Posted by: Sean | February 13, 2009

Instance Design – Caverns of Time: Gnomeregan.

OK, this is going to be a long post. But for a long time I’ve been trying to think: How would I design an instance to allow good role-play? How can this be done without getting in the way of non-role players? What options are available to us to accomplish these goals?

As a way of trying to explore this, I’m going to be writing up, piece by piece, what my design brief for an instance I’ve long pondered; the Caverns of Time: Gnomeregan.This is basically a massive scale, “Sean rants about game construction and puts forward unlikely ideas about how to structure Warcraft for improved role-playing experience” excepts with more gnomes.

I hope you enjoy it.

— —

Design Brief: COT Gnomeregan.

Design goals:

  1. Provide players with a chance to ‘be there’ at one of the major lore events of Warcraft.
  2. Show the Gnomeregan instance within a different and larger context; letting players re-experience their own old memories, and;
  3. Create a raid-level instance designed to facilitate role-playing while not interfering with the experiences of others.


1. The central appeal of the Caverns of Time instances is their ability to place the player in an often-talked about part of the World of Warcraft history, letting them experience it first hand. Gnomeregan is a particularly important event for the Alliance and is probably the only major part of the gnome’s lore. This instance will also therefore allow us to expand the Lore for that race and give them more grounding in the World of Warcraft history.

2. While not exactly one of the more celebrated early instances of Warcraft, Gnomeregan is one of the most memorable. Our goal should be to use as much of the original instance’s architecture as possible, but retextured, repopulated and re-lit. Ideally, players should only declare, “Hey, I know where we are!” for a few minutes after being there. They should also have as much time as possible to explore these areas and ‘drink them in’.

3. This is also a proof of concept, showing that an instance can be designed with role-players in mind. To help this, two basic notions will be adhered to: First, the game will work at the players’ pace as much as can be managed. Events should occur at a PC trigger, such as opening a door, pushing a button, or killing a particular character rather than occurring after entering a room, arriving at a location, or based on a timed point. Second, players will be given a basic structure with enough plot to satisfy non-role players, but the event should otherwise have minimal plot – Role-playing players will be given room to move in constructing their own.

(Sadly, the bus I’m on has become awfully crowded due to a previous bus breaking down and people switching. I don’t really have room to type now. More will come later; please feel free to leave comments below!)


  1. Yes! I have always wanted this instance. It would be excellent for the Gnomeregan storyline to be developed.

    Looking forward to seeing the rest of this post 🙂

    – miss elf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: