A recent leak of a new survey sent out to World of Warcraft players suggests that the developer behind the wildly popular MMO might be about to do something drastic. According to a rumor posted in various places online, gamers in this particular MMORPG are about to find their characters maximum level permanently reduced in an upcoming patch.
This perception of an incoming major nerf, which would also significantly alter the top tier of raiding and PvP, is based on the wording within the survey that’s being circulated. The survey question doesn’t just ask players how they feel about the ‘level squish’, but rather asks if they were aware that it is coming, despite the fact that no such plan has been confirmed or even hinted at by Blizzard.
Naturally, this has the wider gaming industry and fans of World of Warcraft wondering what’s actually about to happen. And no one seems to be quite sure what the plan actually is, or what it could mean for the endgame elements of WoW.
Such a change as a max level reduction communicates a lot of potential problems that the developer is trying to solve, and likely could introduce a whole host of new issues with balance. No one who plays World of Warcraft in the modern era can deny the influence of power creep on the game. Even the process of leveling a new toon has been drastically altered by the slow and steady influences of hyper-inflation and power creep that have only gotten more pronounced as new content has entered the lands of Azeroth and beyond.
The current maximum level for any player is 120, and the wording of the survey suggests that the level after this potential lowering would be “dramatically lower”, although an exact figure is not given. And apparently, Blizzard has been toying with this idea for some time as means of dealing with other issues.
As game director Ion Hazzikostas put it during in a developer Q&A last year:
“It’s something we’ve genuinely discussed and considered because, yes, it’s daunting for a brand new player who’s reading about the game, who’s hearing about it from a friend who is like, ‘I have to do how many levels before I can come do the new thing with you?’ And even though the levels take this fixed amount of time and it’s not this months-long journey to get to max level, it still feels like a really big number and it also means in practice you probably do go more levels than you probably should between getting new abilities and getting new talents. A lot of those problems could be alleviated by simply squishing levels as a whole.”
The reasoning sounds valid, but some players aren’t so sure that this is the ideal solution. If you want to make leveling less daunting or boring, the solution of making it take less time is a good start, but more work is needed. If leveling is still tedious or doesn’t feel rewarding because power creep has made new players feel substantially weaker, that’s an issue. It seems like Blizzard will have to commit to rebalancing both the overall skill structure to balance things out, but also tweak the influence leveling gear plays on the process.
If for one will be very interested to see how they handle this whole idea in the future.