Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Do You Expect Leveling to Look Like Come Legion?

The leveling process now has a lot of issues, some of which I do plan to discuss in this post but I am sure I will be missing out on some of them such as professions and the such, but the over all questions is what do you think leveling will look like next expansion?  I'll share my opinion first, because that is what I do here.

Lets first go over the leveling experience and how is had downgraded, in my opinion, over the past few expansions.

The complete overhaul of the old world leveling experience in cataclysm messed up the continuity a great deal.  This one major redesign of the leveling process is where leveling started to go downhill as I see it.

Where you used to level from vanilla to BC to wrath, when cataclysm came out you quested from cataclysm, to the far past BC to the not as far past wrath and back to the current time cataclysm.  The situation only got worse with the following expansions by making it even even more convoluted of a leveling process when looking at it from a pure story perspective.  To a new player there was no flow, no rhyme and reason to the leveling process at all.  And there is a reason for that feeling.  Blizzard designed it that way, on purpose or by accident because they did not think ahead, I'll let you decide, but either way, it left things feeling off when leveling.  When they redesigned the old world leveling for cataclysm for no reason other than to redesign something that only needed updating, not redesigning, it was the first step in a series of steps that further ruined the leveling experience.

They should have left well enough alone I believe.  Let us start in vanilla, as if we are starting in the past and catching up to current times, and let us level though the past to meet everyone else at max level in the here and now.

One thing cataclysm did have done well, for the most part, however was that the skills people got while leveling still made sense as they got them.  Sure low level tanks and healers did seem a little slow to get the key things they needed to do their role to the best of their ability, but it was not exactly horrible, just not great.

When mists came out they changed a lot of abilities, removed some, added others, and also managed to add modifiers to certain abilities.  This had an impact on the leveling process, quite a huge one in some cases.

When leveling a healer or a tank now you were even more put on the spot.  Some classes not getting AoE as a tank until you have been trying to tank dungeons for 20 or so levels already.  Some healers not only getting no AoE heal for what felt like an eternity, but not even getting their second heal until they were well into their leveling journey.

And it was not only the tanks and the healers that felt some discomfort with how the talent changes effected the leveling process, damage dealers did as well.  Some classes not getting key abilities which would be the central focus of their entire game play until very late in the game.  Or other classes using abilities for a good 10 or more level, like primal strike for shaman, which would otherwise have no place even being considered as something they would use.  Or in the case of hunters having two of the specs us a focus generator, namely steady shot, nearly their entire leveling process, only to have it removed as they got close to level cap.

The entire experience could be confusing and frustrating to someone new and most definitely an issue for those that never look outside of the game for information and have no one in game to lean on asking questions.

All that was only when mists came out.  When warlords came out we had to deal with many other abilities being cut in the great pruning of 2014.  Lets forget all the max level players that saw abilities they loved removed but think about what this post is concerning, the leveling process.

After the pruning of abilities the tank and healer issues I mentioned before got even worse.  The damage dealers had to deal with getting abilities that modified spells they had not even learned yet.  Sometimes you might even find one spell modified twice before you even got it.

Each time the abilities are shuffled around and changed or removed or even added, the leveling process takes a beating and with the changes in warlords it has never been more evident.  cataclysm might have screwed up the "feel" of leveling to the point I don't think they can ever fix it without a complete reset of the game from level 1 where they put the story line back in the order is should be, but warlords put the second nail in the level coffin in my opinion.  The issues that came with mists were not good for leveling, but not as bad as what happened with cataclysm and warlords.

Now when leveling a fresh character not only do you not have needed abilities as you level, not only do you get modifiers for abilities that you do not even have yet, but you go spurts where you get 3 abilities in 6 levels and then none for the next 10 levels leaving the leveling process completely uneven and presumably less rewarding because a new player is not seeing themselves grow as much as we did back when we got power boosts more often.  Even the old style of 1 point that you could put into something as lame as +1% critical strike was more exciting than getting nothing at all, which much of the leveling process is now thanks to pruning.

But what will happen next expansion.  Can it really get worse for the new player leveling a player for the first time.  Can it really get even less rewarding.

With the gaps in ability gain and the feeling that we do not get much more power as we level as it is right now what will it feel like when we have even fewer abilities which will most assuredly translate into even fewer abilities being given to a new player as they level.

Looking at my favorite class alone, which is only one of, well, all classes getting a hatchet job done to it, I am losing more than half of my abilities.  If there are such huge gaps in getting abilities as it stands now what will it look like when there are that many fewer abilities.  Will even more classes enter dungeons the first time without even the basic tools they need to fulfill their role.  Will we see even more classes having to deal with getting abilities that modify spells they will not even have for another 30 levels.

I'll be the first to tell you my opinion is that the cataclysm revamp of the old world was a complete waste of time and resources.  But I will also say I believe that the leveling process needs to be fixed.  I hate suggesting that they allocate resources to fix something old like that, but it needs to be done.

Why is that you might ask and the answer is simple.  If the game never intended to get new players and it was just me, you and the other person leveling alts for the rest of forever, it would make no difference if they fixed the leveling process.  We have all been there and done that.  It does not matter it is out of order.  It does not matter we get out abilities in a screwed up order because we know what is coming later to even it out.  But if they want new players to join the game and more importantly new players to fall in love with the game and to get attached to it like I did or you did or that other player did, they need to fix the leveling process.

The leveling process needs to be more than a mash up of left over parts from expansions past.  It needs to have a story that moves in a linear way and not jumping all over time, like the remake of the old world did when cataclysm came out.  It needs to give players at least the most basic of the tools they need to accomplish tasks once the game opens up them for them, such as tanks and healers having the needed AoE abilities at level 15 for when dungeons become active.  It needs to give abilities in a understandable order and not give you abilities that modify a skill you do not even have yet.  And last but not least, it needs to let the player feel that each level is a step forward in power instead of having to wait 2 or 4 or even 10 levels before they get a new ability that makes them feel as if they are getting a little personal progression as they level.

So what do I think leveling will look like in legion?

Unless something major changes I think it is going to be downright horrible.  The worst it has ever been.  I think it will not be something that can keep a new player playing and in the end, for each and every one of us, keeping those new players matter.  They might be your next friend, your next raid super star or heck, even just another subscriber paying them which in turn keeps the game running.  But they will be none of those things if they get bored because the leveling process does not feel rewarding or fun enough to keep them involved.

If you ask me, we need to go back to a point system when level and each level lets you assign 1 point into something.  Blizzard says they removed it because there is nothing exciting about putting 1 point into +1% critical strike.  Maybe they are right.  But one thing is for sure.  I would rather go 4 levels with adding +1 to four different secondary stats than going 4 levels with absolutely nothing.  Which it seems we will be seeing a lot of in legion.

Just one elf's opinion, what is yours?


  1. The current leveling problems have been well-documented, and they are significant. Should Blizzard allocate resources to fix them? Absolutely not.
    The game has been (and will continue to) lose subscriptions. It's old. How many truly new players do you really WoW gets every month? I'm sure there are some, but definitely not enough to justify a leveling revamp. I wish the WoW population were still growing, or at least leveling off, but it isn't. And it never will again. I'm sure we are already at a point where 95% of subscribed players have leveled more than once already.

    1. I do not think it would take much in terms of resources to fix it. I am not talking a complete redesign of the leveling process. I am talking just giving a redesign on what level you get what abilities.

      There is no reason a tank should start tanking without at least AoE ability. There is no reason you should have a modifier to an ability you have not even learned yet. Things like that.

      Heck, they do not even need to hire a single person to do it. Just ask some of the top theory crafters to think of a better design for when people get abilities while leveling. The community could do it for them.

  2. The new talent trees are absolutely horrible for leveling, but they are pretty good at max level, at least in my opinion.

    I think what they should have is a leveling tree similar to the old talent trees that you get a point per level and get small modifiers you get to spend those points on. Blizzard complained that the old trees there were no choice and good players just looked up the right spec and bad players got trapped. I think the solution is to have the number of points in the leveling tree be maxed out at max level.

    Early on you get to choose what cool abilities you want and when you want them. Admittedly towards the end of leveling the tree will feel unrewarding, but at that stage you are probably more excited for max level and all the new content that opens for you at max level. I think this solves the problem of no customization while leveling while also providing an even playing field at max level, where you'd still have the new style talent tree for customization.

    1. At max level it is fine, but getting the max level feels off. That is why I believe the order you get abilities needs to be worked on.

      I would love love love love love a leveling tree similar to the old talent tree where each level we assign a point. I think that would make it feel better as we level, as if we are always getting something.

  3. You should get your basic rotation spells very early on, certainly by level 20 or so, even if they're weaker versions of what you get later. It's pointless otherwise.

    1. I think that is a solid idea. And rank up the abilities as you level up like it used to be.

  4. Considering everyone getting an instant boost character I can't help but thinking that for Blizz the leveling process 1-90 is irrelevant.

    IMHO Blizz wants everyone in a small area (like TI1 and TI2) that the world is alive - cause they did everything in their power to make the rest of the world as empty as possible.

    Interesting thing in the new approach though - unless everyone always gets the same set of quests, spreading out endgame over the whole area of the expansion will again create a universe where you are alone.

    what the heck are they thinking????

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

    1. I believe you are right. They are only concerned about the leveling of whatever the boost brings you up to. Meaning only the newest content.

      My issue is with the growth of the game. If they do not catch new player and make them interested, they will not keep playing, which means they will not buy boosts.

      Maybe the idea is to get them to buy the boosts because the leveling system is so horrible they have no option. /tin foil hat

  5. Never really though about the issue and never been bother.

    I just remeber that I far prefered te leveling I did while cata/MoP than the first leveling I did in wrath. I was always like 10 level behind in skills cause I did not go back to the trainers.

    1. I am the other way around. I loved the older leveling with talent points all the time. With having to go train skills to level them up.

      It made for some interesting choices when you could not afford abilities. Or when you met a hard battle while leveling and you went back to look at all the things you had not bought yet to see what might help you.

      Admittedly there are not hard battles leveling any more. But with all the talk about immersion, why did they remove the first bit of immersion everyone was introduced to, abilities.

  6. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    To be frank, I think the leveling process can not be fixed easily nor is it likely that Blizzard will dedicate the resources needed to do so. I wish they would but I doubt it will happen.

    If they did decide to repair the leveling process, I would rather they convert the whole thing into a more sandbox feel rather than trying to tell a single major story line that lies in the past. This would require the use of phasing to make leveling zones still of use to max level players but even there, caution must be used or the new content will be rapidly outlived by the very next expansion.

    In fact, I wish that each expansion included a revision of the previous one to make it into a more sandbox type of playing area. Quests being reset to reflect that the previous expansion is done and that the new quests are simply dedicated to the leveling experience. It is to much to ask for I know, but given a preference, that is what I would chose.

    Given that what I would like to see will never occur, I expect that Blizzard will continue with the idea of traveling through time as you level, living out each story in turn as you advance a character through the various expansions. Now that is probably still within the storytelling ability of Blizzard, so it is the likeliest outcome. (/scar)

    1. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

      LOL, the /sarc kinda much got bummed out at the thought and turned into a scar instead...or maybe I can't always remember to spell correctly.

    2. I do not think it would take a lot for someone to say "hey how about we give them earthquake before we give them the ability that makes it hit for more".

      An intern could redesign how skills are given while leveling, they would not even need to pay someone to do it. A little common sense is all they need.

      A healer needs heals when they start doing dungeons.
      A tank needs some sort of AoE aggro generator when they start doing dungeons.
      A damage dealer needs more than 1 damage dealing ability for their first 10 levels.
      A player should not have skills that modify spells before they have the spells.

      See, common sense.

      Actually maybe the scar is right. You were scared by the way they have treated you and the rest of us these last few years.

  7. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    Regarding how the current leveling system rewards a character for leveling, I would much prefer to see a point to be spent on a range of possibilities, with never enough points to buy everything. What I mean by that is have one point per level that can be spent on a long list of optional effects.

    It would wreck balancing by the developers but who cares? They can't achieve balance anyway and never have been able to nor are they likely to in the future.

    That would be a new and innovative style of leveling, basically a build your own hero type. It would require listing all the spells and abilities ever used in Warcraft by the class or classes that used that power, then assigning a point value of 1 to 5 for each spell. It would also include the things like "+1% critical" for 1 point.

    At level 110, a character will have spent a maximum of 110 points on developing his power and abilites list but the list will be no where near exhausted. Basically it would be restoring all the lost spells and abilities, along side the current ones, and adding in options for bonuses on certain things to be picked over by the player, not the developer.

    I think that might restore some interest in the leveling process. It would certainly make for interesting choices as compared to the current system.

    1. They have already thrown balance to the wind in anything outside of max level. That is the only place they even attempt to balance things. So your idea would be fine in my opinion. Sure there would be balance issues at level 47 for example, but in reality, who is going to stay 47 long enough to notice it?

  8. Between heirloom gear, experience-increasing potions, and paid insta-boosts, I've got to agree with JCSway: Blizzard probably no longer cares about the leveling process beyond making sure it very quickly gets players to current content. It's almost impossible to understand the story you're progressing through at that pace.

    WoW tokens were added to capture a share of the gold buyer market and keep even more existing players from leaving and further reducing subscription numbers (since it's pretty easy for anyone who's played for a while to cover their token costs and keep playing for free now). WoD delivered the least ever in terms of expansion content -- a trend I expect we'll see continue as Blizzard turns it focus to the newer properties like HoTS and Overwatch.

    I expect Legion will be the same: get people to 100 ASAP, give them a more on-rails level process to endgame, and then trickle out a minimum of new content while hoping to keep monthly subs going as long as possible before the inevitable next drop-off.

    It's a bit sad personally, but, honestly, it's an 11 year old game and I can't complain about all fun I got out of my sub. And I can't think of any MMO that comes close still to WoW -- which says a lot about the poor state of MMO's these days.

    (What's ironic is that it took so long to make the Warcraft movie. If it's isn't a flop, it is going to capture the interest of a lot of new potential newbie players. If it rolled out 5-7 years ago, it could have been incredible boost for the game. Today, I bet there'll be a surge that rapidly drops away again).

    1. I also agree they do not care about it. It would have never gotten so bad if they did care. My opinion is however is that they should care.

      If game is old, it is going to continue to lose players as we get bored, move on, or just quit for various other reasons. The only way it keeps moving forward is if it can replace some of us when we move on. To do so it needs new people. New people that do not have heirlooms, experience potions or the desire to pay for a boost at a game they are not quite "into" yet.

      I am not asking for a complete design. Just to have leveling give players abilities as they need them and in a reasonable order so they feel as if they are growing as they level.

  9. As long as I can level via treasures without being dismounted while flying in the latter stages of the expansion I don't really care what the earlier leveling is like. :)