Ding, level 85! (And Why I Now Feel Empty Inside)

WoW Level 85

Ding, level 85. A brief moment of satisfaction followed by hours of melancholy.

Approximately three weeks after the release of Cataclysm I’ve hit level 85 with my Warrior. Not exactly fast paced when you consider some psycho did it in the small window between the expansion releasing the Europe and America but, well, it suited me fine. I’ve had a nice three weeks of gently skipping through the levels and taking my time over it. Granted, I did a lot of PvP which isn’t particularly good for experience, played a new Worgen alt a bit and generally faffed around a lot but I was happy with my rate of progression.

Unfortunately though, instead of feeling satisfied or elated or even relieved, I feel kinda empty inside, just like Churchill did at the end of the Second World War (yes, I did just compare WoW, a video game, to the horrible suffering of WW2) or a kid who’s finally discovered that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Hitting the level cap in MMOs has that affect on me and leaves me feeling unsatisfied and somewhat hollow. What’s left other than the repetitive grind for reputation and the tedious trawl up the itemisation ladder, followed by the bickering and childish romping that can only be raiding? Hmm, delightful.

I like games on rails (I think there’s something therapeutic about them) and I’m by no means a snob who insists that anything other than sandbox or hardcore MMOs are only for care bears and girls. For me, though, the fun comes from the sense of progression that one gets by moving up the leveling ladder, the backbone architecture of any online themepark RPG, and once that is removed then there doesn’t seem to be much of a game left, at least not in any sense that I acknowledge. They transition from a leveling game into a raiding game and I find that quite jarring. In many ways, I would’ve just preferred to hit level 85, see a nice big fuck off thank you message appear on the screen, followed by a cut scene and rolling credits. Boom. Game over. Thank you. Well done. Pats on the back all around.

The concept of the raiding end game in MMOs has always struck me as kinda weird. I know some people love it and see it as the primary point of it all which is fine and dandy (each to their own and all that) but personally I don’t get it. I’ve played the game, I’ve gained my levels and abilities, I’ve gone through all of the content, why can’t I just do a final dungeon, slay Deathwing and what not and then be done with it all?

The cynic in me considers the grind of itemisation and reputation (in order to get better items) a really cheap timesink. Blizzard, as much as I love them, have definitely found a clever way to keep people hooked in for longer by forcing them to step through the gated content of the end game. Contrary to what you might expect by actually achieving the last level in the game, it’s really just the beginning of a long haul grind. You need to acquire a certain item level in order to do heroic dungeons (the same ones as before only harder) and then keep running through them until you’re item level is finally good even to attempt raids. Oh and then there’s heroic raids after that. It never ends.

Which is a good thing, I guess, for the majority of players and, like I said, a very clever way for Blizzard to create a huge amount of content to keep their player base satisfied for a long period of time. For me though, staring down the barrel of that path of progression makes me shudder and wonder as to the point of it all. Couldn’t the expansion have added an extra 10 levels and done away the concept of heroics completely? Why have this strange split of gameplay at the “end” of the game anyway? And why can’t I get that wonderful feeling of satisfaction and achievement that I’m aching for, dammit?!

Big, important questions for sure. I’m happy enough for the time being though and have been enjoying the Warcraft expansion immensely. Even if I don’t want to go down the itemisation progression route I’m still enjoying PvP battlegrounds with my Warrior and will continue with that for a while. Plus then there’s always the alts I want to level up through the new content I haven’t explored yet.

Still, I feel a slight tear welling up in my eye as I recognise now that my time with WoW is finite and will, eventually, come to an end.

And on another, completely unrelated point, anyone know the release date of Star Wars: The Old Republic?

-Gordon

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41 Comments

  1. Yeah, interesting how we posted similar stories on the same day. GET OUT OF MY HEAD, GORDON!

    I did enjoy WoW in the past, but I think that you’re probably joining the ranks of us that are looking for a bit more in your MMO. Maybe eventually this group will hit a critical mass, and the game lucky enough to have a big launch right around then will hit it big.

  2. Klepsacovic says:

    I also felt a bit empty after I hit 85. Suddenly mining, archaeology, and quite a few quests had been downgraded. XP? No. No more. I don’t have much need for gold, so I can’t quite enjoy mining much anymore. But rep grinds, gear grinds, instance grinds, guild rep grinds… grinds grinds grinds. It doesn’t help that my perceptions have gotten completely fucked by LK heroics. I used to think a five hour BRD was great. Now I’m turned off by the thought that a heroic would take more than half an hour. Maybe it doesn’t help that if guildies aren’t on I’m thrown in with total strangers who I’ll never meet again.

  3. rowan says:

    This.

    Why oh why do certain gamers (and devs) think that “Tthe game doesn’t even start until the end-game content”? How is doing the same content over and over (only a bit harder these next 100 times) better than seeing new stuff you’ve not experienced before, learning new abilities, and generally becoming more badass? And no, getting that über helmet or sword doesn’t make you or your toon more badass, especially in the not-so-old days when getting THE BEST gear was essentially a slot-machine style game of chance.

    • Epiny says:

      Gear progression is the new form of character progression, levels are just a formality in my opinon. And those certain gamers (and devs) seem to be tha majority of the consumers.

      I honestly don’t see why having you focus on raising your item level rather than your character level is a bad thing, it’s still a form of character progression. Levels are levels. Lets look at Warhammer for a second, they have two sets of level not counting gear teirs. How is that different then emphasizing an item level? I honestly don’t think it’s any different.

      Leveling as the focus of the game went away years ago. While EverQuest was amazing the grind of leveling is one of the reasons that it had at best 5% of the players WoW has. Gear progression provides an infinite ceiling for character progression, while character levels always has an end… or atleast currently. You have to consider the physicology of it too. How many people would be turned off from a game that had infinite levels? Even WoW with 85 levels seem a bit much for a new gamer. They have to crawl 85 levels to reach the end.

      Just because you dislike a system doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable and good system, it just means it’s not for you.

      • Gordon says:

        I don’t necessarily dislike it, I just find it a bit… strange. I mean the game switches from one system to another. It’s like you spend several days of man hours getting to the “final” level only to discover that there’s then a meta game of itemisation awaiting you. Isn’t that a little odd? I would actually like to slow down the rate of progression and take longer getting to the final level and then complete the game when I arrived there.

        I take your point that it’s my personal preference and opinion though :) To each their own!

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, I’m not a fan of the end level grind and the more I do it, the less I like it. I kinda just wish the game would end :(

  4. I’m with you there. I’ve lost the taste for end game in WoW, and really, the most enjoyable part of the game was always the leveling for me. I guess you can say I live for the journey, not the destination. Now I’m just filling my time finishing the quests in the new areas, and maybe I’ll work on my professions a little. Or maybe I’ll start a new journey with another character, I still have my worgen priest after all :)

    • Gordon says:

      My problem is that I still really like my Warrior. In a way, I wish I could just keep leveling him (or start again or something). I don’t want to grind for items any more with him :(

      Think I’ll just focus on an alt :P

  5. Arbitrary says:

    Since I got to 85 yesterday (yes, we all seem strangely in synch!) I’ve dabbled with archaeology and switched professions so started a new one from scratch, done a couple of normal dungeons and then looked at one of the new PvP battlegrounds. I’ve been asked if I’ll be gearing up to raid (I server and faction switched to join my sister’s big and very overwhelming but friendly guild), and I just said ‘it’ll happen, if it happens’. Unlike in LotRO they don’t NEED me to be able to raid, so I’m much more chilled about it. I’ve never really raided in WoW (I left pre-BC and only came back around a year ago and took a year to get to 80 peppered with dropping the game every month or so to go play LotRO!).

    I’d like to see some of the new raids, I’d like to see the dungeons on heroic. But I can probably do that over the course of the next few months with an hour or two every couple of days. I don’t feel I’ve failed if I no longer do the 5-6h sessions I once did in MMOs… but it’s taken me the last year and a growing hatred of LotRO raiding to give me this new outlook on life!

  6. amcl says:

    Well done! Now get all your alts to lvl 85!

  7. Luke says:

    GZ, Gordon! one day I ll get my bloody paladin 85 too,

    agreed to Klepsacovic’s.. I much more preferred 5hours in instance with a friends that I know than 15-20 minutes with some guys that are living because “Tank you’re fu.. noob”

    where are this days when you could say.. “Friends we suck” and have a laugh about that… eh.. :)

  8. Paul says:

    End game in Cata seems to be a big step down from WotLK. I think it’s interesting that so many people are leveling alts so early in the expansion.

    I don’t expect Cata to age very well at all. I’ve already canceled, and I’m seeing a growing wave of gamequits from others.

  9. Vads says:

    Well.. there wasn’t that much to do at 80 initially after wrath released either was there? That said I find myself bored as well already a few days after 85, the rep and gear grind has very little appeal to me.

    I greatly enjoyed the journey to 85 though so there’s always the levelling of alts to do. :)

  10. Shadow says:

    I’ve said it all along, WoW eats souls. The only variation is the rate.

    :)

    Grats on beating the game!

  11. Bronte says:

    About damn time Gordon!

    And yes, SW:TOR will be released on 11/11/2011.

    Maybe.

  12. pkudude99 says:

    I hit the same “wall” in EQ2 back in August or so after I got a 3rd toon to level 90. I enjoyed running the dungeons and such, but my main’s an extremely-wanted support class (with decent dps) and I ran them often enough that I was geared up on that toon and I geared up my tank from passing heirloom item wins through the bank. At that point I still enjoyed doing the dungeons, but the only real reason to do them anymore was to grind out marks to use to buy other decent gear that might or might not be an upgrade over the drops I already had.

    Here’s how I’ve been dealing with it in the last few months. Yeah, it’s an alt, but an alt that I’ve been completely futzing around with, trying to run through and see as much in the game that I’ve not seen before, and believe me. . . there’s a ton I’ve seen already, and a ton more to go. I’ve been surprised at the depth of the crafting quests and am actually fairly close to maxing out my crafter levels on that toon now. Currently level 85 and we’re in a double-xp time period. I think I’ll bang out the last 5 levels tonight just ‘cuz I can. then I may just work on my crafting epic quest. . . . .

  13. RPGTITLES says:

    We felt the same way here. The only thing I would like to see is maybe some guild cities in which gives a constant reason for guilds to try to progress and build something together. Maybe eventually guild sieging of each other’s cities.

  14. Bhagpuss says:

    I agree that the game IS levelling and once you have levelled everything else tends to seem a bit hollow. I certainly never bother with the “end game” if that is raiding or heroic/daily/rep gear grinding.

    In any game I enjoy, though, the first character to get to max level is just the warm-up act. It’s all the characters that follow that provide the bulk of the entertainment. I don’t have alts, I just have characters, and in an MMO I really like I’ll have anything from half a dozen to fifty or so characters over the years I play.

    I’d actually like MMOs to feature both a lot more levels and much faster levelling. 100 levels at launch and a flat average progress rate of two levels a day would be about right.

  15. slowthought says:

    Clearly, you want a sandbox WoW.

  16. TheWarlock says:

    No level cap, means endless enjoyment right?

    The answer to that question is up to you……. (my answer would be no, I enjoy a level cap being there it gives me a goal to set myself to.)

    PS. I changed my name to TheWarlock
    PPS. I have decided the warlock over the mage :D

  17. TheWarlock says:

    By the way if the game were endless then it would be fun for only a while until you become unmotivated to go on as there would be nothing to reach.

    And the end game content is pretty fun too, I am a Dungeon/Raid freak, so I am having a blast. :)

    • Gordon says:

      I’m a PvP fan but unfortunately there’s only far I can go with that plus it’s impossible to find a decent PvP guild on my server :(

      • The Necromancer says:

        For some reason I just hate PvP not only do I suck at it, the victory is a very hollow one for me.

        The fulfillment I get from leveling and Dungeon/Raiding is what drives me to do more.

        You should find something of equal interest in an MMO in order to play passionately, if it is your true hobby. (eg. Staging Warhammer battles is my hobby)

  18. TheWarlock says:

    Some people are PvP people, some are Dungeon/Raid people (such as myself), and some are just people who dwell in the world of questing and leveling.

    MMOs are different things for different people for me it is going through the levels and content slow and easy, slowly progressing and playing some dungeons in between. In the end game I continue the dungeons and move on to Heroic then Raids (the usual procedure) and I find it fun. If you were to ask me to stop there just as I got to point where dungeons and raids are the prime focus, I would get disappointed the game would have less meaning if it did not have dungeons and raids. Ask me to walk the PvP path, and I would dread trying to fight in battlegrounds and arenas and dying miserably :( . So you see the game means different things for different people.

  19. Jomu says:

    my alt-aholism causes me not to always experience end game content; I love the path you take to get to the end and am usually disappointed that there are significantly less things to do when you hit the cap

    • Gordon says:

      I’d just like to get a sense of closure at the end. Instead it just seems to be another meta game of progression. It never end :(

      • Tesh says:

        Exactly. I maintain that’s the inevitable effect that subscriptions have on games. The whole point is to bleed people dry by making them play as long as possible.

        Or, a corollary: A subscription game will never have an end. That would mean cutting off the money spigot, and that’s just not going to happen.

        • The Necromancer says:

          I think that it would be interesting to see an MMO with no level cap, you could play forever (and ever and ever and……….) it just wouldn’t stop.

          I wonder would that be any more fun than actually having a level cap? or would it cause more harm than good? Don’t Know have any answers for me?

  20. [...] most people agree that levelling up World of Warcraft can feel empty while being very compelling. Again speaking about Logos Quiz, Kellaway hit it perfectly. [...]

  21. [...] most people agree that levelling up World of Warcraft can feel empty while being very compelling. Again speaking about Logos Quiz, Kellaway hit it perfectly. [...]

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