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Party level versus enemy level during late/end game


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I, and I assume many others here in this forum, found themselves over leveled, by a large margin, by the end of Act II/beginning of Act III, especially depending on when you completed the White March content.

 

I play on PotD, always choose the high level content scaling, but it's not enough. It is also is the one thing that makes me peter out on the game in the last act. Since the combat encounters are the meat and potatoes of the game for me when they no longer pose a challenge I simply don't find the game as engaging.

 

That's not to say I don't enjoy the narrative, theming, dialogue, art, that stuff is also enjoyable for me, but it's kind of a 40/60 split favoring the combat and associated systems.

 

I know there was some issue with incorrect XP levels for side quests in the first game, I believe that was discussed on one of the dev Twitch streams, so I'm sure they are cognizant of the need for better balance  in Deadfire.

 

I guess I'm just making this post to see what other backer's and Pillars fans thoughts are relative difficulty in the mid/late game of the first game and what they'd like to see in Deadfire.

Edited by Mygaffer
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I tend to think that late game battles should have more tactical variety, rather than just making the monsters more difficult. It's the uniqueness that makes them enjoyable, rather than how many times you had to whack-a-mole.

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Call me weird, but when i specifically try to complete every single possible sidequest in a zone, i kinda want to end up overleveled.

I like it.

 

This. That's the whole point of power progression, if you wan't scaled content, you might as well just remove leveling altogether, as the effects are the same. The power curve alone doesn't matter, what matters is the power curve relative to the monster power, and if that is a curve as well, then you might just as well flatten out the monster power and adjust the character power curve accordingly. This is just a mathematical fact: scaling monsters doesn't achieve anything.

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Call me weird, but when i specifically try to complete every single possible sidequest in a zone, i kinda want to end up overleveled.

I like it.

 

 

This. That's the whole point of power progression, if you wan't scaled content, you might as well just remove leveling altogether, as the effects are the same. The power curve alone doesn't matter, what matters is the power curve relative to the monster power, and if that is a curve as well, then you might just as well flatten out the monster power and adjust the character power curve accordingly. This is just a mathematical fact: scaling monsters doesn't achieve anything.

Sure, that’s why I don’t like scaling. Having kobots become just as powerful as you isn’t very fun as it negates your raise in power. At the same time I find it problematic if halfway through combat becomes a snooze fest, except one or two “epic” fights. You get to the finale to face your super-duper god infused enemy and than you kill him within seconds, not even using your full potential, because this legendary enemy was ready to be defeated 5 lvls ago, is weak as well.

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Call me weird, but when i specifically try to complete every single possible sidequest in a zone, i kinda want to end up overleveled.

I like it.

 

This. That's the whole point of power progression, if you wan't scaled content, you might as well just remove leveling altogether, as the effects are the same. The power curve alone doesn't matter, what matters is the power curve relative to the monster power, and if that is a curve as well, then you might just as well flatten out the monster power and adjust the character power curve accordingly. This is just a mathematical fact: scaling monsters doesn't achieve anything.

Sure, that’s why I don’t like scaling. Having kobots become just as powerful as you isn’t very fun as it negates your raise in power. At the same time I find it problematic if halfway through combat becomes a snooze fest, except one or two “epic” fights. You get to the finale to face your super-duper god infused enemy and than you kill him within seconds, not even using your full potential, because this legendary enemy was ready to be defeated 5 lvls ago, is weak as well.

 

 

But that's just bad game/encounter design, you don't need scaling to avoid that situation. The steeper your power curve is, the more you run into this problem. If your power progression is relatively slow however, meaning that one level isn't enough to turn a difficult fight easy, then it should be relatively easy to simply balance the xp gain. Especially since PoE already has eliminated kill xp, controlling the amount of levels the player can get before point x is ridiculously easy.

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But that's just bad game/encounter design, you don't need scaling to avoid that situation. The steeper your power curve is, the more you run into this problem. If your power progression is relatively slow however, meaning that one level isn't enough to turn a difficult fight easy, then it should be relatively easy to simply balance the xp gain. Especially since PoE already has eliminated kill xp, controlling the amount of levels the player can get before point x is ridiculously easy.

I am not sure I follow. I rather depends how much side content you have - especially when you can't gain too much XP by farming enemies the quest XP and exploration become biggest XP boosts. Which would mean either have way more critical path vs optional quests, or diminish rewarded XP you get by doing sidequests. 

 

Probably the fact that "endgame content" (high lvl bounties, legendary enemies) are the most tricky part of the game you will be completeting just before finale makes the big finish feel a bit underwhelming. Could we just make the most challenging content THE finale? Its not like many people get to the end anyway...

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But that's just bad game/encounter design, you don't need scaling to avoid that situation. The steeper your power curve is, the more you run into this problem. If your power progression is relatively slow however, meaning that one level isn't enough to turn a difficult fight easy, then it should be relatively easy to simply balance the xp gain. Especially since PoE already has eliminated kill xp, controlling the amount of levels the player can get before point x is ridiculously easy.

I am not sure I follow. I rather depends how much side content you have - especially when you can't gain too much XP by farming enemies the quest XP and exploration become biggest XP boosts. Which would mean either have way more critical path vs optional quests, or diminish rewarded XP you get by doing sidequests. 

 

Probably the fact that "endgame content" (high lvl bounties, legendary enemies) are the most tricky part of the game you will be completeting just before finale makes the big finish feel a bit underwhelming. Could we just make the most challenging content THE finale? Its not like many people get to the end anyway...

 

 

The amount of side content is irrelevant, the amount of XP you get from said side content is what matters, and it's incredibly easy to control that. Simply list all the side quests and sum their XP to get how much they're worth, and adjust accordingly. Not difficult. It's actually so simple that it is incredibly easy to automate the whole damn process, but unless there are hundreds of quests, there's really no point as the work load for manual adjustment is miniscule. It is easy to control the level range the player will end up with incredible precision; don't forget that these games are made and run on a computing device.

 

The point is, every single XP source can easily be listed and calculated with the push of a button if the scripting and the tools are not completely worthless.

Edited by Ninjamestari

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Most RPGs have very steep power progression levels, too steep, and that makes it very difficult to balance. IE games (accidentally?) were helped in this by D&D rulesets; no longer were you going from doing 8 damage to 80,000 like in many JRPGs. Of course, some later D&D games "solved" this problem by making you go from level 1 to godlike 20+ levels in a single campaign. 

 

I would have been fine with POE1 going from levels 1-9 where you get kitted out with a lot of meaningful spells and you can build a clear character concept. So many people would say, I want more levels, it's more fun, I want to be powerful. Yes, but you actually lose meaningful sense of progression with more levels; in P1, going to level 12 (then 14 later) meant that you could take every talent you could possibly want and still have some left over, and later levels mostly meant numbers going up rather than any meaningful change in your tactics. The system they built was really for a smaller level range, and then they could have picked it up in Deadfire (e.g. 5-14) while changing how it works relative to now.

 

Anyway, flatter curves would certainly help mitigate the sidequests/overlevelling conundrum - provided that you also start dissociating so many important bonuses with leveling. The worst part of POE1 system is the way accuracy is the single most important stat for anything, and it is overwhelmingly defined by leveling. It basically meant that getting an extra level, rather than what you do with those skills or the gear you have, was the most important aspect in steamrolling your enemies. In that sort of design, it becomes much more significant that you are overleveled.

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I think J-RPGs are a little different. They tend to have highly controlled storylines (read: less player freedom) and also tend to be less realistic in the monster department (so if a red goblin in a new area is twice as strong as a green goblin in the beginners area, well, no one is too fussed). As such, there's usually not to much of an issue going from level 1-99. 

 

On the other hand, I think games like Pillars\Deadfire aim for a certain degree of realism in challenges. I hate scaling because if you can kill a dragon, then there shouldn't be some artificially boosted goblin that gives you a hard time later on.

 

So I agree with Tigranes. A flatter power curve would be better. Maybe instead of boosting lots of stats, just give us more tools for the job. 

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Most RPGs have very steep power progression levels, too steep, and that makes it very difficult to balance. IE games (accidentally?) were helped in this by D&D rulesets; no longer were you going from doing 8 damage to 80,000 like in many JRPGs. Of course, some later D&D games "solved" this problem by making you go from level 1 to godlike 20+ levels in a single campaign. 

 

I would have been fine with POE1 going from levels 1-9 where you get kitted out with a lot of meaningful spells and you can build a clear character concept. So many people would say, I want more levels, it's more fun, I want to be powerful. Yes, but you actually lose meaningful sense of progression with more levels; in P1, going to level 12 (then 14 later) meant that you could take every talent you could possibly want and still have some left over, and later levels mostly meant numbers going up rather than any meaningful change in your tactics. The system they built was really for a smaller level range, and then they could have picked it up in Deadfire (e.g. 5-14) while changing how it works relative to now.

 

Anyway, flatter curves would certainly help mitigate the sidequests/overlevelling conundrum - provided that you also start dissociating so many important bonuses with leveling. The worst part of POE1 system is the way accuracy is the single most important stat for anything, and it is overwhelmingly defined by leveling. It basically meant that getting an extra level, rather than what you do with those skills or the gear you have, was the most important aspect in steamrolling your enemies. In that sort of design, it becomes much more significant that you are overleveled.

 

Pretty much this. However, the number of levels isn't so much the issue as the actual power growth. You can have a lot of levels without getting into trouble if the power increase between levels is small enough.

 

I think J-RPGs are a little different. They tend to have highly controlled storylines (read: less player freedom) and also tend to be less realistic in the monster department (so if a red goblin in a new area is twice as strong as a green goblin in the beginners area, well, no one is too fussed). As such, there's usually not to much of an issue going from level 1-99. 

 

Hah, J-RPGS definitely are different, for example they are *worse* ^^

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The amount of side content is irrelevant, the amount of XP you get from said side content is what matters, and it's incredibly easy to control that. Simply list all the side quests and sum their XP to get how much they're worth, and adjust accordingly. Not difficult.

 

Maybe not difficult but it is not a flawless solution. i was looking through old streams as I am pretty sure Josh address little xp/no xp for sidequests solution, and why it didn’t feel well. The problem is that beyond an act of completing sidequests players want to be rewarded as well - be it cool item or a lvl up. You remove that and players will feel like game doesn’t reward them enough for putting the effort in.

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The amount of side content is irrelevant, the amount of XP you get from said side content is what matters, and it's incredibly easy to control that. Simply list all the side quests and sum their XP to get how much they're worth, and adjust accordingly. Not difficult.

Maybe not difficult but it is not a flawless solution. i was looking through old streams as I am pretty sure Josh address little xp/no xp for sidequests solution, and why it didn’t feel well. The problem is that beyond an act of completing sidequests players want to be rewarded as well - be it cool item or a lvl up. You remove that and players will feel like game doesn’t reward them enough for putting the effort in.

 

 

What do you mean by 'flawless solution'? I mean, it's all just math, if you allow more levels to be gained from side quests, then the significance of one level needs to be less. Also, there's such a thing as too many side quests from the pacing perspective as well.

 

If it was up to me, I'd adjust the level balance to match a party that has gone through all the side content, and if you've skipped all of it then hope you like ridiculous challenge or sucks to be you. To my experience, having non-scaling monsters and encounters is paramount, that is the only way I can compare two different characters that may get to that point at different levels.

Edited by Ninjamestari

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I really think the "PoTD is too easy" crowd needs to take it down a notch. Obsidian got a finite amount of money and staff hours to make this game. And balancing combat/progression/items/xp on high difficulty, so the hardcore min max completionists are satisfied and the average player wanting a challenge isn't completely deterred is not an easy task. 
Honestly, I'd rather have them work on making other aspects of the game better. 

The modding community will eventually deliver the challenge needed for anyone who thinks the vanilla settings are too easy.

Edited by TheisEjsing
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What do you mean by 'flawless solution'? I mean, it's all just math, if you allow more levels to be gained from side quests, then the significance of one level needs to be less. Also, there's such a thing as too many side quests from the pacing perspective as well.

 

If it was up to me, I'd adjust the level balance to match a party that has gone through all the side content, and if you've skipped all of it then hope you like ridiculous challenge or sucks to be you. To my experience, having non-scaling monsters and encounters is paramount, that is the only way I can compare two different characters that may get to that point at different levels.

Sure, but games aren't designed to satisfy mathematical equations, but to give satisfationary experience to consumers. Psychology is an important part of the experience, and, for example, not giving or giving very little XP for side content for many people (probably me too) will feel weak.

 

The conflict we run into in this case is how to properly satisfy groups of consumers, who enjoy their games in different ways - those who want to experience the main story, and aren't as interested in sidestories/fleshin out the world, the completionists and completionists interested in well balanced challenge. 

 

For me, personally, the best solution would be to balance the game around completionist apprach. Have critical path be difficult and force you to do side content before moving forward with main stuff. However, as Obsidian wants their game to appeal to as wide audience as possible, they try to make it work for both groups - the ideal result is:

 

1) critical path is scaled for a straight through run, meaning someone who only wants main story is satisfied.

2) People enjoy growing overpowered throughout the game, so they do sidequest and roll through end game content.

3) People who want constant challange and do sidequest enable content scaling, which adjusts later stages of the game to their level. 

 

A "flawless" system, would be one which would fully satisfy all of those groups, but thats much more difficult to pull off, than adjusting numbers. For me, for example, its less about gameplay, but more about storytelling. If enemy who is hyped as a big challange is easily defeated it bothers me. Similarly it bothered me that after using content scaling for 3rd act of PoE the shades in Sun in Shadow were way more powerful than shades I fought before, because game had to rebalance for two expansions worth of experience.

 

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What do you mean by 'flawless solution'? I mean, it's all just math, if you allow more levels to be gained from side quests, then the significance of one level needs to be less. Also, there's such a thing as too many side quests from the pacing perspective as well.

 

If it was up to me, I'd adjust the level balance to match a party that has gone through all the side content, and if you've skipped all of it then hope you like ridiculous challenge or sucks to be you. To my experience, having non-scaling monsters and encounters is paramount, that is the only way I can compare two different characters that may get to that point at different levels.

Sure, but games aren't designed to satisfy mathematical equations, but to give satisfationary experience to consumers. Psychology is an important part of the experience, and, for example, not giving or giving very little XP for side content for many people (probably me too) will feel weak.

 

The conflict we run into in this case is how to properly satisfy groups of consumers, who enjoy their games in different ways - those who want to experience the main story, and aren't as interested in sidestories/fleshin out the world, the completionists and completionists interested in well balanced challenge. 

 

For me, personally, the best solution would be to balance the game around completionist apprach. Have critical path be difficult and force you to do side content before moving forward with main stuff. However, as Obsidian wants their game to appeal to as wide audience as possible, they try to make it work for both groups - the ideal result is:

 

1) critical path is scaled for a straight through run, meaning someone who only wants main story is satisfied.

2) People enjoy growing overpowered throughout the game, so they do sidequest and roll through end game content.

3) People who want constant challange and do sidequest enable content scaling, which adjusts later stages of the game to their level. 

 

A "flawless" system, would be one which would fully satisfy all of those groups, but thats much more difficult to pull off, than adjusting numbers. For me, for example, its less about gameplay, but more about storytelling. If enemy who is hyped as a big challange is easily defeated it bothers me. Similarly it bothered me that after using content scaling for 3rd act of PoE the shades in Sun in Shadow were way more powerful than shades I fought before, because game had to rebalance for two expansions worth of experience.

 

 

 

That kind of "flawless" system cannot even exist, so the whole concept is meaningless. What I'd consider a perfect system would most likely be a nightmare for many others. Human psychology is a wonky thing, so you have to decide which is more important: that the side quests rewards always 'feel' powerful, which is a vague and subjective definition at that, or have the rewards be balanced in a way that the final encounter is still challenging, which on the other hand can be simply calculated. In other words: one approach has applicable objective standards, the other does not. The thing that happens when you know the boss has been scaled to your level also has a psychological effect: you'll know that all those side quests and extra effort were completely worthless as the game just cheated and scaled the boss upwards. Also the mere possibility of level scaling affects the game so that you'll know that if you do not enable it, your playthrough will not be comparable to others who did, and your challenges kinda get invalidated, also a psychological phenomenon. I'm a big advocate of universal game design that is the same for everyone. **** the "more choice is better" people, I disagree with them so fundamentally that it isn't even funny. One difficulty, one set of rules and no individual interpretations. Making that decision also allows the designer to make a superior product, as they don't have to make the compromises, and will probably end up attracting a lot wider audience for doing their own thing.

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That kind of "flawless" system cannot even exist, so the whole concept is meaningless. What I'd consider a perfect system would most likely be a nightmare for many others. Human psychology is a wonky thing, so you have to decide which is more important: that the side quests rewards always 'feel' powerful, which is a vague and subjective definition at that, or have the rewards be balanced in a way that the final encounter is still challenging, which on the other hand can be simply calculated. In other words: one approach has applicable objective standards, the other does not. The thing that happens when you know the boss has been scaled to your level also has a psychological effect: you'll know that all those side quests and extra effort were completely worthless as the game just cheated and scaled the boss upwards. Also the mere possibility of level scaling affects the game so that you'll know that if you do not enable it, your playthrough will not be comparable to others who did, and your challenges kinda get invalidated, also a psychological phenomenon. I'm a big advocate of universal game design that is the same for everyone. **** the "more choice is better" people, I disagree with them so fundamentally that it isn't even funny. One difficulty, one set of rules and no individual interpretations. Making that decision also allows the designer to make a superior product, as they don't have to make the compromises, and will probably end up attracting a lot wider audience for doing their own thing.

So how about replacing "flawless" with "system-which-fulfills-its-intended-role-well" 

 

All of the negative sides of scaling can be present, and will be present for some people, therefore the choice - do you find the need for an even challenge more important than game breaking its rules? Some people will prefer to disable scaling, some people won't - therefore the beauty of customizable experience. 

 

I disagree strongly with your "universal design" especially in single player game. Ban the mods then? Erase difficulty settings? The problem is that if Obsidian would do that you would probably complain because it wouldn't be THE rule set and setting you personally would enjoy. 

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Pacing was a widely acknowledged problem in POE1, both before and after White March - leaving aside more specific problems like POTD being too easy for some players. It's probably most sensible to focus on that - and as ninja says it doesn't necessarily have to mean less levels, I'd say the most important thing is to decouple power progression from being tied so strongly to levels via accuracy. (Haven't played the beta.)

 

Re. 'universal', there's always been a reasonable argument that designers should just have a single difficulty level, and then put all their effort into making it very good. I'm a big proponent of modular difficulty (80 different sliders on HP, attack value, etc), but that's because (1) we don't get games with a single well designed difficulty level, often enough, and (2) as someone who plays a crapload of RPGs I'm aware that they really can't balance it for me. I'd be perfectly fine with 1 difficulty level - and in general it's been my experience that games with single difficulty levels do manage to have better pacing - and then provide easy ways to customise it, e.g. via .ini or even an external configuration tool.

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The power scaling can also be tackled by linking the character progression to external factors besides his own level. Some games use trainers or items that become only available after some certain point in the story. Although a slightly different genre, the Gothic I/II games did this very well in my opinion. It should be easy to handle the power of a character if it depends also on weapons/armor, accessible spells.  I would say items were not that important in Pillars and your level had a much higher impact. By scaling this and controlling the access to items allows another way to keep the game challenging even if you are a completionist. 

I prefer games that couple your power to your progress in the story and i also found the last act highly demotivating since combat became a snooze fest  after a certain point. It was only rinse and repeat without a challenge which takes away the sense of a achievement that you usually have at lower levels finishing a tough fight.

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Stop numerical growth or minimal growth after a certain level.

 

The best example is BG2 mage. They get 1 HP/level only after level 10. If players don't know how to use their spells it won't make any difference. A melee character could kill a 50 HP character nearly as fast as a 40 HP character. It takes skill to turn level advantage into actual advantage. 

 

If players are able to reach level 10/20 if they skip/complete all side quests. Use level 10 as the threshold. After that all characters get 2 Health/level and 1 accuracy/2 level only.

 

In this way overleveling is not a major issue since 20HP and 5% THC won't save your ass if don't know how to play the game. On the other hand a level 10 team may stand a chance against a level 20 encounter if they know how to CC/suppress buff/dispel debuff, etc.

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Call me weird, but when i specifically try to complete every single possible sidequest in a zone, i kinda want to end up overleveled.

I like it.

 

Sure, but if the first 50% of the sidequests are "wow, I can really feel the significance of these extra levels I'm gaining!," and the last 50% are "Anything I gain at this point is entirely pointless," is that really the ideal situation?

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Call me weird, but when i specifically try to complete every single possible sidequest in a zone, i kinda want to end up overleveled.

I like it.

 

Sure, but if the first 50% of the sidequests are "wow, I can really feel the significance of these extra levels I'm gaining!," and the last 50% are "Anything I gain at this point is entirely pointless," is that really the ideal situation?

 

But i don't do the sidequest just for the sole reason of grinding out my character levels to completely roll over the game.

 

I play the sidequest because i like the stories they tell.  :getlost:

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Call me weird, but when i specifically try to complete every single possible sidequest in a zone, i kinda want to end up overleveled.

I like it.

 

Sure, but if the first 50% of the sidequests are "wow, I can really feel the significance of these extra levels I'm gaining!," and the last 50% are "Anything I gain at this point is entirely pointless," is that really the ideal situation?

 

 

The situation you describe would be a problem caused by poor implementation IE way too much xp for side content or way too high power curve, so this isn't really a point for scaling monsters but rather a point for better content/class-mechanic design.

 

EDIT: What I'm saying is, scaling monsters is a cheap duct-tape-attempt at fixing bad game design, and is never a good thing.

Edited by Ninjamestari

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I play the sidequest because i like the stories they tell.  :getlost:

 

Fair enough, but "and then our party of adventurers swept over the land with the force of thousand suns and were met with naught but a mosquito's resistance" isn't a very exciting story. I dare say the struggle of a conflict is part of the stories they tell, :)

 

 

EDIT: What I'm saying is, scaling monsters is a cheap duct-tape-attempt at fixing bad game design, and is never a good thing.

 

And yet, by design, the entire campaign of the game has your opponents scaled such that the path you walk in the first 30 minutes of the game, when you're level 1, isn't populated by level 73 dragons, but instead by lower-level things that are feasible for you to face. The creators of the game world and campaign have literally forced the world to be reasonable to your starting party.

 

Scaling monsters, in-and-of itself, is neither good nor bad, any more than math is bad in a video game. It's all in how you utilize it. Just because it's often poorly implemented does not make it a thing we should all shun. Note that I am not arguing that it is good and should be used as much as possible. But... if you have yet to encounter some hostiles at point X on your travels, I don't really see why it matters how they're "adjusted" before they've even spawned into existence.

 

"Dangit! These goblins that I didn't even know where goblins yet aren't the goblins they're SUPPOSED to be! You know, the ones who were just inherently dug up as a part of this game code, on an ancient stone tablet, by the development team, and which they then built the rest of an RPG around! >_<"

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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