The Quiet Storm

March 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 25 Comments
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There is a fair amount of debate about whether Guild Wars 2 represents an evolution or revolution in online gaming. There are certainly countless examples of differences between GW2 and how other MMOs have been designed. Some are minor but as a whole it certainly seems like a major shift is taking place.

Scaling is one example and it is found throughout Guild Wars 2. Our characters scale to the content. Monsters scale to the number of people fighting it. Events scale to the number of people participating. Personal Story scales in difficulty. Most interestingly loot scales to your level.

It’s rarely talked about, even by Arenanet, but I think it’s a key change (one being entirely overlooked) in the design of MMOs.

First of all here are a couple of examples of them talking about it.

Starting at 44:08

There is also this quote from the recent Reddit AMA thread.


I’ve heard that any/all loot you get is scaled for your level.




Now as you may have seen in the video, the loot may or may not be on the same level as loot you might get from playing in areas more suited to your level, but you’ll still get things. “Cool loot” as Eric Flannum says. That’s a strong caveat to how useful this is and they’re still testing so who knows if it is even working, but this opens up a whole lot of questions about the future of MMO loot.

The original Guild Wars was renowned for having the majority of its content at the max level of 20. That meant you received max damage weapons and materials virtually everywhere you went. Loot Scaling does essentially the same thing in reverse. No matter where you go the loot could be viable. Early zones don’t have to be flyover country. Helping out guildies in low level areas, going back to see content you’ve never seen, checking out jumping puzzles you missed, none of it has to be a waste of time. You have an alternative motivation for being there. You are rewarded.

And that has got to make game designers think about the future. What if all loot is scaled to the user? What if all zones are the users level, no matter where they go? What happens to the economy? What happens to player activity? What happens?

Well maybe in Guild Wars 2 we’ll find out.



  1. This is actually something that I’ve thought a lot about, ever since they announced downscaling for players in events. My hope (which has been confirmed mostly) was that although you are downscaled, you still receive roughly useful amounts of exp, and potentially gold/items. One way to do this is to just track exp separately for each character based on their level, or the other is to have exp/kill remain roughly constant across all levels and have levels require similar amounts of XP. They seem to have taken the latter approach, which is something I find to be pretty logical. It worked in Final Fantasy Tactics (you/areas were scaled, always 100XP/level, and usually receive a like 10XP/successful action).

    The result, in my mind, is that you can play areas because the areas are compelling, not because you need to be there to level up. This is fantastic for people that love certain aesthetics and would rather spend most of their time there. I for one was not a fan of the desert in prophecies. I mean, it was designed well, but I’m much more of a pre-sear/kryta kind of person for environments. With this system, you can stay where you like without being unduly penalized.

    The consequence of such a system is that the designers of each zone must be very mindful of the content and aesthetics. You want each zone to be INTERESTING, because if it isn’t, a system like this encourages people to just go somewhere else. In many ways, this is consistent with the no-subscription-model; ANet must deliver content that we WANT to buy instead of just forcing us through areas to get to some mythical carrot at the end of the proverbial stick. From a meta level, I approve of this design immensely.

    • It definitely means that middle level zones are more than just filler zones, unlike in other games. I’m actually surprised that this hasn’t been emulated by more companies considering you get more bang for your buck. Another example of arenanet not being afraid to try things other companies are.

    • I hate desert zones in any and all games, maybe because I grew up in one but mostly because they just seem so blah in games visually (though the unique if stressful ghost chase in Zelda OoT was a nice change of pace.) I expect the game play in GW2 to keep things interesting as well.

      I also hope the scaling silences the people whining about the lack of “end game,” and if not, it proves they aren’t interest in fun or a challenge, just repetitive grinding for marginal gear improvements and bragging rights.

      At the end of the day, if people aren’t playing for fun, they’ve lost touch with the meaning of the words play and fun.

      • My fear is that people just see things one way and refuse to open their eyes to the possibilities of no classic end game. Their loss though.

  2. […] Hunter’s Insight — The Quiet Storm. “There is a fair amount of debate about whether Guild Wars 2 represents an evolution or revolution in online gaming. There are certainly countless examples of differences between GW2 and how other MMOs have been designed. Some are minor but as a whole it certainly seems like a major shift is taking place. Scaling is one example and it is found throughout Guild Wars 2. Our characters scale to the content. Monsters scale to the number of people fighting it. Events scale to the number of people participating. Personal Story scales in difficulty. Most interestingly loot scales to your level.” […]

  3. GW2 is a revolution, imo. It’s one step closer to what a proper MMORPG should be — offering more personal choices (of content, of playstyle, of appearance, of story) to the players.

    It’s the freedom of choice that is the backbone of any RPG. Any game that lacks the ability for a player to customize their own story is less an RPG and more of a first-person storybook at best or at worst a game where math and statistics trumps personal play preferences (which is what WoW has become, though the devs claim to be trying to fix that).

    • Its an argument that is hard to refute, I can’t disagree that it very well could be a revolution. Arenanet makes decisions other companies are afraid to.

  4. I hope this does not interfear with getting a piece to use its skin, I might be thinking to much into it.

    • I would hope if a certain sword skin drops in a level 20 area for instance
      , that same type of sword would drop for a deleveled 50. Maybe the stats would be more in line with a 50then a 20.

      • I’m sure there are other methods as well, maybe a karma merchant or regular merchant in the area, unlocked through events or whatnot, or other possibilities we haven’t thought of.

    • I’m sure the mechanics are adjusted somehow. Seems like they wouldn’t over look this sort of thing.

  5. I’ve spent some time going over your final questions in my own head for some time now. I can’t really imagine how I’d play a game with this kind of scaling; it’s hard to envision. I can tell the possibilities excite me, though.

    • I would love to try out a game where absolutely everything scaled perfectly, I doubt that gw2 is that game but its certainly a step in that direction.

  6. At the hard end of town what sort of player do you want to have, someone who might possibly be good at their playstyle, but you don’t know or someone who has a higher gearscore who you know is at the very least capable of higher numbers? Or perhaps has done it before? This is wows problem, you dont know people and the gear can make up for bad players mostly.
    It used to be such a slow progression that was also fairly much the same for all, and therefore people in your guild would most likely be up to doing what your doing. Not so anymore thanks to the masses of stuff you can now do in WOW. GW2 would seem to have this issue too.
    So WOWs gone forwards in some ways and backwards in others over the years, and that’s the one game.
    Doesn’t matter how good your game is if theres no MM. Yes, it seems like we have some considerable advancement in this game, but is it going to cut the MM?
    Scaling is not new to gaming, my first love scaled – Ultima. It was of course only a single player game however. So it’s too early to tell if success has come to any of these new elements in GW2. They are at least attempting it which is the first promising sign for us.
    So I don’t really care if it is revolutionary, which I don’t think it is, since its still an MMO. And to me revolutions come in whole new types of games, and these are the games that hook me for the longest. D3 should be fun, but its not going to last, we’ve all done RSI-to-plays before.
    I think they’ve changed it up enough to make it a success on day one, and they are the sort of company thats going to support it. That’s going to make it a great game. Revolutionary, no. Great new MMO, I surely hope so!
    One thing I was disappointed to see was just how much popping in of creatures there was. I admit that its hard to work around it in an MMO setting, but it really isn’t that great a look just having stuff pop in. I’d like to see this fixed in our next evolution, yes I hate it that much. If your position is that important, don’t go poping some creature on top of me – thanks.

    • No scaling isn’t new, but it’s rare and used sparingly by most companies. Rift’s rifts scaled but not in big ways. Arenanet is taking it to a new level and combining all the best aspects of other games, I can’t blame anyone for saying revolutionary or evolutionary, to me it is borderline between the two.

  7. My favorite part is that if they do this correctly no area will become obsolete. In LOTRO, for instance, my favorite areas of the game were the level 47-50 spots. There were some great dungeons and raids for those levels. When the Moria expansion came out those level 47-50 dungeons became obsolete. It was impossible to get a group at level. If you actually found people to do it at least some of them were way over leveled and it trivialized what was once difficult.

    Hopefully, scaling will help to keep areas fun for a long time.

    • I’m definitely with you on making lower zones obsolete. Making anything obsolete is such a waste, and scaling, to some extent, does away with that.

  8. Problem: MMO developers struggle to produce enough content to keep players happily occupied.
    Solution #1: Mythical “End Game” which consists of highly challenging content (repeatable) combined with a gear grind treadmill (which forces players to repeat it) which in turn creates problems of power creep, and burn out.
    Solution #2: Stop constantly trivializing all of the content you have already created by using scaling, AND make the really challenging content accessible at every progression stage in the game – not just at level cap.
    Hmmm… challenging, interesting content all over the place (instead of locked behind a hideous grind) … I choose door #2 thank-you.
    BTW, did you hear about how they plan to introduce new content after the game is launched? Quote: “Oh, we’re just going to continue to add dynamic events to areas – all areas.”
    Interviewer: “How do you plan on letting your players know where the new content is?”
    Dev: “Oh, we’re not going to… they will just stumble across it all – that way even areas they ‘think’ they’ve done ‘everything’ in will still hold fresh new experiences for them.”
    You’ll have to excuse me for putting it so indelicately but, my body has the same physiological reaction to that sort of thing as it does to a picture of Shania Twain.

    • Sorry, forgot to include link to referenced interview:
      It’s an enjoyable podcast to listen to in general, but the GW2 stuff is past the halfway point (roughly 75% through – don’t know exact time stamp)

    • I hadn’t heard that interview — but that statement is SO exciting. It will make altoholism even more enjoyable, not to mention keep lower zones interesting to even max level PvE players.

      I’ve seriously just given up trying to tamp down my enthusiasm for this game.

      • I am excited for this game too, but lets not put blinders on, i don’t want people to have unrealistic expectations that gw2 can never live up to.

    • Personally I’d prefer to know what they’re working on, it looks like a big game and if one dynamic event is going on where another event has been added, i’d rather know it’s there to see later than play through it and never come across it.

      • They said the original DEs will still be present, but the frequency of their occuring will be tuned down to allow room for the new ones being added in.

      • No doubt they’ll be adding new maps too, but it’s nice to know that they will be iterating on the existing maps, as well, and keeping them fresh; in GW1 they were pretty much set in stone until recently (war in kryta etc.).

  9. […] Insight: Go for the eyes!  Hunter is happy to see eye colour in character creation. In The quiet storm he wonders what will come of all the changes ArenaNet is doing to the MMO […]

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