the mechanical boss, and back to the final boss.

  7. PyrrhicNo Gravatar says

    Interesting. My experience running through Steamvaults on normal and heroic, on multiple toons, always involved going the “right” way – up the middle, left to the first boss, head back and then south the second boss, then walk back and move on to the third boss. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group that used the waterway to skip trash.

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      That’s amazing and very interesting to hear. I wonder if your server wasn’t “corrupted” by shortcuts. I’m sure a group going through now (haven’t not done it at level 70 en masse) would probably follow a similar path.

  8. RatshagNo Gravatar says

    Never pugged it, alwas ran with me small guild group. Since in them days we typicallies had a rogue and two survival hunters, we had cc comin’ out the wazoo. Our tank we’re also kinda anals about usin’ all his pullin’ tricks (such as they was in them days) fer ta force the mobs ta come ta him. So that may be why we always went left, killed the boss and played her organ, then up the ramp, bold as brass. Packs of trash jus’ didn’t intimidates us.

    Could also be ’cause we wasn’t all that bright. /shrug
    Ratshag’s last post: I Ain’t Nevers Gonna Understands Alliance

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      Oooh I wish I could have been with you and your tank and spit on those pesky Naga and Water Elementals! At the time I sucked at Sap (I was playing a Rogue) and I must confess that clearing the trash in SV intimidated the hell out of me ;)

  9. snuzzleNo Gravatar says

    The first few times I did SV, I was tanking and we did not hug the wall. I followed the straight path through the middle. I just didn’t see any other way. Then one time I healed it on an alt, and our tank hugged the wall.

    After that, sometimes I hugged the wall and sometimes I went through the middle.

    But I always, always went down that tunnel. And all my groups always, always went down that tunnel. I never even thought of jumping into the water.

    Of course, I’m not too keen on dungeon “shortcuts” even now. I refuse to PUG ZA because of all the groups who insist on getting water-walking just to skip a single trash pull. Not even on bear runs. I just don’t understand it.

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