Cataclysm’s 5 Levels Could Benefit Players More Than Previous Expac’s 10

The next World of Warcraft expansion, Cataclysm, is only going to raise the level cap by five more levels when the past two expansions have each raised the cap by ten.  When I heard a comment the other day that this seemed like we were being jipped, I thought about whether or not I felt that Blizzard was skimping us on Cataclysm.  I thought about what WotLK and BC each did with those 10 levels and then I thought about what Blizzard has planned for Cataclysm and compared what we’re getting.

In those ten levels of BC and WotLK there was a lot of great leveling content.  However, once you’ve leveled through it a few times you find it to be a barrier in your way of reaching the real meat and potatoes of WoW gameplay: end-game content.  Without a doubt, the best content in WoW is usually the leveling journey, but a bulk of Blizzard’s focus (and the community’s) turns to what happens at the max level.  Cataclysm, while only adding five at the end, is technically revamping 1-60 as well.  It’s a valid argument that Cataclysm revives earlier/older parts of the game which rejuvenates the game as a well.  Even in those last five levels (80-85) we’re going to see a solid amount of content with “more high-level raid content than previous expansions”.  Condensing lots of content into five levels seems like it could work a lot better than trying to make content for ten.  If there is enough content, playing through those five levels may perhaps be accomplished different ways a second and third time.  The leveling curve might just be a bit steeper too, you never know.

Leveling content might not be the only benefit of those extra five levels though. From a mechanics point of view, gear might actually carry over a bit more than it did in previous expansions.  Unless mudflation really sets in with a huge increase to stats, raid gear from WotLK’s ICC/Ruby Sanctum could easily last through some of the early content in Cataclysm whereas it really didn’t carry over much at all into WotLK from BC.

We know that 85 is going to be a huge difference from 80, just as 80 is from 75, etc.  Instead of having characters evolve over a ten level spread, now Blizzard gets to do it in five.  I see this as an opportunity for each of those levels to be a huge deal.  Talents are already being reworked and new skills being added are changing the dynamics of some classes entirely.  Where WotLK dragged on and didn’t really show too much change, Cataclysm could feel like an enormous evolution every ding. The WoW demographic loves to get rewarded in quickly in big ways.

Without having to design for ten levels of end-game (although they are technically doing a LOT more with 1-60), I’m hopeful that we’ll see the bar set even higher (internally) by Blizzard.  WotLK was so much better than BC and if Cataclysm is going to be better than WotLK it’s going to happen in a really high concentration all at once.  There is also the benefit for returning players to be thrown into the thick of this concentration from the start, instead of having a larger window to acclimate — a window that veterans quickly fly through.

Players will hopefully have to focus less on the actual act of leveling and just be able to enjoy the content.  If done right, it could be one intense ride right from the start that lands players at 85 without them even realizing it.

  • Every time I hear about max levels in MMORPGs I always think “This one goes to 11!” The level number itself is kind of meaningless. I am curious how much more “End-Game” content there will be after Cataclysm.

    Now the time get though those 5 levels could be the same as the previous 10, but then you are back where you started. Doing the Raid loop for loot.

  • The raid loop for loot is not really in question. It’s going to be there regardless.

    Taking 10 levels of content and providing it to players in 5 levels and taking 10 levels of progression and putting it into 5 levels I think will help both the players who want more to do every level and want to be swept away into the content as well as those who just want to reach the end.

  • This is freaking nuts! Why in the HELL am I loving this old arse game again! Damn…you blizz!

  • Back when they announced it would only be 5 more levels, instead of the usual 10, I remember a comment Blizzard made that they wanted dinging to feel more meaningful. So, yes, I expect the levelling curve to be steeper this time.

  • I’m skeptical after WotLK burned so many people out. I’ve never been this bored with the game.

  • Gear will not carry over to the next expansion. Based upon leaked reports, cataclysm will be the biggest gear reset yet, by an enormous margin.

    Also the developers want players to have more health, so stamina’s item budget value is being greatly reduced yet again.

  • The way I see it, the team that does new content and new zones took a chunk of their expansion dev time to revamp the old stuff in place of new stuff and provide the supposedly larger number of raids.

    The new leveling zone count supports that – we’re getting new zones for current max-level characters, but not as many as we have in previous expansions. If you like alts, or are willing to alt just to see the new stuff, then obviously that’s a good deal. If you generally prefer to stick to one main, though, it’s not quite like you’re getting 10 levels worth of content in five levels – more like 7 levels worth of content, and you may find yourself having to repeat most of it on subsequent alts.

    The mudflation issue is a big one – Blizzard had to mudflate far more than they’d intended to this expansion to provide gear rewards for optional hard modes, and they’ve said that they’re going to have to bring combat ratings way down by level 85. Over 10 levels, you can drop your combat ratings gradually and still halve their effectiveness by the cap. With only five levels, you might be seeing a major dropoff in your stats when you ding.

    The two big things I would have done differently, if it had been up to me:
    – Don’t waste any of the limited new content on levels 78-80. There’s plenty of high quality content in Storm Peaks and Icecrown that will become obsolete, just like Shadowmoon and Netherstorm in Outland. Also, with new characters skipping these zones, they will be even less well-geared when they hit the expansion stuff, which will mean that the new content will have to be even easier for existing characters.
    – Instead of having Icecrown nerf itself into the ground 5% at a time, I would have designed it to be nigh unbeatable at level 80, and readily beatable by a level 85 PUG (similar to Naxx for new 80’s). This way we could have had the really popular accessible entry level for Cataclysm raiding (including raiding WHILE leveling), everyone would have gotten to see the pinnacle of Wrath’s raid content, Icecrown would have stayed relevant beyond this fall, and the new stuff could have been aimed at a slightly tougher crowd.

  • It’s not just your garden variety mudflation. Let me provide the numbers here to provide some context. At level 80, it takes 32.79 rating points to get 1% haste. At level 85 it takes 192.06 for 1%. That’s not a typo, 192.06.

    An endgame raiding WOTLK weapon provides around 130 haste rating, for 3.96% haste at 80. At level 85 that same item provides 0.68% haste. It’s total garbage.

  • I’m surprised no-one has mentioned the obvious.

    I think the reason why there is only 5 levels is because it is only HALF an expansion. In other words, this is Blizzard’s attempt at speeding up the delivery of expansions.

    Expect the 85-90 expansion in only one years time …

  • @Ponder: That’s exactly what I’m trying to say it’s not. They’re revamping the 1-60 original content by redesigning most of the old world. They’re adding (a quote) “more raid content than past expansions” (Blizzard usually keeps their word on this stuff), and redesigning the talent trees. If they pack all that into five levels instead of 10, then I see that as a good thing.

    I think as far as expansions go, more to do in a smaller leveling window is probably the better of the two options. Given 10 more levels means they scrape the content over more levels instead of packing it in nicely. If done right, the player won’t have to worry about leveling up because they’ll be enjoying all that content in a smaller window.

    It’s win/win because the raiders get to raid faster and there’s more content for everyone.

    If they indeed crank the mudflation to an extreme degree then it’s much better for newer or more casual players and worse for those who spent time to get the gear. In the end though, this falls back to the content packed into those new 5 levels. Everyone can gear up.

    At the same it, it makes it harder for Blizzard because they have to provide that equal or better experience within a smaller window. The pressure is on to ensure that those 5 levels are nothing short of amazing — and that they keep their word on that whole “more raid content than ever” promise.

  • Since each expansion resets the power levels in such a drastic way, whether the number you look at is 85 or 90 it really doesn’t matter. You level up for a while, ten you hit max level, you have some new abilities, and then you start grinding for better and better gear. The actual numbers involved are basically meaningless. They could multiple or divide every number in the game by 10 and it would be the same exact thing.

  • Actually, lots of players used endgame vanilla gear (tier3) to begin their endgame TBC raiding, and endgame TBC gear was perfectly viable to raid naxx25. It was roughly equivalent to equipment awarded from 5man level 80 WOTLK content. That will not be the case in cataclysm due to the combat rating inflation.

    This is of course entirely deliberate, as the gap between fresh level 80s and “endgame” WOTLK raiders is much greater than in previous expansions– raid-geared level 80s can outdamage fresh 80s by as much as 500%. Cataclysm will be the hardest gear reset yet, by a huge margin.

  • With all the revision of the old world it almost makes sense for people to “reboot” their characters as well, i.e. delete the level 80s and start from level 1 again.

    At some point in the future, that’s going to have to happen anyway, either reset everything. (Or shut it down.) That’s the weak link with a level-based MMO: You can’t keep increasing levels (character, gear, or otherwise) ad infinitum.

  • Does anybody know if I’ll be able to play Cataclysm without WOTLK, still be able to get to max level etc.?

    I played Burning Crusade and quit for a while but never bought WOTLK and I don’t intend to but I’m considering buying Cataclysm if I can level my old character from 70 to 85 without WOTLK

    Sorry to go off topic but I can’t find an answer to this question anywhere because everybody else bought WOTLK I think 😛

  • Shipping with a lot of raid content? I think so.

    * The Skywall
    o Unnamed level 80-82 dungeon
    o Unnamed raid
    * Deepholm
    o Unnamed level 81-83 dungeon
    * Sunken City of Vashj’ir
    o Abyssal Maw, level 81-83 dungeon
    o Throne of the Tides, level 82-84 dungeon
    * Uldum
    o Lost City of Tol’vir, level 84-85 dungeon
    o Halls of Origination, level 85 dungeon
    * Blackrock Mountain
    o Blackrock Caverns, level 85 dungeon
    o Blackwing Descent, raid inspired by Blackwing Lair with Nefarian as end boss
    * Grim Batol
    o Unnamed level 85 dungeon
    o Grim Batol raid
    * The Firelands
    o Raid against Ragnaros
    * New Caverns of Time instance. Unknown at moment in time what the dungeon may be based on
    * New old-world dungeons gaining 5-player Heroic mode
    o Deadmines
    o Shadowfang Keep
    * New dungeon in Thousand Needles

    That’s 4 raids, 6 dungeons, and 2 old world heroics.

  • From the talk at Blizzcon, I am pretty sure they stated that the 5 levels in Cataclysm would be equivalent in effort/time spent to the 10 levels in Wrath. The curve will be steeper.

    One of the reasons I believe that they are going for 5 levels instead of 10 is also that they didn’t want to add any new levels to the talent trees. You get 5 more points, but no more depth in your trees. Thus, 10 extra points may have skewed things way too far into being able to go deep down different trees possibly. Additionally with the revamp of the trees and the addition of Mastery, I think they just didn’t know how it would all turn out and handling 5 levels is probably just easier..

  • @Fimlys: Nice clarification and additional thought there. I think you’re right about the talent trees, especially with the new additions, not handling 10 levels as well as 5.

    @Tdawgs: Yeah, plus their regular addition of content. It’s going to be pretty dang insane.

  • Also those 5 levels will take on a slightly unusual new aspect in that you will be gaining those levels via the story and the new Archaeology skill rather than just pure XP – in fact I think there’s checkpointing to stop the usual idiots who nearly kill themselves with 24-hours of AoE grinding for the “first max-level in the world/continent/realm” etc.

    In short you may HAVE to take part in the story to see the levels gains. Not a bad call.

  • End game content in WoW is NOT the meat of the game. Its the grind to keep people paying monthly sub fees even though they have reached the main goal of leveling to the cap. I cant see how running the same thing over and over and over in order to gear up is better than Questing and exploring through countless lare zones.

  • @Steve: It is definitely the meat of the game. You may not like this cut of meat, but it is definitely the meta of WoW. You stated it yourself: It’s what is keeping people playing. If it wasn’t the meta of the game then not even half the people would still be playing.

  • @Keen: I guess its all a matter of taste. I would much rather explore through new content than run through the same thing over and over, which is basically what raiding is.
    If they give us the same amount of zones and the same amount of XP required to complete them from 80 to 85 as they did with WOTLK, then they should also give us the same amount of new skills and abilities crammed into 5 levels instead of 10.

  • @Steve: You and me both. But regardless of what we would like, WoW is just built the way it’s built. Blizzard has made raiding the central focus and Cataclysm will definitely facilitate that.

  • Well endless cycles of end game raiding was not the meat of WoW, at least through BC when I stopped playing. The repetition of doing the same thing over and over like a staged play, to watch other’s class gear drop, and finally getting a drop one could use, and then losing out on it, only to try again next time if one makes the raid cut…

    I guess I can understand that was the meat only in how hard it sucked. I think that is the theoretical appeal of well designed PvP areas/arenas where something new still might occur, especially PUG vs PUG.

    Conversely a game that had a more social atmosphere, as you previously suggested, might still keep the world interesting, a WoW-Sims hybrid?

    The rush to level cap is a problem in so many games, which after a month leaves the lower level zones desolate, and capped players in a raiding rut; maybe WoW has an advantage here in that they have such a large player base that this effect is not as noticeable even if a small percentage of people will decide to run lower level zones. I also believe that large differences in power between levels leaves zones less populated, especially in PvP-centric games, as no one wants to be “that noob” getting his ass handed to him by potentially less skilled, but higher level players; Allods was the epitome of level imbalance. So it is probably smart to retool lower levels to rekindle interest, and perhaps cheaper than thinking up completely new content?

  • I’m honestly still not sure why they increase the level cap at all. Most players dislike leveling or simply blow through the levels to reach the cap.

    WoW also inflates through gear to an insane degree. Levels are unnecessary for that.

  • I have never done raiding in WoW, but I do agree with Ferrel because the need to level makes playing with friends difficult whenever you go to a new server, or are a newbie with your first character. If you’ve got a friend who is max level on your server you’ve got 80 (soon 85) levels to slog through. Yes, the grind has been reduced compared to what it once was, however it still forces you to put in a huge time investment in order to reach 80. Similarly, if two people are leveling together but then one is gone for a few days you’ll always lag behind that other player in levels until you reach the cap. And each expansion creates a bigger gap from start to finish.

    I like WoW, though I often get tired of it (I play month on, few months off) and probably will pick up Cataclysm precisely because it revamps the old world so I can see more fresh content when leveling alts (and some of the new abilities look like they’ll be fun).

    However, in terms of the whole design for leveling and release of expansions I feel like Guild Wars did that best, albeit because it had no subscription it could take a different approach to end-game content. In Guild Wars the level cap is extremely easy to reach. No expansion ever raised the level cap. Similarly, all weapons and armor at end-game had the same base stats for protection and damage. All warriors had the same armor defense, and all scythes did the same damage (subject to change by special weapon mods). Further, at no time was any of the end game content from a previous expansion made obsolete because all the items had the same base stats, but had different special effects and cosmetic appearances. Some bows might provide bonuses for poisons, while another might provide a bonus to crippling and stranding foes, that sort of thing. Even the sheer fact that weapons and armor had different and artistically appealing designs caused many people to seek them for that reason alone. In fact, much of the reason you played the end game content like dungeons in EOTN or the latter missions in any of the campaigns was because you wanted to see the content, the other half is cool equipment and titles.

    That kind of end game is very low pressure, but at the same time it offered a depth and breadth in end-game content that most MMO’s lose each expansion. Guild Wars now has 3 separate campaigns all with their own end-game content, and Eye of the North is essentially one giant end-game. Combine that with the introduction of Hard Mode, where players can go into any area and end-game or right in a starting zone (or even the game’s story missions) and face even more challenging foes and you have an end-game that literally spans the entire game world (albeit this is enabled by the double-edged sword of instancing).

    However, even though this was a system which made end game content open to everyone without a gear grind and minimal level grind, I suppose it wouldn’t work out too well for a subscription based MMO where a great deal of the profit is in retaining subscriptions. The grind guarantees that people will need to stay and keep playing and keep playing in order to have the best gear and they need the best gear in order to see all of the content the game has to offer.

    I apologize for probably fanboying over GW.

  • “Wrath was so much better than BC” LOL!!! are you kidding? in terms of raid content? hell no, i am so drastically bored with WotLk atm its not even funny, they released Naxx, you cleared it in less than a month then had to wait 5 months for Ulduar, which was actually up to par with BC raids as far as difficulty and coordination, but it was nerfed 2 weeks later to the abysmal state is now in, a loot pinata, then ToC was basically a filler instance that should have a vendor in the center that sells you the loot for 1 copper each.

    Then ICC, ahh ICC, what a horrible raid instance, pitifully easy even when it launched until the final 2 encounters in the instance, and with the buff increasing by 5% every month its getting worse and worse.

    Blizzard has already come out and said they will be reverting ALOT of things to how it was in BC, therefore admitting pretty much WoTLK has been a dissapointment and how far superior BC was. They’ve talked about more than 1 full raid at start, as BC had with Kara/SSC/TK (Plus all the side smaller raids Gruul/Mag). Also how raids will be mroe liek 6-8 bosses again like SSC/TK, rather than long dull 10-12 boss raids like Naxx and ICC.

    I don’t question whether or not Wotlk is worse than BC, i know it is, so does blizzard, i love this blog but how you uttered that statement is so bewildering, Wotlk is one of the worst expansions probably in any MMO to date. BC took what Pre-BC did, which was essentially capture and amaze a player base of what this game could do, and BC refined it (such as taking raids from 40 man to 25 man, making tier drops tokens for multiple classes at the same time rather than 1 piece per class) and lived up to its potential, cataclysm if it wants to succeed has to take Wrath and refine it and make it better just as BC did to Pre-BC.