Reading about Stubborn’s super fast leveling of a Pandarian monk alt in World of Warcraft I was suddenly struck with the (doubtless unoriginal) thought that the desired, optional, super fast leveling in the game may well be linked to one of the reasons behind the severe simplification of character customisation in the game.
Since I can do quests in dungeons almost every time, I can easily net a level and often two per dungeon, so if I stop in between a round number (20/30/40 etc), I can often get 2 hours of monk +50% xp per day for a total of 2 hours of +105% experience. Plus, of course, any rested bonus I’ve accrued. That’s… nuts. Just nuts.
Up until the Cataclysm era, character customisation was generally becoming more complex each time the level cap was increased by an expansion. Then in Cataclysm the talent trees for each class were truncated and your character generally received a point every other level after level 10. Then with Pandaria this was further reduced down to the current six rows of talents from which you chose six to be active.
It seems that Blizzard these days wants as many players as possible at the endgame, some would say ‘real’ game of World of Warcraft, raiding (or PVP). Leveling is still perfectly valid, if rather easy, content for those that have no interest in either endgame activity. But there are several options, all stackable, to speed up the process even if you do not buy an instant level 90. I’ve experienced in some other MMOs how perplexing character customisation can be if it is poorly explained (which in most MMOs it is). So if you’re leveling super fast like Stubborn’s monk then at least as the levels zoom by you’ve little choices to rush and a relatively slow pace of learning for new abilities (since there are much fewer nowadays and there are no spell ranks to deal with). The game’s streamlined systems take the ‘stress’ or at least the decision-making out of leveling.
It’s an interesting contrast to my recent first impressions of Star Trek Online, a game which really needs a more in-depth tutorial of how on earth you are supposed to interpret all the many complex and distinct systems. Character customisation, bridge-officer customisation, starship modules and items – it’s all rather confusing and the poorly worded tooltips on some items (especially weapons you receive in the first few levels) faces the new player with a much steeper learning curve.