Monday, June 11, 2018

Destiny 2 has asymmetric level scaling for mobs.

I have been playing a bit of Destiny 2 since I picked it up in the June Humble Monthly. The game is an mmorpg / fps hybrid. The FPS combat is pretty tight and enjoyable in its own right but the mmorpg bit adds quests and progression to the mix. The developers (Bungie) use level scaling in an interesting way however that impacts on how players deal with enemies of different level.

Progression is based on level and gear but the two are closely coupled because the gear you pick up  is tied to your character level. Playing the game normally equipping the gear I got from drops and rewards I found that my Power Score (which is effectively a measure of gear) hovers around 10x my character level while the maximum power score achievable with exotic gear seems to be around 12x character level. 

When I first started the game I occasionally wandered too far from the beginner zones and stumbled into mobs that out levelled me substantially. I was unable to inflict any damage on these mobs while they could one shot me. No surprises there this is standard mmorpg fare. What was surprising was then when I gained a bunch of levels myself and travelled back to the original starter areas I found the low level mobs still presented a reasonable challenge. It was as if they had been scaled to my own level. Given that players of low level were successfully fighting the same mobs it would be more correct to say that I was being scaled down. 

Reading about this it appears that Destiny 2 and its predecessor Destiny employ assymetric level scaling. If a player has a lower level than an mob then the mob remains more powerful than the player. If on the other hand the player has a higher level than the mob then the player is scaled down to the mob level.  Loot drops however are always scaled to the player level. That level 1 mob will still present a challenge at level 20 but at least you will get a level 20 drop.

I have not come across this system before but I think it is a pretty clever and it has a few beneficial impacts: There is incentive to progress in order to tackle more challenging content but on the other hand you never really outlevel old content. In a game with a lot of co-op content and random world encounters this allows players of widely different level to fight alongside each other with everyone making a significant contribution and everyone getting rewards appropriate to their own level. It is common enough to see level 30 payers fighting alongside level 5 or 6 players in the starter zones and all seem to be having a good time.

Is there a downside? Those of the "Achiever" player stereotype might be disappointing at the lack of visible evidence of progression. A high end player cannot one shot low level mobs and even though the game encourages you to grind for high end gear and skins they don't look all that different to the normal stuff at least to my eyes.

No comments: