Just like PvP, leveling isn’t necessary. In fact, I think leveling and designing leveling is not only a waste of time for developers, and as a result a direct waste of money, but its also detrimental to game design when it isn’t necessary but included anyway.
In World of Warcraft, I find most of my enjoyment comes from lowbie/newbie quests, exploring new areas, and occasionally some dungeons. Almost every time I play I come to the conclusion that the leveling just gets in the way and stands between me and what I’d rather be doing. I’m positive that the arena junkies want to be max level immediately, and the raiders probably don’t care one bit about leveling. In fact, I know for a fact that most of these two groups (who account for a huge portion of the long-term players) find every way possible to blow through leveling.
This evening I logged about four hours in Neverwinter. My cleric is growing on me, and a friend of mine jumped in to join me which makes playing about 2x more fun. We both came to the conclusion that we want to do the dungeons and PvP, but we need to be higher level to enjoy them most. The quest grind is so dull that we’re doing Foundry quests designed to make leveling quicker. Some of them are blatant EXP grind boxes where players stand on top of a box with spikes in it and AoE down ogres. We’d rather look awesome, have lots of fun abilities, and do the content than be stuck as boring newbies facing a quest grind between us and the real fun. Leveling isn’t necessary in Neverwinter.
If something stands between players and the fun, don’t include it. Nothing these days should be immune to that philosophy. Even if its leveling; just remove it. Let players be ‘max level’ (so to speak) and simply have a form of progression which allows characters to develop in some way once doing the fun stuff from the start. There are too many others things to worry about, especially in a game like Neverwinter which doesn’t need leveling to keep people playing.