Friday, August 20, 2010

Are you up for levelling downwards?

The Course of Life is often pictured as stairs. Initially you climb it, growing stronger, wiser and more powerful for every year. Then it turns somewhere midlife – 30, 40, 50, whatever. And you climb downwards until you reach the end where there’s a tombstone waiting for you.

Admittedly this image doesn't tell the whole truth. A workmate of mine told me about her elderly aunt. Asked about what age in life she thought was the “best”, she thought long and hard and then answered that it must have been after she turned 65. Reaching that age she had finally figured out who she was and wasn’t afraid anymore to stand up for herself, not bothering anymore so much about what everyone else thought she should do, and she also had way more time at her hands to make her dreams come true.

25-year-olds tend to believe that life culminates about there. But actually it doesn’t. At the age of 40 or 50 you might still be climbing it upwards, to something better. Quite a comforting thought if you ask me.

The life curve of WoW
In WoW, the life curve of a character has always been very simple and linear. We progress. We level. We get gear and reputation and achievements and whatnot, growing stronger with every hour we put into the game.

This has been the case until now, but the other day the Escapist published an interview with Ghostcrawler, where they hinted that there might come a change of this in Cataclysm. Not at the launch, but possibly later.

According to the article, they’re planning to “include a system that allows players to scale down their character’s level in order to help newer players.”

I don’t think that it will mean that you’re actually levelling downwards, like the main character in the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, if you remember it. He started as an old man and grew younger as the people around him got older the normal way until he became a baby and died. This would no doubt be an interesting idea for an MMO, but I think that the downlevelling in WoW will be more temporary. You’ll probably be able to jump back to your original level when you want to.

A quote from the interview:

“The heirloom items unveiled in Wrath of the Lich King already scale with a character's level, so adjusting them to suit a downgraded character is already part of the design. Cataclysm will go one step further and replace individually purchased spell ranks with a scaleable system that allows a single ability to grow along with a character. Scaling down levels probably won't be possible when Cataclysm is released, but it's a feature that will be coming eventually and should help players of differing levels adventure together more easily.”
The description is pretty vague, so it’s hard to say how this would work in reality. Is this open to anyone or do you have to be in a party with someone lower to be able to downrank your own level? Do you need some sort of heirlooms to do it? Will it be free or an additional service? “Add 4 dollars a month to your subscription and you’ve got the options to set your characters to whatever level you want”? We don’t know. Probably Blizzard doesn’t know either.

A wonderful idea
But let’s assume that anyone will get the freedom to scale down your character as much as you want to. Imagine what possibilities this would open!

Suddenly I could run Karazhan for real again, on my favourite character, without being overpowered or without having to raise an alt for this sole purpose.

I could catch up on those quests I never experienced since I dinged 80 way too quickly, enjoying the content the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed, not rushing through it since the mobs will die as soon as I look at them in my ICC 25-man gear.

And if I had friends with low level characters and no alt in their range, I could actually play with them, not just boost them.

It’s a wonderful idea, especially for main huggers, who don’t have any interest in levelling an army of alts at various levels. I hope this won’t become another dance studio or Path of the Titans, but something they actually will go through with.


sscougall said...

It sounds very similar to the Sidekick/Mentoring system that City of Heroes uses. In that system you have, say, two friends, one who has Character A at level 50(the level cap), and the other is just starting out and has Character B at level 10.

Character B can become Character A's sidekick, and fights at an effective level of 50, but with no new abilities.

Alternatively, Character A can become Character B's Mentor, and is temporarily at level 10. This is similar to what Ghostcrawler is talking about.

I can't remember what happens to XP because it's so long since I last played CoH. That'll be the main concern.

As well as 'Mentoring', as you said a nice perk will be being able to temporarily de-level yourself and do older content at the appropriate level.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

So does this mean that EVERY slot will have an heirloom item? (it's been a while since I've played, so I'm not sure if this is true right now or not).

Copra said...

It's about time Blizzard realized that this scaling down system has been used in other games for a long time. EQ2 has mentoring, in which the higher level character(s) can joinlower level ones on instances, thus making it possible and rewarding to meddle with the newcomers.

This might be the only way to make the guild achievements plausible in a way.

C out

Xaxziminrax II said...

I agree that this can only be a good thing! Something which I've yelled at my monitor about for many hours. However...

"'s a feature that will be coming eventually..."

Like new dance moves and player housing, each of which were brought up well before this.

Shintar said...

That sounds like a fabulous idea. Doing old quests at the appropriate level, joining runs for instances that you outlevelled long ago, maybe even mucking about in different battleground brackets? There'll probably be limitations, but even if you'll be able to do only one of these things it'll already be a big plus.

SpiritusRex said...

Thanks for the link to the article, Larisa. Truly love this idea as well as the other tidbits hinted at by Ghostcrawler.

You know, the more I read from/about this guy (Ghostcrawler), the more I realize that he "gets" what the player wants and what the game means to us. I guess that makes since not only is he lead systems designer for arguably the most succesful online video game ever, he also has a PhD (doctorate here in the States) in a totally unrelated field, Marine Science - one smart cookie, for sure.

SpiritusRex said...

Edit, typo:

"I guess that makes sense since not only..."

Frostys said...

Doing old raids the way it was meant to be!! JOY!!!! Having joined WoW after the release of WotLK is a little sad to me having missed quite a lot of content without any hope of doing it even once the way it is meant to be done.

@ SpiritusRex

GC still haven't given me my pony yet... hehehe

Hugmenot said...

It will be interesting to see how this scaling down works.

I have a bear in a Burning Crusade raiding guild. Despite wearing only BC gear (rare for the most part), echants, and gems, Karazhan is rather trivial if 10-manned and other raids are easy once enough people learn the mechanics.

A new level 70 DPS character in 3.3.5 can probably do twice as much damage it could do in 2.0. I don't have the numbers to back this up but there is no way a new 70 bear was generating 750 DPS back in the days.

Having said that, any type of scaling down will be appreciated if it means my max level characters - when scaled down - can no longer solo old raids. I will figure out in time how many I need to bring to provide a serious surmountable challenge.

Just like we figured out running Karazhan with 7 players in a mix of iLevel 100-115 rares and epics provides a good challenge.

Ratshag said...

EQ2's mentoring system were the only thing I liked about that game. It were all about making it easies fer friends ta play with friends, even when ya's on different schedulizations. Would love fer ta see sumthin' similar in Azeroth.

Redbeard said...

I think it's a great idea. If you've got a noob you want to show the ropes, joining your L80 to their L15 and running them through Ragefire Chasm does nothing for them. (Outside of being a lootmonkey, that is.) They will get almost no XP for the run, and they won't get a chance to really contribute. Being able to scale down your character to run instances or go questing with a low level friend is a great idea.

For altoholics, the normal system will work fine, but if I'm trying to show a noob how to use the Paladin tools at L9, I either have to start a new Pally and quickly level up to L9 or do a lot of tells instead. Having Quintalan show up and have the full arsenal at his disposal isn't going to help the noob very much at all.

SpiritusRex said...

@ Frostys

re: GC still haven't given me my pony yet... hehehe

Save a pony, ride a cowboy ;)

Anonymous said...

We already do this somewhat by removing gear but that's a poor approximation. Having a button that says "make me level 45" sounds much better. Hope it becomes a reality.

I like lower-level BGs better than the higher-level ones. If this scaling lets me use my 80 instead of having to level a character for this, that's pure win. Of course it means we'd see many more people in BGs at the max level for the bracket. If you're going to choose your level for a BG, you're going pick 19 and not 12.

Redbeard said...

: I'd suspect that if you were allowed to level down for a BG, you might not get to choose what level you'd play at. If you're going to play Arathi Basin in the 40s, Blizz might set it to be the average of the toons in the BG.

Gevlon said...

I have a dream: making this mandatory, so you can't enter a lowbie dungeon as high level. You must downlevel first.

Now the "we are legendary" achievement start to get interesting.

Valdu said...

Back after a lengthy hiatus, and slowly catching up with your blogs (still not got around to contributing any of my own, will think about it when I get the chance, RL stuff is rather frantic and dramatic right now).

On the subject of 'downlevelling' our characters I'm 100% for it... actually, that's a bit like saying I'm 'keen on New Order'… it's more a case of being fanatical about the idea - The very thought of downlevelling leaves me salivating at the mouth and drooling like a Zombine after nomming on Gorden's leg for an hour or two.

Of course it would have to be 'permanent' downlevelling, as opposed to something that lasts only the length of a party invite, instance… or whatever.

Ideally it would involve an NPC service that allowed us to select the level you wished to go back to, and remain there, until re-visiting the NPC again. They can charge a few gold for this if it pleases them; I don’t care; I just want this to happen.

The reasons I’m so passionately in favour of this are kind of complex, convoluted, hard to explain and would most likely bore any readers into a state of torpor - Suffice to say it’s down to a personal (and little-shared) RP-orientated passion of mine regarding the creation of ‘none-combat’ characters, and the endless fascination I hold for the idea of building up things from scratch, and then having the option to disempower them; this is one of the reasons I adore levelling, and become rather bored with PvE when my characters reach level cap; not to mention my personal abhorrence of things like RAF, heirlooms or anything that makes newly created characters overly powerful.

Of course the most obvious reasons for this service, which you spoke about in your blog are icing on the cake. It would be nice to run Strat or Scholo ‘properly’ on one of my level-capped characters, certainly bringing back a few good memories.

Finally here’s, something to balance my negative feelings toward the coming expansion, I’ve now got around 4 actual things I like about Cataclysm – There’s still about 20 things I’m dreading hehe… but it’s a start. Would be just bleedin’ typical if they changed their minds and didn’t implement it.

Valdu said...


Sorry for double post, it threw up an error, which I assumed was due to being too wordy, and so I reposted an edited version, not thinking to check if the original was there or not :(

Larísa said...

: That sounds awesome and very flexible!

Fallstar: No, I don't think so.

@Copra: I don't play other games much so I didn't know it was that common. Anyway: yeah, about time.

II: For some reason I'm not as skeptic and cynical as I maybe should be.

@Shintar: Yeah, I see how a lot of old content will could come alive again. Not just by the remaking, but by offering us the opportunity to relive it.

: Yeah, I like him. He's doing a great job as being a front person imo.

@Frostys: Yep! Now only to convince some other people to do it... But if it's easy to change back to your original level, I think it might catch some interest.

: It's true that it won't be as hard as it was once upon a time. But it's still a lot better than it is now.

@Ratshag: I never played EQ2, but it seems like a good idea to steal indeed.

: It will definitely make teaching a lot easier. I hope there are willing mentors around, even if there isn't any substantial reward for doing such things.

: BG:s, that's another use, definitely. I hope they'll make this very flexible so you can do it there too!

@Gevlon: hm... I'm not so sure about the mandatory thing. I think being able to solo an instance, for instance for farming rare mounts, has some kind of charm as well.

@Valdu: permanent - yeah - but only until you revisit the NPC. I don't think it would be used very much if it only was one-way ticket and no return. NP about double posting, I took away some copies and kept the long comment. And welcome back! Still waiting for your blog to pop up! Please let me know.

Valdu said...

Clarity Valdu, clarity... Yes I was not advocating 'permanent - permanent' downlevelling but rather something that lasted until you re-visited the NPC. I should have made that clear.

Thanks also for the tidying up.

Syl said...

In Age of Conan there is already a similar feature where characters too low for a party will automatically get 'tutored' by the higher level that invites them. The lowbie will get levels added to his character instantly and all his stats will increase to allow him to do higher quests and dungeons together with the others. His gear however will not change. In AoC gear isn't a big issue while youre levelling up anyway.

I found this feature refreshing to be honest. In WoW I always had the issue that I couldn't accompany my friends leveling their alts, because I am not an alt-player. All I could do is boost them which is only so much fun.

the new feature would enable you to re-experience old places and help your friends without having to have an alt. this is great imo.