Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Expansions = Level Cap Raise ?

This is the topic of the week over on the LotRO Vault, but being as many of my fellow bloggers might not be perusing the boards there, I wanted to repost it here to get your thoughts.

The recent WoW expansion news is what triggered this question, so fire away. Not just as it pertains to Middle-earth and LotRO, but all MMOs in general. Here's the topic in full...


I've been thinking a lot about something lately. Okay, so that's alittle vague. What I mean is I've been thinking a lot about using alevel cap rise as a way to keep your players paying. Personally, Ithink this is a cop-out, a bunk idea that many companies will turn towhen they can't think of a better way to keep people interested.

It's not always a bad idea, I don't mean that either. But it seems alot of games will toss an extra ten levels onto the game just to giveplayers a false sense of progression. Sometimes it may be called for.I see why it was done in the Outlands, in order to level the playingfield. But I'm not sure why it's being done twice. I'm not sure whyit's being done a 3rd time in Everquest 2, and why it seems like thebest way to go for developers when creating an expansion pack.Certainly simply raising the level cap is not the only way to retainplayers... is it?

I expect that our level cap in Middle-earth will rise, likely as we workout way east and south. We can't expect to take on the Dark Lord'svilest armies at the same strength we are able to take on the rabbletossed out into Eriador can we? But when will a level cap happen? Whenwill it be called for? When will it not seem like just a ploy to keepus playing?

So this week's topic, here she is: When is it okay to raise the levelcap, and when is it not okay?


Heather said...

On the one hand, I think raising the level cap can be good. I enjoy leveling, after all---doing new quests and getting new abilities---and I like being able to do that with my main rather than having to always turn to alts. On the other hand, I do think it becomes an easy cop-out that keeps companies from trying to come up with some more interesting new way to keep non-raiders playing and having fun. So I don't mind seeing the level cap go up---and in fact enjoy it---but it shouldn't be the sole focus of further game progression, IMO.

Kanthalos said...

I think part of it is that players wouldn't be satisfied simply ugrading their gear or stats. They need something to prove to themselves and to others that their time in a particular game is not for nothing, even if they do see progression outside of the xp bar. Personally, I think I would be satisfied without level increases as long as I could see my gear getting better, my stats increasing incrementally, fighting new creatures, and exploring new zones.

Bildo said...

See, and part of that is why I was immediately thrown off by the Lich King announcement. There was nothing really in it to show, besides some vistas of zones that seemed all too familiar.

The monsters used in the cinematic were from as far back as Duskwood (Stitches model). The only new one, the giant yeti thing, was shown too briefly to get a feel for. So what I got from the video and announcement, more than anything else, was that it would only be more of the same. And if I wasn't satisfied with the newness of the Outlands, I surely wouldn't be satisfied with the sameness of Northrend.

So, anyway, it seems to me that in WoW's case they're now on that tailward spiral, that EQ1 fell into with the release of... Velious? How everything after that expansion just added to the cap and did nothing to move the game laterally. It was always about the treadmill.

That's fine for some people sure, some people love the carrot on the stick. But not this gamer. I'd like to see my MMOs grow in more ways than just vertically. That can be part of it, but like EQ2 and LotRO, other parts, fluff if you will, should be included and not just in a half-hearted way.

You have a far better chance of gaining new players if you're not always just catering to your top-end playerbase. I don't have any numbers, but I'd wager that the top-end players are the minority. And that middle-ground, semi-casual/altaholics/slow levelers/explorers are your core audience. Cater to them. Don't forget about them in your quest for EQ1's business model.

Anonymous said...

EQ2 does settled into lvl cap increases ever other expansion, which come out every 9 months or so.

So a level increase every year and half.

In between lvl increases Sony 'fleshes out' the rest of the game.

Also note that even though 10 levels are added, content is added (mobs/quests) that go 5 levels or so higher. And within those levels there are various levels of difficulty.

Even though Kingdom of Sky was levels 55-70, Echos of Fey was 1-70, and so had level overlap -- most of the EoF zones (heroic and raid) are much harder than the same level content in the earlier expansion.

The 'off year' expansion without lvl increase allows Sony to have tiered raid content where the earlier zones are much easier to complete by the majority of players, while keeping the 'most recent' release challanging to hard core and long time vets.

Also eq2 adds laterally to the game constantly. The 3rd expansion covered levels 1-70, so that included new lvl 1-20 starter zones and cities, they added new lvl 1-20 starter zone in a free update, the next expanion is going to be lvl 1-20 (new race, 1-20 zone and starter city), and then lvl 65-84.

I'm biased but I think SoE has finally nailed it. (after fumbling on consecutive lvl increases, and rushed release on the 1st exp or 2)

Steve said...

Raising the level CAP kind of feels like fake progression. I play EQ2 and like the additional content that comes with the level Cap increase but think the itemisation feels fake.

I would like to see a prestige class system implemented. For example a wizard could do a lengthy quest at the end of which he is awarded a prestige class and becomes a level 70 Wizard / level 1 Archmage.

As he progressed in Archmage level he would be awarded bonus to current spells… maybe a few new ones that would all be tailored towards prestige raid instances, heroic instances and quests that would drop equipment that only prestige classed could equip.

This way players won’t just grind the additional 10 levels… as they would have to complete a quest line that would take them through the new content, and there gear would still be usable… collecting new gear only for raid progression or aesthetic achievement.

Guy said...

Raising the level cap is NOT a fake sense of progression. It is the only progression (I'll get to gear/AA later). You play an MMO for one reason only to compete with like minded people in RL or in the game. Otherwise you would be playing a single player RPG.

Whether you like it or not you do feel a certain level of pride that you are 10 levels higher than your friend/guildie/co-worker and you are so powerful you can come in and solve all their problems.

You love walking through a zone that used to give you problems and exploring it fully now because all the mobs are grey and will leave you alone.

You love walking into new zones that few before you have seen because unless you are in a level 70 group/raid the first mob will insta-kill you.

Leveling up envoke a sense of new found power. The only way you can get deeply better gear is to reach a higher level. AA's are a nice touch, but when push comes to shove being fully maxed out in all your AA's is really only level 72. Wouldn't you really be level 80?