Monday, May 2, 2011


After running through the Rise of the Zandalari quest chain on Aeth, I found myself a bit distracted. While everyone else has been assaulting Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub, Aeth, Laen, and my other toons have been sitting more or less idle while I took Aretae on a tour of Azeroth.

Last Monday, he was level 35.

As of last night, he's level 60.

Total play time: about 25 hours.


He's got +35% to XP from heirloom items, +10% from guild perks, for a total of +45% experience... and that's before counting in the advantage of rested experience gains.

Heirloom items with decent enchantments means that he can hack through just about any mobs that might get in his way. Last night, in Hellfire Peninsula, as a level 58 rogue, I was able to survive several encounters with 2-3 level 60+ mobs. It wasn't pretty, and at times I ended the fight on the ragged end with only a few hundred health, but it was certainly doable.

While leveling him, it was a real struggle to keep him in level-appropriate zones. He was gaining experience so quickly that I think the only zones he actually completed were the Searing Gorge and Burning Steppes quest lines. Those really only got completed because it was easier to do the final few quests rather than to move on to the next zone. In most cases, as soon as the quests in a zone turned green, I abandoned them and left for the next most difficult zone I could find.

My only complaint through this process is that I wish Blizzard would lower the "required level" for a lot of quests. At one point, I left the Burning Steppes to hit the Swamp of Sorrows, thinking "Well, if I can go through level-appropriate mobs like a hot knife through butter, I obviously need more challenging opponents." Turns out that the Swamp had plenty of XP for a budding herbalist, thank you very much, but aside from that... nada. At level 50, I was just shy of being able to accept any quests in the zone. So I did some herbing, returned to the Steppes to complete the quests there, and then pretty much ignored the Swamp except for a brief stop-over on my way to the Blasted Lands.

Level 58 to 60 were done in Hellfire Peninsula, where - thankfully! - you can still get a decent challenge. The mobs were tough, but not too tough, and plentiful enough that it felt dangerous. I think I used Vanish to extricate myself from sticky situations more often last night than I did during the entirety of the leveling process up to 58. I also found myself routinely using cooldowns that were afterthoughts at best in the Old World content.

Another thing that I found refreshing about Outland is that the quests chains are much, much, much less linear than the new Old World content. The "I know where all the quests are, run around and pick up everything, then circle the map slaughtering everything that moves" strategy still works quite well here.

Which gave me pause. There's a real difference in questing from BC to Wrath to Cata. Personally, I think that I'm leaning towards the idea that Wrath questing (minus the phasing snafus) was the most successful model. We'll see how things work out with the Firelands in 4.2, where it looks like Blizzard is trying to take some of the best questing elements of BC, Wrath and Cata and mix them all together in a (hopefully!) wonderful stew.

I'm thinking about putting together some quest graphs for a few zones, similar to what Cynwise did for battlegrounds - an abstract representation of quests, and how they relate to one another. I suspect that BC zones will show a quest graph like an aromatic ring structure - lots of core quest hubs immediately available, with short chains leading off of them. In Wrath zones, I'd expect something similar, except with the occasional "side chain" from one hub leading off to and opening up another. Cata zones feel like they would end up being a single long chain of linked quests, with short stubs of "side quests' here and there.

I'm interested in seeing how many "join points" there are in quest chains. There are a few that I know of - mostly breadcrumb quests in BC and Wrath, that occur at the end of other quest chains and point you towards another hub. You can get those quests before you get the breadcrumbs, though, so while they're "linked" in a way, the link isn't a strong one. So instead of a linear march through content, you end up with a web of quests, which gives you the ability to pick your way through the content in a way that's suitable to you.

I'm going to have to think on this a bit more. It's an interesting problem - how do you tell a story in a non-linear fashion? Hmm. More to follow, unless, you know, I get distracted again.

Music Monday: "Run Away", by The Hollow, who have an interesting 3 Doors Down sort of sound to them. Bonus points to you if you can explain the relationship between the band and SF/Horror writer F. Paul Wilson...

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