Thursday, January 26, 2006
Last night, playing World of Warcraft, I was on a 15-man raid to UBRS. All 15 were level 60. But some had just reached level 60, and their equipment was mostly green. Others, like me, had done already numerous dungeon runs to the minor level 60 places, like Blackrock Spire, Scholomance, Stratholme, or Dire Maul, and thus their equipment was mostly blue items. And a third group was regularly doing raids to ZG and MC, and they had already a couple of epic purple items. Furthermore the most dedicated players had the most expensive enchantments on their equipment, and who knows what from other rewards you receive when you just grind enough.
In short, while we were all level 60, our relative strength varied over a wide range. And then I realized that this isn't something limited to level 60, although it is most visible there. My very first level 30 character, with little knowledge and even less money, was much less well equipped than my level 30 twinks on Runetotem, who benefited from the experience I had with WoW by then, and had the money handed down from the level 60.
Theoretically one should take all the stats of a character, assign a weight factor to each of them, and arrive at a complicated formula to calculate your "meta-level". Somebody with character level 30 and very bad equipment would arrive at a meta-level of maybe 28. The average casual player would have character level equal to meta-level. And the power gamer twink would maybe have 3 or 4 meta-levels more than his character level is.
The interesting thing is that your meta-level determines how easy it is for you to kill a monster of a certain level. But the rewards for killing the monster depend mostly on your character level. If your meta-level is higher than your character level, you gain experience points faster, and you character level catches up to your meta-level. If your meta-level is lower, then you advance slower, which gives you more opportunities to improve your gear and get your meta-level up.
The "what to do at level 60" discussion is often simply about continueing to raise your meta-level. That is possible, but compared to the speed of advancing character levels and meta-level more or less in parallel from 1 to 60, raising your meta-level from 60 to 61, 62, or maybe at the most 63 is extremely slow. That would not matter if that was the only thing to do. But unless the leveling curve in the Burning Crusade expansion is extremely different from the 1 to 60 leveling curve, it will be a lot faster to advance to character level and meta-level of 63 in the expansion. Extrapolating from the scientific measurements of Playon, the average player will take between 50 and 70 hours to go from level 60 to level 63 in the expansion. Right now, staying at character level 60 and gaining a meta-level of 63 (full epic gear) easily takes ten times as many hours. So your choice is basically "climb the mountain now", or "wait until the cable car is installed". You can get a head start with the climbing option, but it will cost you a lot of effort. Most casual players will probably prefer the much easier cable car option, which will get them to the same point later, but with a lot less effort.
As usual I'm caught a bit in the middle. I would estimate my meta-level on Raslebol to be about 61 to 62. Seeing the cable car under construction I really don't want to spend too much effort on advancing my meta-level further by raiding. On the other hand, raiding is what the other guild members want to do, and I would rather play with them than alone. So I do sign up for the occasional raid, but I don't do the PvP and farming solo grinding part of advancing my meta-level. I'd rather level up another character, my priest, to level 60. Because that maximizes my chance of being able to play with my friends, being able to provide either a tank or a healer.