Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
On leveling speed

Rohan from Blessing of Kings has a brilliant short post on leveling speed, in which he observes that everyone thinks he has exactly the perfect balance between being a no-lifer and not being dedicated enough to be leet. But while that is as funny as it is true, I nevertheless think that there is also a good amount of personal choice involved.

My priest is still level 73, in a guild where the highest level guild member is 78. And I only got to 73 by taking Thursday and Friday off from work, and playing WoW all day. I draw a line at playing all night, I need my beauty sleep. :) But it is certainly true that I gain less xp per hour played than some other players.

I could cite many reasons for that, like me being an explorer, or me spending time to do things like leveling up tradeskills, or just traveling around, or doing other activities which might not have the perfect xp per hour ratio. But the fundamental reason behind all this is that I see WoW more like a game, or even toy, than like work or a sport. It is not that I wouldn't be capable to gain xp at a faster rate by doing more research, or concentrating on certain activities; it is that I wouldn't have that much fun doing so.

Nevertheless I totally understand the motivation of those leveling much faster than me, the achievement of server firsts, or wanting to get into raiding as fast as possible. I also understand the other extreme, for example my wife, who since I installed WotLK for her is soloing elite quests in Nagrand, saying that she doesn't like Northrend as long as it is so crowded. The thing is that there is no "one true way" to play World of Warcraft. In fact it is a big strength of the game that it can be played in so many different ways. Now if everybody understood that, and stopped calling each other no-life or slacker, WoW would be an even better place.
Seems like the lack of a gear reset in WOTLK is speeding up leveling a lot relative to the start of the Burning Crusade - Blizzard had no choice but to calibrate the first few zones for people in Outland quest greens, so a huge percentage of the population is way overgeared for this content. As a side note, since it now looks like a lot of guilds will burn through the new raid content much faster than they did in BC, I wonder if Blizzard will finally decide to release Heroic versions of the old world instances? It would be a good way to keep raiders occupied until they can get the new content patches out.
I agree completely with you Tobold on this one! If only people could accept that slower levelling, exploring and enjoying the game is as important to the person doing it as is raiding and beating the bigger-meaner-uglier end bosses first. WoW is so large, so filled with things to do and so varied in content that it's no wonder how it has millions of subscribers (I'm not buying that 11 mill, only as unique accounts which isn't the same as unique players. Multiboxing seems to be so abundant...)

So Blizz could dedicate one team to please the casual explorers (more tweaking and new quests in the earlier content) and one for the level cap raiders (more challenges to be nerfed for us 'slackers' later on). Everyone could live happily together. Of course, were they clever, they'd make the lower end population able to support the higher end population...

Great post today. There is a balance there, but there is also a lot of low hanging fruit. Doing some of the things you can do daily or weekly for better than average xp is also a good habit to get into. Levelling slowly isn't a bad thing. Being an idiot about on the other hand is.

I have had guys in AOC apprentice me then want to come help with my quests. The whole point of the apprentice system is to get to a higher level, do the harder quests and get the larger XP. If you do the current level quests, you get less XP because you are artificially a higher level. Makes no sense at all.
I still feel bad about leveling slow. Today the 4th guild member hit 80, and I just feel the pressure acutely since 10 mans will most likely being once...well, we have 10 80s. Since I chose to level a DK instead of head straight to Northrend I am only level 71, which I just dinged tonight. Bad memories of the "A" and "B" kara teams still remind me that coming up second is ugly. And hell, my guild is very casual and egalitarian. Great nice folks, just the way it worked out...
I've found the quests to be much better in this expansion. More emersive and plenty of hints of things to come later as you level up.

As someone touched on in an earlier blog post, the damage and mitigation scheme is way out of whack since the changes were introduced via the 3.0 patch. I should not be able to kill a level 77 mob at level 70 and survive. Crafting is also much easier this time around. I managed to hit 447 Blacksmithing in the first 20 hours of playtime in the expansion, and just tonight I crafted the Epic shield for a guildmate who is breezing thru heroics, and doing so while still wearing level 70 gear.

There is something inherently wrong with this scenario, and I think burnout will occur much sooner with this expansion than as with TBC.
I've been thinking a bit about how people perceive themselves regarding being a no-lifer or not also. The thing I'm wondering is, when does one realize that you are that "hardcore"? You say that everyone thinks that they have a perfect balance, which might be true to the majority. But at some point someone must understand that they are spending much much more time than the avarage player and think that they are actually more or less such a no-lifer. But when is that? Does the most hardcore players like the ex-Nihilum players (25thnovember or whatever the name is) still not think that they are that hardcore so to say?
Look forward to Icecrown and Storm Peaks, there are lots of quests chains there with interesting lore, and Storm Peaks is bee-yoo-tee-fool! I don't regret going the no-lifer route (I dinged 80 last night) at all, it was worth it for those two places alone. It is entirely true what has been said about quests being more immersive, WotLK really put the RPG into MMORPG, at least by current MMO standards.

I found levelling to be much more enjoyable this time around due to what I already said, and that coupled with my t5/t6 gear on the outset made levelling a breeze, just as you said. You also said that attitude plays a role too, some people don't mind spending all night on a game (when they get the chance) and I'm glad you got nothing against that, it's refreshing to hear from someone who doesn't see the world in just black and white.
I think leveling is pased out correctly. I'm only level 72.5 right now. Casually playing for 2 hours a day nets me about .5 a level. Meaning I'll be 80 in about 20 days. Actually I wasn't able to play a lot this weekend, but this coming weekend I'll be playing a lot, so I'll probably ding 80 with in 2 weeks. 2 weeks to 80 seems about right. Although we had level 80's after 48 hours and level 80 death-knights after 72 hours, those extremes shouldn't be used in consideration to how long the average person will take to level. On a side note I'm not even done with the quests in the Howling Fjord, and I don't plan on leaving until I get the achievement. Probably around level 73/74. I did spend a lot of time in the dungeons however. Once I roll an alt through here I'll go on the other side of northrend and quest there.
stop... it... must... resist...
i just got my 5 months key ring, reading this blog is bringing the urge back...
no! no! no more bland gameplay! no more nonexistent character depth! no more meaningless decisions!

...but they have vikings now...

oh the dramah!!!!
I am really enjoying the leveling this time around. It seems that with the changes to XP and 3.0 DPS upgrades you really have options on where to go and how long to stay there.

At 77 yesterday I left Zul'Drak, as it was getting kind of crowded as the mass of 75-77 players hit that area, and went off to Ice Crown Glacier. It was much less crowded and I had no problem completing a series of level 80 quests there before I headed off to say hello to Nesingwary.

By the way Blizzard is just being showboats now with this new technology that allows them to show two players two different things on their screens at exactly the same spots. There were quite a few times where NPCs appear and mobs dissappear. Even an entire quest hub complete with flight path and an inn simply appears out of thin air where once there was only a blank spot in the ground. It is really cool to say the least.
It's always humorous reading the posts on the o-boards where the hardcore and casuals rip each other to shreds, essentially for no bigger crime than playing the game differently. It's bound to happen in a massively multiplayer universe. The way around it is to care less about what others think and do. A lot of people find that challenging ... not just in Warcraft, mind you, but also in real life: there are many people who are addicted to the RL rat race of keeping up with the so-called "Joneses", are very focused on other's opinions of them, how they compare to others, whether the overall result is "fair" and so forth. I have found both in games and in life that things are more enjoyable if I am able tune out the buzz, focus on what I find rewarding, interesting or fun, and not worry about what others are doing, whether they are ahead of me or behind me or what have you. Sometimes this is easier said than done, and at other times it's a downright bad idea, but when it comes to gaming it seems to work well for me.


Having said that, when an expac is done, it's hard to get the balance right in terms of speed and challenge. As I see it the three main options are: (1) make the content challenging for people who had very good gear/stats prior to the expac release, (2) make the game playable for people who are leveling through naturally from pre-release max to post-release levels, and (3) reset the gear and stats for the expac. Each of these has costs and benefits.

The first approach keeps the entire game interesting and challenging for the best-geared and most motivated players. The price, which is a huge one, is that everyone else is left behind unless they first complete the pre-expansion material to gear themselves up adequately to take on the challenges of the expac. In effect, this makes the expac a product designed primarily for the game's elite class. Some games have followed this model in the past, but a company with Blizzard's business plan of attracting and retaining a huge audience is very unlikely to follow this approach.

The second approach is what we see in LK: the gear rewards for much of the leveling in Northrend are trivial for people in good level 70 epic gear. The content is quite easy to plow through as well. That's because it's tuned to be doable by people who are coming to Northrend in Outland greens. The issue, however, is that the most dedicated gamers feel a lack of challenge and lose interest.

The third approach is what we saw in BC: the stats and gear were reset, meaning everyone had to grind new gear for the new content. The advantage of this is that everyone basically starts again. The disadvantages are that the most dedicated gamers feel robbed of their earlier achievements, on the one hand, and that the game balance needs to be completely redone, on the other. It was not a terrible solution for BC, and on balance it may be the best solution overall, but it does involve more work and redesign effort, and it's pretty unlikely every expansion will be handled this way.

These three options directly impact leveling speed, and people's perceptions of the speed. I think that LK leans towards being easier (for anyone who had good 70 gear), and perhaps errs too much on this side when it comes to the current endgame instances. But the speed is what you make of it. The content can be enjoyed at any speed -- but it should be noted that due to the lack of a gear reset, it can also be completed at blazing fast speed, if a player wants to do that.
I generally lose interest in a character not too long after hitting the level cap, since I don't raid or arena, so I'm certainly in no hurry to hit that wall. Questing and exploring is fun and I switch between characters, so I won't be hitting 80 anytime soon and that's perfectly fine with me.
Leveling seems much faster 70-80 than it did 60-70. My theory is that it's just the pure volume of quests and how easily they stack. Blizz severely reduced a lot of the hassle of travel and other hindrances that used to unnecessarily make questing less fun (unneeded holdovers from old MMOs like EQ, in my opinion). I'm happy with the early content being easy (as I said on my blog, it's not surprise that Wrath's easy content is easy), but we'll see how people feel when they get to the content that's supposed to be at least a little bit challenging. I expect I'll be happier with the entry-level raids if they are easier to begin with than Kara was.
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