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The leveling and XP curve. What's wrong and the only way to fix it.

Leveling XP

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#41
Seeders

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On my first blind playthrough, I reached the end at level 9, and got slaughtered by the boss.



#42
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I think getting xp requirements to grow exponentially, while making it so that getting the 12th level requires completion of 99% of the quests is a good idea. Obviously totally rebalancing all the xp rewards so that both "completionists" and "modern gamers" were happy would be better, but are we completely sure Obsidian is up for that? Might be a waste of effort too, since most people that were happy with the xp rewards probably already completed the game and forgot about it. 

Imo just put normal xp, and reduced xp options into expert mode, just in case, and problem solved(the xp related part at least).

P.S. Apologies if you read the this post of mine in every related thread. :)


It would be nice to get some information regarding how individual experience requirements are stored. Maybe that way, a mod could be created to mess around with the experience requirements with minimal effort on Obsidian's part. Honestly, this would be the first thing I would try for myself.

If you mean xp requirements for each level, see here. https://forums.obsid...-7#entry1648191

 

Many thanks, I'll start looking into that.


Edited by View619, 08 April 2015 - 02:57 PM.


#43
Matt516

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@Atheosis - I want to apologize. I came on a little strong earlier. It's a bad habit I have where I know something to be true with certainty (usually something mathematical as those are often the only things you can know with certainty) and I project that certainty onto stuff that is not, in fact, certain or universal. Let me start over (sorta).

 

@Everyone (including Atheosis):

When tuning an RPG with an IE-esque XP system (finite amount of XP available in the game, levels are significantly important, etc.), there are three design variables to play with that are mathematically constrained to each other - that is, if you set any two, the third one must be a certain value.

 

These three variables are: The ratio of "optional" XP to "mandatory" XP, the level difference between a "completionist" and a "non-completionist" player as a function of how far in the game they are, and the level curve formula (how much XP it takes to get to any given level).

 

I've assumed two design goals in my argument that may not be universally agreed upon as good goals. If you agree with these two goals, then what I'm saying (that is, the functional form I am proposing for the XP curve) is mathematically and fundamentally correct, and the current system will never work, no matter how perfectly it's balanced. If you don't agree, there's ample room for disagreement but we just disagree on fundamental design goals so we'd end up agreeing to disagree (which is fine).

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Here are the two premises, the two design goals, upon which I based my OP. The argument I am making depends on these two things being agreed upon:

 

1) The ratio of optional XP to mandatory XP should be roughly the same no matter where in the game (or eventual series) one is... that is, if in Act I there is 10,000 critical path XP and 10,000 optional XP, and in Act III there is 50,000 critical path XP, there should be about 50,000 optional XP in Act III. If in Act VII (assuming PoE 2) there is 10,000,000 critical path XP, there should be about 10,000,000 optional XP. Specific numbers aren't important, just the concept.

 

2) The level difference between a completionist and non-completionist player should not grow significantly (if at all) with time. That is, if I do every single sidequest and Bobby only does the story quests, and I end up 2 levels ahead of Bobby at the end of PoE, I shouldn't be.. say.. 6 levels ahead of Bobby at the end of PoE 2 if we both follow the same pattern.

 

These are the two premises I am assuming are true. My reasoning for 1 is that it just wouldn't make sense for sidequests to become more or less valuable relative to story quests as the series progresses. My reasoning for 2 is that the game is much easier to balance that way. If you agree with me in these two statements, my conclusion (what the leveling curve should be) is mathematically, ironclad, the only solution. Barring major changes like scaling XP rewards to current level, handing out levels instead of XP, that sort of thing. Either of which would work - but I'm arguing within the framework we have (the three variables outlined in the above paragraphs).

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Here's the thing. If you agree with those two statements, then two of our three design variables are fixed. The third is absolutely and fundamentally specified by the math (and is a function of the form "XP_for_level_N = C*A^n"). The coefficient A is easily worked out by what actual values we set the first two variables at (for a 50/50 split between story/optional XP and 1 level difference, A is equal to 2 for example - I'd argue for something more like 50/50 and 2.5 levels difference, so the coefficient A would be closer to 0.758), and C doesn't matter as it's a scaling constant.

 

So that's my amended argument. If you agree that sidequests should have the same relative XP value to story quests (overall) as the series progresses, and if you agree that the level difference between a completionist and a non-completionist should not grow (or shrink) as the series progresses... then my proposed change to the XP curve is the only solution. I'm not being arrogant here (I was earlier before I qualified my assumptions, but not here) - that's the math.

 

From what you've said (Atheosis), it sounds like you'd maybe be ok with sidequest XP growing less and less valuable relative to story XP as the series progresses, or maybe with completionists getting progressively further ahead of non-completionists in levels as the series goes on. If so, that's fine. We can agree to disagree. But if you agree with my statements 1 and 2, you cannot argue for the current leveling curve to remain - or anything other than the exponential function I proposed (or another function that also fulfills conditions 1 and 2 - of which I can think of none).

 

I cannot stress enough that that's not my opinion or a pet idea that I like because its mine - it's a mathematical truth on par with 2+2=4. The current leveling curve is fundamentally incompatible with design goals 1 and 2. Maybe the devs do not share one or both of those - I can't see why they wouldn't, though.

 

 

EDIT: I wish I could link this post to the OP. It says what I was trying to say a bit better than I did in the OP. Stupid forum edit timer rules... :p


Edited by Matt516, 08 April 2015 - 03:08 PM.


#44
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I think getting xp requirements to grow exponentially, while making it so that getting the 12th level requires completion of 99% of the quests is a good idea. Obviously totally rebalancing all the xp rewards so that both "completionists" and "modern gamers" were happy would be better, but are we completely sure Obsidian is up for that? Might be a waste of effort too, since most people that were happy with the xp rewards probably already completed the game and forgot about it. 

Imo just put normal xp, and reduced xp options into expert mode, just in case, and problem solved(the xp related part at least).

P.S. Apologies if you read the this post of mine in every related thread. :)


It would be nice to get some information regarding how individual experience requirements are stored. Maybe that way, a mod could be created to mess around with the experience requirements with minimal effort on Obsidian's part. Honestly, this would be the first thing I would try for myself.

If you mean xp requirements for each level, see here. https://forums.obsid...-7#entry1648191

 

Many thanks, I'll start looking into that.

 

If you figure out 1) how to mod that function and 2) how much total XP (both critical path and non-critical path) is actually in the game, I can tell you exactly what function to use and what coefficients to use to enforce any level difference between completionists and non-completionists you want. As well as scaling it so that completionists just barely get to 12 (if that's what you want). Hell, I can (probably?) give you pseudocode for a function that calculates all that on its own, given those parameters (so people using this mod can tune it to their liking).

 

I probably wouldn't use it - for all my obsession over mechanics and math, I prefer to play the game (mostly) the way the devs intended it if possible - even if its silly at the moment.



#45
View619

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So, a better formula for experience limits when compared to : ((currentLevel * (currentLevel + 1)) * 500)  would be what in your opinion Matt? You do seem to be the Matthematician. :p

 

 

Edit

 

Beat me to the response. Yeah, it's really just curiosity at the moment, looking at how different things work, etc. I'll let you know, though.


Edited by View619, 08 April 2015 - 03:17 PM.

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#46
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Regarding the BG comparison made at the beginning of the topic, I think it's apt, although perhaps not as originally intended.  At least on my first playthrough, I maxed out the possible levels before the final fight with Sarevok, and was not trying to be a completist.  The TotSC expansion pack welcome level expansion extras / xp cap relief (which I expect will also be the case for PoE).  BG2 started the party at the mid-levels and therefore had much more content/scaling flexibility from the beginning.

 

In the context of putting out the first installment of a new epic world/game series, believe the XP gain / scaling issues raised above are both valid and, unfortunately, more or less inevitable given different playstyles and balance issues.  The best fix would be to simply have the extra content available at start, but this is not really viable from a commercial perspective.  It would also require that much more dev time, which people don't have the patience for either.

 

I haven't started PoE yet and at this point I'm tempted to defer gaming gratification until the release of the expansion pack, for the fully enhanced experience.  We'll see.  There seems to be plenty of replayability, both in terms of content and difficulty level, so people of differing styles (or those who like to change them up) can still have a good experience.



#47
Daemonjax

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So, a better formula for experience limits when compared to : ((currentLevel * (currentLevel + 1)) * 500)  would be what in your opinion Matt? You do seem to be the Matthematician. :p

 

 

We'd need to know the actual maximum amount of exp attainable in the game (sans sources of infinite exp).

 

That being said, changing:

 

((currentLevel * (currentLevel + 1)) * 500)

 

to:

 

((currentLevel * (currentLevel + something_else)) * 500)

 

and/or:

 

((currentLevel * (currentLevel + 1)) * something_else)

 

... would be relatively simple because it wouldn't require changing the code size, so no optimization necessary to make room.

 

I probably could just guess the assembly code for the existing formula, convert it to hex, do a hex search in the dll, and make the change.

 

EDIT: There's not many instances (30ish) of little-endian 32-bit integer 500 (F4 01 00 00)  in Assembly-CSharp.dll


Edited by Daemonjax, 08 April 2015 - 03:49 PM.


#48
anameforobsidian

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This problem is exacerbated by Od Nua.  I was level 8 or 9 before I finished the first chapter.  Od Nua felt like a whole separate game inside the main thing, and its actually pretty fun as a dungeon runner.  You could rely on heavy handed solutions, or just accept that there's a huge amount of sidequests and some players will be overleveled by the middle.  Hell, it definitely happened in BG2, where I hit max somewhere around underdark, and earlier than that with Watcher's keep.

 

Durlag's Tower did similar things to BG, where I was maxed by the end of the Third chapter.


Edited by anameforobsidian, 08 April 2015 - 03:40 PM.


#49
Matt516

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So, a better formula for experience limits when compared to : ((currentLevel * (currentLevel + 1)) * 500)  would be what in your opinion Matt? You do seem to be the Matthematician. :p

 

I'd be happy to provide the info, but I would caution you against doing this. Implementing an exponential XP function without changing how the XP offered by various stuff in the game scales as you go through it... would actually make things worse. Because you'd get very very close to the level cap very early in the game and then take forever to get the final level. You can get around this by making creatures and quests and such award progressively more XP as the game progresses (which is what BG did), but currently PoE is not set up for that. So... although I'll give you the equations if you want it, just changing that formula won't fix things and will actually make them worse. The XP offered by the game has to scale up as you go in a similarly exponential way or the whole thing is borked.

 

What it comes down to, looking at a quadratic (current system) vs exponential (BG, also my suggested system) curve, here are the tradeoffs:

 

Pros of Exponential over Quadratic:

  • It is possible to maintain the same ratio of optional to story XP at any arbitrarily high level without causing the level gap between completionists and non-completionists to widen over time (as in, through PoE 1 and 2 and 3). This makes balancing encounters for both groups of players (and everyone in between, which is where most of us fall) much easier.
  • Underleveled Companions are quickly brought up to your level since the amount of XP it takes you to get to your next level is equal to the amount of XP it takes them to get up to your level (starting from lvl 1 and using the BG formula of 2^n). Would be slightly different if different coefficients were used, but it would be close. In the current  (quadratic) system, if you were to pick up a low level adventurer it would take ages for them to be within a level of you. Like - a very long time. That's why they autoscale to your level and why non-active companions get some XP in the stronghold - otherwise they'd become obsolete very quickly.

 

Pros of Quadratic over Exponential:

  • In an exponential system, quests and creatures from late in the game are worth incredibly high amounts of XP compared to early game quests and creatures. This leads to issues with rapid accidental (or intentional) leveling if people complete content "out of order", as with Durlag's tower or the basilisks in BG1. They still end up at the same level by the end of the game, but it's a little easier to exploit sequence breaking.
  • Maybe a bit more intuitive for some people??

 

Exponential isn't absolutely better - it does have the serious downside of making early game quests worth a pittance lategame and allowing potentially exploitable sequence breaking. If I had to guess, I'd say that's why they chose quadratic over exponential (if that much thought was put into it - hopefully there was... :p). But as we're seeing, quadratic has a similar issue of overleveling in the midgame. This is band-aid-able for one game, but will lead to either an increasing level gap or less valuable sidequests as the series progresses. I'm interested to see what Obsidian does. The downsides of the quadratic system can be somewhat mitigated by just enforcing a strict level cap in each installment of the series, but that doesn't solve the problem entirely. I would love  to hear a dev talk about why they decided to go with a quadratic curve instead of an exponential. Because this issue of balancing encounters for both completionists and non-completionists (the primary reason why this is even a problem) is not going to get better as the series progresses. It will get worse and worse (or they'll have to make sidequests nearly worthless late game - either way).

 

EDIT - You asked for the formula... it's "Experience for level n = C*A^n" (or "Experience for next level after level n = C*A^(n+1)", to use their terminology - same thing). A is determined by what you want the maximum level gap between completionists and non-completionists to be, as well as what your average ratio of optional XP to story XP is. C is just a scaling constant. You can set it as needed to make sure the experience needed for level 12 is whatever you want it to be. But as I said - the game's XP rewards don't scale with this in mind, so you'd probably end up leveling extremely quickly at the beginning of the game. Could come up with a hybrid function, I guess - quadratic up to a point and then exponential. That'd be the thing to do for PoE if trying to mod in your own solution to overleveling. That'd be quite hard to do right, though.


Edited by Matt516, 08 April 2015 - 04:00 PM.


#50
sparklecat

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This problem is exacerbated by Od Nua.  I was level 8 or 9 before I finished the first chapter.  Od Nua felt like a whole separate game inside the main thing, and its actually pretty fun as a dungeon runner.  You could rely on heavy handed solutions, or just accept that there's a huge amount of sidequests and some players will be overleveled by the middle.  Hell, it definitely happened in BG2, where I hit max somewhere around underdark, and earlier than that with Watcher's keep.

 

Durlag's Tower did similar things to BG, where I was maxed by the end of the Third chapter.

 

Matt's point is that fixing any individual instance of one source of xp or another - the Endless Paths, the bounties, whatever - won't fix the underlying problem, and it's only going to get worse as we progress beyond this first game.

 

 

eta: as he just said 2 minutes ago!


Edited by sparklecat, 08 April 2015 - 03:59 PM.


#51
Matt516

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Matt's point is that fixing any individual instance of one source of xp or another - the Endless Paths, the bounties, whatever - won't fix the underlying problem, and it's only going to get worse as we progress beyond this first game.

 

Yup - that's what I keep trying to get across, anyway. They can band-aid it for this game with rebalancing of certain things (Endless Paths and Bounties being the big ones) and it'll work fine.

 

But if the series continues, and continues to use the same leveling curve, one of two things must happen: either the level gap between completionists and non-completionists continues to grow (making proper encounter balance harder and harder, and potentially even forcing them to have stuff like a minimum level when starting PoE 2 or 3)... or sidequest XP will get smaller and smaller until it's a pittance by PoE 3.

 

Honestly, if you use a level cap for each game, and then have a minimum level when starting one of the sequels (with automatic scaling up if you import a character who is lower level), you can sort of partially band-aid indefinitely - though the level gap between the two groups will continue to rise simply by virtue of it being possible for people to start at different levels. It may be that that's what Obsidian intends to do. It'll make encounter balancing harder than it has to be, but I guess it does somewhat avoid the sequence-breaking exploits that are the only real weakness of the exponential level curve. I dunno. If I were Obsidian, I know what I'd do - but I'm an efficiency and balance junkie, so maybe they'd rather just make things harder for themselves/make the game less balanced. :p

 

EDIT: I guess you could just have the minimum level for PoE 2 and 3 be whatever the level cap was for the previous game. That at least ensures everyone starts on the same foot, and means that each game is roughly the same difficulty to balance since you only have to consider possible level growth throughout that game alone.

 

Obsidian devs, if any of you are reading - please make that happen for PoE 2 and 3 if the quadratic XP system is indeed set in stone (as I suspect it is). It's the only way your game doesn't get harder and harder to balance over time.

 

Huh. Now that I've thought of that, that is an alternate solution that would actually act as an infinite band-aid (instead of a partial band-aid). So.. yup. If they keep quadratic level curve, they should make imported characters in the sequels automatically start at the level cap from the previous game. That's the only way you keep things from spiraling out of control.


Edited by Matt516, 08 April 2015 - 04:12 PM.


#52
Serdan

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Matt, are there actually any problems with my suggestion?



#53
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I think at this point the best solution may be to apply band-aid solutions for this game, and consider an overhaul with the expansion or sequel.



#54
Matt516

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Matt, are there actually any problems with my suggestion?

 

Doing away with XP entirely and just handing out levels? Not... reeeaaalllyyy..... But it'd be an even harder sell than changing the leveling curve. And does come with some additional problems (such as no granularity whatsoever - there's a lot more quests than levels, so not all quests would have a level reward. And if you start handing out fractions of levels you're basically just back to XP).

 

It's not a system I'm opposed to, persay... I enjoyed Shadowrun: Dragonfall a ton, and it used a similar system. But that game actually didn't have levels, just Karma (skill points, attribute points, and abilities all rolled into one). So while there's nothing incredibly wrong with it or anything from a conceptual perspective... I don't think it'd work with PoE at all.



#55
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Cool Matt, I'll take your word for it and stick to looking around source code for curiosity/knowledge purposes. Also, I want to see what the devs plan on doing regarding difficulty and balance in the patches to come; maybe modifications won't even be necessary by the end of it.


Edited by View619, 08 April 2015 - 04:21 PM.


#56
Matt516

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Cool Matt, I'll take your word for it and stick to looking around source code for curiosity/knowledge purposes. Also, I want to see what the devs plan on doing regarding difficulty and balance in the patches to come; maybe modifications won't even be necessary by the end of it.

 

Yeah - as I realized a few posts ago, they can ensure that the game doesn't get progressively harder to balance in the sequels by simply autoleveling all imported characters to whatever the level cap was from the previous game. That would (mostly) do away with my main issue with the quadratic level curve, which is how fundamentally unsustainable it is in the long run.

 

If they do that... I'll be happy. If they don't... I might have to make one character for actually doing all the sidequests and one for actually being challenged in the main quest. Because there's no way they can balance sequels properly for completionists if they let you start out a sequel already higher level than a non-completionist.


Edited by Matt516, 08 April 2015 - 04:25 PM.


#57
Serdan

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Matt, are there actually any problems with my suggestion?

 

Doing away with XP entirely and just handing out levels? Not... reeeaaalllyyy..... But it'd be an even harder sell than changing the leveling curve. And does come with some additional problems (such as no granularity whatsoever - there's a lot more quests than levels, so not all quests would have a level reward. And if you start handing out fractions of levels you're basically just back to XP).

 

It's not a system I'm opposed to, persay... I enjoyed Shadowrun: Dragonfall a ton, and it used a similar system. But that game actually didn't have levels, just Karma (skill points, attribute points, and abilities all rolled into one). So while there's nothing incredibly wrong with it or anything from a conceptual perspective... I don't think it'd work with PoE at all.

 

You'd hand out levels based on % content completion tuned to land the players in certain level ranges at certain points of the game (if there are 10 quests and you want the player to progress 5 levels after completing all of them, then you hand out a level for every other quest).

I just completely fail to see how that wouldn't work for PoE.



#58
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I found the hex code location to modify the experience per level formula.

 

I'll post simple to follow instructions in a few minutes.

 

EDIT:

 

 

 

 

 

1. Go to your game folder: ...\Pillars of Eternity\PillarsOfEternity_Data\Managed

2. make a backup copy of Assembly-CSharp.dll

3. open then original Assembly-CSharp.dll in your favorite hex editor (I like HxD found here: http://mh-nexus.de/e...hp?product=HxD)

4. Search for the following hex code:

 

6F AC 02 00 0A 12 02 28 AD 02 00 0A 3A B1 FF FF FF DD 0C 00 00 00 08 8C 7E 00 00 1B 6F 1A 00 00 0A DC 2A 00 41 1C 00 00 02 00 00 00 29 00 00 00 59 00 00 00 82 00 00 00 0C 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 32 02 02 17 58 5A 20 F4 01 00 00 5A 2A 00 00 00 32 02 17 59 02 5A 20 

 

5. The hex code immediately following the above should look like:

 

F4 01 00 00 5A 2A 00 00 00 13 30 07 00 14 00 00 00 48 00 00 11 02 6F 12 00 00 2B 0A 06 6F 57 07 00 06 03 28 08 00 00 0A 2A 13 30 07 00 27 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 02 28 04 00 00 0A 39 0C 00 00 00 02 6F 0C 00 00 0A 28 DB 06 00 06 2A 72 B9 1F 00 70 28 42 00 00 0A 72 A1 1F
 
Note1: You're only interested in changing the underlined hex code above.
Note2: Alternatively, you can search for and find the FOURTH instance of F4 01 00 00 (starting from the top of the file).
 
6. Change the F4 01 00 00 (which is a little-endian 32-bit integer for 500) to whatever you want (use a programming calculator -- the one that comes with windows works fine for this)
 
For example, changing it to E8 03 00 00 (which is the integer 1000 in little-endian) will double the xp required per level.
 
 
 
Notes:  
 
1) I use IE mod, which replaces Assembly-CSharp.dll, so this may or may not work for you if not using the IE mod.
2) I'm on Windows, so this may or may not work for you on linux and/or mac.
3) The change isn't retro-active -- it only affects experience needed for your next level.  A full restart would be required if you want to see how this affects gameplay.

Edited by Daemonjax, 08 April 2015 - 05:14 PM.

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#59
anameforobsidian

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This problem is exacerbated by Od Nua.  I was level 8 or 9 before I finished the first chapter.  Od Nua felt like a whole separate game inside the main thing, and its actually pretty fun as a dungeon runner.  You could rely on heavy handed solutions, or just accept that there's a huge amount of sidequests and some players will be overleveled by the middle.  Hell, it definitely happened in BG2, where I hit max somewhere around underdark, and earlier than that with Watcher's keep.

 

Durlag's Tower did similar things to BG, where I was maxed by the end of the Third chapter.

 

Matt's point is that fixing any individual instance of one source of xp or another - the Endless Paths, the bounties, whatever - won't fix the underlying problem, and it's only going to get worse as we progress beyond this first game.

 

 

eta: as he just said 2 minutes ago!

 

 

On the other hand, if a greater portion of the game is extra content than the critical path, then there will always be severe imbalances in XP.  Players should expect to receive commensurate xp and loot rewards for time spent, that's how rewards work.  The more extra content there is, the harder it is to balance in general without level-scaling (which Baldur's Gate did!).  In that respect, changing the math trends toward making sidequests less meaningful or not really fixing the problem.

 

I thinks it's a mostly intractable problem.  Most of the ways around it aren't pretty.  Make level effectiveness slowly top out ala fallout.  Level scaling like Skyrim.  



#60
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I have to be honest and don´t "stone" me for it :p This sound exactly like when BG1 AND 2 came out, there were always people who thought xp gain was to fast (especially in 2) and that it ruined the game. Well i can´t agree.

 

I do agree that it feels off sometimes, being someone who wants to finish everything in a zone i find myself often outleveling content, but i can still turn up the difficultiy if i want to, being max lvl before the end is also common in the old games if you did everything. So again i don´t see a problem.

 

Maybe its a bit to fast. But we, and i expect that everyone here is now an professional DnD player (which i´m not :p) have to consider that there are players who get their ass kicked on easy with this xp curve. Obsidian had to find a middle ground. So far, i THINk they have done a good job. Why? Because the super hard stuff will come in form in mods, designed by and for people who like that, just like the Black Isle games, you can´t release a game in this state, 90% of the people wouldn´t play after the first hours, that was true back than and now.

 

THe only thing i would say is, that they should have made more levels and spread the goodies (likes spells) more out...thats my only critic really. (so far)







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Leveling, XP

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