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.
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.
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.