In World of Warcraft Mists of Panderia has been launched. In less than a fortnight Riders of Rohan will be released for LOTRO. My main character in Warcraft is still merrily mucking about in Outland, starting to approach the level cap of The Burning Crusade. In LOTRO my secondary character is approaching the level cap of the original Shadows of Angmar release. This has all got me thinking – not for the first time – of one of those “features” of the level-based game: the previous level caps.
Most of my level-based MMO experience comes from LOTRO, so I will mostly talk about that. Take a look at the below list of all the content that used to be aimed at the original level cap (which was level 50) by the time Mines or Moria was released.
1) Four regions of the game (Angmar, Forochel, Misty Mountains, and Eregion) that went into level cap, and a large area of another (Annuminas in Evendim)
2) Over half the epic storyline (14 Books – and you used to hit cap around the end of book 7).
3) Two raids (The Rift and Helgorod) and a series of smaller instances and dungeons (Carn Dum, Urugarth, Annuminas). This ignores all the in-world group content available in the above regions.
These days, it is basically possible to blast through the old level cap on the strength of just a smattering of the above before one can begin journeying into Moria. Of course, one encounters something of the same situation at each of LOTRO’s level caps, though nothing so extreme as existed at the original cap. LOTRO has an embarrassment of content, from a levelling perspective, that means if one dislikes a particular area is generally easy enough to go adventure somewhere else.
The same thing clearly exists in World of Warcarft – for me most easily demonstrated by looking at my reputation with various factions knowing full well I am unlikely ever to grind out “Lower City” reputation, for example, yet once it would have been one of the objectives at an old level cap.
Both LOTRO and Warfact have, of course, tried to address the “feature” of the old level cap somewhat. Again I’ll mostly speak of LOTRO since that is where my experience is – but there Turbine refined their skirmish technology and made some of the old level-capped instances scaleable to level by reworking them. Annuminas was reworked as part of the Evendim revamp – the in-world portion was changed to reflect the level of the rest of the region and the instances became scaleable. The Helgorod raid was reworked into a series of 6-man fellowship dungeons, also scaleable. So were two three-man instances in Eregion. Even with this updating however there remains a vast amount of content still aimed currently for those about level 50.
In a level-based game where a new expansion means a new level cap, there is no way to get away from the way previous level-caps start to litter the landscape. This is in utter contrast to EVE, where there obviously is no level cap. However, it is not quite true to say that phenomenon does not exist at all in EVE. In EVE it is not past level-caps that clog up one’s hangers, it is past fitting doctrines which have either become been discarded due to some evolution of theory or due to some game mechanic change. It is not the same thing precisely, but probably about as close as it gets.
Do I have a larger point? Certainly nothing original, only perhaps to say that these things are useful reminders that the games we play are constantly evolving. Unlike most single-player games they are not fixed in one incarnation.