Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Level Syncing

Last week The Old Republic revealed some of the game mechanic changes coming in Fallen Empire. The most controversial is that all planets will be level synced. That is, when you out-level a planet, your character and gear will be scaled back to the max level for that planet.

On the one hand, I can see why some people are unhappy. These games are about character progression, and level syncing undoes your progression. It's fun to come back to an old zone that gave you trouble and destroy it. What's the point of gaining levels if the game is going to arbitrarily roll them back?

On the other hand, because it's normal for a max level character to overpower old zones, the game never sends you back to those zones. Or if it does, it sets up a little max level area where the max level players go. It's harder to preserve challenge without level syncs.

Level sync makes it easier to add new content to old zones. For example, all holiday events in FFXIV are level 15 or 30. High level players will get synced down, and the low level requirement makes it easy for new players to join the event.

However, FFXIV only scales group content. Solo-content is pretty much left alone.

Another point is that level syncs also balance world PvP a bit better. Sure, a synced player is more powerful than a leveling character, but the disparity isn't as great any more. If world PvP starts up, the leveling players on the planet can join in.

In the end there is an unavoidable tension between maintaining character progression and preserving challenge. I think that FFXIV strikes a good balance for group content. I thought that Guild Wars 2 did a bad job maintaining character progression, as it was very aggressive about syncing levels, so you'd get scaled back even in the same zone. Games without leveling syncing basically give up on attempting to preserve a challenge in old zones.

We'll see how well TOR manages to balance both goals.


  1. Was GW2 too aggressive? I know every time I went to a zone that I out-levelled, I was still powerful enough to completely trivialize it, even after being scaled.

    1. Character progress is not quite the same as power relative to the zone. Character progression is more objective in my opinion. Today I am level 20, tomorrow level 21.

      For most level syncing, levelling syncing is a deliberate choice of choosing to be synced. In GW2, though, it sometimes felt like my level was yoyo'ing up and down as I played normally. You travel from point A to point B in the same zone, and your level changes 3 times.

      It's a bit hard to explain, and I didn't play GW2 that much. This is just some recollections of how launch was.

    2. The trick GW2 uses is that if you are downlevelled, you are downlevelled to the area level, plus one. So you are actually more powerful than the zone, with the relative margin decreasing in the higher level areas., e.g. My toon is in a level 2 zone, so I'm at level 3, a 50% margin. If in a level 60 zone, my toon will be at level 61, a 1.6% margin. I think it might work a bit better if they added more than one to the downleveling, but I think the basic idea is sound: I can go to a noob zone and blow up all the things, but it isn't a complete pushover and I'm not one-shotting so they can still give reasonable experience and loot.

  2. I love the level scaling in GW2, so if it's indeed like that, I'm happy. The thing I like most about it is that it doesn't feel redundant to do stuff in lower level areas. If you like one planet more than the others, you can choose to spend some extra time there without shooting yourself in the foot. It's a sort of solution for the lack of alternative planets to level on for alts (there's just one planet per level range available). /fangirl mode disengaged ;)

    1. That's a good point. Though you'll still have to at least do the class story on all the planets.