Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Leveling Grind and Why We try to Rush it

May 6th 2008

A couple sat on their big comfy couches next to one another with their laptops spread across their laps in eager anticipation. Feet reclined and ready for anything. These two adventurers have just installed one of the most talked about MMORPGs in the world.

They are about to enter... The TWILIGHT ZONE! du du du du!

Ummm no, actually I was talking about the game we all know & love (well, love could also be ad libbed for any number of words here "Hate" "Despise" "Makes me want to punch a puppy""Throw someone onto a bed of sporks" you get the idea)

They are about to enter... The World of Warcraft!

Loading screens were up, both were nervous about what character to choose. They know that they want to go Alliance on Lothar because of a friend, but those are the only expectations given at the moment. Should they roll Night Elfs for their long ears & bouncy nature? Dwarves for their stout stature and drinking problems? How 'bout a Gnome for their... nah, there's no good reason for that race. Ok, how about Humans! Bingo.

Now, what about classes?

The boy always likes the pew pew of it all and something sort of ummm, evil?

A Human Warlock! Perfect!

The girl likes to be helpful. Her previous toon on FFXI was a healer but she wanted something different. She enjoyed the flexibility of healing, DPS, & tanking all rolled into one. That leaves a Druid or a Paladin. She's played a paladin before and really enjoyed it.

A Human Paladin! Perfect!

These two wide-eyed adventurers watch the intro scene and enter Elwyn Forest not quite knowing what would happen. Their friend invited them into his guild to meet the people he talked about so much. Generations was his home and wanted to welcome them into this warm & inviting place.

Generations wasn't a hardcore guild nor really ever raided very much but when they did, the Guild Chat would light up like a Christmas Tree with cheers & excitement of dropping their first Boss or someone finally getting that epic to drop. The adventurers felt so far off from ever participating with these mighty fighters. 70 levels just seems so forever away.

"Ding"s were excitedly written in the Guild Chat box. Anyone who was on, would cheer with excitement and shock at how fast they were appearing. Some felt that they were leveling at a Top Rate of Speed and it was "Frightening".

Conquered lands lay in shambles behind these two admirable foes. The forest didn't even see it coming, nor did Westfall. Gear was quickly replaced from grey, to white, to green.

The two adventures felt that this was where they should be. They would try their best to get to the highest level to be with their friends. What a game!

September 20th 2009

A new MMO has just been launched onto the scene. These two adventurers are anxious to begin. The loading screens are up. What character to choose? Will they feel the way they did before?


Over the past few nights, something went wrong. I was angry. Was it my class? I ended up rolling something that I've never rolled before because I wanted to try something completely new. I rolled an Assassin (something similar to a Rogue in WoW). Did I just not like the play style? This game is awesome, why can't I enjoy something new and challenging?

Then I realized, I had been cursed. (Not by Fulguralis if that's what you're thinking). I was cursed by another game.

The leveling process in the World of Warcraft forces you to believe that the leveling process is just something in the way, some obstacle to block the road before end game. Blizzard is basically telling you that you have so many levels that will teach you your class before you hit level cap. Over time, they have made it easier and easier for the new player to enter the game, and fly past zones & levels and never really enjoy them. Yes, I know that some say that leveling is a major focus of the game. I would have to disagree with you. What can a level 25 anything do in the game? A few instances and if they feel up to it, a Warsong Gulch? WoW, that's cool :P

Let me tell you what a level 25 anything can do in Aion:
-Craft extremely useful items
-Level in many different zones and areas through out the world
-Enter Rifts to other worlds/ enemy factions land
-Enter the Abyss and join in on Epic battles for Honor and experience

These are just to name a few.

I was so frustrated because I looked at my low number of 25 and felt we had such a long way to go to get to the awesome stuff. Low and behold, I already had the ability to enjoy them.

Now, is this shining WoW in a bad light?
Not necessarily. I believe that WoW has put a ton of focus on their development into their end game. So much so, that they want more players to experience it. During the Sunwell patch in TBC, the Devs felt that they had put so much work into that instance and so few got to actually experience & enjoy it, that they would change the expectations of their players in end game raiding in WotLK. With each additional patch comes easier leveling, smaller learning curves, and more experience with every zone.

The World of Warcraft is an endgame focused Raiding game. The journey to level cap is not the adventure but the beginning of Raiding. I believe that this attitude has followed its way over to Aion. I feel like I should be easily flying through levels so that I can enjoy the end game. The thing is, Aion isn't built that way. They want the leveling experience to be... an EXPERIENCE! So, comparing these two games is totally an Apples to Oranges kinda thing. There are a few things that they have in common but that's it. When people compare the games, they are setting one of the games to fail. I love both games equally for very different reasons and I will continue to play both with very different expectations.

As for readers out there struggling to let go of these comparisons, enjoy those levels because they wont come easily or quickly but there will be more than enough to keep you happy.

~Fuu /Awrath


  1. Good points. I wonder if some of it is because of a few benefits we have in Aion that we didn't give ourselves in WoW (our choices):

    1. No getting in on the "ground floor". As a game ages, levelling sort of has to speed up, plus there are fewer people left at lower levels to make things epic.

    2. Getting on a pure PvE server. Levelling in a PvP zone is certainly much slower, but can be a helluva lot more exciting. When you're not having to sneak around to explore or watch you back while gathering, it takes you longer, plus it gets you blood pumping harder.

    WoW could have probably given us both of these things, but we sort of "missed the boat". Even having popped over and tried PvP servers now, you have to sort of rush through to get to the point where you're on equal footing with a lot of people. In a game you're in from the start, it's a lot easier to find people at your level.

    In other words, I'd be a lot of this is just the fact that WoW is old. It's a great game, but you can't make a great game new again no matter how much you may want to. At least, no one's figured out how to do that yet. (hint: expansions, while good, are not it)

  2. Actually, the amount of time it takes to level in Aion is something I noticed right away... and had to remind myself that what I seek in Aion IS something different from what WoW offers.

    I mean, I don't want to play 2 identical games, right?

    I wouldn't say Aion is grindy though, and that I'm glad least so far - hopefully it continues to provide plenty of quests.

    But, I'm used to WoW - roll a new character and I can fly through those first 10 levels in a couple hours. Aion... not so much.

    Then again, I don't know Aion's quests like the back of my hand either. (But even in vanilla and BC, the 1st 10 levels didn't take terribly long.)

    Anywho, this post has perfect timing ... I'm working on a post about being a noob again :P