Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Xp Curves Ahead

I've been talking to my friend Sareini today a bit about CO, CoH and xp curves. We're both old enough hats in City of Heroes to remember (even if the term confused me) the Purple Patch. It was a patch similar to the launch day shenanigans of Champions Online.
Quotes bulk out posts, so I'm going to be cheesy.

Sareini: This was way, way back in the early days of CoH. People were apparently finding it incredibly easy to solo groups of purple-conning mobs, so they put out a patch which raised mob difficulty. Across the board. Which made it damn near impossible to solo unless you were a few types of meleer.

Oh, and they put the patch out on a Friday and then left for the weekend.

Every game tweaks their critters now and then. Archvillains have been tweaked more times than I can remember. Powers have been changed and when they brought in Sonic and the whole concept of resistances, that changed alot of things too.

However I remember this so called Purple Patch. Suddenly minions, all but the lowest of the low, were an issue. Jack Emmert went on record (and I really must find and cite it) saying that One Hero should be equal to about Three Minions. No more wading through the faceless mooks of the opposition, those mooks had teeth. How do you feel like a hero though when a bunch of Skulls kick your ass? It's one thing to be done in by the machinations of an insanely powered insane threat, it's another to get your ass handed to you by lowly gang initiates.

Since then City of Heroes has had various modifications to how powerful you are. The Global Defense Nerf made it more unlikely that you'd be hit yes, but it also reduced defenses by 40%. Enhancement Diversification had some people screaming. It reduced how many enhancements you could effectively slot in a power by introducing diminishing returns. Changes were made to AoE powers limiting how many people you could hit with a single blast and changes made to taunt, ensuring that one tanker could no longer herd an entire map.
There were also improvements made, Invention Sets would be prime amongst them.

All of these changes are separate to the Curve Smoothing they did to make xp flow faster in certain level ranges, if memory serves the 30-35 range was particularly bad once upon a time.

These things happen though. Games are modified, some bits are clearly too easy, others far too hard. Sometimes it's to curtail farming, other times it's to make things more balanced and fair across the classes (which logically shouldnt be balanced in comparison anyway).

Quick shot at CO, yes I couldn't resist. Generally when there's a big shake up, City of Heroes grants all characters a free respec. You don't even have to go anywhere, just type /respec and voila, you can respec. Why didn't CO, made by the same people who have lived through the same problems, give the same ability?

Back on topic, I want to put a question to anyone reading this. How long should it take a normal person, playing no more than three hours a night, to reach the level cap?
I understand that there are different sorts of players, some want to get there as fast as possible, others prefer an extended smell the roses type of play.

It seems that most games eventually run into the problem of power and entertainment. If you are all powerful, how do they keep you entertained and thus p(l)aying? If you are held back by an unforgiving curve from getting more powerful for too long, you won't be entertained. If you level to the cap in seconds, they must have scads for you to do or risk you having little to no interest in sticking around.

It seems we've lost our patience as gamers. People don't want to have to work and make an achievement out of that next ding, they want power and they want it now. Champions Online has delivered this, Travel power from level 5, ripping up scenery to smash foes with, impressive attacks and a go-go-go pace that rushes you into battle. They just started to run out of things to keep you doing and forgot their own previously learned lessons.

Personally, I don't mind taking my time on occasion. Enjoy the journey, smell the roses, see the sights. Only then friends want you to play with them and they're soooo far ahead, but hey, you know that one great spot in that zone where the xp per minute is fantastic. Curve schmurve, people want a faster lane. Or do they?

Sareini: See, it's all about your audience. And personally, I wish they wouldn't keep making the xp easier in certain level ranges. I mean, I enjoy doing the content, and RPing (even if it's just in my head) the storylines, and now with one good team or TF I'm outlevelling huge chunks of the game. Yes, I can exemp or Flashback, but it's the principal of the thing. I shouldn't have to say, "Hmm, should I solo and get to do this content first time through, or play with my friends and miss it all?"...yeah, I'm probably not representative of players in general though :P

Sareini: The way I see is... *gets on soapbox* they need to concentrate less on all these TFs that you can only do from 45+ and the like, and put in more mid-game content. Will we ever see the Faultline trial, for instance? Or whatever they're building in Steel near Boomtown? Or new storyarcs or mini-TFs involving Boomtown or shock horror Dark Astoria?


Sareini said...

I like the way this Sareini person thinks, and would like to subscribe to their newsletter...

But seriously, I sometimes expect, with all the "xp smoothing" going on that makes it easier to level through certain parts of the game, if we're eventually going to log in and find a button on the screen that automatically levels you up whenever you press it...

Jim said...

I think it should take about 2 - 3 months for a casual player to reach level cap.

Flimgoblin said...

As long a time as it can be drawn out for, but less than the amount of time that the usual lack of change in the latter game drives you to frustration and rage quit.

i.e. when you're levelling up at first, progress is quick. Numbers bling past quickly, new powers are gained, new game features are encountered, learned and mastered.

Towards the end of all these games everything is just slowed down, and more and more you're comparing yourself to those at the cap level.

That latter stage can't be too long or people quit.

I don't think there's an easy answer ;) but one thing I'd like to see is games that allow standard XP progression post level-cap.

i.e. I level up killing monsters, doing quests, when I hit cap level - killing monsters and doing quests no longer give me any xp. Rather than that I'd like something to spend my xp on - something exponential, low power increment but still something you feel you're "gaining" in if you happen to go kill some monsters to help a friend.

Ysharros said...

I very rarely (read: almost never) reach the adventuring level cap in any MMO, so my money would be on 3-6 months.

However, I would also debate the idea that 3 hours a day constitutes casual play -- the older we get and the more RL responsibilities we have, the harder it seems to be to carve out even an hour.

Or you could be a freelancer like me and have huuuuuge tracts of... playtime, interspersed with bursts of cruching translations where you can't log on for more than 5 minutes at a time (or are too exhausted to) for several weeks running.

Jayedub said...

Three hours a night would probably get you to max level in a month or two. I personally try not to rush to max level and enjoy the game in a casual manner myself.

Terry said...

They're too busy putting in "QOL Improvements" and "New systems" which may or may not be an improvement at all (I'm looking at you MA), to bother with new content.

You'll have to wait until Going Rogue if you want something else to do in-game.

I'm hopeful that GR provides as much new content as CoV, but not optimistic.