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Blizzard Entertainment would like to offer players of the World of Warcraft: Legion expansion a chance to try out one or more level 100 characters before committing to which one they want to boost to that level, an executive told GamesBeat in a recent interview.

The trick will be solving the many technical and social challenges that plan could pose.

Leveling a new character can be a challenge in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game like World of Warcraft, which has been around for 11 years. Even with a variety of experience boosts, players need time to get from level 1 to level 100, and Legion raises that cap to 110. So when the Warlords of Draenor expansion launched last year, the company decided to give everyone who purchased it one free level-90 boost, so they could start on a fresh character for the new content.

J. Allen Brack, the executive producer and senior vice president for World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment, said the company hopes to expand on that for Legion, which launches next summer.

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“We’re changing the system dramatically in Legion, such that we’ll have 45 minutes of content for you to play through, but you don’t consume your character boost until you’re done with that content,” he said.

(He and representatives for the company emphasized later that the coding to make this possible is still in the works and technical challenges remain to for them to overcome.)

“The idea on this is — let’s say Blake has always wanted to try a rogue, but he didn’t want to use a character boost token on it, so he’s going to try a rogue with his level 100 boost,” Brack said. “He’s going to decide whether or not that’s for him.

“He goes through that experience and at the end he decides, you know what? Rogue is actually not for me. I’m going to delete that character, and I’m going to make a druid. He goes through and makes a druid, loves the druid, thinks that’s the best thing ever for him. He gets to the end of that experience, and he commits to the druid.”

There would be a warning at the end of the experience, telling the player that they were about to commit to using the character boost, he said.

A number of problems remain:

  • How to determine when a player is “done” to prompt them with the go/no go decision.
  • What to do if a player says no and deletes their character, but then changes their mind.
  • How, technically, to handle the character deletion and the dump back to the character creation screen.
  • How to handle all the experienced players who have already prepurchased Legion and used their level 100 character boost, which is available immediately, equipping those characters with something other than Legion starting gear.

“The company is pursuing this plan, but I’m saying all these things, and I need to caveat it: We haven’t actually done the work yet. These are ideas today,” Brack said. But Blizzard is committed to trying to make it work, he said and to making the boost experience a little more helpful for new players.

“It’ll be a little less specific to Legion than Tanaan Jungle [the starting zone for Warlords of Draenor] was,” he said. “A little more educational for newer players. Tanaan Jungle is for returning players. If you’ve never played WoW, you’re probably going to have a hard time with that. It just dumps you right in. This is going to be a little different; it’s going to be more of a hand-hold.”

Experienced players and players using a boosted character will have the same quest experience, but Blizzard will provide more assistance in how to play the game, he said. They haven’t decided what that will look like — whether it’s additional objectives, or just different or more numerous tips and options.

“We haven’t made it yet, so I can’t speak to the specifics,” Brack said. “But if you imagine that Blake has never played WoW, maybe he would be OK if he started at level 100 and we led him through this content experience, as opposed to having him play from level 1.”

Players who are familiar with WoW and choose to boost a character in Legion will have the same experience as a new player, but the game will offer an option to turn off the additional help.

“We’re not going to force you to do that if that’s not something you want to do,” he said.

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