Why are there Levels in Battle for Azeroth?

This is one of those question that I am pretty sure I know the answer to, but I want to ask it out loud just to see what else might shake loose.  What am I not considering in this mix?

It is here…

I am playing through the Alliance side of the expansion right now.  My paladin is already through the Tiragarde Sound zone on Kul Tiras and I am enjoying the new content.  The environments are beautiful, the quests are good, varied, and plentiful, and the various side tasks and ventures change things up.

But, as I write this (ten days before the post went live because I kept pushing it off to post something else), my pally is already past level 116 and I expect will hit level 120, the level cap, long before I am finished running him through the base content.

Not that I will suddenly stop when I get there.  But I will spend most of my time in this expansion… call it two years less the three weeks at most it will take me to meander to level 120…at the level cap.

So why bother having levels at all at this point?

The zones scale with you so gaining a level confers no special benefit.  In fact, there is a downside to it.  All the gear you get along the way is set for the level you at which you acquired it, so you have to keep replacing gear for ten levels to keep it abreast of your progress… after which you can then work on replacing gear to boost your item level.  And, as we found out, collecting gear upgrades actually makes getting through the new zones more difficult.  You are better off keeping your item level low, a seriously messed up situation that Blizzard seems just fine with.  I mean, I was afraid of what ilevel scaling was going to do when they introduced it in Legion, but this goes well beyond what I would have imagined.

Whatever.  If people complain enough Blizz will grudgingly fix it eventually.  Back to levels.

Traditionally levels have been used to gate content, and Blizzard does do some of that.  As you hit certain levels things are unlocked for you.  But with ten fast moving levels players will still be unlocking content after they hit 120 via various other means.  I don’t have to look much farther than the achievements to know that there will be plenty to do past hitting the level cap.  There will be world quests to unlock, new content to enjoy, faction to grind, and the groundwork to unlocking flying to start in on.

EverQuest, the king of MMO expansions, is almost six years older than World of Warcraft, has released 24 expansions so far, and has a level cap of 110 last I checked.  If you look down the list of expansions you will see that not every one raised the level cap.  You can see streaks of two or three expansions in a row with the same cap.

Then again, they do keep raising the level cap in Norrath every so often, so levels have their draw.  But it clearly isn’t a necessity.  SOE found alternate methods.

The downside is that levels are intimidating and/or silly after a certain point.  That the level cap is 120 with Battle for Azeroth has to work against it somewhat.  Purists like to say that you need to play through the whole thing, but when you are trying to collect new players, the starting proposition that you must play through 110 levels in order to get to the new/good stuff is a losing one.  Just having 120 levels can be seen as a pretty big barrier to entry.

So why have more levels when it is pretty clear you can do without them?

The answer, to my mind, is because people expect them.

Blizzard is a very conservative company when it comes to their successful properties, and none of them is more successful nor a bigger money maker than WoW.  When you have the goose that keeps on laying golden checks every month… and when you have made changes in the past they haven’t necessarily turned out well… you do all you can to maintain it with screwing things up.  Launching an expansion with a boost in the level cap… and a 10 level boost because 5 level expansions were not as popular…  is just part of the recipe for success to which Blizz feels they need to adhere.

Basically this is the way they’ve always done it and it works, so why change?

Addendum: There is a closely related post over at GamingSF this morning as well.  Armagon Live also has a post about that as well.

10 thoughts on “Why are there Levels in Battle for Azeroth?

  1. Pingback: Gear as character progression | Armagon Live

  2. Marathal

    I think at this point in WoWs life the levels are to familiarize you to the new class changes and to slowly allow you to adjust to being less powerful in current content. It’s a flawed design based on it taking people about 10-14 days to get to cap. Those like myself that took 6 days felt the nerf bat quicker, those that did it in two days? Well they probably have lived in beta so already knew how the changes would feel. I’ve gone from having say 25-30% haste and having what felt like a somewhat fluid rotation, to now sitting in 309 gear with a low 9%. It’s like playing with 2000 latency.

    Just my thought

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Asmiroth

    Quests and/or rep gating can achieve the same results with much less trouble. There is zero benefit leveling from 110-120. You gain absolutely nothing and lose everything that Legion provided. And in a year it will become as irrelevant as the 1-110 content.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bhagpuss

    Levels used to be an absolutely essential aspect of expansions for a few reasons. For many years an extra ten levels in EQ would take most players weeks not hours. New levels would get you new abilities you had never seen before, which did new things you could not do before. Older, lower level content would not immediately become irrelevant.

    Most importantly of all, an extra ten levels might allow you to do older content that you had previously been unable to do at all or with which you struggled. For many years the coming of a new expansion meant not that I would do the content IN that expansion but that I would be able to do the content in the PREVIOUS expansion – or sometimes the one before that – for the first time.

    Also, while there were gear upgrades with new levels there were not gear resets. Older gear remained useful and some items remained sought-after. Actually, even now, 19 years on, there are still items from the first few years of EQ that are valuable.

    Level scaling, stat squishes, gear resets and concentrating the end game in the current expansion all diminish or destroy the value of those benefits. In most MMOs nowadays the extra levels that come with an expansion are indeed pointless. I preferred the old way, on balance, alhough the new way has its merits.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alunaria

    Good points. I guess levelling is some kind of “reward” that people eagerly search. I bet there are studies revealing, how “ding!” releases some of those endorfines hormons (Sorry English?) similar to when eating chocolate or being intimate!


  6. Telwyn

    It’s interesting, the playerbase (in the widest MMORPG genre-wide sense) seems to have brought the genre to this. Faster levelling was oft a cry on the forums of many MMOs back in the late 2000s, early 2010s when things were less formulaic. It still is in recent content – for the Mordor expansion of LOTRO for instance. Or as the most telling example I can think of, with the Rift Prime progression server Trion have had to nerf the XP to level at least twice (I stopped paying attention after the first month) due to complaints about how slow the levelling was – the irony being this was supposed to be a Vanilla-like server with a levelling pace to match…

    I have very mixed feelings about level-scaling tech now. I’m sure it contributes to the feeling that levelling is meaningless as you stated above, but then it makes grouping up with friends so much easier. That’s a real quandary for me as I primarily play MMOs for that very reason. But still, when it was tougher to stay in sync in early WoW, when zone mobs were orange or red but you wanted that herb or that quest object – those were heady days of excitement and dread compared to the current ‘smoothed’, auto-tuned content.


  7. Pingback: World of Warcraft: Leveling nonsense and story sense – Bio Break

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