Monday, December 7, 2009

Optimal Use of Leveling Content

Allarond is back in Moria, trying to mop up some quests he missed, including the entire zone of Foundations of Stone. The catch is that, between these quests and the ones in Lothlorien, he is already level 62. The Mirkwood expansion raised the cap to 65, and I'm likely to hit level 63 before I set foot in it.

The irony is that LOTRO originally launched with far too little solo leveling content, especially in the 40+ level range. Now there's comfortably more than a player needs for a single playthrough from 40-60, but not quite enough to take a second character through without repeating a lot of content. Also, the deed system still discourages alts, and there's no way to lower your level if you actually want to do all the solo content at non-trivial levels.

Content usage in WoW
WoW has a similar problem - amongst other things, you can skip approximately half of the Burning Crusade expansion these days - but there's plenty of content to take a second character (possibly as many as 3-4 if you do both factions, with the exception of the 40-58 range) through all-new content.

Also, if you really know what you're doing, you can use the new level locking feature to freeze your exp gain to do more content at a constant level, though you do this at the risk of having a lot of grinding ahead if you miscalculate.

It will be very interesting to see how the Cataclysm expansion is received, since players may need to make multiple alts of both factions to see all of the new stuff. If you only stick to your one main character, Blizzard's decision to re-allocate resources from the level cap to the early leveling game may leave you feeling like it was a very thin expansion.

Content Usage in EQ2
One of my earliest observations in EQ2 was the same problem - leveling past most of the content in the 1-30 region. (Things settle down from 30-60, kind of suck from 60-70, and then you're looking at basically one path through Kunark from 70-80 and the current cap.)

Today, EQ2's probably got the best solution out there - a new feature in September's Game Update allows players to temporarily lower their levels for the purpose of completing low level content. You will even continue to gain experience at some reduced rate, which might do a fair amount to patch the hole in solo content in the game's 60-70 tier.

Solutions for Everyone?
Don't get me wrong, there are problems with expecting players to complete all the solo quests in the game just to level. Having to chase down every single quest can start to feel like a chore, especially if you're stuck in one area for too much time (See Kunark). You also run the risk of having to return to the same area repeatedly, which is when even the best travel systems start to drag. Finally, players who are trying to make their way to higher levels so they can escape the solo quest grind need to have a way to make that happen.

I'm just saying that it would be nice to have a good mechanism for using all the content before you out-level it, if that's actually your goal as a player.


Shintar said...

Heh, I just wrote a post commenting on this myself last night, or rather the levelling through Outland part. My latest alt had barely seen a quarter of Outland content before she reached "Northrend level", and it just feels wrong.

Stabs said...

I've just started playing EQ2 again and I'm really impressed by the slider bar for adventure exp to achievement exp.

Basically I've hit level 15 and set it so that all my adventure exp will instead go to achievement exp until I run out of content.

Green Armadillo said...

@Stabs: The slider is good too, but, like WoW's level lock (and EQ2's old level lock for that matter) you run the risk of needing to grind if you overestimate the amount of content you have yet to do. With automentoring, you're still accumulating the exp, it just doesn't cause the local mobs to gray out.

The Don said...

Do you think that perhaps there is a large amount of leveling content from a design perspective that assumes players will raise n+1 characters?

That there is a large amount of "diverse" content/paths available thru some games due to the fact that designers wanted to try an avoid the loss of freshness on subsequent "play-thrus"?

However this still does leave the issue of trivializing content or progress stagnation should a player use 0 as their N variable.

Perhaps a unique design idea would be to allow for a system of "incarnations" where a player would be "incarnated" at the requisite level for the appropriate tier and have its own advancement mechanic that is tied into but different and separate from the main progression path.

Yeebo said...

I don't tend to worry much about outleveling content. When quests gray out I ditch them and move on. It leaves more for subsequent alts to do.

That said, I see no reason why the option to slow down leveling shouldn't be there for players that want it. For example, a simple check box to turn off bonus XP or XP from kills. I'm a big fan of the slider in EQ II.

As a bit of a tangent, a problem that I have with most of these games is that they tend to be thick at the beginning and towards the end, with a lot of independent leveling tracks, and thin in the middle. I very rarely get more than one character to the cap in any MMO due to the mid level doldrums.

Stabs said...

Well so far I levelled to 15 and am farming AAs with slider at 100%. I am using the EQ2 wiki to plan out my questing.

At some point I will release the slider when I'm out of content.

There seems to be a lot of content. If I do find a tier where content is sparse I'll just go through it with slider at 0%.