The Instant Leveling Debate
This really is not a new topic but it has recently come to the forefront of MMORPG players again because of the World of Warcraft expansion announcement. Instant leveling. Love it, hate it, it definitely has some people in a tizzy. The real question is, why do we care who gets to gain free levels?
Let’s all take a giant step back for a minute and remember why most of us started to play videogames in the first place. They are fun right? They help us relieve stress, they allow for a little escapism. Tired of being the bug hitting the windshield throughout the day? This is your chance to be the window, with a giant axe! We get to explore new worlds and conquer them, or explore new lands and save them from being conquered. It is also cool to see what the developers will throw at us next.
Most of us probably also enjoy playing video games with other people. I would imagine that the majority of us understood what the MM in MMORPG meant before we installed our first MMO, even if we were not sure how the rest of it would play out. While there are probably one or two of you out there that tried this I doubt too many people logged into EverQuest for the first time and expected to play the entirety of the game solo. So what I really struggle to understand is why do people get so riled up when developers make it easier for players to play a multiplayer game with their friends?
Blizzard announced with the release of Warlords of Draenor that players would be allowed to instantly level one character to level 90 for free if they purchased the expansion. This could be a brand new character or this could be an existing character that you just want to bump. This is nothing new, even for Blizzard. In the past players could receive a scroll of resurrection and instantly level to 80. I took advantage of this once and still have a level 80 warrior in full valiant gear. I never did get around to playing him though. Hell, Death Knights start at 55 too.
I really started thinking about this topic a few months ago when Sony Online Entertainment announced their most recent expansion pack for EverQuest II, Tears of Veeshan. With this expansion SOE unveiled a new feature, Heroic Characters. Heroic Characters allow players to create a new character at level 85 or raise an existing character up to level 85. This is 10 levels short of the current cap. Players also get a flying mount and some other cool loot for 3500 station cash, which barring any discounts they have received, is roughly $35 USD. I literally saw a grown man throw a tantrum on social media the day this was announced. He equated this to SOE invalidating the entire last 10 years of him playing EverQuest II.
With update 19 of Dungeon and Dragons Online Turbine introduced Iconic Heroes that start off at level 15. We are seeing this happen in microtransaction based games, we are also seeing it happen in subscription based games. Some developers are monetizing it while other are not. The crux of this entire article this week though is really a question for the community. Why should anyone else care that another person got to level instantly to the previous expansions level cap and now that player can enjoy the new content without suffering through the old? Make no mistake, for some people it really is suffering. The point of people playing games is to have fun, not to be hazed. I’m actually amazed that more games don’t do this.
I just cannot buy into the whole invalidation argument. For those of us that have played a game for years no one can take our enjoyment away from us. Those nights you spent trying to figure out how to tackle that tough challenge or burning through wikis as fast as you can to find the answer that you need. Removing the fog of war over that next section of map to find out how expansive that zone really is. Finding a rare pet or enemy. Those are things that will stay with you. A developer cannot take your experiences from you. Chances are you have the achievement date stamped anyway so you can always say you did it first.
For the competitive players I do not really see how this is an unfair advantage. If anything players that are just joining are being placed on a level playing field. You will still have the advantage because you will know the game better. Plus you have a growing player base of possibly new great players to add to your stable of recruits when your raid group loses a player or two to other commitments.
I’m not advocating pay to win. I do not believe that developers should sell advantages to players but I find nothing wrong with selling players a convenience of joining others in a game that’s getting long in the tooth. But what about you? Do you think allowing players to play catch up is unfair? If so I’m really interested in the why. When it comes to MMOs I lean more towards the philosophy, “it is more about the journey, and less about the destination,” but I’m okay with people skipping some of that journey if they choose. After all, the “instant leveling” is an optional feature to boot. But maybe I’m in the minority. Let me know how you feel in the comments below.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time in Eorzea pretending he is a Paladin in the Leviathan realm or you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen