The worst feeling I ever got from a Blizzard game, aside from Blood Elves being introduced as a Horde race, was the starting quests in Burning Crusade. I was replacing gear I had earned from raiding, RAIDING when it was 40 people and took hours upon hours, by gear I "earned" doing the kind of easy hand holding quests I had done when I started my character. And I was doing it solo. All that work for what? At the time you did Strat and BRS to get the gear you needed for MC, MC gave you gear for BWL, BWL to AQ, etc. All the effort put into one was paying off in the next, there was progression, there was achievement, there was a path that kept the old content relevant. Then BC launched and people who had never seen a raid in their life had outgeared me in a few hours. I get there were problems with old raids, and that they were too difficult for most people for a variety of reasons. I know there was a problem with the system because nobody could raid Naxx until the did the other raids and all the raiding guilds were beyong them, but you could have nerfed those old raids and reduced the raid size so more people could do them and catch up to the new end-game. You could have kept the stepping stone system and simply made the path less steep, so even if the gear was no longer useful to the most recent content, it was still relevant to the process of getting there. You could have made MC and BWL puggable, the way you did with T11 not long ago. Now people don't even enter those instances unless it's on an 85 to solo some bosses and get nostalgic gear. That's all that content is now, just sitting there collecting dust, only still in the game for nostalgia's sake while the 5-man dungeons get all the attention. More attention even, with heroic modes and redesigns!
After playing Burning Crusade I unsubbed before I was billed for the second month. Didn't reactivate until about a year before Cata release, because Blizz claimed Cata would bring back some vanilla sensibilities that they had lost over time. Well it worked, it got me back into the game even if it was just a huge lie. Only reason I still play is because friends play, otherwise I would have been out with 4.2. Not because of the nerf to T11 (they should add a third difficulty like they've finally, FINALLY decided to do with 4.3. Normal mode as it was no longer exists), but because it can now simply be skipped since you only need the gear from end-game quests and normal dungeons to do heroics, which grant VP for 4.2 gear, or the Molten Front dailies which give rep gear. I think a character should be at least partially T11 geared to be powerful enough to do Molten Front or whatever new tier of 5-mans gets added, just make T11 easier, like you did, so that people can get through it. Don't just skip the whole tier and make it obsolete. I'm really, really hoping the raid finder solves this issue and will allow players easy enough access to past tiers that new tiers don't need to be designed to be jumped into directly from dinging 85.
Enough about WoW, how does this relate to Diablo?
The point is, no, I don't think the level cap should be raised. Too much rebalancing work and too much obsoletion of old content. Plenty of other RPGs get new campaign DLCs that don't raise the level cap. Plenty of MMOs even get expansions that don't raise the level cap. There are other ways to implement a new act with increased difficulty that doesn't involve wiping the slate on balance and progression with a new set of levels.
The closest I will accept to raising level cap would be a small nerf to existing content across the board, and then extend the campaign such that the new content takes the place that the old content was at. That way all the end-game items players have obtained are still relevant in context and don't simply become a massive pile of junk everyone passes by on the way to the new cap (no longer end-game but still relevant to the leveling process, unlike all the WoW endgame gear when BC was out), while keeping the general level of difficulty the same.
I would much rather the new content continue to scale up in difficulty and act as an extension to current content rather than a new coat of paint on the same level of mobs, but that would still be better than a new level cap.
As for the REALLY powerful items pre-expansion, I think it would be really dumb for an item like Azurewrath to be one-upped by anything less than legendary, even 10 levels above it. For crying out loud a Dark Herring is more powerful than Sulfuras! You get Sulfuras from an immense amount of effort farming components from raid bosses, including Ragnaros himself. You get a Dark Herring from fishing in Northrend. I'm not trying to say that the best items should require tons of farming, no of course not, but the reward should be proportionate to the effort, and raising the level cap negates all that effort by resetting everything. I understand it brings back old players, but shouldn't an expansion contain enough new content and features to do that without pressing the big red button on existing players?
It should take at least two expansions before the greens from new content outshine the purples from the old, and in a game that keeps its level cap from expansion to expansion, it should take three. We should not get uncommons that are better than Act 4 rares and legendaries until Act 7, what we should get are new rares and legendaries. A weapon isn't very "legendary" if you swap it out a few hours later. The low drop rates will keep them from appearing in all but the luckiest new players' games while they level past that content, while those that have them probably farmed for them anyway and don't mind not doing the new gear dance until the new end-game since their goal is to get the new legendaries anyway. I wouldn't mind if the legendary I got in Act 4 carried me all the way to the end of Act 5, that's what makes it so awesome to me.
Edited by Dreyfuss on 9/22/2011 6:36 PM PDT