Having originally released all the way back in 2004, Blizzard’s genre-defining MMO World of Warcraft has 16 years of history now under its belt. As such, starting the game right now might seem too daunting for some players.
Blizzard’s Johnny Cash spoke to GameSpot recently about this issue and how the new Shadowlands expansion is purposefully trying to offer a better new player experience. Part of this is through the introduction of a new starting zone, Exile’s Reach, along with the game’s first “level squish.” With Shadowlands, players who reached the 120 level cap are being reduced to 50, with 60 standing as the new cap.
“One of our major goals for Shadowlands was we wanted to make WoW more accessible to people,” Cash said. “WoW is a game that’s been around for quite a long time. It has an immense legacy to it. And one of the growing pains as the game has gotten older is that we had 120 levels that people needed to work through to get a character to play with their friends or to join their raid group as an alt, or whatever they wanted to do.”
Cash added that as Blizzard released more and more expansions, players would hop around between them and not get through the story of any one in particular. With Shadowlands, Blizzard has made changes to improve the leveling experience which in turn should help people engaged and driving toward finishing what they start.
“Along the way, as we’ve had all these different expansions and different themes, we found that people would end up hopping around expansions a lot and not getting the whole story. So stepping back and looking at some of these challenges in front of us, and looking at Shadowlands as an opportunity to set the standard for how we want the game to feel for a levelling player.”
“Changing the levels is just one part of that equation. So what we ended up actually doing, in summation, was really looking at the entire flow. Looking at the new player experience with Exile’s Reach that really broke down the fundamentals of how to even play the game and to make sure that that was accessible to new players, and doing a whole lot of research and testing and iteration, to make sure that someone unfamiliar with the game could hop in and play,” Cash added.
In fact, the bulk of these changes came to WoW through its pre-patch, and Cash remarked that the updates have been “very well received.”
Regarding the leveling in particular, Cash said one of the guiding philosophies was to help players to feel like gaining a new level was actually meaningful. To that end, every time players ding a new level, they’re guaranteed to receive something.
“We also wanted to make sure that every level meant something. Previously, it felt like you could go long stretches without really getting anything,” Cash said. “That just wasn’t how we wanted the game to feel. So now every single time you level you get at least one thing, whether that’s an upgrade to a spell, a new ability entirely, access to a dungeon, whatever it might be. Every time you level you are getting something for that achievement, beyond just the stats increase.”
Cash also spoke to GameSpot about the numerous new character creation options coming to WoW in the Shadowlands expansion.
Following a delay, Shadowlands launches on November 23 on PC. Alongside the standard edition, you can preorder a World of Warcraft: Shadowlands collector’s edition for $120.
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