Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
How many level 70 does it take ...

... to screw in a light bulb? Aeh, no, to screw Ragnaros? Aeh, no, to *beat* Ragnaros and all the rest of Molten Core? We don't know yet how Blizzard will handle it, but there are two possible scenarios on what might happen to the current high-end content: Either it becomes irrelevant, or it becomes a good training ground for learning how to raid. Obviously I would prefer the latter.

Would you rather have Stockade Pauldrons or Polished Obsidian Pauldrons? Wall of the Dead or Husk of Nerub'enkan? Hurricane or Eaglehorn Long Bow? I just searched 3 cases at random, which show that an epic item you might get at level 50 is more or less equivalent to a rare item you might get at level 60. That suggests that a tier 1 epic from Molten Core could still be more or less equivalent to a blue item one could get from a new 5-man dungeon at level 70.

We don't know yet how much more powerful a level 70 will be than a level 60. But undoubtedly 40 level 70 characters would have an easier time in Molten Core than 40 level 60 characters have now. With the boss mobs having some unique tricks up their sleeve, it is quite possible that a group of 40 level 70 people who never went there at level 60 would still find beating Molten Core challenging enough to be interesting. And if at the same time it would be easy enough to beat for people not experienced in raiding, and with less good organization than a uber guild, a place like Molten Core could become some sort of raid training ground. Now that would be great. Getting 40 people together would still be difficult, but if a "pickup raid" could actually beat a couple of bosses in MC, there would be a much greater chance of these places getting used by more than 3.6% of the population.

What could go wrong? The less likely scenario is that people at level 70 are so powerful, and the blue loot at level 70 so good, that Molten Core would be too easy, and the loot there too bad to farm. That is certainly something which will happen one day when Blizzard raises the level cap to 80, but not yet in the Burning Crusade expansion. The more likely mistake that Blizzard could make is "improving" (which is Blizzard-speak for "nerfing") Molten Core, and changing the raid size cap to 20 or something. If getting level 60 epics is harder than getting level 70 rares, nobody will bother.

Unfortunately this change of raid size cap to the previous 40-man raid dungeons is something that might well happen. The Blizzard developers nowadays are very much aligned with the hardcore gamer crowd. And the hardcore would very much prefer if the average player would *not* have a raid training ground, even if the loot there would be trivial compared to the level 70 raid dungeon loot. The current uber guilds all started equipping themselves in Stratholme and Scholomance raids, learning how to raid there and getting their meta-levels up high enough to be able to start raiding Molten Core. Now Blizzard did them a favor and burned that ladder leading to the high-end content, effectively blocking the late-comers from advancing further for the moment. It wouldn't do for the "leet" to have to admit that anybody could get to their level of equipment, given the same amount of hours of training and raiding. So expect the small, but vocal, minority of hardcore players to protest loudly if ever Blizzard allows a pickup raid of 40 players to beat Molten Core.

We can only pray and hope that for once Blizzard remembers that the majority of their income in coming the majority of players, and not the leet few. Give the hardcore players some new level 70 raid toys, and please, please, let the average players access the current high-end content. Just because an item is "epic", it doesn't mean that the average player is not supposed to be able to get it. As long as it is a level 60 epic for level 70 players, and thus not overpowered, it wouldn't unbalance the game, and it would make a much larger part of the player base happy.
Itemwise BC will make MC Epics the lvl 70s blues, i habe no doubt about that. Characterwise no one knows the lvl 70s potential yet. Lets just speculate 10 more talent points for everyone. Some classes will gain significant boost (dual wield, sword specced fury Warrior anyone?) others will not (hi my paladin). Lets look at the new AQ items. Some classes gain a significant boost, others dont.

Mudflation still is pretty healthy i would say and i am sure Blizzard will watch this very cautious. The major question for me is, will BC enlarge the gab between Jim-Casual and Joe-Hardcore at lvl 70? Right now at lvl 60 it is here, but PvE-wise healthy yet (lets skip the PvP aspect, cause it is fubared for ages). Every new EQ-lvl-raise, enforced the player to first gain the new limit using old content, to be able to use the new stuff. This is were the fun begins in BC, cause for the casuals the way to lvl 70 will be the new content, while for the raiders lvl 70 will just be the start for the new MCs.

I think BC should make heavy use of old content progressionwise, especially for the casuals: grind to lvl 65, farm new instance "ZG-two", and with new items from "ZG-two" and lvl 70, your weekend guild will be able to handle Molten Core. Swap Molten Core with Naxxramas, and the formula should work for the hardcores. I doubt BC will introduce a second Dire Maul for lvl 70, wich spits out MC epic-like items. This would not make sense. They aim should be to build a bridge into MC for everyone, not offer a suited MC instance for all player-types. After obtaining some MC items, our theoretical weekend guild will be able to handle a new addon instance. I really hope they doing it this way, and dont turn pre-addon zones into wasteland: "Oh here is your shiny new Stratholm II. and guess what? Its got better items than Molten Core!"
Part of me hopes Bliz won't lower MC to <40 and keeps it as a training ground. Part of me hopes they do lower it but not by much, maybe to 30 at the lowest.

But then what about the other dungeons? What about BWL, ZQ, AQ20 and AQ40? BWL and AQ40 are rather tough at this point. Lowering those caps, even for level 70's, would probably seriously mess up some of the encounters. (I'm thinking of Vael in BWL where players are automatically killed about every 15 sec. Lower the cap too much and the encounter will be broken - not enough people will live to take him down fast enough. Period.)

But Bliz has a track record of wanting to keep epic items as rewards for 'serious' efforts or at least more difficult encounters... so what can they do?

And this is one reason I strongly dislike raising level caps after release (in expansions). It alters the gameplay too much, in too many ways, affecting all preexisting content and forcing everyone to move on to the 'new' end-game content. In my opinion, it's a poor 'solution' to a difficult problem. I'd rather see new, *different* content with different themes, ideas and creative enterprises. Of course that's much more difficult and time consuming to create, but it also meshes better and retains older content without killing it completely.

DM is a nice place. Too bad it'll be a ghost town in BC.

One other, I'm seriously afraid of the new epics BC will produce. Given the current ones and how strong and powerful they are, the ones in BC will have to be sick in comparison. Absolutely sick.
Definitely raising the level cap will introduce some problems. Half of the players will all start trying to get from level 60 to 70 as fast as possible, while the other half will crowd the new newbie zones of the 2 new races.

But that a place like DM will fall out of favor is not a problem. How many level 60 are still going to Maraudon? That doesn't mean that Maraudon was a bad idea in the first place, it is a good dungeon to spend some time in when you are level 50, and then you outgrow it.

The problem with WoW or other level-based MMORPG is that many people are very attached to their characters, and don't like giving them up to reroll a new character. Thus introducing lots of new low level content isn't going to help them. And not raising the cap and just adding more and more level 60 content isn't going to work either. People like to advance their characters, and there are limits to how high you can allow their meta-level to rise above their character level.

I think it would be possible to add another 10 levels once per year in an expansion, and keep WoW alive for many years. Sure, Molten Core isn't relevant any more once you are level 100, but who cares? Wailing Caverns isn't relevant for level 60 players either, the game just goes on past any content. Endless level rising is more natural than artificial caps.
Touché and good points. :-)

Any bets on how often the new zones will crash in the first two weeks of the expansion?
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