I’m with Stargrace here — I heard about this World of Warcraft insta-level 80 thing and just shook my head in disbelief. It feels like Blizzard is becoming more and more desperate to retain/regain players, and while companies always should be trying their best to get as many players as possible, is this really the best way? Just continue to sell out the core foundation of your game because convenience and instant gratification is popular. Obviously, whatever’s popular is the best thing for your game, right?
This isn’t new, not even for Blizzard. DDO sells insta-level 7 characters, WoW’s Death Knights start at level 55, AoC allows players to hopscotch levels, and so on. I know some people who have no problem with this, but I do, because it betrays one of the most basic foundations of RPGs: Levels matter. Levels represent accomplishment and achievement — of time and effort spent, of skill used, of a journey progressed. If one can simply bypass leveling, then why have it? Seriously.
Now, maybe you don’t like levels. Maybe you see them as a product of a bygone era and you’d love to see a different system. Fair enough. Personally, I think they’re so ingrained into both RPGs and video games in general that they’re hard to extract without causing a void that really needs to be filled with some other way to represent a player’s progress in the game — and I’ve always enjoyed the “leveling game” more than the endgame of any MMO. It’s going to be interesting to see how titles like The Secret World are going to fare with a reduced emphasis on leveling, but at least in that case Funcom is structuring the game from the very start to be as such.
But no matter if you like levels or not, the fact is that Blizzard created a level-based MMO, and if it didn’t like levels, it shouldn’t have done so. It shouldn’t decide years down the road to negate any meaning to levels by offering a fast-lane to the top, but the studio’s been progressing toward this for years — Death Knights, faster leveling, huge XP bumps, and so on. Now? It’s meaningless. You’re a level 80? You spent six days /played getting there? Whooptydoo — I just clicked a button and here I am, five levels away from the cap. Guess that makes us equal. Nevermind that I have no idea how to play my class nor will be effective in groups because of my ignorance. Nevermind that it negates 80 levels’ worth of content that developers hand-crafted for player enjoyment. Nevermind that the leveling journey introduces a player to the story of the world and connects them to what’s going on in it. DING, SUCKA, DING!
I’ve heard arguments that this will allow new players to catch up with their friends, but this is the wrong way to go about doing it. City of Heroes and EverQuest II have excellent sidekick/mentoring systems that temporarily change levels to get people to pair up — but their overall progress remains the same. That seems like a good system to me. Maybe it was too hard to do for WoW. Maybe making instant 80s was way easier.
So, no, Syp doesn’t like it when a game decides that it’s going to ignore one of the rules it set up for itself in the name of a cheap player grab. I don’t like it in WoW or anywhere else, for that matter.