There was a time when hitting level 10 was a big deal. It was time to consider settling down, establishing a keep, and retiring from active adventuring.

2015-09-12_00001My main character in Guild Wars 2 gained 5 levels yesterday.

Now, I will point out that it makes a lot of sense for computer games to have a lot more levels in their structure than any RPG. Gaining a level is something of an accounting exercise, and with the computer handling the numbers, more accounting is not a large burden.

However, MMOs are supposed to be a group activity, and the end game (where levels are no longer important) is where it is easiest to find a large pool of people with the same level of capability. Before that point, unless you are purposefully staying in-step with a friend it can be very difficult to find appropriate content for two people. This helps feed into a ‘must get through everything now’ mentality, that causes developers to warp the design by promoting faster leveling than the content is designed for. This feeds everyone into the ‘end content’, even though that tends to be one of the most tedious parts of the game, and is characterized by extremely slow, incremental gains in ability, instead of constant sense of growth from the main part of the game.

The emerging answer to the underlying problem is level-scaling, first seen in City of Heroes, with the sidekick system. Neverwinter has this for some of their more recent content, but… I can’t say it works. I don’t know what they’re doing when they reduce a character in effective level, but it doesn’t make much difference, with a high-level character tearing through the lower-level monsters. Guild Wars 2 has a much more extensive system, where every section of the world has its own maximum level that you are reduced to. It does have an effect, but while not as pronounced as in Neverwinter, over-level characters are still more effective than ones just at the maximum level.

The most effective, and most annoying, version I’ve seen is in Final Fantasy XIV, which will disable abilities that are too high level for your current effective level. Considering that it has the usual ‘arrange your own ability bar’ style design, having your hand-crafted ability set disrupted gets frustrating.

Back to yesterday’s adventures, the main annoyance I’m feeling is that I’ve been spending a lot of time in the alternate low-level areas (because of map-completion achievements, and a need for low-level crafting materials). Normally, this means extremely slow experience gain, as it gets scaled down for being ‘too easy’. But it seems like Guild Wars 2 does not do this, leading to much faster level advancement than I’m really looking for at the moment. Lunysa is now around level 40, and has yet to see any content past about level 22. I’d really prefer that the level advancement be slower, so I don’t feel like I’m rushing towards an end goal that is not part of what I’m currently doing.