Powerleveling is fascinating. I’m not talking about the ‘play all night long and get a bunch of levels’ type of powerleveling. I’m referring to a much older concept where a higher level player buffs and assists lower level players to help them tackle harder encounters — or more frequent encounters — in order to make them level faster.

google's definition of powerleveling

Google’s featured snippet of what powerleveling means (funny how they pulled the “modern” MMO reference)

Powerleveling doesn’t really exist a whole lot in “modern” MMOs. I guess by “modern” I mean WoW, since it’s the only MMO in the past… 5+? … years to stay open for more than 3 months. Anyway, the idea doesn’t really exist anymore.

Seems devs enabled checks to ensure you can’t help people. In some games you can’t even interact with other people while they’re in an encounter unless you’re grouped. Then there are the systems where a higher level player will cause the lower levels to gain no experience if they heal or buff during combat. Some games won’t even allow buffs on people who aren’t grouped!

What’s even more sad are the “modern” MMOs (there’s not word again) that make it so that help is entirely unnecessary and would even hinder the process. I guess you don’t need much help running from one exclamation point to the next, right?

I was playing EverQuest a lot this past week. Important note: My recent version of “a lot” means 2 hours a night for multiple nights in a row.  Since I’m leveling slower than I would like (level 35 now) and behind most of the people I play with, a few friends have been kind enough to assist me in leveling.

One of my friends is a level 50 enchanter (he didn’t sleep for a few days after server opened and used a lot of socks if you know what I mean). He took a group of us to Lower Guk, gave us clarity, and assisted in mezzing big pulls that would have otherwise been very dangerous.

This process allowed us to kill at a faster — and more importantly, safer — rate that we would have otherwise been able to accomplish.

For whatever reason, I enjoy being powerleveled. I think that contradicts my ardent support of the leveling process being the best part of MMOs. Or does it? I guess I’m grappling with that one. Speed doesn’t necessarily have to be a factor.  I enjoy more involved journeys, but perhaps a slightly accelerated journey doesn’t inherently detract from the journey itself. I’ll keep thinking about that one.

What do you guys think? Are you a fan of other people helping you level? Do you enjoy it? Does it detract from your experience, or enhance it?

Note: Featured image is from Project 1999 from several years ago. There mostly to troll Yotor.

  • We used to have what we called “twinking” back in the day. In TorilMUD and then again in early EQ, gear did not have level restrictions nor did they bind on equip, so you could hand your little level 1 paladin a holy avenger or a ghoulbane, get somebody to drop a buff or two on them, and send them off to wipe out mobs en masse to level up.

    Much of the mechanics of EQII back at launch seemed designed to thwart twinking, although for some reason the skipped bind on equip, though that came in after a couple months when the used equipment market was killing all new crafting.

    • Keen says:

      We talked about twinking in one of our recent Quickcast podcasts. I love twinking. Again, I don’t know if that contradicts my love for the ‘journey’, but it certainly makes things fun.

  • Kerazi says:

    There is nothing wrong with enjoying twinking, power leveling and the ‘journey’ as you call it. They are 3 different ways to enjoy the game. I’ve enjoyed all 3 in EQ. Although not in the order I gave.

    A problem arises when those things create expectations that leveling should never be long or challenging. Or players become addicted to the overwhelming power that early twinking can give.

    Although recent games have limited those activities I’ve seen some of that coming back. In WoW I powerleveled several toons during the pre-Legion invasions to 100, and during the current Legion invasions (although to a much lesser degree). WoD and Legion both came with boosts. Plus you can buy more for about 4 WoW Tokens/US$60. In WoD I twinked a few 91 toons with crafted weapons, and although I chose not to, could have twinked out a 101 with 820-850 BoE gear. 101 players were soloing the scaling normal dungeons, sometimes for other players for money. Very amusing. And AFAIK haven’t been nerfed.

    The one place WoW hasn’t fixed yet is the ‘journey’. Although during a Dev Q&A, someone alluded at the possibility of using scaling tech to smooth out the leveling process for those players that might choose to do so. Although to do that I think they’d have to smooth out the 60-70 and 70-80 experiences a bit.

    MMOs are huge, and with the passage of time, some become moreso because of expansions. It can be hard to balance the veterans with the wide-eyed newbies. That’s a battle I don’t think’ll be ending anytime soon.

  • Carson says:

    I guess there’s “accelerated” and then there’s ridiculous. I definitely think you should be able to be a material help to lower-level friends leveling, and that there’s no shame in wanting your leveling accelerated.

    But then I’ve seen things like in Diablo 3 where you can powerlevel a character from 1 to max in a couple of minutes. At that point, why not just make leveling optional after you’ve done it once?

  • Hoemurr says:

    I’ve been playing 2 mmo’s in the past 6 months, P1999 (EQ) and Uthgard (DAoC). And while powerleveling happens in both, the experiences of PLing are dramatically different.

    What you’re describing, IS powerleveling. You have a higher level character assisting you to tackle content you normally couldn’t handle, or at least, couldn’t handle efficeintly. But you’re still an active part of the journey, in this case. Your higher level buddy is mezzing/rooting/debuffing/whatever, but you’re still an active participant in killing the target.

    The PLing happening on Uthgard, particularily on Albion with the necros, is not part of the journey. The necro pulls the mobs, kills the mobs, and does all the work. The power leveled toon just stands there, useless, to absorb the xp (and usually paying plat for it).

    Powerleveling in both games achieves the same purpose of leveling your toon significantly faster then would be possible normally. But I think HOW PLing happens plays a big part on whether it’s part of the journey, or just bypassing the leveling experience. Maybe this is where your internal contradiction stems from?

  • Caldazar says:

    Your snippet is from wowwiki, so the definition logically is as it applies to wow. Powerleveling in wow is most certainly possible, it just is less noticable. (And in a way sad, powerleveling is probably more googled in relation to wow than in relation to any other individual game, so google picking that makes sense)

    Also, regarding you enjoying the powerleveling. I am starting to feel you just like relaxedly doing group activities with a goal. If it is power leveling or normal leveling, as long as the group is fine you enjoy it. Power leveling is fun for a while since the return on time investment is higher and it also fixes the negative feeling you have of being behind. I don’t think you’d enjoy it nearly as much when you are ahead of the pack.

    PS: I find it a bit far-fetched to call EQs leveling process an involved journey. I always likened it more to a relaxing grind. Journey, sure. Involved, ehh…

    • Keen says:

      I think you’re right about me enjoying the relaxed group activities with a goal. Feels right.

      I think EQ’s leveling is more involved and requires more thought and care than most MMOs I have played; especially when you consider dungeons.

  • Sanz says:

    My second or third time in EQ involved a Fungi Tunic and training myself with 20+ skeletons at a time. Good times indeed. Very fast levels.

    The further I get from this I realize I only had great fun, after I was well past the fascination of The Realm, when I felt I was “winning”. Ok not really winning but in the top 10%. Because my reflexes were never very fast. Sometimes that was buying a fungi tunic or a Yak on an auction site. And other times it was because I got in line with a raiding guild, waited my turn for loot, and played way more than 90% of the population.

    My raiding guildies power leveled me a lot too. Fun times. But really glad that’s all behind me. I’ll just leave it at that.

  • bartillo says:

    On FF11 Nasomi Power Levels are a huge deal! They can make a party exp substantially faster by providing outside heals and buffs. The PL cant attack the monster though, so the best PL would be a White Mage or a Red Mage.

  • Bhagpuss says:

    Powerleveling is borderline cheating at best. When it takes place outside of instanced content it’s also incredibly antisocial. Older MMOs that permit it feel very artificial and “gamey” when compared to newer MMOs that remove most or all of the benefits of PLing in the basic design structure.

    Yes, it can be fun, but it’s a selfish and enervating kind of fun that deserves to be consigned to the “did we really used to think that was a good idea?” file.

  • Gankatron says:

    It goes back to a previous contention of mine that people have a difficult time differentiating between actually having fun playing a game versus satisfying addictive based token economy rewarded drives in a gaming context.

    To illustrate, would you still be interested in playing a sport if no one kept score?

    If so you probably actually enjoy playing the game, but if instead your opponent suggests you play until 15 points, and you counter, sure, but let’s make each point actually be worth 5 times as much, you probably don’t intrinsically like playing the game as opposed to satisfying a need to be declared a winner.

    In the power leveling scenario actually playing the game through the working as intended levels optimally designed by the devs is not just a secondary priority, it actually is something to be actively avoided, striving to spend as little time playing as possible to “win” max level.

    My favorite MMO experience would be one with an extremely long leveling curve, where the level reward will eventually come, but takes so long to develop that one’s focus is actually on playing the game, punctuated with a few days of frenetic playing leading up to hitting next level.

    By example I will again fall back to vanilla WoW where achievements such as gaining a new level or earning your first gold piece was something to be announced in chat followed by a chorus of “gratz!”.

    That idea is so long dead that it likely is completely foreign to a relatively new MMO player.

    The last time I tried a free WoW welcome back offer I hit level 20 extremely rapidly (if I remember correctly within 2 days?) and had my first gold piece within the first play session.

    It was basically a non-stop saturated stream of positive reinforcement that left me desensitized and bored, which in that context I suppose why not powerlevel because the game play is so boring, or even a more basic question, why even bother playing at all?

    I dislike the concept of powerleveling in general as I feel people lose touch with the idea that a game should primarily be played because of in the moment experience, as opposed to maximizing token reward/minute efficiency, something that killed the old-school WoW battleground experience for me, where the exclamation “A short loss is better than a long win” became the prevailing philosophy, and I specifically detest “twinking” in PvP scenarios as it is overtly unbalancing away from intrinsic skill-based competitions.

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