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The Shattered Timeways: A Caverns of Time Dungeon

Last time I talked about World of Warcraft, I argued why legacy servers are an awful idea. Let’s just be honest: vanilla Warcraft was a mess. Sometimes I wonder how the game survived that first year, but I digress.1

With patch 5.0.4 out the door and Mists of Pandaria on the way, players seem to be clamoring for a return to classic; it’s probably just the same dozen people who have been posting on the forums about it for the last year, but whatever. Last time, I made mention of what Blizzard can do to appease to the players who want legacy servers—why would anyone want that?—without actually providing legacy servers. Blizzard actually has the means of accomplishing this, as I’m about to suggest a new dungeon set in the Caverns of Time.

Think about it: the Caverns of Time is a great way for Blizzard to return to vanilla Warcraft without devoting the resources to maintaining the hardware to run a vanilla Warcraft server. It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

Oh, and in case it’s not obvious: The Shattered Timeways is NOT a real dungeon… yet.

When I spoke to players about what they missed from vanilla Warcraft, the overwhelming majority of them talked about epic quests. Quests such as The Fallen Hero of the Horde, The Missing Diplomat, The Scepter of the Shifting Sands. They also talked about how raiding was harder. My hypothetical dungeon concept for The Shattered Timeways returns to those epic moments. We’ll revisit the epic quests, we’ll revisit the old raids, and we’ll get a splash of lore thrown in for good measure.

The premise for this dungeon is that someone has been mucking around with various timelines, shattering them into fragments. To what end, the Bronze Dragonflight doesn’t know. That’s why it’s up to intrepid adventurers like us to go in there and loot all the bosses investigate the issue, putting the pieces back together.
Also, we’ll be going in there with item level 463 gear, which would place this either as a heroic dungeon or challenge mode in Mists of Pandaria; the actual item level on the gear is largely irrelevant, it’s just a framing device.

Timeway: The Great Masquerade

Players take the role of Alliance heroes! Mechanically, they’ll be jumping into vehicles with abilities reminiscent of the old ways, as many vanilla abilities have either been removed or heavily reworked. The vehicle concept also enforces actual vanilla group compositions on the players; this is something that must be done, because things have changed since vanilla to make every class viable for each role.

Tanks will control a Warrior, as every tank in vanilla was a warrior. Healers will control a Priest, because the only class worthy to heal anything was a Priest. DPS will have to fight over who gets to play the Rogue, who gets to play the Hunter, and who gets to play the Retribution Paladin; the Paladin has the added caveat of buffing the group with blessings, which will only have a 5 minute duration.

In this Timeway, adventurers will find themselves escort Marshall Windsor through Stormwind, walking from the gates to the keep. Once there, Windsor exposes Lady Prestor as the black dragon Onyxia. She then reveals the Stormwind Guard to be disguised dragonkin, and a fight breaks out to secure the keep. Windsor dies, dropping the Drakefire Amulet when he does… except, that’s how it’s supposed to play out. Whoever is meddling with time has summoned healers, and they are keeping Windsor alive! To restore the timeline, the group must slay the healers, defeat the black dragons, and then kill Marshall Windsor themselves.

This event was selected because it was a very visible quest. It’s a group of 20 or so players escorting an NPC through Stormwind! All the guards along the way stop what they’re doing to comment about it or salute to Windsor. It all comes together with the battle in the keep. Alliance players saw this frequently because they were either turning quests inside the keep, exploring (because things were still new and worth exploring), or because they followed the pack of legendary players there. This is what most Alliance players remember about the Onyxia key quests, because this is what most of them ever got to see. At the same time, Horde players who never played Alliance and got to see the event can do so; Horde players had an entirely different (and far more infuriating) quest chain for their Onyxia attunement.

This Timeway serves as a reminder of that great moment, without any of the drawn out bullshit that comes before it. Nostalgia to 11 for this one.

Timeway: The Firelord

Emperor Daugrin Thaurissan has summoned the Firelord. Adventurers have to put a stop to the ritual before it’s too late, and banish Ragnaros back to the Elemental Planes so we can venture there six years later and kill him for realsies.

In this Timeway, players will be transported to Lower Blackrock Spire where they will have to use an Orb of Dominion to mind control a Scarshield Spellbinder. The Spellbinder then gives the party a buff that reduces fire damage by 90%. In the next room, players will find themselves in Ragnaros’ chamber in Molten Core—the two instances are merged for convenience. Ragnaros unleashes massive fire damage onto the party, meaning that players MUST use the Orb to gain the buff in order to survive. In addition, when Ragnaros dies, this item will always be on his loot table:

Your group does not have an appropriate class to redeem this token.

It could be worse: paladin pants could have dropped.

This encounter was selected because not many players raided Molten Core when it was the “in” thing. What many don’t know is that Priests had to Mind Control one of the Spellbinders in LBRS for a fire resistance buff. This is something that had to be done on each wipe in order for the group to have a chance. Nevermind that on a wipe, players would have to first run to Molten Core to retrieve their corpse the zone out and run to LBRS. With buff in hand, they then had to return to Blackrock Depths, which they needed to navigate and return to Molten Core.

Showing players how bad and broken old school raiding was and the lengths required to make it work is a great way of shattering their nostalgia and proving that modern raiding is leagues better than vanilla.

Timeway: The Gates of Ahn’Qiraj

Something about the Qiraj! Players are tasked with running around outside old Orgrimmar’s west gate, killing humanoid mobs in a severely time-twisted area. Their goal is to collect stacks of Runecloth. After players have collected thousands of stacks, they return to the Valley of Spirits to turn the cloth in. They then get rushed to the south gate and are dropped into southern Silithus. We’re there to open the gates, and we’re surrounded by hundreds of players—don’t worry, they’re actually just NPCs meant to simulate the presence of players. Also included in that simulation, us real players will teleport backwards 5-10 yards every 8-12 seconds while we run toward the gong. Several seconds after clicking it and watching the cast bar fill up, our character will swing the Scepter of the Sands, ringing the gong and causing a giant Silithid to come out. It’s a time-twisted Silithid!

This world event was selected because it is both what most players saw, and this is what many players did not see. For many servers, the war effort was the only part of the Scepter of the Shifting Sands that they ever saw. For them, the war effort was mostly just collecting cloth and turning it in. There were other ways of helping out, but this was the most accessible to most players as cloth from all level ranges was needed. It gave little level 10 Joe a way to take part alongside epic level 60 Steve. However, the opening of the gates was limited to the max level players who could survive in Silithus. So there’s a huge disconnect where an epic chain had mass exposure but minimal closure. It’s a great thing to show off.

Timeway: In the Shadow of the Necropolis

This last Timeway takes place in Eastern Plaguelands. The objective is to capture all the towers while fighting off NPCs of the opposite faction, so that you can get into Naxxramas with a damage buff. Inside is the last boss: the mastermind behind the shattering of these timeways! And, it’s is a DIRE TROLL. That’s a large troll. A giant troll. A symbolic gesture!

This last one was selected because it showcases the natural evolution of world PvP and how it was required to go raiding—a design philosophy that Blizzard would eventually abandon. It shows players that if they wanted to be successful in Naxxramas that they needed every advantage they could get, including this tower buff. For further OOMPH, the chest, helm, gloves, and legs should also be replaced with temporary, zone-specific super nature resist gear. This ensures that no tier set bonus can be active. Also, the replacement gear is ilevel 397, further showcasing how bad Blizzard’s raid design was and thus how much better it has gotten by comparison; if gear from the previous raid tier is better than the gear that is dropping in the instance, then there is something horribly wrong with either the instance or its loot.


  1. Header image is from Wowhead. Turns out the only screenshots I have of the Caverns of Time have a Blazing Drake featured prominently. I’m not above reusing those images, but the drake is too big to adequately showcase both it and the Caverns.

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