Tobold's Blog
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Approaching 80

Wrath of the Lich King has an extremely flat leveling curve, you only need 10% more xp to level from 79 to 80 than it took from 70 to 71. As the xp for quests and monster kills rise somewhat faster than that per level, leveling up gets actually *faster* the closer you approach 80.

My priest is level 78, and just started questing in Storm Peaks. I'll probably reach level 80 this weekend. Just by regular questing you easily make 300 kXP per hour, and as one level only takes between 1.5 and 1.7 million XP, it takes only 5 to 6 hours to level up, unless you are busy doing stuff that doesn't bring experience points. So I'll be 80 in less than 4 weeks after release, and that is still slow. Last night, according to WoWCensus, a third of all Horde players online on my server were already level 80. My guild is planning the first Naxx raid for Friday. Is leveling in Wrath of the Lich King too fast?

That question can only be answered with a counter-question: Too fast compared to what? It isn't too fast compared to the amount of leveling content offered. I'll probably hit 80 about the same time as I finish all the quests in Storm Peaks, which would be my 4th completed zone. So if I then play my next character from level 70 to 80, I can reach 80 by playing 4 completely different zones, and not do a single quest twice. Awesome! That is something I'm looking forward to.

What I'm not looking forward to is what to do once all my characters are 80. Yes, there will be heroics, raids, and other fun stuff to do. But after leveling to 80 in less than a month, chances are I'll be stuck for over 20 months *at* 80. So, compared to the time it takes Blizzard to release an expansion, that is to say the time you spend at the level cap, leveling *is* too fast. Even if I consider alts, I'll have seen all the zones and all the quests in two months, which is too short compared to a two-year expansion cycle. Blizzard would need to pull a rabbit out of their hat and release the next expansion in a year, but even the most ardent optimists don't believe in that one.

But then many people seem to enjoy fast leveling. With the reduced xp to level up to 70 now, you can create a level 1 character in World of Warcraft and level him to 80 faster than you can create a level 1 character in Warhammer Online and level him to 40. With a "the game begins at the level cap" attitude, faster leveling is better. But then, if leveling is just an obstacle on the way to the cap, why do we need it at all? Why not make a game like Guild Wars, where you can immediately create a max level character? I think in their haste to level up, a lot of people are missing a major fun part of the game. For me personally, leveling a bit slower would have been fine.
Foe me, levelling is the most fun part of the game. Running the same instances over and over at L80 gets old pretty quickly. Whilst you do repeat quests when levelling multiple alts, there's a far bigger gap between repeats than if you just stick with a L80 main.
Since I quit WoW after about 6 months of BC I became a dad, and now can't play the long hours I used to, in fact since WotLK came out I've levelled my priest to 70 from 68 in Howling Fjord, my Druid half way into 70 and taken a Deathknight to lvl 64, and I'll be honest I'm having as much fun as I've ever had playing WoW... I've accepted that I'm not going to hit 80 for a long time and it's taken the pressure off and now I'm playing for fun rather than to hit level caps and get raiding. having said that I'm enjoying the game a lot more for it!
Phew! I'm so tired playing these games like crazy that when starting to read this post I was wondering what "xp" means... I thought you're talking about Windows XP...

Do I need some sleep or what? lol
What exactly is the point of dragging out leveling? How many years of your life would you like it to take?
Why have levels? why have an end game? Why not something else?
Besides from being an obstacle, the level mechanic depopulates an entire world of content (or two as it is with WotLK)
My main just dinged 71 last weekend. Wife and me have opted for taking the looong route. Besides, we now play LOTRO most of the times so I am fairly relaxed. I have little interest remaining in Level 80 endgame, even though I'd have loved to see Naxxramas. Most likely our guild or random groups will still run Naxxramas in 1 years time, so I am in no rush.

My current preference with MMOs lies with crafting. That is my pride & joy at the moment. Next to that comes exploring. My rogue just rode through the landscape from Tundra to Fjord and loved the atmosphere, the thrill of riding through "higher level" content. WotLK is by far better than TBC. I therefore try to stretch the "joy" part (leveling + exploring) as far as possible.
"What exactly is the point of dragging out leveling? How many years of your life would you like it to take?"

What exactly is the point of rushing through content without even really looking at it or enjoying it? How many months are you planning on complaining that there is no content?
Pff, I have still a long way to go till 80: i have a mage at 71, which i stopped playing after i discovered the Deathknight.That one is at 70, nearly 71 right now. So, yeah i fall in the casual category :) (to illustrate further: to me, a player is pretty hardcore if he/she logs in on a daily basis:)) As the anonymous poster above me, i just play for fun regardless of level and i have no other goals in game. The whole 'working towards a goal' attitude reminds me too much of RL, which im trying to 'escape' from (quoted since otherwise it would sound a bit too dramatic..). Ill play as long as i have fun logging in, and this may be past the level cap (mostly doing BGs as i did as 70) or before. So to me the cap and the reaching of it is irrelevant.

All this makes me wonder though, if i have outgrown the MMO genre and am not a part of the target audience anymore, since i have so little gameplay time available.
Leveling is only as fast as you want to make it. In the broad scheme of things, its not a game mechanics issue, its a personal issue that is different for each and every person. There's people in my guild who are taking Northrend leveling nice and slow, and have just hit level 71, there's people who are enjoying leveling up a DK, there's people like me who thought they were going slow, but then hit 80 about three weeks after release and there's people who hit 80 the first weekend. I was in Thunder Bluff at the AH yesterday and some random level 10 player thought I was god because I was level 80 so quickly, I told him he has no guild master hit level 80 three days after release and others leveled even quicker.

Six months from now there will be players who still haven't hit level 80. So, its not a matter of if the game mechanics for leveling is too slow. No matter how fast or slow it is, there will always be people who will seem to level up insanely fast or very slow, its all personal preference. People should enjoy the game the way they want, to be honest.
@tobold: It has taken me weeks to get close to Level 72. I probably only play wow ~5 hours a week though, that is the key to slower leveling :)
There seems to be an assumption that content has to run out when you reach the level cap and that all that is left for max level players is raiding. This does not have to be the case. A well designed game can still provide lots of content for both solo players and groups after you reach the level cap. To take the example of Guild Wars (especially the newer campaigns) most of the story driven content occurs after you reach the level cap.

With this in mind I am in favour of fast levelling especially for expansions. During levelling it becomes hard for people at different stages on the ladder to meaningfully interact. The level cap is a great leveller and allows people to play together again. In a well designed game there can still be plenty of view to enjoy after the level cap.

By the way Tobold unless Guild Wars has changed a lot since I last played you can only create instant max level characters for the PVP game. For PVE you still need to level up. The levelling process is very short, a few weeks at most, so it functions as a kind of extended tutorial.
What exactly is the point of dragging out leveling? How many years of your life would you like it to take?

Leveling has more variety than repeating the same content over and over at the level cap. How many years of your life would you like the endgame to take? For me, spending half the time leveling and half the time at the endgame would be a good compromise. 1 month leveling and 23 months endgame is too unbalanced.
while im usually butt head with old toby here, i agreed WOTLK feel a bit too short, especially for player like me who loved to level every class to 70 and now to 80. i usually quit after i hit 80, hate the raid endgame / dungeons so the easier raid option is not for me.

to be honest the original WOW 1-60 and TBC 61-70 is better (imho)

ps: there tob, dont say im always trolling your forum lol
there tob, dont say im always trolling your forum lol

No, but I'd still say that most trolls post here under the name of anonymous. So to avoid confusing you with them, I'd still prefer if you'd call yourself something else than "anonymous". Did you know you can choose Name/URL in the comment dropdown field and just enter a name without URL?
The first time through new content, I think leveling is one of the funnest parts of the game. Let's be honest here: Blizzard's designers for the outdoor levels always do a very good job. Wrath is easily the best so far, with beautiful zones and a much-improved quest database. The quests tie together, the plot is compelling, and they make good use of some of the new tech like vehicles, phasing, and dynamically-generated objects. Remember blowing up the giant Jorumgar worm guy and collecting the meat? Very cool. Or, you know, that Wrathgate thing...

So given this, I find myself leveling relatively slowly. I'm also leery of the endgame that waits and I remember how much I started to hate 70, which makes me "sip" even slower. I would not mind at all if the 70-80 took a bit longer. I'm sure it could be constructed to be a bit tighter and not allow a whole zone (or two) to be skipped.

The problem for me, and many others that I know quite well, is what happens the next time through to 80. That's when it starts to chafe. Blizzard is moving a bit in the "variable grind" direction with the bind-on-account shoulders that grant an experience bonus, but it's only 10%, so it doesn't give them much wiggle room. Either the content is still going to take too long the second time through or the shoulders will make it too fast.
The problem is not the lack of content, or the length of leveling 70-80 but rather the community. WoW is a very competitive game. People compete for resources, first kills, pvp, arena, and raid spots. WotLK has atleast twice the amount of content it needs to level from 70-80. Blizzard could have made each level twice as long...why didn't they? Because there will always be hardcore players who speed level and blow threw content. If levels 70-80 were twice as long we would of saw our first 80 after 96 hours instead of 48. The more causal oriented player like Tobold who take 4 weeks to hit 80, now it takes them 2 months. The casual player is now almost two months behind the hardcore player.

Another example is me....I consider myself in between hardcore and casual. It took me slightly under 3 weeks to ding 80. I wanted to take it slow, and I did until about level 74 when I saw everyone else hitting 80 and running end game dungeons. I started hussling and by the time I hit 80 everyone is now running heroics and naxx. It is taking me forever to get regular dungeon runs together. Luckily I had gear good enough for the easier heroics.
I cant imagine why you would think levelling is too fast compared to long term end game shelf life. You blast through all this beautiful content that took years to design, then you want some more in a new expansion, or else
"levelling was too fast". You're prefectly welcome to take your time when levelling if you like to go slow... but the levelling experiences is the richest content around, takes major major development, and is very expensive to produce. I dont think you can say Blizz's content releases are too spread out. As to "the games begins at cap" each to their own, not everyone in wow plays the game the same way. Its not a generic design decision.
I think the gist of the post was that Tolbold is concerned with the amount of content there is/will be for the time while Wrath is the pinnacle. What I also sense is that A) doing leveling quests for Tobold at 80 isn't appealing (I have this same problem, which I'm trying to address), and B) he's concerned at the pace of content delivery AS WELL AS the pace it will take him to consume that content.

It's a valid concern based on past experience. However it seems like we've failed to grasp the change that has taken place. Mid-level players (skill wise) like myself now have a real shot at consuming ALL the content in the expansion instead of just a portion of it. So while the available content may be consumed faster, there is more of it available to me. Does that mean even mid-level players won't run out of content eventually? I don't know.

Personally, I don't think another expansion has to be delivered in the next year to address the issue, however major patch releases will have to be more frequent than in the past, or the difficulty level will scale to significantly slow progress to the point most people won't consume content faster than it's created. I'm of the opinion that both that major patches will be released more frequently than in the past, and that the difficultly will scale and slow progress.
While I think that unnecessary time sinks can become quite obvious(rep grinds for heroic keys in BC, stacked with insidious attunement requirements) and noticable, levelling is something that I dont pay much attention to in terms of how long it's taking me. The most obvious and glaring issue I see with the game is the "ease" of the mobs and dungeon encouters. Just last night, while at level 75, I as a holy paladin was the sole healer in a full Halls of Lightening run. We had an 80 warrior tank, a 76 hunter, a 77 hunter, and a 78 mage. We purposefully unbalanced the group just to provide some challange to what is becoming a VERY boring experience with the expansion instances. We breezed thru it..bleh. Also, while I dont know if Blizzard considered this in the design stages, but I've been able to hit just over 21K mana at level 75 fully buffed.

I'm not hardcore in any sense, but I do like my content to at least be somewhat challenging as I level up. Running level 80 dungeons at level 75, with an ungodly mana pool, just shouldnt be happening in my opinion, and it's totally immersion breaking for me as I level up.
[i]I'm also leery of the endgame that waits and I remember how much I started to hate 70, which makes me "sip" even slower. I would not mind at all if the 70-80 took a bit longer. I'm sure it could be constructed to be a bit tighter and not allow a whole zone (or two) to be skipped.

The problem for me, and many others that I know quite well, is what happens the next time through to 80. That's when it starts to chafe. Blizzard is moving a bit in the "variable grind" direction with the bind-on-account shoulders that grant an experience bonus, but it's only 10%, so it doesn't give them much wiggle room. Either the content is still going to take too long the second time through or the shoulders will make it too fast[/i]

I find this comment interesting because it seems so contradictory - on the one hand, you're saying that stretching the exp out to level so that more zones are required would be a good thing, because you enjoy the leveling process so much the first time. And that makes sense in and of itself, particularly for people who play just one character. But then you follow it up with how much more boring the second time is because you're doing all the same content again, which seems to be at complete odds with the idea that by skipping zones the first time on one character, you can have an entirely different and fresh experience the second.

Right now, I'm still very happy with the balance, but that's because I am a (casual, 2 night a week) raider. Even at level 80, there are still a TON of quests out there for me to do. Just because I get gold instead of experience for them doesn't negate the fact that they're there, and since I actually enjoy the questing process more than the leveling. I feel an implied pressure TO level up and hit cap, even though I never rush - I always read all my quest texts and I minimize the use of outside resources that tell me where to go/how to do the quest. By which I mean that I don't use any mods in game and I rarely check an online site unless I think the quest is bugged - or to check on a quest that's been in my log and I can't remember where the quest giver is.

With TBC, I was pretty dedicated to the questing aspect and after I hit 70 on my main, I went through and basically did every quest I could find - that took a couple of months, but I'd finished almost all of them before 2.1 was released. I'll be much slower this time around because I really didn't have alts then, and now I have quite a few.
I think levelling cannot take too long or be too short at all.
As someone else already pointed out, the level based vertical progression system depopulates and devalues Outland and Azeroth already. Just wait for the next expansion and you can add Northrend.

Horizontal progression is the keyword, and it is actually what people call the endgame nowadays. The question is why people and designers still think that vertical level progression systems are needed.
I hadn't thought of this before, but if I didn't have a desire to level up as fast as possible, I'd actually be reading quests and noticing all the story they have built into this expansion.

Having finished Dragonblight, there are obviously story aspects that even I haven't missed. As you were saying a week or two ago, Blizzard has stepped their game up. I, like yourself, was expecting more of the same. What I wasn't expected was to see serious progress on my two biggest issues with MMOs - they're not good at telling stories, and the world never changes. I can't wait to see what they'll do next.

I wonder if perhaps a way forward might be to offer suitable gear tokens (rather than just plain gold) for completing quests at level cap. That way those who prefer this playstyle could continue to progress, albeit slower than the hardcore raiders. It would also help save all that nice content from going to waste.
First I'm imagining WoW without leveling...

New incentives would need to be introduced to replace the incentives given through leveling: feeling of accomplishment, new(or more potent) spells/abilities, increased stats/"power", unlocking new levels of tradeskills or access to "harder" areas.

The benefit of having a system that did not require levels would be the player would not "out-level" old content.

A new problem would be having available more items of variety to drop around the world since most of the world would be "playable" again.

An obviously possible replacement to levels would be to have experience go toward something like Alternate Advancement points (think EQ 1's AA points) one could spend toward special abilities/skills.


Another interesting idea would be if every couple of months recipes for known tradeskills were wiped clean and require new ingredients found in less visited areas of the world.

Though some would find this annoying, it would appeal to those who like to explore/discover and be the first at things. With the new inscription trade, making new (or re-making old) recipes would be a neat idea.
on a PVP server, slow levelling creates a big imbalance between hardcore and casual players and makes levelling for the casual nearly impossible as a large percentage of people with a lot of time on their hands level to 80 and then have a fun time squashing you over and over as you level
Whether leveling is too fast or too slow depends on the player -- the amount of time they can devote to the game, and their personal preferences for gameplay (obviously :P). When assessing leveling speed it is better to measure it in hours than in weeks/months since that is almost totally dependant on how many hours they play per week/month.

There is quite a bit to do at the level cap, at least a dozen 5 man instances which can be done on regular or heroic difficulty, Naxx and the other raids which can be done as 10/25 man, BGs/Arena/Wintergrasp for PvPers, tradeskills, rep grinds for people who like that sort of thing, alts... almost certainly not 2 years of content for hardcore players, but enough to keep 5-15 hours/week players happy for a long time I would think.
I'm on a PvE server, so no rush to keep out of gankable serfdom. My main was a resto-druid (yeah, full resto up to 52, now carting items from mailbox to AH) until my play-time became more sporadic and I started leveling a hunter. Now at 71, I've realized I really like Northrend, would like to see most of it on the hunter, and would like to keep several pets at my level. So, I'm no longer logging out in cities; goodbye rested XP, I'm gonna do this slowly. I really enjoy healing, so if I ever start playing regularly I might power-level the druid. Until then, molasses is oh so sweet.
For me personally, leveling a bit slower would have been fine.

In my eyes this is the key point you're making in this post. (Emphasis by me.) This is why I like your blog, it might be subjective as hell (you even admit this yourself, which only adds to it), but I still find your posts reasonable and thought through. I like the way you don't proclaim your playstyle as the only acceptable one. As for my part, rushing to lvl 80 in less than a week, I have a kinda hybrid way of lvling. I can't stand "smelling the roses", I have a goal, which is reaching the cap. To be honest I didn't find the new zones that spectacular, with the exception of the two highest lvl zones and to a lesser degree Howling Fjord. I only read quest text when I'm on a flight path, to pass the time.

I do love lvling though, and I would love the lvling not to be slower per lvl, but to have more of them. I felt a little let down at WotLK again only sporting 10 new lvls, but that was to be expected really. I would love the lvl cap to be raised to lvl 100, a nice and round number, but if they did it would probably mean less exp required per lvl, which would make the addition of 30 lvls instead of 10 pointless.

The funny part is that I dread the prospect of lvling my alts, simply because of the sheer number of quests. It was the same thing in TBC, it's still a mystery to me how I managed to get 4 characters to lvl 70. I simply like the "old" Azeroth lvling content better, as it wasn't made to mass produce experience points. Quests from lvl 60-80 look to me like a poorly disguised grind the second time, while quests from lvl 1-60, while being known much better by me, still seem like a breath of fresh air compared to the frantic pacing of quests that came in the expansions.
I would have to consider myself a hardcore player. Not necessarily a hardcore raider, I did that in EQ1 and like to be able to do what I want when I want.

I have a level 80 and a few more mid 70s. I am also working the last two classes (through RAF) to 60 so that I will have 1 of every class 60+. I love leveling, twinking and being able to play whatever class/spec I want to at any given time.

I do love raiding as well, but since I am in a casual raiding guild we have not started Naxx yet, however, I believe we will be starting soon. But I do love being in a casual raiding guild because before Wrath, but after 3.0 I was able to raid Kara 3-4 times, ZA 1-3 times and SSC/MH each week. And I love being able to do this.

I also love exploring. The first thing I did when I hit 77 was to get the exploration achievement for Northrend. I also found every flightpath I could.

Now, on to my real point about the expansion:

I have found that I am still playing my level 80 (my current favorite class/spec) more then any other character. Why? Because I still have TONS of content to go through. I love completing a quest and finding that I all of a sudden get a new flightpath that wasn't there before. And I have to complete certain quests to open up the dailies or to even be able to get to a faction quartermaster. There is sooooo much content in Stormpeaks, Icecrown and other areas that you have to open up with other quests. And I LOVE it! I keep exploring or checking WoWHead for quest givers that I haven't found just to make sure that I haven't missed anything.


When I hit 77 I started questing in Icecrown. I hit 80 before I had even completed half the content. (I still haven't gotten the zones quest achievement.)
A question, do you tend to spend most of your leveling time soloing, or do it with anyone who happens to drop by? It seems to me that most players who like the leveling portion of the game do it solo, with the occasional group thrown in.
I would probably enjoy leveling more if it varied a bit. TBH WoW has like 5 different quests, once you identify which of the 5 quests it is you don't need to read any more of the text. Don't get me wrong, I am a lore buff, but I tend to catch up on it later rather then when I'm doing the actual quest. I completed every quest in every zone till I hit 80 at which point I was only just starting StormPeaks, this took less then a week. I have since finished Storm Peaks and am working on Ice Crown but it is taking me alot longer as I no longer need to level.

IMO quests should be a lot larger and longer (note: not multiple part chains of small quests), with more variation. Meaning there could be less quests overall and that each quest gives more XP. Of course this may not suit the more casual player as they need to be able to progress in the amount of time they play.
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