A few weeks ago I pre-purchased the Warlords of Dreanor expansion and boosted my baby monk up to level 90. After a few weeks of gearing up and learning the rotation/priority list for Windwalker I have a few thoughts about the boosting experience which relates to MMOs on a broad scale. But first, just so you know where I am coming from on this…
A brief history of my time in WoW…
For people who are used to seeing me write about Guild Wars 2 it might seem weird to be writing about World of Warcraft now. However, when it comes to MMOs, WoW was in a lot of ways my first love. It wasn’t the first MMO I ever played but it was the first one I really stuck with.
I made my first character back in February 2005, a Night Elf Warrior. From the first moments the game gripped me and I was caught up in everything about Teldrassil. It’s even still my favorite area in the game. I mostly played Fury back then, but I did switch to Arms when I got really into PvP (though I always wanted to be Fury).
Unfortunately right after I attained the Commander rank, Blizzard opened up server transfers. While most people would say this was a good thing, it unfortunately ruined PvP for me. I suddenly found instead of being able to leisurely PvP when I wanted to (which admittedly was most of the time), I suddenly found I had to PvP 24/7 just to have a chance of ranking up. Unfortunately it wasn’t really possible since I also had a full time job and was getting ready to go back to college. I tried even though I knew it was futile and quickly burnt myself out so badly that even now the prospect of taking part in PvP in any game generally gets a firm ‘meh’ from me.
At this point I transitioned into raiding, which was a lot of fun. I mean I got to be Fury again and that was awesome. I slowly worked through the ranks and before long I was the Warrior Class Lead, in charge of Recruitment, and the main Raid Leader in my guild. It was pretty much all around awesome. We had trouble transitioning from a 20 man guild into a solid 40 man guild, so we partnered up with another guild in similar circumstances. That partnership was pretty awesome. We jointly tore through Molten Core and one shot Onyxia on our first try. Like I said it was pretty grand.
Then as we were getting ready to move on to BWL/AQ40 The Burning Crusade was announced… And it’s pretty fair to say everyone playing WoW lost their minds for awhile. I actually learned to love Warrior Tanking in TBC (Heroic Shattered Halls was my favorite dungeon) but unfortunately my guild got torn apart by internal politics a good ways into the expansion. Then the next Guild I joined, was awesome and more progressed… Well that guild fell apart due to the Guild Master and the assistant GM getting divorced.
So it was going into Wrath of the Lich King I made my own guild with only friends and we decided to focus on only doing 10 man raiding. It was also at this point I rerolled to be a Shadow Priest. We did well until Trial of the Crusader pushed us and the divide between the people who really wanted to progress and be top raiders and the people who just wanted to play with friends fractured us.
From there I went through a few guilds, and all of them ended up splitting for one reason or another. One had a spit because the guild leader was an asshole, another fell apart because they decided to switch from 25 man to 10, another because the GM was clueless. On it went until finally in MoP as I was getting ready to be married and having just moved I decided to take a break. Also I didn’t want to find another group of friends just to watch it all crumble again. All in all I felt tired.
Boosting to level 90
Ok, that wasn’t very brief but keep in mind that’s 9 years of history there. After the announcements at Blizzcon I was once again excited about playing WoW. The announcement of the boosting process also piqued my interest as it made the possibility of re-rolling much simpler, which I needed to do because I realized I missed tanking.
I won’t bore you with all the details of why I settled on Monk, but a big part of the decision was because the guild I had found already had a Bear tank and they had no Monks of any spec. However, before I could earn a tanking spot I needed to prove myself as a solid DPSer (which is completely fair for any raiding guild).
So it was I found myself running around Timeless Isle and running LFRs to gear up and settle into the rotation/priority list for Windwalker. Overall it’s been fun, though it was really weird being in melee again after playing ranged DPS for so long, but it felt a bit like a sort of homecoming to me. I’m not even exaggerating. It hit me during one LFR run, Windwalker Monk feels a lot like the old Vanilla Fury Warrior spec.
One of the things people had a hard time grasping with Fury back in Vanilla was it wasn’t bursty at all. It was just consistent DPS, but had the drawback if you didn’t hit your abilities in the right order you would have really low DPS. In a way Fury was a demanding spec because there was little room for error. Windwalker functions the same way. In fact if an execute was added in, it would be pretty near identical.
I had previously made a few other Monks before the one I boosted. I spec’ed Windwalker on all of them because in general it’s easiest to level as a DPS spec. However I never realized what Windwalker had in common with the old Fury Warrior. Granted I never got particularly far in leveling, even with all the BoA gear. It’s not that it was hard, just it was boring. And I liked playing Monk but I didn’t love it.
The reason I never realized how much I would love playing a Windwalker Monk is due to a fact I have been aware of for a long time but it just never hit home to me how silly it is. Play style for leveling and end game are completely different. I know nothing groundbreaking or surprising there, but it’s absolutely true. I would never have realized I should be playing a Monk if it weren’t for the lvl 90 boost.
Since how a class is played at max level is completely different for the two phases of the game, it sort of renders leveling as pointless. You aren’t learning how to play your class. You might learn about some of the game systems, but there’s no real reason why those systems can’t be learned about at max level.
Even the argument leveling is about learning how to play your role correctly falls away in WoW’s current form. Even when done on level appropriate characters most leveling dungeons are done in one big crazy zerg. Occasionally a healer might need to toss out a heal or two, but for the most part even the healers tend to spend a fair amount of time DPSing instead of healing. And tanks definitely rarely learn anything about how to build and keep aggro.
Leveling just feels like wasted time. A part of the game players take part in before the real game starts.
Next Generation MMOs
Leveling is an artifact of the RPG part of MMORPG, but it’s really outlived it’s usefulness. At endgame the most common way of giving the feeling of progression is by doing harder and harder objectives (often raids) to obtain better and better gear. This is enough motivation for people they often rush through leveling content and barely pay attention to what’s going on.
One of the hallmarks of the next generation of MMOs (the real next generation not the ones who are basically doing the same old thing) will get rid the old leveling system and will let players form up and start on normal “endgame” content right away. There can still be quest chains and content which is normally associated with leveling for people who like things like that. This also allows Devs to focus their time on content a large part of the player base won’t just rush through.
Another positive upshot of moving towards a model without levels is those dang tutorial starter areas could finally be made optional. For people who have been playing MMOs for a decade or more those “hey let’s teach you about how a MMO works” areas are extremely tiresome and really don’t serve much purpose. Heck they could even institute something similar to what LoL does and ask players how much MMO experience they have. Then based on the answers have more or less training wheels on to start.
Anyway, that’s how the boost to 90 experiment has changed my perspective on leveling. I have now gone completely 180 in my opinion. What are your thoughts about the function of leveling in WoW and other MMOs?