Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Fast forward WoW

Verilazic kindly sent me a link to the WoW forums and a copy of the plan the Blizzard devs published there on mid-level content:
As many of you already know we've been working on changes designed to improve various aspects of leveling for those making their way to level 60. These improvements, available in patch 2.3 will come in many forms and should significantly contribute to a more fluid and enjoyable leveling experience .

The first notable change was to simply reduce the amount of experience needed each level by approximately 15% between levels 20 and 60. Please note that when the patch is released, characters affected by this change will remain at their current level percentage. For example, if a character had exactly 50% of the current level's total experience before this change went into effect, the character would still have exactly 50% of the current level's total experience; only now fewer points would be needed to level.

Questing plays a very large role in World of Warcraft, especially while leveling and we felt that improvements to this front were necessary as well. Experience gained for completing quests (on average) between levels 30 and 60 is being increased. The increase becomes more substantial as you make your way towards 60. Additionally, many outdoor elite mobs will become non-elites, making many quests which were previously too difficult or required a group much easier and offer the same rewards (in some cases better!). A good example of this change would be Stromgarde Keep in Arathi Highlands, which will become a solo friendly environment when patch 2.3 goes live.

We've also added approximately 60 new quests in Dustwallow Marsh. This should help players who find themselves lacking quests in the 30-40 range. The Steamwheedle Cartel is building the new town of Mudsprocket in south-west Dustwallow Marsh, so you'll have to wait until construction is complete to learn more about these changes.

We're making other improvements to pre-bc leveling dungeons that players will likely find most agreeable. The level range for most every dungeon is being adjusted so that there is a much smaller range between the level of mobs found early in the dungeon to those found towards the end. For example, Shadowfang Keep is currently designed for levels 18-25 which means that right now, players who are towards the bottom of that range (18) will find it nearly impossible to complete the dungeon, while players towards the top of the range (25) will find most of the dungeon trivial. Using our new model (similar to what you'll notice with Burning Crusade leveling dungeons), Shadowfang Keep is being retuned for levels 18-21.

We also want to make running a leveling up dungeon more worth while. In addition to increasing quest experience for dungeon quests, we're also upgrading all pre-bc dungeon boss drops to blue quality items.
The good news is that this is already coming in the next content patch 2.3, and that there will be new level 30-40 quests in Dustwallow Marsh to fill the infamous "Stranglethorn Hole".

The bad news is that the major change is Blizzard pressing the fast forward button on World of Warcraft between levels 20 to 60. I don't know how you experienced it, but for me WoW was never too slow to level up. In fact WoW was the first game where it happened that I was just happily playing and questing when I suddenly got surprised by dinging another level, I just hadn't watched the xp bar. 15% less xp per level *and* significantly more xp per quest means that leveling up to 60 will be around 25% faster.

I can see how Blizzard might feel that this is necessary as they are increasing the level cap with each expansion. We'll end up leveling from 1 to 80 in the same time that our first characters took to level from 1 to 60. My first character had 21 days played when hitting level 60. The second level 60 was already down to 13 days played. I'm sure experienced players will be able to do 1 to 80 in less than 20 days after the Wrath of the Lich King comes out.

But somehow that feels wrong. It sounds like Blizzard is sending us a message saying "our mid-game sucks so much, we want you to be able to skip it". Which is strange, as I had always considered the lower and mid level game to be the strong point of World of Warcraft. The most complaints you read about WoW are about the end game, so why would you want to speed up people reaching it? It looks suspiciously like catering to the raiders who want to level up an alt quickly for raid purposes. And there I would have prefered an optional /level command to making the game faster for anybody, whether he wants it or not.
You're right on all points. Blizzard is literally turning their back on what makes WoW special.

PVE is not a side dish. For many players, it is the main course!
Imagine starting to play now, while your friends are already playing at the level cap. Even though they would join you with some alts and can boost you through a few dungeons to farm the gear, it wouldn't be a very appealing idea to have to play for 40 days until you can join your friends with their mains.

I guess they think that at about 20 days people won't bother to even start playing.

I have some hopes now I'll get an Alt above level 30, after playing for more than two and a half years
World of Warcraft used to be the game. Now the game is The Burning Crusade, and when the new expansion comes out the game will be Wrath of the Lich King.

Blizzard are only helping people enjoy what the game has become, which is the most current version of it. There have been improvements in dungeons, loot, mobs, and quests in the Burning Crusade over what there was in Azeroth, and we are likely to see more growth from Blizzard when WLK is released.

Blizzard aren't trying to make you reach the end game, just the current 'mid-level' game, which is 60-70 at the moment and will be 60-80 with WLK. That's where they see the enjoyment of the game being, so they are helping people reach the pinnacle of in-game fun more quickly. I certainly don't see it as a denial of any Azerothian content, just that it has been surpassed.
I don't think this is catering to the raiders actually. I play loads of alts (having the majority of classes at 70 already).

The problem is that the quest structure pre-60 was fine first and second time leveling but later on one realizes that the biggest time sinks is all the traveling to finally find a zone or quest hub again that gives doable quests.

TBC is much more guided and structured. While leveling 60-70 I never run out of doable quests or a leadin quest to the next hub. Going 1-60 you'll find yourself multiple times in a spot where you are out of quests and no real clue where to go (unless you've done it before of course).

Still spending a lot of time running is dead boring unfortunately. I actually remember how excited I was when I first traveled with my nelf from Darnassus to Ironforge to Stormwind to quest in Westfall. Everything is new. The n-th time it's boring.

But the real problem is the lack of player density. Chances are partically 0 that you'll find anybody to do group quests with, and they are 0 for most instances to find a party. Blizzard just accepts that as fact and reacts. Hence they tone down group quests so that they can be soloed. That's the right thing to do because I doubt they can make the majority of people re-level (they saw this with Belfs/Draenei).

Speeding up the process so that the overall leveling time remains constant is a good thing really, especially for new players who just join the game.

And I actually can't wait to level another toon and explore duskwallow marsh, which was an underserved mid-range zone to begin with.

I think I read on Moroagh the other day about Pardo talking of the leveling curve at some games conference. The gist was that the leveling curve was the key, in Pardo's mind, to WoWs success. Given that it really makes sense that Blizz retunes the 1-60 game. It's somewhat surprising that they haven't done so earlier actually. Of course one can argue if the leveling curve really was the main reason for success, but that's another topic altogether.
There are some points that explain this change. One is what Thorsten posted. Starting from scratch today on an old server can't be very fun, unless you REALLY like soloing all the way. With most players having at least one character in the 60-70 range, most at the cap it must be very lonely. So Blizzard adds a fast-forward to where the rest of the population are at the moment.

For the other players that have one, two or more characters at the cap it's not really that fun either to redo all the content that you have already done a few times. One, possibly two times is doable, and an extra one-two times if you try the opposite faction, but after that it easily becomes a chore. Personally I've got two characters at 70, and although I'm tempted to raise at least two others I seriously can't be bothered right now. With this change I might actually do it, in waiting for WAR. ;) I had the same experience as you with the unexpected dinging while leveling my first two characters, but now it's just not like that. I'm sure there are many others that feel the same way. And I don't think it's just the hardcore raiders, although they would probably have a pretty large representation.

There are downsides to this though. First off you will as far as I can understand it not gain as much gold while leveling. Faster leveling means fewer finished quests per level, and also fewer killed mobs which leads to less gold. If you've got a L70 on the same server/faction it's not much of a problem. You can most likely very easily finance your new alt's progress. New players don't have that luxury, and it will therefore be a bit harder economically for a new player.

Another downside is regarding crafting. At launch you could start a new craft at L1 and it would more or less automatically follow your level if you actually concentrated just a little bit on raising it. Now that will not be the case. Faster leveling means less resources gathered per level, unless you specifically go out and gather more resources. Again this is not much of a problem if you've got a L70 to back you up, but for the new players it will be harder. And the same for everyone that starts on a new server.

This all makes me wonder, will there be new servers that will not have this activated? Or will some of the already launched but pretty new servers not have it activated? I don't know if that has been answered, but at least I haven't seen any answer.
On my Belf alt I haven't been to a single instance in Azeroth(currently Lv36), and I doubt I will. I am not doing group quests unless I bump into someone else in the same area, in which case I might team up for a short time.

I have no interest in going to Scarlet Monastery or RFK or any of those other places; I have seen them and done them enough times already.

I'm not sure changing the level of instances to a more narrow range is going to help. What would help is if there is a quest giver outside each instance who gave you all the quests for that place in one go.
I really can't be bothered runnng round the whole planet to pick up all the various quests, especially as my quest log is pretty full most of the time anyway.

As for instance loot, I don't care about it. I know once I get to Outland, everything found in Azeroth will be junk anyway. Blame BC for that.
I'm worried about this change. We'll see how large the increase in quest XP is, but currently I'm distinctly thinking that my friends who are playing WoW for the first time won't have time to enjoy themselves.

On the other hand, it will solve the "running out of quests" problem that plagues old-WoW, and it'll mean that most dungeons are completable first time around.

But yes, I wish the XP gain had been a switch.
We don't talk here about 50% more fast leveling. Do the Math ,15% less experience per level, a bit more Exp per Quest, will give maybe a 20% reduction of time to level one specific level.

Also keep in mind ,that do the lack of people ,most Dungeon Quests ,that formerly all have been done ,are nowadays skipped in the pre-BC leveling process.

Also if i remember right ,the most Exp-Boost i got from going into Instances in the old wow universe.

As I see it, Blizzard just reacts perfectly to this new Situation.
Sorry, but those of you saying this increase will "ruin" your leveling experience, are being a little dramatic. I highly doubt that reaching a level a day sooner than you would have before, it going to steal any job and entertainment from you.
I wouldn't underestimate the time reduction getting to level cap - you can figure in rested xp too. For many people the time from 1-60 will be much, much shorter.

I've seen many complaints about Blizzard ignoring mid-level content, so I'm glad they're filling out what had been a pretty unsatisfactory zone, Dustwallow Marsh. But there were many other zones that felt unfinished - Azshara, Stonetalon Mountains, The Hinterlands, etc. Levels 45-55 could stand improvement too. For people who want to enjoy the journey the entire way, there's still room for improvement. While I see the point of Blizzard's changes, it still feels like a cheap way out. It's a shame that so much now feels abandoned.

How did other MMO's, like EQ, handle this situation?
Blizzard is literally turning their back on what makes WoW special.

A single change of a word, turns this sentence into the truth.

Blizzard is literally turning their back on what made WoW special.

How did other MMO's, like EQ, handle this situation?

Well EQ never adressed it really and it leads to the situation, where you will never be able to catch up as a new player now. You literally would spend years of struggling, before fitting into a more relaxed group/guild environment. You are forced to buy a leveled/geared character or you will not get a shot at current content. Catching up is impossible for a normal human being.

What does those WoW changes adress really? This makes rerolling less a PITA and i pushes new players more early into the less flawed content. Everyone that already whines about a spoiled low level experience, is adviced to actually try to start from scratch on a PvP server right now. "Oh please let me get ganked by Tier 5 level 70s a little longer! Please?" I did start a fresh character non-twinked on an old PvP server. It is less fun that what it was 3 years ago.

WoW isn't about Scarlet Monastery anymore. It's BC now, like it or not but their design renders content useless after 2 years, so this change is needed and even too insignificant for my taste. When they want any new players for the game, after Wrath launched, they need to bring them into Outland in 150-200 hours played casually. Those changes are not quite there yet.

Cut the nostalgic out of this topic. Everyone that never experienced WoW before, won't have less fun leveling faster. Only players stuck in the past will.
How will this impact gathering skills - or skill cost. An untwinked character might level faster than they can earn money to buy skills.
Speeding up leveling is not about people catching up, although many players will think so. Speeding up leveling and fixing quest gaps is about getting the game to a point where they don't have to spend any more time adding to it. If they can make the 1-60 game "flawless" it means their dev team will not need to make any more content in the 1-60 range. They can focus instead on the 60-70 and 70-80 ranges.
It seems to me if they are trying to help people past the "old" game as some of you keep saying they might as well just introduce a /level command and let people start at 60.

The fact that they have to do this illustrates the flaw in thier design far better than anything I could say.
ISTM that there are a lot of contradictory statements concerning WoW that are just swallowed-whole without challenge.

For instance, the WoW-is-dead drumbeat has been heard since before TBC even released, yet, if anything, indications are that the opposite is true.

The "Cater to raiders" complaint is often heard, yet Blizz is obviously devoting significant effort to 20-60 content. As one who played pre-BC, I can attest to many tweaks and additions in the 20-60 content even before the patch 2.3 was announced. Though speeding up leveling is "catering to raiders", who obviously spend their off-raid time... leveling alts?!

It is also commonly asserted that the true "Ghostlands" is 20-60 content... but cities are packed full of level 20-60 people pitifully begging for level-70 run-throughs (why don't they just group together and go, one wonders). On my (second-generation) server it's rare to see someone on General chat in a city begging for a run through an instance, and in my experience grouping is not much different than pre-TBC. My apologies to those on a server full of max-level self-serving raiders who can't be bothered to level alts (wait, is that a conflict detection alarm going off...?)

The cry was heard, "More 20-60 content"; now that's being addressed in patch 2.3, but is already being dismissed as DOA.

Speeding up leveling -- a reasonable retune to change a 1-60 leveling model to a 1-70 leveling model -- is being cast as a concession that Blizzard is conceding that the 20-60 game stinks, and should be skipped.... yet... they're adding more 20-60 content to be skipped...? How could such a conflicted bunch of designers and developers boondoggle 9 million subscribers?

Beats me.
The cry was heard, "More 20-60 content"; now that's being addressed in patch 2.3, but is already being dismissed as DOA.

They added a substantial amount of mid level content?

I don't think so. They are adding a miniscule amount of stuff. And if you don't understand the complaining it's stuff they promised nearly 3 years ago. Wow how underwhelming.

As usuall this is a bandaid fix to keep up the appearance they actually care about the original game.
What WoW needs is a dedicated noobie server. All new characters start there, and you get a free transfer once you hit 60th.
WoW was released in Nov. 2004.
And yet it is asserted that Blizzard has been promising, and failing to deliver, new 20-60 content for nearly 3 years?

And can we know that patch 2.3 is only a miniscule band aid... before it's even released?
Sorry, I don't have access to that kind of inside information (or perhaps prejudice).
I'll wait for release to check it out, if I'm not otherwise too busy in other content.
We know they are adding about 60 quests in the crucial 30-40 area. I like it, it's nice, and it's more than a "miniscule band aid". But I wouldn't call it "significant effort" either.

Everyone that never experienced WoW before, won't have less fun leveling faster.

Leveling faster is not automatically better. There is a certain sweet spot of a leveling curve, and if you level faster than that, you miss a good part of the fun. I don't know yet whether WoW is now leveling too fast for new players, but it's certainly moving in that direction.
A review of "many" group and elite quests, 60 new quests and a new town, tweaking the level range of "most every" pre-BC dungeon, and adjusting "all" pre-BC dungeon boss drops. That on top of the modification of leveling and questing XP.

As one with RL experience in software design and implementation, that sounds pretty significant to me.
I just have to fundamentally disagree that this will make the game less fun.

Instead, it will provide more options and paths.

I'm currently leveling my 4th character through Azeroth. And I remember that up through level 30, there are so many options of where you can quest - and then you're forced into STV. And I actually love STV, but there still is the situation that as somebody who has experienced the content so much, I automatically quest more efficiently, gathering up multiple quests from different givers that are done at the same time. Which means that for oh, basically 15 levels between level 40 and level 55, I had *nothing* but orange quests. And the more I completed them, the steeper the curve got.

I think this change will do a couple of things:

Those shooting for max level will have their frustration with rerolling a new class reduced, since they can go faster.

But I'm also thinking of a guildie (rl friend of a friend) who is only now hitting 26 on his first character (who has been playing about six months) and how, while he loves the game, he doesn't know that he'll ever see 60.

So what I see happening is:

1. People who love rerolling and playing alts will now have the opportunity to play in Dustwallow and see things that are new to them - and more flexibility to avoid areas they dislike
2. People who are experiencing the content for the first time are *still* going to be taking their time and learning their way and it's not going to be any different than choosing between questing in one of multiple lvl 20-29 areas. And yes, it might take them less time to do a level but it's a relative less - they're still going to have as much opportunity as they choose to take to explore the world, to stop and do a single quest if they want or just experience the sights.
3. People who want to get a character up to max level will have one of their primary obstacles reduced - the sheer time.

The only thing I'm not sure of is the narrowing of instance ranges, although that depends on how they implement them. It is annoying, however, to be going into ZF and have the lowest quests for the area green and the highest red.

I just am not understanding how a smoother leveling process is saying that the mid-game sucks. I think it's saying that they've filled in some holes, streamlined it a little bit and made it a more pleasant experience for all.

And when I think of how many people I know whose interests in alts sort of wanes at around mid-30s, I don't think I'm alone in that.
OK I tend to exaggerate but considering the promises made early on it's really just a few drops in the barrel. It's nice that they have finally done something but I don't think they've done anything that will significantly improve the game for anyone but the powerlevelers who really don't want to be there anyway.
What the Hell.....

BLizz is rounding up a big Part of the Game, changing all (!) Boss Drops in Pre-BC, lowering XP nedded for Leveling, introducing some kind of new Area (New City, new Quests) and a whole bunch of people thinsk they want to Skip Lvl 20-60 as fast as possible ? I think these changes make it worth styaing below lvl 60 for some time. I`m really excited how stromng they will change Bossdrops in Strath, Scholo & Co. Could be fun going there again if the Drops move some nearer to the Green Lvl58 TBC Drops ;-)
I'm pretty thrilled on the additional content, but at the same time a bit concerned over the lowering of the needed exp: wouldn't the added content, increased instance rewards and overall increase in playability have covered the 'lack of alt levelling speed'? The problem as far as I have understood has been more on the lack of quests in certain level brackets, leading to lack of meaningfull, grindless content.

It's great that Blizzard has finally noticed that there is much to do with the original content, too. Hopefully they will introduce this kind of dynamic changes more in the future, for example removing some quests and replacing them with new ones, creating new quest lines alltogether, creating new towns/villages and 'destroying' old ones... Imagine -for example- what it would be like if Crossroads was abandoned and that Camp Taurajo would be bigger?

Small changes to the old content at the eve of a new update would spice up the whole game, increasing the replayability immensely!

But where are the real changes: new, working LFG system; player housing; ingame community tools; Guild housing; working and interesting crafting system; working player trade system; guild or player created content; guild based benefits for players... the list of these kind of improvements is pretty long and I only just got started with the ones that popped to my mind.

I agree that these changes may well be dramatic on the programming side, as the incoming ones certainly have been. But isn't it about time that we got something like this for the $15 a month? Improvements on the things that would make our subscription even more pleasurable?

It's a conceptual question. Do you want the time to level cap to increase with expansions or do you want to try to keep the time to level cap roughly constant.

I think there are arguments for both but I actually prefer keeping it closer to constant.

If I had leveled a character under a faster leveling scheme, I would still have seen all the content. Why? Because first time leveling I wanted to see all the unexplored content. A faster leveling curve doesn't change that, unless ofcourse the whole curse if utterly ridiculous. But Taking 20-30% out of a level time isn't going to be that.

I think the best thing is to actually observe how the leveling curve plays out that speculate about it. I certainly will level another alt in the new scheme (something I wouldn't have done in the old one) and I'm happy to form an actual opinion on the experience.

Who knows, maybe I'll think it's too fast (or still too slow), or maybe new quests are still not properly soloable, or instances are still impossible, but I certainly reserve that judgement until the facts are in ;)
I think an option that should be available to players who have leveled a character to the max level, (and who want to start a new character) ... the option of starting a character at level 58 with a generic set of gear and without the ability to acquire rest bonus (and/or a penalty to gaining experience for a while) instead of having to start a new character at level 1.

This will give the player more time to learn how to play that character while still being able to participate in the burning crusade from the start instead of requiring them to run the grind through old, tiring content.
Blizzard is doing this because they really only have two kinds of players now -- veteran players who have one or more max level characters and new players that are just starting the game. New players are generally trying to join friends or loved ones who are veteran players and so are playing 'catch up'. Veteran players have already seen the mid level content quite a few times, so speeding up the rate at which they can get a new character to new content is only sensible.

I've never thought WoW's questing content was terribly engaging. It's all the same sh** with different text. WoW is engaging when you can play with your friends , not when you're solo questing. The faster I can get my level 42 paladin to level 70 on my friend's pvp server the happier I'll be -- I've done all this crap before, I just want to play with my friend.
If you had a /level 60 command that instantly advanced your character to 60, what would happen with faction Reputation? Would everything get set at Honored 1/12000? Or should you have to go back and run all those lowbie quests to grind the Rep? And does Eastern Kingdoms or Kalimdor rep really matter in Outland anyway?
Someone asked how other games, such as EQ, handled a lack of mid level content, and as a FFXI player who hasn't played WoW more than just a few minutes, I think I can give some insight. When I think of "mid-levels" i tend to think of levels 50-60, since the xp gaps between levels grows at a much faster rate between 50-60 than it does previous to that. I'll break down the time you spend in FFXI or most any other MMO down into several tasks. Money making, leveling, questing, and missions.

As far as mid-level content goes (and I'll be using FFXI as reference here), there isn't much to do for the first task - money making. There are relatively few areas that are capped that offer anything that somebody can farm by themself. Areas that come to mind are places like Promyvions or the Riverne sites. There are quests called Assaults that were introduced last year that sound similar to your WoW dungeons, being that there is a zone and an objective with mobs (enemies? not sure if the lingo is the same) either in the way or their defeat is the objective. These assaults are generally offered at 50, 60, and "uncapped" (meaning 75, FFXI's cap). Although they offer sellable rewards, they generally are there to offer points to the area that they are completed in for the player to eventually compile and turn in for gear that cannot be obtained by any other means. For the most part, money making is easiest for 75s for obvious reasons. (Note: Tradeskills are present in FFXI and while you could reach cap on a job that is level 1 by buying ingredients and selling the products, it is almost impossible due to the typical loss of money that comes with skilling up your craft.)

Leveling in FFXI usually consists of 6 people killing one mob at a time (I hear this is different in at least WoW where there is rarely only one). There's quite a bit to explain that I know is different from WoW, but, suffice it to say, leveling past level 10 is excrutiatingly slow, and partying is only marginally better until 55 or so, when players typically go to the newest expansion areas (Treasures of Aht Urghan). Beastmasters are the only exception to the rule, being that it can pull enough xp by itself that it can make soloing for xp worthwhile.

Questing, while general in definition, usually boils down to two things: Getting items that you can sell, and getting gear that you want. I won't go on about uncapped quests, as there are so many that just about any 75 job can solo (yet 99% of the time aren't worthwhile), there are few worthwhile quests capped at mid levels. Most of the quests that mid's can access are called BCNMs (Burning Circle Notorious (or Named) Monsters). BCNMs are accessible by trading a specific orb (bought from an NPC from Beastman Seals you find on mobs that give xp) to a specific battleground entrance. These BCNMs are available at 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60. There are many of these available, but due to the game's age, there aren't very many that are worth the Beastman Seals you have to spend to get into the battle. Some of the biggest money making items (Peacock Charm, Torques, and Kraken Club) are available from BCNMs at 40, 50, and 60. The good thing about these is that you can only obtain Beastman Seals from mobs that give you xp, and afaik, the higher level the mob, the more likely it is to give up a Beastman Seal. This encourages people to level other jobs and thereby making it easier for people to party for xp. The downside to these are that drops are generally low in percentage (Kraken Club, one of FFXI's most sought after items, has a drop rate from the BCNM around 5%, meaning that you could spend 1200 seals and come away with 1 KC. I've played FFXI for two years and have gone through maybe 1000 BSeals), typically very difficult, and often almost require a very specific group of jobs to win. The last point is usually the killer of attempts to do a BCNM. A lot of people won't bother doing a BCNM if they don't have the right jobs (which usually seems to be Red Mage, Ninja, and/or Beastmaster) which excludes a lot of players who don't have those specific jobs leveled.

Missions differ from quests in that there is a coherent story line that can take one reasonable day to finish (Rise of the Zilart and most of ToAU) with a well trained group, or a year with your average random group of players (Rank Missions, Chains of Promathia) that don't have time or the commitment to get it all done. The notable rewards for these missions usually doesn't come until the end or close to the end of the story line (Chains of Promathia has a lot of level capped stuff, generally 30-60 and provides some xp when finishing certain battles, but not much). Rise of the Zilart and Chains of Promathia each eventually gives you access to new areas and a choice of one of several pieces of equipment that are very good for certain jobs, one set you can equip at level 30 and gets better from there on out. Chains of Promathia is pretty much the only story line that regularly contributes to activities requiring you to be in those mid levels for any extended period of time.

I have to say, after reading much of Tobold's blog and the comments from his readers, I have a few points that stand out:

1. FFXI is much more demanding of a player in terms of time due to the lack of soloing options. The last paragraph under Tobold's Cross Server Dungeons for WoW heading reminds me very much of FFXI. Since players are virtually forced to group from the time they are 10 or so until endgame, they learn how to play in groups early on, or they quit. The problem with FFXI nowadays is the waning population among most servers. It is getting progressively older and more players are concerned with getting those gears for their level 75 jobs and typically not interested in leveling up, and this makes life more difficult for new players.

2. lol @ 21 days of soloing to reach the level cap. This might have been possible during FF's peak by partying, but never solo. I highly doubt anybody could solo any job (Beastmaster included) to 75 in 21 days. I guess it would have to be 65 if I were to compare apples to apples, being that if 60 was WoW's original level cap, then 65 was FF's original level cap as well (I'm not sure, but I think the level was raised to 75 when Rise of the Zilart came out and FFXI became available to NA/EU and elsewhere.) In the last two years I've logged about 3600 hours and I've leveled about oh 500 levels (75WHM 75RNG everything else 37ish and lower).

Hope this provided some insight.
I have to disagree with you here Tobold, I am going to absolutely LOVE the changes. I can tell that this change hurts SOME group, but I am not entirely sure which group.

Those that have many, many alts are overjoyed at the change since it means faster alt leveling; Yes, I have had LOTS of moments in wow where I dinged and I was totally surprised, which made me quite happy that I could be surprised by a level up. But after so many characters that fades completely; You've done every quest and every zone and the only reason you level more is to gain access to higher level content, be that PvP or PvE at 70.

New players may be hurt in the long run, but they won't know it; The game may seem more fun in fact, since there is new solo content, and the casualness that made WoW the biggest MMORPG is becoming more so.

True casuals are helped; They soloed 99% of the time and they can now get a bigger bang out of their 2 hours a week than before.

Perhaps this is some kind of long term illness that is not immediately apparent to me? I can see that this would perhaps decrease the amount of people that "know their class" at 70, due to less instance runs and 30% less time spent to get there...but honestly, you either know the basics of your class by 50 or you would have needed help getting there at 70 anyway.
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