Monday, August 29, 2016

Reality PC

The new warcraft expansion is coming out and it has one particular new feature I have been thinking about - zone scaling.  This new tech allows a zone to scale with player level so you can tackle the zones in the new area in any order you like.  You won't outlevel the zones, and you can do the harder ones first if you want.  The upside is that you aren't restricted in how you play, and you can also go back to do things afterwards without them being silly and trivial.

But I wonder if this is really the best way to go about it.  One of the real problems with the game right now is that you level so quickly it is easy to end up halfway through the quests in a zone and gain so many levels that you cannot gain experience anymore.  You have the choice of abandoning the zone halfway through the story or doing the story against trivial opponents that give you nothing in the way of rewards.  Hardly a stellar set of options.

I think Blizzard should instead have taken a tack that helps with the problems they are trying to solve with the new zones but also helps with the older stuff.  The real issue I see with the solution they are bringing in is that the game no longer would feel real.  For one, gaining levels and being more powerful wouldn't actually make you better.  It just isn't as much fun to realize that these rewards you are getting in the form of experience and levels actually make things harder, and sometimes that is going to be true.  Also there is the real issue that the world no longer feels like a place you explore to find out what is there, but rather just an amusement park built for your convenience.  If you go to Zone A at level 20 and kill a monster, then leave, and come back at level 60 and the monsters there suddenly do 20 times as much damage and have 20 times as much health it seems ridiculous to me.  Just tell me how tough a gnoll in Westfall is, don't just ratchet it up as I level!

I think a far better solution would be to flatten the power progression and get rid of level influences on combat and experience.  The game has always had this weird thing in it where monsters that are significantly above your level not only do a lot of damage and have a lot of health, but they start to randomly ignore your attacks.  Get up to about 10 levels difference and you simply can't affect them at all.  Also you can't get experience from low level monsters so you absolutely have to fight things right near your level.  I think the world would feel a lot better if that wasn't the case anymore.  If you could get experience for low level monsters you could at least finish zones where you were much higher level.  It wouldn't be hard but at least it wouldn't feel pointless.  If you could kill high level monsters you would have much more freedom to explore and test yourself, and the hardcore players could have fun trying to fight things that should be way out of their league.

Right now the game forces the player to do content in a very tight band based on their level.  Rather than simply make every zone suddenly be the same level as the player, I think the better solution is to just widen that band.  If you are level 45 right now, you can basically fight monsters from level 43 to 47.  I would suggest that the experience penalty for fighting low level things be removed so you can fight really low level stuff if you like - sure, that level 30 monster isn't much of a challenge but you can still do it and get something.  And that level 60 monster is quite the menace, but it isn't impossible, so if you can do it the rewards are quite something!

Doing it this way makes the world feel more real to me.  The challenges stay there, ready for you to attempt, and you have a lot of freedom to do what you want within that world.  Sure, top players in heirloom gear will happily slay monsters 20 levels above them and level up really fast - but so what?  It will at least give them the chance to push their skills, rather than grind utterly trivial enemies instead.  It will also mean that noobs or bots can just grind away on pathetic challenges if they choose to - but that isn't likely to be efficient, and who cares if they do?  It is far more important to make levelling fun than it is to try to corral those edge cases that don't hurt anybody else anyway.

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