Monday, April 14, 2008

Absolute power versus speed of advancement

After being somewhat frustrated with the level 70 endgame of World of Warcraft for different reasons, both me and my wife ended up making new level 1 alts. She hadn't played a draenei yet, and had never played a shaman, so that is what she made. I decided for once to play on the same server and side as her, and made a gnome rogue. This being the server where she already has a level 68 and level 70, we had access to lots of gold. Well, "lots" is a relative term. But with the new dailies a level 70 can easily make 200 gold in a day, and for a level 1 character 200 gold is more than he needs, even after buying a full set of 16-slot bags and the best possible twink equipment available on the AH for the first 10 levels (there isn't all that much).

I played my new rogue only a few hours, but got up to level 10 already. I bribed a mage to portal me to Shattrath, and took the teleport to Exodar from there, so I'm in the same newbie zone as my wife's shaman. I had done that newbie zone only once, during the TBC beta, and so it is still relatively fresh and lots of fun. But the most interesting was the huge contrast between playing my low-level rogue and playing my mage, who just reached the level cap.

The mage is far more powerful, of course. A single frostbolt of mine does around 1,600 points of damage now, while my rogue is fighting monsters that only have 100 points of health. My mage has 5 hotkey bars full of spells, abilities, and items, while my rogue has just a handful. My mage can easily teleport to any city, rides on an epic ground mount, or on a normal flying mount in Outlands, and there is no place he can't go. My rogue has to walk, and can't set a foot into most zones, because he'd get killed in one hit. Only by setting his hearthstone to Shattrath did he get a limited form of teleportation travel.

But while he is weak, my rogue is a lot more fun to play, because he advances so fast. Every two levels I get brand new abilities and more options to try out. And I level so extremely fast, making several levels per hour at the start. My mage can't level any more before the expansion comes out. And while the mage can still get stronger by getting better gear, the speed of advancement is very slow. It takes many days to earn one epic PvP piece, or to farm the materials for an epic crafted item. And then I don't gain any new options or abilities from my new gear, they just increase lets say my spell damage by a few percent.

So in the end it is a question of whether you prefer to be at the top of the game, with very slow advancement, or whether you prefer to advance fast, but from a very low level. I find World of Warcraft concentrates a bit too much on the endgame. I don't believe it was the endgame that attracted so many million players, but rather the leveling game, and that part of the game feels a bit neglected right now.

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