Level Cap Without Expansion?

Friday, May 15, 2009

So here's a random thought I had. A level cap raise has been talked about, but what if we see it without an expansion. So, perhaps a free book update adds, say, five levels. Maybe the one that adds Dol Guldur puts up another 5 levels to separate it from Moria and Lothlorien.

Do I think this will happen? Not really, but I do think it's an interesting concept that could be done. What would be the effects? Well, for one thing, we won't have a stair step pattern to the content. Here's how the content looks like so far: A relatively even ramp up to 50 with a plateau, then another ramp up to 60 with a plateau. Etc, etc, etc. . Instead we get an even ramp all the way up, with each new content upping the cap by 5.

Of course, there's a good side to having such choices of content at 50 and 60. Alts don't have to do the same content as other alts or mains. I've advocated multiple advancement lines for content below 50, particularly 20 -30.

One of the benefits of adding 5 levels here and there with the free updates is to keep the players on the leveling treadmill. The reward system driving play takes a fundamental change when you reach the level cap. No longer are your stats naturally increasing by whatever content you complete, but rather you have to find specific content that increases your stats (deeds with desired virtues, instances with desired gear, etc). You might not like a deed grind or the instance needed to advance your character however.

Like anything, it's a trade off. Ultimately, whats more beneficial to the game? In my opinion, more options for content progression throughout the levels rather than keeping the player leveling. If adding 5 levels from time to time in free content updates takes away from being able to do this, then I say no. Perhaps there are benefits I have missed.

5 Responses to "Level Cap Without Expansion?"

Green Armadillo Says:

If you put me in charge of LOTRO development back in 2006, the largest thing I would have changed would have been to launch with a lower level cap, and increase the cap to 50 when the level 40+ content to support it was actually ready.

That said, the reason why level cap increases tend to come with paid expansions is because of the need for content support. Some players will go through and finish all of the content in the game, even after they stop gaining exp, so you cannot raise the cap without adding new content. Once you're adding new content, the question becomes how much new content. If the new cap was 55 and the only way to get there was to level in Don Guldur, you'd be packing the entire playerbase into just that one zone. Once you start talking about adding enough zones to spread the players out, you're talking about a paid expansion's worth of content.

Jaxom92 Says:

You make an excellent point Green Armadillo. I hadn't thought about the population issue, but it would be a real problem. Already it felt that it was crowded in Eregion and Moria when all the players ended up there with the release of Mines of Moria. And that was a large area.

Alash Says:

This has always been a major dilemma for developers: raising the level cap gives a new sense of progression, but it makes most - if not all - of the current content obsolete. Since keeping up with providing quality content is possibly the biggest challenge in most MMOs, it's a risky decision.

A prime example of this was Mines of Moria, where the active community had most content on farm no more than two or three months into release - and all the while, a 24-man instance, a 12-man instance, and six 6-man instances from Shadows of Angmar had all been rendered useless because they were designed for level 50.

I think the best way to go about this is to add mechanisms from the start that makes older content replayable by scaling its difficulty with your current status. The upcoming skirmish feature scales with the size of the fellowship, but what's more important is that it scales with the average level of the fellowship. If I went into Barad Gularan and the opponents were all level 60, combat mechanics would make sure that is was just as challenging as a run to Fil Gashan, and The Rift would be as fun as pre-expansion. Effectively, we would then have more than twice as much content.

Obviously, implementing a scalable system is a big obstacle, because to make it worthwhile things like loot and quest rewards also need to scale.

Thorn Says:

However, the population issue might be somewhat mitigated if you instanced the bulk of the content.

Doing this with Dol Guldur, which might be a bunch of dungeons doesn't seem so far-fetched. However I am not so sure I want to see this done in LOTRO.

Jaxom92 Says:

@Alash - I agree with your examples and would LOVE to see the older instances receive a revamp to scalable content when that system matures in the game. Can't wait to see how it's implemented this year.

@Thorn - I'm not a fan of a whole zone become a majority of instances. I've always thought Middle-Earth as an open world with freedom of travel. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why that isn't the case in LOTRO, but at least we're not heavily instanced. That type of content can be just as good as the open world, but there's a time and a place for it.