I had the unhappy event of having to turn a different friend down who wanted to play with me though. See, my first friend and I were about Paragon level 20, and just peeking over the Torment II boundary. This 2nd friend was Paragon level 580, and trounced Torment VI+ with ease. We literally could not keep up with him. He ran by monsters, and they exploded, and his movement boosts put him well out of our reach. The game devolved into us chasing him around and picking up leavings, which frankly wasn't fun, at all.
I don't blame the 2nd friend at all, and he understood when I asked him to leave that I want to play the game--I'm not interested in power leveling at all. I like to play it on my own terms, which includes friends who are at a similar point in the power curve.
|An approximation of Diablo III's power curve.|
Interestingly enough, most MMOs suffer from this issue as well. WoW and FFXIV are a couple of the more active games that exhibit this behaviour, but in a sense even a game like Minecraft has this problem. One of my friends joined my Minecraft server, and he's a helper, but I already had everything I ever needed, so him helping was basically useless. He showed up, and we basically had tamed the wilderness, even providing a train stop for his base.
WoW solves it to an extent by basically resetting progression every raid tier, let alone every expansion. You get catch-up mechanics (Timeless Isle, Tanaan Jungle, Isle of Thunder, End of Time Cataclysm heroic 5-mans) to bring you to the power level you need to perform in current content.
This has the problem that it invalidates older content, and has the player base playing only the most recent content with any sort of ardor.
Another option some MMOs use--Guild Wars 2 and FFXIV come to mind--is mentoring of sorts. They drop your power level down to the one that's appropriate for lower level content.
Mentoring works quite well in FFXIV in my experience, though I find losing half my keybinds when I enter a dungeon that's 40 levels below mine really frustrating. Or having to keep Stone I on my keybinds because Stone II might not be available due to the level down system. Guild Wars 2 felt worse in my opinion. Everything you did leveled you down, to the point where it didn't really feel like levels were worth anything. What's the point of having levels at all if you never get to use that power? There are better gating mechanisms than using a number to prevent players from skipping content.
Or as Diablo III shows, you can just have players start over. Seasons performs this admirably--and as a bonus aside, I really enjoy the new task list they have for Seasons so it's not just you wandering aimlessly. Minecraft and Terraria also have this option, where starting over in a new world is easy, and often fun.
For a persistent MMO, starting over isn't a great option, because as mentioned above most of the progression in the game is invalidated by the the resets every tier, and the population doesn't exist to support the game at lower tiers of play. And even games that support starting over well, as 2nd Friend showed, you can still easily find a gulf in your powers that is too large to be bridged short of asking the other person to stop playing while you spend hours to catch up.
Those are three techniques I could think of off-hand to allow parties to play together without ruining the others' experiences because of a gross power disparity. Are there others out there? Or is this a mostly intractable problem with RPG progression mechanics that we'll only mitigate, but never overcome? I don't really believe it's impossible to overcome, and mentoring comes close to a good solution, but with a few kinks--to the point that WoW has started using it with Timewalking dungeons to great effect as well.
But overall, I wish there was something because it really sucks having to tell your friend, "Sorry, I don't want to play with you."
#GameDesign, #DiabloIII, #Progression