Sunday, October 31, 2010

Leveling is my game

There are two major stages in character progression in a game like WoW: the leveling game and the end game. For most raiders (I dare say all of them), the end game is the place to be, the sole purpose of the game. Getting there is simply an annoyance and the sooner it is over with, the better. It's perfectly understandable. For me, though, the leveling experience is the game.

Ever since patch 4.01, I've been giving leveling some thought. What was the first thing I did when the patch hit? I leveled my new mage so that I could experience the thrill and excitement of discovering the new skills and talents. Since then, I haven't been able to stop leveling him. I'm almost completely neglecting my level 80 characters in favor of this new guy and he's past 50 now. Imagine, 2 weeks ago he was level 8, now he's over 40 levels "older".

I've always enjoyed leveling a new character, but paradoxically I want the levels to go by faster, so I can gain access to more powerful spells and talents. And then, one day my character hits max level and I feel a bit sad. As a solo player, the end game is pretty much THE END game for me. Yes, I have been running a lot of heroics thanks to the dungeon finder tool but if one thinks about it, that's just grinding. Grinding heroics so I can get better gear so I can grind more heroics so I can get better gear that will become obsolete anyway as soon as I step in the first zone of the next expansion.

Leveling on the other hand is exciting because there's always something new to be discovered. It's a journey of self-discovery, if by "self" I mean my avatar. I like gaining those talents, learning new spells and becoming more powerful. As my character grows, I become better at playing that particular class and every new level makes me feel more "leet" than previously.

Not all leveling is the same. I think that a lot of it has to do with the class and what I, personally, prefer as a class mechanic. For example, I really enjoy leveling my mage right now. I like the sense of power that comes from such a pure DPS class. I know for certain that I would enjoy leveling yet another paladin, as retribution. Who knows, in Cataclysm I might attempt it. On the other hand, leveling my rogue was a PITA.

Once my characters reach 80, things slow down almost to a standstill. I park them in a major town like Dalaran and I use them mostly for their professions and, depending on how fun that class is, for heroics. Well, dailies too. But from here on it's only grinding and more grinding. A very good example is my warlock whom I really enjoyed leveling as affliction. Once he hit 80, I only logged on him to do the jewelcrafting dailies. He's the most under-used level 80 I have.

These days, of course, I do most of my leveling through the dungeon finder. In a way it's a shame because I miss out on regular quest leveling and running through the different zones but I've seen these zones so many times while leveling other characters that I'm sick of them to the gills. Though I'm a solo player, I still enjoy the no-hassle approach to running a dungeon thanks to the dungeon finder. Now, running a dungeon is a very important part of my leveling experience, the one that gives me the most joy. The truth is that some dungeons do tend to get stale after running them a dozen times or so but so do regular quests. And questing doesn't reward you with the awesome blue items that drop in dungeons.

Now that Cataclysm is practically here, I find that I'm not as excited to level my level 80s to level 85 as I am to level some new characters from scratch. Perversely, I like it when levels fly by quickly because I can see my character grow before my eyes. Leveling from 80 to 85 won't be the same thing. Classes already possess most of their signature abilities and the only advantage of being max level at this point is the fact that you can run heroics and raids.

I'm very tempted to re-roll some of my existing classes in Cataclysm, just for the thrill of leveling them with the new talent trees. I'm particularly interested in a paladin (probably holy/retribution). Since Tauren will be able to be paladins, I'll probably start one of those. Unfortunately (as far as I know) we still can't transfer heirlooms across realms, which sucks. These days it's a pain to level a character for the umpteenth time without heirlooms. Don't get me wrong, I love leveling but only insofar as I can see progress, i.e. new levels coming in quickly. I don't much enjoy languishing at the same level for hours on end.

One thing that I've been thinking about is whether WoW will still be fun for me after I've finished leveling all the possible classes. Maybe not. As it is, I can feel that the day I quit WoW for good is on the horizon.


Bowcephus said...

I've understood for a while now that you and I think a lot alike, but I could have written this entry word for word. With the exception of my "main," who right now just grinds Argent Tournament dailies for the couple heirlooms I don't have yet, my 80s sit in Org for crafting/AH purposes. When I play the game, I am leveling a warrior (level 60 as of yesterday). I love that feeling of dinging a level and finding a new talent or a new skill to use, and most of the time I enjoy questing.

One difference though: I am going to level my main to 85 as quickly as possible, because I want the heirloom head and cloak from my guild perks. I'll need those heirlooms to level my Tauren Paladin, Goblin Rogue, Orc Mage, and Goblin Warlock.

Keep up the great blog!

Anonymous said...

Great post in a constantly interesting blog. It gets to the root of what being a solo player is all about.

I'm not going to bother giving heirlooms to any of the new characters I create in Cataclysm as I want to take my time and enjoy all the new and redone zones and quests. I worry that the XP boost that heirlooms give may mean I'll miss out on some of the fun.

Still, I have plenty of unspent tokens on my level 80's if I change my mind.

Jeremy said...

Wow, I also could have written that post. It sums up exactly how I feel about this game. I dinged 80 on a priest a few months ago, ran a few heroics and started a druid. The druid's recently dinged 80 (and I LOVE the class, btw). I run heroics to gear her up, but wonder silently, "Why?"

Just a couple of days ago, I started a warrior that I'm hoping to level up a bit before 4.0.3 hits in the Dungeon Finder tool, and I'm re-rolling another level 1 when 4.0.3 hits to experience the new world.

I don't know how long it'll take for either of my 80's to see 85, because it's just not exciting leveling so slowly.

Anonymous said...

I'm not 100% sure, but it seems like they took out weapon skill training from the game. It seems that instead of weapons being another talent that must be learned and perfected - weapon by weapon, and level by level - an avatar just gets a stock set of skills that are already maxed out or something like that. Playing my druid I felt that the manner in which the auto-attack animation plays out is totally uninteresting. A blow from the moonkin on a frostmaul giant looked like a a tap on the shins. Tap, tap tap...

This weapon skill issue is the worst nerf ever.

I hope, and it is reported that it is so, that Cata will bring something back into leveling an avatar. Otherwise we really do have WoW from Fisher-Price on our hands.

Darth Solo said...

@Bowcephus great minds think alike, eh? I think I'll have to level my hunter or more likely my paladin to 85 as soon as I can and then concentrate on some new characters. Those heirlooms are very nice but as a solo player who has his own 1-man guild I'm not sure if I can access them. Although, I should probably get one of my characters to join a big guild just so I can get my hands on those pieces.

@Anonymous #1 thanks! Truth is, heirlooms make you level quickly. But that's especially true if you level by running dungeons. With my mage I don't even quest anymore. I found myself jumping from questing in Redridge to questing in Hinterlands.

@Jeremy I hear you. From what I've heard, leveling from 80 to 85 should be about as long as going from 70 to 80 when Wrath launched. Luckily, there are plenty of quests to do.

@Anonymous #2 yeah they've definitely removed the weapon skill mechanic. I believe they did it in 4.0.1 because my mage doesn't have that mechanic anymore. Truth is, it was an antiquated and useless "feature" and its sole purpose was to frustrate people whenever they got a new weapon type.

Jerry said...

Nice post. I could've written it myself. I agree totally. I leveled to 80 five times now, and got everything I could get for badges for three of them. I got sick of that and the others have sat a max level with nothing to do. I don't even bother with professions, since you make a lot of crap you can't every use. So my max levels are completely useless to me.

With Cataclysm coming, I will be making a Blood Elf warrior from scratch. I was going to give him heirlooms, but then thought that I didn't want the new stuff to go by so fast. I probably won't even bother doing the 80-85 stuff until people are done clogging those zones and camping quest objectives. (Apparently it's wrong to group with others on the same quests. It's more appropriate to camp and kill the objective before anyone else and run off to do it again somewhere else.)

Darth Solo said...

@Jerry I figured that since I already had all these level 80s standing around, I might as well max out all the professions on them and that's what I did. The only thing I regret is not doing it earlier. There's incredible synergy between the professions.

Yeah, quests can be a hassle if people are stealing objectives but I think Blizzard has learned from their mistakes and nowadays the more people there are, the quicker they respawn.