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Dungeon Scaling Coming to WoW?

Updated Mon, Sep 02, 2013 by Messiah

By now everyone has heard about the new flexible raid system being introduced in World of Warcraft patch 5.4, however Blizzard has now made it public that the technology used for it is ready to be used for a whole lot more. Blizzard has confirmed that everything is in place to allow the scaling of pretty much any dungeon or raid content in the game.

What is dungeon scaling though, what can it be used for, and is it a good or bad thing for the game?  Find out all about it right here.

What is Dungeon / Raid Scaling?

The ability to scale raid or dungeon content means the ability to make it challenging to play for anyone no matter the level that they currently are or the level the instance was initially meant for.

It would use essentially the same mechanics built for the flexible raid system, but instead of balancing the enemies based on the number of players in the group, it would balance it based on the players level, or even item level (more on this later).

Has this been done before?

There have been some other implementations of a scaling system in other games.  A good example was in Dungeons & Dragons with a tutoring system.  You were able to go into an instance with friends that were lower level than you were and your character would be virtually downgraded to the level appropriate so that you could play with your friends while not making the content trivial.

The system worked fairly well, however it had some issues.  If you were high enough level to gain access to new abilities and then downgraded to help friends, you also lost some abilities that you were now used to using with your character.

It made playing your own character a little non-intuitive since it changed more than just your damage and health.  Overall though, it was a good system.

What about loot?

Loot is the area that falls apart, at least so far, with the proposed system.  Blizzard is still not sure how to handle it, as they realize that you will not want to complete old instances without gaining some form of reward.  However, they also do not want old instances or raids to give items as good as the new content as it then provides no incentive to move through the newest and hardest content.

For now, this is the main reason it looks like adaptive instances will be limited to just the Flex level raiding, where Blizzard can have a very close eye on how the loot system there works out.

Something like a new currency that allows the purchase of heirloom type items when below level cap, or that converts to justice or valor at level cap could work.  Also a mechanic that figures out the gear that would drop in an equivalent level instance and removing a few item levels from it could work.

The issue around loot is more about keeping the items relevant to the instance, so that boss loot tables do not disappear.  They need to provide items that fit the instance and the original flavor, but are still relevant to the player completing the instance at any level.  This I assume, is the main challenge that Blizzard is struggling with and hence not fully implementing this technology in the game yet.

Image from gamescom interview

More Information Regarding Dungeon Scaling

You can hear the discussion regarding dungeon scaling for yourself here: WoW Tom Chilton and Cory Stockton Gamescom 2013 Interview.

Is this a good thing for the game?

Yes and no, but up to personal preference mainly.  Since it would allow more content at any level it is hard to argue that it is bad for the game, however there are a few areas that could cause concern. 

The biggest immediate concern would be that allowing all content to scale provides more content at all levels and therefore allows Blizzard to become lazy and produce less content since they can re-use so much of it.  This could be a potential downside, but content isn’t produced all that often anyway (patches are few and far between), so more at all levels is always better.

The other downside is that since any level character could experience any level content, it degrades the story telling aspect of the game.  You could experience content out of story sequence and make the game even less linear than it is from a lore perspective.  This could be a major concern to players that enjoy the story and lore aspect of the game, as the game has become less linear and less cohesive from those aspects over time, and this could make it even worse.

On the plus side, personally I like the idea but only if it allows a ramp up in difficulty and not ramping down.  By this I mean, allowing something like Scholomance to be played by players from level 60-90 and keep its difficulty level, but not allowing players to pick the Mogu’shan Vaults and play it at level 10.  I don’t believe that is the intention at all, so I am not worried about that just yet.

By allowing everyone to play content that they have already been through but keeping it relevant to their level it provides a whole lot more content to complete at any point.  A great example is at max level currently there are only so many heroic dungeons to complete and if you are grinding them for valor, they can get pretty boring, pretty fast.  However, if every instance in the game suddenly became available to play through at a challenging level, it provides a lot more options.

Now that there is a start to adapting content to players, what if it was taken to another level? Right now Flex raiding looks at the number of characters, dungeon scaling would look at player level.  Both are good, but what happens if Blizzard built in more?  Combine the number of players, level of players, and item level all into the calculation, and then allow players to select a difficulty level.  You could pick easy (LFG), normal, or heroic level for any instanced content in the game.

Imagine going into an instance that you loved from your early levels, taking in raid-geared players, and selecting heroic difficulty.  The game would then ramp everything up to level 90+, up the damage output, and make it just as hard or harder than a 25 player raid, since you all have raid gear and wanted a challenge. 

To me this technology could be amazing.  It would allow players to always have a challenge, no matter how well or poorly they are geared.  That is one part of the game that has always bugged me, as you get geared up, even the hardest content becomes too easy and you have to wait for newer, harder content.  What I am proposing would ensure that heroics would always be a challenge, not just for the patch of an expansion until people out gear them.  This would ensure that for players that wanted a challenge it was always there.

Comments

The Messiah has had his say, now it’s your turn.  What are your thoughts about the possibility of dungeon and raid scaling coming to WoW in a bigger way than just flexible level raiding?  Post your comments below.

 


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