Is It Time to Renovate Old Outdoor Leveling Content?

I’ve been leveling some fresh characters, in preparation for Wrath. The last character I leveled from scratch before this batch was my shaman, a year and some months ago. I did this through the draenei starting zones of Azuremyst and Bloodmyst. These two zones are dense in quests and provide a fluid and effortless progression through the first twenty levels. They also provide ample background for the draenei’s crash on Azeroth. Regardless of how silly dimensional spacegoats may seem, Azuremyst and Bloodmyst are decent examples of what starting zones should be.

Playing a priest through Dun Morogh and other early Eastern Kingdoms zones, I remembered just how poorly designed the classic leveling content really is. Slogging through the old world is excruciating. So much so that it drove me to delete my priest and sign up for the recruit-a-friend program. Since then, I’ve managed to level a warlock and a priest to 60, and I’m now working on a hunter and a rogue.

The experience begs to question when the old world content should undergo addition or renovation. Considering the absolutely positive leveling experience Wrath has to offer, I believe that time is now. And phasing could be utilized to minimize the work that would be needed to refine the content.

Quest and Objective Density

I have to run all the way up there?The old world lacks a high density of quests and objectives close in proximity to the hubs from which the quests are obtained. There’s a quest with objectives in Westfall that you have to pick up from Stormwind of all places. If you forget to pick this quest up while visiting Stormwind for training, it’s arguably pointless to go back and pick it up. Then there’s a quest you pick up at the lighthouse (a quest most people are unaware of, unless they check Wowhead) that requires you to literally travel the entire length of Westfall’s coast to kill all of the murlocs required to complete it. Perhaps the zone that highlights this problem the most is Alterac. Pretty much every quest you get that has objectives in Alterac is not actually picked up in Alterac. Rather, it they are picked up in Southshore, in Hillsbrad.

Consider Redridge, the third human zone in leveling progress. The Dry Times, Price of Shoes, and messenger quests require you to travel around to Stormwind, Goldshire, Sentinel Hill, that stupid little dwarf camped in the hills of Westfall (who requires you to obtain five hops), and then Darkshire. You get a total of 4885 experience for all three of these quests, or roughly 23 percent of the experience required to get to level 20. That’s 23 percent of a level in about an hour, meaning it would take about four hours to level if somebody did only these types of quests. That’s far too long for level 20. Furthermore, the type of travel required is not fun whatsoever.

What’s even more baffling in regards to Redridge is that the Price of Shoes is required to open up three other quests in Redridge. You must fly to Stormwind, run down to Goldshire, back to Stormwind, and then fly back to Redridge (or hearth back to it) if you want to do A Baying of Gnolls, Underbelly Scales, and Howling in the Hills (all well-designed quests).

In my opinion, the objective for the Price of Shoes should be moved to Stormwind. Grimbooze Thunderbew, the dwarf that gives a keg required for Dry Times should be moved to Sentinel Hill, and the Darkshire and Goldshire portions of the quest should be removed entirely. I also think the Messenger to Stormwind and Messenger to Westfall quests should be removed, while Messenger to Darkshire serves as a quest meant to usher someone to Duskwood as the next zone in progression after Redridge.

It would also help a leveling player if the zones actually had a fluid and logical line of progression to begin with.

The Fluid and Logical Progression of Quests Through Zones

Here to there, over there, back to here, back there, and finally there.Because some of the quest hubs in classic leveling zones aren’t very dense, a person doesn’t always get enough levels to progress from zone to zone in a fluid and logical manner. Some of the zones aren’t even designed with tight level ranges in mind. Stranglethorn Vale, for example, contains quests in a range from 30 all the way up through the mid-40’s. That’s fifteen levels for one zone. This wouldn’t be a problem if a person could actually stay in the zone all the way from 30 to 45, but it is pretty much impossible without being on the recruit-a-friend system.

What bothers me most is that many think you should be able to go from Elwynn Forest, to Westfall, to Redridge and then Duskwood, and so on. But you almost always have to supplement your leveling with quests from other zones miles away, before you can move on to what you would think is the next zone in line. When starting a new human character, I’ve found I always have to go from Elwynn, to Westfall, briefly into Loch Modan (a dwarf zone), back to Westfall, then to Redridge, and Duskwood, but I always have to supplement the middle of Duskwood with quests from the Wetlands (another early dwarf zone) before I return to finish it off.

I don’t mind travel between zones, so long as you’re traveling to a zone such that it serves as the “next place in line.” It would be great if you could simply go from Elwynn, to Westfall, to Redridge, to Duskwood, then Hillsbrad (maybe a boat that takes you there, so you don’t have to ride through several other zones), Arathi, Alterac, etc. I shouldn’t have to go briefly to Loch Modan or the Wetlands if I want to level smoothly through the human zones of Elwynn, Westfall, Redridge and Duskwood.

TBC Didn’t Justify Changes to Old World Questing

Blizzard hasn’t ignored the problems with its classic content. They did lower the experience required to level from 20 to 60, and they did add quests to Dustwallow for those in the upper 30’s. While they did commit some resources to these changes, they chose not to use their resources renovating any other classic zones. And, truthfully, I think they were right not to do so.

While The Burning Crusade did offer some major advances in quest density and zone progression concepts, it did little to innovate the way we quest through content. Yes, TBC did introduce bombing runs, the Ring of Blood, and questlines with small cut scenes like those involving Akama and Illidan in Shadowmoon Valley. But such quests were few and far between and they weren’t innovative enough to really justify a complete renovation of the old world.

However, I’m one to think Wrath of the Lich King does justify more renovation of the classic outdoor leveling content.

Why Wrath Justifies Changes to Old World Questing

I’ve quested my way thoroughly through Northrend. I’ve done every zone, and 90 to 100 percent of the quests in each. Furthermore, I have done the death knight starting area. So I have enough experience to understand the big picture and what the potential quests can offer using the technology introduced in Wrath. In a word, it is fantastic.

You have a quest that puts players on the back of a horse with literally hundreds of worgen chasing them. To manage their escape, they have to throw fire bombs at them from the back of a horse, while an NPC escapee is at the reigns.

There’s a quest puts players on the back of a giant frost wyrm. Players use this wyrm to devastate a swarm of the Scarlet Crusade’s armies.

Another quest provides people with two hot burning irons to torment a member of the Scarlet Crusade into giving them information about what the Crusade calls “The Crimson Dawn.”

One specific questline opens with an epic cut scene: a battle at the gates of Icecrown. To avoid spoilers, I won’t tell you what happens. I will note this quest leads to further developments that explain the diplomatic complexity of the resulting situation, followed by a huge battle inside the Undercity itself, complete with highly notable NPC’s and soldiers at your side. This is not the same Undercity Horde players know and love. Yes, the players participating in this battle are technically in the same zone as those who would simply access their banks, but they cannot see the people who are on this quest, nor can the people on the quest see those who are there normally. This is an example of “phasing,” a new technology included in Wrath.

At this point, it is easy to realize what could be done within classic zones. Phasing technology could be used to add new quests, without changing too many of the existing ones. This would open up the possibility of creating new supplemental leveling content that allows players to stay within a zone for longer, which would also develop smoother transitions from zone to zone. New quests would also progress the story of each zone further or with more depth. And these quests could involve new systems, such as the vehicle system behind siege engines.

Would it be a lot for new players to take in? No doubt. But why wouldn’t you want to introduce some of the more exciting systems to new players early on? Especially when the first quests introducing these systems could help ease them into the mechanics. Overall, it would provide a positive learning experience and hook more players to the game earlier.

Would Renovating Old World Leveling Content Be a Good Business Decision?

It is understandably a large undertaking for the development team to delegate the renovation of classic quests and zone progression. So much so that you do have to ask if the results would be worth the effort. On one hand, if efforts to revamp the old world leveling content cause such a huge delay in new end-game content, old players could end up quitting and Blizzard would lose a large chunk of revenue. On the other hand, Blizzard could be losing thousands of potential customers a year due to the fact that WoW’s leveling content is becoming out-of-date.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother touching old world instances. They are still relevant to leveling and to commit resources to them would be pointless. But the outdoor old world content needs some serious help.

I believe it is more than possible to renovate the old world as sort of a “side project.” Certainly, Blizzard would have to take a few experienced quest designers away from developing new zones and quests, but they don’t have to devote all of them to the renovation project. This would put some focus on both the development of new content, to satiate the veteran appetite, and the improvement of old content, to help retain new players.

Old World Quests Should Better Emphasize Storylines

One of the things that has always bothered me about my first experiences playing a human was that the quests never really did justice to the complexity of the human story arc. Consider the depth of Stormwind’s backstory and its place in the world. To fully explain it would take many pages concerning the history of Stormwind and all of Azeroth.

To briefly explain the the current situation, Stormwind and Theramore are the two strongest human nations remaining after the third war. The rest were either destroyed, exist in isolation, or have largely existed in secrecy.

Stormwind and Theramore are often at odds politically. While Theramore is officially considered the leading nation of the Alliance, and hopes to maintain a truce with Orgrimmar, Stormwind sees itself as the leader of the Alliance’s military in the Eastern Kingdoms and uses the military to impose its own political views (this is especially true in Wrath).

Let’s not forget Stormwind’s internal problems. Its exiled artisans have turned into a band of thieves and assassins called the Defias Brotherhood. With much of Stormwind’s armies away on campaigns in the plaguelands, Northrend and elsewhere, the Defias have managed to take control of much of Westfall, Duskwood and Elwynn. This, along with the general plights of all nations throughout Azeroth, has created a need to hire mercenaries, and this is the primary origin story for all human player characters.

Despite the complexity of Stormwind’s situation in the world, however, much of its history and current politics is not made evident in early the human zones. And for the points that are made clear, they could sometimes be better emphasized. For example, it should be better explained that Stormwind itself exists as a nation recently reborn after the second war against the orcs. It should also be explained why the Defias have come about, and further emphasized why you need to oppose them as a mercenary under the command of the Stormwind Guard.

As an example, human players could start in a more robust area, phased to create a “training grounds” for newly hired human mercenaries. Your trainers could explain the reason you’ve been hired, and that you must earn their trust performing domestic missions before tasked with missions abroad as a mercenary of the Alliance. You could be paid for your service, an effort made to rectify the mistakes made in refusing pay to the artisans that have become agents in the Defias.

Redridge Mountains and the Blackrock Menace as an Example of What Can Be Done

Consider the situation in Redridge. With Stormwind’s forces taxed by the world’s troubles, Lakeshire has lost a lot of support. Furthermore, its trade caravans have been ravaged by murlocs and the Blackrock Clan. To complicate matters, the Blackrock orcs encroach upon Lakeshire itself, and have even taken Stonewatch Keep for their own.

While the killing of Gath’Ilzogg and Tharil’zun, the leaders of the Blackrock Clan in Redridge, serve as a fitting end to the Blackrock storyline in Redridge, it would be possible to add even further developments before arriving to this conclusion. For example, Lakeshire could perhaps catch wind of a potential Blackrock offensive against Lakeshire. In preparation for the attack, a player could be given a quest to collect wood and logs for the construction of makeshift barricades, pallisades and ballistae. That player could then be given a quest that teaches them how to use ballistae. Following this, the orcish army could approach and the player would use a ballista to take out orcish catapults, while other mercenaries battle the orcs on the field. Phasing could be used for this quest so only those defending Lakeshire would see the makeshift defenses and the attacking orcs. Anyone passing through or doing the earlier quests would not be interrupted.

This small questline would then lead to a retaliation by the humans of Lakeshire, which ultimately results in the killing of Gath’Ilzogg and Tharil’zun in Stonewatch Keep. This would better emphasize Lakeshire’s struggle and success in the face of having been forsaken by Stormwind, as well as the Blackrock Clan’s role in Redridge.

It would also provide some supplemental quests needed to help streamline people’s progression through specific zones.

The Argument for Renovation and How to Approach It

I’ve alluded and briefly mentioned the dangers behind renovation. I wouldn’t want the revamping of old world leveling content to halt the development of new and fresh zones and instances. Blizzard must maintain a healthy pace of new content production for it to retain its older players. But I also believe reworking and adding to some the older content would benefit the game and its players in the long-term.

Given how quickly quests and the general gameplay mechanics of WoW are advancing, the renovated content would be much more exciting than what the classic outdoor world currently has to offer. This could lead to the retainment of more new players, meaning guilds would have a larger pool of players from which to recruit.

Unfortunately, however, it’s a fine line to draw. So I believe it should be designated as a “side project” to develop alongside entirely new content. Also, to include both new and old players, perhaps some of the renovated content could be rewarding for both capped and new players.

Everything considered, I think it’s time Blizzard does something to improve one of WoW’s biggest remaining problems.

22 thoughts on “Is It Time to Renovate Old Outdoor Leveling Content?

  1. I don’t think the old world quests were designed to be frustrating on purpose. Rather, the designers were thinking a little too old school; you can see their thought process laid out in the quest and zone design. “How can we slow down leveling? We don’t even have Molten Core finished yet! I know, let’s make them run back and forth between 3 or four zones to finish quests. I know I love running my mount-less characters around in circles.”

    “And let’s design Duskwood so most of the quests are on the opposite side of the zone, but the middle of the zone is impassable, so they have to take the long way to get there and back. There, that’s another 10 hours of game time artificially created. High-fives! Now, let’s get to work on making Felwood even more stretched out and annoying to quest in. And don’t forget to move Ragnaros’s quest line NPC even farther out into the middle of the ocean off of Azshara.”

    See a pattern emerging? The way I see it, the 1-60 content was designed to be difficult and drawn out, so when you did hit 60, it was the OMFG moment of a lifetime. I agree it should be revamped, but honestly I would rather see some additional content for endgame players rather than something to entertain me on my 8th or 9th trip to 60 and beyond. That’s also precisely why Death Knights will start at 55 – a lot of the content before isn’t worth it, in the eyes of Blizzard.

    Ok, this has become an epic comment, but I just finished leveling three different alts to 60 and this is all fresh in my mind.

  2. Assumptions are dangerous things to make. Back when WoW was first released, its leveling system was 20 times better than any other MMO’s.

    They just didn’t understand what “the whole experience” required in terms of perfection. They understood what was needed to improve upon past MMO fare, but not what was needed to bring the leveling game towards perfection. They concentrated too much on aesthetics, not functional design.

  3. As if through a magical mindlink you posted exactly what was going through my mind when I was leveling my druid in darkshore yesterday. Darkshore is another example of a terrible zone (at least thats how i see it). It is shaped like a giant sausage and you run up and down all the time, some quest descriptions are not clear: I had to run up and down the entire coastline of darkshore in search of a murloc called murkdeep when someone told me I just had to kill some murlocs for him to appear, needless to say i was frustrated. My advice for new players would be to go level to 10 in their starting areas, then go to the bloodelf or dranei 10-20 zones, they are much better designed than any of the others (and have more fun quests, especially the draenei one).

    Not all the starting areas are terrible however, the most enjoyable are the blood elf and draenei (obviously), but the undead zone (tirisfal glades) was very fun to play as well.

  4. Oh wow I agree with the comment above re. Darkshore – my first character back in 2005 was a druid and I nearly quit the game because of Darkshore – so much running and such a depressing drab looking place. About the only thing that saved me was the Seal form quest that sent me to Westfall and the human kingdoms away from that horrible place – even now, I think that it wins the ‘worst WoW zone design’ award.

    Re. Lume’s main article – which was fantastic – I really agree with all that was said! With the focus back on Azeroth again, I’d love to see the mostly beautiful zones (except Darkshore!) bought to life with better quests and story progression than was in Vanilla WoW.

    I’d love to see the ideas that you have in the game, but even a brief makeover such as the one in Duskwallow marsh would help a lot, given that even Blizzard hasn’t got infinite resources.

    As was also mentioned, I’d really love an update in the zones using phasing technology as the world zones are pretty strange with some of the changes that have happened and make the world feel like it’s moved on from the last few years.

  5. Same here. My night-elf druid has languished at 20 for nearly a year, and will soon benefit from some Recruit-a-Friend magical leveling goodness. For me though, it was Ashenvale that brought on the malaise. I didn’t mind Darkshore’s grim looks, and Ashenvale is much prettier, but imo it takes even longer to get around in Ashenvale and my druid pretty much lost his will to live there.

    btw, where did you get your early zone progress map in the section “The Fluid and Logical Progression of Quests Through Zones”? That’s the best looking WoW map I’ve seen, and I’d love to know where to get it. If it’s not for sale or distribution, that’s cool, I can make my own with screenshots and Photoshop, but if there’s an easier way please let me know. And thanks for the article.

  6. My initial impression of the traveling grind was that it made that mount at 40 your toon’s biggest initial goal. I didn’t care about getting to 60, I just wanted my stinking ram to get around faster.

    I love the Blood Elf starting area for many of the reasons you stated in your post. The quests seem logical, tell interesting and related stories and are all hubbed in sensible ways. In fact, I felt I had a better understanding of the Scourge after getting through the BE starting area than I ever did leveling my dwarf to 70.

  7. My largest beef with old world leveling is the poor drop rates.It needs reworking so bad it isn’t funny!Its based on some obscure random number generator system that also switches loot tables (which includes quest items) at random days also.Meaning some item you need for a quest just isn’t dropping one day,the next day it can drop off the first mob or not at all again!

    I need a saliva gland or I need a lieutenants insignia to pass myself off as one.Okay no problem lets go kill something that has that…Oh here is one now… gotcha!Now loot and be on my…wait nothing that I needed.It didn’t have a saliva gland?Must have been a mutant.On to the next one!None here either?!WTF!?Now 200 kills later.Oh…thank…GOD!IT FINALLY DROPPED!Yes now I can finally return to the quest giver and get my xp!Here is the stuff you wanted now for my reward for hours spent farming this junk?Wait…2200 xp and 2 silver?!Are you insane!?/slap

    I’ve raised far too many alts not to know how sucky a concept a RNG for necessary quest loot is.

  8. I think your right on in your observations. I have had similar thoughts but yours are more ambitious with the use of phasing. Definitely the number one thing they could do is streamline the quest so you don’t have to run around so much if you don’t want to. For someone playing the first time maybe they could leave remnants of certain quests so people learn all the mechanics of the game, but chances are if your starting at this point you already know someone and your goal is then to get to max level asap. I don’t think it would take much to smooth out progression between zones either and they even have space to do it, because some of these lowbie zones have places that are kind of barren. Just 1-2 quests in Westfall and in Redridge would make it so you don’t ever have to run to the Dwarven zones unless you want to. Best yet, with the upcoming new expansion they could even add content related to the Scourge invasion. Maybe add an increased threat from the undead in Duskwood spilling over into the other lowbie zones and bamn(!) you’ve got a new story thread you can follow up in multiple starting zones that you can use for wetting peoples appetites for what’s to come.

  9. I agree 100% with your conclusions. I’m a casual player, and the biggest reason I have only a single level 70 after all this time, is that I get to about level 20 and see Darkshore and Strangelthorn waiting ahead of me… and then I think of what a nightmare 40-50 was (50-60 was a bit easier), nevermind 60-70, and I just give up. The highest I’ve gotten is a Belf at its thirties for its mount and thats it.

    Oh, and another sign Blizz agrees with you about the artificial travel times is moving the mount back to level 30 when the wandering starts REALLY getting bad.

  10. Good article Lume! I agree with much of what you say such as the smooth transitions of the two new Burning Crusade starter areas. Your suggestion that Blizzard go back and revamp classic content echoes what I said in an article on my blog a few weeks ago entitled “Predictions and Wishlist for the Third WoW Expansion”:

    “Azeroth Reborn Expansion Theme – Forget adding new areas to WoW. The boring, repetitive and unchanging content of old Azeroth has become a major liability. New quests, NPCs, stories and dungeons (instances) need to be developed in order to revitalize all of the old areas. Give players a reason to roll new characters. Also new players (who are the lifeblood of any MMO) would be able to experience more advanced quest technology that is currently being used in Wrath of the Lich King.”

    Ensuring that a MMO stays alive means that the devs need to concern themselves with attracting new players — the churn factor. By focusing on improving existing content instead of release yet another expansion with more landmass would help both existing and new players with their new characters by generating more excitement and interest in the starting lands for each race.

    Another problem that Blizzard needs to face up to is they need to restructure their dev teams and start hiring more talented people in order to maintain both old content and develop new content. Again another quote from my article:

    “Restructuring of Development Teams – Due to the fact that they are lagging behind in their promise to release expansions in a more timely fashion, Blizzard will eventually realize that they need to create two distinct teams: a live team to manage the day to day WoW and an expansion team to develop and implement future expansion content. Blizzard has no excuse now as they have a shiny new headquarters and lots of money to hire new people.”

    One thing that does trouble me is how the storylines never evolve or change. It’s a bit depressing to visit the Westlands and find that Old Blanchy is still hungry and needs someone to find those oats or that the construction workers fixing the Westfall Inn still have not completed their work despite being on the job for almost 4 years! This is the true failing of WoW — rarely do things ever change. It’s almost as if everything in Azeroth is frozen in time. If Blizzard created a live team to go from zone to zone updating and creating new quests then it would go along way into addressing the glaring lack of dynamic content.

    Blizzard can’t afford to ignore their classic content if they plan on ensuring that WoW stays successful for years to come.

  11. I fully agree and have even made up names for the mobs involved in gather quests with crappy drop rates like Sleepy Hollow Murlocks (where’s the head?) to Mike Tyson Trolls (Where’s the ears?) I would add one other thing–professions need to be fixed as well. Gathering professions are a mess. I found my skinners hitting 300 long before they hit 58 while my miners were having to go back to the old world as even at level 60 simply because the ore respawn rate was majorly hosed. Worse before BC you use to be able to get 4 ore from any vein you found; now you find veins which give you 2 ore. However the Death Knight is going to hammer the problem with professions home. There is something wrong with a great and powerful Level 55 Death Knight having to go to Westfall so he can level up his herbalism.

    Crafting profession are something that really need a total overhaul. If you level up your crafting professions with your character you will discover that for the most part you can *make* stuff better than the majority of quest awards until around Level 25 when things swing to nearly the opposite extreme until you get to Outland where it gets into something resembling an equilibrium.

  12. I agree.
    The Ghostlands zone is the best in all of WoW as far as quests go. The quests have the player move progressively through the zone.

    As for revamping some of the old content, this can be done. EverQuest did this with some success.

  13. I revisited the human lands while working on Stormwind rep so my Draeni could have a pony…and it drove me up the wall to do those old quests. Unlike the level-appropriate folks, my toon could at least ride at epic landspeed from place to place, so it didn’t drag things out as long as it would have otherwise.

  14. You bring up some interesting suggestions, Lume. It appears that Blizzard is choosing to speed up leveling to 60/70 to get people to Outland/Northrend faster, rather than go back and renovate old leveling content to make it as fun and interesting as the newer leveling content. The short list of things they’ve done to make leveling faster since classic WoW:

    – Faster leveling curves for 20-60 since Patch 2.3, faster leveling curves for 60-70 since Patch 3.0.2
    – Additional flight points in the old world (STV, Felwood, etc) to make getting around faster
    – Mounts purchasable at Level 30 (similar to above, the faster you can travel, the faster you can level)
    – Bind to Account shoulders being introduced in WotLK that give +10% XP
    – Recruit a Friend program that gives triple XP and “buy two get one free” levels

    I’d love to see new content for the classic continents, as it would probably motivate me level some alts, but at the rate you level now from 20-60, you can skip so much content that it seems almost wasteful to add even more.

  15. I don’t disagree with your assessment of old world Azeroth, but I think it simply does not make sense for Blizzard to sink the development time into content that many players are not going to bother with. The average time per content patch in the TBC era was over six months. Some of that did include the revamp of Dustwallow and a balance pass through the old world loot tables, but still, there is NO TIME for Blizzard to spend on “side projects”. As you point out, the BE and Draenei starting areas are amongst the best in the game, but players who haven’t leveled a new alt may never have visted these zones – and, in the process, four of TBC’s eleven outdoor zones and two of its three cities. It’s no accident that there is not a new race in Wrath – adding another new race would just add to the pressure to spend time Blizzard does not have on content that is irrelevant to players who already have all the alts they want.

    Slygth is right, the emphasis has been on skipping players past the old world, rather than improving it. I’ve long maintained that we’re going to see an option to start any character class at level 55 sometime in 2009 (DK’s will drastically skew the alt population if they don’t allow this), and that’s probably going to be the nail in the coffin of old world renovations.

  16. Perhaps greater emphasis on a system where you “work out” from a base would suit areas in terms of quests. If you like, you explore and learn – a more realistic experience than running through parts of zones to achieve a lower level quest. Or working from the edges to the centre – eg. duskwood. I think some of this is evident in the progression through Ashenvale towards Forest Song. Though you are always going to have the player who will ghost run through areas to get FPs. Perhaps too many of us are experienced and forget how we tackled the leveling on our first character. An unenviable job for Blizz designers to satisfy everyone. I have though of starting a new character and not use any addons, etc for leveling – just the basic blizz UI and actually read each of the quests for guidance….now there is a novel concept.

  17. @GreenArmadillo: You’re telling me the content production was over six months, but let’s take a look at the content that has been produced since 2004:

    Post-Release 1.x
    1. Maraudon
    2. Dire Maul
    3. Kazzak and Azuregos
    4. The Honor System
    5. Alterac Valley
    6. Warsong Gulch
    7. New hubs in the Searing Gorge and the Hinterlands
    8. BWL
    9. ZG
    10. Arathi Basin
    11. Green dragon bosses
    12. The revamp of Silithus
    13. RAQ
    14. TAQ
    15. Naxx
    16. Cross-realm battlegrounds
    17. Lolsand and EPL outdoor PvP
    18. Opening event for AQ
    19. Scourge Invasion for Naxx
    20. Opening event for Dark Portal

    21. Azuremyst
    22. Bloodmyst
    23. Eversong
    24. Ghostlands
    25. HFP
    26. Zangarmarsh
    27. Terrokar
    28. Nagrand
    29. BEM
    30. Netherstorm
    31. SMV
    32. Silvermoon
    33. Exodar
    34. Ramps
    35. BF
    36. SH
    37. SP
    38. Underbog
    39. SV
    40. MT
    41. Crypts
    42. Sethekk
    43. SL
    44. Mech
    45. Bot
    46. Arc
    47. Old Hillsbrad
    48. BM
    49. Karazhan
    50. Gruul’s Lair
    51. Magtheridon
    52. SSC
    53. TK
    54. DW and Kazzak
    55. Arenas and the arena system
    56. EotS
    57. Heaps of new talents
    58. Flying mounts
    59. Shattrath
    60. Jewelcrafting
    61. Draenei
    62. Blood Elves

    Post-Release TBC
    63. Hyjal
    64. BT
    65. Netherwing, Ogri’la, and Skettis
    66. ZA
    67. The Dustwallow revamp
    68. MgT
    69. Quel’danas, and various other dailies
    70. SWP
    71. Achievements
    72. Inscription

    Then let’s consider the fact that Blizzard has also been working on a new expansion, which also has new content.

    73. Death Knights
    74. Howling Fjord (HF)
    75. Borean Tundra
    76. Dragonblight (DB)
    77. Grizzly Hills (GH)
    78. Zul’Drak (ZD)
    79. Sholazar Basing (SB)
    80. Crystalsong
    81. Storm Peaks (SP)
    82. Icecrown (IC)
    83. Dalaran
    84. Wintergrasp and siege weapons
    85. Strand of the Ancients
    86. The DK starting area (which is basically the size of a small zone in content)
    87. Utgarde Keep
    88. Utgarde Pinnacle
    89. The Nexus
    90. The Occulus
    91. Drak’Tharon Keep
    92. Gun’drak
    93. Violet Hold
    94. Azjol’Nerub
    95. Ahn’kahet
    96. Halls of Lightning
    97. Halls of Stone
    98. Old Strat
    99. A revamped Naxx
    100. Obsidian Sanctum
    101. Malygos
    102. Ulduar
    103. A couple new arenas
    104. Tons of new talents

    As a summary, that’s:

    30 five-man instances
    8 outdoor bosses
    8 important quest hub additions
    17 new raid dungeons
    2 new professions
    3 major game systems (honor, arenas, siege weapons)
    4 overhauls or minor system additions (flying mounts, x-realm BG’s, dailies, achievements)
    21 zones
    4 major cities
    1 new class
    2 new races
    5 battlegrounds
    1 major outdoor PvP zone
    3 minor PvP outdoor stuff (that suck, yes, but Blizzard spent time on them)
    Many talent overhauls (and several minor tweaks early on)

    The cries about how we only have major content patches once every six months are indicative of skewed perspectives. The issue is simply that some players only participate in certain content. Some only raid. Some only PvP. Some only level alts. Some only do dailies to pass the time. Some only do 5-mans and heroics. For the people who cross the lines into more than one territory, it’s a different story.

    Right before the release of 3.0.2, I still felt knee deep into SWP, even though we had cleared it in early August. We weren’t done getting the gear people wanted. It was still a challenge to work through it each week. And I had other things in the game I wanted to do that I simply didn’t have the time for. When 3.0.2 was released, SWP was suddenly a joke. But now I had glyphs to consider, new talents to work with, raid issues to sort out, the pre-Wrath launch event, achievements to focus on, and alts to finish.

    And now Wrath is close to coming out and I am going to be overwhelmed by leveling, new five-mans, new gear to pick up, new raid content, remaining desires to arena seriously, a new class to level, etc.

    That’s a lot of stuff for me and others between March and now. Just because the top raids clear instances in quick time doesn’t make those content gaps glaring for everyone else. However, I will admit that perhaps PvP had no real major developments throughout most of TBC, other than new arena seasons.

    The thing to remember is that a lot of the major content that is produced has nothing or little to do with other development teams. You won’t see raid encounter designers playing a huge role in outdoor leveling content, for example. They all spend some time working together, surely. But when it comes to the implementation, the quest team has minimal work for something like raid dungeons, and a lot for things like new zones.

    Honestly, however, I’ve seen the development progress from the start of alpha until now and they quest team has improved a ton, in terms of both quality and quantity. Adding a few quests here and there to the old world would be a very minor delay to development of new zones later on. But if they want to retain the people who are altoholics, and if they want to retain entirely new players, they’re going to have to do something.

    They could have people start at level 55, as you say. But then they would have to develop content that eases players into their talents, much as they did with DK’s. This means developing new content to ease people into the game. Regardless of how you do it, it’s the same idea, just a different concept.

    And when you consider all of the content that has been developed in the 48 months since WoW’s release, it’s merely a small blip on the radar. And it’s much needed for the people who do the things that perhaps you don’t.

  18. @Lume: Thank you for the impressive comment – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blogger put that much effort into a response. Perhaps I shouldn’t make the six month dev cycle comments as much as I do – as you no doubt noticed when you complied all that information, content patches since TBC are a very different creature from the pre-TBC versions, with an increasing tendency towards headline-grabbing megapatches that contain something for everyone.

    You’ve actually put your finger on the point I was trying to make – we are discussing how the quest design team should be allocating their time, as distinct from zone designers, encounter designers, class designers, etc. Their time is finite; they have to choose how to spend the “small blip on the radar” worth of time for any given dev cycle (be it a content patch or a paid expansion). For example, in two successive patches, the team made enough quests to re-do Dustwallow Marsh (2.3), followed by a major daily quest hub for level 70 characters (2.4). The fact that there is other content being added to the game in the mean time is very relevant to you – as a member of a Sunwell-capable guild, you have the option of running that content. For players who cannot make the committment required to contribute meaningfully to a raiding guild, the new solo PVE content is the only meaningful content that is being added to the game. Given how many of the game’s solo-friendly incentives focus on single-character accomplishments – see reputations, achievement points – it can be a very big deal if the designers spend their limited time on content that is only relevant to alts.

    Blizzard appears to have reached the same conclusion. TBC featured four zones and two cities (plus a handful of questgivers in the old world) at launch that are relevant to low level characters. For Wrath, Blizzard created only a single new starting zone, and instead chose to focus the design team’s time on content that would be used by players who are already 70 on November 13th; Outland contained seven zones, while Northrend contains eight to ten (depending on whether you count Wintergrasp, the non-instanced battleground, and Crystalsong, which, last time I checked in beta, contained a handful of mobs for two Icecrown quests). In fact, not only are they focusing on 70+ content, but they’re also emphasizing neutral faction content – four zones of Northrend (SB, ZD, SP, IG) are populated almost entirely with neutral quest hubs. It’s a very deliberate effort on Blizzard’s part to ensure that the playerbase consumes as much as possible of the solo content in the game before being “finished” with even a single character.

    Again, I am not saying that the things you suggest are bad things which I would not enjoy or benefit from (I have a number of lowbie alts I don’t play because the content is so lackluster). I am saying that the time which the quest team would need to spend to implement them would come directly out of the time they have to add new daily quests and other level 80 endgame content. And that’s why we’re seeing a focus on skipping the content (faster exp, less exp per level, increased DPS through revised talents and new profession perks, heirloom items for players with excess badges to burn on their alts, etc) rather than fixing it.

  19. Pingback: Killed in a smiling accident. » Blog Archive » Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.

  20. @Green:

    “it can be a very big deal if the designers spend their limited time on content that is only relevant to alts. ”

    It’s not only relevant to alts. It’s relevant to new players. And the major reason I cannot convince a couple of my coworkers to return to the game is simply because they found design of questing in the old world, “boring, frustrating and stupid.” They understand that I enjoy the end-game a lot, but they simply don’t want to endure a month or two of completion. This comes from two people who stopped in STV.

    The old world content is relevant to alts and new players. Those are actually pretty sizable demographics. And they have had relatively little content added for them, even though they are just as important as other types of players.

    “Blizzard appears to have reached the same conclusion.”

    No, actually. In one of the panels I attended at Blizzcon they said they wanted to go back and revisit it. So Blizzard has not reached the same conclusion. They did for TBC, and I agreed with them. But now that they have the technology not to infringe on the zone’s terrain to add new quests, and now that the have the technology to develop new quests that do not depend on level (thanks to the vehicle system), they can actually work on such content.

    I also think you underestimate what a company can do with new additions to any given team. If Blizzard were to add enough quality people to their quest design team, they can actually outpace the zone design and artwork teams. Past trends only suggest what the quest team could do with the team they had during the development of a post-release classic WoW, and TBC. It doesn’t say that it would take them X time in the future given the team they have right this moment. And the reason I made my list was mostly to show how much quest content has actually been added and how little what I’m proposing is in comparison.

    And, I’ll repeat, some of the new content added doesn’t have to be exclusive to new or low level players. There can be content added to the old world relevant to capped players. Now especially that the content can be phased and the levels of mobs adjusted to suit whether it’s a low level character or a capped character.

    Really, I think it’s just a matter of opinion. You don’t think it’s worth the development time. And I do. And I’m personally quite positive it would take very little time away from development of future capped content (and can actually include some). Especially now that Blizzard has had time to retool and build their teams based on what they want to do. Especially now that they have said they want to revisit it.

  21. “It’s relevant to new players.”
    That’s the key. If the game is to stay healthy and relevant, it must keep bringing in new players. If those players are plopped into a game that is radically different from the “endgame” that their friends are raving about (or that they have heard about elsewhere), they aren’t likely to bother grinding through the onerous part to get to the good stuff later on.

    As for the dev time, they could hire more people. It’s pretty simple. It’s not like they are hurting for money with their sub model. If anything, making people pay the full sub price for four year old content is a ripoff. If they are going to continue to justify the sub price point, they need to be earning it for new players and veterans alike.

  22. Very interesting that you predicted the changes that Blizzard were making long before they were announced.

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