They aren't. Yep, it's that simple. Having leveled nine characters to 80 under the old system I can honestly say I noticed no difference whatsoever leveling the tenth under the new, or not, at least, in how much fun I had doing it. Leveling in GW2 was straightforward, simple and fun before and it still is. As I observed in an earlier post, The Trait Unlock mechanic remains sadly underdeveloped and peripheral but on the other hand you don't need traits at all to level up. At worst it's a botched opportunity to make Trait-hunting something to look forward to but in no way does it constitute a roadblock to fun or progress.
By the time my Guardian hit the sixties the project was more or less off the rails anyway. The lure of World Bosses and WvW pulled her from the true path of leveling by Hearts and Map Completion. After a brief flurry of excitement in the forties, when she realized she could wear and wield Rares, good housekeeping took over and any that dropped went onto the Trading Post to feed what I presume must be the min-max market. Given that each level in GW2 takes about an hour at the outside and you can change your entire armor set every five levels it can only be obsessive number-crunchers who find it worthwhile spending that kind of money but I'm happy to be the one taking their silver.
So my Guardian dinged 80 decked out in a motley collection of level 55-60 green quality drops and karma-vendor trinkets, in which she'd had not the slightest difficulty progressing smoothly and enjoyably. At this point a genuine first-time character might run into a speed-bump trying to scrabble up Exotics. I don't think you'd earn enough Karma for a full set at the Temples just by leveling up the regular way. You might get enough Badges from 80 levels of WvW although the life of an uplevel in the Borderlands can be trying.
To test that I'd either need to buy a third account or run a spreadsheet and enter every single Karma award and Badge earned on the specific character I was leveling up and, while I'm not saying that doesn't tempt me, unless I can find an institution willing to accept it as the basis for a Master's thesis I don't think I'll bother right now. It was thoroughly enjoyable instead to take her up to the vendors in the Yak's Bend Citadel and kit her out with a full set of Berserker armor and some more tanky accessories courtesy of the thousands of badges already earned by the rest of her team. Or I could have gone the Temple route and used some of my five million karma...
As for the Traits, I'd drifted so far from the original plan I'd forgotten about them to the extent that I'd only eve gotten around to spending the first couple of points, a situation which wasn't corrected until this weekend, by which time she'd been eighty for a couple of weeks or more. I finally got around to visiting the Trainer, buying the three or four Traits I needed and putting her into some kind of "build" that I got off the forums. It cost me about three gold and thirty or so Skill Points.
You can easily make three gold in a couple of hours doing World Bosses and I had over 80 skill points banked from leveling up alone, so again the barrier presented by the Trait Revamp is trivial. Yes, if you wanted to open all your Traits by adventuring it would take you weeks and to buy them all would cost scores of gold and heaps of skill points, but why would you need to do that? Even if you're the sort of person who likes to swap builds you'll probably never use the huge majority of traits. Just buy the ones you need when you need them.
My curiosity is satisfied. Neither the Trait Revamp nor the Megaserver turned out to be as disruptive or deleterious to a good, casual romp as had been bruited. Of the two the Megaserver remains the more problematic but that, too, has settled down into a background hum, easy to ignore. I see people I recognize often now so the sorting seems to have become more consistent at least. They still aren't the same people I saw regularly before the change but I can live with that. At least we can get Teq done on a regular basis in pick-up maps now, which is nice.
One thing the Project has made certain: there will be more characters. Leveling up is the most fun GW2 has to offer. I was in Wayfarer Foothills yesterday and one of the many new players (a half price sale will do that) asked if it got boring leveling up new characters after the first. Map chat resounded with a volley of variations on the theme "Like hell it does!". As one veteran player put it "Why do you think we're all here in a starting zone?".
Next up, Charr engineer or Asuran Mesmer for me I think. Mrs Bhagpuss has been leveling a Sylvari Thief because cultural armor. I sold a stack of ectos yesterday when the price was sky high so I can afford another character slot.
Before all that, though, comes Living Story Season Two. After watching the video (those explosions come from inside the ships) and listening to the soundbites all I can say is I told you so and so did Taimi, only unlike her I never trusted those Zephyrites.