It Sucks To Get Outlevelled By Your Friends In World Of Warcraft Classic

The best thing about getting together to play an MMORPG with your friends is knowing you’ll have people to shoot the shit with when you’re grinding out low-level quests. The worst thing about playing an MMORPG with your friends is that it sucks more when they leave you behind.

Instead of hanging out at the local dive bar or playing yet more Super Smash Bros. in someone’s living room, my friends and I decided to spend our weekends running around World of Warcraft Classic as a band of ugly Horde hooligans. Optimistic that we’d stick things out together, we engineered a balanced party—a warrior, a shaman, and a hunter—and excitedly talked over what professions we’d take on to boost the party’s equipment. Meeting in-game together for the first time, we cheered when we took down a tiger three times faster than we had on our own. We spoke in silly role-play voices and acted out ridiculous emotes.

Then, we damned ourselves with a social contract: to wait up for each other if someone levelled too quickly.

World of Warcraft Classic is unambiguously better with friends, especially in its early stages. It’s a punishing game that makes you earn the more beautiful zones, the more epic fights, the sexier armour, and the more engaging quests. But because the ramp is so slow, the early game is really grindy.

I wasn’t put off as we headed to the Echo Isles with a log full of quests to collect the cat pelts, the bird eggs, the crab meat, and kill mob after mob after mob. We swam over together, remarking on the excellent shade of the sky and the calming water texture. We gossiped and told jokes. Each bullet point on our huge checklist went by quickly. And then, about halfway through, it was time for bed. We pledged not to level too much before our next session.

Fast forward one week. We stuffed into my tiny, Brooklyn home office and all logged into World of Warcraft Classic. I spawned in the Echo Isles. My friends didn’t.

“Huh,” I said. “You guys finished these quests already?”

“Yup,” they said. “But we’ll do them with you! It’s fine!”

They dutifully returned to the islands and messed around underwater while I trawled through the ocean for crabs to axe. They were at least five levels ahead of me, and I felt guilty as they trudged through the same boring quests again.

We returned to the mainland. I was in awe as we approached the first city, a mass of spindly towers and winding roads lined with shops. It was exquisite, and I couldn’t wait to explore its nooks and crannies. Of course, one of my friends had already seen it. It was nothing new. I got lost on the way to the auction house, and it took forever before I was ready to head out again. Soon after, it was time for bed.

A could of days later, I received a dreaded but inevitable message on Facebook Messenger: “So about that level 15 cap...” I was level 9.

As my friends kept chugging through the low-level quests and discovering new zones, I kept finding reasons not to play. The quest I stopped on was boring, or I wasn’t sure I could take on higher-level monsters that might attack without provocation.

I wasn’t in a guild yet, either, and didn’t want to upset my friends by joining one and finding new allies. Other games had fewer barriers to entry before the funtimes: Overwatch, Magic: The Gathering Arena, Control, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Opening the Battle.net client, I kept urging myself to log onto World of Warcraft Classic and catch up, but the goalpost kept getting pushed further and further away. After some time, the prospect of reaching level 20, level 23, or level 25 alongside my friends simply became unrealistic.

When the newness of a new zone was dulled by my friends’ been-there-done-that-ness, I wasn’t getting the World of Warcraft Classic social experience I craved. When the guilt struck after they offered to go back and do some tedious thing, it pushed me further and further into a state of dread and apathy. At first, I thought, I couldn’t be mad that they played a game they bought, and I was happy that my friends were enjoying it.

Then, over Facebook, one asked whether we wanted to do the Instance in Orgrimmar. “I’ll play too,” I said, “unless a low-leveled troll like me is not invited.” The response: “I think you’re too low level for that one, C. But we can do something else…”. Self-pity quickly curdled into a small bit of resentfulness, putting me off even more from logging in and levelling up. I haven’t played in weeks. 

My character wallows alone at level 11. It’s my own fault for letting myself spiral. And yet, it’s easy to get down on yourself in MMORPGs, to feel you’re not getting out of it what other people are when the trappings of success, like armour and new abilities, are worn like badges out in public. To get the most out of this game, I need to recalibrate my character’s goals so they’re individual and not collective. It’s time to envision a new type of game, one where I’m half paying attention while listening to a podcast or one that I play in solitary weekend streaks. Or I can make some new friends...


Comments

    If only there was a no-effort, insta-leveling, casual version of WoW readily available instead...

    So, I was an original vanilla WoW player... I've absolutely been one of those who levelled as fast as possible, kept up with friends throughout every expansion, etc.

    In classic? For some reason I no longer enjoyed that sort of leveling experience. It bothered me more than I'd like to admit when I dropped off for a week and a couple of friends were ten levels ahead... And I wasn't angry at them, I was angry at myself for allowing it to happen.

    When I started leveling again without the help of friends something changed, I quickly found I enjoyed it a lot when I would be questing and bump into random people on the same quests... We'd team up for those quests, sometimes saying absolutely nothing to one another, then drop group and go about our day having finished a bunch of quests much faster than we otherwise would have. It's an oddly great feeling.

    Maybe I'd see them again in a dungeon group or questing elsewhere, and I'd know that even if they didn't say anything they were still helpful, etc. Or I'd help them even if I'd just finished what they were doing.

    I dare say that might even be the true vanilla experience, and it's something you don't get power leveling with friends.

    Eventually I caught up to my friends at 60 and have been having a blast running dungeons, etc. Along with the randoms we pick up, some of who become regulars to our group. While also enjoying helping other friends leveling who haven't hit 60 yet. It's the best of both worlds really.

      Going with the cooperation of random strangers...
      While playing Horde, I ran into an alliance player who was equally confused about where to go for a quest.
      They could see I was confused, and they used in-game text commands to help me out.
      It was an awesome, feel good moment.

      Gave a /thank and /highfive and we went on our way.

    I managed to last into level 47 before giving into the fact I hadn't been enjoying myself since level 20... I was also a vanilla player but I was 18 back then working part time but times have changed and sitting down to play each night felt like time wasted, but at the same time as having those feelings of guilt on letting friends down who I'd been speaking to for months leading up to release.

    A few weeks back I started playing Borderlands 3 and that was it for Classic. I get the occasional message asking if I'll get to 60 soon, and I do feel bad, but it just doesn't fit into my life anymore :(

    This was such a problem in WoW that most of the games that came after it had some kind of a solution - City of Heroes let lower-level players have a temporary level boost, Guild Wars 2 capped your level depending on where you were but gave you loot scaled to your current level, and FFXIV lets you swap classes on the same character.

    I feel like maybe this isnt the game for you if you are still level 9 after weeks of playing. This does become much more of an issue at higher levels when if your friends are 10 levels higher than you that means you are 20 hours or so behind.

    Level 9-15 is a difference of like 3 hours also you should have rested xp if they have been playing and you haven't.

      Yeah. I get that some people have different schedules and play styles but if the difference between 9-15 feels so out of sync with your friends that you don't think you can catch up then it's probably better to quit now. I can't imagine anyone with that little time to play ever being able to run dungeons, reach cap or gear enough to not get insta-killed in PvP.

      Retail would be the way to go if you insisted on playing World of Warcraft. The time requirements during leveling are much more reasonable, it's easier to learn, the quests are 10,000% more interesting and it gives you a lot more freedom to group.

      The quest I stopped on was boring, or I wasn’t sure I could take on higher-level monsters that might attack without provocation.

      Although I've got to wonder about this comment. Does the author think that monsters are only meant to attack if you're too low level to beat them? It's pretty easy to think green means ok to attack if you're playing a harder class or using the wrong abilities. That would significantly slow things down. Especially if they're trying to complete every single quest before moving on to the next zone.
      If the group they're playing with can't boost the character quickly I'd say it's a definite possibility that none of them really know how to approach the game. It sounds crazy but if you've ever read the hints they tell you to play in some really counter productive ways.

      reading the article I can't but help think classic WoW isn't for the author

      part of the fun (for some people) is that classic is difficult. it was also frustratingly boring as quests literally send you to another continent for a loaf of bread or just to talk to an NPC

      off course we mostly realise this in hindsight, after multiple expansions, streamlining and pruning of the current WoW, you don't realise how much QoL got added to the game over 15 years until it's literally been ripped from you

    In WoW and every single MMORPG under the sun. That's why I stopped playing them after a couple of years, more than a decade ago. There was nothing more frustrating than feeling punished for being a productive member of society during my times of levity. I knew that my friends were not exactly to blame for having more free time than I, but I couldn't help feeling bitter and betrayed.

    So weird how the comments were posted 2 days before the article... /s

    This is an issue in lots of games for me which is why I pretty much only play games with my wife now, we always play in the same timeslot and quit at the same time so in things like WoW Classic there wasn't much difference in our XP except when one of us would do a class quest and the other would catch up eventually, and we never had to repeat quests. We tried playing The Division with my brother and his friend but they got too far ahead and ended up repeating quests and you could pretty much hear them getting bored over the mic because they'd seen it all before, same for Ghost Recon Wildlands and a bunch of other games.

    I would hate being stuck playing with the same people and that really takes away from the the first M in MMORPG

    I hate leveling even more though and from a game development perspective it is a huge investment for content that gets made redundant faster than anything else.

    I would remove leveling and make the game/content about gear and story. Areas would have a mixture of temporary and permanent content to show that the world changes and story develops.

    Whilst character progression would still exist which will separate players to a certain extent, removing the level barrier takes out the first obstacle of player interaction.

    You feel apathy, dread and self pity over 5 levels in World of Warcraft?Which takes what, 1-2 hours of playtime at that level?

    Is this for real?

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