Level Squish Idea & Systems - Max Lvl 60, Forever.

General Discussion
Level Squish Idea and Systems
Maximum Level 60, Forever. - How it will work.

Note: I also have a Reddit post up and formatted, if you would like to read it there:

http://wow.reddit.com/comments/9x3z92/level_squish_idea_and_systems_maximum_level_60/

Introduction
There has been some discussion lately about how leveling in World of Warcraft is pretty slow, awful, and painful. Especially through some of the mid-range levels (60-100ish). Many have suggested a level squish, which in and of itself is fine, but how would it work? How would Blizzard actually implement it? Ion Hazzikostas stated during the Q&A at Blizzcon: “Would it feel bad to log in one day and seemingly lose all your progress?” Some say yes, some say no. He also said he was open to hearing ideas for a level squish as well.

So, what if there was a system which incentivized players to actually go back and repeatedly run old content, and that it will directly affect their endgame character?

In this post I’m going to explore some ideas and systems I think could make the future of World of Warcraft incredibly more fun, simpler for rolling out new expansions, and at the same time give players more agency and choice with how they decide to acquire loot, items, transmogs, mounts and more.

Breakdown
This idea has many parts and systems, and these are the sections I’ll be diving into:
    Maximum level is always 60
    Attunement, Legacy Attunement, Paragon System’s and Alternate Characters
    Leveling from 1-60 and the new Tier 8 Talent System
    Gear System
    Legacy Toggle for Legacy Expansions Dungeons and Raids
    PvP Application
    Conclusion

Maximum Level is always 60

Ok, first off, how’s this going to work? My idea is to make the maximum level for World of Warcraft level 60, forever, always, fin. Now, before you stop reading, hear me out. Let me explain how I think it could actually work and be better for the continuing future of this game.

Attunement, Legacy Attunement, Paragon System and Alternate Characters

In order to done with character leveling forever once you reach 60, there has to be some meaningful progression system after 60 for any new expansion and content. As well as a way to tell the story when a new expansion comes out. Essentially, the progression will shift from gaining new character levels after 60, to an Attunement System, Legacy Attunement System and Paragon System.

The idea is to have the same system of progression across all expansions, but have two different attunement processes for initially starting the progression after level 60. For simplicity’s sake let's just call them an Attunement achievement and Legacy Attunement achievement. (They can of course be renamed to something more appropriate and Warcraft universe themed)

Attunement System
This is the achievement for the current expansion from here on out. You will go through and do the new story and questlines, as well as some reputation gains along the way. I feel like a toned down Pathfinder style achievement would work really well in getting you attuned with the current expansion and the story that’s being told. It should definitely be a little longer and more robust than the Legacy Attunement for Legacy expansions. This is an account wide, faction restricted achievement, meaning you’d have to do this achievement with both factions.

Legacy Attunement System
This achievement will work a little differently than the Attunement achievement. Once an expansion goes into the Legacy category, the Legacy Attunement achievement will be a slightly longer, initial paragon level (more on this in the next section). This is an account wide achievement. For example, if you only played Horde, when the regular Attunement goes Legacy, it will automatically be applied to Alliance as well.

Paragon System
After achieving the initial account wide Attunement or Legacy Attunement achievements, every character will have access and begin working on gaining paragon levels. Paragon levels themselves are not account wide and are character specific. Only the Attunement achievements to access paragon levels are account wide.

Paragon levels are unique to each expansion. Meaning Burning Crusade has a different paragon leveling bar than Wrath of the Lich King. You gain paragon leveling experience by doing anything inside the current or legacy expansion. This includes but is not limited to world quests, story quests, raids, dungeons, any profession (even crafting items) will get you paragon experience. The amount of paragon experience to gain the next level is static (think reputation paragons in Legion). When you reach a new paragon level, you get a paragon point to spend at the Paragon Vendor for that expansion.

Paragon Vendor
Each expansion will have its own vendor to spend paragon points. This vendor will be the only source for Tier 8 animations, colors, spell effects, passive effects (More on the Tier 8 Talent System in the section below). This vendor will also have specific cosmetic transmog weapons and armor, as well as Bind on Account reputation tokens. All items will be locked behind different paragon levels. Meaning, there could be some awesome Tier 8 animation, cosmetic weapon or some huge value reputation tokens that require a paragon level of 50 with The Burning Crusade in order to buy it. All items will have different values and ranges of values. That paragon level 50 item could cost 10, 15, 25, or even 50 points!

This vendor and paragon system could even be used for obtaining rare mounts from legacy raids and dungeons which have a very small drop rate. For a specific example, Invincible’s Reins. This mount could be listed on the Wrath of the Lich King’s Paragon Vendor, let’s say at rank 200, and cost 50-75 paragon points (or more). Obviously the paragon experience gain and the cost of items would be tuned by people at Blizzard much smarter than me. Essentially, this system will have bad luck protection baked inside of it. You run Icecrown Citadel every lockout over the course of 6 months or a year, and you’d earn enough paragon levels and points to just outright buy it, if it never drops for you. If it does over that span, then you can buy something else really cool. In the end, anything people run legacy content for could be on the respective expansion’s paragon vendors. Bindings of the Windseeker, rare transmog items or pets, maybe even special exotic hunter pets too (curse you Loque-nahak! *shakes fist*).

Alternate characters
What happens to the current and legacy expansions for your alternate characters? Do you still have to do every single expansion in logical order or story progression? Simple answer, no. Once you reach level 60 and get the account wide Attunement or Legacy Attunements a new character, you can jump right into the paragon progression system for any expansion. However, there will still be a reason to go back and work on all of the individual expansion’s paragon levels.

Leveling from 1-60 and the new Tier 8 talent system

Leveling from 1-60
Initial leveling will remain the same for every new character. You will still have reach level 60 on every character (Unless you buy a boost). However, in doing this, I think it will feel more rewarding to have all your talents and abilities squished down to the original 60 levels instead of 100+. In one fell swoop this makes leveling a new character way more fun and less of a grind to get to the good parts of the game (Endgame Raiding, PvP, Paragon Leveling, etc).

Now, onto the real fun stuff, the Tier 8 Talent.

How talents, spells and abilities will be obtained
There are currently 7 talent tiers and this is how they will now be obtained:
    Level 04: Tier 1
    Level 12: Tier 2
    Level 20: Tier 3
    Level 28: Tier 4
    Level 36: Tier 5
    Level 42: Tier 6
    Level 50: Tier 7

Basically from level 4, and then every 8 levels after, you get a talent point. The existing trees will stay the same as they are now. The game would just feel better when you gain power that much quicker as you level. I think this leveling experience for new characters and alts will be a much better, more streamlined experience than it is right now.

Your spells and abilities will also be gained as you level from 1-60 in a way that makes sense. Which means you’d probably be getting a spell or ability every few levels, instead of having to wait 5-10 for something big.

Tier 8 Talent System
This is the big one. There is a huge gap from level 50-60 in talents for a reason. This is the final push of leveling to 60, so I wanted this to feel pretty big again. The brand new idea is to have a Tier 8 Talent added. This talent will be themed, and built out based from the general theme of each expansion. The idea is to bake in the artifact skins and color concept (from Legion) into this Tier 8 talent system. When you get the Attunement or Legacy Attunement achievement, you will unlock the base Tier 8 Talent for that expansion. This talent will be different, powerful and as stated above, themed to each expansion. Using the Paragon System, each Tier 8 Talent will have color and animation skins to work for and buy from the Paragon Vendor.

Tier 8 Passive Talents will have a similar look and design to how our Legendary cloaks in Mists of Pandaria were.

All Tier 8 Talents will have a variety of styles, animations and color choices to purchase with your paragon points. Items from the Paragon Vendor related to Tier 8 Talents are cosmetic only, that way the base talent always stayed tuned.

You can only have one active Tier 8 talent, and the menu would look something similar to our artifact weapons UI for how we pick the talent and then modify the color/animation. The main Tier 8 tab is where you will select which base Tier 8 talent you want to use. The next tab is where you select the animation or style for your active or passive talent, and then the next tab is where you select the color for it.

After you have completed the Attunement or Legacy Attunement account wide achievements on one character, all alternate characters will automatically get the base Tier 8 talent as soon as they reach level 60 (and are of the same faction for the current expansion’s Attunement achievement).

The breakdown of themes is based on the overall general theme for each expansion and then each class/spec will have one Tier 8 talent for each expansion. That’s right! 36 different Tier 8 talents per expansion, and an initial 288 total unique talents across all 8 releases, vanilla and 7 expansions. I know I know. The initial rollout will be crazy huge, but then each new expansion from here on out is just 36 new expansion themed talents and will roll right into the Tier 8 Talent and Paragon Systems.

(Sidenote, and optional idea, since this would be a TON of work: individual class/spec very short questline (6-7 quests) or a scenario to get the attunement for that class/spec Tier 8 Talent. Legacy Attunement quests will be optional after the fact. This provides another element of storytelling, similar to how unique and individual the artifact quests were. Maybe these are all optional after the attunement and give tremendous paragon experience.)

Now, you may be asking yourself, what would some of these talents look like? I’ve explored some ideas below.

(Please note: These are just ideas from the top of my head just to get the picture of how they might work, obviously some will either be too strong, too weak or not exciting at all. If the names aren’t good, they can be changed too, of course.)

I couldn’t get the HTML formatted correctly for the specific examples I came up with, but they are all located in my post on Reddit.

Here is the link again:

http://wow.reddit.com/comments/9x3z92/level_squish_idea_and_systems_maximum_level_60/

Gear System

With the level always being 60, how exactly will gear work for progression now? Gear ilvl will reset each new expansion release and you will then progress up the ilvl ladder again. (Note: All enemies across every expansion will scale to your ilvl. Just like it does now in BfA.) Gear will be tagged by expansion and labeled as “legacy gear” when the new expansion hits. All legacy gear will essentially become cosmetic gear. If we pick arbitrary numbers, let’s say all legacy gear is maxed out at ilvl 100. Each raid tier increases by 100. So if you have 3 raid tiers, the max level for that expansion is 400 by the end. Note: I personally don’t like titanforge or warforge RNG. However, keeping that system in the game could allow for some interesting mechanics during each raid tier and at the end of an expansion to push your ilvl beyond the max for that raid tier.

Legacy Toggle for Legacy Expansions dungeons and raids

What about legacy world content, dungeons and raids? Of course I didn’t forget about them. My love of running old content is kind of what got me started developing this whole idea.

With the max level permanently 60, you can always go back and experience those raids and dungeons as they were when the expansion was live. However, when an expansion goes legacy (and after you have achieved the Legacy Attunement on your account), you will get a Legacy Toggle for your character before going into the expansion’s open world, dungeons and raids. This will work solo or in a group and will be located in the same area of the UI where you select 10, 25, Heroic, Mythic, etc. The Legacy Toggle will scale you up in that expansion’s world content, dungeons and raids. Just as it does now. Therefore solo farming legacy content for transmogs, pets, mounts will stay the same as it is today. You will still gain paragon experience when running content in legacy mode solo, but if you are a group or raid and have the Legacy Toggle turned OFF, you will earn a bonus paragon experience multiplier for your groups efforts.

PvP Application

The Paragon System will be applied to PvP as well. We already have separate PvP talents, and adding a PvP Paragon System with gaining honor and pvp paragon experience/levels will earn a point towards the PvP paragon vendor for PvP Talents, items and cosmetics.

Conclusion

Well, there it is. That’s how I feel a level squish system could work and at the same time modernize World of Warcraft into essentially a WoW 2.0 model, almost reforging or rebooting the game.

In writing all of this out, I kept getting more and more excited because I really want to play the game this way. I feel these new systems would accomplish so many of the things players are asking for today. Regarding more agency and choice with progression, obtaining items, for all of the content WoW has to offer. This would be a great system in rewarding players for more time they spend inside the game. Without that bad feeling of never getting that one thing you spent time working for. Which leads to some of us, ultimately quitting for good, or just until the next patch/expansion.

Let me know what you think! All suggestions, discussion and hate posts/responses are welcome.
Hah. No.
Why?
I like many of your ideas, especially the account wide attunement. I'm not sure how the treatment of alts is working. You are saying that when a new alt levels it gets all the talents through the newest expansion minus 1 by the time it gets to level 60? So once it gets to 60 it can skip all the intermediate expansions and move to the current expansion?
Rather have classic talent trees if we are being squished down to 60.

No paragon system. That's just stupid.

No to everything but the squish. If they want a legacy system, just have servers that go to a said point in the game from expansions. That's your legacy system right there and that's all you need.
Mine's better - addresses multiple issues while not transforming the existing systems too drastically.

Talent Revamp, Level Squish, and Character Progression

This is in response to the recent Blizzcon Q&A where both the discussion of a level squish, and the disatisfaction with the leveling reward structure were brought up as topics requesting player feedback.

https://i.imgur.com/DhrcoSX.png
Made a quick visual concept mockup to accompany the post, don't take it too seriously.

TLDR
• Redo talent system to be a hybrid of old and new, offering constant choice and information about how the class is played and is growing
• Do a level squish to make levels a little more manageable, offer consistent power milestones, lower perception of endless grind to max
• Use points 1 & 2 to better provide sense of power progression against scaling mobs

Feature 1: Revamp Talents using Artifact Trait-like, pre-MoP like “Talent Points” into "Trait" points that are earned every level.

My concept is to keep the existing tiers of talents with interchangeable, powerful Talents as they are in the game now, while introducing a point based system akin to Classic-Cata WoW in between those tiers. My inspiration of this is from two sources:

1) Classic-Cata Talent Ranks - having a system where you earn a Talent Point each level gradually informed us of the capabilities of our classes as we hand selected each of their unique features and buffed their rotations and core skills via the talent system. In the modern game, not much of these nuances of how the class works are communicated to the player when they approach a new class. Passive talents and traits are rolled into the spec without understanding what makes them unique in many situations, or even how some procs or synergies work.

2) Legion Artifact Traits - before the amount of AP given to characters skyrocketed via Artifact Knowledge, the player was given a series of decisions of which Artifact Trait paths they’d like to pursue based on what augmented abilities / aspects of the character interested them most. In the early stages of Legion, this gradual process informed the player via their choices on how the Artifact was enhancing their capabilities and the player could feel a gradual growth of power amidst that process. After AP was awarded to the player in the millions, and then billions… this process was lost, and players would mostly just click all the traits without reading or understanding what they do. I think that cycle that played out in Legion also highlights point 1 clearly - the contrast between the growing understanding of what your character was capable of via selecting Classic talents vs. all those aspects being just baked into the spec and not really having a core understanding of what makes the class/spec unique.

Solution Concept:
As pictured in the concept mockup, a character will earn their first Trait Point at level 10. They will continue to earn a Trait Point with each level up. Available to them are 3 choices of Traits dependent on their class, with varying ranks. Something akin to the old minor talents like “0/5: Gives a 1/2/3/4/5% chance for your auto-attacks to allow you to use Kerfuffle with no energy cost”, “reduces the cast time of spell by .2 seconds”, or single point traits like “give an additional charge of bear heal” These could be aspects of the class that are currently passives baked in, things designed going forward to inform/encourage correct rotation usage, or things cut from our Artifacts that players enjoyed having.

Upon spending 5 Trait Points, they will also be able to select a traditional talent as we know them in the modern game, selecting 1 of 3 very powerful Talents. These in theory are largely unchanged from the existing Talent system. There will also be alternating entries for Warmode Talents within the system. Traits are different than Talents in that while you’re leveling you’re choosing between what would benefit you most, but at max level you’ll have every trait. Whereas Talents are still a choice of 1/3.

The goal is that by max level (70 in this mockup), the player will have selected every Trait available to their class selected, as there will be 61 in total. This will function the same as the Legion Artifact system at its outset in that during progression it provides gradual growth and understanding of what strengths and abilities are being gained, while not existing as a system that needs to be min/max analyzed like the primary Talent system is. It simply exist to provide the player a series of decisions to make during leveling, while also informing them and giving them a feeling of character progression in a world of normalized, scaling stat values.

Lastly, once a character hits max level, the trait UI is placed somewhere else and they are given the simplified Talent UI like we have now. With all the traits earned and selected, there’s no need to have them constantly visible in the UI, but they will be accessible elsewhere for review.

Also, with this system, it opens up the ability for classes to be given a majority of their abilities early on in their leveling journey, and then use the Traits to grow and expand upon them. Currently, many classes feel bare bones at early levels, with just 2 or so abilities to use. In DIablo 3 for example, a class unlocks many of the abilities quickly, but then they’re expanded on over time via Runes. I think we can give WoW classes more of their skills faster, and then let them build the skills up and learn to utilize them by buffing many of them with Traits.

Feature 2: Level Squish 120 to 60

Fairly straight forward - this provides the opportunity to reduce some of the bloat and leveling period with 0 rewards inherent to a game that’s existed for 14 years. As the developers have stated, continually stacking system upon system can create a mess and is not sustainable for the game if it’s going to survive for another 14 years (does anyone want to level to 190?).

Solution Concept:
Use the opportunity of the next expansion to squish the level 120 neatly and cleanly down to 60. The cap for that expansion will then be 70, and subsequently 80, and 90. Once the cap hits 90, perform another one-third squish back to 60, with 70 again being the cap. Communicate this intention clearly ahead of time and create the expectation of maintaining it going forward. Create fixed ilvl and damage number expectations for each expansion ahead of time that’re tied to these squish values and maintain them. If it means creating code and structure to keep things in check, invest in those for the long term health of the game. The level 90 squish to 60 transition can also be the space where they prune undesired or lackluster Traits and Talents each cycle, instead of us ditching massive amounts of our class feel every single xpac. Let classes evolve naturally by keeping the good that was added and trimming the weaker aspects - instead of just saying “this fun aspect of your class is an expansion feature and will be gone in X.0.” Slight adjustments can be made every xpac as needed, but also a regular, expecting retooling can help that feel gradual over 5+ years.

Furthermore, open up leveling options post-squish, expanding the expansion level brackets to encompass a wider range, allowing people to level where they enjoy the most - having access to zones or expansions that fit their character’s class or race, or the player hasn’t done in a while would be better options than hopping from doing Tundra/Jade/Frostfire/Val’Sharah for the 19th time. Expanding an xpac’s range could means a player could level from say 25-44 by completing all of Wrath of the Lick King’s quests, instead of doing a zone or two and having to abandon it. Creating a wider range of an xpac’s dungeon pool (and not segregating the random queue) means shorter queue times.

Feature 3: Use the Trait system to provide progression in a scaling world

It’s obvious scaling is here to stay. A lot of players communicate that they feel no sense of progression as mobs level with them. Personally, I don’t have an issue with this because even when playing Classic, I was never leveling with the purpose of dunking on mobs lower level than me. I always leveled to have access to a new area where enemies were tuned to give me a good fight. That said, the place I always felt I was gaining ground was via my Skills and Talents in Classic. The difference of my capabilities in a fight against a mob my level at level 20, and a mob my level at level 55 were enormous… I’d have so many more tools at my disposal. Some of that still exists in the game, but other elements have been pruned out or baked into the class’ base power curve.

Solution Concept:
With scaling in place, tie the strength of the mobs to the character’s level and expected gear values they may have, but don’t let scaling account for Traits and Talents gained. This will have the player feel their power grow over the course of leveling and gradually give them the edge over mobs. Players will have visual feedback from selecting their Traits and Talents themselves and understand how the class is progressing firsthand, and then they’ll be able to feel it as those enhancements make an impact on enemies that do not account for those gradual power gains.

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