Monday, May 21, 2012

Diablo III: Level Cap

By and large Diablo III is exactly what I'd have expected from the next game in the series. An interesting but not terribly surprising story. Copious numbers of monsters to kill. An insane amount of random loot to sift through. Escalating difficulties. An annoying sand level. Clicking, clicking, clicking.

There's one major deviation from my expectations and it makes me a little sad. That difference is a very achievable level cap. I can remember Diablo II having a ludicrously high level cap. There was a brutal experience curve such that there were very few monsters you could fight that were even worth experience once you got high enough. In fact, if the internet memory serves me correctly there was exactly one monster worth experience. Diablo himself. The first character to max level had a team of people helping out. They'd kill every monster in the zone, spawn Diablo, and knock him very low. Then Gerbarb would tag in and get the killing blow in an 8-player game. They kept this up in parallel making sure there was always a Diablo to go kill. He didn't waste any time killing random non-Diablo dorks. Apparently they were able to kill 3 Diablos every 10 minutes! (And also had extra characters running around the games looking for experience shrines!)

It took them almost 44 days to get to max level and it took a team of dozens of people to get it done. It took me a little over four days to max out in Diablo III. I played a fair bit but some of that time was on an alt. I didn't put any special effort in. I didn't have a team playing my character. I didn't have people setting up games to farm. In fact I finished off by replaying Act I!

Now there are still things to do. Gear to twink out. Inferno difficulty to beat. Other classes to play. Achievements to earn. I'm not saying I'm done with the game. But being able to hit the level cap so easily just doesn't feel like Diablo. (Perhaps the biggest difference is the lack of a death penalty. I could never have maxxed out in Diablo II because I don't play cautiously enough!)

I wish the game had a stupidly high level cap. There's no need to have gear needing that high of a level. There's no need to have the final levels be big power increases. But there should be more levels differentiating people!

1 comment:

Sthenno said...

I think level caps belonged in old games where they had to worry about the number of bits they stored your level in. They should be done away with completely in all games.

The reasons given why level caps are good rely on magical thinking. It's as if somehow being level 61 would make the game easy, or being level 72, or 100. Levels do exactly what the people programming the game want them to do and nothing else.

If levels after 60 did absolutely nothing but give you your 1, 1, 3, 2 stat points then being level 75 would hardly even matter.

More than that, the entire idea that we need a level cap so that we can have a consistently difficulty is a transparently falsehood. By the time we're finished inferno we are going to be five times as tough and do at least twice as much damage as we do now. Someone is going to buy the game a year from now, level up, join an inferno game and think that they can play because everyone else playing in level 60, juts like them, but they'll have no business whatsoever in act 4 of inferno and it will show. Thus the level cap makes the game inhospitable to new players. After all, if the other people in the game with you were level 72 then you could process that they were more powerful more easily and they could notice that you were new to end game.

I just worked out a new wizard build that I'm having fun with so I've forestalled setting my wizards aside for now, but not earning xp anymore makes the game a lot less fun.