Max level does not mean Skilled

(Related post: Raiding does not mean Skilled)

World of Warcraft, and every game like it, is really two different games. I first read this thought at Penny Arcade (can't find where because their search function is weak). Basically, you have the levelling game where you start at L1 and then play until max level (currently L70), and then the game that happens after the levelling game, which is filled with group activities of all sorts as you improve your max level character.

Which brings me to another iconic player, Lisa. I'm sure that all of you have met her before:

"I'm max level! I couldn't have gotten here unless I knew something about my class. Let me tell you about why…"

"…my retribution paladin has a lot of defense."

"…my hunter has a lot of spell damage."

"…my holy priest only uses flash heal."

"…my warrior tanks with a two-handed weapon." (Note: reroll deathknight in a few months)

"…my mage loves to wand."

Lisa feels like she knows what's what, because all these super-raiding-types she sees in the common cities? They're the same level as she is. Aside from their zomgepics, there's no visual indicator that what they've done is any different than what she's done… in her mind. And frankly, since anyone can get zomgepics in battlegrounds, even that is less of a clue than it once was.

The problem is that hitting maximum level in one of these grinding-type games has absolutely no relation to knowing anything about the game and how to play it. All it means is that you have been dedicated and persistent, and hopefully had fun along the way. Especially in World of Warcraft, the game is extremely forgiving and easy to solo play.

There's no smooth transition between the first game (levelling/solo play) and the second game (endgame/group play). I've read a lot of intelligent suggestions on how to bridge that gap, but the reality is that as long as Blizzard sticks with their design choice of letting anyone get to maximum level, with no intermediate checks along the way relating to their skill of play, then the vast majority of players are going to go the easiest way possible, because people are fond of success. Also, Blizzard is fond of money, and this super-casual crowd is a decent chunk of their base.

When a hunter can level to max level by using only melee weapons and never once firing a ranged weapon… don't get me wrong, I think that what Gweryc did is cool. He deliberately made the game challenging in the levelling process, which is an interesting turnabout for a hunter. What makes Gweryc notable is not that that he did it, it's that he did it on purpose.

There are thousands of people making those same against-the-grain choices but not understanding that they're doing so. I usually find them waiting for a battleground to begin, wondering aloud if their 20-game losing streak is ever going to end, and silently weeping for the 15-45 minutes I'm about to waste in the upcoming losing effort.

What makes Lisa so annoying isn't that she's max level, it's that she doesn't understand the difference between the levelling game and the endgame. She doesn't understand that there's more knowledge to be attained, so she dismisses any advice or criticism out of hand. After all, she's been to the zones, done the quests and gotten the quest rewards, same as you. She doesn't care or even really think about the fact she skipped every group quest and every instance.

You: "Hey Lisa the pally, what's the cooldown on Divine Intervention?"

Lisa: "Divine Intervention?"

You: "Yeah, it's a spell I heard about that you have."

Lisa: "O rly? Let me check my spellbook."

(time passes)

Lisa: "Pssh, I've never seen this spell before."

Actually, she did. Lisa just instantly dismissed it when she saw that it killed her to cast it… which is opposite of the whole point of the game when you're solo'ing. What possible use could it have?

Max level isn't even a hint.

More Words!