Paying the Way to Dinging

Man, you play one week of WoW and you have blogging material coming out your ears!

Today’s topic is about that survey some players are getting, about how much you might be willing to pay to have a character instantly boosted to Level 90 (in Warlords of Draenor, where the level cap is 100).

During this year’s BlizzCon, Blizzard announced that purchasing Warlords of Draenor would come with one free character boost to 90. Why 90? Because that would enable you to skip all the previous content and jump right into content that comes with the expansion and, ultimately, that’s what they want you to do — get through previous content and be able to play with your friends faster if you ever took a break from the game.

So there’s a survey going out that’s asking people what they think a fair price is for the expansion (with and without the one character boost to 90) and what they think a fair price is for the boost alone.

Naturally, I have Things to Say. ;)

On the One Hand: No. Just… No.

While I do think there are some good points (which I will explore below), let me first tell you the story of Gneiss.

My brother, Fog, played a resto druid for most of Vanilla. Actually, he played a feral/bear druid and then was forced to swap specs to heal for raiding (as was the way of things back then) by the guild he joined. In order to avoid being asked to heal MORE often, he decided to level a dwarf priest (fear ward!) for fun, not yet understanding that he’d still have to heal as a priest at 60. So he played the priest, Gneiss, as his alt, playing as shadow, primarily. He soon tired of people asking him to heal in groups (this was pre-LFG, remember), so he abandoned Gneiss and started playing Slovotsky, a rogue. He loved his rogue and got him to 60 and geared him pretty well and showed up to some raids as a rogue (although he’d usually heal if asked). Gneiss lay abandoned and unused.

When Burning Crusade came around, my brother was focused entirely on his rogue, abandoning his druid, Fog, and never touching his priest.

Meanwhile, I was interested in learning more about the priest. So I took the priest and levelled Gneiss (who I name-changed to something else) to 70 and spent a lot of time running around Nagrand mining ore and collecting motes of air (Gneiss was a miner/engineer) after my raids, chatting with my Real Life Friend the Resto Druid as she wiped her way through Black Temple and Sunwell progression.

I didn’t do a whole lot with the priest, although I joined a guild for a short period of time and did a tiny bit of Tier 4 raiding as a holy priest.

Still, I never felt as though I really understood the class. So when Wrath of the Lich King had been out for a while, my brother reclaimed his priest, but then promptly abandoned it again to level a paladin tank. And, naturally, this meant that I was going to level a character with him. As I already had a paladin, a shaman and a druid, I elected to level a priest. We dungeoned our way through everything together and eventually both got to 80.

I thought I knew “enough” about priests during the bit of time I did stuff (apart from mining and such in Nagrand) in Burning Crusade, but I hadn’t really levelled the toon. My brother had. He had learned some important bits that I felt I didn’t know. I know I didn’t know that Dispel Magic was able to be used offensively until someone informed me of it. (Should read tooltips…)

I never really felt “prepared” on Gneiss. Not the way that I felt “prepared” on Kurn or on Madrana. But when I created my own priest, that sense of preparation came back. It’s as though the levelling process allowed me to really acclimate to the character and learn how to play it better than when I’d basically taken over my brother’s priest somewhere in the 40s or something.

So while I find the idea of instantly dinging 90 to be fairly appealing, I can’t help but think what it means for the community at large. Is the community going to suffer because of brand-new 90s running around who don’t know how to play their new classes at all? I can only guess that the answer is “yes”.

On the Other Hand: Hells to the Yes!

At present, I have several characters in World of Warcraft spread out over three main servers (Eldre’Thalas, Skywall, Proudmoore).

90s: Kurn & my shaman alt.
85s: Madrana, Baby Pally Madrana, mage, disc priest, guardian/resto druid
80: Prot warrior
58: Death knight (bank alt)
53: Mage
5: Rogue (bank alt)

And then I have a bunch of level 1s for storage/bank alt goodness.

I still don’t know who is going to receive my level 90 boost for Warlords of Draenor, but it might be the prot warrior (since I literally keep her around for inscription/profession stuff). Or maybe I’ll roll a DK on Eldre’Thalas and boost that to 90 and pick up engineering/blacksmithing, which are the only two professions I don’t have covered. However, it’s clear that I have a lot of characters who would greatly benefit from being bumped up to 90 instantly. And I still think it would be hilarious if my rogue bank alt hit level 90. Hilarious. He’s been level 5 for, oh, seven years. And he’s only level 5 because that was the level you needed to be to pick up a profession. So I picked up enchanting and was able to disenchant just about anything — until they put in a level restriction for the professions, meaning he will forever have enchanting no higher than 75 unless I ding him.

Anyhow, I digress.

For the experienced player, perhaps, a level 90 boost isn’t terrible. But even then, I wouldn’t queue up as, say, a death knight tank if I boosted to 90 on that character, because I wouldn’t want to inflict myself on others.

Other people are perhaps not quite so polite.

But would I make use of a pay-to-ding feature? To avoid going through umpteen expansions? Almost certainly. Hell, back in 2010, I was writing about how I would pay Blizzard $25 to start a toon at 68

It’s not an elegant solution to the fact that you have to go through Vanilla content (1-60), BC content (60-70), Wrath content (70-80), Cata content (80-85) and then MoP content (85-90) before you’re ready to participate in Warlords of Draenor, but it’s a solution. There are two kinds of people I think would take advantage of this: the new people who want to play with friends who are already there and people like me who have been through the other expansions’ content so often they want to cry at the thought of saving Corki again or trudging through Grizzly Hills once more or dealing with Vashj’ir yet again or even slogging through the Dread Wastes even one more time.

So is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

Selfishly, I think it’s wonderful. If I were playing consistently and that was available, I would probably take advantage of it more often than not, were it something able to be purchased from the Blizzard store. If I ever wanted to roll a monk (not really something that’s interested me), that’s certainly something I would do.

But as I explained above, I do think it’s not going to be great for the community as a whole. Will it be good for Blizzard and for their bottom line? Sure. People get to play with friends, people can pay for a shortcut to the current expansion, all that jazz, it’s great. People are happy they don’t have to do Borean Tundra (and let me tell you, there is a LOT boring about Borean!) and Blizzard is happy to take their money. Everyone wins, right?

But I’m not convinced that’s the case. I’m concerned that it will lower the overall skill of the playerbase which, to be honest, is already pretty poor, when you look at people in random, transient content (LFG, LFR). I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but in one of my LFR adventures last week, there was another survival hunter in the raid with me… who used Explosive Shot a single time. Once.

I would argue that, as painful and tiring as the slog is, levelling is worth the time and effort if only to learn how to play your class.

The trouble is, of course, that people aren’t bothering to do that now. They have 90 levels in which they get to learn how to play and they still don’t know how to play.

It’s not a “casual” vs. “hardcore” thing, either. We’re talking about the core ability for a survival hunter. Not using Explosive Shot is, well, not how the spec was meant to be played. It’s like Cory Stockton said, about the talent trees when they announced Mists of Pandaria, a fury warrior who didn’t take the Raging Blow talent wasn’t being unique, but was being a bad fury warrior. Now you have people who have the abilities given to them, baked into the specs themselves, and they’re still not using them.

Is boosting these people to 90, throwing them into the deep end, really going to make those people worse players? I’m not sure that’s possible. But what boosting people to 90 will do is it’ll inflict them upon other people more quickly. Hit 90, start questing, queue up for new dungeons and then wipe your group because you are doing 300 DPS instead of 3000 DPS. Or, worse, they queue up as tanks and healers (for the faster queue) and then wipe their groups because they don’t know how to hold aggro on more than one mob at a time or don’t know how to cast on someone. (The latter does happen, even now. Trust me.)

I guess what I’m saying here is that the underlying problem, which has been increasingly apparent ever since LFG came to be in Wrath of the Lich King, is that people don’t know (or care) how to play their classes and these people are being let loose upon the game. Boosting to 90 will be incredibly beneficial to a lot of people, believe me, but, especially at the start of the expansion when so many people will have that boost to 90, I expect to see a lot of failure stemming from fresh 90s.

I don’t think it’s a problem that’s easily solvable, per se, but one way it can be addressed is to force the boosted 90s to pass Silver Proving Grounds for any spec they’re going to queue up for, forcing them to repeat it for a spec they haven’t queued up for yet. Silver is something most people should be able to easily attain and since Proving Grounds were made for 90s, it’s perfect for fresh, boosted-to-90 characters. Let them quest alone, sure, but make them prove themselves before inflicting them on other people who play the game. Even if the person is level 96 before they queue up, scale up the Proving Grounds for that level and make them work for it a little bit.

I’m someone who spent something like six months straight doing a daily heroic dungeon on Madrana once that feature launched in Wrath of the Lich King. I would queue up as a tank AND a healer (because I had enough gear and knowledge at the time to be able to tank or heal “heroic” dungeons adequately) and would invariably have anywhere between 1 and 3 people who didn’t know what they were doing. I’ve done my fair share of random dungeons throughout Cata. I did a bunch of LFRs back when that was first introduced. I’ve just spent a week doing a bunch of LFRs of MoP content. In short, I’ve spent a lot of time playing with random people in this game and, honestly, I’m not looking forward to fresh 90s who don’t know what they’re doing at the start of Warlords of Draenor. If Blizzard isn’t willing to educate them, I hope they’ll use the existing technology to restrict people from inflicting themselves on others. It’s an artificial barrier to entry, but if you just skipped 90 levels, can you really complain about the idea of doing proving grounds to show you know how to do your role appropriately? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I would welcome the challenge, myself. If that (and, say, $25) was the price to pay to skip 90 levels? Bring it on!

What are your thoughts about boosting to 90? What repercussions do you think this could have on the larger community? Would you pay for a boost?

6 Replies to “Paying the Way to Dinging”

  1. I’d be fine with it if I knew they were putting in more effort to educate the playerbase, keeping them accountable in game. For example, when a random 5-man heroic PuG wipes, the person responsible is given a message privately by the game, something like “You pulled too much trash”, or “You started before the healer had mana.” The sort of discrete, private educational material that could slowly assist players in becoming slightly less shitty.

    They’ve classically dodged questions like this, noting that it borders on social commentary they’re not willing to take on as a responsibility, but the fact is the game is an MMO which centers around how people interact. And they should.

    It’s doable. Just look at the progress companies like Riot are making in that dept.

  2. I would agree with you except to level by questing is so easy that you can do it half-naked with only your primary nuke. Yeah, it’s slow, but it’s doable. And as such I find the idea of learning your class via leveling not a certainty. Oh, if you’re diligent about reading each ability as you earn it via leveling, yes, absolutely, you get the practice you need to be proficient, but the folks who are pulling 30k DPS in LFR at ilvl 500 are not those people.

    Leveling would have to get harder, or as you suggest, use Proving Grounds as a gating mechanism. But overall, there’s a subset of people willing to put the research and effort into a class, and then there’s the folks who just play to the bare minimum they need to get by. Whether or not we can pay to ding won’t change that, in my opinion.

  3. I don’t think paid 90s are a good idea myself. However I’ve said for some time that the achievements for certain numbers of classes at 90 should provide a boost – perhaps for a class you’ve already leveled or something?

  4. I look at this issue this way… I have time and generally have the desire to actually level a new toon when I want one. That likely won’t change. If it does, though, if for some reason I “need” a near-max toon on a particular server for a particular purpose in a hurry, or it gets to the point where I don’t get enough enjoyment out of leveling that spending $50 is worthwhile (I’m hoping it’s more than $25), I’d LIKE to have the option of paying for it.

    Is it possible that players will just fill up their account with 90s all over the place? Sure… but how exactly will that impact their gameplay or, more importantly, yours/mine? I’m not sure it does. I see those purchases being targeted for people for specific reasons just based on the gaming equivalent of natural selection. People will only buy toons when it will benefit them to buy toons, therefore buying toons will be beneficial to them.

    Any arguments about ending up with a bunch of players who don’t know how to play usually sabotage themselves in follow-up comments: “… but that’s how it is in 5-mans and LFR now anyway.” That’s the point, leveling doesn’t teach a player to play unless they want to and if they do want to learn to play, they’ll do it at high level too. I’m horrible at playing kitty druid in end-game but I’m perfectly fine at it while leveling. Besides, they aren’t offering boosts to 100, they’re offering boosts to 90… that 90-100 leveling experience will be of a lot more benefit than 1-90 would be since they’ll actually have access to most/all abilities and will actually be facing a decent level of difficulty (for a new player, not necessarily for an experienced one).

    Frankly, I view paid 90s as an inevitable and welcome offering that probably should have been available earlier. Those with the time and inclination to level will keep doing that, those who don’t will now, finally, have an option vs always being behind in what they’re trying to do.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that they L90 boost toons won’t be available in today’s game, you have to anticipate how they’ll fit into the WoD environment. That Blizzard doesn’t offer much in the way of a new user experience today doesn’t mean that they won’t offer a nice introductory storyline for boosted 90s (and they’ve already implied or said that they would be doing this). Proving Grounds Bronze (I think Silver is a bit optimistic for basic group play, at least at current difficulty levels Silver is more difficult than the random content so making that a basic requirement seems like overkill) being a requirement for group play is something I’ve promoted elsewhere but that should be a general requirement, not just for boosted toons.

    If they created a new class for WoD and I boosted it to 90 I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t regret having me in group content with it a week later. Decent players are decent players regardless of what toon they’re playing or how much experience they have with it.

    Also, I don’t imagine they’ll be positioning the boost 90 to brand new players as a starting point… imagine some sort of in-game text along these lines (but probably much better):

    Create Your First Character

    You’ve made the decision to play World of Warcraft and we’re happy to have you! As a new player in World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, you have two options for creating a new character:

    1) New Level 1 Character – Suitable for new players who want the complete game experience, learning how the game works along with their character and enjoying the benefits of increasing power levels and abilities being introduced slowly to give you a chance to learn them in the field.

    2) New Level 90 Character [ONE TIME ONLY] – Suitable for players who are joining the game in order to play with other people they know in higher-level, higher-difficulty content, who already know what race and class they will enjoy and will have the benefit of those people to provide guidance and assistance. NOT recommended for new players to the game who would prefer to learn the game at a more controlled pace by leveling from the beginning and experiencing the full breadth of World of Warcraft, not just high-level content with a significantly higher level of difficulty and complexity. Note that this selection can only be made once and is non-refundable, once you have selected a boosted character, the decision is permanent. If you have any doubts about which character to boost, we recommend creating a new character instead until you are sure.

    (BTW – somewhat related, now that I’ve written that I’d argue that paid 90s will be NECESSARY if only to help players out who boost a class to 90 and discover that they hate it… paid do-overs, basically)

  5. “They have 90 levels in which they get to learn how to play and they still don’t know how to play.”

    The problem is, the levelling game is just too easy; far too easy.

    I’m currently level 66 on my disc priest. Every so often I’m given new spells, but I simply don’t need to use them. In dungeons I just PWS and Renew the tank and anyone who is taking damage, and if necessary I use a big heal (see I can’t even remember its name) to get their health back up. The rest of the time I just Smite away. I can imagine this continuing all the way to level 90.

    I’m sure I should be using all those other spells I keep being given, but those 4 spells work just fine. Why should I use anything else?

  6. It’s hard to argue, the way we used to, that leveling teaches you anything. It really doesn’t anymore. People who level now are already just as useless as if someone else had done the leveling for them and are waltzing into our 5 mans/LFRs/flexes. People die to curses and debuffs when classes that are perfectly capable of doing something about it are in the group, staring at the boss’s health bars. I once saw a shadow priest completely dot up a boss and then mind spike, killing all the dots instantly. And then she’d repeat it. Single-target trash tanking. Rogues that cheated their way through their LEGENDARY quest by coattailing a more skilled player. Ugh.

    So there’s just no arguments left anymore. Bring it, Blizzard, nothing will change but your pocketbook size.

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