As m’colleague put it:
Objects In The Starter Area May Appear More/Less Awesome Than They Actually Are.
I hopped in to World of Warcraft last night and rolled up a new character along with m’colleague and our power armour bearded friend, for a quick blast around to get ourselves back into the swing of things, tweak UIs, try to remember how half the functionality of the game worked, remind ourselves how frustrating it is to only have sixteen bag slots, that sort of thing.
Watching xBevisx run around on his Cataclysmified Warrior was a bit of a revelation for me; I’d pretty much decided to play a Warrior come the launch of Cataclysm, but seeing him run around at level six, firing off his Victory Rush ability and healing himself to full at the start of each fight, with said mobs generally exploding in a misty cloud of blood after one massive swipe of his two-handed weapon, completely sold me on the idea. His non-stop gleeful chortling as he slaughtered the starter area wholesale added a certain weight to the idea that the class was pretty fun to play.
It’s an issue though: Blizzard have clearly tweaked classes to make them more appealing earlier in their careers – we hadn’t even reached level ten and picked up our defining abilities from our chosen talent tree – and it seems that the classes have been adjusted to give players core abilities very early on. M’colleague also pulled out a fine example to backup his quote mentioned at the start of this post. In City of Heroes the Blaster and the Controller were two classes that couldn’t be more separated in the fun stakes. In the early days of CoH the Blaster, archetypal DPS, could one shot most mobs from range, with perhaps a couple of shots being required for tougher opponents. The Controller, on the other hand, having the ability to lock down opponents and stop them from operating, was balanced by having little in the way of damage output. Thus the majority of game-play for a Controller involved holding a mob and then punch-punch-punch-hold-punch-punching your way to victory. It was a long, dull, painful process and not a lot of fun outside of a group, and not an epic amount of fun in one either. Eventually, however, come level thirty two, Controllers got their ultimate ability: pets. Once they had their pets the Controller could hold huge groups of mobs, and then using their secondary powerset to enhance their pets, use the pets to slaughter these massive mobs wholesale with absolute impunity. The Blaster, on the other hand, could still dish out huge amounts of damage, but they were left incredibly vulnerable if they didn’t take everything out in one giant alpha strike, which was often not possible in the more difficult areas of the game, especially where Boss level NPCs lived. Controllers became the end-game Gods, Blasters were relegated to a lesser position.
I wonder how the class population of Warcraft will shift with these new changes in place, especially when the next influx of new characters arrives with the new races that are being released in Cataclysm. It’s fun to see how populations at level eighty change with the various patches, but I’d also be interested to know if there are ‘population clumps’ for characters that never reached the level cap. Are there certain level ranges where certain classes are regularly abandoned for one reason or another? Certainly the Warrior looks like a lot of fun in the early levels now, but will that continue, or will players become disheartened when they see Paladins being able to do equal DPS, but also being able to heal and buff and provide other utility skills? I wonder whether players these days even focus on what the character can do at the start of the game, or if they only focus on how the class is purported to play at the end-game.
I’m set to play my Warrior come Cataclysm, but I’m definitely more prepared, as long as I remember that Objects In The Starter Area May Appear More Awesome Than They Actually Are, my expectations should hopefully be set accordingly.
End-game, to ask the tail end question of your second-last para. At least for me, I the game is all about how my Paladin plays end-game. Leveling builds don’t matter, leveling skills (as long as they don’t completely hold you back) don’t matter. All that matters is how end-game plays out, because end game, as you might know, if a complete 180 of the leveling game.
I think that all the classes are reasonably fun at cap these days. I know back in the day there certainly were points in the leveling process where various classes dragged terribly, but that’s far less a problem these days as the big shinies for each class are available right early. Its a good change I think – helps to avoid a lot of duller time levelling.
I’ve just started playing again to watch the pre-cataclysm buildup and the event itself, and everyone I know is pretty happy with their class overall.
@Bronte: WoW definitely is an end-game sort of game; I wonder how much of that, if anything, will change in Cataclysm. As a leveller/explorer sort, I’m enjoying the fact the classes feel more defined at the lower levels, I just hope that it isn’t a feeling that will wear off quickly after level twenty or so, as things often used to do in the old game.
@Derrick: I got the impression that Rogues and Warlocks were still not terribly popular, outside of PvP at least. It also seems that the hybrid classes continue to gain in popularity with every expansion, but perhaps that just elevates them to a level on a par with previous popular classes. Without looking at the overall numbers it’s a very hard thing to judge, on my old server every other character seemed to be a Hunter, and yet they don’t seem to be all that popular when you look at the stats on Spinks’ post.
With all these changes coming in Cataclysm, it’ll certainly be interesting to see if anything really changes at all.
I think that Blizzard realise that, as they extend the level cap, the levelling game needs to be made easier so that people bother to reach the endgame they’ve heard so much about.
I came back after a break of a few months and it now plays almost like Diablo or Torchlight: piles mobs explode in front of you as you zoom through quest objective. Nothing is hard any more, even Magister’s Terrace.
It seems to me that the changes made to the game will make leveling characters more representative of what the class identity has angled for, previously only an endgame thing. It seems like level 10 is a sweet spot, with the talent tree unlock and a bunch of goodies, but it does seem like level 20 on most any class will give a good idea of what their gameplay is like for the duration of the leveling curve. That’s a Good Thing, methinketh.
I keep pointing to the Hunter and Druid changes for early levels; pets on creation for Hunters (so no more ten levels of utter irrelevancy), Cat form at level 8 and Bear form at level 15 for Druids. It’s just a smarter setup that lets players get a handle on their class earlier. That’s not only good for player retention but also for teaching players their class so they are ready for the endgame.
I’m actually somewhat excited to level a baby toon come cataclysm. I do gope they reduce some of the diabloness (if I may) that we have now, but to be honest I’m not too concerned: I tend to self-adjust difficulty when leveling. I’m uninterested in “level appropriate” and instead constantly push boundries to see what can be done. While I’m waiting for cataclysm, I’m tooling around on my Druid in instances solo, to see just how much I can manage.
5 people in an instance is too easy? Make it harder.
The changes certainly make it look like they’ll make the process more fun. Personally, I prefer the leveling portion of the game (The first time, when you’re exploring too) so having lasses more entertaining earlier is definitely a plus in my book. Once you’re in the endgame, there is precious little new stuff. Raids for me are tons of fun, until I beat them, then I’m done. I won’t ‘farm’ them for gear, it just bores me.
It’s *always* trivially easy to make the game harder on yourself. Remove gear, attack above your level, switch to a talentless build, bring along a lowbie, solo instances, etc. I have *no* sympathy for those who want a harder game but use heirloom gear to level and such.
I’m going to thoroughly enjoy fighting above my level with a Paladin come Cataclysm.