As those of you who regularly read this blog may attest (yes, I am talking to both of you), last week there was a contest of sorts where the winner was promised a column on the topic of her or his choice.
Today I make good on my debt. Tscheuss’s chosen topic is “DDO’s journey as it grows from level 20 cap to level 30 cap”, an interesting topic indeed, and one that Tscheuss clarified to mean the steps that Turbine has or will be taking, as well as the stages and packs along a timeline.
Oooh, a timeline! That is like a graph, and I love graphs!
The short and simple answer to Tscheuss’ question is contained in “Holiday Producers Letter” from (former) Producer Rowan, posted 12/3/2013:
Our final update of 2014 will extend the level cap to 30, which is intended to be DDO’s “permanent” level cap and complete the Epic levels. With this update we’ll be looking at ways to complete and improve existing systems like Epic Destinies.
So there is that. Update 24(-ish?) will be the last cap raise, at least for awhile. We’ve had a “final” cap raise before, back at level 20, but the “final” rarely is.
And he even answers what Turbine is going to do to prepare for the cap raise in the same sentence: complete and improve systems like Epic Destinies. No new leveling, nothing wild and out of the blue, just more of what we already have but completed, and better.
How true will these predictions be? Hard to gauge, the DDO team has undergone a lot of changes including a new production team. But Rowan also predicted Update 21 as Haunted Halls of Eveningstar and two raids, and Update 22 as epic Three Barrel Cove and revamped airships. So he’s on the mark so far. Update 23 was stated to be the Anauroch desert and Phaerimm.
And then, Update 24, completion of Epic levels, and the new level 30 permanent cap.
Someone did mention a timeline, yes?
I plotted this two ways. The first was is by DDO release:
Level Cap By DDO Release
The takeaway from this graph is a reminder that we’ve had a hard level cap before, at level 20, and in fact more than 1/3 of the total game updates occurred with cap 20.
But actually, the game has been even more cap-stable than appears from this graph. If you instead plot the level cap by date, you can see that over half of the game’s lifespan has been spent at either cap 16 or cap 20:
Level Cap By Date
The by-date timeline better captures the fact that there was a year leading up to the DDO Unlimited relaunch where there where no releases at all.
It also shows the importance of The Shroud, and how critical that one raid was to the game’s continuation. For over a year, The Shroud was basically all that we had. For four years, it remained one of only two or three raids designed for capped characters.
Four years. Good thing it was such a good raid.
And so we have it, a mathematical indicator that DDO has spent more of it’s history having a hard, flat cap, than it has having a dynamically increasing cap. The game plays differently when the hard cap is on: without leveling, it gets harder to improve your character. You have to focus more on gear acquisition and especially, past life feats.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, not at all. There is a hidden side effect to a hard cap: everyone can compete with the top end players. Even casual players will have capped characters. They won’t be quite as good, lacking the intensive gear and past lives that the best-of-the-best will have, but the difference is incremental rather than overwhelming.
It is not worse. It is not better either, it is just different. And soon, by the end of year if the schedule holds, we will all get to find out for ourselves, firsthand.
Hopefully I’ve answered you thoroughly, Tscheuss, but if you have any remaining questions just let me know. Especially if they involve graphs of any kind.
🙂 😀 🙂