[MUD-Dev] Blog about GDC implies changes to MMORPG population

Sean Kelly sean at f4.ca
Sat Apr 2 07:43:37 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

On Wed, 30 Mar 2005, Michael Hartman wrote:
> Amanda Walker wrote:

>> One of the things I have been greatly enjoying about WoW (and to
>> a lesser extent, SWG), is that it's not so prone to "the rest of
>> my guild got 10 levels ahead of me while I was away on business,
>> and now I'll never have a chance to catch up ever again."  SWG
>> and WoW have the most cohesive guilds I've experienced yet,
>> mainly because the members can continue to play together even at
>> different levels.  Now, sometimes it's with alternate
>> characters--the low barrier to "leveling up" makes it a lot
>> easier to go try different approaches for variety--but I don't
>> think that ease of play necessarily translates to lower group
>> cohesion.

> Um........ what?

> WoW is the LEAST conducive to varied level grouping of any MMO I
> have ever played.

I think Amanda's main point was that the ease of leveling and the
ability to solo reduce the likelihood that mixed-level groups will
be necessary for friends who like to play together.  I do also
believe that mixed-level grouping is more feasible than you suggest
(more below).

> In a group, everyone earns xp based on how the mob "cons" to the
> highest level person.  You cannot help a friend who is a few
> levels lower than you level up, because he won't be catching
> up. He'll actually fall behind.

In my experience, progress has seemed to be pretty even between low
and high level members in a group situation.  And scaling things
more towards allowing low level players to "catch up" would be an
invitation for powerleveling, which is something Blizzard has tried
very carefully to avoid.

> Even if you are only a few levels apart, the heavy quest emphasis
> will often result in the two characters not being able to do the
> same quests at the same time because of the minimum level
> requirement.

It helps that a quest will give experience until you're 7-9 levels
beyond it (I forget the exact number offhand).  I've spent various
chunks of my play time 3-5 levels behind the people I play with and
quest levels have never been a problem for us for this reason.

> Also, if a mob is 3 or 4 levels higher than you, you'll miss like
> crazy and FORGET about landing a spell. Thus, the lower level
> person is almost useless.

The lower level person can still act in a support role in most
cases.  And not all classes are equal in this regard.  The warlocks
my friends play can take down orange and red mobs fairly easily,
though my Paladin hass far more trouble in this regard.  Still, in
those situations I've been able to contribute by healing, stunning,
etc.  It's also worth noting that the mobs in instances are a
substantially lower level than the quests given for that instance.
I've grouped with players almost 10 levels below me for instance
runs, and while the aggro management can be some work, it's a viable
play option.

> With the way the aggro range works, bringing someone a few levels
> lower than you is often a huge liability as they cause mobs to
> aggro from all over the place.

I do agree with this (see above).  It's really amazing what a
difference just a level or two makes in WoW.  Not with stats or
abilities so much as the ability to avoid aggro and to damage a mob.
It makes every level feel significant, even though they are fairly
easy to attain.

> And no, creating "alts" to play with your friends is not a game
> that is conducive to varied level grouping.  The hyper fast
> advancement system just allows for a kludge workaround.

Again, I don't think Amanda's point was that varied level grouping
was encouraged by the game so much as that the ease of level gain
reduced the chance that this would be a necessity.  I started
playing WoW a week or so after my friends did, and I was able to
catch up to them in the course of a single day off.  Granted, they
hadn't been obsessively powerleveling, but most people don't.

On a semi-unrelated note, I've found the character progress system
in WoW to be far preferable to any other level-bassed MMO system
I've played.  Talent choice (talents are bought by points granted on
level gain) is far less critical to the effectiveness of a character
than it has seemed in other games.  And for a fairly minimal cost,
talents can un un-learned, which eliminates the need to start a new
char just to fix a bad decision.  The result is both that
level-based decisions are not critical to the success of characters
and that time is never wasted on dead-end characters.  Because of
this, I haven't become discouraged by mistakes and the resulting
level grind like I have with other games (Diablo 2 being a notable
example--you can't say Blizzard doesn't learn from their mistakes).

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