How would you feel if WoW expansions no longer included new levels?
In a recent interview, Ion Hazzikostas — World of Warcraft’s Game Director — talked about how to solve the eventual leveling squish problem caused by adding levels with every expansion. One of the points he made was that they haven’t yet found what they consider to be an ideal solution. Members of the team have considered if an expansion without leveling is even feasible — if you could simply get new places to go and new content without having to level up beforehand/during that new expansion.
There are of course problems with this approach. First off, gaining levels is a clear and intrinsic means of getting stronger in RPGs, even MMORPGs like World of Warcraft — it serves as a means for players to feel accomplished as if they’ve achieved something (because they have) and it’s a method of power acquisition that doesn’t rely on RNG. Nor does it rely on borrowed power, which, up until recently was a recurring feature of expansions. It’s permanent power — you gain levels, you get powers and abilities and you get to keep them even after you’ve traded in old gear for new.
Secondly, removing leveling means you need to come up with some other way to gate content rather than making zones or dungeons have level requirements. It creates a flatter experience that lets players leapfrog more easily straight into endgame content. Essentially, an expansion without levels is really all endgame content.
I don’t know how bad it would be if we got an expansion without new levels — maybe if WoW adopted an expansion model where you got a new set of zones and new dungeons and raids but didn’t level up, there would be more features to add in the place of leveling. Or maybe it would feel awful. What do y’all think? Would WoW expansions be better, worse, or just different if they didn’t have character levels?
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