So like many bloggers, intersted people and the wider WoW community, I took the plunge and started referring accounts for the Refer a Friend program Blizzard just started. Or rather I referred a "friend" since I decided to dual (*ahem*) box multiple characters to level 60. The programme links together two accounts, one existing and one new for upto 90 days, during those days while partied (and within a few levels of each other) you gain certain bonuses, the bonus XP is lost at level 60, but only for those characters. You gain:

Levelling Bonuses:
3x XP gained for Quests, kills while together, in a party and of similar level
10% extra XP gained from Kill reputation (rep for killing mobs)

In addition assuming you actually purchase the accounts fully (so you can get past the level 20 cap) and buy a months gameplay you get:

1 Month free on the referring account
1 Free Zhevra mount on the referring account

To make it more interesting, linked accounts, the referred person can donate 1 level for every 2 they make (so 29 levels total from 1 to 59) to promote one of the referring account's same faction, same server characters. This means if you level together you can promote a level 30.95 character to level 59.95 and ding 60 easily with a second character. The only limitation is you must be a higher level to do this, so if you want a 2nd level 60 you need to hit 60 together. Essentially this is designed to allow the referred player to keep the referrer up to date (since the referred player is likely to play their char, while you play your higher level character). Instead it can be used to power level characters easily.

Whats more interesting though is that you can do it multiple times, and you can count as your own friend. Yup, you can use this to effectively level with 3x XP for the duration of 90 days to boost characters. I am not going to get into the costs of it, since if you want to do this its likely a very minimal expense (for me doing 4 accounts its cost me effectively around the same as a weekend out, or a meal with friends at a nice restaurant). So I have a small army of Horde characters at the moment well on their way (level 40 inside a week, ~ 2 days played, far from a record but it is one for me :P), its let me see the other side, and get a good basis for exploring other classes.

What I do want to talk about is how it affects you, and what use it is, since it at first does seem like a big joke, its not accessible to new players without an experienced friend, nor is it open to recently opened accounts, has no in game equivalent etc. One thing I will say is just level, and log out in an inn, there are people talking about blowing your rested XP so you get "twice the rested XP", but rested XP is strictly worse than this RaF bonus, so just log out in an inn and build up the max rested bonus for level 60 when you hit Outlands.

What do I lose?:
You lose time, simply put you don't spend the time in an area to gain rep, you don't farm materials or kills, the normal things that keep you in cash and in gear are simply not on the time sheet for this type of play. If you are farming and suchlike you aren't maximising the effectiveness of this offer. You out level your gear very quickly, and you out level areas, assuming you are actually multi-boxing its a real pain to skip every gather quest that exists simply because doing it on multiple accounts is a time consuming nightmare.

What do I gain?:
You gain time, you can push 5 levels a night easily, 3-4 quests will level you up, you can push to 60 and Outlands very quickly, you will be undergeared, and likely under-professioned and poor, but these are easy to solve in a world where we regularly power level professions and characters. It gives you the chance to see those other classes, and the bonus levels let you skip large parts of the game on a 2nd character, so if you have a high level Paladin one side, and want to see a Priest on the other, level the Priest, then ding a Paladin up to give you an option.

This is hard, actually thats not quite true, you can set it up like I have and it is hard, most of my boxes are essentially damage dealers throwing one or two spells at my target, there is a lack of control for healing and precision. I suppose if I spent the time to get it setup fully and learned to multi-box properly I could solo instances with healer, tank and dps, however from my perspective the goal is to get to 60 (70) so that I can play, the multi-aspect of the levelling is a means to an end.

Of course it makes quests easy, you can challenge red quests, mobs that you should flee from, and win, but a real player can see that you have limited control and abuse this (we tried pvp, its hard to move multiple characters and avoid a really active movement fight). At least in my mind you are limited to PvE for the full experience. It does let you level the classes up quickly, and with sufficient referrers you can power level multiple other characters to 60, which for someone interested in trying other classes is a major bonus.

Mine has been simple, I have a friend helping me out, but essentially its the same strategy as if I was alone. We hit kill quests, travel quests and 1-2 item pickup quests, no gathers at all (so Arathi Highlands... just no), once we have the majority of quests done we move on (you quickly out level the area), we do orange and red quests if they are handy, otherwise they get left, we might come back to an area such as STV more than once.

So far its working, < 2 days played and 5x level 40 characters, typically this takes me 10days or so played because I grind a lot when solo. This really does encourage you to quest and to party up, simply its not worth the grind when you can be together, this is what partying up should be like (or perhaps slightly slower), to really encourage team play in the early game.

Does it work?:
Being honest, the program is probably a failure, its more open to existing repeat customers and multi-boxers, but as a test for a future way to level its brilliant. The game is going to have problems moving from 1-80, or 1-90, 1-100, by offering fast levelling (and tweaking quest XP) you can move quickly through the game, still learning your class (albeit being poor while you do it :P) and not be put off by "60 levels till you can even think about playing with friends".

Its probably not a response to open quests / groups, and it highlights the flaw of gather quests (perhaps gathers should really be n+n/5 per player so its slightly longer, but not 5x as long for a party to gather items), but it is a start. It makes grouping up worthwhile and it makes the whole process more viable.

So the future?:
Yes, I would like to see it, I would like to see open groups and quests a bit like LFG, encourage people to play and level together, encourage friends to stay together and to help that random guy. Make it inclusive, make it completely transparent to the player, no referring, or multi-boxing, but simply an encouragement to level this way. I think Blizzard may be smarter than many of us gave them credit for, as a test bed this is a great tool, they put into the world something thats limited and restricted, yet open to all, and the feedback they can get from it to make levelling easier is likely to help them in the future since they cannot neglect the old world unless they allow us to Death Knight all characters (level 55 start... yes please). If they did neglect it then why not just remove it, the old world has to be viable and useful for the world to make sense, so we must find challenges and ways to keep us in it.


Larísa said...

I just think this friend program isn't fair to new players who haven't got any friends already in the game, who just start it out of curiosity. They'll have to work very hard being on their own, having noone to rely on to get support (financial or playwise for instance). Now the gap will only grow.

I doubt that people will group with those poor random newbie players. Unfortunately. They're still on their own, more than ever and the gap is just growing.

Chris said...

Yup, but I think in many ways this might be a trial for a new "open quest" equivalent system, a way to make levelling more fun and to encourage grouping. If new players realise they level much faster in a group then they will be more encouraged to do so.

As it stands now it fails horribly at its goal, its essentially a tool for alts and introducing a friend/family member who already has an interest. Coupling this with an open-group type system would allow WoW levelling to be heavily altered from the way it is now, imagine if back in the start days you had to defend the Dead Scar, it doable alone with the NPCs, but you gain a bonus if you keep them alive for the 10 minutes it takes for "High Level NPC Priest" to come down, res them and make haughty speech about not disturbing his study.

Triple xp, or double or whatever, the scripted win bonus and suchlike make it much more group friendly, sure you can still solo everything (which should be left a valid option), but open grouping and grouping should be beneficial rather than flaws.

Larísa said...

Well if it will work that way in the expansion I'd welcome it. Soloing killing 20 pigs and then 20 another-sort-of-pigs really isn't much fun.

Chris said...

No idea if it will, but it looks a little like a test bed for that functionality, of proximity based bonuses and linking in groups. For all I know I am just randomly speculating, but it looks to me like I am testing a new toy.