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At the weekend, I levelled one Warcraft alt to L120 and stuck five levels on another. I didn’t bother with PvE content, or dungeons. That stuff is great if you have a Guild or mates to help you, but as I possess neither there’s need for a viable alternative. In fact, it’s become the go-to alternative for just about everybody, but it won’t be around forever. Thanks to the 15th Anniversary Warcraft buff, the development team allows us scrubs to use Classic AV as the ultimate levelling tool.

The irony of this is not lost on me either. Of all the things that could have emerged as an alternative to progression content as entertainment, I doubt few people would have thought that shonky Old Skool BG you get to from Arathi Highlands would even be considered. In the Classic version Horde is so grossly advantaged that it is virtually impossible for Alliance to ever win without real life levels of military cooperation. Losing however, is largely irrelevant.

That’s a revelation that’s still not been fully grasped.

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No, really, this is GREAT. The tick of XP that takes place every so often is more than enough to keep me occupied. I don’t care if we lose either, just staying to the end is enough to do the trick. Of course, all BG’s will do this same thing, so why aren’t I doing that to level my alts? Why not just take the traditional path of levelling via PvP and maybe guarantee winning a few games along the way?

That’s the problem: I don’t want to PvP like that. It’s all focused on an ideal I don’t like: in essence, it’s as much on rails as the PvE content is. All you’re doing is farming for gear to get into raiding and endgame. There’s no provision for the casual player, and an almost arrogant assumption that the only destination must be to be the ‘the best’ and if I’m honest, that bothers me a great deal. It’s why I never trod that path in the first place.

On consideration, I know why Classic AV in Retail more fun than repeating the story content over and again. Questing on rails, as is it has always been in Azeroth, gets boring after you’ve done the same story a few times. It’s just repetitive and often frustrating, because NOTHING EVER CHANGES. The advantage of PvP is that every game is different, and they are. Plus, you’re levelling with 39 other people in a zone that they alter and change by their actions. It is currency handins that alter the flow of progress.

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Warcraft’s tried to integrate PvP into PvE zones, with varying degrees of success over the years. Using currency to alter the strength of NPC’s or summon special bosses for rewards is an idea I’ve loved for some time, because it genuinely places agency in player hands. If I could level my 18th alt and know that my decisions whilst doing so could genuinely create a unique levelling experience without being killed by three Horde rogues, I’d absolutely go for it.

It wouldn’t have to be in a 40 man group either. The Warfront idea is a brilliant means by which this kind of event could be introduced across all the old Expansions, with Expedition-type rewards at the end for the player via currency and drops. If you’re a new player, your drops are gear focussed. If this is your Nth alt, you get Transmog items, but the currency you collect at the end can be used for whatever you decide matters.

The levelling journey could incentivise people just to do so for rewards.

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There are lots of reasons to level: for me, it’s crafting, and once I have all my 110’s to 120, I’ll start on the Heritage Armour alts. It will take a while, of course, but this 15% buff is a massive incentive to do the work now. Blizzard may not get cash off me for boosting, but I’m still a MAU, despite all the crap that’s happened this year. That, when all is said and done, is a way to keep people retained and interested.

If the long-term plan is to retain players, then giving them true agency is a must. I’m not talking about decisions over their gear or personal power, but how they consume content. For those of us who do not care about being powerful or beating end-game content, that’s what matters most of all. I know that’s not what you make expansions for, but if you learn anything from the success of Classic, it should be that what developers think is progress often ends up as anything but.

If the future is choice, far fewer rails need to be laid down in advance.

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