Max Level. Noob Gear. No problem?

Imagine with me for a moment if your favorite two handed axe and chain armor from Scarlet Monastery never became outdated. What if it were impossible for you to truly out level the usefulness of your gear? It’s an interesting idea and one that is being tried by FLS in Pirates of the Burning Sea. In PotBS levels are not factored in to the mathematical and complex combat equations. Your ship and your ammunition however, are. While not entirely the same thing as out leveling gear from Scarlet Monastery, it’s a similar concept that a ship built at level 18 can remain extremely competitive and more importantly useful at the max level.

For example: Mediator Mastercraft Cutter: level 21 Ship. Using this ship at level 21 against other ships of the same level will feel like most other ships do at the low levels. It’s maneuverable, fast, and packs a bunch to other ships around its level. Now, take that same ship and fight a level 50 Oliphant Mastercraft Idiaman. You’ll notice something almost immediately – you’re almost never hit. That is because higher level and bigger ships have a harder time hitting lower level ships. The reason? Defense. Lower level ships have more than double the defense (Or chance to avoid being hit). Bigger ships have less defense which makes sense. The bigger they are the easier they are to hit. Add all this together and a smaller ship is not only more maneuverable and faster but it has an increased chance to hit higher level ships and a decreased chance of being hit.

The real eye opener here is watching a level 21 ship with 8 guns on one side stand toe to toe (or broadside to broadside if you will) with a ship sporting 30+ guns on one side. I’ve done this and from experience it’s quite a sight to see. The mediator can come out of the fight without more than a mere scratch to its armor while the Oliphant will be sunk – and rather quickly too. The Mediator will never miss and the Oliphant will miss 95% of the time. Overpowered or balanced?

To some extent FLS believes it to be slightly unbalanced – or – at least miscalculated to some degree. In the next patch FLS plans to update the accuracy on some of the larger ships. Today in an update of their Road to v1.1 FLS says:

Recently, it’s become apparent that there’s a problem in the cannon accuracy settings. The numbers are off by small amounts in several areas. Once they’re all added together, the compounding numbers make it so that many small and medium ships will win a straight up broadside exchange against large ships at close-medium range. While it’s important for small ships to be valuable, your first double-decker warship should not lose to a small ship in a close-range slugfest. We’re making numerous changes to accuracy values to help address this issue.

Balancing is never easy. Imagine balancing a game where lowbie weapons have a great impact on high level armor. It can be a nightmare for sure but also a refreshing look at the possibilities of the future. Many times I’ll come across a particular item that means a lot to me. I’ll find a beautiful sword in some dungeon that I just spent hours crawling through all by myself. It might serve me wonderfully for a few days or a week but eventually I will out level that once amazing sword. What do I do with it then? Throw it away because it’s no longer useful to me? Keep it in my bank to take up a valuable slot or gather dust? That’s the way of things in today’s traditional mmo model.

What if that sword could be brought out at level 50 and mean something? Moving away from what has become traditional and regular to something more dynamic; That’s worth looking into.

  • Michael, while in EVE each ship has its own strategic importance, you cannot say that a frigate has good chance of winning a 1vs1 against a battleship 🙂

  • Fair point Mantee, but EVE’s signature radius and turret tracking rate mechanics seemed pretty much what Keen is describing. 🙂 Sounds like Pirates has their versions of these calculations quite wrongly at the moment. If CCP hadn’t scaled ship hitpoints more or less exponentially with class, EVE could be in a similar position.

    The use of modules across the ship classes is related to Keen’s last point too. A Tech 1 shield hardener, for example, is just as useful on a BB as a CA, thanks to its percentage improvement rather than the absolute increase some modules have. The decision to go with the often quite modest performance increase of Tech 2 or Faction gear is a investment/risk one. 😉

    Vae, puto Syncainus fio!

  • Eve and Pirates both achieve similar success with this.

    I want to see it work in a more traditional setting though. We know it can work with the Eve/Pirates model but I want to see it adapted for a fantasy leveling model like WoW or DAOC.

  • Yeah, the difference seems to be that games like WoW make players increasingly more like superheroes as they level up, while PotBS and Eve let the people learn new skills, but the people are still just people. There are a few skills in Eve that make your character perform better than a newb in combat, but the percentages are still just reasonable upgrades from the base. When two people face off against one another in similar ships, there’s always a chance for either one to win, regardless of how old the character is.

  • MMOs need you keep pursuing new stuff, to keep “spending” in order to keep the economy flowing and interest in the game alive. They can either do that by obsoleting your equipment or by making death have a large financial loss requiring you get new equipment.

    Most players, I think, do not like the large financial burden of death model.

  • True, but it’s possible to keep the persuing and spending AND keep the usefulness of lowbie gear. It would take an overhaul of the system most people are used to but what if a weapon found at level 50 weren’t able to damage armor in a similar fashion as a weapon found at level 20? Maybe lower level weapons have a higher agility stat because they are smaller and higher level weapons have a higher damage stat. Just examples, but ways to play on the idea of keeping gear at all levels useful.

  • Hm. Maybe I completely misunderstood POBS, but when I go to the auction house there’s equipment that are level restricted (cannons, etc) … boats are level restricted… So in essence are they NOT letting noob gear be viable at 50. right?

    If you couldn’t get better gear as you leveled up, then what would be the point of leveling up? You’re talking about eliminating something that is the *core* of MMOs – progression. Without progression it’s just Counter Strike, actually counter strike would be more an MMO, because you can buy weapons in CS.

    @Swift Voyager: If everyone’s special, noone’s special. If everyone is a “superhero” then they are on equal footing facing off against each other. Compare: battleship attacks a frigate. Level 70 attacks level 10.

  • Things are level restricted, you are correct. I meant to convey that if you are level 50 with noob gear it’s not a problem. A level 21 boat is actually extremely powerful vs. a level 50 boat.

  • There is a simple solution really, forget about the way too old fashioned level system (most serious roleplaying games has done so a long time ago). It has been done before already, just look back at Ultima Online.