Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Age of Conan announces 250 hours to level cap average

Via Massively I got the news that leveling a character from 1 to 80 in Age of Conan will take 250 hours on average. For comparison the orignal Everquest was considered to take about 2,000 hour to reach the level cap, and the average number of hours to reach level 60 in World of Warcraft when it came out was 500. So the announced number of hours for Age of Conan appears rather short.

Of course it is questionable to talk of average hours to level cap at all. My first level 60 character in WoW took 500 hours, but my latest WoW character went all the way to level 70 in under 250 hours. Leveling speed changes with patches, but more importantly due to players having learned how to play better, and due to twinking, that is the first character handing virtual currency or gear to the alts. But lets assume that Funcom is talking of everyone's first character. Is 250 hours to the level cap too short, just right, or still too long?

To answer that, we first have to look at what a level cap actually is. It is not the end of the game, it is not even the end of character development. The level cap is more accurately defined as the point in a character's career where his power development slows down significantly. You stop receiving xp, and only by acquiring better gear can you still improve your character, but that is much slower than gaining power from leveling. Due to this slowdown point, at the level cap there are the most characters of similar power level. And as similar power level of characters is useful for playing either together (e.g. in raids) or against each other (PvP), the level cap is the point where all the raiding and most of the PvP takes place. The gameplay changes at the level cap, from the leveling game to the end game.

So whether a short time to the level cap is good depends on what type of gameplay you are after. Age of Conan is supposedly about PvP, so getting everybody to the point quickly where they can fight for battlekeeps makes sense. But for many players of World of Warcraft the leveling game is more fun than the end game. When my wife reached level 70, she quickly abandoned the character and started a new one, because she neither groups nor does PvP, and the WoW end game wasn't attractive at all to her. World of Warcraft is an ideal game to level up alts, because there are now 8 different newbie zones, and you can reach level 60 with at least 4 different characters without doing the same quest twice (the path from 60 to 70 is considerably narrower). Age of Conan only has one newbie zone from 1 to 20, and we don't know how many ways from 20 to 80, although probably not more than 3 (one for each race) at any given point.

The other important question is how much time are you going to spend in the end game? According to surveys the average WoW player plays over 20 hours per week, that is 1,000 hours per year. If it takes 200 hours to level up in every expansion, and then you need to wait nearly two years for the next expansion, you spend 90% of your time in the end game, unless you play a lot of alts. Again that is nice if the end game is all you like in a game, but for many players the end game feels more repetitive than the leveling game, and they burn out after spending too many hours there.

The real danger of a short time to level cap for a game company is that the average player reaches the level cap in 3 months, decides he doesn't like the end game after a short while, sees that leveling an alt would just go over the same content again, and thus quits to play another game. Because in the end it is not the time to level that is really important, but for how many hours there is non-repetitive content in the game. If I understood the Warhammer Online video podcasts correctly, WAR will have 6 completely separate ways to level a character up to the level cap, one for each race. I have no idea of the time to level cap in WAR, but even if it is just 250 hours, an average player could still play for a year and a half before having seen it all. That is why Warhammer Online looks pretty attractive from my limited knowledge and PvE-fan point of view. I will buy Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, and Wrath of the Lich King, with all three boxes costing similar amounts of money. But if I just look at how many hours of non-repetitive content there are in each of the three boxes, WAR looks like the best deal here.
Hi Tobold's. i just wrote a short post in response to your last piece. my main idea is: it's not the 250 hours that matters, it's the stickiness. i explained all here:
As you say, it's not the time to level cap that matters, it's the amount of non-repetitive content that's available.

My personal preference is for much faster leveling coupled with multiple content paths. This allows you to get multiple classes to the cap without retreading content, and being able to play multiple classes at the level cap results in much more diverse gameplay there. WoW's imposed notion of a "main" is due not only to the gearing process, but also its slow leveling, and I think it really suffers for it.

I'm actually a bit surprised by the numbers you list for EQ and WoW leveling - 250 hours on the face of it seems like a pretty long time, but I guess it's all relative. I did somehow manage to have over 100 *days* /played on one EQ character, but I've got a dramatically lower tolerance for grind at this point.

If anything, I feel like 250 hours is still too slow.
I think the three races in Age of Conan have different starting areas after the shared 1-20 zone. I'm not sure how much replay value it will add to game though.

I just hope this new generation of games makes all the starting areas equally as good. Nothing worse then WoW where the Night Elf starting area was so bad that everyone just quickly abandoned it.
What is the endgame content in AoC? It better be really vast if it only takes 250 hours to reach the cap.

My very first character in WoW took 265 hours to hit 60, and my latest took 120. At 60 there wasn't much to do after i had seen MC so i left. How is this not going to happen in AoC, but a heck of a lot quicker if they don't pump out content? WoW, afaik for the first time in MMOs, released what were essentially mini-expansions for free. That's what kept people playing even though it took so long to get the "real" expansion out. And it's working, because 2.4 is going to keep quite a few people around until WOTLK.

In summary... 250 hours! that's way too short!

The real question is... did they account for the amount of time you'll spend being corpse camped?
250 hours might be short for someone with only 1 character or so, but to players who like to play a lot of characters, it is quite a long time. (Plus there may be quite a lot of nooks an crannies to explore in the game.)
They probably have such short lvling time because they want to pull in players who have experienced hack/slash grind metagame and for the most part know when to push the buttons, without daunting them to a completely different realm of game. The familiar aspect would be that you have to lvl your char, the part that sticks on the gamer would be what you do after you hit the cap. In this case its going to be pvp, hopefully its done well... im taking a break from lineage 2's new expansion to play AoC instead. WoW has been dead to me since TBC, even tho I gave it a few tries. Did eventualy ding 70, with 600 hours into my char.
Coming from the Fileplanet open beta. Everyone starts out on the beach (little tutorial of how to play) and is the same for every one. Until you get inside Tortage (First city you will encouter) there you will meet your class trainer.

When you meet your class trainer you are giving the option to whether to go to Night time (Single player) or same in day time (Multiplayer). The single player missions are different for every class and involve very good conversions and cinematic events. This is not your typical go kill xx bunnies and come back. It plays like a single player game. Telling you to climb among the rooftops to sneak a peek at a private meeting, for example.

Not only, does AoC offer different missions for lvls 1-20 for each class. At 20 u should be at one of your starter cites according to your race. Therefore, replayablity for this game won't be a problem.

-This is from personal experience with the file planet beta.
the six different paths gets me excited.. don't know about you guys. :)
I Hate leveling - I would like it to take 24 hrs in AOC - /played on my main wow chars is 144 days - probly 250 days all up across my 3 70 chars.

I would like say 3-5 days to hit the cap would be good

There should be official server where u get a 70 and any gear u want - then the game becomes skill (in PVP) - not because Ive played 144 days and my gear is way better than yours.

BTW Ive shut down my wow account now Ive started playing AOC - seems so much better than wow to me and I was a hardcore wow player
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