Friday, December 14, 2007
The next bottleneck
The original World of Warcraft had a bottleneck: Around level 40 there were less quests than for the other levels, and most of them were neutral quests in Stranglethorn Vale. People playing alts, even if they switched faction, ended up doing the same quests over and over. And on PvP servers the concentration in Stranglethorn lead to lots of ganking there. But what I called the "Stranglethorn Hole" is gone since patch 2.3: More quests of that level range have been added, especially to Dustwallow Marsh. Other level 40 content that was barely used because it was elite had been made accessible by turning it into normal content, for example Stromgarde Keep in Arathi. And because level 40 quests now give more xp, and you need less xp to gain a level in that level range, the level 40 bottleneck is truely gone ... only to reappear at level 60.
If today you'd meet a level 60 character doing quests in Silithus or the Plaguelands or other spots that were popular pre-TBC, you'd think that the guy was either stupid or hadn't bought the expansion. Nobody is using the old content any more, because the quality of rewards in Hellfire Peninsula is so much better. Everyone leaves old Azeroth as soon as they reach level 58 and can use the Dark Portal. But of course the bonus to quest xp and fast leveling from patch 2.3 ends at level 60. And again both factions find themselves in the same zone, doing the same quests, as the devs took some shortcuts and created the same quests for Thrallmar (Horde) and Honor Hold (Alliance). After the second alt you'll start to hate the place. And even totally new players leveling up for the first time will feel that they are lacking options where to go at level 60.
Now for once the solution to the problem would be easy, as there is already sufficient level 60 content in World of Warcraft. The devs just would need to rework the old Azeroth level 58 to 60 content a bit to give out the same level of rewards that Hellfire Peninsula does. The huge gap in quality between old world and new world items was necessary when TBC came out, because the new world had to offer items that were attractive for people who spent up to 2 years already at the level 60 cap. But now that level 60 isn't special any more, the gap actually hurts the leveling process, because it limits people's options. For both new players and alts it would be better if there was a slower ramping up, maybe starting from the mid-50s, so that moving from the old world to Outland doesn't appear such a huge step. Players would need to buy the expansion to get past level 60 anyway; leaving the old world level 58 to 60 content comparatively unattractive, as it is now, serves no useful purpose. So I hope that one of the content patches before the next expansion contains some more remodeling of old world content in preparation of the future. If World of Warcraft really has a churn rate of 4% to 5% per month, in a year from now half of the players won't even understand why there are all those level 60 zones in the old world if they have so bad rewards. It's an oddity created by history, and the devs should fix it.