On a normal non-completionist playthrough, the characters will not reach 12th level. We need to have a level cap because we can only make so much content (spells, talents, abilities, etc.) for all of the classes. You can hit second level relatively quickly, but the overall leveling rate should feel somewhere between BG and IWD -- sort of to be expected since our cap is between the BG/IWD caps.
Taken from: http://forums.obsidi...cing/?p=1421141
So if you were never even intended to reach 12th level without being a completionist (and presumably reaching it while still in Act II should be out of the question entirely), why is it happening? Since there's only a finite amount of XP in the game, we can fairly easily reach the conclusion that XP rewards and the leveling curve are out-of-whack. Where, I can't say.
But you'll note that the IE games did not have this problem (in general). And the reason is not because their XP rewards were perfectly tuned for where the player should be at any point in the game - that's nearly impossible to do. It's because their leveling curve is exponential.
In Baldur's Gate, you need to double your XP every time you level up. Straight-up double it. Different classes had different curves, but this trend was the same. So for a fighter, you'd need 2000 for lvl 2, 4000 for lvl 3, 8000 for lvl 4, 16000 for lvl 5, etc... all the way until lvl 10, where it switched to a flat XP amount per level. PoE, on the other hand, uses a linear growth formula - each level needs 1000 XP more than the previous level needed over it's previous level. So it's more like 1000 for lvl 2, 3000 for lvl 3, 6000 for lvl 4, 10000 for lvl 5, etc... (don't crucify me if I got the starting point wrong, the trend is what's important).
The implications of this difference are staggering. In Baldur's Gate, even if the difference between a completionist and non-completionist playthrough led to the completionist having 4x the amount of experience as the non-completionist... that translated to 2 levels. Only. So they didn't have to worry about balancing XP rewards perfectly, because the system was robust enough to handle players having a wide range of XP-gaining tendencies. In the PoE system, on the other hand - if you get even 2x the amount of experience as a non-completionist, that's a lot more levels. Assuming the critical path puts you at level 9, doubling your experience from 45000 to 90000 would put you almost at level 13 (91000)!!
That's 4 levels difference.. from just double the experience in PoE. Versus 2 levels difference... from quadruple the experience in Baldur's Gate (or a single level from double the experience). You cannot balance an encounter to be fun for people on both ends of a 4 level spread. Not in a game like PoE. So you can see that conceptually... fundamentally... even if they fix bounties giving craptons of XP... the PoE leveling curve is fundamentally very sensitive to the differences in XP we might expect completionist vs non-completionist players to have. About 4 times as sensitive in the area we care about right now (the high end of PoE's levels).
Josh Sawyer and co. are welcome to try and balance the sidequest XP in PoE such that the game stays fun for both completionists and non-completionists. But the only way to do so (literally the only way mathematically), to replicate the BG leveling "feel", while keeping the current PoE level curve is to make sidequests give a pitiful amount of XP compared to the critical path (please no) or to make individual levels much less meaningful (please no).
The PoE leveling curve has to go. I don't know why they decided on it in the first place - but it's fundamentally incompatible with a game with the amount of side content (and side quest XP) we would expect in a game like PoE. No matter how well you balance things, you can never get past the limitations imposed on you by the leveling curve. If you want a game in which completionists and non-completionists can be within a few levels of each other at any given points (and where side quests are still meaningful), you have to bring back the exponential leveling curve of BG.
I expect they'll do something to fix this issue, and I expect it won't be what I'm suggesting (because that's hard to do). I think what they'll end up doing is just toning down side quests to only give about a fourth of the XP of the critical path. That'd replicate the results of BG's system - at least for this game. But as they move into the expansions and sequels, this problem will rear its ugly head again. The exponential leveling curve would fix it where it's broken. I suspect we'll get a band-aid instead (which would still be better than the current system)... but I hope they'll at least consider adopting a more robust leveling curve.
EDIT: As some have pointed out, doubling the requirement each time might be a bit much. Fair enough. The actual coefficient isn't that important - what's important is that the mathematical formula for "next level's XP requirement" changes from XP_n = c*[(n)+(n-1)+(n-2)+ ...] to XP_n = c*a^n. The base, a, was 2 in the BG games. It could be whatever you want it to be in PoE. Just use that formula instead of the current one.
Edited by Matt516, 08 April 2015 - 12:42 PM.