I’ve just read Grumpy Elf’s post on leveling speed in WoW and the real problems this could pose to new players. The post talks a lot about the problem of super-fast leveling speed. Summarising it very roughly:
- Not enough time to learn abilities properly
- Rushed through stories – so you’re not likely to feel as attached to your character
- Very hard to level professions without the money to power level them from the Auction House
- Cross realm zones have made gathering over competitive, new players will not know the tricks and hidden areas to avoid this problem
- The LFD system is very new player unfriendly
I would add to this that I’ve experienced first-hand the issues caused by ‘joining the party late’ in other mature MMOs. LoTRO and DDO spring to mind since they were the two games I joined as a subscriber and not during a Free to Play conversion. You are generally very alone in most of the earlier content zones at least from a ‘group up to do quest’ perspective. I’ve also seen that most of these more mature games have terribly overpriced auction houses (or equivalent).
I think in WoW a new player can possibly get along fine by delaying the learning of the games systems, the game is so easy from level 10 – 80 that it’s hard to fail. Yes, you’ll probably die by falling or afk’ing or pulling too many mobs at some point - but that hardly matters once you get past the first couple of zones. But will anyone actually enjoy such a confused, yet unchallenging journey?
Here is one instance of where a Free to Play option for a MMO can make a positive difference – you tend to have a steady stream of new players coming and going given the low cost of entry. That’s not the case in my experience with subscription games (e.g. DDO and LoTRO before they converted). I was a real odd-one-out in both games when I joined it, most players I met were shocked to meet a real new player!