One of the biggest problems with new expansion packs, is that it makes all previous dungeons completely useless.
When TBC came out, Old World dungeons/raids were no longer visited. When WOTLK came out, TBC dungeons/raids were no longer visited. And when Cataclysm comes out, no one will be visiting WOTLK/TBC dungeons any more.
A ton of hard work went into the design of these instances, it's a complete shame that they're no longer experienced.
Sure, they're fun for nostalgia, power leveling with help from high levels, and for twink gear - but let's be honest: they're complete ghost towns. When was the last time you saw "LFG RFK", "LFG ramps", or "LFG seth" in chat or tried to join a group using the Dungeon Finder?
Everyone skips old dungeons for leveling, because it's much faster just to quest or AOE grind - and the dungeon gear is a waste of time (if you can even find a party to help you out).
Cataclym will be introducing 6 new level 80-85 dungeons and 2 remade old instances. It's nice that they've remade a couple old instances but they still have the same problem. And, there are other ways to fix this issue rather than just releasing new dungeons each exp. pack or creating revised point systems (e.g., Justice/Hero/Valor points, etc.)
Here's the solution: make all dungeons scalable to the player's level.
There can still be normal (original non-scaled) dungeons, heroic dungeons (special tailored instances with slight changes to drops and boss mechanics), and then scalable dungeons. They could be renamed to "Original, Normal (scaled), and Heroic".
Boss mechanics in the new scaled dungeons will not even need to be changed, but it would still require algorithms to scale mobs and items drops. (I hear Guild Wars 2 will be introducing randomly generated loot which will be very interesting to see how well it works.)
The obvious issue is, "Well if you just scale mobs, then there's no challenge." Let's be honest.. there's not really a lot of creativity in any of the current dungeons nor is there any innovation in the new Cataclysm dungeons/raids. It's always the same tank-and-spank strategy over and over, with a couple little movement or time-based DPS games sprinkled in here and there. There's nothing clever about it.
With scaled gear, you can still have the same old equipment look (with or without a slightly different name) but with different stats scaled for the player. They've already been doing this experimentation with heirlooms, so it shouldn't be that hard to do it with old instance drops.
Just like player classes, dungeons should also have a "paper, rock, scissors" attitude. If you want players to visit old dungeons, give them a reason. For example, players can visit old dungeons to collect lower tiered gear that are required for special mechanics in higher-tiered instances. (Like collecting fire resistance gear for other instances - make it optional.)
Dungeon gear could be scaled for the player, just like quest gear (at the same level) is made available. Because of the challenges involved, there could also be small chances that more powerful gear stats would be dropped. There could also be special gear (for certain classes) dropped only in certain dungeons, encouraging players to try and find groups to visit specific old world instances. This would all be optional too - making it easier for newbies to get geared up for higher level raids.
Mandatory dungeon quests, however, should not be making a return. =]
So, here are some of the benefits with this new approach:
- Get players to visit old dungeons again, have fun, free up space, get geared up properly, and give players more options.
- Introducing drops for specific classes encourages them to find groups or give them a reason to return to old instances.
- Make it fun for players to collect special gear that makes it easier to survive other high-level encounters.
- New gear aesthetics not required. This gives players a wide variety of equipment "looks" (with similar stats) to prevent everyone from looking the exact same in capital cities.
Blizzard's approach is to simplify everything - removing tokens, emblems, badges, marks, coins, shards, etc. and just making 2 point systems for PVE and 2 point systems for PVP. But this is still only applicable for level 85's in the long run. Something must be done for players between 1-85 who want to do something different.
An alternative option is to allow players to collect Hero/Valor points from old dungeons, but a smaller amount. Level 85 dungeons will give large amounts of hero points for example, but visiting a level 70 dungeon or raid will give you a less amount. But the points can still be used for purchasing equipment at your current level or level 85 when you reach it. This would encourage level 85's to still visit (or solo) old world dungeons for points.
I have a feeling that we'll still be stuck in the same cycle though.. new expansion pack = all previous instances abandoned.