Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A New Leveling Model.

In my previous post I mentioned why I felt the process of leveling, as in 1-85, was outdated.  In this post I propose a new type of leveling.  It would serve the same purpose as the previous leveling experience, but in a different way which would allow people to level as an end game.

For this system to work everything would have to be gear based.  Gear has been the end game way of leveling in WoW and every MMORPG ever and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  Once you reach max level the only way to level, for lack of a better word, your character is to get better gear.

The idea for this would be to allow questing to be a viable way to get gear and putting questing, dungeons and raids all on the same level.

Questing would be for the solo progression, dungeons for the small group progression and raids for large group progression.  This would take away from the "if you don't raid you suck" mentality many people seem to have as all three forms of progression would be equal for the most part.

You could still quest to level your character, gear wise, which is what the end game is all about.  Instead of using the dated model of questing to get to the end game, make questing part of the end game and not just a way to get to the end game.

Quests, just like dungeon access is now, would be unlocked based on gear level.  What is currently a 1-10 area would be for starter players just gearing up.  The 11-15 areas would be a step up as they got more gear from those quests and so forth and so on.  Each new expansion would add its questing areas as an additional step up.  Each step up would also be harder, designed to be a challenge meaning the game is always moving forward and never stepping back at the beginning of each new expansion to let new players catch up.

All areas would have three types of quests.  Standard quests, which once done are done but are always there.  Floating quests, which are story specific to the expansion and once the expansion is over they are gone.  Daily quests, which you would need to complete the loremaster for that area to open up.

The daily quests would also be expansion specific.  Each new expansion, even if you have the loremaster from the previous one, you would need to do a quest line to open the daily hub, the same one that someone getting there for the first time would need to.

Using daily quest hubs would also open up a whole new world for PvP.  In Elwynn forest the horde have no quests but being all areas will have quest hubs for both sides, the horde side quest hub there would all be PvP based.  No need to worry about horde PvPing in a low level alliance area as there is no such thing as a low level player any more.  Just lesser geared.  These such areas would be the areas that would unlock shops that you can purchase PvP gear.  More on shops later.

Each zone would have the standard quests opened up by an item level, just like they are opened up now by a character level.  So they would progress just as they do now.  It would also allow people to sometimes skip an area entirely if their skill level allowed, otherwise they would be forced to step back and get better gear and possibly even learn to play their character better.

Each quest area will be harder then the previous one.  While a level 84-85 zone might have the same collect 12 bear meat as the level 1-10 zone does, the level 84-85 zone will be massively harder do to mob ability, life, density in the area, etc.

So while you can easily get to the end game without ever doing a quest, if you wanted to, you actually had to work to level your gear with quest leveling.

The gear gained through questing, dungeons and raids will be exactly the same now with one minor difference.  The only difference would be gem slots for all the end game gear, quests gear would have 1, dungeon gear would have 2 and raid gear would have 3, but they would all be item level 397 for example and the same base stats.  BoEs, drops, crafted, whatever, would always have no slots what so ever.

Being the quests would be progressively harder based on area level, the same could be done for dungeons and raids meaning no need for nerfs on anything, ever.  The entire game would be coded for the current expansion, always, and each expansion would get progressively harder without nerfing the previous expansions before it as those previous expansions would still serve as part of the leveling up process because you will always still need the gear from it while moving up.

Questing, where it would lack in gem slots, would also offer specific rewards not available through raiding and dungeons.  Each area in the game would always have its own quest hub.  As such, each hub will offer its own unique goodies.  PvP shops would be opened in areas where your quest hubs are for PvP content, as mentioned before.

For example you can trade in 200 darkshore tokens for a darkshore pet.  Raids would offer the top gems, like they are doing this tier and dungeons would offer something like valor points to fill in the gaps but valor gear would be like BoE gear, no gem slots.  So all three would offer their own special thing.

Another example is something like opening the darkshore shop for purchasing gear.  Lets say darkshore had the top non dungeon or raid hunter back and I wanted it on my hunter, I would have to have done 250 darkshore dailies to be able to buy it.  This would work as a gold sink as well as making gated progression, the same as raids are now.

Raids add new levels of gear progression with each raid.  Questing could do the same.  When the new level of gear comes out, there will be a new cloak for me at darkshore that now requires me to have done 300 dailies.   Unless I went and kept doing them after I got my last one at 250, I need to start working toward a new one again.  If there are 5 dailies I can do there then that means at best it would take me 10 days to get my new cloak.

With every area in the game having dailies, it is likely that I would have switched to another area to try and get their shop open.  Or lets say the new hunter cape is in duskwood and I never did anything there, I would now need to work up to 300 there.  So while not raiding, I am still working on my characters progression though questing alone.

This would make for a massive amount of content, contently refreshing content.  For questers as well as for raiders and dungeon runners that need to fill in a spot here or there or just want to get pets, mounts, etc.

The daily counter would of course need to be reset each expansion as to not let later people be at a huge disadvantage, but for achievement purposes they would easily keep track of darkshore quests this expansion and darkshore quests total for when it comes to opening a shop.  Just like you need 7250 honor points this patch to buy a weapon, you would need 250 darkshore dailies, this expansion, and reset it as needed each expansion to reopen the shop.

You can truly level your character through questing.  You do not need a level number to be hung up on like 85 any more.  You are at the end game as soon as you start and begin to work on item level, the one true thing the game is based on.  Item level (gear score) had replaced level number a long time ago already.  So why waste your time leveling from 1-85 when once you get there 85 means nothing any more.  Let people level in the only way people know.  Level through gear.

With this design there would be many good side effects as well.  As every area in the game would now have a daily quest hub the likelihood that people will be out in the world will be much higher meaning more chances for world PvP and in my opinion, world PvP is the greatest part of the game when it comes to PvP, but remember, I am not really a PvPer so maybe that is why I like it so much, no organization needed, just mass slaughter, but that is for another post all together.

Being each new tier of gear and each new expansion means more reasons to do quests in all areas of the game it makes no area empty as there is something for everyone in every area, always.  With a gear reset each expansion as they might be planning to do with the squish idea, that means that even at the end of the expansion, the starter areas will actually still be current content, always.  While it might be easier, like questing in TB is now while in 397 gear is, it will not be as easy as going through ashenvale in 397 gear.

Gear leveling is the way to go when to comes to leveling.   The trip from 1-85 is no longer needed when the real trip doesn't even start until you reach 85 and start looking at item level.  I need 329 to get into heroics, 346 to get into zuls, 353 to get into HoTs, 372 to get into looking for raid, 380 before I can get into a DS pug, etc.  Those are the real levels.  You are not a level 85, you are a level 390.  Why not make the leveling process be all about the only level people seem to pay attention to.

There is one major fault with a system like this, the fact it could easily be faked.  Someone could start a new character and deck them out in all BoEs and crafted items to instantly be a decent item level.  Oh wait. that already happens.  Just like one of the rogues I mentioned in the previous post that was only rolled because the person wanted the legendary daggers did.

He hit 85, put on all his BoEs he was saving, spent a little on the AH, made a few crafted items, and finished it off with two PvP pieces, went into a LFR, got lucky and then went and bought a spot in a DS just to pickpocket for the daggers and win a few more items.  393 average item level in less then 6 hours after hitting 85.

So the system already works just like that now.  The only difference is, he wasted a few days play time to level now and would not have the other way.  Leveling from 1-85 is basically just a waste of a few days play time for someone like him and trust me, there are many like him.  For them level is a waste, nothing more.  It is time for a new leveling model so why not make questing, for different reasons, the new leveling model.

With this model the person that starts the game today is on the same level as everyone else.  They just need to earn their gear and not earn their levels just so they can earn their gear.  New players would not be scared away by the idea they need to get 85 levels before they can play because lets be honest, even as quick as they have made leveling, 85 levels does seem quite imposing to a new player and can scare some people away.

It would be a lot more attractive to a new player if they can create an account and start raiding the second they first log in, with of course the easiest raid made for beginners.  They can then level just through raids, each one getting pregressively harder as they build up their gear.  They can level through dungeons.  They can level through quests.  Either way they choose, the second they start the game they are right in the heart of the game, no need to look at the trek to 85 which from the perspective of fresh eyes looks like a very long trek.

Also, with a system like this, people can level their character so many different ways and as fast or as slow as they want to.  You can do everything, one thing, or a mix and match.  It is all there for you, it is all made for you, at any level you are, it is all accessible.

Could you just imagine doing older raids like AQ 40 or ulduar while leveling and it actually be meaningful content because it is an upgrade for your gear as opposed to what it is right now, old content for 60 or 85 that you do to blow through after you reach 85 for achievement sake only?

The way leveling is now you blow right past 60 and 80 you would never think of doing that content at level but if you are progressing based on gear only and not level you might actually do them because if their gear is an upgrade it will help you unlock new questing areas, new raids, and new dungeons.  This means it is wroth doing now, and not just something you go back to later, for the hell of it.  All content is meaningful content.  Always.  Nothing will ever get outdated by new expansions that easily.

I guess this really seems like gating content which I know most people would be against, but to me it seems more like progression on a personal level.  It would still take time for new players to get to the current end game but unlike now where they look at it and say I still have 20 levels to get before I can start gearing up they will look at it only as I am 20 item levels away until I can do the new raid and there is something about being 20 item levels away that seems more as if you earned your way when compared to 20 more levels before you are allowed to do it.

Don't get me wrong, leveling with levels and leveling with gear would basically be the same thing but it is the feeling surrounding it that would make the biggest difference.

New players would feel as if they are right in the game, in the heart of it and if they want to burn the midnight oil so to speak they can get to end game quickly by questing through all the areas.

Old players can come back at any time and not think, crap, I have not played since BC I have to catch up 15 levels, they can just go and move right into it. They can pick up questing or start off at the last level of dungeons and raids there where at when they left and continue directly from there instead of being forced to get those 15 levels.

People that want alts can still roll their alts and still experience all the content while getting loremaster on the new alts without feeling as if they are out leveling content before it is done, as you can not out level anything any more, if you want to finish the area that is up to you, enjoy the story, no worries about the quests being gray because it does not matter, you have no levels to gain anyway.

The skill level of end game would be better too.  No nerfs needed.  Being the whole system is always getting harder every step of the way, people will be leveling based on skill as well as gear.  If your skill stalls you at the black temple, you will not get better gear then that to move any further.

If you choose to quest your heart out to get some higher level gear, you will be noticed as having quest gear (1 slot) or BoE gear (no slots) and not raid gear (3 slot).  You can then use your actual skill, with lesser gem slots, to earn your space into a regular raid but it would be known that you are not a raider on that character.

Gear leveling just makes so much more sense now.  A lot more sense then a new player looking in at the game and seeing they have to make 85 levels before they can even start playing.  A lot more sense then making the leveling process so easy no one learns anything.  Gated content, people will complain, but gated by gear, gear you earn for your true level, item level, now that is a much better leveling model if you ask me.

Maybe it is time for a change.  I doubt they are going to go back to long and hard leveling, they are just going to make it shorter and the shorter it gets, the less reason there is for it to even be there.  Something will need to be done some day because I know damn well if I where to start now, I might look at 85 and think, screw it, that is just way to much playing catch up to do.

Way to much when there are so many other games out there with less levels to get, better graphics, newer, and fresh.  Letting people jump right into the real game instead of making them level 85 levels first can only be good for a game that can no longer say it has no real competition out there.


  1. Very interesting post indeed, that's an amazing idea. :)

  2. Levels are all about getting tangible "ding" of becoming (slightly) more powerful, but they aren't the only option.

    I'd say your system would work better with randomised items.

    Better replayability too, you don't just go and do "that one quest" to get yourself "best ILvl X Sword" by looking it up on WoWHead as you enter new area, though some fixed rewards might be ok now and then.

    With a bit more convoluted system you might be able to scale both mobs and quest rewards with your current item level - that would allow all areas and quests to be done in any order, and return to some areas you liked to get better rewards again. Perhaps this option could activate after you pass "current minimum expansion ilvl threshold" - like Nightmare in D3 is always set to "your max lvl +1".

  3. As far as I'm aware, the upcomming MMO 'The Secret World' is doing something slightly simalar, no levels, rather favouring skill levelling, like the more you use a skill the better you get at it, ala Skyrim. Not been following it closly tbh, so not sure if it's that simalar to your plan, zone and gear wise, but it's a start in the right direction.

    As for WoW, anything that gets people out in the world again gets my vote.

  4. Definitely an interesting reading; dropping the levels in favor of gear didn't occur to me (the reverse did though). In my opinion, the problem of your approach is that most probably all of the skills would be just dumped on the player at the beginning - personally, I find this quite intimidating if I consider the large number of skills many games (e. g. WoW) have. The possible advantage is that it facilitates skipping content if the player desires so (e. g. on his/her alt) by purchasing non-soulbound gear.

    I'm not sure how do you want to handle expansions - would each expansion add parallel quest+dungeon+raid progression paths?

  5. Great idea!
    And you can have green-blue-purple gear for each level.
    Heirlooms are not an issue as you can make their iLevel scale to be equivalent to equal level blues, making the number of pieces of gear you have to accumulate lower, and thus quicker leveling.
    Even gate each level with a number of dungeons that must be cleared before you can proceed - though I imagine non-raiders would oppose this strongly.

    Ellifain formerly @ Khaz'Goroth