Power Gains

Clearly, I play a lot of games.  I also have a passion for numbers.  Makes for a rather OCD compulsion to maximize output.  I don’t mind, I get pleasure from it.  I used to write guides (the last one was for Marvel Heroes) and that’s paid for this hobby.  What I find as an odd pattern is the oddly non-linear power gains.

Let’s take a step back for a bit.  Older games had no power gains, what you started with was pretty much what you ended up with.  Mario doesn’t get stronger in Zone 8, you just get better at playing with him.  The proliferation of RPGs since then, combined with faster processing power to compute those numbers, means that nearly no game today will release without some power increase over time.

I like the Batman series as the power gains are % based and somewhat linear.  Sure, you might get a bit stronger, say double from the start, but that really doesn’t have a huge impact.  You are exceptionally better at stringing combos and avoiding damage by the time the power unlocks are available, so you really don’t notice all that much.

MMORPGs are different.  You start off dealing say, 10 damage.  It’s a rather linear gain from that point until max level, which we’ll put at 100 damage.  This is base damage, linked to level.  Then we need to factor in your equipment.  Well designed games have gear that increases your output by a noticeable but still marginal increase.  This way, as you gain power at max level, through gear, you’re not turning into some robot god of immortality where all the previous content is irrelevant.

WoW’s power gains are an extreme example.  One piece of gear in MoP is better than some characters had as TOTALs in Lich King.  The numeric increases are so large, that they offset any base level (acquired from just plain leveling) gains.  The item squish coming in WoD is going to try to fix this.  I personally think this is a good thing, as the game will return to a skill-based one rather than a simple numbers game.

I’m watching streams of a space beta, recollecting my time in another beta and trying to come to terms with which one, from a playstyle perspective, seems more prone to a skill-based system rather than a numeric one.  I like skill.  I think gear has it’s place, as a reward for skill, in that once you acquire it, you need to concentrate less on details more on delivery.  It doesn’t make content trivial, or rather should not.  It just takes a bit of the edge off.

I’d like to see a return to brain power, instead of CPU power.  I think we’re ready.

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