Here we are, back with part 3 of the analysis of relevant content in World of Warcraft. Last time we looked at all the remaining expansions and also the upcoming Legion expansion. I came to the conclusion, that these so-called “expansions” don’t really expand the game at all, in their effort to get players to max level and the current endgame as quickly as possible.
This time, our goal is to take a more detailed look at all the potentially available content in World of Warcraft, what measures Blizzard already took to make content last longer or make it more relevant again and what they could do furthermore to improve the situation.
It’s all in the Numbers
Here are a couple of numbers about the current WoW content:
Zones: 90 Zones, excluding 3 PvP only zones consisting of: 51 Classic, 8 TBC, 11 WotLK, 6 Cata, 7 MoP, 7 WoD
Instances: 89 Instances (+64 variants), consisting of: 26 Classic, 16 TBC (+16 Heroic), 16 WotLK (+16 Heroic), 14 Cata (+7 Heroic), 9 MoP (+9 Heroic), 8 WoD (+8 Heroic, +8 Mythic)
Raids: 36 Raids (+37-79 variants), consisting of: 4 Classic, 8 TBC, 10 WotLK (+10 Heroic or +30 with 10/25man), 6 Cata (+1 LFR, +6 Heroic or +18 w. 10/25), 5 MoP (+1Flex, +5 LFR, +5 Heroic or +15 w. 10/25), 3 WoD (+3 LFR, +3 Heroic, +3 Mythic)
Misc: 16 MoP Scenarios with heroic variants
Wow, that’s a ton of content! When you started a new character the last time and rushed to max level…how much of all that content did you actually see? How many zones did you enter? How many zones did you complete? How many different dungeons did you run? Raids?
In almost every zone you will either skip the last bunch of quests, because they don’t give optimal XP anymore and you’ll already have the breadcrumb quest to the next zone, or you will finish the zone entirely and do that for a couple of zones and eventually you will outlevel an entire zone and skip that.
If you start a new character, you will probably see less than 10 different zones until you enter the Dark Portal…I’m sorry, the lame Outland Portal in Stormwind. If you queue for dungeons while questing, it’ll be even less. Because you level very fast, you won’t see all the dungeons. Even when leveling by dungeons exclusively, you will skip dungeons. Happened to me while leveling my Prot Warrior through instances without Heirlooms. You gain so much XP from the quests and dungeon completion, it’s ridiculous.
You will definitely skip all the raids, zones like Silitus and a huge number of other zones and dungeons on your way to Outland. Of course a pretty significant number of zones consists of starter zones for the different races, so you can’t count all zones as “skipped”.
Before the first nerf to the leveling XP came, you almost had to visit all leveling zones and dungeons in classic in order to avoid a gap while you were leveling.
And the journey continues like that. In TBC you won’t enter the raids, won’t play the heroic dungeons, skip at least two, if not three of the last zones and finish most of the zones early. Of course you probably won’t see all of the 16 dungeons.
We continue in the same fashion through WotLK, skipping all of the raid content, heroic dungeons, high level zones and number of events like the Argent tournament. Cataclysm follows the same scheme adding an LFR raid to the list of irrelevant content. In Pandaria we get even more unplayed content: The Scenarios. Blizzard introduced a new gameplay mode for group play only to drop the concept in the next expansion.
Right now in Warlords of Draenor you’ll play through the Zones once, see the normal dungeons once (at most) and same goes for the trivial heroic dungeons. You probably won’t play those at all because the new high level zone gives you gear that exceeds almost all of the heroic and mythic dungeon gear, as well as all LFR content and most of the normal/heroic raids. After that, the only relevant content is the latest raid instance and it’s questionable if players will start looking for normal mode groups or higher to increase their item level ever so slightly over a long period of time after rushing through to level 100 and being showered with epic loot shortly after.
So while leveling, you will probably only see about 10% (at most) of the content and once you reach max level, only a fraction of that remains relevant. A raid instance, maybe mythic dungeons and as long as you can stomach it, one zone. Pretty sad if you ask me, considering the game has almost 400 zones, dungeons, raids, scenarios and difficulty variants.
World of Warcraft revisited
That’s a ton of content, just dead. Tens of thousands of development hours and nobody gets to see and enjoy it anymore. So Blizzard has tried a couple of things to make old content relevant again, with varying success. Let’s take a look at what they did:
Transmogrification, Pets, Achievements and Archaeology: These features don’t make the content relevant in terms of character progress, lore or gear, but at least you have a reason to visit some of the zones and instances again. Unfortunately you won’t really “do” anything in them. You’re not questing in the zones, so they merely serve as a backdrop for pet battles or Archaeology. Getting Transmog items from old raids is kind of fun, but you won’t experience any of the encounters the way they were designed.
Remaking dungeons and raids: This is only a temporary solution. They remake certain instances, like Scarlet Monastery or the Deadmines, and raids, like Naxxramas, for the new “current” expansion. The problem is, that only works for a short time as that expansion will eventually be outdated again and thus the remade content is being skipped again.
Cataclysm Zone overhaul: This was a little bit more effective. Former lvl 55+ zones in classic, that didn’t get any more traffic because people moved to Outland quite soon, had their levels lowered during the redesign process. That made them relevant again for leveling players. I’m pretty sure the Eastern Plaguelands would be dead and forgotten if not for this measure. Now a lot of people quest through it and I can see this working for other expansions as well.
Mythic Dungeons: I like the idea of challenging dungeons, but for WoD the system came pretty late. I’m curious to see how they’re progressing with this in Legion. The problem in WoD is that for one, they also introduced the new Zone that gave loot at a similar level, thus removing a lot of the incentive to go for the new Mythic Dungeons. The other is the community. As it’s not possible to just queue for the dungeon, you have to find a group. And unfortunately many players are of the “you need a higher item level than the instance offers”-variety.
Challenge Modes: They always stay challenging, due to your gear scaling, but for me they don’t really make sense as you can’t progress your character at all and especially the gameplay is tuned towards aggressive speed-running.
Timewalking Dungeons: Now we’re getting somewhere! With the new content scaling tech they’ve been developing, the old dungeons from previous expansions are now available at max level. Actually they’re available as soon as they unlock, regardless of your level. So you can run a TBC dungeon with max level characters and characters anywhere from 70-100 in a mixed group. The loot isn’t great, but I really like the idea as it offers more options and a diversion from seeing the same dungeons over and over once you hit max level.
I’m really looking forward to Legion. Challenge Mode Dungeons will be slightly changed, they’ve taken a bunch of features from Diablo 3 that will make dungeon running more challenging and long-lasting and I hope they will improve the Mythic and Timewalking dungeons even further.
We need more!
If you look at PvP, all the content, no matter how old, is still relevant. Why? Because there’s always a challenge at your level > Other players. I think with the scaling technology, Blizzard could achieve the same for other content. Scale dungeons or even zones to your level. The new Legion zones will actually do that and you can choose the order in which you want to tackle the leveling zones. I’m not sure how that will affect storytelling though. But I’d like to see that for all zones in the game. Scaling them to your level, with the option to reset quest lines in the zone and maybe also scale quest rewards and mob loot.
WoW could also take a hint from games like The Secret World, where there are no levels (levels are pointless anyway in WoW) but a ton of skills which you can expand over weeks and months. Your character is always growing in TSW. Something like that, maybe also adopt the Diablo 3 Paragon level system in some way, that makes more questing and leveling possible. Giving you more options to improve your character, not only through gear but also by earned experience. Combine that with all upscaled zones etc., you suddenly have tons of content available to you.
The focus on gear instead of the character and skills makes all content but the one with the highest item level irrelevant. Levels are entirely pointless as well. We spend most of the playing time at max level and the difference between a fresh Level 100 character and a maxed out 100 is much bigger than anything else before that.
So right now we’ve still got a ton of obsolete content and most of the wonderful game, lore, mechanics, zones, locations, NPCs, encounters and even gameplay is wasted. Blizzard is working on it, slowly, but recently there has been hope for the future. Legion seems to be taking a couple of steps into the right direction, at least for the Expansion content and I hope they take that philosophy further and extend it onto the whole game. Let’s cautiously hope for the best.
I originally wanted to publish this article series before WoD even launched, before Flex was introduced at the end of MoP. Back then the outlook would have been much worse and I didn’t have any hope for the future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Legion will be able to be a major disappointment in SOME way, just like the expansions before have gotten my hopes up and then shattered them one way or another. Maybe I should make an expansion overview and explain why all expansions were awesome and terrible at the same time.
Anyway, looks like we finally made it to the end. I hope you enjoyed this small article series. There are a couple of smaller things I could’ve talked about, such as flying mounts that speed up questing immensely and of course the ever-increasing power level of leveling player characters from expansion to expansion, but that was actually already talked about in a much older article series so I’ll just mention it here.
I’d love to hear your opinions about the matter. Do you agree that more of the game’s content should stay relevant longer or do you completely disagree and think boosted characters are the best thing ever? Looking forward to your comments. See you next time.