When it was announced that levelling XP requirements were being reduced from 1-110 last week, I’m not going to lie, there was personal approval. However, reading this comment by Brunold, I find myself nodding rather too enthusiastically in agreement. When we look at the timing of this announcement (week after Blizzcon) some of the more cynical in the audience might suggest this is encouragement to push more to the End Game, which isn’t fixed and remains problematic. Why is there this almost obsessive desire to hit 120 so you can start grinding or raiding?
Why don’t more people want to enjoy the journey? Is is perhaps because the Devs are obsessed with the destination, that the only reason to play is to raid. Certainly in a particular light, that’s the way things look. It also really doesn’t help that when Activision Blizzard publish their quarterly results, and we get a glimpse of what ‘the future’ will bring, it becomes increasingly more apparent that what Azeroth is becoming is the means by which PvE gaming can be developed into a profitable esport.
Jesse posted this to highlight to the Diablo fans in the room that, like it or not, mobile gaming is the future. I’ve been staring at this graphic for a few days, and it is Point 4 in all of this which has started ringing significant alarm bells. ‘Actively advancing how the Overwatch League [TM] model will be applied to Call of Duty [C] and other franchises.‘ So, everything currently in the launcher (potentially) will have a) a mobile equivalent but, more significantly b) something like the Overwatch League attached to it. We already have the Mythic Dungeon Invitational and the Arena Championship, so one assumes there’s nothing else that can be milked from this, but to do that we need players at max level.
But hang on, won’t pro players just pay the cash to max level and not bother with the journey? Some might, but the unknowns must, by definition, appear from nowhere: there has to be the equivalent of the minor leagues, where the brilliant kid with true ability flourishes and then suddenly rises to prominence. So, in that regard, levelling needs to fit current purpose. Also, I’m betting that long-term players are fed up of the grind and will be grateful (as I am) we don’t have to stay in places any longer than necessary. One also assumes they won’t be the players going back to Classic, because if you think doing this in BfA is bad…
Then, we get the fly in the ointment. For that revelation, I have an interview with Alex Afrasiabi and a tweet read in combination with it last night:
So, not only has Afrasiabi been ‘writing’ Sylvanas since 2006, we all know that key pieces of ret-conned lore (that now has been re-written as canon via the Chronicles book series) have never been changed in the ‘real world’ to ensure consistency. It then makes PERFECT sense why you’d want to be hurried though areas where what previously took place might confuse players when they arrive in End Game. It’s an easy task to change scaling, really simple to reduce XP levels when doing so, but considerably more person-power hours will be required to restore narrative consistency.
There are those of us who come for the immersion, others who enjoy the challenge but for most, like it or not, levelling is and always will be an inconvenience. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t get key figures writing blog posts and complaining on YouTube about how it’s all too long-winded and complex. What these people singularly fail to grasp is that only by learning to play via these means can a unique depth of understanding of your class and spec come to life. If you never struggled at L1, L120 isn’t quite the same.
It’s all wrapped up in the increasingly complex ‘pay to play’ argument: if all your participation in Azeroth revolves around Mythic Raiding as a Top 200 Guild, that’s several worlds away from the guy levelling all his L110’s to L120 (/waves at Joar.) What you buy and what you can skip is in turn easy to rationalise and ignore. When you’ve done the same content, over and over, new ultimately becomes more attractive, and part of the reason for not changing the past is to push people to skip it and come to the present.
Except, eventually, it all falls down. As long as you keep most people happy, it won’t matter that people like me stand up and object, because I’m not the target audience, and Blizzard don’t go back and develop old content… unless, of course, they can make new engagement models out of it. When Classic gets its own PvP Arena Championship, or a Classic Dungeon Invitational, don’t look surprised and have a melt down. This is the logical evolution of this company’s ethos.
Expansion always comes with consequence.