Archive for July 7th, 2011

20 is the New 85

In one way of looking at it, level 20 is the new “endgame” for the F2P slice of World of Warcraft.  Characters are locked at level 20, and progression past that point will be largely based on gear.  It’ll be an unholy grind of rerunning instances and plowing through the crafting system.  I have to wonder, though…

What is the highest GearScore you can attain?  What is the most difficult dungeon you can complete (solo or otherwise)?  What is the highest Achievement point total you can accumulate?  How many classes can you beat one-on-one?  How many Exploration Achievements can you get?  How many quests can you complete?  How much coin can you gather and how quickly?  How many unique pets can Hunters acquire and get screenshots with?  How far can you get from the newbie grounds, and where can you go without dying?  (Rogues and stealthy Druids might just win this one.)

Y’know, Blizzard might be missing a few tricks here.

Normalized PvP is one that I’ve always wished they had.  The heirloom era makes PvP balance worse at low levels (though twinking made sure it was never really balanced), but what if the system arbitrarily set character stats (including level within a certain band, say levels 11-19 get snapped to level 20 or the like for the duration of the PvP event) to something they decided was “balanced”?  Might we see more interesting PvP at lower levels?  The Arena is sort of normalized in that everyone just has the best gear, but what if there were an equivalent at level 20?  (And then 30, then 40 and so on…)

There are a handful of dungeons available to level 20 characters, and it’s a great learning opportunity to play those at an appropriate level for as long as it takes to learn your class, rather than counting on outleveling the content.  You’d have to learn to play a lot earlier than at the now-level-85 endgame.

What if there were full-on raids at level 20 that could therefore be played by characters stuck at level 20?  We might, just might, see players learning about raiding earlier and how to play their class, rather than outgear the game.  That might be a Good Thing.  Of course, I have other ideas about raids, too, but still, just thinking out loud here.  What if these pre-endgame raids were normalized like PvP?

How else might the level 20 cap actually be a good thing for players and the game?  I can’t help but think that there’s potential there to teach players what the vaunted “endgame” is all about a bit earlier than the, well… the endgame.

Of course, there are pros and cons to teaching about endgame habits early, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another time.

It’s also notable that with the trial restrictions on characters, they might be as close as possible to “purist” WoW play.  Yes, they don’t get the multiplayer experience very easily (alleviated somewhat by the Dungeon Finder, which works just fine for trial/Starter accounts), but neither do they find their play distorted by heirloom gear (leveling is too fast, waaaa!), fairy godmother alts or the severely disjointed market via the Auction House that winds up pricing copper ore and bars at one gold apiece.  That’s a pittance to level 85 characters, but a week’s wages for a low level character.

Starter characters also don’t get the guild experience, but with the new guild incentives, they aren’t the purely social animals of old anyway.  Oh, and sufficiently leveled guilds will also accelerate the leveling pace of low level characters.  The horror!

So maybe, just maybe, guildless and godmotherless is a nice purist way to play the game.  Leave the default UI on and don’t bother with addons, and get a feel for the game as Blizzard designed it, rather than what bitter veterans complain about through distorted glasses.

…that’s not to say the game won’t have problems, of course.  It will.  It’s just that if you learn to accept a game for what it is and see what’s there, rather than what you want to see, you might just learn something.

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