Sunday, January 03, 2021

Shadowlands Max Level Content Strategy

Blizzard is pursuing a new strategy for max level content in Shadowlands. I think it's working quite well, so I'd like to take a look at what I believe the strategy is.

The main strategy consists of:

  1. Multiple areas of content
  2. Low, front-loaded weekly caps
  3. Separate currencies for each area

 Let's take Torghast as an example. You get the bulk of the reward by running each of two open wings. The main reward is Soul Ash for legendaries, and Torghast is the major source. The bulk of Soul Ash comes from the lower levels, making it less necessary to run the highest level. Last week, I ran a Layer 8 and a Layer 4 (helping a guildmate who is still climbing). That's good enough.

The same pattern is there with the Maw. It's the only source of Stygia and Venari reputation. But the bulk of the reward is the two or three weekly quests. You can do the dailies and rares if you want, but the reward is much lower. Then there is also a soft/hard cap in the Jailer's Eye.

This even extends to story. Blizzard has been steadily releasing a chapter each week.

I think this is a pretty solid system. You bounce around the various activities trying to do the major items. The caps are very low, which allows you to spend minimal time in the areas you don't like. Having separate currencies for each area means that players can't just spam the most efficient content.

The biggest change is that Blizzard simply had to ignore all the players who complain about "gating", about being unable to spend more time to earn more power. Shadowlands has the strongest gating in WoW's history, and I think the majority of players seem to be happy with that.

We'll have to see if this strategy is good enough for the expansion's lifetime, but so far it seems quite good, and will probably be the model going forward.


  1. I'm not so sure how long the separate currencies will hang in there. SWTOR used to have separate currencies for each planet, and that eventually was replaced with the current single currency system. I'd imagine that there'd be an eventual push to unify the currencies.

    1. Well, I didn't write this in the main post, but I think that Battle for Azeroth was basically this design, only with a unified currency (Azerite Power). Given that Blizzard has already tried the unified currency and it was received poorly, I think they'll stick with separate currencies.

      The big difference in SWTOR is that the planets were level-bound, so you acquired each currency in sequence. Stop getting A, start getting B. Here you're acquiring each currency in parallel. Each week you get a little of A and a little of B.

  2. There are weekly quests in the Maw? I know only about Wrath of the Jailer. What else is there?

    1. Ven'ari gives 2 weekly quests (and a third when you unlock Perdition Hold). Not sure if there are more later on.

      Blizzard really needs a new color or symbol icon for weekly quests.

  3. The hard gates are preventing burnout, which is certainly good. Great for mains. Less so for any alts as more gates come along...though I have to assume cacth up mechanics will address it, like we saw in Legion.

    1. Yeah, we'll see if catch-up mechanics are necessary. But another advantage of this method is that catch-up mechanics can be implemented separately. For example, if Soul Ash doesn't really need a catch-up, but Anima does, then Blizz can implement only the Anima catch-up.