While it is certainly not universal, a significant portion of the WoW player base has or has had alts, or are maybe contemplating one or more alts. I’m sure you understand we’re from the alt camp here at Casa de Grimmtooth, But I’m not going to judge someone just because having alts isn’t their cuppa tea.
Having an alt usually means having an alt that is lower level than your main, an alt that needs to come up through the ranks, either at a headlong pace (to get to max level) or at a slightly slower rate (just for the sake of the alt). In short, you’re going to go through some older content.
Even after The Shattering, going through old content can be pretty depressing. 90% of it feels cast-off, forgotten, unwanted and unloved. I’m sure there’s an RPer or lore nerd or three out there that will make an extra effort to enjoy each old zone to its fullest, but that’s the point – unless you go out of your way, you end up losing yourself in a whirlwind of under-tuned quests, buggy hubs, and quest chains that cut short because you outleveled them.
It’s hard to gauge the old world, since the endgame zones are more or less universally changed up. But Outland, Northrend, and the Cataclysmic lands all show the same symptoms. In BC, used to be you were in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley before you popped 70 – now you’re lucky to hit Nagrand. In Northrend, you’ll likely hit 80 somewhere in Dragonblight. You’ll likely not see the Highlands, either, so forget the dwarven awesomeness. You’re off to Pandaria!
Blizz has turned the knobs for XP gained and XP rewarded almost all the way up so that those that wish to level in a hurry, can. That seems like some sort of distortion to everybody else, a punishment for playing below endgame levels. Every quest that goes gray before you can complete it, every NPC that bugs out because it was never fixed in Cata (where the bug was introduced), every involved quest chain that you just give up on because, really, you don’t need that amount of annoyance for XP you can get, oh, ANYWHERE. All of this sours the experience of anyone that had hopes of enjoying the lower levels of the game.
Blizzard has listened to the wrong people. They have heard the churning, puling cries of the forum posters and wrongfully considered them to be the valid opinion of everyone. Unfortunately they’ve listened to a group of people with a distorted view of the game in which the forums are the primary feature of the game and the game client is a method of fueling forum posts. I applaud Blizzard’s intent, but the execution was flawed because they figured that intelligent, reasonable people would come TO the forums if people like Ghostcrawler showed up to answer questions. Maybe they did. but they were driven away by the instant onslaught of the WoW equivalent to 4chan.
Accelerated XP is one of several bad ideas to come from that channel. Another is CRZ. These are to solve problems that didn’t exist. The problem was that there are people that just want a different character, all ready to go at max level or reasonably close, for raiding or PvP or whatever, without having to muck about with the leveling process. Blizzard’s response, based on feedback from the forums, was CRZ, heirlooms, accelerated XP earnings, increased XP rewards, and account-bound mounts and pets.
As a result, thousands of man-hours have been wasted on features that appease very few and annoy everyone else.
The EASIEST solution would be to make it possible to buy max-level toons for a price, equip ‘em with heirlooms, and leave everything else alone. Drop the XP gains, decrease the XP awards, shut down CRZ. Maybe make mounts and pets soulbound again, not account bound (though I sense much pushback on that). Make it possible to complete all of the quests from newbie zone to endgame zone within that race’s progression path.
Unfortunately, I doubt this will ever happen. I mentioned bugs, as an example. While leveling in Dustwallow, for example, I encountered several pretty severe bugs that were there when Cata came out. They’ve never been fixed. I’ve seen bugs mentioned in forums, asking when they’d be fixed, and the answer, “No idea, we’re busy with awesome new stuff.” Well, that’s software engineers for ya. They hate fixing bugs, and they love the shiny. Remember that next time a software developers tells you that his profession is a “craft” as well. A real artisan potter would never let go even a flower pot in the condition that Dustwallow Marsh is. That’s the difference between a craftsman and a factory worker.
Unfortunately, due to the noise level in the forums, the fact that that is the only way that Blizz really communicates with users, and the pressure to churn out new product, I suspect that the leveling experience will continue to be wretched and useless. It’ll get you from level 1 to 85 quickly enough, but you’ll hate every step of it because not only have you done it all before, but it seemed more interesting and challenging at the time. Now, it’s a joke.
I have over a dozen alts. Until Cata came along, I truly enjoyed leveling them. Last week, in Dustwallow, I was disgusted. Setting up rotations? Why bother, really? There’s no reason to be good at anything at the lower levels, now. They are, as the title says, mostly worthless. And that’s my entire case for buyable max-level toons. The lower levels come across more as punishment than entertainment.
That, more than anything else, I miss at the lower levels. I miss many things, but the actual sense of doing something meaningful and challenging, that’s gone. And I miss it.