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!