• Post author:
  • Post category:MMORPG

I’ve updated Keen’s Korner today with a brief commentary on Mentoring.  Such an innocent feature can have unforeseen consequences.   In a way, the plight of the innocent bystanders may be all the reason needed to keep Mentoring out of Warhammer Online.

In Everquest 2 and City of Heroes there exists a feature referred to as mentoring or sidekicking. This feature allows players of different levels to scale down (or up) and group together in order to negate the penalties of a lower level grouping with a higher level. The system was designed to address the growing problems that arise when a player asks the devs “Can I group with my friends even if they’re higher level than me?”. The man himself, Mr. Mark Jacobs, had this to say in response to this very subject:

“As to [mentoring], that’s one I’ve always had mixed feelings about as a designer. The pros for doing that are obvious but the cons are what concern me. If players can easily move down in levels to help other players, I worry that new players will have a harder time getting in groups. After all, if you could choose an experienced player playing at a lower level or a new player playing at the same level, you’ll go with the experienced player. His/her knowledge of the game will always be an advantage to you and to h/h. So when the new player is LFGing or wants to get into the fun in a situation where the number of participants is limited, h/h might have a more difficult time of it in this system. Like I said, I have mixed feelings on it.”

I’ve recently had first hand experience with the cons. A few months ago I resubscribed to Everquest 2 hoping that it would pass the time. As luck would have it this coincided with the release of Rise of Kunark, EQ2’s latest expansion, which I anticipated would mean many others would not only be resubscribing but making alts. While that was partly true, I was shocked to see the number of level 70-80’s mentoring down to help their alts and friends level – way more than I anticipated. As a newer player starting fresh I had hoped the influx of new people would mean more groups for me. But, just as Mark described in the cons, I was passed over when groups were formed. Nobody wants a level 20 healing them when they can have a level 80 that not only has more experience playing the class but better loot knowledge of the dungeon layouts, fights, and more.

It’s a tough situation. I can sympathize with the players who will never suffer from the cons and reap all the benefits of the pros. Players will seek any way to power-level each other regardless of mentoring. DAOC is, ironically, a perfect example of a game where mentoring wouldn’t have made much difference at all. I can only venture a guess that Mark feels mentoring would have an impact on Warhammer enough so that he has mixed feelings. Ultimately, power-leveling isn’t the issue. The real issue centers around the innocent players who would suffer the cons of higher levels denying them of their level appropriate content.

Hopefully Mark’s mixed feelings are enough to pass up mentoring until it can be implemented properly for everyone.

  • Eh Mark seems to be forgetting that people want to have fun and it is not fun to out level your friends and to be unable to play with them simply because these games have an arbitrary restriction on levels. It’s also not fun to outlevel content that you never got to see nor to be unable to get the benefits of changes developers later make to the game (such as AA XP in EQ2s case).

    One thing that I was pleased to see in the Fable 2 videos was the developers recognizing this and allowing all level ranges to play in co-op mode together. Sure it is a non-MMO but MMOs have alot of unexplored innovation left in them.

  • I always thought that a true friend would make one character to level with you and an alt to level at his own pace. All my MMO friends are hardcores who spend 2-5x more gaming time per week than me, so it’s nice to be able to play with their alts when I’m online.

  • Yeah, I’ve done what Snafzg says, but I’ve wanted to see what a mentoring system looks like, never having played with one…

    I think both mentoring and sidekicking are interesting solutions to the issue. I’m not comfortable condemning either one in WAR. I know you’ve had negative experiences with mentoring but think of public quests… perhaps in WAR a mentoring system would allow some max-level folks to come to a low level area and help out everyone there, not just their friends. Of course the important question is how would it relate to pvp…

    Anyway I think handled correctly it could be an asset to the game.

  • That’s an unexpected downside that I never encountered, perhaps due to my playstyles. My husband and I were thrilled when mentoring went in — it meant that when I rerolled, his main could mentor down and duo with me throughout all the content until I caught up; when he rerolled, we did the same. (Keep in mind, he was 25 when I rerolled, I was 45 when he did).

    It meant that when we were doing the new teen-level HQ in Faydark with our new faes, we could easily form PUGs for the string of named with anyone who needed it, regardless of level — everyone simply mentored down to the lowest person in the group.

    I’ve used it in quite a few pickup groups, and I’ve never known, nor cared, if the others were new players, or alts of old ones — if someone wants to join us on a quest, and the level range is just a bit too large, we can use mentoring to get everyone into the correct range. This is especially important on some of the lower level heroic quests that are really mini-raids.

  • Personally I love mentoring as an option, even though I rarely do it. I have seen such power levelling but it has been extremely rare in my experience. I think it’s just a neat feature that shouldn’t be taken away just because some people might misuse it. What kind of precedent does that set in terms of game features?

  • There are multiple ways to approach the cons.

    1) Powerleveling, which isn’t really that big of a deal. It happens regardless of mentoring.

    2) Higher levels take spots in groups that should be filled by other players LFG to experience content. If a group is forming for DungeonA (lvl 20) and recruiting from the general populous (not a closed group of guildies only, etc) and there’s no room for the level 25 healer because your level 80 friend has mentored in to the spot, then that innocent level 20 healer is being denied content.

    3) The higher levels have experienced the content before. Dungeons are always most fun (to me at least) when they are done the first time. Higher levels take away some of the “how it was meant to be played”.

    Of all the cons above, #2 is the big one for me. It bothers me when a group my level doesn’t need my class because someone 40 levels higher has filled the spot. I miss out on content because of it.

  • I can understand the problem with #2 but I can honestly say that I have never seen it in game. The only time my group has included mentored players is a few occasions where we look desperately for a healer or tank and are unable to find one after a long time. I mean outside guild groups, what incentive do higher level players have for re-doing old dungeons they’ve done ages before.

  • @Anakh and the gang, the word that comes to my mind is “fun”. The fun of doing it like you used to. I can see the value in having a “way back machine” like Mr. Peabody. Redoing the Deadmines with all lvl 20’s is much more funner (don’t you like my more gooder English?) for me than doing it with a lvl 60/70 pulling you through in 10 minutes. If you only care about loot then yes you want the pull. If you care about the experience then your like me. I enjoyed the mentoring/sidekicking experience in CoH and the flexibility and lack of artificial separation from your friends that it provided. I don’t feel it prevented people from grouping with non-high levels because things were pretty equal and there were plenty of people around that level to group with. I think it especially help when theres a dearth of people near your level to group with your buddies can all lower themselves to your level to help you experience a dungeon. Also, if you get pulled through from A-Z you don’t learn how to play as well as those who play normally. We had that problem a lot in my guild on wow, so we banned lvl 60’s running people through dungeons but if there was a mentoring system we wouldn’t have had to.

  • Like Anakh, I also have never seen the 2nd scenario you described, although that may vary by server.

    Mentoring is a feature I love in EQ2. This is a very guild-focused game and I would absolutely hate having to respond to a guildmate who seeks help with “Sorry I have no one your level that can help”.

    Everything has its cons, but the pros here in my opinion far outweigh them.

  • All very valid points. This one is a toughy. There really isn’t a right or wrong because the pros and cons outweigh each other. The situation in which both pros and cons are valid remain entirely situational.

    It boils down to which would benefit the game more? Having a means by which players can be excluded from content or allowing higher levels to group with lower levels? Mark Jacobs’ take on the situation is the same as my own. I would rather bar a negative from finding its way in to a game than I would adding a positive.

  • Actually seems to me you are just substituting one negative for another. Like some of the others have pointed out (when I returned to EQ2 this past November) I was never excluded from a group because someone wanted mentored people in them. In fact the only times I had mentored people in my group was:

    1) When I needed help completing content and no one was around (I play mostly non-prime time)
    2) The person being mentored wanted to complete content so they could get AA XP.

    Sure I can see #2 coming up but not as much as someone getting frustrated because they couldn’t group with whom they wanted.

  • I also returned to EQ2 and the mentoring system has only helped me. Higher level guildies could group with me and we could all have fun going through stuff. I have leveled pretty fast, missed a lot of dungeons and stuff on my way (man have they added a lot of content since release!) but i really like the fact I can mentor into a group to still experience these with my main and not have to create an alt. I have never seen someone not take a lower level toon for a high level mentor, in fact I have seen many mentors leave to allow lower level toon in.

    Maybe it is just the people who still play EQ2, but for the most part they seem pretty courteous about it.

    I think the positives from mentoring outweigh any negatives that could potentially be realized. I vote YES! =)

  • The pro to your con is that the difficulty in finding a group encourages you to find a guild.

    Mentoring is great and far outweighs that one puny drawback.

    Of course, the real solution is to get away from level-based systems that cause the stratification in the first place.