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Should level boosting become a default perk of new expansions?

Anne Stickney

I was one of many people who pre-ordered Warlords the moment it became available. Between the idea of running around on Draenor before it shattered into Outland, the appearance of old orc characters like Grom Hellscream, and the glut of new and hopefully incredibly entertaining draenei lore, there was no way I was going to give the next expansion a pass. On top of that, the new character models that we've seen so far have been so well done that I really can't wait to see all of them completed and implemented, giving the game a breath of fresh air its needed for quite some time.

Yet I held off when it came to choosing a character to boost to level 90. To be perfectly honest, I froze at the character selection screen when immediately asked what to boost, because I have no idea what I want to use that boost for. Thankfully, it's still waiting there on the screen, an ominous golden button of opportunity waiting to be utilized when I deem it necessary. Having the option to boost a character to max level is certainly a brand-new perk, one we never really thought we'd see. But should it be a perk for every expansion?

Warlords perks

It's not like we're short on new and interesting stuff in Warlords. We may not be getting new races or classes, but every race from vanilla and Burning Crusade is getting a graphics revamp so complex, so completely new from the ground up that it is honestly just like getting 10 new races at the same time. Only this time, instead of having to roll a completely new character and start from the ground up if you want the shiny new graphics, you'll have those beautiful graphics on the characters you already play and love -- which is pretty cool when you think about it.

In addition, we're getting 10 new levels of content to play through. We're getting an entirely new world to play around on -- one that is startlingly familiar yet just different enough to the shattered chaos of Outland to be a really unique experience. We're getting garrisons, the long-awaited form of player housing that people have been clamoring for since World of Warcraft was initially launched in 2004. We're getting a glimpse at history that we've never really seen in game -- if you've played the Warcraft RTS titles, you'll be familiar with the names we're going to be seeing, but the situations are going to be entirely different, this time around. And that only scratches the surface of what we're going to see.

In short, Draenor and whatever happens when we arrive on it is bound to be a really cool expansion. On top of all the new stuff we're getting, players are allowed one free boost to level 90 for a character of their choice -- making it easy for new players or returning players to hop in and start playing all that brand new content from the get-go. But what about the expansion after Warlords? Are we going to see that level 90 boost become a default perk of expansions to come?

New races, new classes, new clutter

It's a strong possibility. WoW has released four new expansions so far, and each expansion has added either new races, a new class, or in the case of Mists, both at the same time. It's become almost an expected perk of any new expansion, but there's a problem with that, and it's the same problem that had Blizzard ripping apart talent trees and revamping talents with every new expansion -- clutter. We have a limited number of character slots per server that we can play with. Right now, there are 11 classes and 13 races -- and players can make up to 11 characters per server.

With each introduction of a new race or class, players that want to experience that class will naturally want to play on the server that they call home -- but open character slots are becoming a rarer and rarer commodity among those that have been playing the game for any length of time. Add to that the fact that any new class introduced has to be balanced and worked around the nine existing classes already present in game, and you've got yourself a gigantic tangle of technical balancing.

Sure, new races are great. New classes are fun to play. But when you add both of these to every expansion that's released, you're eventually going to run into one of two things -- either players will need new character space added every expansion, or players will have to choose to roll on a new server, delete an existing character they've already played, or simply not bother rolling that new class or race. And none of those three options are particularly good from a player standpoint.

Boosting as a perk

Which makes the idea of boosting a double-edged sword, in a way. Is it a good idea? Certainly -- new players and returning players alike can now join their friends at max level and play through all that new content without having to level through the old stuff. Potential new subscribers can pick up the Warlords box and immediately begin playing through all the cool stuff they see on that box they bought. But a free level 90 also takes up one of those valuable character slots, and while some players may have character slots free for it -- I know I do -- others may not really have a use for the boost unless they want to make a 90 on a new server.

No matter what you do, these perks are going to add to that character count. Either Blizzard is going to have to keep adding more potential character slots to a single server, or lift that restriction altogether, if it wants to continue adding this type of content to new expansions -- boosting included. Is that something we're likely to see? It honestly depends on how Blizzard feels about it, and whether or not there are technical reasons behind the scenes that make that particular feat impossible to accomplish.

Regardless, I don't think having a boost system every expansion is necessary -- but I think it makes a perfect valid third choice to the existing rotation of new race or class. If it makes sense from a lore and story standpoint to introduce a new playable race, by all means introduce that race. If there's room for a new class in the existing rotation, a new and innovative niche that current classes can't possibly fill, then add a new class. If there's room for both, add both. And if there's no room for either, let players boost to current content levels so they can play immediately on a new or existing character of their choice.

This is, of course, contingent upon the speed of expansion and patch releases. Players have been leveling and playing through Mists for well over a year now, and while delightful, Pandaria and its myriad zones are becoming a little tiring to level through over and over again on alts. Blizzard has been repeatedly stating that they want expansions out on a faster basis -- and if expansions are released quickly enough, new content won't have the time to become stale. If that content isn't stale, and earned XP is adjusted so players can level through quickly and efficiently, getting from 90 to 100 and jumping into new content isn't too much of a stretch.

If, on the other hand, we're dallying around on Draenor for another two years ... having the option to skip that content on at least one character might make everyone happy. No matter which way Blizzard decides to go, that floodgate has been opened -- we'll have to wait and see how boosting works out in the long run, and whether or not Blizzard will stick with it as a perk.

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