WoW Dragonflight: Game Director Ion Hazzikostas explains Chromie Time and new level cap in Dragonflight (part 5 of 6-part interview)

This is part five of a six-part interview with WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas.

Laptop Mag had the opportunity to sit down with Game Director of World of Warcraft Ion Hazzikostas and pose questions about the MMO titan’s upcoming expansion. After the reveal of WoW 10.0 last week, officially titled Dragonflight, we’re incredibly excited to dive deep into what we can expect out of its massive updates.

Hazzikostas and I discussed time-gated questlines, the Dracthyr Evoker’s abilities, the revival of talent trees (and whether Covenant abilities will find their place within them), the changes coming to transmogrification, and how old raids (particularly BfA) will be impacted by the player’s massive increase in power. This article covers Hazzikostas’ comments on the evolution of leveling through Chromie Time. 

WoW: Shadowlands changed everything with Chromie Time 

The introduction of Chromie Time is the reason I came out of my six-year hiatus from World of Warcraft. It shrunk the maximum level cap from 120 to 60, and the progression structure became far tighter. Players go from level 1 to 10 in a starting area before tackling levels 10-50 in any expansion of their choice. At that point, Shadowlands becomes available between levels 50-60.

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Prior to Chromie Time, areas scaled based on the level caps of their respective expansions, which meant players haphazardly jumped between content from every one of them to progress. There was never an incentive to experience the quests and areas, so players would just rush through the leveling process by queueing for dungeons. Blizzard found themselves in a position where the mountain of content they established over the course of nearly two decades could no longer be experienced linearly in a realistic fashion.

Chromie Time fixed this issue by abandoning linearity. Now, players can select a single expansion and play through all of it with one character. Opting for a system that focuses on one expansion at a time is a brilliant way to preserve the original method of experiencing each release. It’s also fantastic for progression, as it awards players with new talent points at a faster pace and keeps them leveling quicker without the disjointed expansion-hopping. It allowed me to play through Legion, a widely beloved expansion I completely missed, and experience its areas, quests, dungeons and raids.

How will Dragonflight handle Chromie Time? 

With the announcement of a new expansion, I was curious about the level cap and how it might impact the changes made in Shadowlands, so I asked Hazzikostas how Dragonflight would handle Chromie Time. “Our current plan is to rescale all of the existing expansions, including Shadowlands, from 10 to 60,” he said. “So that, again, it’s come out of Exile’s Reach or play the starting experience of your choice and then pick any of the single expansions that you want to play through and that’ll get you into Dragonflight.”

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

This means the fundamental systems aren’t changing, save for Battle for Azeroth, which will be implemented into the Chromie Time system, and Shadowlands will automatically be the questline players hop into when they hit level 10. This is the ideal way to handle it, as it keeps this incredible quality of life change intact and allows the player to go through any expansion they want to catch up to Dragonflight.

Will World of Warcraft fall into the same traps as before? 

After Shadowlands halved the maximum level cap, it was clear World of Warcraft suffered from having too many levels, but Dragonflight is bringing us back to a level cap of 70. If this pattern continues, the game will eventually run into that same issue. I asked Hazzikostas if the team thought about permanent ways to handle this inevitable return to there being too many levels.

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

“It’s something we’re discussing. I think, we know in the year 2030 or something, we’ll be back to being well into three digits and what does that mean — and how do we avoid having the same problems. But I don’t think 70 is too big a number, and I think the changes we’re making to Chromie Time in Dragonflight to make sure that, at the end of the day, you can pick up a character, you can be a brand new player to World of Warcraft, and play through a single expansion, get caught up to speed, and jump into the new thing. That’s already a vast improvement over the disjointed world that we lived in in the past, where the increasing level cap meant you were just jumping between more and more disparate settings in roughly the same amount of time. I think eventually, like there’s something I’d love to find, the perfect solution there.”

Finding that “perfect solution” seems nearly impossible right now. Chromie Time already made massive improvements to the game’s structure (it’s the most proactive change WoW has ever seen), so it’s understandable that Blizzard Entertainment can’t come up with a more permanent solution in such a short time. Players in the community wondered what the game might look like if a new expansion didn’t increase the level cap at all, but Hazzikostas expressed that he doesn’t particularly love this concept.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

“We’ve definitely tossed around the idea of like, what would it look like if we stopped adding levels or we didn’t level this expansion. But levels do a lot for us, and for every RPG, there’s a reason why they’re a tried and true method. It’s a straightforward increase in power, new stuff to look forward to, now new talent points. And so, just saying we’re gonna stop doing that, I think, would raise a lot of questions that we’d have to find satisfying answers to. But, we keep talking about it. But in the meantime, we also want to focus on making sure the experience you’re going to get tomorrow is as good as it can be, and you know, not necessarily hamstring that for the sake of solving the ‘six years from now’ problem, ‘cause six years from now doesn’t matter, if this year isn’t fun.”

Ensuring the new content offers fun progression rather than getting rid of it to solve future problems is probably the best way to handle this. Blizzard Entertainment will have to return to this issue in a decade-or-so when we’re back at level 120 and it’s borderline unmanageable, but for right now, Hazzikostas and his team are focusing on making Dragonflight a great expansion.

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