Original post: http://redd.it/9lfp5f
Some time has passed since our last post on upcoming features. We have been very busy working on the next big Median XL update, and are close to 2 months into a private beta test season. Many of the new features are tricky to explain because they involve multiple changes, affecting every aspect of the game. In this post we would like to talk about how the leveling process will change to become a more integral part of the gameplay experience.
Problems & Solutions
1: D3 Inferno Difficulty Concept
Median XL 2012 was a patch that brought a considerable difficulty boost with the "Inferno" remake of Hell difficulty. This change tried to mimic Diablo 3's bonus difficulty, and set a new standard for all patches to come. Here are some of the problematic changes that came with this patch:
Median XL 2012 wrote:The regular game, from level 1 to 120, was compressed into two difficulty levels. Nightmare monster levels were rescaled from 50-90 to 50-115 and their base stats were increased. The intention was to reduce the boredom caused by replaying the story areas, before players could reach the new content.
Unfortunately, you still have to go through Hell difficulty to access the endgame content. And this is much harder to do because monsters started at level 120. Finally, progressing through Nightmare ended up being even more annoying than before.
Three difficulties were compressed into two, yet only one of them was affected. The boost in experience didn't cut it, which created multiple issues from the end of Act 2 onwards. You would quickly find yourself fighting level 100 monsters with your level 70 character. It felt like you would need major rerunning or gear upgrades to catch up. The whole process was demotivating and encouraged people to seek rushes in public cow games and lose touch of their character. When faced with the high initial difficulty of Hell, players would lack the motivation to grind and improve their character. Instead opting to move on to whichever build was deemed OP by the community at the time.
- Nightmare: globally boosted experience obtained from monsters
- Nightmare: ALVL (Area Level) range changes
- Regular Zones: 51-115 to 51-100
- End Zones: 115 to 80-105
- Hell: ALVL range changes
- Regular Zones: 120 to 105-120
- End Zones: 120 to 105-150
- New setting to toggle ALVL display on automap to compare with your own character level
2: Median XL was still unfriendly to most new players
We all know that the main selling point of Median is the endgame content. Thus, it is unfortunate to see many new players give up before making it to the last difficulty. Much of our efforts in the last few years were spent on trying to make this journey as intuitive and enjoyable as possible. Keeping a challenging and fun endgame is still our main priority, yet we aim to speed up and ease the process of reaching level 100. Newbies will be happy and veterans can try and succeed with less mainstream builds.
One of the main issues was: how is a new player supposed to know "I shouldn't be here yet"? There was no way, at least not if you simply decided to play the game without going through the extremely long documentation. Granted, the docs are great, but only once you know what you're looking for and have a basic understanding of the game. These kind of situations led players to the thought of "...the hell is this mod?" when they jumped into the Chapel of Vanity during Act 1 progress. Or being one-shot by a flying barrel in Duncraig, a zone accessible from the Cold Plains.
Consists of placing a level requirement on all endgame quests that are not part of the original storyline, starting at level 100. You can kiss the cow soldiers goodbye, and forget about the obnoxious tcow games. So, this is how it goes: you play the game without rerunning and now you're at the start of Hell and are level 100. From here on, endgame quests gradually unlock and become available as you level up. This achieves multiple things:
- New players have an explicit clue of difficulty progression directly in-game
- More focused goals and less bouncing around quests
- A system of unlocking quests as you go will be more enjoyable as it feeds the feeling of progress
- More motivation to level-up and farm experience as the hardest quests will require high levels
- Progressive availability will lead to farming diversity
This solution can be controversial, because players don't get excited when they lose some freedom. But this is how the game was always supposed to work. You cannot just create a new character and jump right to Hell Baal, even if you were skilled enough to beat him. Clearly, creating a new act and placing all the 40+ endgame quests in sequence would be the most logical solution but we cannot do that, at least not yet. However, we have built a system to simulate this.
Keep in mind that, a lot of the times, you'll meet the level requirement by the time you get to the endgame quest. But if for some reason you fell behind, the system will let you know you should improve your character and come back later. If you're an experienced player level requirement on quests will become noticeable at 120 onwards, as you'll see yourself unable to access Uldyssian before you're 130, for example. This is fine, we are making leveling an integral part of the Median XL endgame.
"Did you just say 130!?" This is only the tip of the iceberg. Read on...
3. The 121-125 Grind
As mentioned above, we want to make leveling a natural part of the entire game. Getting new levels is fun and a guaranteed power boost, which is also a very nice back-up plan when everything is going wrong. This has not been the case in Median until now. Hell monsters were always level 120 and so were you. No possibility to fall back, earn some more levels and try again.
The addition of levels 121-125 was an improvised band-aid to try and make leveling interesting, but due to limitations we couldn't get higher than 127. These levels had the role of keeping experience relevant after 120-121, and the only way to achieve this was to make them extremely hard to get, requiring massive amounts of repetitive cow grinding. Overall, we were not happy with the situation and found the process lacking.
The only solution was to remake the experience scale from scratch.
- Character/Monster level cap of 125 was removed
- Characters no longer lose experience on death
- Individually adjusted (and boosted) all endgame-quest mobs exp gain
- Removed experience elixirs and %experience on gear comes in lower amounts
- New exponential growth formula starting at 100+
- Linear decrease of experience efficiency at higher levels
The last point is the most important one. It ensures that no level will be considerably harder to obtain than its predecessor, as long as your character is in the 100% experience efficiency range (when character and ALVLs are at most 5 levels apart). The efficiency range also takes care of creating a natural max level cap, as you only get 5% effective experience when you are 10 or more levels above the enemy. So, if Duncraig ALVL was changed to 130 you'd be struggling for exp at 140. But if cows are ALVL 110 (remember, Hell is no longer all 120) this "natural expiration system" eventually kicks in and makes the zone inefficient for further leveling.
This is possible because monsters can once again scale in level, and not just be of a static 120. It also allows all endgame quests to shine as "the best farming spot" at some point during your leveling process. This makes the leveling experience more fun and varied and in turn improves the process of unlocking endgame quests as well.
There are numerous benefits to this new system. Setting guidelines on how the endgame plays out allows us to better balance content, progression, leveling and reduce the knowledge checks and exploits that have created such a big knowledge gap between the fresh and regular player. We want skill to be determined by in-game aspects and decisions, and less about learning the documentation by heart.
Many other features and improvements will flourish from this overhaul. Here are some examples:
- ILVL diversification on items, for example super rare items that only drop from 120+ monsters
- Quests with dynamic ALVL that can scale infinitely depending on your character level
- 'Heroic' quests - mirrors of existing areas with a much higher ALVL, with appropriately adjusted stats & rewards
- Possibility to continue adding new areas to the game for leveling above 140 (the current soft cap) with future patches
If you've made it this far - thank you. We look forward to reading your thoughts. These changes took months to be implemented and tested, and we're only announcing them now that we're confident with the results.
This is still only a piece of the cake. We plan on unveiling more features and changes in the upcoming weeks. Especially the one coming next is going to be a big one.
Stay tuned and happy farming