I like to play with a regular group. As old friends in far flung places, we socialize and we’ve gotten used to each other’s play style. We can generally anticipate each other’s reactions and rely on each other to get each other’s backs when necessary. This is fun. Its little-r role play.
I’ve ranted before about how most MMOs don’t even attempt to address how to keep different members of a group at about the same level of experience. Seems nearly everything that you do in an MMO has the collateral effect of raining XP on you. If you play more than your friends, then you very quickly start pulling away from them and soon, they are simply too far behind to catch up. If you “help” them to catch up, you can’t help but continue to gain XP and you suck a disproportionate amount of the XP away from the group. So your only alternative is to park your character until the laggard catches up.
Sure, EQ2 has mentoring which approaches the problem from the other side (stepping down the abilities of the higher level character) and WoW, EQ2 and LotRO all have rested experience bonus as an attempt to provide a catchup mechanism. In WoW, rather than call blue bar “bonus,” we simply started calling purple bar “penalty.” If you didn’t play 40+ hours a week, it was pretty easy to stay in blue bar, especially at the higher levels. So if everyone was almost always in “bonus,” there was no real way for a laggard to catch up.
In LotRO, however, the heavy emphasis on quest-based experience has created an interesting effect: people do catch up. I leveled a few characters in Open Beta. One I got to about 13, one only about 6, and then three others around 9 or 10. Its fair to say that with the exception of one of our group who also has alt- and MMO- itis, I probably play the most. So when our general-release-only-and-time-constrained-groupmate finally got up and running, the best we could do was muster a group that was spread out from about level 6-9. We all convened at the starting area and ran through all the basic quests which were below some of us and at-level for others.
The interesting thing was, that by the end of the night, what was nearly a 3 level spread had closed to less than 1/2 a level or so! With a de-emphasis on mob XP, we who were higher level, didn’t creep up so fast. Likewise, with the quest level being somewhat below us, neither did we get a big pop from that, BUT our lower level friends did. With mob XP being a small component of the overall experience, our level difference didn’t penalize our lowbies either.
The effect is even more dramatic when you aren’t all sharing quests. One of my wife’s alts was 3 or 4 levels behind what I’m hoping will be my main (a Captain). I had previously completed most of the Combe/Staddle quests which she needed to do. I wanted to help her our and collect crafting materials so we grouped and knocked off a bunch of her quests. The end result was that she had closed the gap to less than a level by the time we quit.
This is getting pretty close to solving the problem I’ve been ranting about for a while. I don’t have to park a character for fear of continuing to level ahead of my peers nor do I suck all the experience away from them should I choose to help them complete a quest. If you need to harvest hides or search for other crafting materials to level trade skills, its nice to be able to do that without lapping your friend. It appears that if the gap is reasonable (only a few levels at least), LotRO’s experience model can indeed act as the great equalizer.
Anyone else seen this yet?
By way of follow up, I did a quickie bit of research on LotRO last night. I took my level 12-ish guardian around and did a few at-level or slightly below level quests around Gondamon in Ered Luin. The quest “Clear the Way” is a fairly typical example. The quest is part of a chain, the second part involve killing 6 Goblins. I believe I was just level 12 and this quest is level 10. Each Goblin gave about 30 XP each per kill with rested bonus. The quest when you turn it in gave about 660XP. So, total mob XP=180, quest XP = 660 for a total of 840. Your mileage may vary, but mobs are only about 21% of the XP for doing the quest which is even more than I thought.