During the last couple of years level scaling has become pretty common in MMO space. Level scaling means that whenever a player enters an area that’s of considerably lower level one of two things happens: the player is leveled down to the area’s level, or the mobs are beefed up to the player’s level.
Some games, for example Guild Wars 2, launched with level scaling built-in, others like The Elder Scrolls Online, SW:TOR and WoW (to some extent) added it later on.
The problem I have with the feature’s implementation in those games: I can’t opt out of it. If I travel to a low level area I’ll always be leveled down, whether I like it or not. The thing is, I do not like it most of the time, for a number of reasons.
It feels so liberating to return to a zone I had to fight my way through back in the day and be totally ignored by all mobs, making for a relaxed stroll in the park. In Everquest II low level mobs even cower in fear before me when I walk past them, which I find hilarious.
It also makes a lot of stuff much less arduous, for example low level gathering, completing collections or killing mobs for old quests cluttering up the journal. I love these zero-stress activities every now and then.
Speaking of killing stuff, this is where power creep also comes into play.
While power creep and level scaling aren’t exactly polar opposites they are related insofar that the latter can offset some drawbacks, but also undo the nicer aspects of the former.
Power creep happens when more powerful gear and abilities are introduced to a game (mostly by expansions), resulting in older gear becoming obsolete and older content ridiculously easy.
I’ve experienced power creep that was decidedly too severe. I don’t think the very first items you get for easy solo quests after an expansion should be way more powerful than the best raid gear you could obtain before the expac. This makes you feel like your weeks and months of working towards that gear were for naught, and that’s not a pleasant feeling at all.
As long as it isn’t too extreme I’m fully on board with gear and abilities becoming more powerful over time though. Again, I like it when older content becomes much easier.
If you wait and level up enough in EQII you reach a point where you can solo raid bosses that were a tough challenge for 24 players way back when, and I think that’s great. Due to this you can, if not experience as intended, at least see all the content there is. If you look at it this way power creep actually has it’s upsides.
But what about the huge advantages of level scaling and the massive drawbacks of power creep? What if I want to play together with friends who have joined the game much later and are significantly below me in level and power? Or maybe I want to deliberately play older content at the appropriate level, what then?
Well, there’s a solution for that: player controlled level scaling.
In EQII it’s called mentoring, and there are two flavours. When playing together with lowbie friends you can lower your level to the exact level of a group member, which is free and can be done anywhere and anytime. If you’re solo you can visit a chronomage and mentor yourself to a level of your choosing in increments of five for a small fee. The chronoguys even give out rotating daily missions as an incentive to do old content while mentored down.
For me this is the perfect solution. I can enjoy and utilize my steady growth in power (and punch mobs that formerly gave me a hard time in the face), but reduce my level and power if I so choose at any time.
Forced level scaling? Get off my lawn!