A common problem today is that many of us both want to level up quickly, but also want to experience as much old and nostalgic content as possible on our way. Since leveling is so quick nowadays, however, what you get is mostly a few quest hubs and a lot of half-finished stories in every zone before it is time to move on.
This is an idea for a feature I call Story Paths, and I think it would solve that problem entirely.
Story Paths is a feature layered on top of your normal questing experience. It doesn't change the world or its content, but it selects the content that is relevant to you as you level up a new character, and gives you a nod in the right direction.
Much like you choose a personal story or background in Dragon Age: Origins or Guild Wars 2, you would choose your Story Path at the character creation screen. It can be changed on the fly in-game once you hit level 10 (for a small fee), as I realise people can grow weary of one type of content and feel like something else while playing. However, playing one Path from level 1 to 90 should reward you with a Title and an Achievement.
As you play, you will find the Story Path interface on the left side of your world map. What the interface is, is essentially a list of content that has been bundled together, given a name and a small description, as well as a reward for completion. These bundles of content are called 'Chapters' for now. When you look at the panel, you will always see Chapters that are tailored for your chosen Story Path, as well as your current level (with some margin).
The content in a Chapter can range from quest-chains, main story arches, entire zones, small sub-zones, dungeons, or single quests. Next to every Chapter in the interface list, you will find a small image icon and a description of its content. For instance, one Chapter for a specific Story Path might ask you to do all the content within 2 or 3 levels that has to do with fighting the Orcish hordes assaulting Lakeshire. Another Chapter might ask you to clear out the Defias threat of Westfall, including the Deadmines.
The specific and custom-tailored content of each Chapter is put together on different grounds. Sometimes, it's because content is part of the same main story arch. Sometimes it's because they all deal with liberating a specific village. Other times it might be because they all have the same theme, like buccaneering pirates along the shores of Stranglethorn Vale. But they all have one thing in common, and that's their tie to the Story Path chosen by the player for a specific character. Any character will only ever see Chapters that are tailored for its Story Path and current level.
Furthermore, clicking a Chapter in the interface panel will display a check-list of all its bundled content, allowing you to see how much remains before that Chapter is concluded.
Once a Chapter is done, it is optimal to begin a new one. But a player can always pause a current Chapter and start or continue another one, provided it is within the same level range and available from the Story Path interface panel.
Note 1: All the content, like quests, remains the same. You still have to manually go around and complete content in the ordinary way. What Story Paths gives you is that same experience but structured to fit both your personal preference and what you can fit inside a level or two before it's time to move on. So that you don't have to suddenly leave a zone mid-story after having misjudged its length in proportion to your experience bar.
Note 2: You can also choose to ignore the Chapters offered to you by your Story Path, and play the game as you please. These are just layered on top of the game to offer you some nice structure.
The rewards for doing this aren't always tangible. The fact that you got an interesting, consistent, and uninterrupted experience while you levelled up an alt is the real reward.
However, completing Chapters will reward you with gold and magic items, similarly to how Guild Wars 2 rewards you for completing a zone.
Additionally, levelling a character to 90 all in one Story Path will grant you a Title and Achievement. Collecting all the Story Path Achievements could grant you a mount or something similar.
STORY PATH EXAMPLES
These are some ideas of what could be made into Story Paths in the game. Note that all Story Paths are available to all classes.
Path of the Grove Keeper
This is ideal if you want forests, druid-lore, healing the land, and all that sort of stuff.
Path of the Soldier
This is ideal if you seek warfare, skirmishes along the countryside, and in general quests that deal with the faction conflict.
Path of the Sailor
This is ideal if you want to experience a lot of naga and murloc content, roam the interesting coast lines of the world, and get near the water and ships as much as possible.
Path of the Thief
This is ideal if you're the sneaky type. It makes sure you don't miss quests and story lines that deal with stealing, sneaking, assassinating, and so on.
Path of the Wizard
This is ideal if you don't want to miss out on any magical locations, wizard's towers, and other content that deals with magic.
Path of the Historian
This is ideal if you're like Brann Bronzebeard, and don't want to miss any of his quest lines and other content that deals with digging up the past; ancient ruins; titan relics, and so on.
UNDER THE HOOD Skip this if you're already convinced.
The way the Story Path system selects content for you is rather simple.
There are 3 levels of priority for all content in the game, and designers go through all of it to make sure all content has the right level of priority for each Story Path. Once the content is categorised, writers and artists are brought on to package it nicely in the user-interface for the player.
1 - Highly Relevant
This is the stuff you shouldn't miss, based on your chosen Story Path. If you risk out-leveling future Priority 1 content, the system will disregard some Priority 2 content and take you straight on to the next bit of Priority 1 content.
2 - Relevant
This is stuff that is good to see, but could be skipped if you managed to level past it by farming monsters or something similarly unexpected. But if there's a gap between Priority 1 content, the system will guide you on for a while using the Priority 2 content.
3 - Filler
This is just all other content that the system doesn't consider, as it is irrelevant to the specific Story Path in question. I wanted to mention it anyway to show that a designer can categorise content as 3 - Filler when designing a Story Path.
Priority Examples for 'The Path of the Grove Keeper':
The questlines dealing with healing Desolace and the Western Plaguelands that were introduced in Cataclysm are highly relevant to this type of content, and are therefore both given Priority 1.
Silithus is relevant to night elves and druids, but hasn't got an extreme lot of healing the land-type content compared to some other locations (if memory serves). It's more about warfare. Therefore it is given Priority 2 for this specific path. For another path, things might be different, however.
Finding out what's causing the damage to the land in the Barrens is also pretty relevant in terms of healing the land, despite not being terribly relevant to night elves. It's a Priority 1 as well.
Killing Quillboars in the Barrens, however, isn't at all relevant. Therefore, it gets a Priority 3, and is disregarded by the system for the 'Path of the Grove Keeper' Story Path.
That's it! Vote and comment below.