Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Time to Max Level

In patch 2.3, Blizzard is reducing the amount of experience required to level by 15% (for levels 20-60). Most people are happy about the change, though there are some people (such as Tobold) who questioning if this devalues the existing levelling game.

I would like to look at it from a sightly different angle. Let's define a concept called Time to Max Level. It's basically the amount of play time the average player would have to spend for her first character to reach the level cap.

Here's my question:

Should Time to Max Level depend on the value of the max level?

I think that it should not, that Time to Max Level should be independent of the numerical value of the max level. That there's a sweet spot, probably around 8 months, where someone who is new to the game and plays a couple of hours a week can eventually reach the cap. Reaching the cap is a major milestone, and should be in reach of every player. If that basic goal seems out of reach, it's very discouraging.

When WoW first came out, many reviews praised it for being easy for even casual players to hit the level cap. The actual number of the cap didn't matter, only that people could reach it.

But if it takes 8 months to reach 60, and 4 months to go from 60-70, that's 12 months to reach the max level. And when the next expansion comes out, that's another 4 months. Soon it will be impossible for a new player to reach the max level before the next expansion comes out.

Of course, if you add more levels, you need to make the levelling time faster for the earlier levels in order to keep Time to Max Level constant. So I think that Blizzard is on the right track with speeding up 20-60 levelling. I hope they continue this trend with the next expansion, speeding up 60-70, and trying to keep hitting the level cap within the reach of even the most casual players.


  1. Why should "time to max level" be constant? Imagine somebody bought the first Harry Potter book when it came out and it took him X hours to read it. If another person now buys all 7 Harry Potter books, should it also take X hours to read those, or should it take 7 times X hours to read?

    What if WoW brings out another expansion every year, adding another 10 levels every year, and we end up with the level cap at 200. Should we then really keep the time to max level the same as it was, so that you just need to do a handful of quests in every zone before you outlevel it? To me that feels like watching a movie with the fast forward button of my video recorder pressed. You get through faster, but you are missing something essential.

  2. Obviously, time to max level is not a constant; it is as varied as the players. However, I would agree that Blizzard is wise in reducing what we might call the "average the time to max level", retuning a successful 1-60 game to a 1-70 model.

    IMO the original post is correct in noting that the timing of expansions will enter into a "average time to max level" model". Since WoW is obviously heavily invested in an "endgame" (be it raiding or PvP), it is reasonable to assume that the model should allow a person to level a character to max level and engage in the endgame within the expansion window.

    This is important in an MMO for another reason - the "Multiplayer" part. I think that most would agree that the most "multiplayer" part of the game is the endgame. But if your friends are level 70 and you are told by them (as WoW veterans) that the average noob is more than a year away from the level cap - with the perception being that equals more than a year away from playing with them... then that would seem to me to deter most folks from the attempt.

  3. An additional component to this equation, there are simply fewer people to play with at the earlier stages of the game. While twinking and advanced game knowledge take away some of the sting of this fact for alts, new players who do not have this advantage might have a hard time playing with others. Casual players who would pick up the game now would be at a tremendous disadvantage, and might indeed never get to enjoy the majority of content.

  4. I think smoothing out the experience curve is a necessary evil. When the game is first created, the experience curve is based on max level at that time (i.e. 0-60). As expansions are added, with new max levels, new curves are added to the old ones. This effectively creates "spikes" in the experience curve (one near 60 and one near 70), usually referred to as "hell levels".

    The reason why you want to make it easier to reach max level is to make them part of the established community (which is at or near max level). MMORPG's need a certain pool of players to draw upon to make groups. If new people can't find groups because there aren't enough low-level players, at least they can level-up quickly and accomplish a lot on their own or in smaller numbers (referring to making elite quests, non-elite).

  5. I agree with dyermaker. I started a belf when tBC came out and it was good from 1-20 when I was in belf territory but when I had to leave and explore other places the game had an empty feeling about it. 20-58 really feels like a grind now. I've got various alts that I play on but it's not as much fun when you're just soloing and bs'ing in guild chat. Back when I leveled my main toon at launch the old world was vibrant a full of people and you could easily get help for group quests and instances in your level range. Now you're lucky to find a dozen in most of the mid-level areas. I think speeding up the leveling process will help out the population greatly. With only 15% of xp taken off you should still have plenty of time to learn how to play your character.

    Just an FYI that Harry potter analogy is terrible. You're talking about a fixed experience while WoW is a dynamic experience. When you finish the book you put it down, with WOW when you finish leveling you end up raiding, running Heroics, or PvP'ing. Most people spend more time at 70 than they do leveling up so IMO it's better to get people to 70 to enjoy the content Blizzard spent the most time on.

  6. Imagine somebody bought the first Harry Potter book when it came out and it took him X hours to read it. If another person now buys all 7 Harry Potter books, should it also take X hours to read those, or should it take 7 times X hours to read?

    There are a lot of people who won't read Harry Potter because of the length of the series. They'll wait for the movies to come out.

    There are many abridged versions of novels (even simple stuff like the Da Vinci Code). Length is a barrier to entry.

    I think one of WoW's main strengths was that it was relatively easy to reach the level cap, which is the first major goal for a player. I just think putting that goal further and further out of reach of a new player is a bad idea.

  7. After leveling my main Pally to level 70, I decided to go play with a friend on his PVP server. He's already at 70, so I wanted to level up asap to be able to raid with him. I started a lock and have been struggling to get it past the 40s for a month. I have NO motivation to level up because I've seen all the content and I get no joy from doing the quests again. I've also been wanting to start a rogue, but for the same reasons, I won't.

    The "grind" is quickly killing my "want" to play WoW.

    I can't wait for 2.3, hopefully it will revive my desire to play again.


  8. 12 months to reach 70^^ slow leveler? :)

    Wow pvp tips

  9. I think what we are looking at is Blizzard accomodating their game shift. It was a game with a level 60 end cap and the content was structured to foster getting to 60 as "taking some time" but achievable. Moving to a paradigm where their game became highly successful and demand resulted in supplied expansion... you have to shift the initial game structure "from leading up to level 60" to being that it simply "leads upwards". The game setup has changed in that it is not a bunch of stuff *culminating* in level 60. It has shifted to a game in which players can progress - regardless of where the end cap is "at the moment". As such, you have to set up your game mechanics (and rewards) to better match progression rather than "culminating in" (which arguably can include lulls and drypatches).
    I would not expect them to re-adjust the leveling time again (erh scratch that, I expect them to patch it a bit but then leave it alone!).

  10. The leveling buff is a step in the right direction. 2.3 = "Hey, everyone go make alts now!" patch.

    I'm just waiting for the day they fix crafting professions to actually be useful on the trip to the level cap, rather than just being money-sinking grind-fests. Skilling up blacksmithing while leveling is a pain, because a good majority of what you're making are white items and greens with spirit on them. I don't even want these things when I'm the right level for them, let alone have any hope I can sell them to other people. I want more than two pieces of crafted gear I can actually use between 20 and 60, thanks.

  11. Why should "time to max level" be constant? Imagine somebody bought the first Harry Potter book when it came out and it took him X hours to read it. If another person now buys all 7 Harry Potter books, should it also take X hours to read those, or should it take 7 times X hours to read?

    Conversely, your friends don't refuse to have coffee with you until you've finished all of the books.

    The problem is that as the level cap raises, the amount of time required for a new player to get to the level required before they can even start being competitive gets longer and longer.

    This is massively discouraging.

  12. it took 6 months calender time to get from 60 to 70.