Tobold's Blog
Monday, November 29, 2010
The new new player experience

With The Shattering having added tons of new low-level content to World of Warcraft, and the new high-level content still over a week away, me and many other players rolled alts to explore the new "new player experience". I rolled a whole bunch of low level characters for comparison, and except for previously mentioned complications with the new troll starting area, the experience was quite pleasant. The low levels are more than ever a tutorial, there are even quests now that teach you how to train new skills and abilities and use them. The structure of quests is close to perfectly streamlined, you will never run into the "what should I do next?" problem; there are now even "Hero's Call" / "Warchief's Command" boards with a big quest marker prominently displayed in all cities, which based on your level and quest history send you to the appropriate quest hub.

With all that hand-holding some players tend to forget that you of course still have total freedom to stray from that given path. Just because there is a big neon arrow pointing towards the next quest hub doesn't mean you're forced to quest. Not only can you decide to go adventuring elsewhere, but there are two major activities where you aren't led to: Dungeoneering and crafting. At level 15 you get access to the Dungeon Finder, but that news isn't all that prominently displayed. And as most dungeon quests have been moved to inside the dungeons, there is very little leading you there. And there are absolutely no quests asking you to check out crafting; you'd need to stumble upon a profession trainer by accident to get explanations about that. Not only does questing not necessarily get you into dungeons, but dungeons also might mess up your questing. At level 15 I used the Dungeon Finder to run the Deadmines, Ragefire Chasm, and Wailing Caverns once each, and ended up making 4 levels; I'd basically need to delete all my current quests and use the Warchief's Command Board to find the appropriate quest hub for me. I think I'll just continue with dungeons, the new Deadmines were a lot of fun, and I want to check out the new Shadowfang Keep.

Of course while I'm discussing the "new player experience" here I'm well aware that the vast majority of the current low-level players aren't new players at all, but bored veterans waiting for Cataclysm. That leads to another interesting observation: The "Twinkability" of different classes is different. Casters don't benefit much from stat bonuses, 4 out of 5 of their stats have no influence whatsoever on damage output, and intellect has only a mediocre effect. What they would need is spellpower, but the only enchantment that gives spellpower to items under level 35 is a rare drop from Molten Core. Even a heirloom staff at level 1 gives only 1 spellpower bonus. A fully twinked mage is better than a mage in his starting gear, but not by a huge amount. Melee classes are far more twinkable. The first big difference is that their damage at low levels depends a lot on what weapon they are wielding, and a heirloom weapon or blue weapon from the AH is significantly better than what you can get from questing. And then they profit more from stat bonuses like strength and agility. Thus a fully twinked warrior or rogue is far more powerful than an untwinked version. All that is somewhat balanced, or unbalanced depending on your point of view, by the fact that a mage starts out far more powerful than a warrior or rogue, with his first ever attack doing three times the damage of the warriors first ever attack. Once twinked, the classes are more even, but there are obvious pros and contras to design class balance at maximum twink level.

Another observation about playing a new character is at what pace he earns new abilities. In its current state, World of Warcraft's only single-role characters are damage dealers. All healers and tanks are hybrids. And while some hybrids are as good as pure dps at the level cap, they do suffer in the early levels. Not only are their spells less powerful (e.g. Smite deals less damage than Fireball), but the damage dealers get more damage spells and abilities faster. Hybrids at some levels only get spells or abilities useful for tanking or healing, which don't help at all for the soloing part. No wonder we have tank and healer shortages: A new player trying different classes for a few levels would quickly conclude that tanks and healers suck in comparison to damage dealing classes, not knowing that this balances out later.

Apart from those balancing problem, I found the new "new player experience" quite pleasurable. There are now more interesting quests and events, and even before you get your mount at level 20 there are often rides on rails (literally in Azshara) that take you to the next quest hub. For those not into questing, the Dungeon Finder makes finding a dungeon group a breeze. And Blizzard even added a bunch of mini-games, like the Plant vs. Zombie game in Hillsbrad south of Dalaran Crater. Of course, if you don't like accessibility and "theme park" MMORPGs, World of Warcraft still isn't for you. But for the average player, the low-level game is better than ever.
Your understanding of attributes isn't up to date. As of 4.0.1, 1 Int = 1 Spellpower.
It took me five years to get round to playing WoW, which I finally did last summer. It turned out to be a much more enjoyable experience than I expected, but after three months I felt I'd extracted as much entertainment from it as I was going to get.

I didn't reach the level cap. My highest character was in the 70s and I had others somewhere around 50 if I recall correctly. I found that the further the game got from its original areas the less interesting it became. I also became quite frustrated each time that I read up on how to do certain things and became excited by what was in store for me, only to find that the information I was reading was out of date and changes had been made to the game to remove those aspects of gameplay that I had specifically been looking forward to.

I've been following the Shattering/Cataclysm news and it seems that the same process of removing the aspects of gameplay that I would or did find entertaining is continuing apace. I don't see this as increasing accessibility but as reducing involvement.

I don't question this direction as a model for commercial success, but for me it just isn't working. I'll probably pop back in someday just to see the shattered world, but it might not be for another five years.
I think you're underestimating the effect of intelligence for casters - I rolled a troll druid and gave him my heirloom staff with +22 int on it - at level 5 not only did it raise his intellect and spellpower by over 100%, but it also doubled his mana. With 2 caster trinkets that allows chain casting without taking any rests even after you loose the newbie mana regeneration bonus. Sure this effect will become less noticeable with more levels, but it's the same for melee weapons - after level 40 is there really that much difference between heirloom and the staff you get from dungeon finder?
I started a trial account to see up to level 20, and let me tell you:

My heart sank when I saw the 'new' WC. They haven't changed it one bit! It's still boringly long and much like a new player I didn't know which way to go because I didn't know what to expect, and then getting lost in the maze and having one player leave... yeah, not queuing up for a random again until that's out of my queue range; which is never, since I'm capped at 20 for the 10 days. Oh well!
I am intrigued by your comments that most of the people trying out the revamped starter zones are not new players but veterans on alts. Surely Blizzard didn't put that much effort into starter content just to encourage a few more alts? They must be trying to attract a wave of brand new players.

Do you think these changes can bring a lot of new players into the game?
As of 4.0.1, 1 Int = 1 Spellpower

I know. But that still isn't all that efficient. For example an enchantment might give +9 Int, while the Spellpower enchantment of the same level gives +30 SP. As I said, you *can* twink a mage, but it will never be as effective as twinking a rogue or warrior.
Do you think these changes can bring a lot of new players into the game?

Yes, but that is a slow process. There is a steady influx of new players, and WoW is still selling hundreds of thousands of new copies every year (not even counting those from gold farmers). But right now there are millions of players toying around with The Shattering, while the new players will only arrive slowly. Most non-WoW players probably aren't even aware that there are changes *before* the expansion comes out.
Low level dungeon finder is a PITA on the alliance side.

I think part of it is because Alliance got no new tanks in the race class combinations, so there are not many tanks and most of them are new.

I wonder if it is any different horde side.
Most of the horde is now Troll Druids or Tauren Paladins, so people who think they can tank are aplenty.

I just wish they would actually try to do it properly. Im fine with the tanks that at this level loose aggro and whatnot due to other peoples mistakes, the new tanking makes that inevitable - but seriously, if you're a balance druid and queue as a tank and then dont tank, ahgahghghghghgh. Yeah.

As for WC - they chopped out a few annoying places that you could get dropped into and get lost - but most people would never notice that. The best thing is the fact theres now a map, and spending a few seconds looking at it allows you to make easy choices about what direction to take.
@ Bhagpuss: Could you elaborate what mechanics and gameplay you found the most entertaining and which were removed? Just for curiosity's sake.

@ Tobold: I do think you are severely underestimating how powerful int is for casters right now. Spellpower is only even left in the game because of how absurd it would be on weapons to give the proper level of spell power. heroic Archus by itself would provide nearly 17k mana and nearly 7% crit from int. Int while leveling is quite great, and while heirloom casters used to ALWAYS do less than heirloom melee, I've seen plenty of them outperform melee now.

Although, yeah, it takes a greater boost to bring melee even with casters at low level.

I'm really loving the new content, I just wish that levels took more experience around the areas 15-40 or so. I was just blazing through too much content too fast, and even doing each instance only once, as you said, is enough to give you very little questing to do. Before 15 you are still trying to unlock talents and dungeons so its fine, and after level 40 or so I found it was much better, where a single instance and all the quests available only gets you a full level, where you can take a breath between dings.
I just leveled a Draeni Shaman who hit 60 last night. This was my first Alliance toon.

I made it to 55 prior to the shattering so this is mainly pre Shattering.

My biggest compliant about leveling up is the BGs. I've played WoW for a long time so I understand the imbalances there and that it is meant to be balanced around max level. What my concern is if a new new player queues up for a BG then gets 1-2 shoted by a Rogue, what message does that send them? How is that fun? They don't understand that it balances out at max level.

Furthermore they shouldn't have to not queue for BGs while leveling up because of the imbalance of certain classes. I think it has the potential to drive players away.
The biggest benefit to BoA gear is that since they expect to be using it for 79 more levels they get an enchant on it while it is hard to justify spending gold on gear that will last you a few levels/hours. So the fact that your level 1 boa chest has 1 or two stats more than your white is dwarfed by the 100 extra health it has. Similarly, +30 or 22 spellpower isn't a lot at 79 but is a huge increase at the bottom. It may be unintentional or not, but it is clever gameplay. Without having a significant impact on the 40-80 experience (other than 30% XP) the BoAs are only a convenience to not have to keep changing/looking for gear. But they make you a God in the starting areas, which is fun at first.

Also you can get some trinkets which are not that good. But the alternatives prior to 40 are essentially no trinkets.

If you look at BOA class imbalance, you might consider hunters: they can get a BoA weapon for stats and also get a BoA gun/bow

Nit: I spent over 5k gold on the +30 spellpower weapon enchant so that is what I put on my alts. But the alternative +22 int "Enchant Weapon - Mighty Intellect" is competitive, giving up 8 SP (since 1 int = 1 SP now) in exchange for the 22 int which helps crit and mana pool (which speeds up grinding.)
I actually find levelling/soloing as a low level prot paladin easier than most other DPS classes. I already deal way more damage than most DPS my level, and am quite a bit more robust, AND have better AoE tools (Avenger's Shield at level 10, yay!). And that's without heirlooms.
you're severely misinformed about spellpower enchants, or just lazy. the 30 spellpower enchant is for a weapon, and therefore increases the damage done by a lot more than your 9 int enchant or whatever to armor. this is just like crusader enchant to weapon increasing dps much more than some +6 to stats on the chest.
@Hearthur: That is what I said, Learn2Read. Spellpower is far more efficient than Int,but there is only one Spellpower enchant available.
noob me, when can you play gobbos?
already, or have to wiat til cataclysm (aka 7th dec)
You need to wait for Cataclysm on December 7th (and buy the expansion).
I rerolled once again as the changes hit, hence abondoning my level 65 warrior Orc on some server and my 36 mage on my old home server. I'm levelling a Troll Priest now and so far:

1) The troll starting area was indeed a tad confusing. Too much of the 'cool' stuff concentrated in one area.

2) I had forgotten how dreadful a holy priest's DPS is. Hadn't played one since before BC. Killing things is SLOW. On the other hand, getting killed is slow as well, my priest seems to be quite a tough nut.

3) Strangely enough, the newly furbished zones, especially the war parts, actually remind me of Warhammer online. Azshara comes to mind, but so do parts of what used to be Stonetalon. I'm in fact tempted to give Warhammer Online a go again playing this now. Old WoW was a lotless confrontational between the two sides for sure.

4) Levelling is fast! I go back to Org every two levels to craft and get new skills, and last time I didn't even have enough cloth to craft anything new. Spent 3 hours, and less, for 30-32.

The game has certainly changed profoundly, IMHO. I'm not doing instances, just following the breadcrumbs and it is a whole different story from back pre-BC for sure.
On another, granted small, note... Bagspace used to be an eternal problem in old WoW, but nowadays with the bags I find I am doing fine. I haven't felt the need to buy or craft any yet. THAT is an odd feeling.
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