Monday, August 23, 2010
Downleveling is half a solution
Larísa from the Pink Pigtail Inn reports on Blizzard's plans to allow players of World of Warcraft to voluntarily play at a lower level, for example to be able to better play together with friends of lower level. Systems like that are well known in other games, and especially City of Heroes makes good use of it all the time. But just because a feature works well in one game, it isn't necessarily a good fit for another game. And in this case I would say that the ability to downlevel is only half a solution: The missing half is making people to *want* to downlevel.
Levels in World of Warcraft are an illusion. They make players think that content which is higher level than they are is harder, and content which is lower level than they are is easier. But once players downgrade their level, they will find that the Deadmines aren't any easier than today's so-called "heroics". And some of the dungeons of the past, for example Blackrock Depths, were huge and complicated. But the rewards you can gain in these older dungeons are mostly useless for level-capped playerd, and I doubt that Blizzard plans to "uplevel" the items you find while playing as downleveled character.
So while there will certainly be a few people wanting to group with lower level friends, I don't see this feature being all that popular. Unless of course if Blizzard gets the incentives right: Once we admit that the Deadmines aren't easier than level-cap heroics, we must conclude that level-capped characters should get the same sort of emblems for playing downleveled in the Deadmines as they get for level-cap heroics.
And that would actually be a huge opportunity for Blizzard to revive old content. The emblems made running heroics very popular, and if running older dungeons gives the same reward under the condition that you play them at the appropriately downranked level, the older dungeons would become equally popular. Maybe not all of them, as some are too big like BRD, or too boring like the Stockades. But it sure would be more fun to have a wider choice than just a dozen or so heroics at the level cap for getting your daily emblems. Some older dungeons are quite fun, and some players missed out on them, or at least didn't see them very often.
So I do hope that Blizzard implements both halves of the solution: Downranking levels and getting emblem rewards for it. Of course this is all still rather far away, and only planned for possibly a later patch in Cataclysm, not at release. But as Ghostcrawler said, heirloom items already scale, and Cataclysm makes spells scale with level, so downleveling isn't all that difficult. You'd keep you gear, and it would just decrease in stats. Visiting classic dungeons could be fun, but knowing WoW players I think they need some incentives to go there.