Tobold's Blog
Monday, January 03, 2005
World of Warcraft Experience Bonus

In spite of the growing readership mentioned in my last post, I get precious little feedback, by mail or by comment. So I was quite happy when Grog actually asked a real question in the comment to the post below: Why does World of Warcraft has an experience bonus for being logged off?

Unlike games like chess, success in a MMORPG has very little to do with skill, but is mainly based on how much time you are able to invest. If you had twice as much time on your chess clock, you still would not be able to beat a grandmaster. But if you had twice as much time in a MMORPG, you would probably be able to outlevel anybody.

So sometimes the people we can call "casual players" get a bit frustrated. They aren't necessarily playing the game any worse than other players, but as their job and family leaves them less time for playing, they advance at a much slower pace than the other players. Game companies realized that early, and some tried to placate the casual gamers. After all, they pay the same fee per month, and use less bandwidth, and thus are arguably the most valuable customers.

Ultima Online had the "power hour". The first hour you played every day had twice the usual skill increase. So if you played only one hour per day, you gained all your skills at twice the normal rate. While somebody playing 12+ hours a day did hardly notice the bonus. So casual players profit more from the bonus than power gamers.

EVE has skill gains in real time. It takes for example 1 week of real time to advance a certain skill. Regardless of whether you are online or offline. In that case the casual gamer advances at least his skills nearly as fast as the power gamer.

And finally World of Warcraft has an experience bonus which accumulates while you are offline. For every 8 hours you are offline with you character resting in an inn or a city, you gain one "bubble" of bonus experience, 5% of a level, up to a maximum of 30 bubbles, or one-and-a-half levels. If you log off in the wilderness, the experience bonus is only one quarter of this. The bonus experience is not actual experience points added to your current xp. Rather it is given out only when you gain xp by killing monsters. As long as you have bonus xp left, for every xp you gain from a kill, you get another xp from the bonus pool added. Thus you earn xp at double the normal rate. The bonus is smaller than it looks: One level of bonus xp doesn't mean you get two levels for the price of one, you only get one level in half the usual time.

The effect is the same as the power hour: If you are a casual gamer who can only spend little time in game, you profit from the bonus the most. The more you play, the less significant the bonus becomes. The bonus is still not enough to enable a casual gamer to level as fast as a power gamer, but it helps. You need to be offline for a week to get one level full of bonus xp, and if you had played during that time you would have gained many more levels than that.

One small tip for WoW players who want more bonus xp: Create several characters. Bonus xp are accumulated per character, not per account. You just need to play your alts a bit at the start to get out of the trivial level gaining range. Afterwards you could play them as little as only every ten days, and gain one-and-a-half levels in half the time it would usually take.
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