Rant ahead: MMO leveling speed

I don’t do too much ranting on this blog. I’m usually a mediator, the voice of reason between two divergent opinions. I’m going to rant today, though, with one caveat. This isn’t directed at anyone in particular. It’s a complaint I’ve heard in various places (mostly through my RSS feed), and I couldn’t point to one specific post or person that I’m ranting about.

My rant is about leveling speed in WAR. After two months of the game being live, I’ve leveled an Archmage to level 30, a Shadow Warrior to 18, and a Witch Hunter to 14. If I spent all my time on the Archmage, I’d probably be 35+.

How the hell can you say that leveling is slow in WAR? How long should it take to hit a level cap? Do we really need to hit MMO level caps in two months or less for the leveling speed to be acceptable? If that’s true, is it time to just get rid of levels entirely, and make your advancement and achievement skill-based somehow?

In no other MMO that I’ve ever played have I reached 75% of the level cap two months after release, and I’m playing WAR much more casually than I ever played EQ, DAoC, SWG, or WoW. I level in WAR accidentally, rarely glancing at my experience bar. When I do notice the xp bar, I’m usually surprised how much I’ve gained. I don’t just grind scenarios, either. My archmage has done a lot of PvE content in the last couple levels, and a lot of open RvR. There’s never been a time where I think “Jesus, this is going to take forever.” In fact, I’m pretty damn surprised how little time it’s going to take me to hit 40 with the archmage.

I’ve got three ways to advance my character, and I enjoy all of them wholeheartedly. If the zone is buzzing about open RvR, I can get involved and my character advances while I’m having fun. If I feel the need for organized RvR more immediately than oRvR is providing, I can hit scenarios (my sympathies to those who weren’t on servers with scenarios popping regularly, that’s a valid response to my rant…but that’s still only one way to level). If I’m in a PvE state of mind, I can knock out quests, or organize a Public Quest group.

Almost everything you do in WAR gives you experience. If you sit back and enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to advance without having to watch your experience bar like a hawk. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, then it’s not WAR’s leveling curve that’s at fault. You have every right not to enjoy the tasks you’re doing to advance, and there are plenty of valid reasons why you might not be able to advance doing what you enjoy (can’t find PvE or PQ groups due to low population, or population dispersed through too many pairings and tiers, scenarios aren’t popping regularly, not enough oRvR action), but when those things are working, leveling is easy.

I think it would be a mistake to increase leveling speed. Instead of making leveling faster, I think Mythic is smart to try and merge server populations and provide a critical mass of players for PvE, scenarios, and oRvR. That way, no matter how you choose to play on a given evening, you’ll be able to find players and make progress toward the level cap.

We’re not there yet, not for every server. But we’re only two months in, and I suspect leveling will seem much easier in a couple months when server populations have stabilized.

15 Responses

  1. I’m satisfied, why aren’t you? Is that your rant?

    I spent three weeks at level 14. And while I was not playing a ton, there was more 12 hours of play involved with that level. That would make it a very slow level for me. Level 17 in original EverQuest didn’t take me that long, and there aren’t many steeper level curves than that. (Level 14 is 35% of the way into the level curve in WAR, 17 is the same point for original 50 level EQ.)

    Of course, my group doing open RvR where experience was almost nil, even after the first big boost to exp in that area.

    Leveling up doing the MAIN thing the game is about is too slow, that is why people do other things, such as scenarios. Even Mark Jacobs says that they need to do work to make open RvR a viable path for rank advancement, so I am not sure where you get “working as designed” as the answer.

    So who are you arguing against here? Are you telling Mark Jacobs to leave open RvR experience set to “suck?”

  2. No, my rant, my argument, is that leveling speed shouldn’t be increased for WAR, because it’s the easiest-leveling MMO I’ve ever played.

    I’m definitely not saying “Why aren’t you satisfied?”. I’m not telling anyone they have to be happy about a game. I’m saying it’s easy to level in WAR if that’s really what you want to do. If you don’t enjoy the leveling, that’s fine, but it’s not difficult.

    I just checked my level 14 Witch Hunter. She has 16 hours played, total.

    If you just want to level fast in WAR, you can. There’s a person in my guild with two level 40′s after 2 months. There are others with mains in their 30′s and alts in the late 20′s and early 30′s. They play a hell of a lot more than me, but man, don’t crank up the xp.

    “Are you telling Mark Jacobs to leave open RvR experience set to “suck?””

    Well, duh. No. For me, I’m fine with the amount of oRvR xp I get, but if they want to boost it to get more people out there, that’s ok too. I go oRvR because it’s fun. The experience is a nice bonus, but if that’s the carrot they need to dangle to get more people participating, hey, it’s more targets for me :)

  3. This is a tough one to juggle. I found my XP the fastest in scenarios in WAR, but honestly that is NOT what I wanted to do. I wanted roving bands of destruction to fight in the hillsides or to do some good PVE questing.

    When I tried to quest, as I stated on my blog, I thought to myself : I can just do this in WoW.

    The server merges are key. I really hope it makes it so you literally BUMP into the enemy everywhere and random fights break out. That is what the game needs!

    As for leveling speed, I just found myself hitting a wall at level 14 and not really wanting to go on.

  4. WEll, I think the whining is indicative of a general tiredness of the leveling mechanic in general but WAR’s leveling isn’t the problem, its what you do, the carrot system, in my opinion, is unbalanced. Leveling should be tuned to content. If it feels slow it mean you have to do too much to level in people’s eyes.

  5. Most other games don’t have people constantly telling you “Yeah, everyone is scattered around and populations are thin, but just WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE TIER 4!”

    I think that was a big part of it, for me. It wasn’t that the leveling was slow so much as that I kept getting told how much better the game was at higher tiers.

    Not to mention constantly hearing about fun things the guild was doing in higher tiers.

    So my gripe (if I had one) wasn’t that the leveling was slow, but that the game was ‘back-loaded’ so the really cool content was near cap so I always wanted to be higher level than I was.

    Exactly the opposite of Age of Conan’s problem, now that I think about it, which was great fun until level 20 then fell apart.

    Mythic had the same problem, to some extend, with DAoC at first as far as RvR, then they added the battlegrounds. But contrary to how most people remember things, I think DAoC had better PvE content than War has.

  6. I have to agree with argument that leveling is pretty quick in WAR. I have tried not to level and still ding before I want to. I do a mix of all three PvE, RvR, and scenarios, and enjoy them all. My server just merged last night and WOW what a difference! Rather than a couple of 1-2 toon mobs running around the lakes, there were groups of 10-12! This might not sound like much for those of you that are use to it, but for me it was a new game.

  7. It is not terribly slow, but it manages to be grindy. If you want to level from RvR, half the tier is a wall of suck. Even if your team is doing well, you are not contributing as much, and getting rolled by the 28+ team in tier 3 scenarios is not fun. (I presume it is better post magnet nerf.) At any given point, you can estimate how long it will take you to get to the bolster level or the halfway point for the tier. Or, at the point that I left, how long until I get a new power. That was measured in the days /played. Engineer 20: 1 decent active ability until level 28, assuming you take it in your spec tree. Why have almost an entire tier when you get no new buttons to push? If you are not learning new things in a level, it is just there to make leveling take longer.

    You can ask my friend Rick: being at the top of your tier is great. Being a DPS at the bottom is not.

  8. Leveling doesn’t translate well to an online game because it introduces artificial barriers to stop people from playing with each other. It also rewards time spent rather than skill playing the game.

    The longer it takes to level, the more anti-social the game is (ie WoW, where the majority of people solo). However, the longer people subscribe for, which means the game company makes more money.

    I would understand if this was a Blizzard or Mythic blog saying that leveling should take a long time…. but why, as a player, do you want to have a worse online gaming experience in an MMO by making leveling take forever?

  9. @Thallian – “WEll, I think the whining is indicative of a general tiredness of the leveling mechanic in general”

    Damn right. I do think that there’s a time and place for someone to launch a major MMO with no levels any more. I could get behind an argument that says half the bitching about WAR bitching is about being sick of leveling, period. I know after years of different MMO’s, I really appreciate a system like Eve.

    @Pete – I think the “wait until you see Tier 4″ is a big disservice to the game. In DAoC, you did have to wait until endgame, level 50, to participate in RvR on equal footing. In WAR, I feel like Mythic has given us great variety for leveling options, the best variety ever in an MMO. Instead of people getting behind the variety of ways to level, more than any other game out there, people bitch that either you have to wait ’til end game, or that you can’t PvE the way you want, or can’t queue scenarios fast enough, or you don’t like scenarios…etc. Personally, I’m loving the fact that I have three options every night, and it’s getting me to endgame with the least effort of any MMO on the market.

    I think about what the CoWs are doing in WoW, starting over from scratch, and it makes me want to stab myself in the eye with forks. You’re resigning yourself to nothing but PvE forever. Oy. Not for me.

    @Zubon – You’re right about your level in tiers, and that was part of the point I was making. However, it’s still pretty damn simple to level from the bottom of the next tier to a place where you can make a difference in scenarios.

    I wonder how much of what’s different between your experience and mine has to do with our class choices. I love my classes, I feel like I’m making good contributions regardless of level (and felt godly as a Witch Hunter at the top of Tier 1), and I never, ever feel like I’m staring at the XP bar waiting for a new ability. Every ability gets stronger with each new level, so even if I don’t have a new ability to train, I still get stronger.

    I’m having so much fun that I don’t really even notice how long it takes to level, what skills I get at my new level, or how much /played time I’m averaging per level. I’m just having a damn good time with the options I have each night when I log in.

    Maybe I’m lucky that I have a family, a job that keeps me busy, and not enough time to play as much as I’d like, or any time to cruise forums. I’m just happy to play each evening, and happy that I have three fun options for leveling each night.

    @ Melf – Are you talking to me? I’m saying that leveling is faster in WAR than any other MMO I’ve played. I don’t want leveling to take longer. You’ll get to play with your friends in WAR faster than any other MMO available…unless you consider a sidekick system like City of Heroes, which is brilliant and really should be copied everywhere.

  10. “I think the “wait until you see Tier 4″ is a big disservice to the game.”

    So where are all the CoW forum threads about the great adventures people are having in Tiers 1 & 2 these days?

    “Maybe I’m lucky that I have a family, a job that keeps me busy, and not enough time to play as much as I’d like, or any time to cruise forums.”

    Yea, the rest of us are all single, independently wealthy people with infinite time. LOL! I kid, I kid. I don’t have as much time as I’d like to play (full time job, plus freelancing on the side, plus family) and that makes my gaming time dear to me. Logging into War was always a crap shoot. Some nights it’d be huge fun, some nights nothing would be going on. On those latter nights I’d beat myself up for wasting my limited free time playing a game that was not very much fun. As the server population left me farther and farther behind, the “fun” nights got rarer and rarer as the world grew emptier and emptier, because I wasn’t leveling fast enough to keep up.

    I prefer a more predictable form of entertainment.

    And though I had no plans to go back to WoW, being back there with a nice group of CoWs is very fun for me. Not least of all because there is actually guild chat in chat, so even if I’m not grouped with guildies at that particular moment, I feel like I’m part of the community. In War, I’d play all night and see 2-3 lines of chat.

    I know the panacea for that is Vent, but the same way that going to WoW is like sticking forks in your eyes, hanging out on Vent all night to “socialize” to me is like sticking forks in my ears. I’ll use Vent to accomplish a specific task but I don’t want to listen to a lot of bad-audio chit-chat all night. I work in a busy cubicle farm and have to listen to cross-chatter all day long; when I get home I like peace and quiet and talking to my lady. That has nothing to do with levels, obviously… but I’m just pointing out there’s more to a MMO than game mechanics like leveling. If CoW dropped the WoW chapter tomorrow, I’d cancel my WoW account and be done there.

    “I’m having so much fun that I don’t really even notice how long it takes to level,”

    At the end of the day, that’s really all that matters. I wasn’t having very much fun, so I was paying attention to levels and what skills I had and so forth.

  11. “I prefer a more predictable form of entertainment. ”

    I think that’s a really important point, Pete. That might be the single biggest difference between WAR and WoW. It was the biggest difference between EQ and DAoC.

    I suspect the unpredictability of WAR is disturbing to some players. For me, the highs of good oRvR are well worth the wait on slower nights, or slower hours during a night of play.

    WoW is much more predictable, but for me, that means it’s ultimately much less interesting. I’d prefer to wait for interesting human opponents, rather than figure out PvE puzzles.

    And the opposite is true. There are people who might be frustrated and annoyed by the unpredictable nature of WAR oRvR, scenario pop rates, or the random nature of players wandering by a PQ to join, and feel satisfied by the always-available puzzles and group PvE in WoW.

    For what it’s worth, Pete, I’m still having fun leveling up alts in WAR, and I think there are other CoWs having fun doing it too. I don’t think WAR is a bad game when you don’t have a critical mass of people around, and you end up mostly questing, grinding levels…to me, that just makes it more like WoW :) But I get scenarios in T1, T2, etc., that lets me advance with a little variety.

  12. “So where are all the CoW forum threads about the great adventures people are having in Tiers 1 & 2 these days?’

    Pete, have you been reading about the alt groups adventures that Brutal has been writing? Twice a week (one order group and one destruction group), we have been having a lot of fun taking on the T1 and now T2 content.

  13. And like I said earlier, when I’m having a good time playing, I’m in game having fun, with other people who are having fun. I don’t post on the forums much, period. That’s no reflection on how I feel about the game.

  14. Ive been trying to get a 2nd character to 40 asap as my guild needs healers.
    I got home from work at 6pm and was at level 39.1. I started questing in auto pilot whilst watching a film with my wife. Because ive done the quests before it wasnt too much of a problem. At 11:30pm i levelled…
    Ive been playing MMOs since EQ i dont remember anytime previously i completed a last level in one evening. The big plus with WAR is you dont need to level once you hit a Tier you want to fight in. Ive been doing orvr since level 28 in Tier 4 and having great fun. Max level is jsut the icing(frosting :P )

  15. That’s another important point, Ep. Anyone concerned with leveling, or falling behind the leveling curve, only has to get up to level 28 to participate with their friends who are further ahead.

    oRvR is quite different from PvE raiding. There’s no limit to the number of people who can participate, and a level 28 character can find a way to contribute in keep takes and open RvR. This further reduces concerns about leveling speeds in the game. I’m basically end-game enabled on my main character two months into the game, and I’ve been coasting on my main for the past week, leveling up an alt who’s scavenging low-level apothecary supplies for my main’s trade skill advancement.

    Congrats on 40!

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