How Long Should Dungeons Take?

I’ve been trying to figure out the optimal length of a dungeon run. There’s a point beyond which the dungeon goes from "this is really fun" to "oh god I can’t escape and this is never going to end." It’s usually a hard line, too. It’s never a gradual process. One minute things are great, and the next minute it’s a life-draining death march from which you can’t escape.

For me I think that mark is around 30-35 minutes. That’s about the maximum amount of time I can stay focused and alert in a dungeon run. After that I just want it to be over. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never particularly pushed myself to do a lot of raiding. (The other reason being it’s hard to find guilds that are serious enough to complete raids, but casual enough not to be elite jerks about it.)

Case in point: The other day, I did a dungeon run of Aurum Vale in FFXIV. It’s a level 47 dungeon that most people just skip since they’re so close to 50 by then, but I needed it for a Grand Company quest. After the usual interminable DPS wait in the queue*, I entered into a group with a tank and healer duo who were pretty awesome. They explained everything at every step and we had no wipes and zero problems on any trash or bosses. But … it took about 50 minutes to get through the whole dungeon. Once I crossed that magic threshold, suddenly all the amusing inside jokes between the tank and healer stopped being funny. The perfectly executed trash pulls became excessively cautious and time-consuming. The excellent explanations of boss mechanics became tedious and verbose. When the last boss died, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, because I finally felt like I was free of my prison and had my life back again.

Or, it’s probably just me.

* One of the most awesome-est things about FFXIV, though, is that you can actually play and level on a different class while waiting for a dungeon queue. I’ve wanted to be able to play alts while waiting for queues ever since the dungeon queue was first invented.

3 thoughts on “How Long Should Dungeons Take?”

  1. Aurum Vale’s probably not the best test scenario: that dungeon is miserable regardless of time spent. If you managed to squeak in under 40 minutes, it’d still have been hella-tedious for the last twenty minutes or so. Sunken Temple of Qarn is pretty similar, and I hear similar complaints about Pharos Sirius. There’s still just a surfeit of trash mobs and too many minibosses, and a lot of unforgiving mechanics that are unpleasant for the unaware.

    Contrast Stone Vigil, or the Labyrinth of the Ancients, both of which can easily get into the 45-50 minute range, but can stay interesting and reasonable for most of the run. ((Not always the /good/ kind of interesting, in the case of the Labyrinth, but that’s more a fault of pick-up raids than of the time period.))

  2. That is a very situational question.

    For our regular Saturday night group, I am happy enough going to the 90 minute mark, after which things start to drag a bit. Usually we have a rule about how many tries we give a boss before we call it a night, if wipes are holding us back. But I am not sure I am up to the multi-hour crawls that Wailing Caverns and Uldaman used to require back in the day.

    On the other hand, leveling up through a game using random dungeons, spending time with strangers starts to lose its luster after 30 minutes or so, unless it is a particularly good group.

    But, with the regular group, 30 minutes isn’t enough. It feels like we haven’t even gotten started. I am not sure our regular group can ever go back to 1-60 WoW because most of the instances are now setup as 15 minute romps that are almost parodies of their difficulty back in the day.

  3. Both good points.. It definitely depends on the dungeon and the people you’re playing with. (And since you mentioned it, I also thought Qarn was pretty long.)

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