WOO II An Exploration in Design - July 2012 - By Stoneghost: Dalaran


WOO II - Why Relevel?

A primary goal of the WOO II design is to reduce the effects of the "level cap" by opening the lower levels to meaningful activities for all players.

The Level Cap

The term, "level cap", refers to the highest level of the current game. Because the game is a progression climb, each new level offers new abilities, gear and activities ... but ... at the same time, when a character ascends a level, the lower level activities become unplayable ... the character is too powerful for them. Because of this, players congregate at the topmost level. This means that most of the game is empty, with almost all of the characters clustered in the activities at the highest level their subscription will support.

The clustering of characters creates crowds. It fills some cities, while others look like ghost towns. It creates queues for the top level raids, arenas and battlegrounds. The lack of lower level players makes it difficult for players who are trying to "level up" new characters to enjoy group activities such as dungeons and battlegrounds. It raises the auction house price of common lower level goods.

The level cap is not a good thing.

The Real Estate Void

Because of the level cap, most of the game space is empty of players. Visit Exodar, the Drenei capital, and aside from the NPCs, you may be the only one there. Visit Tanaris; the zone is mostly empty ... and not only that, the zone is home to two Dungeons, neither of which see much ... if any ... use.

So on the one hand, the Faction capitol cities, and the capitol or central gathering point of the current expansion, are grossly overpopulated ... while all the other cities and zones are nearly devoid of characters. Similarly, the few top level dungeons are packed, while the large number of lower level dungeons are seldom called into use.

Obviously, this does not bother the players much; there has been no great outcry about it ... other than complaints about overcrowding. But it takes computer time and memory space to maintain all of that real estate ... and it would be somewhat more efficient, from a game management point of view, if the characters were dispersed throughout. But mostly, if players could use all of those lower level dungeons, quests, and battlegrounds, there would be a LOT more to do.

The Value Problem

In the current game, a player who takes a level 70 character to a level 20 dungeon will simple walk through, killing every monster with ease. This is fun to do once, but it quickly becomes boring. Additionally, the rewards, which are appropriate for level 20, are worthless to the higher level character.

If the lower levels are to be reclaimed, then the experiences and the characters have to be on a par with one another. The easiest way to do this is to readjust the level of the character to fit the level of the dungeon. Once that happens, every activity, regardless of level, will be equally competitive. It will be just as much fun to do a level 20 dungeon as one at level 70 ... because the player's character will have the appropriate abilities and gear for the occasion.

Once the encounters will be competitive, the rewards will have to be normalized ... meaning that a reward given for a level 20 boss kill should be just as valuable at level 40 ... or level 80 ... as it is at level 20.

Adjusting Abilities and Enhancements

The easiest way to make rewards equally valuable at every level is to set up gear and enhancements to provide a percentage multiplier of a character's already existing ability.

This way, when the character changes level, and once the game has computed the character's base damage and mitigation values for that level, the gear and enhancement effects are simply another computation.

An "enhancement" is a spell, rune, gem or other device that modifies the effect of a character's attributes. So, for example, a gem that adds +0.5% magic damage to a weapon would simply increase the effect of the weapon. A potion that increases a character's magic damage mitigation by -1.0% would work the same way.

There are other ways of making the level adjustment, but this one has the following advantages:

What About Items and Abilities that Only Work at Higher Levels?

As a character rises in level, it gains access to new abilities. Similarly, its gear becomes eligible for additional enhancement. This means that when a character drops down to a lower level event, it's upper level attributes have to be removed.

One way to do this is to keep a template, or "map", of the character for each level. The map stores the data which is used to construct the character in the game space. The first map is created when the character is born ... this needs to happen in any case. When the character moves up to level 2, the level 1 map is saved ... and so on.

Since very low levels are unlikely to be revisited, the game may want to put a lower limit on releveling. Or, if need be, releveling could be limited to every 3rd level. The preference expressed in WOO II is for many fewer, but much more expansive and interesting, levels. But that's a decision for the game designers.

Storing one map for each level for each character likely takes up much less computer space is currently used in storing gear and other items. And the computations needed to reconstitute the player are minor.

Other Considerations

  1. Releveling makes it possible to reformat characters as they enter battlegrounds. Since the character will need to be reconstituted in any case, the map used can be a generic one. This allows all battleground fighters to have the same weapons and gear, putting them on an even footing.
  2. There should be little need to change weapons, except for type. In other words, a sword is a sword is a sword. A character should pick up a sword early in the game and then add to it with enhancements as the character and weapon level up. The "look", or skin, of the sword is an enhancement, as are gem slots, enchantments and the like.
  3. Enhancements are restricted to certain levels. For example: if an enchantment applies only above level 40, then when a player drops down to level 20, the enchantment will turn off. Similarly, gem slots will vanish ... but the gems will not; they will be there when the player returns to the higher level.