Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Level Squish and Zones Done

The WoW development team is discussing a potential "level squish", reducing the maximum level to something much lower. With 120 levels, new abilities are spread out, and there are large gaps where nothing much changes when you level up.

One of the problems I have these days with blogging is that it seems I've already written about the topic of the day. This time we have a post from 2009: Time to Max Level. In that post, I propose that the time to max level should be roughly the same, regardless of what the maximum level is.

Rather than looking at time, though, let's take a look at a different angle:

How many zones should a new character complete before you reach the current expansion?

I suggest that this should be a constant. That a new character should do about eight zones before reaching the current expansion. That's enough time to level up, see several different stories and feel that you are ready to take on the latest content.

However, there are far more than 8 zones in the current levelling path. It would be better to construct multiple paths from beginning to the current expansion, then allow a new character to pick her path at the start.  The current options would be something like:
  1. Kalimdor
  2. Eastern Kingdoms
  3. Outlands and Northrend
  4. Cataclysm and Pandaria
  5. Draenor and The Broken Isles
You start an new character and can choose to go to Outlands or Cataclysm zones or Draenor right away. The first continent gets you about half-way, and the second continent gets you to the current expansion.  That's about enough time that you'll be satisfied with leveling, and the multiple paths means that each alt can have a different experience.

When Battle for Azeroth is done, maybe it becomes a second-half zone, and when the expansion after that is done, the two of them become a sixth path for alts.

Another advantage this would have is that it breaks up the weirdness in timelines that happens with Outlands and Northrend. You don't suddenly go back into the past after doing post-Cataclysm Azeroth.

The biggest problem, though, is that if you're a completely new player, you'll only see a small fraction of the total story on your way to the current expansion. On the other hand, it won't take you forever to get there either. And each zone can be paced appropriately and not go by in a blur.

Other people's posts on level squish:


  1. I believe that keeping the number of zones to get to the current content the same will kill any great advantage WoW has over every other MMO: it's sheer size. You can get up and wander all over the place (well, unless you get one shot wandering into Western and Eastern Plaguelands by mistake) and take forever to get to new content because WoW has that capability.

    Then again, WoW has that Achilles' Heel that they've baked into the community that "the game starts at max level", so the community tends to focus on that rather than the entirety of the game. Remember the old "you can do whatever you want" commercials for WoW, circa Wrath of the Lich King? Blizz wouldn't put those commercials out now, because that's not what they want you to be looking at.

    1. And yet, as more and more zones have been added, the population has gone down. The fact that Blizzard is talking about a level squish implies that they are seeing more and more new players "drop out" during the levelling process.

      Personally, I have trouble levelling alts to max. I get them to somewhere in 50 to 70, and then I lose interest. I think that finishing Eastern Kingdoms or Kalimdor is good enough for me.

      The thing is not that you "can" wander all over the place, but that you "have to" wander all over the place to get to max. I think that less wandering overall, but more choice as to where you wander would be a better experience at this point.

      I'm also not suggesting that the other zones disappear. The content would still be there if you want to do it, to chase Loremaster or similar.

    2. I've seen a chart around that shows --in general-- a parabolic arc of WoW's subs, where it peaked in early Cataclysm, and then has begun a slow descent. It's not the same chart where people claim that WoW's sub base is around 1.2-1.4 million (minus Chinese subs), but rather a current sub base of around 2-4 million subs. Still enough to be the big dog in MMO space, but that's not exactly saying much.

      I don't think that it's that you have to run all these zones in order to play current content (after all, there's already level boosting going on in WoW right now), but that the lower level zones aren't WoW's focus. Nor is it the player base's focus. In Cataclysm and in Mists I could spend all day cruising around Eastern Kingdoms or Kalimdor and hardly see another soul. (Same for Outland, but Northrend always had people going to and fro.) In late Wrath it was the same way, as people were all hanging out in Dalaran or ICC, waiting for the next BG/Raid/5-man to pop. If people are sold on the concept of playing with millions of people, and they're not where you're at, then Azeroth can seem a pretty boring place.