Level scaling, why is this a thing?

WeepingAngels

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Laggyteabag said:
I actually quite like level scaling. One of the biggest problems that I have with games with leveling zones, is that I often find myself overleveled for the zone, before I finish its questline. This means that if I want to finish a zone's story, I need to essentially waste my time, as the experience, creatures, and rewards are sub par to what I could be getting if I moved on. I actually like the idea of being able to go wherever I want to, and not have to worry about if I am too high or too low of a level.

Nothing is more boring to me than effortlessly OSKing a load of supposedly "challenging" enemies, especially when they are the big boss from a long time ago. Ever gone to an old raid in WoW, when you are 20 or so levels above their intended level? Super boring.
Level scaling also ensures you'll never walk into an area under leveled. Oh the thrill of walking into a battle that you can barely win but the rewards are well above what you would get fighting enemies meant for your level.

We hear alot about being over leveled and games being too easy in this thread but level scaling basically takes away the ability to risk a game over for better rewards.
 

Estarc

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A leveling system is a tried and true, well understood system of player progression. I'd say it is great for non-linear games like Bethesda titles since they can't rely on you being at set point in the story or whatever after the appropriate play time for a new ability or power up.

In a system that has stats as well as abilities things are a bit interesting. The main benefit of stats is to gate content in non-linear games. Bandits have low stats and can be fought at low level, dragons and giants higher stats and need more levels for example. Things get interesting when you level up and the bandits are worthless now though, especially in a game that likes you to re-explore old areas. If the bandits don't scale in level then you'll one shot them all due to bigger numbers and take no damage. Entertaining for five minutes, but then it becomes boring so you never do that content again. In this case the level system was only good for gating off later game content. But with good implementation of a level scaling system, your numbers should still comfortably grow a bit over the bandits and the new abilities you've unlocked should further increase your power. This should leave you with enemies who can still kill you if you play poorly, but that you can easily dominate with proper play.

A level scaling system that keeps your power equal with your enemies' all game isn't the "very best" execution of the system. It is a failure. But it would still serve as a way to gate content, even if it is a poor way to do so.
 

WeepingAngels

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Estarc said:
A leveling system is a tried and true, well understood system of player progression. I'd say it is great for non-linear games like Bethesda titles since they can't rely on you being at set point in the story or whatever after the appropriate play time for a new ability or power up.

In a system that has stats as well as abilities things are a bit interesting. The main benefit of stats is to gate content in non-linear games. Bandits have low stats and can be fought at low level, dragons and giants higher stats and need more levels for example. Things get interesting when you level up and the bandits are worthless now though, especially in a game that likes you to re-explore old areas. If the bandits don't scale in level then you'll one shot them all due to bigger numbers and take no damage. Entertaining for five minutes, but then it becomes boring so you never do that content again. In this case the level system was only good for gating off later game content. But with good implementation of a level scaling system, your numbers should still comfortably grow a bit over the bandits and the new abilities you've unlocked should further increase your power. This should leave you with enemies who can still kill you if you play poorly, but that you can easily dominate with proper play.

A level scaling system that keeps your power equal with your enemies' all game isn't the "very best" execution of the system. It is a failure. But it would still serve as a way to gate content, even if it is a poor way to do so.
Going back to an earlier area with weaker enemies is the evidence of your progress. Sure, you wouldn't want to stay there for any length of time nor does any game that I know of force you to. There seems to be this idea that a game should be challenging 100% of the time, even when going back to visit starting areas. Going back to a starting area is often refreshing, to see how far you have come.

In fact, when I play JRPG's, I often decide when it's time to continue with the story when I can one shot the enemies and I can explore no farther without advancing the story. With level scaling, I would never leave an area. Level scaling is just not satisfying. If you truly get your thrills by exploring the whole world before the game really begins, then level scaling is for you. I wouldn't want to do that. Going to new places as the game unfolds is far more interesting to me.
 

TheSchizoid

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This reminds me of when I originally played Final Fantasy Tactics. After 100+ hours of playing the game (because it was damn fun just wandering around and fighting!) I eventually got around to finishing the story. I bring this game up because it had an excellent level scaling system...sort of. All the random battles leveled up with you, keeping the game challenging (unless you ended up fighting a bunch of chocobo which was a pain in the ass). Problem was, the story did not keep up. While the random battles stayed challenging, I swept through the end of the game with little difficulty. If you're going to put true level scaling into a game like FFT had, why not have it for the entire game? Why only for everything outside the storyline?
 

WeepingAngels

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TheSchizoid said:
This reminds me of when I originally played Final Fantasy Tactics. After 100+ hours of playing the game (because it was damn fun just wandering around and fighting!) I eventually got around to finishing the story. I bring this game up because it had an excellent level scaling system...sort of. All the random battles leveled up with you, keeping the game challenging (unless you ended up fighting a bunch of chocobo which was a pain in the ass). Problem was, the story did not keep up. While the random battles stayed challenging, I swept through the end of the game with little difficulty. If you're going to put true level scaling into a game like FFT had, why not have it for the entire game? Why only for everything outside the storyline?
...because the main story is where you see the benefits of your grinding. Your grinding would be less effective if the story battles scaled too. Remember, grinding was optional and becoming a badass is the reward for that.
 

wings012

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I see level scaling as the designers being too damned lazy to pace and balance the game properly.

I find that instead of implementing a leveling system and have scaling, they should just tighten the balance.

Have upgrades go more wide rather than high. Don't fuck with hitpoints and damage values at all if it is all going to scale anyway.

Weapons can be as sensibly deadly as they are and people can be as sensibly vulnerable to weapons.

I always prefered a tighter Deus Ex approach to difficulty scaling. Yes at the end of the game you can leap off a building while firing rockets and kill everything before you land safely. But if you stand under a grenade, you will still die.

Just having numbers go up is lazy and dull.
 

Drathnoxis

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Umm, it's still possible to become over-leveled in some games with level scaling. I know in Skyrim, I was one shotting pretty much 90% of the encounters on the hardest difficulty by the time I had maxed out smithing, enchanting, and one-handed. Obviously the game does not use 1:1 level scaling, and I'm not actually sure what games do. Does anybody have any actual examples of a game where the enemies level at exactly the same rate as the player?
 

veloper

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Drathnoxis said:
Umm, it's still possible to become over-leveled in some games with level scaling. I know in Skyrim, I was one shotting pretty much 90% of the encounters on the hardest difficulty by the time I had maxed out smithing, enchanting, and one-handed. Obviously the game does not use 1:1 level scaling, and I'm not actually sure what games do. Does anybody have any actual examples of a game where the enemies level at exactly the same rate as the player?
Play the previous installment in the ES series(Oblivion) if you're really curious.
Of course, that game is broken in so many ways, you can simply choose to NOT level, while still becoming more powerful. Play the game straight and also without resorting to power gaming and you will experience the complete disaster.
 

Estarc

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WeepingAngels said:
Estarc said:
A leveling system is a tried and true, well understood system of player progression. I'd say it is great for non-linear games like Bethesda titles since they can't rely on you being at set point in the story or whatever after the appropriate play time for a new ability or power up.

In a system that has stats as well as abilities things are a bit interesting. The main benefit of stats is to gate content in non-linear games. Bandits have low stats and can be fought at low level, dragons and giants higher stats and need more levels for example. Things get interesting when you level up and the bandits are worthless now though, especially in a game that likes you to re-explore old areas. If the bandits don't scale in level then you'll one shot them all due to bigger numbers and take no damage. Entertaining for five minutes, but then it becomes boring so you never do that content again. In this case the level system was only good for gating off later game content. But with good implementation of a level scaling system, your numbers should still comfortably grow a bit over the bandits and the new abilities you've unlocked should further increase your power. This should leave you with enemies who can still kill you if you play poorly, but that you can easily dominate with proper play.

A level scaling system that keeps your power equal with your enemies' all game isn't the "very best" execution of the system. It is a failure. But it would still serve as a way to gate content, even if it is a poor way to do so.
Going back to an earlier area with weaker enemies is the evidence of your progress. Sure, you wouldn't want to stay there for any length of time nor does any game that I know of force you to. There seems to be this idea that a game should be challenging 100% of the time, even when going back to visit starting areas. Going back to a starting area is often refreshing, to see how far you have come.

In fact, when I play JRPG's, I often decide when it's time to continue with the story when I can one shot the enemies and I can explore no farther without advancing the story. With level scaling, I would never leave an area. Level scaling is just not satisfying. If you truly get your thrills by exploring the whole world before the game really begins, then level scaling is for you. I wouldn't want to do that. Going to new places as the game unfolds is far more interesting to me.
Level scaling in a JRPG would probably nearly ruin it. I mentioned it in regards to open world western RPGs (the only games I've ever seen it in) for a reason.

I'm playing Fallout 4 at the moment for instance. It's a game that one an theoretically play indefinitely through respawning dungeons and radiant quests. Whether or not that appeals to you is not the issue. Level scaling of some sort is necessary to support this. A "full" playthrough is unlikely to take you over level 80. You can level indefinitely however, and improve your stats indefinitely. Without level scaling you would end up in a situation where you are dominating everything with no effort. Once you hit that point the majority of people would grow bored. A gameplay loop they enjoyed would be ruined by paper mache enemies.

For a game with a set length, whether expected completion time is 8 hours or 80, it is of course preferable to balance areas for each zone the player will be in at any one time for optimal challenge. Especially if the game is not open world. They are the only genre I feel level scaling works in. Linear experiences need to be tailored with care.
 

Michael Legault

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Final Fantasy Tactics does it right I would say, the random encounters are level scaled, and the story fights are not. It makes it so you can level build wherever you choose.
 

Drathnoxis

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veloper said:
Play the previous installment in the ES series(Oblivion) if you're really curious.
Of course, that game is broken in so many ways, you can simply choose to NOT level, while still becoming more powerful. Play the game straight and also without resorting to power gaming and you will experience the complete disaster.
I have played Oblivion, and I seem to remember everybody crumbling beneath the might of my enchanted Daedric firesword in that game too.
 

Michael Legault

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Final Fantasy Tactics does it right I would say, the random encounters are level scaled, and the story fights are not. It makes it so you can level build wherever you choose.
 

veloper

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Drathnoxis said:
veloper said:
Play the previous installment in the ES series(Oblivion) if you're really curious.
Of course, that game is broken in so many ways, you can simply choose to NOT level, while still becoming more powerful. Play the game straight and also without resorting to power gaming and you will experience the complete disaster.
I have played Oblivion, and I seem to remember everybody crumbling beneath the might of my enchanted Daedric firesword in that game too.
That was pretty much the way to go: melee + enchantment power build. If you also picked your major and minor skills optimally, you would get a lot of skill points out of every level.
The game is broken in so many ways, that one optimal level could be worth many suboptimal character levels. But anyway yeah, Oblivion mobs level exactly the same time as the player gains a level.
 

visiblenoise

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I think it's just because it's easier on the level designers for open world games - they don't have to think about where they're putting stronger and stronger monsters. Every place is the same, with standard monsters and maybe one extra strong monster.
 

Scarim Coral

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Well for one thing, they probably don't want the players to abuse a no level scaling system.

I mean imagine being a level 20 area hanging around in a level 10 areas and one shot all the creatures for easy loots (I mean the little easy loots can be worth alot in the right hands).
 

WeepingAngels

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Scarim Coral said:
Well for one thing, they probably don't want the players to abuse a no level scaling system.

I mean imagine being a level 20 area hanging around in a level 10 areas and one shot all the creatures for easy loots (I mean the little easy loots can be worth alot in the right hands).
If it's a single player game, why would the developer care how I play it? What's the harm in me farming 99 Potions?
 

Politrukk

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Saelune said:
Cause people don't appreciate being awesome. One of many reasons Morrowind is better than Oblivion is this exact issue. I loved starting as an insignificant foreign peasant, and clawing my way to kick-ass quasi-deity. Yes its a pain to walk into a cave or dungeon and have everything just be way higher level than you, but then you come back higher level than them and kick their ass.

The idea behind it is to maintain challenge, which is more prevalent in open-world games I guess, since there is less control of progression, where as a more linear game may just block the path with more powerful foes, like in Dark Souls. (Though I suppose leveling in that is much different than most RPGs).

But yes, I think just increasing the weak enemies to be less weak is dumb, since it makes no sense for petty bandits to be decked out in Daedric gear and be a threat to the one destined to challenge the gods themselves.
In games like The Elder Scrolls games it also creates a huge discrepancy.

In Oblivion you could max out acrobatics, conjuration and alteration before you even left the damn dungeon and you would walk outside and find enemies in glass armor or something of that nature, you can still kill them, get their armor, sell all you don't need and start the game as a damn powerhouse.
 

Trunkage

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I remember the hardest fight in the entirety of the Witcher 3 was the first fight against undead dogs (I cant remember what they are called). You could easily take on monster who were 15 levels above you. That game was a area based levelling except for a couple of extra powerful monsters. It made the fighting monotonous. I was bored by it even before I reached Novograd, and the only thing drawing me along was the story. Difficulty doesn't change the pattern of attack or dispersion of enemies

Dark Souls deliberately crafts monster placement to provide variety. As any speed runner shows you, you don't need to level to beat monsters. But for those who aren't as good, it helps you overcome this challenge.

It does do the 'lets increase the health bar' thing you also see in Borderlands which is annoying.

One of my favourite self derived goal of Fallout 4 was clearing the Quincy ruins. It felt punishing, but you were able to take a breather every now and again. If that wasn't levelled then I wouldn't have tried it over and over. Not only did they have more health but the variety of enemies changed. It started with lots of close quarter and after the fifth time through one enemy had a Fatman, making precision a priority.

I like that some game don't have levelled enemies but still provide challenge and others who provide something other than increased health bar as the challenge for levelled activities. Maybe a way you do this is by having abilities levelled as well and monsters can only use abilities up to that level (you'd have to change the way the AI works though through the levels) or bar certain enemies from certain levels.
 

runic knight

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I like the hybrid system of level scaling, where specific quest-areas and NPC are scaled to your level so they always represent a suitable challenge regardless when you face them, but the rest are set, or quasi-set leveled so as to be a challenge or cannon fodder based on when you get around to those areas. Seems the best way to retain the whole point of level scaling enemies (So the game doesn't get boring and the main plot has you asking why your character doesn't just curb-stomp the characterized badguy first thing) without the jarring and humorous absurdity of the demigod-gear decked out uber bandit and pals.
 

weirdee

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runic knight said:
I like the hybrid system of level scaling, where specific quest-areas and NPC are scaled to your level so they always represent a suitable challenge regardless when you face them, but the rest are set, or quasi-set leveled so as to be a challenge or cannon fodder based on when you get around to those areas. Seems the best way to retain the whole point of level scaling enemies (So the game doesn't get boring and the main plot has you asking why your character doesn't just curb-stomp the characterized badguy first thing) without the jarring and humorous absurdity of the demigod-gear decked out uber bandit and pals.
yeah, it's entirely possible in Sword of Mana to find the best gear in the game and then max it out to the point where you can kill the final boss in one hit