For gamers, scaling seems easy. You know when we just ask for features like “why can’t you just add this feature?” And the developer hears “why can’t you sleep under your desk so you can spend every waking hour coding and rewriting tools?” Scaling is one of those things.
It’s just not the tech required, but the actual design. How much scaling? What about players that suck, and equally what about players with perfect stats/builds? The amount of variables can be mind-boggling. Most importantly, where is that sweet scaling spot to keep things fun?
Scaling has been one of Guild Wars 2 jewels since launch, but I feel that at launch it was a gem not well cut. The amount of moving variables seemed to be smaller than what one would dream for scaling. In Orr, events would simply add more undead balloons to pop instead of actually making it harder for a zerg of farmers. My eyes would glaze over as 20 bandits per wave would attack a windmill in the level 2-3 human area.
Throughout their first year ArenaNet has been adding more ways to scale. The most obvious change is scaling upwards to veteran and champion status enemies. With this latest update though, I feel ArenaNet’s scaling jewel is now very well cut. Guild Wars 2 has achieved mastery in scaling their content.
First, let’s step away from events, and discuss the latest instance/mini-dungeon, Scarlet’s Playhouse. I won’t go in to much detail on the dungeon as Jeromai already does a great job breaking the dungeon experience down. Anyway, ArenaNet is making guides for the content patches, but I feel that they left something out. Something I feel is pretty big. Scarlet’s Playhouse can be played with any group number (and solo).
It seems that instead of balancing things only for solo and a full group of five, Scarlet’s Playhouse organically scales to any group number. I don’t know if this was just a ghost in the system or if a designer actually took time to do this, but I am incredibly grateful for it. Mrs. Ravious and I two-manned the instance. It was pretty dead on for good, reasonable difficulty. I’ve heard a lot of people say a group of 4 with a staff guardian of reflection makes the instance incredibly easy. I am just not sure why they wouldn’t advertise this “feature”. I still want more dungeons (5-man required), but for story instances and mini-dungeons, I feel 1-5 scaling is the way to go.
Getting back to the events, and more particularly the invasion events of Clockwork Chaos, I am really enjoying how ArenaNet has been handling the scaling. Here’s a zone capped to probably around 80-100 people where everybody is swarming in random function to an event. I personally don’t follow commanders. I warp to an area I want to be, and 9 times out of 10 there’s another person or two.
Here’s where it gets fun. In those invasion events, I have taken down events with 2 people. I have been in events with 10 people, and of course plenty of times I’m surrounded by 20-30 people in some vast amoeba of a player mob. The scaling has kept things fun all through the way. My favorite was definitely where a random thief and I mostly took down a champion clockwork ourselves with 3-4 other players coming in right at the end. I am also vastly enjoying smaller skirmish scaling compared to amoeboid zerging. The scaling makes it fun.
It wasn’t always thus. I can recall the horrendous difficulty (which still exists) during the Return to Southsun days, where insta-kill was of the norm. Even though the event is quite fun, I rarely seem to see the karka queen surface, and I think in large part it’s due to very high difficulty scaling with the pre-events. Orr is a lot, and I mean a lot better, than launch days in terms of scaling, but right now I feel that the champion bumps could go a tad higher.
Going forward, I am all the more glad that ArenaNet seems to have scaling pretty well down. I like not caring, and actually embracing, the fact that I might be fighting alone, in a small group, or a large zerg, and it all seems to be fairly seamless. I do enjoy the smaller fights better because they require much more skill, but traveling with the herd is fun too. With the mostly positive feedback on these invasion events, I can’t wait for more events of this nature. Even a month or two from now when only a handful of people want to defend against a Scarlet invasion, I know it will scale well.