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Finding a Level

Finding a Level

  01:05:48 pm, by   , 644 words  
Viewed 16153 times since 20/09/11
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls

Leveling in TESV: Skyrim is something that's received a fair amount of attention in the gaming press. What's the big deal? The problem of how a game's challenge should be adjusted as the player gets more powerful is much trickier than you might think. The problem is that you need to give the player a sense of power while not making the game a total walk-over, and getting the balance right can be tricky.

In Morrowind, leveling was at a minimum. NPCs and creatures all had a fixed level, although a lot of creatures were picked from leveled lists that produced a more-powerful variant at higher levels. Something similar happened with treasure as you can see on our Morrowind leveled lists page. The advantage of this system was that there were fixed "easy" and "hard" areas. Some caves were essentially off-limits to new players because the creatures or NPCs inside were simply too powerful. This meant you had to be careful when you were exploring in case you found one of the hard ones. The disadvantage was that when you hit about level 30, you were invincible. The two highest-level NPCs were Wulf (level 50) and Divayth Fyr (level 65), but you never had to fight either of them. The most powerful NPCs you had to fight were level 30, and they didn't have access to all the powerful weaponry and armor you did. The expansions offer a tougher challenge, and Hircine's Quest in Bloodmoon is one that you really don't want to attempt until level 40, but it's a one-off. By the time you reach level 50 there's no challenge anywhere.

Oblivion picked a slightly different system. Many of the NPCs leveled with the player, so for instance Glarthir kept the same level as the player (at least at levels 4-12) while Audens Avidius was eight levels higher than the player. Some creatures leveled too: Liches gained 15 health for each level of the player and Ogres got 26. A lot of NPC equipment came from leveled lists too, so it's quite possible for some people to be using powerful enchantments that make them even tougher fights. The upshot of this is that at the start of the game, there's almost nowhere you can't go. The problem is that at high levels, even though you're pretty much unbeatable, killing even a single ogre can be a time-consuming exercise because of all the hit points it has. In other words, even though you're all-powerful you don't feel it. There's not even much of a challenge.

Fallout and New Vegas went pretty much back to the Morrowind model. Levels are largely fixed, although creatures often come from leveled lists. The challenge is much greater in places, though: creatures like cazadores and deathclaws just cannot be beaten at lower levels. Yes, you might get lucky with one, but they come in groups and you'll be toast unless you're a powerful character with good weapons. With the level cap, you end up in a position where you can always beat these things as long as you're not stupid. That's not a bad endpoint - a feeling of power but not all-consuming, ridiculous power.

If reports are to be believed, Skyrim goes a little further. Things level in a similar way to Fallout, but after you've visited an area it becomes fixed at that level forever. This might be a good idea as long as there are difficult places early on and you can't freeze everything at level one.

Of course this is just my preference. I know some people like the über power thing, judging from the number of "I killed everyone and now they're dead" posts we get on talk pages.

Speaking purely from a UESP perspective, fixed levels are great: with no horrendous formulae to construct, summary infoboxes become much easier to construct.

Not too until we find out for ourselves anyway!



Comment from: DKong27 [Member]

It will definitely be interesting to see how well Skyrim pulls off world leveling as well as player leveling. My friend, in any discussion of Elder Scrolls, must hit on the leveling in Oblivion. Strong creatures just got absurd amounts of health. But on the other hand, like Morrowind, too much statics make for too easy a game at a certain point.

Also, I like your description of “I killed everyone and now they’re dead” posts. xD

20/09/11 @ 06:20 pm
Comment from: Nathan [Visitor]  

the one thing i hop they don’t do is that i hope you will not have to sleep to level up.

31/10/11 @ 01:30 pm
Comment from: TESwilliamBorn [Visitor]  

Something else that would be cool is that (I know this happen) but if you were able to pick your own major skills. It would make things a whole lot easier and it make your character customization better.

01/11/11 @ 12:47 pm

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