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EXP caps - I just don't get 'em

What is the deal with EXP caps? Seriously, I don't see the point of them.

I earned those experience points. I killed the monsters, I fetched and I carried, I transcribed the scrolls into my magic book: I did the hard yards. So why can't I have the EXP?

If it means I get too tough for the final fights then make the end game harder don't neuter my character.


  • GrumGrum Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,100
    One solution is to make xp based on a party of 6 and divide for smaller parties. So a 3 man party gets 1/2xp. This would keep people from leveling too fast and too high.
  • semiticgoddesssemiticgoddess Member Posts: 14,829
    Install a mod to remove the XP cap and see how the game plays.
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 4,210
    There comes a point where you have to make some sort of adjustment to curb power. You can't have everything scale infinitely, that is neither practical nor desirable.

    I don't see what the big deal is. Most RPGs (that involve levels) have a level cap. It is a universally accepted concept that has been around for a long, long time. It may not make sense in certain RP aspects, but it is at this point a veritable necessity of game structure. I'm sure there are some exceptions people are going to bring up, but those are just that: exceptions. You can't measure by every outlier, nor can you impose an open-ended structure willy-nilly on every game.

    However, if you do feel the level cap is too low, it is trivial to mod it away. While you're at it, you can also mod for more difficulty. Personally I am quite satisfied with my no-EXP-cap setup under SCS cranked to eleven + Nightmare Mode on Insane. That is content enough to last me literal years. Maybe you might want to try something similar?
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    I agree, XP caps are silly. Level caps make much more sense, primarily when they come as a function of limited mechanics (I.e. You can't go higher than level 40). XP caps are arbitrary pause buttons for the sake of balance.

    That opinion is my own, though, not necessarily Beamdog's. The balance question is an important one, not least because the games are designed on a pretty specific power curve.
  • deltagodeltago Member Posts: 7,811
    Because: Werebears
  • billbiscobillbisco Member Posts: 361
    Xp caps make more sense because of 2E rules. For 2e, a level cap rewards druids and punishes thieves. For later editions where each class levels at the same pace, a level cap is perfectly fair.
  • Permidion_StarkPermidion_Stark Member Posts: 4,858

    While you're at it, you can also mod for more difficulty. Personally I am quite satisfied with my no-EXP-cap setup under SCS cranked to eleven + Nightmare Mode on Insane. That is content enough to last me literal years. Maybe you might want to try something similar?

    No thanks. I find the game hard enough on the normal setting.

  • dunbardunbar Member Posts: 1,603
    Whilst I completely agree with the concept of XP caps to maintain balance in the game I still like to see some sort of tangible reward for my hard work.
    For BG1 I've installed the Very Simple XP Cap Remover (it's in a post here somewhere) simply because you can get to the point where you amassing GP when there's nothing left to buy, and earning XP when you can't level up.
    In practice I only actually gain one more level (if that) with the cap removed but it's just more satisfying to see the 'scoreboard' ticking over.
  • ajwzajwz Member Posts: 4,122
    same, xp caps are pointless
    xp is soft capped naturally due to the way 2nd ed xp requirements grow exponentially
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 4,210
    ajwz said:

    same, xp caps are pointless
    xp is soft capped naturally due to the way 2nd ed xp requirements grow exponentially

    XP requirements do not grow like that in BG2. XP required per level quickly becomes static, usually around lvl 10 or so (about 200-300k total XP, depending on class). After that every level to the very end requires the same amount, and naturally enemy kills also continue to grant the same XP throughout.

    The only class with jumpy XP values is Druid, who is essentially split in brackets of a sort during which XP is also static, but between which it can jump tremendously.
  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 3,299
    edited July 2015
    Even though I remove XP caps, I understand that I could roleplay it considering that it is a huge step for a class to reach a certain level, and it would take more than just crossing the sword coast to achieve it.
  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354
    For once I find myself disagreeing with Dee! I think xp caps are a more natural balance than level caps, as xp are the universal resource that different classes get to exploit at different rates. In 3E it makes no differences, as all classes advance at exactly the same rate, but in a game where classes use xp at very different rates, granting a level cap simply means classes which consume xp more slowly will ultimately have a higher pay-off at the end of the game.

    I think the most frustrating thing with the xp cap in BG2EE is that triple-classed mages never get their 9th level spells, so never cast their HLA spells (which take slots away from other HLAs), so a final cap of 9 million might have been more friendly, but there is already a big gap from 39 to 40 (with the arbitrary level cap in the game as well!) for clerics and thieves. Adding another million to that would be unfortunate for the single-class characters, now including fighters into the mix. Meanwhile, regular mages get a few more levels and even more 9th level spells/day - so there really is no perfect balance to be gained here. Ultimately, 2nd Edition AD&D was not designed for play at these deific levels.
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    @GreenWarlock I should have clarified that my opinion about XP caps was a conceptual one, not necessarily an advocacy for removing the cap in the BG series.

    Conceptually, I'm opposed to any caps at all. The reason I say I'd prefer level caps is that with a level cap, the cap means the designer doesn't have to design more levels for the class; with an XP cap, all of the levels are there, but the player is arbitrarily prevented from reaching them. If a player wants to grind for levels, it doesn't make sense to me as a designer why I would want to stop them from doing that, because the reason players grind for levels is to make the rest of the game easier.

    In the BG series, the 161k cap made sense for BG when the rest of the levels hadn't been implemented, and then the cap in SoA and ToB made sense for those games based on their limited level tables as well. Once you start combining the games, the caps make less sense (which is why, for example, SoA uses ToB's cap).

    BG:EE has the full ToB-length class tables; but for arbitrary reasons, there's a cap to the level you can reach in BG:EE, despite your doing the same types of things that you do in BGII--i.e. killing monsters, looting dungeons, and completing quests.

    So I guess more to the point, I'm against caps in general, and if there has to be a cap, I'd rather it be an engine limitation than a restriction imposed by designers.
  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354
    Thanks Dee, that makes a bit more sense now you have explained it again, although I still disagree :)

    The fundamental reason for a cap is game balance, and that balance is an important factor of keeping the game fun. Of course, there are other ways to handle balance as well, such as scaling the opposition, but I believe it is generally easier to write effective encounters for known levels than to have arbitrarily scaling foes - this was a big part of why the Bethesda games never quite gelled for my like the BG series.

    Of course, scaling a game's content around the xp/level cap is another challenge. You don't want to require completionist playthroughs to come close to the cap, and you don't want completionist players getting bored - although probably err more in the latter direction as those folks know what they are signing up for.
    But even if you get that balance right at game launch, if your game is a success people are going to want extra content, and that will throw the balance out. Caps help, as does rewriting end-game content as part of the expansion to cope with raised caps. BG got this right, BG2 lost out as the sub-3M xp cap is a /big/ deal when fighting Irenicus, and I don't think he got a boost with the expansion.

    Looking around for other in-game examples, one of the things that motivates players to keep deferring the end-game is to find better kit, even when xp/level capped. I would often beat Durlag's Tower despite hitting max levels before taking on the 4 wardens, precisely to get the loot in the levels below. I complete werewolf island much less frequently as there is little appealing loot out there, and I frequently have the wrong party balance making it more of an end-game chore (on a completionist run).

    Another comparison is The Black Pits, with a level cap, vs. The Black Pits 2, which is xp based (partly as you won't reach the cap, party as cap is ToB cap if you start at high levels). Which scenario do players enjoy more? I know I used to grind everyone to max when first playing, but stopped doing so when I discovered it had no impact on importing to the next game (unless I plan to take into SoA instead).

    I don't think there are right or wrong answers here, of course, just different design perspectives and trade-offs. Also, I have never tried to run a professional game, merely home-brew games at various games clubs over the years, so my game designer insights cannot really compare to Dee's! Not that I let that stop me pontificating anyway ;)
  • ShinShin Member Posts: 2,345
    As long as xp caps can easily be modded away at the player's leisure, it seems like a bit of a moot discussion. One might even say that including a cap provides the player with more options than excluding it would, as removing a cap is easier than planning out a reasonable value to set it at in regards to the game's difficulty.
  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354
    More thoughts on game balance: picking a different Bioware game series, Mass Effect.

    ME1 has the 'traditional' mechanic of xp per kill, with scaling foes and loot. I really enjoyed the game the first couple of times through, but the exact scaling kind of annoys me now - you cannot be clever and get ahead of the curve, or take on bigger challenges early in the game for bigger rewards. The over-the-top loot in the end stages makes the struggle for good kit up to that point a complete joke, invalidating a large part of the preceding play through.

    ME2 is very different, where xp is awarded only for completing missions, regardless of how you perform them, and loot of any kind is rare and unique - if you miss it, you lose it forever. Combined with a gameplay world that keeps shutting off behind you if you take a wrong turn before completely looting an area, I found that very uncomfortable, and the loss of xp per kill made a lot of the combat feel underwhelming. However, when I replay the game now it is possibly my favorite gameplay in the series. You focus entirely on enjoying and playing the mission in character - solve the mission as best befits your Shepherd without any fake trying to maximize xp. Every piece of loot you find is special, which I think improves the game experience. The game is much easier to balance knowing that everyone gains levels at a common rate, so various areas, even where scaling takes place, scale in a much more predictable range.

    Of course, ME is a different kind of game to BG, and much more recent, but I think it demonstrates that going back to fundamentals and rethinking the basics of the game design can lead to genuine improvements in game style, and consequently more fun.

    I am still not sold that BG is wrong, I really like the much less even pacing of the different characters and classes, the ability to nibble away at tricky missions and come back, after banking the xp/loot and moving elsewhere before returning triumphant. But it does mark out BG as a game of its era, and expectations have moved on, for better or worse. While newer games are more frequently in the sweet-spot of PC power to fun, they somehow feel a little more bland and generic - but maybe I'm just getting old :)
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