New leveling, continued

In Friday’s post, I described my experiences so far with leveling a void elf under the new leveling structure. As nearly all of my weekend play time was spent leveling my new alt, this will be an update on additional observations.

Having now played a total of 17 hours in the new system on my void elf, I have to say I still have mixed feelings about the leveling and zone changes.

In my 17 hours I managed to get my VE to level 50. Allowing for the fact that they start at level 20, and allowing some non-leveling time for afk’s, incorporating new talents into action bars, setting up a bank and getting new bags, running back and forth to the Darkmoon Faire to get the leveling buff, etc., that is probably — very roughly — 2 levels per hour. (Not sure how much the DMF buff speeded things up, but it did help a little, even though it seemed like every time I freshly applied it, my next series of quests involved long intervals of road travel, with not much actual leveling going on. 😡)

That really is not a bad rate, but it is quite a bit slower than before the patch, so of course it feels really tedious. (Plus, I expect that rate to slow as I get higher.) These days I consider myself to be an efficient leveler — not a speed leveler, but also not wasting time on things like professions and extraneous exploration. I handicapped myself a bit this time by choosing a mage to level, and an arcane one at that. One of my guildies started out yesterday at almost the same level I was, and by the end of the day she had reached 60 while I only got to 50, playing about the same number of hours. But she is leveling a monk, and that xp buff they get is pretty significant. Also, my leveling an arcane mage means I have to spend time after every 2-3 pulls to replenish mana (arcane really eats mana fast) and health (squishy clothie). It adds up.

Pluses so far:

I do like the idea that I can select any zone I want to level in. For example, I am really burned out on Redridge, so I am avoiding it this time around. I did Western Plaguelands but when it came time to go to what traditionally would have been the next zone — Eastern Plaguelands, which I hate with a passion — I opted for Theramore instead. You can jump from zone to zone or continent to continent easily and not suffer any bad effects on the leveling process. (With the possible exception of some additional travel time.)

I also like the addition of zone quest sets. I was never big on going after the Loremaster achievement, but I do like the mini-achievements you get now when you finish a set of related quests in a zone.

I still like the heirloom gear, even after Blizz nerfed it. (A lot.) It saves me having to re-equip most gear after quests, and of course the added transmog expenses every time you re-equip. (Because of course fashion while questing is everything, Dahling!) Yeah, I know void elves get a slight break on transmog costs, but I am still a cheapskate in that area. (More about heirloom gear below.)

Minuses so far:

Something that did not occur to me before I started this process, but which I now find is pretty important, is that I never get the “oh, I must be making progress” feeling, because every mob is always pretty hard. They level up as I do, so I never get that “cool, this used to be hard but now they are dying much faster” internal feedback. Everything is just as difficult at level 50 as it was at level 20, even the exact same mobs.

In some ways, this absence of a sense of progression reminds me of the Legion AP chase — you never really feel like you have finished anything, it just grinds on and on with no noticeable change. Leveling an alt is now like leveling your artifact weapon, and it feels bad. I am astounded that Blizz just does not seem to understand this. It apparently is not important to the devs, but I can assure them it is very important to the majority of players.

I have not done any dungeons, so I can’t speak firsthand as to how or if that would affect the leveling process. However, the guildie I mentioned above ran a few on a different alt — a tank she is leveling — and described her experiences as a “disaster”, mainly because healers just could not keep up with the extra damage to the tank and dps. She is an excellent tank, knows the fights and is very situationally aware when it comes to pulling, and she will stop to let healers get mana and such, so when she says dungeons are “disasters” I tend to put some stock in it. If they give extra xp, is it really worth it if they take longer to do and require more repair costs?

I have also heard that the healer leveling process is significantly more difficult now than before the changes (if any of you have direct experience with this, chime in). Of course, it is not new that some classes and specs have an easier time leveling than others, this has always been the case. But I wonder if the new system, because of rushed testing or slipshod balancing, disproportionately punishes the “loser” classes and roles. It’s just a thought, I really have no data to go further with it.

Doing a major overhaul of the entire leveling system is certainly a daunting task, and I suppose we should be somewhat understanding if Blizz has not covered all its bases in the process. But honestly, my patience shelves for Blizz are pretty bare these days. They seem to rush things out the door, rarely if ever listening or reacting to the serious feedback they claim to want from players.

Not everyone wants the new prescribed and approved leveling “experience” every time they level an alt. The forums are full of people loudly braying this truism. It seems to me that Blizz might, for a change, listen to the drumbeat behind the comments and realize they could actually — and easily — appease both camps in this case. They could keep the new system in place, but structure heirlooms this way:

  • Keep the new nerfed versions, but add a level of enhancement, based on the player having attained certain achievements (max level, certain level of gear, certain reps, a high level quest chain, whatever) on at least one character.
  • The new enhancement would be purchased tokens, applied to each piece of heirloom gear after each has reached level Level 3 for that piece.
  • This new “Level 4” token would go into effect immediately and would basically grant greater gear power (yes, rendering mobs and many bosses trivial), as well as significantly increase the xp bonus for each piece. (Essentially restoring the old leveling experience.)
  • The token would be applied once the heirloom gear was equipped and soulbound, thus applying only to the character being leveled. (Like enchants do now.) If a player wished to level another alt, they would have to re-purchase these speed tokens for that alt.
  • The cost of the tokens should be reasonable, neither too cheap nor prohibitively expensive, maybe something like a few hundred gold each.
  • Players not wishing to rush through the leveling experience would not have to add this token and would get the full benefit of whatever “immersive experience” they want. (Of course there would be the inevitable argument of “I love playing this way, and so everyone else should have to play that way, too”, but that is an argument that should be ignored.)

I honestly do not see who would lose with such a system (except, probably the Blizz execs who now equate “tedious grinding” with “my quarterly MAU bonus”). But I think what Blizz has done with the new leveling system actually will discourage some players from leveling new alts (especially once the newness of Allied races has worn off), and by giving an option for speed leveling it might entice more players to participate, which in the long run will increase MAU.

None of this will happen, of course. First, Blizz has shown they do not give a rat’s ass if players feel they are being shoved into one endless grind after another. (All while Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas sanctimoniously tut-tuts about the evils of “grinding”, a prime example of alternative-reality thinking.) Second, Blizz is in the midst of a major game redirection — ongoing now for a couple of years — away from any form of player option or choice and towards a highly centralized and prescribed play style.

Meanwhile, I need more mage food.

11 thoughts on “New leveling, continued

  1. I’m wondering something. Years ago when Cata was the first expansion I experienced after starting late in Wrath, I recall, or perhaps it was MoP, that they mentioned they were reducing the XP required to level, so that people would be able to get to max level quickly. For those with a few BoA pieces it made leveling fast. Flash forward to where now most have full sets of BoA and XP bonuses, leveling could be done in an insanely short time. I know I was fighting things 7-8 levels higher than me like they were nothing the last time I tried an alt. In true Blizzard fashion to swing to the far extreme, I wonder if they have just rolled things back to original values to level, and what few BoA pieces were available back then.

    1. It seems like that is at least the intent. Of course the initial change you mention was back when Blizz thought they made their money out of subscriptions, not the number of hours each of us spends playing the game. Now that they have been converted, they are discovering all the places they mistakenly allowed us to speed things up.

      I do understand that a sizable number of players actually like taking their time leveling new characters. But an equally sizable number does not. It is ironic that, at a time when Blizz is pretty much designing for the end game — and a very specific approved approach to the end game at that — that they choose now to make it even more tedious to get there.

  2. Totally agree: it is a flat experience forever.
    The only solution that I can think of in this new paradigm is to level up to (say) 60 and then when you get your spells, like interrupts or tranquility, then you do the dungeons. It is a flip from the past when the strategy was to enter dungeons at 15 and move along; now it might be better to wait (a long time) before going into dungeons for XP runs so that you have enough spells to do the job.

    1. That actually is another thing I have in my “Minus” column — a while back, Blizz redesigned the levels at which classes get their spells and talents, and combined with a couple years of pruning, it means most classes are stuck punching one or two buttons as their only options at lower levels. Seems like, if as @Marathal speculated, Blizz’s intent is to restore the “original leveling experience”, they might have done a better job and given us back a few more gizmos at low levels to keep us from going stir crazy.

  3. I completely agree about the lack of reward in leveling. There’s just no sense of getting stronger, so the hedonic treadmill has just come to a complete stop, and the story work just isn’t good enough to keep me interested for its own sake.

    As for dungeons, I had heard how hard they were supposed to be now, and was quite disappointed. I’m not sure what could happen that someone would die. At least while I was wearing heirloom gear and had my pet out. The tank I was running with died a few times, but I think that was because he was making too big of pulls (he thought it was because the healer wasn’t great). Even after the tank would die, though, we never wiped the whole group. Generally it was easy enough to share damage with my pet and the other DPS until the tank ran back in.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels in the xpac leveling zones. I assume eventually I’ll get to mobs I can’t one-shot, but so far I haven’t found them.

    1. Yeah, I will have to try dungeons out for myself to have a more informed opinion, I am sure. I suppose like all groups in this game, sometimes you get a good one and sometimes — not so much. Also, I suspect everyone has gotten lazy over the last couple of years, have developed bad habits and stopped worrying about standing in fire or pulling aggro, and healers are kind of used to not ever having to pay special attention to tanks at low levels.

      I think, too, that the new structure — the scaling index in particular — is still not well balanced, and normal class distinctions in ease of leveling are magnified for the weaker ones and not a big deal for the stronger ones. Hunters have always been powerful levelers, so it’s possible the changes are not as noticeable for those alts — going from ridiculously OP to only slightly OP probably doesn’t register much. Similarly, mages have (at least for me) always been challenging to level, and things like the squishiness and fairly puny long casts seem to suffer more from the scaling.

      1. yeah, as hunters, we always had to go seek out quests that were made for groups, or go to the higher level parts of a zone, just to get some excitement while leveling. So you’re probably right that this new leveling system amplifies that imbalance. However, that just gave me a great idea for a new possible game design that could potentially fix it. What if there was a mythic+ version of leveling? Like, when you create your character, you can set it to be +2 levels, or +5 or +10 levels. It should be fairly easy to do with the current tech. Then just give some achieves for leveling from 20 to max at each +level, and add some excited me to each time you level a new allied race. Would probably only be done by Hunters, warlocks and tanks, but the development time for it should be fairly minuscule, so why not add it in.

        Hmmm… maybe I should write up this idea…

  4. I only rolled my Nightborne Elf Monk and got her to 22, but other guildies are well into leveling. 20 – 60 by all accounts isn’t too bad, it’s 61 – 80 that is the real struggle. It then gets much easier after that as long as you have WoD and Legion flying unlocked.

    For efficient leveling the best method is to have a 110 drag a couple of lower level characters through dungeons. Wowhead has a guide on the lowest level you can be to walk into a dungeon. The mobs scale based on the 110 so the lower-level toons are getting great xp, and they’re really fast to run through.

    Couple of “gotchas”: the 110 can’t just 1 shot everything as it can cause boss fights to bug out (hit this with Temple of the Jade Serpent first boss last night). Also the summoning stones outside still have the old level locks on them, which is a bizarre oversight.

    I’m trying to get a few 110s ready for each faction as I believe that BfA will be best enjoyed from both sides’ point of view, and I want to level at least one character to 120 on each side.

  5. The experience is rather flat. It’s how I felt in Legion. But I don’t mind it as much when I am levelling, for some reason.

    I think this is brought on for several reasons.

    It does look as if Blizzard is coming up with more and more things they can re-use. The whole scaling system will make it easier to create new mobs in new content. It is preparing the world for a stat squish too; one they have stated will be different than statquish earlier.

    It’s a genius move, slowing us down this way, so we spend more time on things, and then less likely to run out of things to do. It forces those that want instant max levels, to buy a boost, so more money directly from this change.

    I tried the Dungeons, in fact, I even rolled an alt, something I have not done throughout Legion, but because of this change, I wanted to give it a try. I heard Dungeons had gotten harder. And they sure did. At least the ones I did around level 16ish. But indeed, we have fewer spells, in fact, I learned cat spells before I got cat form ._. Some things sure needs fixing…

    I’m okay with most of it. Well I’m not, but I can cope! The one thing that rubs me the wrong way is the change to the Personal Loot in Dungeons. Oh, it is pissing me off!

  6. I’m leveling 4 toons simultaneously now, one of them as a Healer.

    I chose Holy Paladin on purpose, because I couldn’t efficiently grasp the spec idea on my 110 paladin, so I’m leveling and doing dungeons from scratch on a new toon. I’m not having any worries leveling her, and as my abilities add and level up, it’s becoming even easier – as I can deal more damage. In fact, I’m having lots of troubles with my rogue (subtlety has her vital spell coming only at 40), but not a healer paladin.

    Dungeons are not that bad – at least they are much better than when 7.3.5. just dropped. People have accepted the fact that mobs are fatter and hit harder, so they stick to their roles (mostly), and don’t aggro everything in sight. If people keep tank tanking, dps following tanks, and healer healing, there’s nothing too complex about them.

    My strategy is running every dungeon at least once – because dungeon quests really add up to the experience (sometimes you can have 5 quests in a single dungeon), and experience from killing trash is great. If you’re carefully ticking out dungeon by dungeon as they become available, the difference could make at least 5 levels compared to not doing them.

Comments are closed.