Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tradeoffs From Wrath To Cataclysm

The jump from Wrath to Cataclysm solo content is remarkable.  The new zones contain some of WoW's highest production values yet, with spectacular scenery, occasional fully voiced in-game cut scenes, and more bells and whistles than even Northrend had to offer.  (For instance, someone took the time to make a specific animation for players bounding along the sea floor in the undersea zone of Vashj'ir.)  However, this increased focus on story comes with a price in terms of flexibility - progression across zones is highly linear, with access to each phased quest hub gated by doing all the quests before it in precisely the correct order. 

The other thing that is really remarkable is the jump in difficulty.  Mob HP more than doubles between the level 80 quests of Icecrown and the level 80 quests in the new zones, and I've seen level 84 solo mobs with more than 50K HP (compared to maybe 12K at level 80).  The jump is so pronounced that Blizzard felt compelled to remove 90% of the exp for characters who try to remain in old expansions beyond the respective level caps to keep players from hiding in Northrend until they gain some levels.  (I'm not thrilled with this change, as it basically kicks players out of about half a dozen zones.) 

With increased difficulty comes increased rewards.  Quest reward item levels jump by 100 ilvls between level 80 quests in Icecrown and Hyjal, and the very first green quest rewards replace all but the very best gear available in Wrath's five-man content (and all but its final raid). 

Finally, the Cataclysm approach comes with an obvious cost in terms of quantity.  I gained a level in about four hours last night without either heirlooms (Wrath heirlooms don't work past level 80) or rested exp, despite spending some time screwing around with Archeology.  The exp curve does jump from there, and some of the new zones are actually pretty large, but the odds that I fail to reach level 85 by the end of the year are not looking good.  Worse, many of the quests seem to be handed out by neutral faction questgivers, limiting the amount of variety I will have to look forward to on my horde characters. 

At the end of the day, Blizzard has really focused its efforts on perfecting its style of questing, even if this means exaggerating the drawbacks of this type of experience.  Many players don't like it (and presumably many more do), but if nothing else the game is recognizing and sticking to its strengths. 


Xaxziminrax II said...

>the game is recognizing and sticking to its strengths.

Which really, I think, is a far better thing than trying to please everyone at once and doing a subpar job of it.

Klepsacovic said...

I wasn't happy to hear about the XP change. If people want to go out of their way to make content easier, what's the problem? To me it affects an entirely different area: Azeroth->Outland. My mage entirely skipped Outland by staying in Azeroth until almost everything was grey. With only 10% XP, that would be a ridiculously terrible grind, since I'd have run out of quests long before I could go to Northrend.

hound said...

I think I'm at a crossroad. I was still leveling when BC came out. Leveling in BC took me a while and I did some raiding and we had the dailies island to play in for a while. So, waiting on Lich King wasn't really an issue. In Lich King I took several breaks. But, in each segment of leveling, content seemed to pass by more quickly.

And now we have this very linear questing system being perfected.

And they seem to be doing everything they can to expedite player traveling as quickly as possible.

How do they expect me to keep playing until the next expansion if I am allowed to "finish" the content so quickly?

Thankfully, I am only part-time hardcore. I play very heavily for a few weeks at a time then drop off or stop altogether....but what if I stayed hardcore for a few months?

Green Armadillo said...

@Klep: I'm not sure if skipping Outland would have remained possible in any case, since some zones got shifted out of the 50's level bracket.

Still, I don't get this move - it's not like you can get to the next level without owning the next expansion, so who is it hurting if you choose to skip one or more zones? Now there's no reason to go to Shadowmoon, Netherstorm, Icecrown, Storm Peaks, and maybe even the newly revamped Silithus and Blasted Lands if you hit the wrong level too quickly.

Klepsacovic said...

The removed zones might have been offset by the easier xp requirements, but I guess that's a bit of a side track anyway.

I think what happened is that somewhere along the line a policy or person came along dictating absolute adherence to the correct way to play and design. This is why we end up with changes that do nothing for balance, or have a minimal effect, but come at a great cost to fun or flavor. An easy example is the old quest item that was a trinket that hurt you if you weren't worthy, in other words, killed you pretty quickly if you equipped it. I think it ended in Darnassus, if that helps anyone remember it.

The XP change is them saying "you will get on this rails and you STAY on these rails". Why? I don't know. Something went wrong over there in the mindset.

I'm hoping to write more about this trend, which I'm calling the anti-fun team.

Indy said...

If you're looking for alternatives, aside from getting xp from PVP (and/or dungeons), it turns out that Archeology is viable for leveling; at least from 80-82, as that's what I've done. It does not, unfortunately, give xp to hunter pets.

Incidentally, it looks like the xp curve really steepens; 82-83 is darn near double the 81-82 requirement. Surveying relics also scales with level, but not to that degree.

Aaron said...

Interesting about the ilvl gain - I'm kind of glad I didn't gear up my alts too seriously, sounds like I won't be too hurt by the strengthening of the new mobs.

I'm curious what gold gain looks like as you're leveling. How has the gold intake been? Is it pretty much Wrath level, or did they inflate gold gain along with everything else? My wife and I won't be able to register Cata until right around the New Year, and we're debating about buying the new 4000g 310% flying. We've got around 20k between the two of us, which may sound like plenty, but we've got 4 or 5 level 70s alts who want their epic flying skill, and it's a debate about saving the money for that vs using it for the new faster flying now.

Yeebo said...

I have to agree with you. Forcing players to leave a zone before they are ready to just seems silly.

Anonymous said...

Something has gone wrong somewhere. They are going over the top with the sanitization of the game and just sucking all the fun out of it. Never before has it felt like such a grind before I've even got one character to max level...and I've got 4 more profession alts to get to 84 after my main...ugh.

I think Klepsacovic has something when he talks about the mindset at Blizzard. Maybe because Jeff Kaplan is no longer so involved? I don't know, but something doesn't feel right with this expansion.

Bronte said...

Which goes back to the sandbox vs themepark debate. A highly polished, universally applicable and endlessly replicable experience comes at the cost of it's brutal linearity and inability to deviate from the on-rails experience.

Tora said...

I think they are trying to adapt this game more and more for instant gratification players that only play a set amount every day. Instance runs are much shorter, you don't even have to travel to the instance itself like in the old days. Everything is more near, it's more convenient. Mailboxes, trainers, banks all over -- mounts are faster, it seems they are cutting down on all the "filling" that travel used to do for game time.

While I think it is nice that I don't have to run so much anymore and spend my gametime travelling in a virtual world - I do experience that all social interaction suffers from it as there's no "downtime" as such, natural in the game. I have to pause and remove myself from the game tasks at hand if I wish to converse or have a laugh with the guild. It's all CHOP CHOP CHOP and no fuzzy tingle time.

Unknown said...

I think it's important to note that it's the xp from killing creatures that's been nerfed, not the quest xp. So while it looks like they skimmed off 90% of the xp gains, overall it's much less than that. The main point I think was to stop people from grinding levels by rounding things up and murdering them en masse, and that's as much a play environment issue as it is a "get on the rails noob" issue.

Bristal said...

There really is no way to improve on storytelling without more linear questlines.

You CAN read a book by skipping around chapters, and you'll eventually get to the end, but the chapters won't build on each other, and IMO most of WoW's previous questlines aren't even cohesive chapters.

I believe Cataclysm questing (at least Vash'jir) is WoW's attempt to try some better storytelling in quests. That's the only zone I've completed, and although it was really refreshing and entertaining, I am hoping the other zones are a bit more open.

Vash'jir is almost like a long leveling instance. It was great, but it would be awhile before I wanted to do it all again.