Saturday, January 4, 2014

Steep experience curve (sometimes I'm really surprised)

While asking for feedback about what kinds of new quests and maps might be interesting (thanks for all the amazing feedback - so far it has been extremely enlightening) one thing came up that I for a long time hadn't been aware of: Several posters mentioned the fact that PC levels between 25 (some said: 30) and 50 only are gained after coming to dungeon level 50 in the CoC and starting Balor killing.

To be honest: This sounds like a problem to me and I was completely unaware of it. Mostly probably because I rarely have the time to play past level 15 to 20 (and quite often die around that time due to my own recklessness) and achieve later levels usually with built-in game debugging commands that allow me to cheat.

So you can imagine how surprised I was about hearing about this as I ever had noticed this problem in all the years 8-^

So I'm very curious to hear more about it (and I will spend some time over the weekend analyzing the experience curve of the game). Please tell me more about the level range at which you usually get stuck.

IMHO this is a rather serious problem as there probably are several causes:

  • not enough deeper dungeon levels to gain enough experience
  • high level monsters granting less experience than they should
  • balers being too valuable for their fighting power
How do you feel about these points?


  1. In my experience, you hit D:50 closer to levels 30-35 (sans Barbarians, Trolls and now Mist Elves) if you aren't rushing through things.

    There are two main causes. One is that exponential required exp. growth is fine up to about the mid/late 20s, but quickly gets out of hand beyond that. The other is that there usually isn't enough experience in the lower CoC; this is due to non-vault/temple monsters not being frequent/high level enough or worth enough exp AND the background corruption generally means you generally go straight through levels.

  2. warning, spoilers ahead

    In my opinion, the classes that level slower have a really hard time getting to the cool class powers. For example, a troll will never *ever* get their lvl 32 class power unless you know how to scum for experience (slowing, accelerating, invis, etc, moloch emperor wishes, etc..). I am not a troll player to be honest, I play elves most of the time, and for example, I had a problem getting a mist elf duelist to lvl 18 without clearing more than 3/4 of the regular ending path (ie, scummed for hours ToTHK for a rods after clearing everything including the ToEF and slowly gained levels). It is a bit bothersome, but they still seem to be incredibly powerful, since there is a lot of monster scaling to match your strength and you do most of the scaling also by getting new gear and buffing yourself with herbs and potions. Maybe with a bit more dungeons to play for advanced players it could be easier to reach those levels, I believe there is a good argument for something that is slightly easier than darkforge and ToEF in terms of raw monster damage/defense, of course with it's own difficulties and special features to make it interesting. I would say that overall, there is a very rough transition from the point where you can clear darkforge/toef and the point before that, and there are not enough places to explore that you can somewhat guarantee that you can get an amulet of life saving for khelly. Also as previously said, background corruption becomes a race against time if you need to scum for levels/herbs/items to do quests

  3. The large amounts of xp required to gain levels starting from around 25 are usually only scored in large chunks due to single creatures being worth far more XP than others. Yulgash, the Archmage, the cat lord and the balors and such. There are cases when character reach level 50 long before the endgame is over thanks to a single vault or tension room of wyrms, but if no such windfall shows up, players who don't actively seek out max level won't get it before the game is over.

    No helping matters is that even if you increase the amount of deeper dungeon levels, background corruption provides a major disincentive to actually exploring them.

    Increasing the base xp gains of many high danger level creatures would certainly help make leveling go smoother in the late game without affecting the early- to mid game significantly.

    You should also keep in mind, though, that there isn't a very large difference between a level 50 and a level 35 character when it comes to power. At least speaking for myself, I don't really see the point in actively seeking out more creatures to kill for xp when my power is sufficient to win the game as early as level 25, because I have impenetrable armor, powerful artifact weapons, a repertoire of deadly spells or grand mastery in some form of archery and slaying ammo to use it with.

    Please keep in mind that the experience curve has been this way probably before even ADOM 1.1.1 came out; over twelve years, to be sure. It's not a serious issue at all, and you shouldn't go overboard in trying to fix it. I would try adjusting xp rates for late game monsters and focus on implementing the late game quests and locations to offer players more incentives to spend some time to get to level 50. (In those games where I actually did the Blue Dragon Caves just to see what it's like or cleared the Rift etc. level 50 was not unachievable.) It's unlikely that you'll manage to keep "minimalists" who just focus on gate closing from doing so in the thirties, and it's not like that hurts anyone.

    And shamefully tooting my own horn, I'm sure adding more mid-range dungeons to explore is going to advance players several levels higher on the xp curve while providing plenty of dungeon crawling excitement!

  4. I get level stuck around level 30. Killing Mr Cat is the last big experience chunk. From D35-49 I would probably only get 5 levels.

    I agree above, that you can beat the game without the extra levels but it's a shame because some of the level 50 class powers are pretty cool and never get used.

  5. I think the only real "problem" I see, if you can call it that, is that there are neat class powers for certain heroes from 25-50. Not being able to access them is a shame.

    Other than that, nothing about the XP curve bars a PC from winning the game. Typically, a level 30 PC will have more than enough power to win the game, barring terrible item luck.

    One of the suggestions I can give, if this is something you'd like to fix, is to actively generate more dangerous (and thus more XP heavy) situations in high DL areas. I still see entirely too many vanilla monsters even at D:40 and below. Balors, Unicorns, Ki'Rin, and any of the greater versions of monsters should appear more frequently. I personally have never seen a Ki'Rin, and never encountered a Balor outside D:50. I see no reason this should be. Smooth out the XP values across such greater monsters a bit, and there's a good way to give the PC ample opportunities to advance in level while making the fights in lower CoC more spicy.

    If this seems too dangerous or difficult to balance, pick a pool of 'advanced' monsters, and have a %chance to generate one of these on each level starting at a certain DL or below. He/She can be spawned as the level is spawned, and monster generation is otherwise as is. This seems like a better way to spread out the EXP across more levels.

    If you want to have it appeal to the contributors, introduce a special room that generates a random player-submitted boss monster (possibly with some other minions), and level it up to the appropriate DL. Have them be worth a good chunk of EXP if leveled in this way.

  6. I'll second the "not enough high level monsters" comment. In a typical game of ADOM I almost never even see those high level monsters because even at D:40 most of the monsters generated are still goblins, kobolds, skeletons, giant bats, etc. I'd say redo monster generation to simotaneously make low level monsters much rarer and high level monsters more common on deeper levels, and you should be good.

  7. Yeah, you just never really get to the higher-level class powers. Equipment and stats are just more important than levels once you hit the mid-to-late game. Mr Cat does indeed often serve as a huge XP boost if you know snacky ways of killing him after murdering hundreds of cats, then that's about it. I didn't know about the Balor thing, but if I ever wanted to get to L50 (...or L40... or sometimes even L32) I'd be wishing for the Emperor Molochs in the small cave. Even high end class powers don't compare to better equipment. Most of them don't compare to a few extra points of ST and TO for a lot of characters.

    So yes, there's a big lack of late-game content compared to the amount of XP you need. Corruption can also be a problem, since you really have to scum for XP. In my view:

    - Most mid-late monsters don't give nearly enough XP (excepting Molochs, Balors, etc); and/or
    - Higher-level XP requirements are too steep.

    - There's not enough quests at the higher levels, and the few that there are tend to only give maybe a level, then it's back to scumming.

  8. I never saw this as a problem exactly. What makes the late game interesting from a strategic point of view is balancing your exp against your corruption. Striving toward higher exp inevitably means spending a lot of time in corrupting areas.

    If your exp was paced so you hit lvl50 naturally as you approached the deepest regions of the CoC that balancing act would be lost and I think that'd be a real shame.

  9. Another interesting question I never thought about before: How much game time has passed in your games when you enter the deep levels (say e.g. dungeon level 30+ of the CoC)?

  10. To Silfir and obscenelygreen: I think no one has said that there is a problem of raw character power, or of difficulty. The game can be won perfectly by reaching D:50 at level 30, anyone who has won knows that. The problem is class powers. There is not much point in having some interesting class powers that you never get to actually use.

    Maybe the solution is making it easier to reach high levels OR maybe the solution is to make the class powers come earlier (levels 22, 26, 30 and 34 rather than 25, 32, 40 and 50?), but something should be done. I don't think "it has been the current way for years" is a good argument in this case since TB himself is saying explicitly that this was not intended.

    By the way, another problem is the level requirement for certain quests, e.g. level 45 for Filk quest.

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  12. Thomas: 40-50 days, or 80-110 if I'm doing an ultra ending.

  13. Game time only tends to pass significantly in the wilderness, so it depends. Anywhere between 50 and 70, usually. I know where to go by heart, though - I was significantly farther advanced in game time when I didn't.

  14. Yes, in my case also 40-70 but because I know that walking a lot in the wilderness is bad. When I was less experienced, I spend many more days (exploring, going to places like the mad minstrel hut, making more trips back and forth than necessary, etc.)

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  16. Looking through some flgs I have: 100, 66, 208 (ultra), 66, 35, 31, 78, 47, 29. 30-70 encompasses most of those.

  17. For a non-ultra, it's quite rare for me to finish after day 90... like the others, I'd say 40-70 is typical. For an ultra, it's usually more like 110 or so assuming you hit stone circle on day 90.

    OTOH, I think my first win was almost a year game-time.

  18. Hello!Share some collective knowledge here:
    1)Everything is ok generally, game is hard and even levelling up making you think about how can it be done. But, in our opinion, some PCs have problems with achiving high lvl`s. Not every class can reach high level dangeons without "farming" because of lack of defensive powers, so farming in this case sometimes may take much time and efforts. But not sure if this is really a trouble and if it is needed to be fixed in any way.
    2) In our opinion highly expirienced monsters may give more exp. For example, nearly every PC faces highly exped spiders and jackals in mid game. Those ones are sometimes really cause many troubles(which is good for ADOM, never ever nerf anything challenging in this game, plz!!! :D), but give small amounts of XP.
    3)And we have Cup month,human race,EXP talents(which may be buffed if needed), summon monster spells,a lot of ways to gain EXP, and finally game is not based on lvl in means of winning it. Now PC usually have epic battle on last COC lvl and gain levels/fame there, IMHO it looks as it should be, like it was a "final" challenge and our hero will never be the same :)

  19. On a forum somewhere a poster wrote that the game shouldn't be made any less harder but more fun. Many of the class skills aren't game-changers but are fun. However the amount of time you have to put in to your character to build up the experience to gain these skills isn't so fun. Tedium sets in, the impending threat of corruption gets ever closer and you close the gate at level 35 or whatever. If closing the gate is the standard goal of the game surely the PC should be reaching around 35 or 40 without grinding or farming too much.

    As an aside it's really frustrating playing as a mindcrafter, having the powers linked to exp level, and things like the telekinetic blast and teleport powers appearing at the levels they do. I agree not all characters should be of equal difficulty and mindcrafters are challenging but they fairly uinique amongst the other classes IMO and it's a shame they're so hampered until level 25.