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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperDesignShould End Game content scale with player level?
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Author Topic: Should End Game content scale with player level?  (Read 272 times)
jbarrios
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« on: April 11, 2019, 09:22:19 AM »

I'm going to set up a hypothetical scenario.  I've made a traditional JRPG.  The first part of the game is a pretty linear affair.  Of course because this is a JRPG there are levels to gain, equipment to buy, and spells to learn.  Through this linear section the game's difficulty ramps up at a steady pace with the player's level.

There comes a point near the end of the game where the world "opens up."  The player has the choice to go straight to the final dungeon and complete the game OR complete the dozens of side quests that are available.  Of course these side quests have rewards for the player such as more powerful weapons, equipment, and spells.

Now I have a dilemma.  One player could skip all the side quests and go straight to the final dungeon.  Another player could complete all of the side quests before attacking the final dungeon.  These two players would have a massive difference in power levels.

How do I balance the final dungeon so that both players get an adequate challenge?
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ThemsAllTook
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2019, 12:41:44 PM »

I've thought about this a lot. One possible option is to give out sidegrades instead of straight-up upgrades in bonus content - maybe something that gives the player more verbs that could be situationally useful, but don't completely supersede the old ones. They could also be given tradeoffs - a choice to permanently sacrifice an old ability to have it replaced with a new one that works differently, for example.

Something I noticed about Legend of Grimrock 2 is that the leveling curve becomes pretty steep at some point. I think I was around level 12 or 13 when the endgame opened up, and the amount of additional experience required to level up again was so much that I would barely have a chance to gain even one more level by doing all of the optional stuff. That could be one solution.

Let's think about player motivations. There's a 2x2 matrix of players who would want a shorter/longer experience, and players who would want more/less challenge. I know some people who would spend extra time on bonus activities to gain power specifically to make later encounters easier, so a traditional leveling curve would work well for them. Personally, I'd find it more interesting to have a greater amount of challenge for spending more time - like, maybe each sidequest completed could activate an optional super-hard encounter in the final dungeon, or add elements to the encounters that are already there that wouldn't have otherwise been present. A speedrunner would want to reach the end while seeing as little of the game as possible, walking the razor's edge - part of the fun is figuring out a way through the game's challenges while severely underleveled, so nerfing stuff for them just because they didn't do anything optional wouldn't be great, as long as there are no hard boundaries that can't be overcome by sufficient skill. I don't really have a good example of the fourth type of player, who wants to skip optional stuff and not be challenged, but I'm sure they exist.

There's certainly something to be said for power fantasies, where you eventually amass such strength that it feels like nothing can stand in your way. The other end of the spectrum would be the type of game that never stops punishing you, and the only way through any encounter is by your own cleverness, persistence, and the skin of your teeth. Instead of spending time to earn the privilege of the game submitting to your will, you as a person would work to gain the reflexes and knowledge necessary to overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle that never actually changes itself to get any easier. Whichever of these it is that better describes how you want it to feel to play your game might help inform your design decisions around endgame balancing.
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Voltz.Supreme
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« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2019, 11:03:45 PM »

Instead of a straight 1 to 1 scaling, you could scale down the ending (boss?) using an equation that would make it slightly easier for the player who jumps right in but rewards the player who gets all the level ups.
I don't know if that makes sense but it makes it harder for the person who skips leveling up but not impossible.  Shrug

Example (i didn't use an equation, just random numbers)
player is at 50% so boss is at 75%
player is at 70% so boss is at 85%
player is at 90% so boss is at 95%
player is at 100% so boss is at 100%

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jbarrios
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« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2019, 05:34:06 PM »

ThemsAllTook great points.

Do you know of any examples of "side-grades"?

If I understand your 2x2 matrix example we can put players into 4 categories:

Want Challenge, want a long game.
  These players might need more of a challenge on the end game.  Maybe a secret boss or something?

Want Challenge, want a short game. 
  If the end game context is at a set power this should cater to these players.

Want Ease, want a long game.
  If the end game context is at a set power this should cater to these players.

Want Ease, want a short game.
  These players may need a... less than good ending.  I don't want to say bad ending because they deserve to have a good experience.  But maybe an option to end the game before the more challenging content.
 
 
Voltz.Supreme that's an idea worth experimenting with.

Maybe I'll prototype something out and get player feedback

Thank you both!
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