A personal blog about reading, writing, Warcraft, and life in general.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Community Blog Topic: Do we need more levels?

Last night, WoW Insider put up this Community Blog Topic, and I think it is a really interesting and controversial subject.

Right now, the max level is 90, which is pretty high. And with a new expansion looming, that number could potentially go up to 100 (although if they continue what they have done the last two expansions, it will go to 95), and 100 can be a very intimidating number, especially when you are just beginning the leveling process. Many players have voiced their opinion that they no longer want any more levels, that there are too many already, their alts and new players can't handle it. What do I say? What are my feeling on this? Well, I am completely against it. But first, let's take a look at how putting on a cap on leveling could be a good thing.

The game is getting old.

It's been nearly a decade since World of Warcraft launched, and it appears that people are getting tired of playing it, which is completely understandable. At its peak, the game had nearly 13 million subscribers, which is a TON, especially for a game that you have to pay to play. Over the past few years, though, that number has dwindled to less than 8 million, which is still a lot of people. But pretty soon, unless Blizzard can implement something really incredible that starts drawing players back, that number is going to get smaller and smaller.

Since it is unlikely that they will be unable to come anywhere near their former glory, perhaps its almost time to put a lid on things. If the next expansion doesn't bring people back (and let's face it, there probably won't be millions of new players flocking to the game), and the numbers continue to drop, they could be looking at a mere 3-5 million subscribers after the first two patches. At that point, I think it will be wise for them to put their money (and ours) elsewhere. That doesn't mean they should discontinue the game. They can still continue to put out expansions with new content, at least for a little while anyway. It's just that they should start slowly backing away, just like their subscriber base is, and focus on something bigger.

The first thing they should do at that point is cap the levels. Anything more than 100 is probably going to turn potential new customers away. They should also stop revamping old content and old models. They are way overdue for the new character models, and after they do it once (which we are all hoping for with the next expansion) then they should just leave it at that. Put those people on a new game. After the level cap, they can cut questing down. What's the point of questing if you aren't going to gain a level? Make the quests more epic and more class-specific, and reward better gear and abilities at the end of each quest line. And at this point, they should probably make the game free-to-play, as well.

It would be sad for me to see the game this way after putting so much time and money into it, but if it's already dying, what sense is there to keep trying? I'm sure more people will be interested in their next big project by this time anyway. It will be time to hang up our cloaks and move on.

The Age of Alts.

Since the game is getting easier and easier, or maybe because we're getting better and better (or a combination of the two), people have been adding alts to their roster more than ever before. But one of the biggest complaints about rolling an alt is leveling it. The more levels there are, the longer it takes, and players become disinterested. Now, it takes less time to level to 90 than it did to level to 60 eight years ago, but just seeing that huge number makes our head spin. As the levels reach 100, that would be a great time to cap it off, so that players can fine-tune their alts.

If they cap the level, and we no longer have to focus on questing to get our characters to max, then we can instead focus our time on gearing up and all the other fun things there are to do in the game. As I mentioned in the last section, they could focus on more class-specific quest lines, that reward abilities and high end gear. This would give players the needed practice on these new abilities, which is really why we need to do all that leveling in the first place: to get us used to playing that class type.

It would be interesting to see how people would respond if this were the case, but I don't think the majority would be happy about it. I personally think it would ruin the game if there was a level cap. I think it's fun to go out questing and gain new levels. Think about two or three expansions down the road, when our main character, who have been fighting at the same level for years, are really no better than someone who just dinged that level, except for the gear on our backs. Leveling would differentiate us from those with the weaker gear. I have two major qualms with introducing a new expansion with no new levels: Story and PvP.

The Story is why we play.

Is it not? The story of Warcraft is so dynamic, it is what the whole game is based on. It's not just about killing monsters and bad guys that try to destroy the world. It's not just about making gold or battling our companion pets. We play each new expansion because the story is unique and entertaining. We are the characters in the book. And we learn the story by playing the game, through questing and cut-scenes, through dialogue and events.

It's been said time and again: questing is 90 percent of the game. Well, if they cap the levels, what incentive will there be to go out and quest, to learn the story of that expansion? I think people that want a level cap don't want to play the game...they only want to play the end-game. But what is the point of taking down that big boss if you have no idea why he is such a threat? Just to say you did? Okay, then what? There's no depth to the game then. Why not just put a new zone in with a bunch of big dragons and bad guys and say, "Go kill them, they are big and bad and ugly." They can be just as tough, but you don't have to go through all the questing and gearing to get to them.

I don't know about you, but that would be pretty boring to me.

Player versus Player

Whether you like it or not, PvP is a big part of the game. But I think it would get really difficult and confusing if there was a level cap. As we all know, PvP is separated by level brackets. Well, what would happen if everyone was suddenly the same level, but with a vast difference in gear? I know what you're thinking, you could separate that level cap into gear-level brackets (or ilvl). But is that really the right way to do it? Would there be any other way to do it? I can't think of any.

Sure, this way would probably work for battlegrounds (along with some people crying that they could handle themselves in a higher ilvl bracket, but you can't please everyone). But what about world PvP? I know most world PvP is unfair, but I think it would be more so if there was a level cap. So let's say that the level cap is 90, and you are a fairly new 90, but with some better gear. You see another 90 coming at you, but this guy has been gearing for two expansions. You saw he was a level 90 so you thought you could take him on, but in the end he killed you in two hits. This would just not work out.

And, by the way, leveling is easy.

That's right, I said it. And you know it's true. Leveling is easy and it's getting easier with each expansion. Like I said earlier, it's quicker now to level from 1-90 than it was to level 1-60 eight years ago. And when a new expansion comes out, it will be even quicker. The amount of heirloom gear (which is ridiculously easy to get by running a few dungeons) we can purchase gets higher, too. At first, it was weapons, trinkets, shoulders, and chest gear (and one ring!). Now their are cloaks, pants, and helms thrown into the mix, and next expansion they may even add gloves, and or wrist gear.

And on top of that, there are multiple ways to earn extra experience along the way. Gathering professions give experience for each gather, pet battles give experience for each win, the Darkmoon Faire has a 10% buff (some other holidays have similar buffs, too), keeping yourself rested adds 200%, and there is even a potion out there, as well. And who knows what Blizzard will implement in years to come.

Sure, this gear doesn't last until max level, but it will get you to the current expansion fairly quickly. And it's a breeze from then on. I am all for new levels in each expansion, and I hope there are ten with each from here on out. Instead of cutting levels, they should work harder to simplify the rep and gear grinds.

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