It was always this easy… (Part 1)

While we’re talking about leveling up, let’s tackle a topic that ties in quite well with the previous posts: The difficulty, speed and overall process of getting to the next level.

Every now and then, someone on the official forums mentions how leveling in WoW used to be a lot more challenging, which is usually followed by countless people claiming that nothing has changed, and the leveling process was always as trivial and easy as it is right now.

I disagree, especially about the content from 1-60 and I’ll explain why.

You see, Blizzard has constantly been making changes to the leveling process. Some small, some large and some changes to other mechanics that ended up affecting the overall leveling speed and difficulty. I guess most people claiming the leveling process has always been the same haven’t been around for a long time or didn’t really experience those changes in a before and after scenario using fresh characters. But your guess is as good as mine.

So what has changed to make the leveling process so easy? Was it really more difficult in the beginning? Well, I’ll admit that to a certain extent, the inexperience of new players can be responsible for the “it used to be more difficult” approach. Players are still learning the overall mechanics, the game world is new to them and it takes a long time to get used to that. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume sufficient knowledge of classes, quests and zones for our little theoretical experiment.

So, what’s different? For starters, the very character you’re starting with has changed drastically over the years, becoming a LOT more powerful right from the start.
Having played a rogue in PvE for the last 7 years, with lots of alts of the same class, I guess I’ll take this class as an example for some more specific talents etc.

Monster DPS!

(no, the character above isn’t some random, lvl30 alt with 8 hours /played. It’s my old wow-classic rogue at lvl60 with some questing gear, crafted items, low level instance loot and a ton of buffs)

In general, the talents and abilities have constantly been modified by Blizzard. They removed useless talents, switched around the priority of others to give useful abilities to new characters earlier and implemented totally new ones to help players. And I know, people always moan about their class getting nerfed constantly, but since release, almost every aspect of most classes have been buffed and simplified.

Let’s take the rogue as an example:

  • Blade Flurry used to be a short but powerful cooldown, allowing the rogue to attack two targets at once. This resulted in a significant DPS gain if used properly. Nowadays it’s a permanent ability with a slightly lower energy regeneration, but it lasts forever, doesn’t cost any energy and can be conveniently switched off for single target fights
  • Recuperate was introduced, making the solo rogue an unstoppable self-healing killing machine. Keeping this buff up makes it pretty much impossible to die in regular PvE situations and with Mists of Pandaria, they’ve introduced leeching poison, so you don’t have to waste combo points or energy on regular healing. If it gets tough, Recuperate is still available to boost the self healing
  • Dual Wielding wasn’t available until the player gained a couple of levels, but when we got the talent from the trainer it was a huge dps boost, which could be further increased by putting 5 talent points into the dual wield specialization of the combat tree. Today, rogues have dual wield right from the start and at level10 combat rogues get “Ambidexterity”, giving them a bigger damage boost than the old dual wield spec would have done (87.5% instead of 75% total damage)
  • Smooth 1 point energy regenration instead of large ticks. Originally, the rogue’s energy resource used to refresh at 20 points every 2 seconds. So if you had 40 energy and used an ability costing 35, you were left with 5 energy. If you wanted to use a cheap ability for 10 energy, you had to wait 2 seconds for the next energy tick. Today, energy regenerates smoothly and with proper gear about 50% faster, which lowered the waiting time for enough energy and also rose the frequency of attacks

These things happened for all classes. Cooldowns got lowered (especially paladins will know what I’m talking about), abilities recieved buffs and so on. If you take a WoW classic character and a current MoP character of the same class, at the same random level, with the same equipment, the new character would wipe the floor with the old one. We don’t even have to dive into pvp here, just let them kill a couple of quest mobs for their level and the new character will basically start a mass murdering rampage, never stopping once, while the old character will have to take breaks quite often on top of taking longer to kill them.

So that’s just ONE of the changes affecting the overall leveling difficulty. Let’s move on to the next.

 

Epic loot! Seriously!

The gear has gotten a lot better as well. I’m talking about the quest rewards that came with the redesign of the old zones in Cataclysm. These new items are not only way more powerful than the old ones, they are also given out every other quest. Especially in the starting zones, this makes a giant difference.

The above item is the finest item Elwynn Forest had to offer in WoW Classic. It’s a green quest reward, which was special already. In fact, this was the ONLY green quest reward in the entire zone! The rest was white or grey stuff and it was pretty common to see people wearing green BoE items not intended for their class, because it was a random drop and had stamina on it…way better than anything given to them by the quest NPCs as a reward. The item in question was one of the rewards for killing Hogger. The quest was impossible to solo for most classes at that level and usually required a group of at least three players. Receiving an item which increased your stamina and agility was completely awesome, because you didn’t get anything like this before.

Getting items with stats early on didn’t happen very often…getting items with proper stats in the beginning was a reason to celebrate.

With the amount of properly statted gear, given to new characters through quests in Cataclysm, the questing gets even easier. After questing through Elwynn Forest, characters will be in almost full green gear, having a lot more stamina and dealing much more DPS than previously. Combine this with the much more powerful talents, spells and abilities, and you see where this is going. Let’s take Hogger as an example. Today, he’s a pushover for almost everybody attempting to solo him, even though he’s got more abilities, twice as many hitpoints and he spawns adds. In WoW classic he had 666HP (that’s right) and charged you when attacking…after that you just got destroyed by his attacks and by the time of your first death to Hogger you barely scratched his 666HP.

I already hear people saying “But I killed Hogger solo before Cataclysm, he wasn’t that hard.”. True…but remember that your character was already a lot stronger than in WoW classic, and you probably already outleveled Elwynn due to some questing in Westfall. Soloing Hogger with gear from Elwynn, without leveling outside of the zone and with WoW classic talents was actually really hard. Harder for some classes, easier for others…it’s not impossible, but some classes had to put some serious effort into achieving that goal, believe me.

 

Since this is getting longer than I thought, again, I’ll split this up in two entried. Today we’ve covered the talent and gear side, which results in characters being much more efficient and stronger, killing mobs faster with less downtime. This should already prove that leveling got a LOT easier over the years, but there’s more…a lot more. Leveling didn’t just get easier, it became so trivial and boring, that it’s become a nuisance both players and Blizzard are trying to avoid as much as possible.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about things like quest flow, traveling, experience, drop rates, complexity and other stuff that made leveling the boring chore that it is today.