More carping about levels and the problems they bring.
Only, this time I think there is some question as to whether or not there is really a problem. At least in my mind there is a question.
The problem, as laid out, is people leveling up the “wrong” way, be it favoring a specific form of game play or using an exploit in the game or finding special gear. Sometimes called “twinking,” it makes some people very, very angry.
In this case, as mentioned over at Massively OP, Blizzard has decided to close a loophole in XP gain that allows player to turn off their XP to boost other players with whom they are grouped. Brought up by Blizzard back in December, a change for this is now in the WoW 8.2 PTR, found by Warcraft Secrets, whose image I am going to use.
Given that we now know that the WoW 8.2 pact drops this coming Tuesday we will probably see an upswing in this behavior over the weekend. Blizzard Watch even put it on their list of things to get done before the patch drops.
Twinking is as old as online games. Handing alts gear they couldn’t possibly obtain on their own in order to speed up the leveling process was well established when I stared playing TorilMUD (or Sojourn MUD as it was named at the time) back in 1993.
It carried on in EverQuest, where I can recall low level paladins wandering around with Ghoulbanes to smite undead to hasten their way forward, among other twinks. It was also popular to get a friendly high level druid or cleric to buff your alt so they could run around and solo mobs that would otherwise be well beyond your capability.
This behavior has always made some people angry, with “fairness” being the general argument. It isn’t fair that somebody has an advantage in leveling up faster than you. I remember somebody being angry at me because I leveled up a warrior in TorilMUD from creation to level 40 in just over 8 hours of play time due to twinking him with gear I had collected over time. They complained about it on the forums.
Over time some things were put in place to stop this sort of thing. Gear got level requirements and was made bind on equip most places so you couldn’t dump things on your alt for power leveling.
Some games went a little too crazy. EverQuest II at launch wouldn’t even let you buff people outside of your party and had strict rules about level differentials in a group lest you be trying to help somebody along. I remember those calculations keeping people out of groups, especially at lower levels where the ratios made the level gaps allowed much smaller.
I have always assumed that this was very much a response to the free and easy twinking available in EverQuest, about which people would howl in the forums.
But should the developers be listening to this sort of thing? People complain about literally everything in the forums. Start a thread about people undercutting your sell price on the market and just watch how many people join in on complaining.
Does having some sort of advantage in leveling up hurt anybody else? Is twinking a problem that needs to be solved? Should developers be preventing players from leveling up the wrong way?
I am generally of the opinion that the answer to all of that is “no.”
In a game like World of Warcraft where, in the current expansion, the mobs scale with you all the way to level 120, so that one might question why there are levels at all, and where you have things like heirloom gear, it seems debatable that Blizzard should be worried about people leveling up faster than them. And all the more so when they’re going on about a level squish, though that is another tale altogether.
Sure, there are situations where this might be bad.
I would probably agree that any path that took players out of the visible world is probably bad. At least if you have something like a world in your game. In EverQuest II they felt they had to remove exp from the player made dungeons feature largely because the most popular such dungeons were exp generating machines of no obvious merit otherwise.
And any time PvP is involved letting people boost up quickly, or lock levels and build a super-optimum gear set for battlegrounds, is going to end badly.
And, then there was the tale of Warhammer Online, where one theory of the failure of the game lays the blame on battlegrounds, which were the optimum method to level up. Why would you spend time doing open world PvP content… which was what the game was supposed to be about, and was honestly a lot more fun when it happened… when instanced battleground were ready for you right now?
But that wasn’t really twinking so much as incentivizing the wrong path forward. But PvP depends on the other side showing up when you’re ready to play, which is the main downfall of open world PvP in every game that hosts it. Battlegrounds, with their jump in, fight, be done mechanics are not so hampered by that, so they will tend to draw people away from the open world in any case, and when they are replacing the PvP that is supposed to be the core of your game, you have at a minimum incentivized them badly.
However, short some specific situations where the path being used to level up is taking people out of the game, I am not sure that twinking is something to get all that worked up about. I thought we’re long past the age of draconian responses to people not playing the game correctly. But that Blizzard has now decreed that if you group with somebody who has XP turned off your own XP gain will now be “vastly reduced,” I guess I am wrong.