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Lost Pages of Taborea: That nasty level curve


The sands of time have poured like Red Bull at an all-night LAN party and the week was gone before I knew it. However, Father Time is reversing things on me this week because I'm looking at 24 hours without playing Runes of Magic this week. Even though this is a painful prospect, I can take some comfort in knowing that Chapter 3 will be waiting on the other side.

I'm itching to get back in and continue my climb to the new level 60 cap. A month ago, I thought I was going to be prepared for it, but I had hit a leveling curve. It turns out that leveling slows way down when making the move from Weeping Coast to level 53 and up Savage Lands. Let's laugh in Father Time's face as we whittle away a few minutes of the day by looking at how this level curve affects RoM.

When I first ventured into the thick steamy jungle terrain of the Savage Lands, I got worried. Suddenly having to spend twice the amount of time -- or more -- killing mobs my level was a big depressing shock that had me triple-checking my gear's durability, wondering if it was because I play a knight and asking players in zone chat if I was somehow doing something wrong. Nope, it's just the level curve. I've long since adjusted and have been plodding along to my next ding, but that sudden curve still haunts me.

Some classes can hack and slash their way through mobs faster than others, but none are immune to the level curve. Even if your main class is really well geared for DPS, you're still going to feel like you suddenly ran into a fetid swamp that claws at your every foot step. The good news is that RoM's level curve really isn't a brick wall and you will adjust to the change, if you give it some time.

I imagine my previous experiences in other free-to-play titles helped ease my adjustment. It doesn't change the curve because that's something specific to each MMO, but comparing RoM's curve to other games with similar -- or slower -- pacing did help soothe the sting. Plus, it's something in which all players have to adjust, so there aren't any sneaky loopholes putting anybody further ahead than you. I've also found it to be a positive incentive combined with RoM's non-leveling features.

I've changed my regular gaming habits by jumping more frequently between the many existing activities, pairing up with other players more often and cutting down on the amount of daily quests I do. Optimistically, it seems a good push towards encouraging players to diversify and socialize. Besides, the change in pace really just seems worse because it can be easily compared to earlier levels.

Even with two separate classes, it's been fairly easy for players to gain levels. I concentrated on nothing but leveling when I first started playing and had my primary class in the 40s after just one month. Looking at post-curve RoM by itself, I don't think the slower leveling is too slow so much as better balanced for the future of the game. The problem is that it isn't very conducive to players who mainly enjoy endgame activities and the level curve still stands by itself as a predominantly negative presence.

You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone that hits a level curve in an MMO and says, "Oh boy, just what I was hoping for". Level curves very well could be born out of nothing but dark voids some might call minds, for the sole purpose of creating unnecessary time sinks. After all, why have such a noticeable detractor suddenly placed at the beginning of new content? It can look like lazy design and appear to be very suspicious being in a F2P game.

RoM and other F2P MMOs are pretty open about how they generate their income, but it still comes off as a faulty design element. Shouldn't level curves be spread out through the entire game? Even if it's a tremendous amount of coding, spreading it out a little bit is better than seemingly dumping it in one place. There's also the fear of losing players who simply don't want to deal with that kind of annoyance suddenly thrown in their faces.

What about you players that love high level activities and want to get to it as fast as possible? If I were burning through the levels to get to the Demon Lord or have some high level PvP fun, I'd feel like the level curve was there to say "Sorry, we decided life should be harder for you". It wouldn't have been a problem if the whole game was slower, but because the change is so noticeable it creates these problems. The solution seems easy to me, but small problems rarely equal small amounts of work.

I'm not trying to belittle the work that developers put into MMOs, but looking at negative game elements -- like level curves -- can produce some positive remedies. I also know you were all secretly hoping that I was an MMO analytical guru, but unfortunately I'm not. In fact, my best laid plans are that developers spread themselves even thinner by drinking more energy drinks and putting in more coding hours. I'd like to see RoM spread that leveling curve throughout the whole of the game, or release a new level 50 and up zone to smooth out the sudden slow down.

There's always the possibility I've overlooked some key parts of the issue, put too much weight where it may not belong and there are many solutions that could exist. This is where you come in. What do you think those solutions are? What should be done about it in RoM or any MMO? Let's crowdsource this level curve issue in the comments below and keep emailing your RoM questions to Jeremy [AT] massively [DOT] com. You just may see your questions featured in a future post.

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