We usually don’t post this sort of content on Kotaku AU, but this was far too interesting to pass up.
As you might expect, the author has asked to remain nameless. The piece has also been edited for clarity, readability and flavour.
It was after I quit World of Warcraft that I made the decision to powerlevel.
Not me personally – that would defeat the purpose. The whole point of powerlevelling is for someone else to do it. They do the hard work, you reap the rewards. Even if those rewards aren’t exactly tangible or alluring to the opposite sex.
When I quit, I’d been playing WoW on-and-off since its release in November 2004. Just like everyone else back then, I couldn’t wait for Blizzard’s very first MMO. Before WoW, the only other MMO I’d invested significant amounts of time in was PlanetSide.
It was hardly an MMO, though. For one, it didn’t have elves. Every half-decent MMO has to have elves. Without them, PlanetSide was but methadone compared to the sweet hardcore opiate that is World of Warcraft. And, like nine million others today, I shot up regularly.
But time has a funny way of, well, moving forward, and I soon realised that all those hours spent playing WoW I could have been doing a bunch of other things. Productive things. Things that weren’t just slowly incrementing numbers in a massive database.
And, for a time, I managed to pull away from its siren call. But WoW‘s like a drug, right?Shopping around
My decision to powerlevel was not made in haste. The most important element I considered was my reason for going back.
That reason was my brother.
Co-op gaming is my vice, and I blame it for making the thought of grinding hellboars in the Outland with a sibling strangely irresistible. This was despite the fact that the art of killing hellboars hadn’t changed much since I’d last played (and I believe still hasn’t), so the only real difference was going to be that someone else would be enduring that painful experience with me – my brother, of all people.
I’m sure that’s a crime somewhere.
The problem was my brother was well into his 60s, churning through Zangarmarsh and Nagrand so quickly it made me weep for the poor virtual creatures that populated those simulated environments. There was no way, with my limited gaming time, I was going to catch up before he hit 70.
That’s when I realised I didn’t have to. I could pay someone to do this kind of thing. It felt evil, that thought, yet I tossed morality aside and skipped straight to the legal considerations.
I knew, of course, that Blizzard stipulates in World of Warcraft‘s End User License Agreement (a document of dubious legal binding) that you don’t own your account. Sure, you own the time spent using it, but everything you do with that time isn’t yours.
That Arcanite Reaper you dedicated your honeymoon to grinding materials for? Not yours. The thousands of gold pieces resting in your physics-defying purse? Not yours either. The several hours a day you wasted cybering in the tunnel between Stormwind and Ironforge?
They are yours, actually, along with the lifetime of therapy such an activity surely entails.
Blizzard also makes it clear how it can “punish” you for whoring out
your its account and it’s fairly straightforward.
It bans you.
your its characters, items and gold become inaccessible for the rest of time, unless you can somehow convince Blizzard’s accounts and billing department that you’re innocent.
Yeah, good luck with that.
As you may have guessed, powerlevelling requires you to share your details with a third-party, which is more than enough reason for Blizzard to ban you. The developer rationalises that, along with the powerlevelling, it’s highly likely
your its account will be used for gold farming and other activities it deems nefarious. But it doesn’t really matter, seeing as Blizzard is free to ban an account for whatever reason it likes. Looked at Rob Pardo the wrong way? That’s a ban. Looked at him the right way? Ban.
For me, I couldn’t face levelling from 1-60 again. The thought gave me stomach cramps. Brain cramps. Cramps in my hair. The simple logic of the statement “If something’s not fun, don’t do it” should have prevailed. But it didn’t.
So, I whipped out my credit card and perused my choices.
Like any shopper, I was looking for a deal. I wasn’t willing to pay any more than $US 100, give or take $US 10. After visiting eight or so different sites, I came to the conclusion that $US 100 was only going to get me from 1-50.
That’s okay, I thought, it’s past the 30-40 hump, where most people start cutting off and frying toes. I was prepared to fight my way to 60 and beyond.
First things first – I had to make a new character. I chose a Blood Elf Paladin, because I love my bandwagons, entered the world and immediately quit. My blank slate was ready to go. I like to think it was quivering, or doing something spectacular. Or sexy.
At the time of my purchase, $US 100 would get you a character levelled from 1-50, 100 in gold and a mount. I’m not sure if prices have varied much, but if they haven’t, I imagine the weak US dollar would help a perspective buyer immensely.
Most sites provided a series of packages, which in turn came with discounts. For example, 1-60 with an epic mount was common, though today 1-70 with an epic flying mount would be the new powerlevelling combo.
It was interesting to note that many of the sites looked similar, or had similar interfaces. A few even had “About Us” sections that were identical.
If none of the default packages tickled you, you could enter a level range instead. Some sites even allowed you to enter gold, honour or reputation amounts – essentially anything that requires nothing but time and grinding to obtain.
Fortunately for me, a package was available for 1-50. It was close to $US 100, and came with promises of 100 gold and a mount (not so valuable for a Paladin). Any valuable items that happened to drop during the powerlevelling process were mine to keep, and the service provided an ETA of ten days.
I was asked to provide my WoW account details, and the service recommended that I change my password once the process was complete.
Payment was done by credit card, via Paypal. I’m not sure if this happens with every site, but for the one I chose, I received no confirmation. Nothing arrived via email. As far as I knew, I’d been scammed. Which I didn’t find surprising, considering what I was doing.
It was then I realised I’d been given a number as part of the final confirmation of the order. The front page of the powerlevelling site had an interface where one could enter their number and receive details on their character. Sure enough, my Paladin was there.
Maybe I hadn’t been scammed. At least, not yet.
The Long Road to 50
Powerlevelling requires you to take some precautions. Blizzard has a few tricks up its sleeve to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
The first precaution is to not log on to your account. Most powerlevelling services are based in China, and the good ones use proxies to trick Blizzard into thinking that the connections are coming from the US. Obviously, you can’t be in two places at once, especially not two different countries.
The second precaution is to give at least 24 hours between when you log off your account initially, and when you log back in after the service is done. Some services recommended making the gap longer. That way, you can write off your IP address jumping as a trip.
There is a third precaution that wasn’t revealed to me until later, and subsequently, I didn’t follow it. But more on that later.
The day after I ordered the service, I entered my order number and checked the site report. My character had advanced to level 9. Giddy up, I thought, only 41 levels to go.
I checked again in the evening, and was disappointed to find I was still level 9. Aggravated by my lack of progress, I decided to check out a few of the service’s other customers.
During my exploration, I uncovered a trend: customers either purchased a 1-20/30/40/50/60 package, or one covering a few levels or even a single level. My grand theory was that people powerlevel past the boring bits, in an effort to keep the game fun. That or they do it in bursts to avoid drawing attention. It never occurred to me that someone could be a regular powerleveller. It certainly makes sense now.
Eventually I grew bored of watching the site report. I wanted blow-by-blow information on my character’s progress. Logging in was out of the question, but I reasoned that jumping into my account settings via the WoW website was harmless enough. So that’s what I did.
Using the Paid Transfer feature of the account management system, I was able to keep closer tabs on my character. Via this method, my character quickly climbed to level 16, and then 20. Whatever method the service was using, be it mindless grinding or efficient questing, it worked.
Progress was steady the next few days but, as expected, past level 20 the pace slowed. Two days after my purchase, my Paladin was level 24. At this point, I was feeling good – my account was still active, I hadn’t been scammed, and it was likely the character would hit 50 in the estimated ten days.
It wasn’t until the morning of the third day, when my character pipped 28, that I realised I’d made a mistake – a mistake that would surely cost me my account, $US 100, and all the cash I’d spent on the game and subscription fees.
To be continued…