Dev Discussion #14 - Content Level Equalization


Glorious Ashes community - it's time for another Dev Discussion! Dev Discussion topics are kind of like a "reverse Q&A" - rather than you asking us questions about Ashes of Creation, we want to ask YOU what your thoughts are.

Our design team has compiled a list of burning questions we'd love to get your feedback on regarding gameplay, your past MMO experiences, and more. Join in on the Dev Discussion and share what makes gaming special to you!

Dev Discussion #14 - Content Level Equalization
What are your thoughts on content level equalization in MMOs, and why? (ex. when higher-level players are brought down to lower levels to complete or re-complete content with newer players)

Keep an eye out for our next Dev Discussion topic regarding favorite & ideal classes!


  • Magic ManMagic Man Member
    edited January 10
    I'm personally not a fan of the concept. For an open world game with sandboxy features like Ashes, it may not even be relevant (it's more of a themepark thing - the game having great control over how you do things and putting restrictions on you). The only way it would be OK is if It's optional or it is used for only instanced content.
  • DamoklesDamokles Member
    edited January 9
    I think that GW2 did a good job in that regard.
    You get deleveled to the max level required for that content, and all your stats are scaled, down but keep the relative power level.
    A lvl 80 max geared character will be as strong at a downscaled lvl 15 against level 15 mobs as he was as a lvl 80 against lvl 80 mobs.
    I myself dont have a peoblem with getting downscaled, as long as you dont really notice the difference during combat.
  • Equalizing levels and, to a lesser extent, Stats can prevent a new player from being "carried" through content not knowing ho to play. However it can also be seen that a new character for a player who just wants to level one up like an ALT can slow them down. so if its handled well it can work. For example; Timewalking Dungeons from World of Warcraft, those are events that bring you down to the dungeon level to get some sort of reward for it and those are generally not disliked.
  • FreezmanFreezman Member, Braver of Worlds
    edited January 9
    I think equalizing for PvE is a good feature.

    It definitely creates a more friendly environment for new players. If you have a friend that is just starting out then equalization can help that player experience content as it was intended instead of getting carried.

    Having the higher level player be brought down could also mean that you can equalize the rewards to match their original level since they completed content that should be challenging if implemented well. Which means that lower level content will have a longer lifespan. If higher level players frequent lower level dungeons then the world feels more alive. In many MMOs the lower level dungeons are pretty much abandoned and new players can have difficulty finding players to play through that content.

    The potential issue of course is that by equalizing stats or levels the players might feel less of a sense of progression. So the specifics of the system would ideally take that into account and attempt to maintain that feeling while still making the content challenging enough.

    I would also love a GW2-esque equalization system for arenas or at least some of the arena modes.
  • I just love the idea of deleveling so you can help others, its a great way to make the game funnier and bring people close together, I really wish this become a trait for AOC so we can replay some dungeons, quest and adventures in general with friends that come late or with new ones we made in-game :3
  • AzryilAzryil Member, Leader of Men, Early Alpha One Tester
    I like the idea of Mentoring systems existing to allow higher level players to play with lower level friends without effecting progressing of the lower level player. However I think these systems should be a manual switch. I don't really like the idea of automatic level scaling of players or monsters in the zone as this takes away from the feeling of power progression while leveling.
  • gurbashgurbash Member, Braver of Worlds
    Depends on what type it is, and how it works.

    For example, one that takes an area and just nerfs everyone in it down to a maximum level (GW2-style, I guess), in my opinion, makes it not fun to run through old zones on my own. What I mean by that is I don't really feel the impact of me being much stronger than I was when I first ran through said area. I does, however, have the advantage in that it *should* be pretty easy to balance.

    Another would be something like a 'conditional' level equalization, where you, either through a menu of some sort, by accepting a quest or something like that, manually adjust your level to suit an area, dungeon etc. This would more than likely increase the effort on behalf of the developers, but it would at the same time give much more freedom to the players to decide if they want to compete with lower-level mobs/players or not.

    Personally I would like to see something like my second example, though I know there might be more elegant solutions to this.
  • malgusmalgus Member
    Hey all
    I'm kind of okay with it if its done right. By this I mean if the rewards are good enough for us higher levels to give us a reason to do the content. Though not really okay with it if reduces the level of iconic bosses or characters in the lore. By this I mean in Star wars the old republic they made level scaling for endgame bosses so level 50 bosses were made to the level of the planet so level 10 in some instances and you were also made level 10 this not fun we want story to be the same level it always was. If its add in the wild for daily's or small quests that is fine but story is a no no.

  • I strongly dislike level-equalizing systems, both systems that raise players levels to compete in content and systems that lower levels for repeat content.

    The fact is all content isn't for everybody all the time. I enjoy content that is a progression as a means to make your character more powerful; your power should be in correlation to the amount of time you've spent making your character powerful, not a side-effect of some content you've queued for.

    Conversely, I don't necessarily mind having my rewards culled for running content that's severely below my level as a means to help out another player, but I want to be able to blast through that dungeon with the power I've worked for.

    MMOs have facets that are unbalanced, for better and for worse. Sometimes in an attempt to make the "worse" more bearable, we make the "better" less rewarding.
  • I think it's paramount to never be able to completely and utterly overgear/overlevel any content in the game to a point of ridicule. Gear and levels should provide an advantage, not a guarantee.

    If I, 4iq max lvl warrior, pull 20 monsters and can go grab a coffee before I start pressing buttons and then oneshot the whole herd, without being in danger at any point in time, there was no effort and the reward is momentary, and with time and repeats, is gone completely.

    This is good for convenience but bad for the game and the player. It makes the hours dedicated to making the monster and polishing it worth only the few levels that it takes you to pass the area, also, it devalues the hard work put into mastering my character, it's no challange, it doesn't make me feel anything.

    Now don't get me wrong, nobody wants a dark souls boss fight whenever they pull a mob, far from it, we want to smash them, but that's not what we need. Balancing our wants and needs is for the devs to do.

    Ultimately, what's important to me, and many others, even if they don't realise it, is to have a tiny bundle of fear/reservation/doubt whenever they plan a mob pull. Make us feel it.

    P.S. Give me my goddamn Castle Siege.
    Mightykatze, the future Dictator of a European server
  • T ElfT Elf Member, Braver of Worlds
    In PvE games I like the mentoring system just fine where you can level down (not up) and help people out. I'm not sure how I would feel in a PvX game as I'm not as experienced in it.
    Formerly T-Elf

  • SiljonSiljon Member
    edited January 9
    For me it really depends on the type of the game. If it's more casual or there is a lot of instances like in battleground or dungeons well then I find it okay (WoW, GW2 etc). However if it's a MMO with more RPG in the game or if it's open world and PVP is important than I say BIG NO (Tibia).

    For me Ashes is really in between, and it's hard to pick. But my take is no because you should be rewarded if you spend your time and energy into the game. So why "punish" by bringing their character down? My take on it would be to skip it for ashes, or if you want to add it give the options and if they choose not to equalize then debuff EXP or item drop or the opposite, buff up the EXP and drop if they choose to.

    Edit. After reading Freezman I most say I like the idea of reusing old instances and they not feeling dead. However my guess with ashes it that a lot of people will create alts. It would be cool to freeze your level as well, would be fun to RP a weak character in the game. Okay, I'm getting off topic, sorry!

    Best regards
  • NoeSparksNoeSparks Member, Phoenix Initiative, Royalty
    I really liked how gw2 scales you down to the area you were in. But youll always be stronger because your in better gear. Id like to see something like that and improved on.
  • CareFreeCactusCareFreeCactus Member, Founder
    I agree that GW2 did a good job with this but it might not work for this game.
    A high level player should not be able to carry a new player to max level without some challenge. Giving the higher level player a handicap like a stat scaling could create this challenge if done right.
    Another problem comes into play when looking at PVP. If high level players are scaled down then the people looking to PvP may feel cheated that the time they put to level up is only going to matter in some zones. The open PvP aspect would be very limited in low level areas
    With all this in mind I feel the best way would be to give creatures a deffence buff to players that are ~10 levels or so higher than said creature. This way you are always at the same level (no stat drop), PvP can continue like normal, and you are not able to mop the floor with low level mobs for your low level friend.
  • I don't like an idea of level equalization in a game that has open-world PvP system! And of the top of my head, I can't name any title that had both level equalization and open-world PvP.
  • WololoWololo Member, Phoenix Initiative, Hero of the People
    hmm i dont like it and prefer the oldskool way where you have to grind with a party or get help from a high lvl friend. more hardcore but it brings accomplishment. it seems lvl equalization seems populair in modern mmos to make better use of content which makes sence.
  • mcstackersonmcstackerson Member, Phoenix Initiative, Royalty
    edited January 9
    Strongly against it and would much prefer vertical scaling curved instead.

    I feel like level scaling is a patch to another problem that can be solved. I don't think people need to do 1000+ times more damage and health. I understand some scaling is a nice incentive but does it need to be so out of control to motivate people to advance.

    I feel like so many problems can be fixed by not making us scale at such a ridiculous rate. I don't find it compelling getting to a point where I can one shot mobs i used to fight and it's always sad when I can do it to a boss i used to struggle with. in pvp, it sucks that low levels get one shot because of the scaling in the level system. I hate that if any of my friends join late, they have to level for a certain amount of time before they can play with us. Yes, i can go back and play with them but is it so bad for me to be able to bring them to where i'm playing. I work, have limited play time, and going back to help them level usually isn't efficient. The benefits for them is minimal and i usually don't gain anything in game. If there is some meaningful story content that they care about, they can go back and play it later. I always have friends drop off MMOs because of this.

    There is also a lot that can be done with items besides increasing stats to encourage people to pursue them like adding unique passives and actives. So many games just make gear stat sticks but is that really the only way to do this.

    Please don't do crazy vertical scaling... or at least consider it. I'm not the designer so i don't know why you think you need it.

  • sorzussorzus Member
    I don't think its cool to have a high level player scaled down to that particular's content max level.
    You have already experienced that content and it should not be a challenge again.

    Maybe you can only scale down a high level player if he is in a group with a low level player, that way you can prevent the carry friend. But if the high level player is alone it should not be a challenge.

    The only time scale down works IMO is in particular events with particular rewards like WoW's Timewalking.
  • nonameftwnonameftw Member, Settler
    edited January 9
    Personally I think that if implemented correctly you can have the upsides of both worlds. You could make deleveling optional and tie it to whether or not you gain XP.

    A very important thing is to have a long time plan already. World of Warcraft is a VERY good case study of an old mmorpg that kinda did its expansions wrong and then somewhat tagged on Level Equalization. Though Blizz did it well considering the circumstances of having like 10 additional maps that weren't there originally. What I am trying to say is that while were are talking about leveling equalization it is already important to consider how AoC will get additional content. Will the level cap be raised ? How will stats and the level curve affected by that ? It all ties into each other.

    You want high level players that have 1000+ hours on their character to oneshot that pesky bandit from the first zone. The Question is for the future: Do you also eve want a player be able to oneshot that Dragon from the old max level 2 expansions ago ? Because WoW actually made content out of that. Transmog runs are a thing many players enjoy. Soloing Raid Instances with oneshooting everything from old content can be fun.
    So will the instances always be scaled up or do we let content go outdated ? Will Gear have a Tier-System in which players gain better equipment or do we do the GW2 Route or just getting fancier stuff that looks cooler ?

    Vera will have (hopefully) a continuous story. Zones change. Cities change. Events change. At what point will the game give players the option to experience the "previously on Ashes of Creation" ? That is an Issue GW2 also had to deal with.

    A cool Idea would be to use this as an opportunity! The world will change. Player Characters become more powerful through their journey. Give players the option to travel back in time and see the world state as it was before or even specifically when they were level X (though that would introduce a lot of its own problems). That means deleveling. There they can meet new players and other low level characters.

    Emergent Storytelling alone through the world will not carry interest long term. Especially if events repeat themselves. It is necessary to tell an actual story that impacts our Player Characters. Which means time will progress and Events will happen that change the world.

    Level Equalization does not happen in a bubble. It is neither just a bad thing or just a good thing. The best way to approach it is asking oneself these questions (above) and then finding situations where the one system is better and one where the other is better.

    And the best way to implement any Gameplaysystem is to give it meaning. A reason why it is there outside of purely Gameplay reasons. If you tie deleveling to "travel back in time" then it infinitely more engaging than just having the system.
  • JahlonJahlon Member
    If the dungeons in Ashes of Creation were going to be instanced, then this would work. It would allow high level characters to go back and help low-level character with their content.

    Given that the dungeons are going to be open world however, that sort of throws that idea out the window.
    Make sure to check out Ashes 101
  • T ElfT Elf Member, Braver of Worlds
    When Rift first started they had you would automatically level to the area; that got old fast and they eventually changed it to you out leveled lower areas; and I liked that much more. I want to be able to travel thru lower levels without being slowed down all the time; there won't be fast travel, so I don't want more of a hindrence in the game mechanics.
    Formerly T-Elf

  • MalfunMalfun Member
    I personally don’t like equalization because it does take away from the hard work of leveling and gearing your character. But I agree with mightykatze, that every battle no matter the level will come with some reservations.
    Your level and gear will improve you outcome, but without the skill of a veteran player you may miss a combo or attract other npcs to the battle that may tip the scales.
  • sorzus wrote: »
    I don't think its cool to have a high level player scaled down to that particular's content max level.
    You have already experienced that content and it should not be a challenge again.

    But the way Ashes is built you may have 2-10 areas in the world that are labelled as level 20 content. Which means if you level through 1 zone, there are 1-9 more possible areas of content that you would just plow through or wouldn't help you at all. The equalization makes all lower level missed content relevant. Elder Scrolls Online is a great example of this because I was able to go anywhere in the world (besides higher level content) and be challenged and progress.

    Also not having this system makes a lot of content a 1 time experience. Wild star fell victim to this by spending tons of resources on the building amazing leveling zones that you never had a reason to go back to. With a scaling system they could have brought you back to any area to enjoy the zones again with fresh content.

    Last thing I'll mention is its a great system for people that may have sped through the leveling experience and want to go back and find all the hidden/off the path quests they may have missed. Personally, I wish that there were more quests in MMOs for once you hit the max level and this system solves that issue for me.
  • Given that Ashes will be a Constantly changing world. i see no point in having a mandatory level equalization feature. maybe something optional. that way you can choose to DE-level to play with friends. (there's no need to worry about pvp max's killing noobs because of the corruption system and bounties.
    but as someone stated already. sometimes it's fun at max level to just blast through weak areas and see just how much your character has grown
  • eliseideliseid Member
    edited January 9
    I prefer having no scaling, but simply a small gear gap.
  • I really hate the concept of content level equalization. It takes away my immersion completely. As dakumaro said, for a constantly changing open world, level equalization is really meaningless and I hope this game won't have it.
  • Came here to say basically what everyone else is saying. For instanced content this makes a ton of sense. But for the open world, helping my friend level and knowing I am contributing to the node we are in is good enough. If you need to implement some kind of player xp scaling or reward system to get higher level players to do lower level content, then I think you should do that instead of just tossing on a level sync. legit no one does fates in low level areas in ffxiv....
  • pandavocpandavoc Member
    edited January 9
    I honestly think it's hard to tell with a game like Ashes of Creation. In my opinion I would probably prefer not to have it. On one hand my mind immediately jumped to thinking how everyone will generally be in the same area to contribute to nodes, so yes it might make sense there. If Ashes is constantly changing as it looks like it will, will this mean the story and quests of that area might change with it as well? If so then it would make a ton of sense to have level scaling so higher level players can go back and experience what has changed.

    On the other hand, I feel if a new player is leveling, it could take away from their experience to have someone who has ran through it just being there and grinding through it all etc.
  • RockRock Member
    edited January 10
    with manual switching as a choice just to weaken your self so you can play with new friends im good with. But don't think you should really get anything out of it xp wise or loot wise, as loot mostly comes from your gathering skills (if im not mistaken). In pvp or pve however you really should NEVER be forcefully deleveled or have you level raised as it kind of defeats the whole purpose of progression.
  • A mentoring system would be fine, but de-leveling, or equalization, seems to be counter-productive. If you force a character de-level then you are in effect punishing the player for being helpful. If you equalize the difficulty then it feels like the character has made no progress - e.g. "Oh, those are level three goblins". (five seconds later) "Hells Bells, they hit hard"

    With a mentoring system the character would get little to no experience from the dungeon (encounter, boss, etc) but would get experience for actively keeping their student alive (either through skill use experience or a mentoring reward) during the course of the mentoring session.

    Just my two rupees.
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