Was the WoW Level Squish a Good Idea?

It will be coming up on a year next month since Blizzard introduced the big level squish as part of the run up to the Shadowlands expansion.  I started thinking about it as part of the mudflation post earlier in the week and whether or not it was worth the effort.

Of course, I have no way of measuring its impact beyond my own perception, and I am not sure if even Blizzard could answer that question right now, there being so many other factors impacting their user base this year.  But a lot of work went into making it happen and details like not being able to answer a question has never stopped me from asking one.

So this is going to be more of a gut check I suppose.  An emotional response.

And even that isn’t going to give a clear answer.  I am of mixed emotions on the topic even a year down the road. (It feels like more than a year ago to me, but time is a blur.)

To start with, I didn’t even think Blizzard would do it.  I am on record a number of times thinking the idea was too risky for Blizz, which can be very conservative on game changes.

That conservatism was apparently outweighed by the growing absurdity of levels in between any new player and the current content.

So in I went to the level squish and… I did okay.  It took me a bit to figure out that there was both an old school path through to the level cap as well a series of parallel paths through to the cap.

My vision in Excel format

I got a couple of characters leveled up through the new system before Shadowlands.  It was definitely speedier than before.  So technically a win.  And I feel like making all the expansions viable paths through the game was a good idea.

On the other hand, the whole thing was more complicated that needed, which is kind of the traditional Blizzard method.  If you were a new player it put you on the Battle for Azeroth path, but if you were making alts you had to go find Chromie and get on the path you wanted, and you had a chance of accidentally ending up in the old layer cake path through the game.

The horizontal stack with level caps on each expansion

And if you made a Demon Hunter, as I did, you might not realize you were in that layer cake model until you found that the mobs all grayed out before you made it to 50.

So the whole thing seemed like it had some good ideas and clearly had the intent to serve both new players and veterans alike.  But did it?  Is it a long term win?  Was it worth the effort… and reworking every expansion to scale and be viable for levels 10 to 50 was a lot of work… make that a thing?

Part of it is hard to appraise because you’re viewing from the outside.  And when you add in the long content drought after the Shadowlands launch and then the company blowing up with the lawsuit it is easy to think that Blizz could have spent their time better.

So I am left feeling neither all that positive or all that negative on the change, which is odd because a year ago I it seemed like a big freaking deal.  So it goes.

7 thoughts on “Was the WoW Level Squish a Good Idea?

  1. Shintar

    I don’t really have the answer to your titular question either, but as someone who’s actually returned to retail with the level squish, I have to admit I’ve been enjoying it. There were already options in terms of where to level before it, but there was still a path you had to follow through most/all the expansions, which resulted in a very fragmented experience. Being able to choose just one does make things more coherent, plus it means you can level alts in a lot of wildly different ways.

    On the con side though, I do think leaving the “old layer cake path” in was kind of dumb, and you’ll still hit max level before even finishing one expansion, forcing you to either abruptly abandon the story still, or to spend a lot of hours playing for zero XP gain and very little reward in general.

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  2. zaphod6502

    One thing I realised is I had to manually kickstart the Zandalar levelling content for my DH and DK alts by travelling via boat the old fashioned way from Orgrimmar to Sen’jin and then hopping on the boat from Echo Islands to the Daza’alor harbour on Zandalar. The city is completely devoid of any NPC’s at this point. A quest giver then pops up on the pier in Daza’alor and directs you to take the portal in the central pyramid back to Orgrimmar to properly start the Zandalar quests.

    If I don’t do the above my alts start the previous slower old levelling content. As for the levelling squish it seems to have worked well and I have not had any issues. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t this the second time Blizz has performed a level squish since the game was released?

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  3. zaphod6502

    “On the con side though, I do think leaving the “old layer cake path” in was kind of dumb, and you’ll still hit max level before even finishing one expansion”

    I assume this is left in place to allow new players to experience the old story content.

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  4. Carson

    The level squish and the reworking of leveling (Chromie Time vs. layer cake) are two separate things, though, aren’t they? I mean, they could have left the levels at 1-120, made Shadowlands raise it to 130, and still had “Chromie time” allowing all zones to scale from 20-120, or whatever.

    I think the leveling rework was a great idea. I gather there are some rough edges where it gets confusing, haven’t actually leveled an alt through it myself to see them personally though. Asking new players to go through seven expansions worth of content to get to the current endgame is rather much, and speeding it all up doesn’t really help because now you’ve got seven unsatisfying half-expansions where you never finish zones before they go grey.

    The actual squish from level cap 120 to 50, I could take or leave. I didn’t have a problem with the “big numbers”, I don’t particularly care that they’re now “small numbers”, and I don’t really think it solved any genuine issues – the game plays much the same as it would have without the squish, imho. Maybe it solved technical problems like overflows, I dunno. :-)

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  5. Pallais

    For the most part, I think mechanically the level squish worked out well. There were a few old raids that were harder to do, but outside those edge cases things proceeded without pain. (32-bit integer overflow was already a problem back in MoP with the Siege of Orgrimmar Hellscream boss fight. The move to a 64-bit only client fixed that, regardless of the squish.)

    Leveling-wise, the game is still a mess. The level squish didn’t help that, but Blizzard really doesn’t want anyone to spend much time there so they hurry everyone on the way to the current expansion and level cap. I feel feel like a lower level cap makes the game more palatable to new players, but I do wonder how many new players or maybe that should be new accounts since folks do forget old login credentials.

    As far as me, I’ve basically become numb to these sorts of changes. There have been so many class / item / level changes now that I just shrug and roll with what happens. My issue is I haven’t been having fun with the game. I don’t mind the changes as long as the game itself is fun.

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  6. Nogamara

    Funny, I hadn’t really actively thought about the squish since I logged in and saw my level adjusted. Really. And I’ve been playing quite a bit in Shadowlands. I mostly noticed that they codified what was already communicated indirectly: The path to max level doesn’t matter, especially for old players. Maybe they clung to the notion that it would matter for new players, and their first journey should be bori.. err epic of course. Do people actually start to join their friends or is it the same percentage of mostly solo people as it used to be?

    > Was it worth the effort

    I’m not actually sure they had to put in a lot of effort regarding the zones and mob health etc. As someone else pointed out, I also see the Chromie and separate leveling paths as something kinda different than the level squish per se and this sounded like more work. But without knowledge of their code and systems, who knows?

    Overall I can’t complain. Maybe for current WoW that’s already a resounding success then.

    Liked by 1 person

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