Poll: Should there be a level cap in single player RPGs?

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I just finished New Vegas and although I loved the game, I ended up feeling largely unsatisfied.

Part of the reason is that I reached the level cap 10-15 hours before the game ended (took me about 50 hours total). The level-up system is integral in all RPGs and it is one of the motivating mechanisms for the player to venture on side-quests. It's not just the loot. It's the skill. We are always planning on the next perk, the next skill upgrade, the next thing we will do to evolve our character once we reach the next level.

Somehow, once the level cap was reached, I lost almost all interest in any form of side-quest. The fact that I was only 60-70% into my playthrough indicates that the level cap came way too soon.

Since it's not the first time this happens to me, I wondered. What's the point?

It's not a MMO. It's not like you are unbalancing the game by giving some player a huge advantage that others don't have. It is a SINGLE PLAYER EXPERIENCE.

Beside, you could still have balance without a level cap. It's your game. You designed it. Just don't make me so overpowered that it completely unbalances the game.

However, I fail to see the point of doing a side-quest to help a post-nuclear community of ex-cons, or mine planet X for berilium, or aqcuire a legendary statue of the fish god Ppodjes for a rich Viking merchant, if I have already reached my level cap...

Thoughts?

how you reached level 30 in 15 hours is beyond me. but yes I do agree with level caps, but most of the time developers set the cap to low, way to low

Your poll has been nommed but yeah I think there should be level caps. They stop you from becoming an unstoppable killing machine which tends to drain the fun pretty fast.

If your playing on PC you can just mod out the level cap or adjust it.

Well, yes and no.

Dragon Age: Origins has a level cap of 20 (I think) unless you get the expansion; Awakening. I'm 60% done with the game and I already reached lv. 19. It kinda saddens me because I was expecting to be able to get every single ability and perk for my characters and I just realized I can only get so many before I reach the cap limit. Then it will be impossible to get more abilities for them for obvious reasons.

I enjoy knowing that my characters don't have to level up all the way to lv. 99 because I see that as something I should do. It's a challenge; you obviously wanna be super powerful and at your best when you reach that one final boss and being, let's say, lv. 65 doesn't seem like enough.

I also enjoy sidequests just because they make the game longer. Canon wise, are they pointless? Maybe. After all, why is the hero of time catching chickens when a planet is about to crush our world?

I think there should be a realistic level cap. That is, the developers should make some sort of assumption where they say "Okay, so by the time the player reaches this semi-final level, they should be close to level 38 assuming they've done all sidequest. So let's set the cap level to 40". You know, so that you won't be boringly overpowered at the end or hysterically underpowered for the final battle.

There should at the very least be a soft level cap. When you reach a point where it becomes much harder to level your character, but it's still technically possible to get them to a hard cap with grinding or doing side quests.

Like Skyrim's leveling system, I like that system. It's a good way to reach a level high enough to where you feel powerful, but still have room to improve your character for a certain number of levels. There should be more leveling systems like that.

Yes. There should always be one of some sort or height. 20-200, I'm fine with it as long as there is a limit.

Exhibit for this case, Disgaea.
Never feeling like I was getting anything done or making discernible progress in that game.

While it's possible to have a continuous progression system without a cap, does that really add much to the game? It'd be a nightmare to balance without becoming mundane. Sounds like you found the level cap in NV to be too low, and that's probably a fair point. But if the cap was a bit higher and you'd reached it at around the time you finished the game, that'd be fine, wouldn't it?

Why do you feel it is the existence of the cap rather than the point at which they set it that is the problem?

Lovesfool:

However, I fail to see the point of doing a side-quest to help a post-nuclear community of ex-cons, or mine planet X for berilium, or aqcuire a legendary statue of the fish god Ppodjes for a rich Viking merchant, if I have already reached my level cap...

If that is the way you feel, then I'd have to say you're not really enjoying the game. You're enjoying being rewarded. In that case, I'd say you're better off just finding another game. And I love New Vegas to death, so this isn't remotely coming from a place of hate for that game. I love that New Vegas hands out most of its XP for completing quests (rather than killing enemies. I mean, you can probably make it so it hands out more XP for the latter, but you'd have to really go far out of your way to make that happen). But I'm not too big to admit it might hand out too much XP for it. I think it mostly has to do with the fast leveling at the beginning of RPGs. You tend to level up very quickly at the start of games like this, maybe so you'll feel more invested in it in the case that the story or mechanics don't enthrall you enough on their own.

But I do believe these games should have a level cap. They aren't MMOs. It's not meant to last you forever on a single playthrough. It ends. And to keep you from being too godlike, they put in the cap. If anything, I think they should lower the cap, because I still find myself being too powerful. New Vegas: Old World Blues has a nice trait that resets the cap back at 30 (which is what the cap was before the various DLC chapters arrived and upped the cap by five points each. I always take that trait now.

Well for New Vegas with all the extra stuff, namely Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road the level cap for me was 50. I didn't ever touch the difficulty settings, didn't even look at them, so maybe that's the thing, but by that point I was able to just kill 3 deathclaws in the Thorn using an unarmed weapon. A very good one, but still. Also killed the legendary deathclaw with it, though I think I may have used some stims since he got a few hits in on me. At level 50 there really was no point in progressing any higher. I was already a monster...

And dealing with the attack on Hoover Dam was a joke at that point... My question was how to use as many of my awesome weapons I'd stored up as I could. Bombarded that damn legion camp with mini-nukes even though I don't think there were too many people in it at the time...

Lovesfool:
-Cap Time-

By the time you reach it in Fallout 3 or New Vegas, you are what-the-fuck powerful insofar as the wastelander goes. If you are not rich, gun-happy, ammo-frenzied, uber-skilled (in some way), item-heavy, and massively durable even WITHOUT the armor you must be wearing...something must be wrong.

To put it to an understanding, my character in Fallout 3 (Jack) feared only one thing: Deathclaws. This was because they could appear anywhere at random and they could take a HIT. Fallout 3 made the Deathclaws scary again. Fortunately, he had really good armor and still nice weapons. In New Vegas, my Courier (Andrew) is less rounded as Jack, built for crazy criticals and high luck (Ice Cream). HE only feared Deathclas, because they are a fucking menace...UNTIL he found Pew Pew, the Avenger, and a good sniper rifle. Now, the Mojave may as well bow down to him.

Ha, the answer is easy: do away with levels. There you go - no levels, no level cap. Not to mention that levelling systems (with levels) tend to make you stupidly powerful, to the point when the actual challenges become meaningless. "OH, I'll just use my UberRoxxorPunch twice and kill that guy, then use my AOE instakill on the rest" or similar. See, even more potential problems are resolved.

While I can agree that some games set the level cap too low, I am in favour of level caps. Level caps provide quite a few things, first they encourage informed decisions. If you only have X skill points/perks/whatever, it becomes more important where those points go. I am not a fan of games where you can be good at everything, unless that was a choice you made to sacrifice being great at any one thing.

Second is the balance issues. If you could keep leveling up through grinding, then you can destroy all balance to a game. You could turn into a superman level character and steam roll everything, or you could end up in a situation fighting level 10000 rats as the game tries to compensate. As a secondary effect of this, a level cap discourages grinding. Why bother grinding for more levels, when it just means youll reaach the cap halfway through a game?

Last if a game touts massive content, and you hit the level cap halfway through, thats bad design. Either leveling should be slower, or more likely the cap was set too low.

There's no challenge and no joy in just getting slightly bigger numbers on your stat sheet.
Without the new skills, feats and varied opposition to go with the new levels you might aswell not have them.

A finalized character and an end to the grind in the last chapter of a game isn't so bad.
Now you can finally test the build that you put so much of your time in.

Usually, story takes a priority for me in RPGs. I like doing the side quests to get insight into an universe I might really enjoy, eh. Not because it fills up my bar. The only game I drag myself through levelling nowadays is WoW. I've done the quests so many times they've become autonomous.

But this is about single player RPGs. Should they have a cap? Nah, I don't feel that's always neccessary, or you can always set an absurdly high cap. I don't know. Then you get the rest of the levels in a new game+ or so. That'd give me incentive at least because I love progression. Even if it's not in the form of levelling. Just feeling progress itself is important. I suppose unlimited progression might feel a little trivial in the long run. Having a goal to strive towards is nice too, in terms of levels that is.

IMO there should be level caps but they should also come in levels (levelception) to give the illusion of not having a level cap for example first 10-15 levels are your classic easy to ding levels but 20- 25 are much harder and the catch would be that the world scales to your level depending on the difficulty which i think fallout new vegas has done nicely but they failed on being able to reach the cap (50) too easily and after that doing the sidequests had a a little less incentive but i was playing on very hard from the minute 1 so challenge was there, deathclaws could tear me apart in 1-2 hits even with my 645 hp and T-51b power armor.Still knowing that i can no longer plan my character was a kinda downer.

In my opinion the level cap should not exist but the world should scale depending on difficulty so the player will have to plan his levels and maybe after he got the perks he wants but those perks should go so far even a chinese sweatshop should not be able to get them all due to diff. scaling well that sounds well and good but it has a chance to unbalance the game and create the problem we had in oblivion where we tried to stop leveling coz bunnies started to kick our asses due to disporpotionate scaling to prevent that the game should be tested even harder and balanced around even high levels. Also for people who like level caps there should be a high cap then the game should unlock the option to freeze level and that way everyone can be happy atleast that is what i think.

Also if you want to beat the F3 and F:NV on very hard diff here are some tips:1st pick your fights engage only if you are sure that the reward is higher than ammo cost because ammo is more scarce and 1 guy can take up to 2 mags depending on his hp and your accuracy (and weapon ofc) 2nd prepare your bags, with mods in VH difficulty you will tend to run out of supplies faster so prepare a standard issue assault and exploration packs and when you get home restore your supplies periodically because as the 3 dog says when your weapon breaks the only motherfucker that you gonna kill is you.

Edit: For those who still haven't, read about the vaults in wiki some vaults may give you an idea of what kind of loot you will get. That is not cheating that is doing a research imagine you found that info on robco computer back in their HQ also there are almost no automatic weapons in NV and closest thing you can get is semi automatic rifle who's superior version is rather american and is kinda green as if it has been in somewhere moist and below the ground also if boomers are so trigger happy and came from vault maybe there is a reason for that where they came from and there is no way that where they came from is written on their backs is there?

Well if the game offers nothing beyond a Skinner Box treadmill then I agree, obviously if you stop the treats for task mechanic people will have nothing left.

But in any half way decently designed RPG the leveling should be only a small fraction of the experience, and the cap is put in place for a good reason, because balance still matters even if it is single player.
If you allows the player to become overpowered then the combat will only bore them, that is far worse then taking away the ever so rare Ding!

Mr.K.:
Well if the game offers nothing beyond a Skinner Box treadmill then I agree, obviously if you stop the treats for task mechanic people will have nothing left.

But in any half way decently designed RPG the leveling should be only a small fraction of the experience, and the cap is put in place for a good reason, because balance still matters even if it is single player.
If you allows the player to become overpowered then the combat will only bore them, that is far worse then taking away the ever so rare Ding!

I am going to prescribe you a good dose of world scaling for that and if possible playing on highest difficulty to teach you NEVER to come close anywhere near a deathclaw

This is weird - the exact same thing happens to me when playing Bethesda games. It's not even that the perks are that exciting, but once I max out I lose all desire to explore the places I'd promised myself I would.

Anyway, on the larger scope of RPGs in general I appreciate a max level because then I know my work is done. Games like Disgaea give me nightmares because I can't possibly legitimately level up each character and every weapon they have to w/e the max level is now (9999?). If there were simply no max level -- I shudder to think.

Mert Matthews:
I am going to prescribe you a good dose of world scaling for that and if possible playing on highest difficulty to teach you NEVER to come close anywhere near a deathclaw

You will have to elaborate on that because I can't see the connection to the topic at hand...

Beautiful End:
Well, yes and no.

Dragon Age: Origins has a level cap of 20 (I think) unless you get the expansion; Awakening. I'm 60% done with the game and I already reached lv. 19. It kinda saddens me because I was expecting to be able to get every single ability and perk for my characters and I just realized I can only get so many before I reach the cap limit. Then it will be impossible to get more abilities for them for obvious reasons.

I enjoy knowing that my characters don't have to level up all the way to lv. 99 because I see that as something I should do. It's a challenge; you obviously wanna be super powerful and at your best when you reach that one final boss and being, let's say, lv. 65 doesn't seem like enough.

I also enjoy sidequests just because they make the game longer. Canon wise, are they pointless? Maybe. After all, why is the hero of time catching chickens when a planet is about to crush our world?

I think there should be a realistic level cap. That is, the developers should make some sort of assumption where they say "Okay, so by the time the player reaches this semi-final level, they should be close to level 38 assuming they've done all sidequest. So let's set the cap level to 40". You know, so that you won't be boringly overpowered at the end or hysterically underpowered for the final battle.

DA:O didn't have a level cap. It just limited you on how much xp there was in the game. if you did everything right in the vanilla version you walked away with a lvl 20 something character. I believe there should be a difference between a game like Fallout 3 or NV where you can grind forever exploring and a linear experience designed to have your characters at a certain level by the end.

You know I've played games that had interesting takes on leveling. For example, in the Suikoden series, you need 1,000 Experience to level up. Of course, you get more experience against stronger enemies and with smaller groups.

Basically, your characters will level up quickly until they reach the level of the enemies, give or take. If you bring a level 10 character to an area against level 25 enemies, they will quickly reach level 25 in a few rounds of combat. However, once they reach that level, they may find the earned experience to drop in value, significantly. Once they out level the enemies, the fights may only net them 5 experience. Sure you could really grind it out, but it wouldn't be quick. The result is a bit of a soft level cap.

Then, fight the boss of the area and go up another level or two. After that, you go to the next area and the enemies are level 30. This continues on. Always making a well equipped party more than capable of handling the fights, but keeping up some minor threat, at least.

The maximum level was 99, but you probably wouldn't exceed level 60 by much.

And there's always Crisis Core, where you earn experience, but don't level until "777" lines up in the DMW. Sometimes happening rarely. Other times, it could happen twice in a single battle. And interesting, if somewhat frustrating system.

I'm not against removing a level cap but I don't see a point, in most RPGs I find leveling past 40 to feel like a grind, you've learned most your skills by now and all your getting is a numerical reward, it's hard to keep grinding interesting and rewarding for very long.

PrimitiveJudge:
how you reached level 30 in 15 hours is beyond me. but yes I do agree with level caps, but most of the time developers set the cap to low, way to low

He said he reached level 30 with 10-15 hours left in the game, out of a total of 50 hours played.

OT: I do think that a level cap is the best system. If they don't have one, then scaling the enemies to keep you challenged becomes a problem, as you don't feel any more powerful than when you started (and in Fallout, the only enemies that high-level characters encounter than low-level ones do not are massed deathclaws and certain bosses).

Meanwhile, the sidequests are a balancing issue all their own: it sounds like you went out of your way to do them all (I'm in the same boat in New Vegas, level 20-something and I still haven't gone into the city), which is your right to do, but means that you are hugely powerful compared to someone who stuck with the main storyline and did only the occasional sidequest. The developers want to make sure that the other person does feel like they are progressing, but they also want you to be rewarded for all your time and effort, while still trying to keep some sense of balance.

I had the opposite problem in New Vegas. None of my characters reached level 30 (record was around 29,5 when the credits rolled) and I eventually had to resort to a bit of grinding for the trophy. I guess it comes down to the way you play the game because I'm not the kind of player that wants to explore every location and complete every side quest.

I think level cap is a good thing at least in Fallout because the player is supposed to make hard decisions with skills and perks, just like with SPECIAL. The fact that the player is also prevented from becoming too powerful is a nice bonus.

I think that a certain degree of capping is probably necessary to make the game designer's life easier, so they can know for sure that the final boss, for example, is challenging but not overpowered. With too many levels to consider, that is practically impossible.
I disagree, however, with the general nature of explicit, numerical, hard level caps. They just seem so limiting, like the game is saying "okay! You're done, game over, go finish it up". I'd take one that was implicit or soft much more willingly. Like as you level you gain XP more slowly, and at some point it tapers off until you can't possibly level up much more, so you never reached the top, but you're not going anywhere anytime soon.
Or tooling the number of enemies or XP gainst to leave you at a certain maximum. Dragon Age: Origins did that, though it always made me feel like I needed to go get every little bit of XP I could, which was limiting in some ways.

I like the level cap BUT I would like a playthrough + where you can overlevel your character for fun.

Also, I hated how they had an arbitrary level 60 cap in mass effect 1 and I didn't get to start there for part 2. I thought it would have been better had they let me continue that way.

The best level cap ever is Demon's Souls... its something like 712. Basically you can max out everything on your character, if you really want to.

Yeah sorry I read that wrong.

I have no problem with a level cap in single player rpgs. Just as long as I don't reach it before I'm finished with the main plot. I mean without excessive grinding of course. I tend to prefer games with a cap of around 99 and you average around level 50 or so by the final boss. You aren't overpowered nor underpowered at that point.

Of course give a reason for the extra levels to be there. Optional super bosses for example that pretty much require you to hit the cap just to be able to compete with them. I love those fights.

That being said I have played Disgaea 1 and 2 with the insane level cap of 9999 and had a great deal of fun with those.

I've never gotten all that close to lvl 99 in any rpg, so I'm probably not the person to ask.

I think the games should be as flexible as possible: The option to be over or underpowered should be there for the player.

I have thought about this too. For example the level cap in Kingdoms of Amalur is 40. I reached this well before I was done with the game. I love the feeling of leveling and progressing. I notice in JRPGs the level cap is 99 and it is almost always unnecessary to get that high. It would also take a tremendous amount of grinding with no real point.

Level caps have a simple purpose: character customization. The reason they cap you off rather then let you just keep going and going is because if you keep going and going, inevitably every character ever played will become the same: a god-like protagonist with every possible spell and ability available to them. Level caps force players to specialize in numerous ways. Take the Dragon Age 2 skill trees. There just aren't enough levels to fill in every ability in every tree and it's supposed to be that way. You're supposed to decide "Do I want to be a Sword and Shield warrior? Or do I wanna be a 2 hand weapons user? Or even a dual weilding weapon user? Do I want to be a healer mage or a frost/fire mage? etc". Without level caps you don't have to make those decisions, as sooner or later you'll just end up getting all the abilities anyways.

That said, the use of a level cap has to be done correctly to avoid situations like the OP mentioned...maxing out at the cap too soon leaves no room for progression during the last parts of the game. You have to balance the cap with gameplay time, the way Mass Effect 3 did. Even if you started with a lvl 30 ME 2 imported character, you wouldn't hit the max of 60 until the very, very end or on your 2nd playthrough with that character. Granted, the lvling system in ME 3 ensures that you can max Shepard out in all but one skill (and have 3 ranks in that skill), but it's a good example of how the leveling system should be drawn out till the end of the game.

Alright, no, seriously...fuck you Captcha... "Teh Inter Webs" now it's just getting retarded...

I think it should be higher in most games...Fallout 3/NV and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning spring to mind. Because I like to complete every sidequest, I usually end up massively overleveled for the story missions :/

Now Dark Souls, that had a good level cap. Also Disgaea. The sort of level caps that are so crazy no-one actually reaches them. I like those! It gives me a sense that there's always room to improve.

squid5580:
DA:O didn't have a level cap. It just limited you on how much xp there was in the game. if you did everything right in the vanilla version you walked away with a lvl 20 something character. I believe there should be a difference between a game like Fallout 3 or NV where you can grind forever exploring and a linear experience designed to have your characters at a certain level by the end.

Dragon age does have a level cap. It caps at level 25.

PrimitiveJudge:
how you reached level 30 in 15 hours is beyond me. but yes I do agree with level caps, but most of the time developers set the cap to low, way to low

15 hours before the end, 50 hours into the game.

Om nom nom the Escapist likes to eat yummy polls.

I've been a bit miffed by level caps as well. Most of the time I reach max level and am left to complete all the quests I have accepted by compulsion alone. Getting rid of level caps or setting them a bit higher both sound good to me.

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