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Party level versus enemy level during late/end game


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I think that even though we don’t fully really believe in the following, we tend to argue in favour for three extremes:

 

1) there should be no scaling, legendary enemies should be tough as balls and demand from players to lvl up to them, lvl of enemies should be consistent with world building and reflect creatures power within that world.

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No, I fully believe in 1) and don't consider it extreme, and wish it were simply common sense.

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I am always disappointed when enemies are not reacting to your power level. A sentient enemy should recognize that he can't beat a group of heroes that wield weapons of legendary status. Trash mobs could be scripted to flee if your level/items/whatever are over the top. This way you would get a "reward" for leveling and it would also add to the atmosphere and consistency of the world. This would also give the player feedback of his current standing in a region. The design of more meaningful conflicts would also become more important, where enemies have an actual reason to fight you, meaning that they won't flee even if you are powerful.   

Actually you could create a self regulating control system with an experience feedback loop if there was combat experience. 

 

I'm worried this will be a real case in Deadfire because the new Empower system, imagining that you can empower Disintegrate and it will do ridiculous damage to a single target, so Empower might become a win button for boss fight, and if we abuse the rest system the combat might become too easy.

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I think that even though we don’t fully really believe in the following, we tend to argue in favour for three extremes:

1) there should be no scaling, legendary enemies should be tough as balls and demand from players to lvl up to them, lvl of enemies should be consistent with world building and reflect creatures power within that world.

 

...

 

 

No, I fully believe in 1) and don't consider it extreme, and wish it were simply common sense.

Ok, good to know. But wouldn’t that require a pretty much linear game? In case of Deadfire, yeah we opened up the world but if you go in any other direction than we plan for you to, you die because only this location is at your level? On the other hand, if you open a lot of content for lvl 1-5, than once you ge past that point those areas won’t be fun. In addition if the world is very open you risk spending a lot of time going to different places, getting killed and looking for a place you actually can complete. For a story driven RPG seems like a big misstep.

 

I get that some creatures need to be powerful, and some need to be weak. But how about human robbers, bounty hunter etc. Does their relative “lvl” to each other really matter, if their only role is to create an obstacle for you alone?

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I'm not really fond of level scaling but with POE2 becoming more open it could be useful and/or mandatory. 

And when we talk about level scaling, people seems to think about a basic system where you could do any fight of the game at any level. 

You could do a more complex level scaling whit a lot of parameters.

Ex : define min/max level for each mob to manage all the cases

- your 2 level kobold could increase to a max level of 5.

- your 12 level dragon could level to the level of your team (no max for the boss)

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I think that even though we don’t fully really believe in the following, we tend to argue in favour for three extremes:

 

1) there should be no scaling, legendary enemies should be tough as balls and demand from players to lvl up to them, lvl of enemies should be consistent with world building and reflect creatures power within that world.

...

 

No, I fully believe in 1) and don't consider it extreme, and wish it were simply common sense.

 

 

100% this.

The most important step you take in your life is the next one.

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I think that even though we don’t fully really believe in the following, we tend to argue in favour for three extremes:

1) there should be no scaling, legendary enemies should be tough as balls and demand from players to lvl up to them, lvl of enemies should be consistent with world building and reflect creatures power within that world.

 

...

 

No, I fully believe in 1) and don't consider it extreme, and wish it were simply common sense.

Ok, good to know. But wouldn’t that require a pretty much linear game? In case of Deadfire, yeah we opened up the world but if you go in any other direction than we plan for you to, you die because only this location is at your level? On the other hand, if you open a lot of content for lvl 1-5, than once you ge past that point those areas won’t be fun. In addition if the world is very open you risk spending a lot of time going to different places, getting killed and looking for a place you actually can complete. For a story driven RPG seems like a big misstep.

 

I get that some creatures need to be powerful, and some need to be weak. But how about human robbers, bounty hunter etc. Does their relative “lvl” to each other really matter, if their only role is to create an obstacle for you alone?

 

 

No, it wouldn't require for the game to be pretty much linear. Why would it need to be? There's nothing wrong with asymmetrical experiences with difficulty between different chosen orders of progression. This is a false boogeyman, the game is meant to be played by the player, not the other way around, and that means that the player will adapt to the game. That's the whole point of a game, to learn how it works and adapt, not "I do what I want and the game has to adapt to it", that's just bull****.

Edited by Ninjamestari

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I think that even though we don’t fully really believe in the following, we tend to argue in favour for three extremes:

1) there should be no scaling, legendary enemies should be tough as balls and demand from players to lvl up to them, lvl of enemies should be consistent with world building and reflect creatures power within that world.

 

...

 

No, I fully believe in 1) and don't consider it extreme, and wish it were simply common sense.

Ok, good to know. But wouldn’t that require a pretty much linear game? In case of Deadfire, yeah we opened up the world but if you go in any other direction than we plan for you to, you die because only this location is at your level? On the other hand, if you open a lot of content for lvl 1-5, than once you ge past that point those areas won’t be fun. In addition if the world is very open you risk spending a lot of time going to different places, getting killed and looking for a place you actually can complete. For a story driven RPG seems like a big misstep.

 

I get that some creatures need to be powerful, and some need to be weak. But how about human robbers, bounty hunter etc. Does their relative “lvl” to each other really matter, if their only role is to create an obstacle for you alone?

 

 

No, it wouldn't be a completely linear game.

 

Firstly, this doesn't mean that level 3 enemies cannot kill level 4 enemies. This only happens in games like Witcher 3, where the power progression model is too level-dependent and difficulty is generated crudely by methods like HP Bloat. Compare this to Gothic, where yes, levels matter and HP increases, but a clever and tenacious player can find ways to kill enemies well above his paygrade - not because they are watered down for your consumption. That is what real challenge and a living world feels like. And of course it feels good to be pounded by a troll, be forced to give up, understand why this area is so dangerous to the locals, and then come back later to see if you are up to the challenge. 

 

Secondly, yes, of course there is some degree of linearity, in the sense that you can no longer get a challenge fighting rats at level 20. Is that really a problem? I feel that it becomes overstated - not because you or anybody is being disingenious, but because we tend to talk about this at a really high level. Is it really important to be able to go back to every single area in a game and find more enemies to kill at an appropriate level? Conversely, is it really important that I can go anywhere I want in the whole world without it being too dangerous for me, at any time? Why? I prefer, again, a sense of a living, sensible world where there are places I can't travel. And of course, again, the great example of Gothic is that the world isn't designed as "Rat Zone" and "Troll Zone". When you are level 3 next to your starting town you run into a troll and get the hell out of there; you know where he is, and look forward to returning later. It doesn't worry you that there aren't 50 more rats levelled appropriately to kill all over again.

 

Thirdly, your query about human bandits and other obstacles. I think this is actually a really good illustration of the different design philosophies at stake, and the different kinds of worldbuilding as a result. Let me exaggerate for clarity.

 

A fully level scaled world a la Oblivion, where human bandits can be uncoordinated hobos if you are level 2, or wield Daedric armour if you are level 20. If we conceive of the gameworld as merely a set of challenges for a player, and the human bandit or a wolf are not humans or bandits or wolves but just reskins for your next battle, and what you are playing the game for is just to be able to quickly and efficiently find the next challenge that is always just right for you, then of course this is great. And in this model, it is very frustrating and suboptimal to find enemies too strong or weak, because what you want is a steady flow of enemies at your level. 

 

But what if I don't want my RPGs to be like that? I care about a sensible and living world. This doesn't mean "realistic" in the sense that everybody has to go poop and eat their vitamins. It means I want to feel like an adventurer who explores a world that doesn't feel like it was custom-made for my consumption and it is all a film set, but a world where I look at a troll and understand why it is such a fiersome creature for the locals, why the town guards can't just go out and bash it with their daedric swords, why daedric armour costs so much and is so rare, etc, etc. And even in terms of my own combat experience, my argument is that if you are always fighting appropriately levelled enemies, then the game actually becomes more monotonous and without variety, even as it is technically 'less linear'. After all, does it really matter that I can go anywhere I like, if I get the same level of challenge wherever I go? Again, I am exaggerating for effect; I'm trying to say that I really appreciate being beaten to a pulp and learning not to go there, or finding creative ways to get there anyway, and that this can actually aid the variety of your experience. 

 

There are, of course, a few instances where non-scaled distribution is not done well. I'd say King's Bounty (the new games) can sometimes be an instance of this: if you are having to backtrack and scour the world all over to find that ONE enemy group that you can beat in order to level up to take on the rest, then this is a problem. (In fact, a major reason this is a problem in KB is again because of the power progression curve; you have to combine a flatter curve with non-scaling.) But there are many great examples of non-scaled or very limitedly scaled games offering this kind of diverse experience - again, the hallmark being the Gothics.

Edited by Tigranes
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@Tigranes Thanks a lot for detailed post. Its always interesting to clearly learn of other peoples' preferences and interest. I would say that in short what we want is a different experience. I want PoE to tell me a story and adjust its quests to fit the story. When I run into problem with end game lvl being to easy, is not "inconsistency" of the word, but that the gameplay is not supporting the story it is telling. 

I find it interesting that you bring example of Witcher3 as a game which you can't beat higher lvl enemies and Gothic as ones you can. Because in my experience it was completely opposite. I was able to defeat enemies on way higher lvls than I in Witcher 3, because it has a skill based combat, and you can avoid getting hit by pure skill only. At the time lvling in Witcher3 was trash and together with equipment the worst part of the game. Also it got way to easy in later half due to XP bloat. It would be much better game if there was no lvling.

Gothic on the other hand... for all the love I have for the game, its worldbuiling and yes, using static lvl to create a dread and bring statisfaction of killing enemies which murdered you 20hours ago... combat sucks so very very mucho. Yes, you can beat enemies on higher lvls, but usually by abusing bad pathfinding and poor AI. Which personally I found to be very unsatisfying. It felt like defeating a boss, who got glitched out. Man, I need to finally get myself a pad and play DarkSouls one of these days. From what I saw of it, I want Gothic style game with THAT combat.

But yeah, we won't reach consensus on how lvling should be done as RPG as we value other things. From Deadfire I would probably want a mix design - one which would allow me to explore the world and have fairly good gameplay experience, while keeping some tough areas thougher to fit the lore and give something to work towards.

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Sure, I understand that. If what matters most is seamless storytelling, then you'd want the gameplay to do what film scripts do: provide controlled bumps in the ride for pacing and tension purposes, but be balanced in such a way that they're always still moving the story along to the player's eventual victory. 

 

 

Actually, I thought TW3 would have worked far better as a kind of exploratory adventure-RPG; get rid of a lot of the looting and levelling and other trappings. It was so weird to have it go full open-world, because TW3, even more than its predecessors, made it clear that it was designed with the above approach in mind. So to me it also has a lot to do with what the rest of the game is designed around, and what kind of experience it is trying to give. 

 

The difficulty with POE is that so many players played the IE games as a series of combat challenges, and so many also played it as a story-driven adventure. So this tension is inevitable. My argument is that designing combat and encounters from my perspective of asymmetric challenges, and then providing Easy difficulty modes and other tricks for players who want to mitigate/bypass it, is the best compromise - but of course, I would be so biased.

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What does 'seamless' storytelling even mean here? That troll that pounds you at level one reinforces the story just as much as that hapless little bandit that effectively commits a suicide by challenging you at level 20. It reinforces the narrative by actually demonstrating the growth of the character, just like Luke begins as a farmboy and ends up a Jedi Knight. Having some bandits be a challenge for your fully prepared and equipped slayer of dragons and demigods definitely breaks the flow of storytelling and immersion, and I wouldn't call it seamless, and I definitely wouldn't call it 'gameplay supporting the story'.

 

Also there the logical mess caused by level scaling where a power-gamer might find out that gaining levels actually makes you less powerful at certain points, which is an incredibly powerful way to kill any enjoyment the game might offer in terms of stat progression. Level scaling doesn't solve any problems that can't simply be avoided with better design, which is what we want in the first place. We don't want to have level scaling because we don't want the devs to have the lazy-option.

 

Other than that Tigranes really didn't leave much to add, that longer post of his pretty much sums everything up.

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What does 'seamless' storytelling even mean here? That troll that pounds you at level one reinforces the story just as much as that hapless little bandit that effectively commits a suicide by challenging you at level 20. It reinforces the narrative by actually demonstrating the growth of the character, just like Luke begins as a farmboy and ends up a Jedi Knight.

 

I don’t know what games you have played but there are some Games, especially Obsidian’s, with some really neat characters, storytelling, pacing and tension building. Way more engaging that “TROLL SMASH” followed after 20h of grind with “ME SMASH”. :) Edited by Wormerine
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What does 'seamless' storytelling even mean here? That troll that pounds you at level one reinforces the story just as much as that hapless little bandit that effectively commits a suicide by challenging you at level 20. It reinforces the narrative by actually demonstrating the growth of the character, just like Luke begins as a farmboy and ends up a Jedi Knight.

I don’t know what games you have played but there are some Games, especially Obsidian’s, with some really neat characters, storytelling, pacing and tension building. Way more engaging that “TROLL SMASH” followed after 20h of grind with “ME SMASH”. :)

 

 

I don't know what you're talking about, I was talking about level-scaling vs static levels.

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What does 'seamless' storytelling even mean here? That troll that pounds you at level one reinforces the story just as much as that hapless little bandit that effectively commits a suicide by challenging you at level 20. It reinforces the narrative by actually demonstrating the growth of the character, just like Luke begins as a farmboy and ends up a Jedi Knight.

 

I don’t know what games you have played but there are some Games, especially Obsidian’s, with some really neat characters, storytelling, pacing and tension building. Way more engaging that “TROLL SMASH” followed after 20h of grind with “ME SMASH”. :)

I don't know what you're talking about, I was talking about level-scaling vs static levels.

So do I. IE and PoE aren’t sandbox playgrounds, but games where game master premade set of intertwined stories for players interact with and experience. Those individual narratives have their own arcs and tensions and downtimes all contributing to the bigger game arc and its themes. For me it’s more important for those narratives to be cohesive and for their stories to be supported by gameplay (for example: if a short narrative (quest) has a nemesis, or dangerous criminal he should act as such and pose certain challenge) than to have every troll or same faction bandit in a game have the same stats.

 

How it is done I don’t really care. Whenever power creep which comes with lvling is minimised (after all, unlike BG, story of PoE wasn’t about getting stronger), guiding your experience through stories in an order that will make each experience fit your lvl, or scaling enemies to your lvl depending on how many narratives you completed before.

 

Not all narratives have to be doable at any given time, but its more important for me to be engaged by every single one, both by writing and gameplay, than being able to take two bandits, dragons or trolls from two distant places in the world and story, and compel then and see that they have the same statistics. Of course, unless you want to introduce early on such character or faction as an unbeatable, building for confrontation later on. That’s all up to narrative being told.

Edited by Wormerine
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So do I. IE and PoE aren’t sandbox playgrounds, but games where game master premade set of intertwined stories for players interact with and experience. Those individual narratives have their own arcs and tensions and downtimes all contributing to the bigger game arc and its themes. For me it’s more important for those narratives to be cohesive and for their stories to be supported by gameplay (for example: if a short narrative (quest) has a nemesis, or dangerous criminal he should act as such and pose certain challenge) than to have every troll or same faction bandit in a game have the same stats.

How it is done I don’t really care. Whenever power creep which comes with lvling is minimised (after all, unlike BG, story of PoE wasn’t about getting stronger), guiding your experience through stories in an order that will make each experience fit your lvl, or scaling enemies to your lvl depending on how many narratives you completed before.

 

Not all narratives have to be doable at any given time, but its more important for me to be engaged by every single one, both by writing and gameplay, than being able to take two bandits, dragons or trolls from two distant places in the world and story, and compel then and see that they have the same statistics. Of course, unless you want to introduce early on such character or faction as an unbeatable, building for confrontation later on. That’s all up to narrative being told.

 

 

.... How about you just answer the original question, how is a filthy beggar-bandit being a challenging encounter to a hero that has killed dragons and demigods? What you want has absolutely zero to do with level scaling. Do you mean that you want all the side narratives to be completely separate from the main experience, in a way that a side quest is the same in terms of what happens irregardless of what you've done elsewhere in the game? I mean, based on what you're saying I get the picture that you don't really know what you want, you just have decided to argue on behalf of what you perceive to be the 'centrist' position in the argument.

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.... How about you just answer the original question, how is a filthy beggar-bandit being a challenging encounter to a hero that has killed dragons and demigods? What you want has absolutely zero to do with level scaling. Do you mean that you want all the side narratives to be completely separate from the main experience, in a way that a side quest is the same in terms of what happens irregardless of what you've done elsewhere in the game? I mean, based on what you're saying I get the picture that you don't really know what you want, you just have decided to argue on behalf of what you perceive to be the 'centrist' position in the argument.

No, I decided to argue for, what I believed at the time, to be the best and most balanced view and what everyone really wanted but was to shortsighted to see. I was quickly corrected and I realized that what I am really arguing for is a system, which will fit best my personal preferences and will borrow from systems I liked, while ignoring parts I don't really care about. Also why do we argue about this stuff, if original subject of the thread was "the later stages of PoE were to easy" and we went off the subject.

 

My answer is quite simple, while probably not satisfying to you: beggar-bandit is being a challenging encounter to a hero, even though he killed dragons and demigods, because right now, at this moment, it will make for the more interesting encounter. <Also as a sidenote ideally that is not happening, because the game is structured in a way that you completed low lvl quest before getting access to dragon killing ones, or they are gone forever and you feel repercusion in the story for not facing the bandits etc, but if I have to choose between to evils, I will take a series of seperate but fully engaging short stories, over more consistant but often dull or frustrating experience> Story arc "you are more powerful, you kill stuff better" is an arc, but not terribly interesting one, and the story, which quest itself presents is more engaging to me. 

 

Peace out.

 

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Whilst I personally think special counters should remain a challenge throughout (and the encounter design following suit) -- there's also something to be said about you initially entering a place, getingt your ass handed to you on a plate, only to come back later and completely steamrolling that place with a grin of vengeance on your face. Sure, it's a typical power fantasy thing of kinds, character growth to be seen and felt in action. And also one that each and every game containing serious enemy scaling has completely forgotten about. Obviously with various TES games being the worst (Oblivion). Some of the best examples to this day are the first Gothic games. However, they too aren't very open at the beginning due to how they do this, to say the least. Venture a few steps too far and too early into the harsher wilderness, and you're toast.

Combat ballance is tricky. However anybody neglecting this neglects something fundamental to the experience, in particular in a game where combat is one of the main vehicles of character growth. As it tends to be in most CRPGs, except in a Fallout pascifist run, perhaps.

Edited by Sven_
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My answer is quite simple, while probably not satisfying to you: beggar-bandit is being a challenging encounter to a hero, even though he killed dragons and demigods, because right now, at this moment, it will make for the more interesting encounter. 

 

Finally, so this is the root point we fundamentally disagree on. I don't think a more challenging encounter is always the more interesting one. An encounter can drive narrative without being challenging, and an encounter not being very challenging can drastically affect the mood of the whole quest, providing for a multitude of different possible experiences from a single quest, rather than a single one. This is an especially strong point if you run through a game multiple times, as if you make different decisions on your path of progression, the contrast just might keep things incredibly interesting. Take the four planets of KotOR for example, the ones after Dantooine; I found a lot of value to the fact that I could experience each place differently depending on when I chose to venture there. Blasting through Korriban as the final planet after the big reveal felt satisfying and right, while going there first provided for a more oppressive atmosphere that I also liked.

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Yep, that's really the root point. Do you want a steady stream of just-right challenging encounters delivered to your front door wherever you are and no matter what level you are? If so, level-scaling is the obvious answer. To me, at some point, that just feels so artificial and monotonous. There is no real sense of a living, breathing world, but it feels like I'm just playing in some cardboard-cutout film set. There is no sense of "Whoa", when you meet a troll, because you know it will be about as challenging, more or less, as the wolf you saw before, or the human bandit, or the ogre. It starts to feel all samey samey - which is exactly what happens in Oblivion, where you really don't care what you're fighting.

 

I like the experience of fighting a troll 20 times to try and beat it, and coming up with clever ways to do win a battle I had no right to win. And an important part of that, of course, is that I could also choose to walk away from the troll, and come back later - so I don't have to be frustrated by it. I like the fact that there is that memory of the scary troll as I play on, looking forward to coming back and beating it later. It's just like being able to lure wolves back into the village and watch the town guards fight it out: it's procedural storytelling that is only possible because the world is set up in sensible and reasonable ways for the player to use as they like, not scripted in such a way that everything is the same. 

 

Now, differing tastes and priorities and all that, so this isn't to say people who like the steady stream are evil awful human beings, but I"m trying to point out that this really isn't about "I want everybody to have to fight super difficult enemies and fail all day long" or whatever, and I"m trying to point out that well balanced challenge doesn't mean every enemy is 'just right' - a degree of asymmetry is really important to a good experience. 

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Yep, that's really the root point. Do you want a steady stream of just-right challenging encounters delivered to your front door wherever you are and no matter what level you are? If so, level-scaling is the obvious answer. To me, at some point, that just feels so artificial and monotonous. There is no real sense of a living, breathing world, but it feels like I'm just playing in some cardboard-cutout film set. There is no sense of "Whoa", when you meet a troll, because you know it will be about as challenging, more or less, as the wolf you saw before, or the human bandit, or the ogre. It starts to feel all samey samey - which is exactly what happens in Oblivion, where you really don't care what you're fighting.

 

I like the experience of fighting a troll 20 times to try and beat it, and coming up with clever ways to do win a battle I had no right to win. And an important part of that, of course, is that I could also choose to walk away from the troll, and come back later - so I don't have to be frustrated by it. I like the fact that there is that memory of the scary troll as I play on, looking forward to coming back and beating it later. It's just like being able to lure wolves back into the village and watch the town guards fight it out: it's procedural storytelling that is only possible because the world is set up in sensible and reasonable ways for the player to use as they like, not scripted in such a way that everything is the same. 

 

Now, differing tastes and priorities and all that, so this isn't to say people who like the steady stream are evil awful human beings, but I"m trying to point out that this really isn't about "I want everybody to have to fight super difficult enemies and fail all day long" or whatever, and I"m trying to point out that well balanced challenge doesn't mean every enemy is 'just right' - a degree of asymmetry is really important to a good experience. 

 

Except that if you want static challenge, then there's no point in level scaling when you can just remove player power progression altogether. There's really no point in having one mechanic in the game just so you can negate its effects with another.

 

But the real question is, did you use a 'shrink monster' - scroll or did you run behind the troll to spank it repeatedly in its hairy ass? ^^

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Sorry for the delayed response, as I had a very busy past few days.

 

Lepys, level scaling makes the game flat an uninteresting, at one point you can fight bandits with 30 hp, and next time those same bandits have 300 hp, also no one wants to have a wimpy dragon that you can beat at level 3.

It brakes immersion and puts a game in a state where your actions dont matter, because everything you do, will be level scaled for you.

 

Firstly, you've completely ignored anything I've said beyond the words "level" and "scaling," then just responded as if I said whatever it is you imagine anyone not saying "I hate level scaling and it's terrible" would have said.

 

Nowhere, in any of this, did I even come close, to ANYTHING, that could even be con-SIDERED a suggestion to scale everything 100% to the player's level, all the time. So, I'm sorry... I don't even know how to respond to this without just repeating what I've already said probably multiple times in this thread alone.

 

Also, I'd just like to note that I think people might be holding a little too tightly to some semantics, here. When I say level scaling, I merely mean the adjustment of the level of the enemies the player WOULD face under different circumstances. In the event of the big-bad-boss guy who's really strong, and slowly gaining power throughout the campaign, if you run into him early on, he's just plain supposed to be more powerful than you. So yes... he's the exact same guy, so you'd just literally scale his level. That doesn't mean you couldn't also adjust other things. Level is just the easiest thing to start with, as the entire purpose of a level system is to measure things' "level" of capability in an organized fashion, in the interest of relating those to other things' level of capability.

 

So, to be clear (despite the fact that I've been re-iterating this entire time that intelligent scaling/adjustment is much more than just "make this a different level, DONE!"), I'm in favor of whatever type of scaling is useful, and not in favor of arbitrarily relying on only a specific type of scaling (for example, "You're level 10 instead of level 5, so this bandit is now level 10 instead of level 5. DONE!").

 

 

By calculating the available experience up to that point and balancing the encounter accordingly, like I've suggested a few times already. Balancing isn't some form of arcane magic that can only be learned from the devil of programmer's hell, it's pretty straightforward logic and math.

You're right... it isn't some form of arcane magic. Neither is the idea that every single encounter in the world doesn't need to be statically decided at the start of the game. You haven't presented a reason why no encounter in the entire game would possibly benefit from being dynamically determined depending on the circumstances surrounding its existence.

 

The whole point of scouring through the entire game to make your character just as powerful as he can possible be is to see just how easy you can make that one tough fight, that's the standard by which you then measure that build of yours.

What about scouring through the entire game for a purpose other than to make our character just as powerful as he can be? Does an RPG's content only serve as a means to become beefier, or are these games actually about "R"ole "P"laying and stories and immersive worlds full of adventurous content?

 

Even better if there are several incredibly tough encounters scattered throughout the game so you'll anticipate them, form strategies on how you're going to approach that particular fight with this particular character and wondering how is this build going to fare. If the encounter is just scaled to your level, it takes away your effort and input into the situation, it's no longer the player playing the game, it's the game playing the player.

Yeah, if there are several incredibly tough encounters designed like that. Exactly. Not infinite. If those are scaled to your level, that's bad. Why? What determines that? The idea behind their purpose as decided from the get-go. That's a specific criteria hand-picked by the developer's brain that then denotes "adjusting this = bad." It's not like you can't scale any encounter because you have no way of knowing which one needs to be set in stone and which one doesn't. You're the developer. You're the one deciding these things. Also, you're still only arguing against things being scaled "to your level," specifically, despite the fact that I've gone about as far out of my way as possible to illustrate just how much versatility there is in the adjustment of an encounter.

 

You want a good example of all this? Chrono Trigger. In Chrono Trigger, an entity known as Lavos lands on the planet in the prehistoric era, burrows into the planet's crust, and slowly begins to consume the planet. The more time passes, the stronger he becomes. In the future (or the main character's future... the latest time portrayed in the game), almost everything is destroyed, and everyone's dying, etc. You actually have to go back in time and fight Lavos, so that he's weaker (I say "have to," that's the whole story, but you can actually fight him at about 5-or-so different stages throughout the timeline of the game, mostly just for various different fun challenges). Why? Because he becomes stronger as time passes in the game world. Why? Because that's generally how things work. That mighty dragon that makes such a nice cliche example of a powerful foe didn't hatch as a mighty dragon. It had to fight and survive and grow into what it is now. And if you give it another year, will it not be that much more powerful/experienced? (obviously up to a certain point).

 

Bandits. Are all bandits in the game the exact same level? Or do you have lvl 3 bandits, then "other" bandits (maybe they're called "highwaymen" in the bestiary or something) who are lvl 5 or 6 or what-have-you? Okay... what do you think just happened there? The developer came up with an idea for an enemy, then scaled that into a different enemy template, for use in different circumstances. You can say "oh, it's more complicated than that," and act as though I'm being preposterous somehow by pointing this out, but everything is built from the most basic of blocks. That's how it works. So, why is it okay for a developer/creator to scale bandits for a handful of different templates, but NOT okay to make any more than that? How many bandit templates are okay, and how many are somehow inherently wrong? Is it 6? After 6 it's problematic? How do you even determine that? And if the game says "Okay, this area's gonna have these lvl 3 bandits in it," why is it somehow illegal for the game to say "Hmmm... you know, that player just ran off in the other direction and changed a hell of a lot of kingdoms and politics and economical stuff over the course of several in-game months... maybe these bandits are not in this place anymore? Maybe I shall use one of these other convenient templates, as they've somehow changed in any capacity imaginable over the course of the months that have passed."?

 

No one's addressing any of this, for some reason, even though it's the direct thinking process by which game worlds are created and populated with encounters. But no... please, point out one more time how that one super-tough boss fight in the game shouldn't be scaled down to exactly the same HP and attack power as your party, and how therefore everything is bad and useless. That would be great. I just love typing.

 

The thing is, why stop at level scaling? Why not scale them according to your equipment as well? What if a player has done tons of side content but didn't equip all the best gear in the game, now he's paying a price for it.

*eye roll*. Because level is a limitation. You can't voluntarily choose to equip more HP, and will yourself to know 9th level spells instead of 7th. If you have access to equipment, you have access to equipment. The adjustment is only made based on what you are limited by, not what you just choose not to do.

 

Look... this is all adapted from tabletop gaming. Literally the only reason the developers even HAVE to calculate a bunch of potential XP and try to balance encounters in the middle of that somewhere is because there's not a DM sitting there running the game for you. The DMs (developers) have to just design something, then let thousands of people run through it in all different manners. You think a grocery only carries the selection of items it does because those are all the best possible items, ever, and no one should ever carry the other things that they don't have? No... it's because they are forced to limit their selection, by space and frequency of sales, etc. Obviously if you could go into a local store on the way home, and they'd always have whatever you needed in stock, that would be the best solution.

 

Well, guess what? A video game can make adjustments where they'd be valuable, and not make them where they wouldn't. It doesn't HAVE to guess at the click of "Start Game," then just hope for the best. So, they can get a lot closer to having a DM there, saying "Okay, you probably want some level of a challenge throughout this game, so I'm gonna make sure you don't feel like Luke Skywalker fighting a stick of butter, just because you like to partake in side content, and not necessarily because you just want to completionistly get all the XPs."

 

Hmmm, who knows, though. Maybe Call of Duty should just do away with matchmaking, and just pair people who only have a rusty pistol unlocked against people who have gold-plated dual light machine guns and 79 character perks. Because levels are useless, and anyone who has gained XP no longer wants a challenge from anything, except for that one big scary dragon. Also, the world should never change, so make sure that those bandits are trapped in a time bubble forever, as their only purpose in life is to let the player measure the power of his party against them. Congratulations... you've envisioned the perfect RPG.

 

Until I can telepathically convey my thoughts, these words are going to have to serve as clues. Try to actually decipher my thoughts from reading this, THEN decide how you feel about those ideas, rather than simply boxing all of these words up into the boxes you've already got designated for the wrong ideas, so that you can then tape them up, write "incorrect" on them, and kick them back over to me. Because, so far, you've barely addressed much of what I've actually said. You've just clicked "quote," then retaliated against your own ideas of level scaling (including ones I've already condemned several times).

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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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@Lephys

I'm still talking about algorithmic scaling of monster stats/encounters to fit the level of the player/party. This very specific thing is the thing I'm talking about, not having encounters of different levels at different point in game. Having level 10 mobs in an encounter that happens when the player is going to be around level 10 is *not* level scaling in this context, having level 1 bandits that are scaled up to whatever level the player is when he reaches that encounter *is* what I'm referring to when I speak of level-scaling. I've already explained the problems of level scaling, and so has Tigranes, who arguably may have explained things better than I did. Other than those points, level scaling monsters is pointless. The power curve that matters is not the player's power curve, it is the player's power curve in relation to the enemy power curve. Scaling enemies does the exact same thing as flattening the player's curve does. Like I said, there's absolutely no point in having a mechanic just to negate the effects of another mechanic, IE having scaling to negate level growth. If that's the idea, then it's just better to have no levels at all.

 

So relax, you obviously went on a full rant mode there. And as far as call of duty goes, an fps game shouldn't have any ****ing levels in the first place, problem solved. Remember when fps games were just the fun "pick up a gun and start shooting" without any of that "you need to play this amount of time before you're high enough level to play the actual game with the guns you want" - bull****? I don't play fps games anymore because I have zero interest in committing to a leveling process in a ****ing first person shooter. Damn, now I'm going to rant mode, I ****ing hate these new fps games that all try to incorporate all sorts of mmorpg-skinnerbox crap in order to have people play their ****ty games. If you need incentives to play a shooter game, then the game probably isn't that fun to begin with.

The power curve that matters is not the player's power curve, it is the player's power curve in relation to the enemy power curve. Scaling enemies does the exact same thing as flattening the player's curve does. Like I said, there's absolutely no point in having a mechanic just to negate the effects of another mechanic, IE having scaling to negate level growth. If that's the idea, then it's just better to have no levels at all.

The most important step you take in your life is the next one.

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I like the experience of fighting a troll 20 times to try and beat it, and coming up with clever ways to do win a battle I had no right to win. And an important part of that, of course, is that I could also choose to walk away from the troll, and come back later - so I don't have to be frustrated by it. I like the fact that there is that memory of the scary troll as I play on, looking forward to coming back and beating it later. It's just like being able to lure wolves back into the village and watch the town guards fight it out: it's procedural storytelling that is only possible because the world is set up in sensible and reasonable ways for the player to use as they like, not scripted in such a way that everything is the same.

 

"Traditional" RPGs are often times missing on this, which is kind of odd, as in a pen&paper experience you have multiple ways around an opponent (obviously, with a DM master running the game, rather than a computer script). But what's oft totally forgotten that you also can't just "beat" trolls. You may, I don't know lure them into a fire pit, feed them poisoned food or sneak around them to knock them out or something. Of course, the basic "verbs" in traditional RPGs are often times "run" or "gun", basically. "Gunning" means killing the beast once and for all, and "running" boils down to: come back later when stronger (or, if possible, simply run past it). Compare this to what the glorious, glorious Looking Glass Technologies had to say about their Underworld Games (and... often times delivered). The more recent Prey which I've mentioned elsewhere is of a similar mold. Boy did I enjoy finding "creative" means of dealing with opponents. The game oft would even encourage me to find them.

 

Like, damn, I really can't get past these two baddies. They're big and strong, I'm low on ammo and barely have any health anymore too. But wait a minute, is that a glass ceiling up there over their heads? Maybe I can get on that floor above them, break the glass ceiling, knock that gas container over so that it may drop on the top of their heads...  I know these are more "visceral" games in that they're real-time 3d first person, with fully simulated real-time physics. But it's odd that it seems something mainly reserved to that kind of experience often times. In particular due to that pen&paper heritage. If you ask me, PoE had introduced quite nice opportunities for this with its scripted "text interactions". Naturally PoE2 and a possibly part 3 may not be the kind of game to explore opportunities, as PoE is meant to be an Infinity Engine games throwback, and those games are of that specific ilk, largely (nothing wrong with it, as straight out combat is fun!).

 

Thinking of the Raedric quest (which was my favourite in PoE1), with the multiple ways to infiltrate the hold and solve the quest, it sometimes comes close to this experience. There's ways around that place ditching the more traditional means of resolving encounters / getting past opponents in a traditional RPG almost altogether.

Edited by Sven_
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