Originally posted July 2007

Applicable to: Any MMO that uses levels, and wants to provide a continuous leveling pace, but wants to minimize the tendency towards higher level characters being exponentially more powerful than lower level ones.

Players gain levels in a typical fashion, gaining new combat abilities, hit points, and special abilities as appropriate to the game. At all levels, the system needs a way to generate average or default values for character interaction with targets in combat (e.g., how much damage does the character deal to an average target and how much damage does the character take) .

The system requires a method for determining which characters are targeting one another, with a reduced chance of exploiting (i.e., a player should not be able to game the system by temporarily de-targeting his actual opponent).

When two characters of unequal level fight, their combat abilities are set to within one level of one another. For example, if a level 20 PC is attacking a level 30 monster, the PC will defend and take damage as if fighting a level 21 monster and the monster will defend and take damage as if fighting a level 29 PC (the experience and treasure awards will also be adjusted to these values). Much higher level characters maintain an advantage in variety of special abilities and such gained from levels, but do not have an overwhelming advantage due to massive damage output and hit points relative to the lower level character.

As described so far, this is very similar to the sidekicking and giant monster systems from City of Heroes. However, the Inverse Ninja Principle goes a step further: swarming a foe makes each individual less effective.

Each additional lower level individual attacking a target increases the level spread by 1. For example, a level 30 monster fights a single level 20 PC as if fighting a level 29. However, a pair of level 20 PCs are fought as level 28s, and nine or more PCs are fought as their original level 20. Once characters are reduced to their actual level, no further adjustment takes place.

Additional modifications to the system might mean that elite/boss creatures are always adjusted high (a level 20 PC vs. a level 30 boss is adjusted to effectively level 28 while a level 20 boss vs. a level 30 PC is adjusted to level 30).

Disadvantages of this MGI:

  • Players will discover interesting exploits, no matter how much logic is put in to prevent them.
  • Content cannot easily be gated by level; PCs will have at least some chance of tackling high-end content immediately.
  • If mob AI isn’t tuned to make use of higher level abilities, fighting higher level foes will not feel any different than fighting lower level ones.

Advantages of this MGI:

  • Content is never truly outleveled; higher level PCs can be sent into lower level areas and still maintain some challenge
  • Content cannot easily be gated by level; PCs will have at least some chance of tackling high-end content immediately.
  • While individual players will have a chance in all situations, assembling a large group zerg will not enable players to easily overwhelm all foes.
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