Monday, July 9, 2007

Scalable Content

Why aren't encounters always scalable? Every time I think about CoH's scalable dungeons, I wonder why there isn't another company utilizing a similar feature while making it better in an upcoming game. Say what you will about repetitive tilesets in CoH, one can't deny that there is a massive amount of flexibilty for playstyles in that game. Solo? Sure, it'll just be less experience and less loot for you. 2 people? twice the mobs, twice the xp, and the loot. And so on and so forth.

Then I think about a game like LotRO, where the higher you get in level, the less solo-able content you find, and I can't help but think that Middle-earth could use a few scalable dungeons for players to travel through when they can't find a solo quest. I'm 34 in LotRO now, and I'm forging onward. But in my quest log I have about 5 of 35 quests that are marked solo-able. It's enough to keep me pressing on, but I'm damned depressed at all the group quests I see. It's not that I hate grouping. It's that I PREFER solo-ing. Call me weird. It's just how I like to play. I like to play with myself... wait, er... um... moving on.

What I'm getting at is that all dungeons could be done this way. Even Onyxia in WoW could have a solo/small group scaled version. Where you don't directly face her, but you fight her offspring or something of that nature. Think of all the wasted Pre-BC raid content there is in WoW.

Hell, it's Monday and I'm hopped on Pepsi-Max, so maybe it's just me. But why is it so hard to make content that lets groups group an soloers solo? Diablo 2 did it. City of Heroes does it. What the hell is the hold-up?


Cameron said...

Well, a few things...

First, there's loot. How are you handling it in your game? Unless you want completely random loot tables based on encounter difficulty (which is how Diablo II pulled off the scaled encounters), you'll be generating multiple loot tables with different gear or different versions of gear for each difficulty. If it's different versions of gear, most people won't want to run it for the "lesser" versions. Since that's the case, you'll probably want different loot for each difficulty. That's extra development time and effort.

The other problem that leaps into my head whenever someone talks about "scalable encounters" is running into what I'm going to call "Oblivion syndrome." That is, everything in the world is appropriately challenging for you. It's dynamic and static at the same time, and it's very unexciting because you don't feel like your character progresses. You can't go back and punish the critters that killed you when you were small by camping them for loot... they'll still be as powerful in comparison to you as they ever were. Granted, you don't have to scale this way, but I'm afraid this issue gets overlooked sometimes. Players need to feel a sense of progression. Dynamic scaling means you never feel powerful or overwhelmed... you're just perpetually whelmed. :)

And that's no good. Okie, I hope this looks coherent when I come check comments tomorrow and I'm actually awake.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see instances scale by the number of people in the party and their level but within set limits. For example, a dungeon (or raid or group encounter) will scale between levels 25-40 and between 3-8 players.


Bildo said...

I don't want dynamic scaling, really. I want to see dungeons, like the Deadmines that scale to the number of people and level of your party. So that someone solo could see it if they hate to group, with rewards and xp being lessened.

That's more along the lines of what I was thiking Cam. Worried about people camping it 24/7 for easy leveling and loot? Make it on a timer. So it can only be done once a day.

I just feel like there is always so much wasted content in MMOs due to party-size restrictions. Finding a way to make them scale would be ideal.

Kanthalos and Anaktoria said...

I completely agree. I wouldn't even be surprised if people ran end-game instances (in WoW's case) where they could practically dance their way through with terrible loot just so they could say they saw it. I'm guessing that 60-70% of WoW players never saw end game instances, or more specifically killed bosses effectively. While this wouldn't work in every instance, it is something to think about to get more players to at least see the more difficult content. As for solo and small group love (which I'm with you about, I'm a soloer at heart) I'm not really sure how to fix without more time to consider than I have currently :)