Let me just start by saying very emphatically: yes!!!
Levels are great. In fact, they’re one of my favorite aspects of a new expansion.
Obviously, not everyone may feel the same, but for me an expansion would not be the same without levels. Ever since Wrath, I have made it a “tradition” to play the game right when midnight (or 3am..) rolls around and race to hit the new max level as quickly as possible. I know the “realm first!” mindset places me in a minority, but that doesn’t make me love it any less, and damn it all if Blizzard ever took that experience away from me.
Less personally speaking though, I think leveling serves many functional purposes as well. For starters, it gives players a real sense of accomplishment as they are moving through new content. The prestige may be diminished more so in recent expansions, but seeing someone at max level still is a way to know that character has gone through the leveling process and pushed through the grind. Aside from maybe gear, level is the first thing other players notice. Losing new levels would lessen that distinction and just take away from a sense of accomplishment and progression.
Moreover, without levels, what is there to do at an expansion’s release? Imagine Mist being released without new levels and jumping straight into the daily grind. The leveling process separated those two things and gave players a reason to quest before working to perfect their character.
“But wait!” you might say. “You could easily make a new expansion that just focused on the story without the levels! 5.1 did that and it worked great!”
To this I say, “then why not throw in levels anyways?” Seriously, Blizzard always adds new zones to an expansion. If they are going to tell a story, why not let us level as we progress through that story? 5.1 may have shown story doesn’t need levels, but in all honesty, the achievement progress was essentially a replacement for levels. It’s all the same, but the levels themselves really push things along and make players feel good about what they’ve accomplished.
No, more levels certainly isn’t a bad thing. The problem – (and I’m sorry, I’m about to stray a bit from the topic) – is the sum total amount of levels needed to hit the cap.
If we get 10 levels in the next expansion, that’s a full 100 levels before a new player is maxed out. That’s pretty daunting, especially considering the size of the world.
Blizzard has made steps to make it easier, but the result has been a sort of ridiculous disparity between “recommended levels” for zones and actual player levels.
While not a complete fix, I think it would be an incredible step in the right direction if Blizzard allowed players to level in whatever zones they pleased. Scale up or down player stats to fit the “level range” of a zone so players can experience what zones and stories they want, when they want to (with the “current content” being a possible exception). Your effective level is determined by experience, everything else is determined by the zone you are in. This would also help players level together no matter what effective level they were. The only time you have to leave a zone is when you’re out of quests. Wanna hit 85 without touching the Cataclysm zones and stay in Northrend instead? Go ahead! Love Outland and wish it lasted longer? Stay and finish the zones then!
It’s not necessarily the perfect solution – after all, 100 levels is still 100 levels – but it’s still a system the game sure couldn’t hurt from having. And while it may be a bit of a diversion from the original topic, it all ties back to the leveling experience in general: new levels on their own aren’t a bad thing. New levels + all the old ones, expansion after expansion? That is only going to become more and more overwhelming with each new addition to the game.
(Edit: For reference, the original question was posed at http://wow.joystiq.com/2013/08/15/community-blog-topic-do-we-need-more-levels/ in reference to this post from Sportsbard)