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The QueueApr 28, 2015 11:00 am CT

The Queue: Looking forward to that leveling grind

Ruffy vs. the Level 10 Rogue

Since I’m taking Thursday to watch all the Marvel movies, I’ve switched Queues with Rossi this week — but if you have questions requiring Mr. Rossi’s expertise, you’ll find him here on Thursday and Friday. Now, let’s get on to the show.


So last night, my roommate and I picked up FFXIV as a result of having gone to see the Distant Worlds concert near our area, and realizing we both REALLY wanted to play it. It was extremely refreshing to come into a world that is new, massive, and unknown, and also to have a much more modern graphics system and character creation screen (I must have burned 45 minutes tweaking my character to make her juuuuust right). While nothing can really take away my love for WoW, I feel as though I’m being shown a whole new world of possibilities for what an MMO can and should be. Blizzard knows how to make compelling endgame content, but I feel like the rest of WoW is lagging extremely far behind FFXIV and other MMOs in a lot of ways (especially now that I’ve allowed myself to try another MMO).

So my Q4tQ: what changes, if any, are needed for WoW to stay afloat as king MMO for the next 5-10 years?

To be frank, I’ve never felt World of Warcraft to be particularly original, either in story or execution. There’s nothing the game does now — or originally — that other games didn’t do before it. What Blizzard has done exceptionally well with the game is taking features and gameplay elements and iterating on them, offering players a fairly polished MMO experience that other games — at least if we judge by subscriber numbers — can’t quite match. This isn’t to say that Blizzard always does this perfectly (or quickly) or takes inspiration from the things we’d really like them to, but you can’t deny that WoW was highly influenced by the games that came before it — notably EverQuest — and continues to take a lot of inspiration from popular features in other games (see the WoW Token for a recent example) and even its own addon development community. (Note to Blizzard: Please borrow Diablo 3’s transmog system.)

To a large extent, I think the biggest thing WoW needs to do is to keep building on what it has. We already have seen them implement more detailed character models to bring the game’s graphics up to speed (I doubt they’ll ever head for the realistic look of FFXIV, though), which suggests they aren’t content with letting the game stagnate. Continued development and, especially, listening to the community will keep the game going, even though there will be highs and lows.

WoW‘s always had highs and lows, though — and the population usually drops, though not always for the long term, when a new big game or MMO comes out. So why do people often wind up drifting back to WoW? The community has a lot to do with that. Even if new MMOs have better tech, they don’t typically have all of your friends or your guild… and over time, it’s the people we play with that makes the game fun. So often we try new things, enjoy them for a while, but wind up rebounding back to WoW after a few weeks, a few months, or even longer.

That population advantage is what other MMOs struggle against and it’s kept WoW in the lead for a long time. With Warlords of Draenor‘s population boost and the developers wanting to get content out more quickly (though whether they do or not is still up to question), WoW is probably set unless someone really drops the ball… or they keep giving us more Siege of Orgrimmar-like long patch cycles.


Q4tQ: Is seeing 100 levels too many for new players and returning players? Should the next expansion have leveling but perhaps not a standard 5 or 10 levels but instead a new style of leveling, along the lines of paragon levels you find in D3?

Though 100 levels can be really daunting, Blizzard has made it less so by offering a boost to 90 so any players — even brand new ones — can start fresh with Draenor content. I know I’m not the only one who really enjoys the leveling game, and Warlords of Draenor‘s 10 levels were perhaps the best Blizzard has made so far. If those 10 levels felt like a long grind — I’m thinking of you, Mists of Pandaria — then, yes, that might have felt like a tedious path to end-game, but I found leveling through Draenor to be particularly fun. If Blizzard keeps that up, there’s no reason 10 levels is necessarily bad.

However, one thing I have noticed going through our WoW leveling stream is that the low-level leveling curve is very odd — and not always fun. You hit places where your skill layout doesn’t entirely make sense or you simply don’t yet have the skills to properly tackle the content in front of you (especially in dungeons). Without heirlooms, which new players or returning players may not have, you may struggle (again, especially in dungeons). Leveling currently feels tuned for power-levelers who know all the ins and outs of the game and have a full set of heirlooms… and that can mean players who aren’t such experts can struggle.

I hope Blizzard revisits this at some point to help streamline the process for players who do want to level and experience the game’s content from level 1 onward — but I doubt we’ll switch to a Paragon system. Levels are pretty ingrained in the MMO mindset, and Blizzard doesn’t seem likely to shift away from them.


Q4tQ: Since we got a gear squish this time, is there a chance we might see a level squish in the future? This expansion seems like a good time as halving level 100 would take us to 50 and then we can go to 60 again in the next one. At the very least this could make leveling a bit more relevant since zones being only 2-3 levels in range instead of 5 could keep it from getting too easy.

It honestly feels like Blizzard has already done this… though in a very roundabout way. Heirlooms and other XP boosts combine to make leveling very fast — meaning you zip through zones much faster than you ordinarily would. A full set of purchasable heirlooms currently gives you a 45% experience boost, which makes quick work of most zones — and contributes to the disjointed leveling experience we have now.

I’ve already said that I’d like Blizzard to revisit the leveling game, but if they do it seems more likely that they’d retune things to help streamline or speed up the level curve rather than doing a squish. Sure, 100 is a lot of levels, but it hasn’t gotten as unmanageable as stats had when they were squished. Plus, unlike specific stat numbers, I think players have a real sense of accomplishment through that level number, and cutting it in half could be discouraging. How would you feel if your level 100 suddenly became a level 50? Probably not great, even if that level 50 is just as powerful as your level 100.


Why do EU gamers think that they need to pay nearly twice the amount of gold / month for a subscription the the US gamers do ?

A WoW Token costs $20 but €20 or £15 — that’s a little more than $20, though admittedly not enough that you’d think the gold cost would be nearly double what it is for North American players. However, it’s important to remember that Blizzard is meddling in the prices here, which is presumably what makes the graphs on WoW Token Info so unnaturally even. Blizzard set a higher starting price for gametime in Europe, and though trends match North American patterns of rising and falling the lowest price so far has been 29k gold — still well above the highest prices we see on North American realms.

So why do European players pay it? Well, it’s the only (legit) game in town if you want to buy gold or buy gametime without shelling out cash… so if you want it, that’s what you have to pay for it.

That’s all for today! Leave your questions in the comments below for Alex’s answers tomorrow — or check back on Thursday and Friday for Rossi’s return.

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