Thought for the day.

Mentoring systems –such as those seen in games like EQ2, CoH and STO– are still rarity in the genre, despite being an obvious enabler to allowing friends to play together. Yet most MMOs implement some form of PvP where players of varying levels are slammed together, with the level disparity ‘normalised’ by temporarily increasing the level of the lowest players.

Thus the system is often applied to PvP, where lower level players are more likely to be put off playing again because they are dramatically behind the power curve of higher level players (due the significant differential in equipment, number of powers, etc), and are in direct competition with those players.

Yet the system is often not applied to PvE, where lower level players are more likely to be prevented from playing with friends if they are dramatically behind the power curve of friends who are at a higher level, and are thus unable to join them in a cooperative effort.

It seems to me, at first glance, like a curiously backwards convention of design.

9 thoughts on “Thought for the day.

  1. Jaedia

    We’ve always craved this when it comes to levelling alts. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to backtrack your main and do some low-level dungeons with a friend’s low level alt or new character if they’re new to the game? I think we gave up on the idea years ago, sadly.
    PS. I think I’m in love with your captcha.

  2. Melmoth Post author

    “I think I’m in love with your captcha.”

    Wait, weren’t you supposed to be in love with us?! Has the KiaSA Captcha AI stolen the affections of yet another? I think I’m going to have to reprogram it.

    Just as soon as it lets me back into the blog…

  3. pkudude99

    I completely agree. EQ2’s mentoring system is sadly missed in every other MMO I’ve ever played. A couple of friends and I just rolled all new toons on a new server in SWTOR, but we don’t play the same number of days per week, nor the same number of hours on the nights we do play, so in spite of 2 of us rolling alts, the “mains” that we made for playing together are still scattered across 8 levels already, in a mere 2 weeks. We can still group, but the xp rewards for the lower-level characters are diminished due to the higher level characters having grayed out the stuff already, so it’s a disincentive for us to group. But if we could mentor the higher levels down just a little, it’d be awesome.

    IIRC, EQ2 had mentoring in at launch, but the original system was a complete pain. They revamped it to the current system, and while it does have the effect of making the toon doing the mentoring quite OP, it’s still very convenient, and the mentored toon can choose to throttle back. Not that anyone’s ever wanted me to when I’ve mentored down. . . .

  4. Derrick

    This has always stopped me from really enjoying MMO’s. I tend to play at a very different pace from my friends – some more serious, many much more casual – and as a result we’re never able to really play together until “endgame”, and then many are not interested.

    It’s long frustrated me that the whole levelling game is so difficult to play multiplayer. In every MMO I’ve played, even a small gap in levels turns a group outing into a joke, with the high level player dominating everything, or the low level player just trying not to die.

  5. Helistar

    I think that this is on the TO-DO list of Blizzard, because it goes very much in line with scalable (heirloom) gear and normalized stats. While probably not a high priority, I would not be surprised to see level-scalable characters appear in the future.

    A change that, as many have noted, is very very welcome, since it allows you to play with your friends, and it’s less extreme than the “everyone at the level cap” which is used today.

  6. Melmoth Post author

    @pkudude99: It’s obviously not a trivial task, but EQ2 did a pretty good job of it, as you say. City of Heroes was where I first encountered it, and it was a revelation for me back then. Star Trek Online has a similar system – perhaps unsurprisingly, it being another Cryptic title. The STO system doesn’t seem to work quite so well, however, especially in comparison to CoH, and I think this is mainly due to the fact that STO is gear-orientated where CoH wasn’t nearly so heavily dependent on it. Gear still seems to be a major headache when trying to create a decent mentor system.

    @Derrick: I find the static group is about the best way to deal with it, where players agree to only play on a certain day together, and at other times play alts, or only perform non-xp-granting tasks such as crafting. This doesn’t work terribly well in a number of cases, alas, specifically with subscription MMOs when players are only interested in playing that one day of the week with their friends, and the fact that the game-play of certain MMOs just doesn’t lend itself to such a regimen of play. Guild Wars and DDO are two games which work well for static group play, and I think the fact that they are both heavily instanced is not a coincidence with respect to that fact.

    @Helistar: Blizzard have definitely started to move down the path of providing all those features for which players have been clamouring for years, so it’ll be interesting to see if a mentoring system is a part of the new feature set. Who knows, they may even get around to sorting out player housing sometime in the next five years.

  7. Boris

    Related, how many MMOs have XP locks at this point? Makes static grouping a lot easier. I read from Wilhelm (TAGN) that Rift just added it, I know WoW has it (although back when I played, it was damned inconvenient).

  8. Pardoz

    I’ll be interested to see if GW2 manages to implement this any better than EQ2 did (ie: poorly). I rather doubt it, but am prepared to be pleasantly surprised if they do manage, through some miracle, to pull it off.

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