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The False Equality of Leveling Options

April 19, 2013

Dear Reader,

As you may remember, I leveled a lot of characters during Cataclysm, and I’m leveling a few more now.  I leveled through traditional questing, through dungeons, and through PvP.  I had an inkling then about the problems that come from various types of leveling, but it only struck me this past week precisely where the problem lies.  It lies in the most common problem in most relationships: money.

We all already knew about the inequality of time in leveling: it’s far, far faster to level in quests or dungeons – or even to some extent PvP (though it slows down a lot at higher levels) than through gathering, archaeology, or pet battling (after the hotfix).  That inequality, though, is somewhat of a given; if you’re looking for an “alternative” leveling path, you know you’re going to be sacrificing efficiency for diversity.  The money, though, can be a bit of a surprise.

I struggled leveling Palmetto, my rogue, through PvP because I couldn’t afford some of the basic things I needed to stay viable in the bgs.  I needed better gear at certain level brackets (BC gear at 68, etc), certain enchantments and gems at higher brackets.  I simply did not have the money for even one of those things, let alone the amount I’d need to switch from one pvp set to another.  You don’t make money in PvP, so you’re either forced to follow another parallel leveling path or be unable to afford what could be considered the basics of your leveling style.  I ended up from Wrath on questing the first few levels of each bracket and PvPing the last few levels.  It’s not what I wanted.

Quests and gathering give by far the most money.  Dungeon-only leveling isn’t bad, as I could usually afford the basics, but not much more.  PvP and pet battling, though, are simply not economically valid ways to level.

Sure, there are a lot of halfway-valid counterarguments.  Sure, you can go do a few quests every few levels, or do some gathering every few levels and sell your products.  Sure, everyone can play the auction house and make money if you put in enough time and effort.  Here’s the thing, though; if I’m looking for alternative leveling options, I really don’t want to sacrifice even more time just trying to get the gear I need to survive (my level 76 Dk still has some starting pieces, even having done dungeons almost exclusively since 60) or have to learn an entire AH metagame just to level an alt.

So I feel there needs to be some more financial equality between the leveling options.  I want to level just doing pet battles and exploring; that sounds like a lot of fun to me.  However, it won’t make me a cent in a game where you have to maintain a certain gearing level just to survive long enough to find pets to battle against.

So in the end, the genre that grew up around the idea of questing is still pretty heavily reliant on questing for financial gain.  There’s no real surprise there, I suppose, but hopefully we’ll see some evolution soon.  So how about it?  Can we get some financial rewards for alternative leveling options, please?


Stubborn (and broke on his DK)

23 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2013 8:51 am

    I really can’t agree with you on this one. The alternative leveling experience, in WoW, is really not intended for the first character on a server. Money, reputation, craft skills, and probably several other things, aren’t going to be worked if you live in the instance content.

    For my cross-server alts I always make the first character a double gatherer and normally a Hunter. Easy, fast leveling with not much in the way of expenses. It does add a few weeks to the process but it establishes a character with a solid gold store and the ability to quickly get more in support of the others. Not close to perfect but it seems to be working as intended.

    I would like to hear how you would equalize the experience. It can’t be as simple as capture rewards for pet battles or BG wins. That would only create inflation as the supply of gold starts to exceed the supply of goods and put you basically back to the beginning.

    • April 19, 2013 9:12 am

      I’m sure we’ve talked about server hopping before, but keep in mind this is my… 5th, now, server. The DK is my 11th character I hope to play to at least near end game. I don’t have it in me any more to power level through zones. I find double gathering painfully boring, as I’ve done that over and over, too. I went inscription, which has been surprisingly cheap – I haven’t had to pay a cent for AH goods, and yet I’m still broke simply from having to purchase gear on the AH to continue being able to tank instances. As I pointed out, I still have starting Dk gear.

      I’m looking for a little variety in my play experience. In a game as diverse as WoW, there are plenty of suggested options for that diversity. If my end goal is the same, though, to have a viable tank to do end-game material with, then I have to be able to afford some basic necessities, and the only way to do that is through the traditional leveling paths – as you point out, quests and double gathering.

      So while I understand your point, which essentially reads “you’re doing it wrong for a new server,” and I agree – I am doing it wrong – my point is that there doesn’t have to be a “right” and “wrong” way to do it. PvP is a particularly challenging way to level (assuming you actually try), and to have virtually no financial reward is silly. Pet battling, too, should have some financial reward, even if it would just be a chance to vendor captured pets to pet trainers or something.

      I disagree that it’s going to cause any more inflation than already exists; every leveling player could just go quest, too, which would do precisely the same thing. Every game reward creates new money from thin air, so inflation is a permanent fact in the game.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • April 19, 2013 10:06 am

      Ok, I think that we agree that WoW has a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to level characters on a new server. The point of contention is how to add variety to that process.

      Inflation is simple economics. The more people out questing, the more desirable items hit the AH and fewer people want to buy those items as they have drops or rewards gained in the process. Add gold to activities that do not currently currently generate income and you have more gold for the current supply of goods. That will cause inflation and a reaction as more people start looking for items to place on the AH to take advantage of higher prices. There will be adjustment but my expectation would be increasing prices as the supply of gold continues to outpace the supply of goods.

      Obviously I’m only thinking of the player economy, weak as it is. The fixed price items (riding, flying, whatever) will deflate as the gold in the economy increases.

      I’m very open to alternatives, I just don’t see many that are consistent with the Blizzard mantra that most PvE good should be random drops and not token purchases.

    • April 19, 2013 7:32 pm

      I’m just pointing out that even more gold is pushed in by questing, so a small change to the other categories wouldn’t make any great waves. The nature is inflation and gold dumps. That’s MMOs.


    • April 19, 2013 7:32 pm

      “Add gold to activities that do not currently currently generate income and you have more gold for the current supply of goods.”

      The sort-of-flaw in that logic would be the assumption that we can do more than one thing at the same time.

      For example, let’s say dungeons gave 10g and battlegrounds gave 0g. A person could run dungeons and get 10g to put into the economy, or battlegrounds and get 0g.

      Now what if battlegrounds gave 10g? Do we suddenly have 20g in the economy?

      No, because we can still only do one or the other at a time.

      If battlegrounds and dungeons were both balanced to give the same g for the same amount of time on average, all that will change is that a pvp’er isn’t broke.

      It’s not that cut and clean, since some people currently level a TON in only pvp with alts, and they get money from their mains. From there, money would enter the economy as the alts suddenly became a source of income. Prices could inflate, which is bad for everyone, but it’s still fair. And I don’t think the inflation would be all that large. It’s not like a person gets rich leveling 1-90 in dungeons.

      As for level capped characters getting gold for pvp, that just means they don’t have to go to dungeons/dailies anymore to get their gold, and fairness is increased.

      After all, how many questers/dungeoners/raiders are forced into battlegrounds for any reason?

      Only pet battlers and pvp’ers have to play in ways they might not feel like in order to satisfy the same needs.

    • Falrei permalink
      April 20, 2013 10:12 am

      I’m not sure there is a flaw in his arguement.

      If you do PvP exclusively, you do not generate gold from the activity; but you ALSO don’t ever generate items that other people can benefit from. You earn personal tokens to buy personal equipment. I believe the designers didn’t allow BGs to give out money because there’s no need for it TO give out money.

      Thus, what Rimecat is saying is: people that do questing earn gold and they earn items, some of which they put in the auction house to sell for even more money. Oftentimes this is because said found item doesn’t benefit them – but it could benefit someone else. PvP doesn’t earn gold because it doesn’t generate items that need to be sold (there are some rare exceptions to this mantra, or they were at least when I last played in Cata!). If people DID earn money from PvPing, then not only are they earning tokens that only go to benefit themselves, but they also earn gold which is used to buy the items that Quest Player is putting in the auction house – all the while they have yet to contribute anything for anyone else’s benefit. That WOULD cause inflation. And I don’t think it’s particularly fair since now PvPers are getting twice the reward for the same effort as the quester.

      I think people should be happy that you can even level through PvP nowadays and that it’s even a somewhat valid way to progress your character. I’m also glad that the game doesn’t push people to PvP that don’t want to.

  2. April 19, 2013 10:15 am

    You want to make some gold from pet battles?

    Step 1: Buy L1 pet on existing server where you have a bit of gold
    Step 2: Level pet on new server where you don’t
    Step 3: Sell pet at more than it would have been worth at L1

    I don’t do pet battles but this seems pretty obvious to me…

    To respond to your response to rimecat in terms of right and wrong, I think you’re missing the larger point… there’s no right and wrong, but there are many activities in game that generate gold and a very select few that don’t and it sounds a lot like you’re intentionally avoiding any activities that do. That’s a valid choice of how to spend your time, sure, but it’s unfair to then turn around and complain that it’s leaving you broke. Pretty much anything in the game can be monetized in some way unless you specifically avoid it at which point I’d say it’s working exactly as intended. Blizzard needs to offer some way for a player wanting to RP a lonely broke character on a distant server to actually spend their time in-game… apparently it’s PvP, by taking out their lonely broke angst on opposing faction members while remaining broke. Remember that the next time you’re in a BG and encounter a player like that, with crappy gear and a bad attitude… probably just RPing.

    • April 19, 2013 7:31 pm

      My Tae Kwon Do instructor from when I was a teenager was named Ray Smith. I suppose it’s a somewhat common name, but still, I smiled to see it again.

      Actually, all your other sarcasm aside, that’s a plan I hadn’t considered, and reflecting on it, I really don’t know why. I previously sold a level 20 phoenix hatchling for several thousand, but it was so long ago now that it hadn’t occurred to me. So all your other somewhat sardonic comments aside, thank you!

      Beyond the thanks, though, let me respond to some of your other points. I am avoiding more traditional leveling paths and trying out others, which are presented as equally viable if you’re willing to give up the xp efficiency. And they are, if you also have no plans to do anything but pet battle forever, which requires no gold. However, realistically, most people get to cap and do other things. I’m simply pointing out the inaccuracy of the idea that there are multiple ways to level. There are, sure, different ways to get xp, but in the end, you must have the gold needed to survive, and some things provide a lot more than others. This could, perhaps, be countered by good market ideas like yours, but in situations like PvP, which I think you misrepresent here (though not entirely, but certainly in some cases) there’s just no reason for there not to be an equal financial reward to questing.

      Regardless, thanks for the suggestion; I’ll give it a go!

    • April 22, 2013 1:19 pm

      Huh – that was an almost entirely sarcasm-free comment, my first two drafts were much drippier in that regard and I nixed them both as being a bit unfair from someone who isn’t a regular commenter (usual “tone difficult to read in print” rules apply even moreso with a lack of familarity). My RP comment was meant to be semi-sarcastic but only semi, my main server is an RP server so I have some sympathy for those who try to RP in group content (I gather it normally doesn’t go well) and I figured the thought of the next asshat you run into in a BG being an RPer might make him a bit more tolerable. He’s not an asshat, he’s just playing one in a BG. I’ll grant you acerbic, though, I was intending to be blunt in my “working as intended” comment.

      I guess I just don’t think there was ever any implication of equality between the various leveling options. All of them, including questing, have issues when viewed in isolation. You don’t get rich questing, either, at least while in the leveling brackets.

      Pets are the server arbitrage item of choice (not sure there are any others, though, so that’s a short list) since they went account-wide and span all of your servers in the region. I have pets that won’t even sell for 50s (that’s silver) on one server that WILL sell for 200g on another. I wouldn’t say I’ve made a killing on that market, takes more effort than the ones I usually pay attention to, but especially for my overstocked pets (I had 10+ of a lot of pets when the consolidation happened), I’ll check prices on all my servers before deciding where to sell them. In the case where the prices are similar I’ll just sell them on whatever server could use the funds most or where they’ll sell fastest. That’s aside from leveled pets, of course, I’m talking base level pets. This is also a quick and easy way to get a bit of gold to a toon on a new server to get up and running, even if all you do is buy vendor pets on an existing server and sell them on the new server you’re only taking a 5% hit in the process. Pro tip: look for vendor pets either in awkward locations or that are stuck behind older reputations that new players probably won’t have or bother getting that can be caged and that you have access to from earlier expansions.

    • April 22, 2013 3:59 pm

      As you say, prosody is lost in text, so if I interpreted your comment as more sarcastic than you meant it, perhaps I was viewing the whole in the same tone as the one or two sarcastic parts. Regardless, I think it was warranted, since your suggestion is so basic, and yet was overlooked.

      I’d argue from having leveled a post-wrath character from 1 to 90 that you do get pretty rich (by cata standards) from just leveling. As Falrei implied out, just keeping up with appropriate-level gathering can make you a fortune, and the questing provides you with gold an a surplus of gear which can also be sold. I believe that without doing any dailies, I had about 20k when I hit 90 on my shammy; that’s a FORTUNE by my standards; I’d never had so much gold in any of my characters’ lives.

      I have played with the pet market as you suggest, just buying and reselling level 1 pets, but the margin was often very low, and some of them never sold since the buying market is very limited. I abandoned the idea after getting stuck with 5 out of 5 pets that I bought for super-cheap but couldn’t resell on any of my 5 very different servers. Phoenix Hatchlings were a goldmine at first, but failed to pan-out long term, because once you sold one or two, the one or two people who wanted to buy one were satisfied, and since pets are cross-account, no more were needed.

      That’s why I’m intrigued by the leveling value and want to see how it works out.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. April 19, 2013 7:16 pm

    Even ignoring leveling, you can’t sustain yourself on pvp at level cap. You get practically nothing, for no good reason.

    • April 19, 2013 7:33 pm

      I couldn’t even get to cap with PvP. It slowed down so much and was so insanely expensive in the top leveling bracket (80-84 at the time) that I gave up, quested, and never went back. Something really needs to be done about that.
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. TheeNickster permalink
    April 19, 2013 11:09 pm

    isn’t there anything that drops in the instances for your DK? In 17 levels of instance running, surely you’ve seen some purple tanking drops. If you haven’t, then there’s your problem RIGHT THERE 🙂

    • April 20, 2013 12:13 am

      I’m notoriously unlucky with drops in dungeons. On top of that, whenever anything tanky drops, some jerk needs alongside me and I always lose. So yes, that is a problem, but it is what it is (;
      Thanks for the comment!

    • April 22, 2013 4:43 pm

      This is a major reason I dislike the randomness of dungeon drops, and the unreliability of the loot system in WoW and several other games. Certain “must-have” items simply simply may never be obtained through this form of “reward.” Perhaps you might get something through the AH, but that leads to your original issue of having the in-game cash to purchase it. Many players dislike the more prosaic token systems Blizzard has instituted, but least they are more in line with the sense of steady progress you get through leveling your character. I think people’s tunes might change if XP were as random as loot. “Ohp, sorry! You got no XP for the last ten bears you killed. Better luck on this next one.”

    • April 24, 2013 3:57 pm

      Yes, I’ve never been a fan at all of luck-based games, which, ultimately, WoW is. I vastly prefer skill to luck, but unfortunately as I get older my skills decrease. I suppose we’ll see how that affects my preferences as I continue to slow down.

      Love the XP example, too, btw. I would play that game! Not for long, of course, but for the novelty of it (;

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Erex permalink
    April 22, 2013 11:32 am

    When I do a new server, I do the following:
    Create a dk and quest the starter area. Also let him quest enough to buy some cheap 16 slots bag. Park him close to a bank.
    Create a char and send him the bags.
    Give him herb and inscription.
    Send the glyphs to the dk.
    Use trademaster or similar to do the AH stuff.

    Last time I did this (without heirloom) my lvling char had enough gold to buy all flying including the 320% without worries.

    But must also admit that all AH stuff is done while I am doing house chores.

    Cheers Erex

    • April 22, 2013 3:53 pm

      Yes, I’ve used a similar set up before when moving to a new server or rerolling. I’ve not used any AH mods, though, as the one time I tried auctioneer many years ago I found it unapproachable. I’m sure they’re much more user friendly now.

      Still, a lot of this type of set up is still a very traditional form of leveling. I’m not having trouble making money doing normal leveling – my shaman had more money at 80 than my mains at 85 did, but she was leveled traditionally through mostly questing. I want to try something else, but find that several of the “something elses” don’t provide you with what you need to transition to end game at 90.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • April 22, 2013 4:49 pm

      Not sure how many years ago you decided Auctioneer was not for you, but I used it from mid-BC until I stopped playing. I felt that it helped stabilize the economy when used regularly by keeping prices from getting too outrageous, at least for me. The scanning was best done during chores, as Erex mentioned.

    • April 24, 2013 3:58 pm

      It was probably mid-BC, but what can I say? I don’t like bookkeeping. Even as a DM I never make people worry about food, water, and other “boring” things – unless, of course, that’s the impetus of the adventure. I should probably give it another look.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • April 24, 2013 4:14 pm

      I never “played” the AH before I started using Auctioneer. It automated the bookkeeping I think you’re referring to. As long as you get out of its way while it scans. As mentioned, a great time to do the dishes. 🙂

  6. April 29, 2013 6:17 am

    Late to the party, but I just wanted to say I’m surprised by the large amount of dissenting comments you got on this post. In SWTOR you do get some money for every warzone (battleground) you complete, plus there’s a daily PvP quest that gives you a random piece of gear while levelling (which is useless for your class most of the time, but I guess the thought counts for something). It won’t make you rich but it should be enough to provide you with the bare necessities while levelling. I don’t see why WoW couldn’t have something like that too.

    • April 30, 2013 2:13 pm

      Yes, it baffles me, too. It’s similar to people asking for equal rights being told to suck it up; there’s no reason we can’t have equal leveling opportunities just because someone else prefers more traditional leveling paths. Ah well, I’ll take what I can get. Thanks for the comment!

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