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Recently I had a thought.
How long would it take me to lvl a toon to 90, without any benefits of ask a friend or power leveling or heritage items, etc.
So I did it.
Note: I did take advantage of rest xp and the monk 1 hour per lvl xp bonus, though not regularly. I also joined a guild and got fast track.
Well, it took me 8 days played time (rounding up a couple of hours).
I play pretty casually, so this is about 2 and a half months.
Thing is, I'm not really raid ready yet, my highest item lvl is 463; I anticipate it will be another couple of months until I feel I sufficiently have a 'geared' toon.
So I think it is safe to assume you can start from scratch and gear up a toon in 2 to 4 months.
Now, compare that with vanilla.......
It seems pretty similar to me.
So, looking at it from this perspective,
The adjustments they've made over the years looks to me to be a concerted effort to keep the curve from 1 to max the same as when they started.
So....I contend they didn't make the game easier. They kept the game the same, so as to avoid making the leveling experience prohibitive.
I believe the reason you can solo to max is also to prevent the leveling experience to be prohibitive.
With x-realm server zones, I believe you could add some group content. But even with those, these newbie leveling areas are ghost towns. I can't imagine starting WoW for the first time and 'needing' to group in those leveling zones. You simply would never find the group you needed.
This would be a retention killer. If you can't get the player to the other players, you don't have an mmo. What would be the alternative for mitigating the levelling ghost town? Under wow's structure, giving 90s a 'reason' to be in Wetlands and group with newbs, well....we all know that isn't going to happen. Mentoring? Has its limits; usually there's little to no incentive for the maxed player. I contend the only way to do it, is how they did it. Make it soloable, but make it take about as long as the original Vanilla crowd.
And if you think about the alternatives,
What if they hadn't made those adjustments? Meaning, your first 3 or 4 months got you to 60.
How long should TBC take? WotLK? etc.
How long should it take to reach max level in WoW?
What would be the ramifications on new players joining WoW?
How would retention be affected?
How would guilds look at recruiting newbies?
What would it do to expansion sales if only a small percentage was anywhere near the new content?
Would they have to change the way they do xpansions to cater to people throughout lvls, rather than having 90% at the top?
What would that do to the development cost?
Anyway, these are the questions I raised to myself.
But I still felt like it was an 'a-ha' moment. The time table hasn't shifted, just the number of lvls you get in that time.