Monday, 28 October 2013

MMOs: Zone Population Balance

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

Casual Aggro has a post where he questions the point of GW2's up/down levelling. Basically he wonders why it's there at all because as a low level character (up levelled) you still get caned by high level mobs while at high level (down levelled) you can still curb stomp everything. One might argue that if you are at max level, being defeated or having a really tough time fighting the level 0 chicken or bunny in the starter zone would kill any sense of progression you may have had. I'd prefer to look at the "why" they included that system to begin with.

It'll chop your head off.

In a standard MMO (without scaling) the higher level people would gravitate to the higher level zones as that's where they would still be able to achieve or earn something. Usually if they returned to the beginner areas they wouldn't really gain much in the way of advancement. This creates a ladder where slowly but surely those high end zones are getting more and more packed and veterans were less likely to return to help the newbies. The GW2's scaling system was supposed to reduce this, so that high levs could return to the other zones and still be rewarded for their efforts, and in a way it worked. However since players prefer the path of least resistance now the high levs camp both the top and bottom tier zones leaving everything in the middle mostly empty, save for when events happen there.

How would I fix it?

While this would be easier to accomplish in a new venture, for GW2 first I would add more currency. Yep. Karma doesn't cut it. This currency would be called "Fame", and would be tracked individually per region. Unlike other currencies, fame is fickle and will decay after sometime (even if you are offline) back to a value of zero. Then I would add a new tier of items (or rework legendaries). Purchasing said gear requires fame from multiple regions. Furthermore, the more fame you have across the lands, the more powerful those items would be. They can potentially be the most powerful equipment in the game but if you don't maintain the fame (in ALL the zones) then they will be as weak as starter "whites". This will encourage people to log in more often, and to run around all the maps to maintain their strength.

You can even make another set for WvW which increases in power the more people you kill, but that counter decays too so you'd need to be constantly killing to be at maximum power. Those are just rough ideas but I believe they would work. In short, without the threat of decay I don't think anything can really flourish.

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