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World of Warcraft's Steep Leveling Curve

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Levelling and World of Warcraft go hand in hand,  as it does in many RPGs, MMOs and many other popular genres. But with Mists of Pandaria on the horizon, what does this mean for how we level in Azeroth?  

Levels, XP and Dinging 

When WoW began seven years ago, there were just sixty levels. When Mists of Pandaria releases - hopefully sometime this year - there will be ninety. That’s a massive number, particularly for those planning on rolling Pandaren. A couple of years ago, when Wrath was released, Blizzard tried to give new toons a headstart by introducing Death Knights who began their WoW journey at 55 and hit 60 by the end of their starter area. 

Levelling itself involves gaining experience and, as your level gets higher, so the amount needed to ding increases. Hitting level 85 - the current cap - requires a heck of a lot experience points. 

As you can witness, the later levels take a lot more XP to reach the next level.

However, Blizzard frequently nerfs content just before a new expansion or patch. Sometimes this is the difficulty of the last tier of raid bosses and sometimes it’s how long it takes to go from level x to level y. Since Wrath, Blizzard has been pushing players to the endgame, focusing on the belief that the game begins at 85. The proceeding 84 levels are just there to teach the game mechanics and class roles, both of which become very important when you approach endgame content and raiding. 

The Holy Trinity of Levelling 

Levelling involves the holy trinity of questing, grinding and running instances. Everyone has their own method of doing it; some people just run instances right through until they ding 85, other people just quest until there’s not a single exclamation mark left in a zone and the insane just kill mob after mob after mob, either to level their professions or because they’re newbies. Of course, it can be fun if you’ve never played WoW before but by the second or third alt, the experience can become tedious. 

Yes you can (quite legally) power level your way to the endgame, it takes just a couple of days worth of game time and a lot of dedication but it can be done. At the same time, many players still hanker for a button which will take any additional toons from 0-85 in seconds; sadly the only way to level like this is to recruit a friend and it stops well before the current level cap.  

The other thing you need to remember is that the whole point of the levelling system is to teach you how to play your class. All those skills and abilities, talent points and spells, all those rotations, they have to be learned; that’s why the levelling system exists and it does actually take all these levels to figure out the complexities of maximising your damage, healing or tanking. 

However, as the number of expansions begin to stack up, the amount of levels continues to go up. WoW’s first two expansions added 10 each time, Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria just five each. By the end of the decade, we could easily be levelling all the way to three figures. With each expansion, the time you have to put into levelling gets even longer. This is why many players are waiting expectantly as players levelling in the Cataclysm range (levels 80 to 85) are sure to find it easier once Blizzard turns its attention to getting players to Pandaria and heading towards level 90. 

Most of the levels in GW2 will take about the same amount of time to complete from start to finish.

The problem is, I’m not sure just nerfing content and the amount of XP needed to ding is going to cut it. Blizzard needs to look at its rivals for inspiration and then really rethink how the mechanic works. For example, the big contenders for the Warcraft throne, are TERA, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2, two of which is scheduled to come out later this year.  

Looking to the Future 

Blizzard is coming up to its eighth birthday. In video gaming terms, that makes it ancient compared to more recently released titles. For example, GW2 will use a balanced approach to each level (each level will take the same amount of time from start to finish) while SWTOR increases the XP for groups.  

Such simple changes could really revolutionise how we play WoW, especially for those people who do dungeons to level. For example, if Blizzard hypothetically decided to adopt a system similar to the one used in SW: TOR, it would be a simple matter of just giving the group a buff which double or tripled the XP earned from running Mogu’Shan Palace or the Stormstout Brewery. They could even make it interesting by giving you more XP if you do the runs with Real ID friends or guildmates. 

How do you think Blizzard should deal with the regular raising of the level cap? Should you be allowed to auto-level additional characters (either for free or for a price)? Let us know in the comments below. 

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