This post was inspired by two things, Tzufit’s wonderful post about Outlands as well as my own recent experiences levelling my rogue.
(The italics belong to C.P Cavafy, taken from his poem Ithaka)
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
Levelling, you either love it or hate it. We all have to do it and yes, it’s a means to an end but isn’t Warcraft more than just the end-game, more than just the Dragon Soul? When I first started playing reaching 60 was the last thing on my mind, in fact reaching 40 for a mount seemed unlikely. Then I started to fall in love with the landscapes, the lush jungles of STV blurring into the icy reaches of Winterspring. Each quest was a breadcrumb that led me deeper and deeper into the forests of Silverpine, Ashenvale and Elwynn. Like Little Red Riding Hood, I strayed from the path time and time again but my experience was richer for it. Sure, the wolf got me more times than I care to remember but each time I resurrected determined to get stronger and better at the game.
Fast forward to now and everyone seems to be racing to hit 85. Heirlooms, shortened levels, experience from PvP, RAF and guild experience mean that unless you deliberately go out of your way to smell the flowers, you’re 85 before you know it. My Rogue will have taken four days of play from 1 to 85 but since I’ve spent quite a few hours hanging out online not doing things which give experience, I imagine she could have been there a lot faster. If memory serves me correctly, it used to take about seven to nine days to level from 1 to 60 in classic (on average). Given that the game has got bigger, not smaller in terms of content, that seems wrong to me.
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
Or where have all the elites gone?
Kreug Oathbreaker, my husband and I, we had a thing. A happy little ménage à trois in which he provided the benchmark for each of the pairs we levelled. Could we kill him at 71 with a ret paladin and a (bad) hunter? Yes, it took a few tries but with traps and stuns and my poor pet taking turns at tanking we could. What about with a destruction warlock and disc priest? Turns out they needed another level before the blueberry was up to the task but again, we managed. Now, he’s a sorry excuse for a mob, a shadow of his former self. My rogue solo’d him without a care in the world, in fact because he’s stun-able I took an impressive 3k of damage across the entire fight.
I suppose my issue here is not that it now takes less time to gain more levels but that I feel that too much has been sacrificed in the process. I accept that taking weeks to level would put new players off as well as frustrate those just wanting to try out a new class at 85. I don’t however see why the elites and group quests needed a nerf. They were always optional and now even more so because we need less experience per level. If you couldn’t find enough people in the zone who were on the quest or didn’t have friends/guildmates to come, you weren’t stuck. Your levelling experience wouldn’t just abruptly end there, you were free to move on something you could complete by yourself.
The elite quests provided an extra frisson of excitement, especially those free roaming ones. Running into Stitches for the first time was an experience everyone should have. Not only was he an argument for staying off the road in the first place, the chance of bumping into him made the zone an interesting place. I liked that feeling of nervous anticipation pre-cataclysm Duskwood gave me, it’s creepiness intensified whenever you heard the yelling start. Now he’s safely phased so no innocent questers will be accidentally flattened whilst he rampages around Darkshire and that’s a loss to all of us. Once you’ve completed the quest chain, no more Stitches ever. You can’t roam through Duskwood lying in wait for him to settle old scores, collecting his femurs as trophies.
I got to Outlands vaguely hopeful that all my old friends would be untouched by Blizzard’s incredible nerfing shrink ray but no, they too were all pale reflections of their former selves. I know the Fel Reaver is untouched but given how open Hellfire is, it’s rather hard not to see him coming.
Then there is the inconsistency, I can solo Durn, this massive monster of mob, this son of a raid boss but I still need a group to take on Brokentoe even though he looks exactly the same as Banthar, a mob I killed by sneezing on five minutes previously. I also noticed on a quick trip to Netherstorm that most of the elites there are still elites. Is that because most people just go straight from Blade’s Edge to Northrend now or is that a bit too cynical?
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
One of the things which hooked me into WoW in the first place was the challenge of levelling. I still remember the feeling of satisfaction we had when we killed King Mukla the first time with just two people. Yes, it required a fair amount of kiting and one or two attempts but we’d seen five man groups wipe on the giant ape before. Now, all the bumps in the road have been ironed out. Making levelling easier is one thing but these changes have a couple of knock on effects.
Firstly, they eradicate part of the need for social interaction whilst levelling. In the past I got to know a lot of new guild-mates by helping them with their alts, it was a great way of striking up conversations outside raiding. It was also a way of meeting new people, all of you standing there staring at some massive elite. I made quite a few friends through Fozruk in particular, either by asking for help tracking him down or just getting people to help me kill him. Now, talking just slows you down in the mad race to see who can pull him fastest because you know it’s easy and you don’t want to share experience.
Secondly because the levels whiz past so fast, learning your abilities properly can be hard. You’ve barely had time to keybind one before you’ve got the next. I always see levelling a new character as a house of cards. Each ability or spell I learn is a new card and I carefully add them to those that came before, building upon them. Spells interlinking with each other as I figure out which order I should use them, in any given situation. Take my rogue, she’s combat with a few pvpish talents thrown into the mix and so I want to be able to treat mobs a bit like players as a sort of practise run without ego getting in the way but they don’t have enough health for it to work. I get a fraction of the way through my planned moves and the mob is dead at my feet. In the end, I have to resort to pvp to practice against live target dummies (a cruel choice of words perhaps but then rogue versus most people especially in the lv 75 to 79 bracket could be classed as cruel, especially when the rogue is wearing cataclysm loot).
We’re taught spells in a spaced out fashion, I imagine so as not to overwhelm people but I keep seeing people (in pvp and sub 85 dungeons) who don’t use key abilities for their spec/roll and when you ask why (in the politest possible way), you get answers like “Oh is that what that does?” or “I haven’t done my training since lv 15”. Surely something is wrong if questing is so easy you don’t need to do your training and you can kill easily without using abilities your choice of spec is supposedly built around.
I also want to touch on the gap between those with heirlooms and those without. It is a massive chasm and quest rewards do not come close to bridging it. This is seen in particular in low level PvP, where without heirlooms, rogues are drawn to you like angry pointy teethed moths to a flame. I think this disparity is part of the issue and if heirlooms were either removed from the equation or all players were given access to them, then balancing the levelling game would be far easier.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
One of the things I regret most about my WoW play time was my journey to 85. We stayed up all night to level along with most of my then guild and hit 85 sometime in the afternoon. By the time I hit Uldum, I was existing on chocolate and cherry coke, I wasn’t reading quest text (which is really unlike me) and I wanted to kill Harrison Jones (although that would probably have happened anyway). I don’t really remember Twilight Highlands at all nor do I remember the actual yay I’m 85, now I can go to bed moment. Possibly because there wasn’t one and I had to start running instances to gear up for raiding. Looking back at my blog posts, I know that 10 days into the expansion, we were sitting at 8 bosses down already but it’s all a high speed blur. If I could do it again, I’d have gone slower even if it was just by a day or two.
I can’t help feeling that this levelling lark creates a false sense of expectation. You aren’t supposed to sleepwalk to 85 (even though I did) and then learn to play your class at the expense of other people (didn’t do that though). Battlegrounds, dungeons, LFR, guild applications, you see it all the time. People who have put zero effort in to a character, expecting to be able to muddle through, the way they did on the road from 1 to 85. The problem is, they can’t and that causes friction, tension and a good deal of flaming. People who walk into 85 random battlegrounds still in their questing gear or heirlooms and wonder why the rest of their team aren’t pleased to see them. People who try tanking heroics in PvP gear and wonder why their healers are struggling and/or angry. People who think that doing less dps than the healer is acceptable. Challenge free levelling creates a whole set of issues of it’s own, ones which do have a negative effect on the game. I fully accept that people should be free to play anyway they want to, apart from the areas where their desires/wishes cross into other people’s. Sure, doing a quest in Elwynn shouldn’t be on par with a Heroic raid instance but mobs shouldn’t ever be one shot-able either.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
The road to 85 should be marvellous, after all there are some beautiful zones and amazing, heart-wrenching quests waiting to be explored.
I just wish when they made the levels smaller, they left the elites alone. Little challenges sparkling like pearls in amidst the easy quests so the brave or arrogant could confront them at will and perhaps learn more in those fraught minutes than in all the rest of the journey.
Here’s to levelling in the Mists, may the experience be “full of adventure, full of discovery.”