GW2: Further Experi-Adventures in Downscaling

So maybe level 20 is a freak occurrence, right?

Certainly, I went dungeon running in TA (effective lvl 55) and CoF (effective lvl 75) today with a non-PUG group – the guilded pretty faithful meta group to which I am probably the largest deviant away from dps-optimal – and didn’t really “feel” a huge change in damage done or time to kill, although I note that people -were- falling over more often and had to be rezzed a little more.

downscale-compare

Edit: Here, I decided to do a quick graph in Excel.

Edit: Here, I decided to do a quick graph in Excel. Cos more visual.

Let’s recap. I don’t think there is any issue at lvl 70-75 at all. Note in the table that our power levels between the old 70-80 mark are fairly similar to the new 70-80 (just a little tweaked downward.)

From 60 and lower, there is a greater deviation between our old downscaled stats and our new ones.

Our crit chance and damage are still fairly similar between old and new in the 50-60 range (though a little more tweaked downward.)

At 40 and lower, it starts looking really bad in terms of old and new being different and weaker than before.

The most likely dungeon to get hit by this is AC at effective level 35. (CM, I dunno, at effective level 45 – probably would be able to feel a bit of a hit.)

But you know, maybe stuff getting harder and more difficult is good for a change of pace and a challenge. No big arguments against there, I don’t really care or mind either way, if the devs decide that stuff should feel more challenging.

What I -do- care about, is a certain amount of equity.

I have argued very strongly about “a level playing field” and I feel very strongly about this concept.

Veterans should not be able to one-shot (or out-perform) newbies because hooray, vertical progression, more stats, such l33t, gear very purplez, gearscore over 9000, blah blah blah. That is why I play GW2 because we want to be egalitarian about things, we want to be scaled down to the same level playing field as low levels and travel together and welcome each other and so on.

The see-saw should NOT swing in the other way either!

That concept just gives me a massive headache. Why am I leveling up then, if I am just going to get weaker (in low level zones anyway), despite greater effort acquiring exotics and Ascended gear? Unlock/see more zones? Only be stronger in level 80 ones? I’m not -that- allergic to vertical progression.

But anyway, enough philosophizing, I just wanted to lay out some of the rationale behind why I’m bothering (and bothered) about this enough to go and collect data on it – because I value the idea of a level and even playing field, not an uneven one, in either direction.

The following may be somewhat strange level ranges to do comparisons on, but they’re simply dictated by whatever low level character I have lying around.

Feel free to pull out your lowbies to check too. More data the merrier. It’s much easier to find an appropriate zone to waypoint a level 80 to, just glance through the GW2 wiki on zones and effective level in each region.

Level 54

54masterworkrare

On the left is my engineer leveling in backdated and el cheapo gear. Level 50 masterworks, a level 50 rare rifle, level 50 masterwork jewelry, backpack straps with no stats whatsoever, and I was wearing lvl 51 penetrating rings for the hell of it (which give precision/ferocity, not power.)

(Aka the point where I bog down and start having trouble with mobs or the point where I stop leveling and say, eh, I need to update the gear, but I’m too lazy to use the TP… eh, maybe later, and then log off and forget to return.)

On the right is me biting the bullet and buying level 53 rare gear (by level 56, you can get masterwork greens with similar stats), because let’s face it, rare gear unlocks at 39-40, I’m way overdue to start dressing in yellows. Jewelry is updated to yellows, and I pick up a green ghostly spineguard for the back. I’m lazy and I don’t upgrade the level 50 yellow rifle. I put on major runes (4 mesmer for power/precision) and stack on two more +15 power runes.

80to54

Here’s the level 80 downscaled to level 54.

It’s… not too bad at this level range.

He is still somewhat weaker than the buffed out true level 54 (and there is potential for the level 54 to go higher, but we would be stepping into straight out twinking territory – very few people would bother) but he’s got a bit more crit damage from the extra ferocity stat, and presumably his crit chance is a little nerfed to compensate for that difference.

It “feels” comparable (I use the word ‘feels’ when I haven’t calculated or checked any numbers yet and just going by gut feel here.)

Chances are, more than likely, that we will have many lowbies in backdated gear at this level range anyway, and that they’ll be a little behind the downscaled 80, unless they bother to keep on top of things, and then they get a little stronger.

I personally think this is a nice equivalency point to strive to reach at all level ranges.

Level 39

I was thinking I didn’t have any alts at this level – most bogged down at level 50, or they stayed at level 20.

Then I found my PvP ranger. (Yeah, I was playing condi ranger before it was cool. I should get around to trying out just how strange sPvP feels now, but this is keeping me busy already.)

I dragged him out to Lion’s Arch, where he became uber-noob backdated power-based leveling build once more.

39yucktogood

On the left, we have him sitting in mostly level 32 green masterwork gear (at lvl 39) with the exception of one level 39 yellow glove that dropped while I was leveling. His jewelry is mostly level 25 blue fines (hey, you can resell those, y’know, I am el cheapo!) of the sunstone variety (more precision than power), with one level 20 green mighty amulet. He has a stack of +50 power on minor runes (and 15 precision on the rare yellow glove) to make up for my miserly and laggard gear updating ways.

On the right, I got off my arse, and bought level 38 green masterwork gear direct from the TP. I put them on without stacking any minor runes whatsoever, the default arrangement comes with +20 power, +20 precision and +10 condi damage and +1% damage against foes with less than 50% health. I bought a level 38 green longbow. I bought level 35 green jewelry (carnelians, for power/precision) and I bought a level 38 green amulet and stuck a carnelian jewel in it.

Mr El-Cheapo Haphazard Gearing Ranger has 594 Power, 35.17% crit chance, 150.41% crit damage.

Mr Default But More Current Gear Ranger has 678 Power, 42.82% crit chance,  150% crit damage. (And we can easily replace two minor runes for +20 more power.)

80to39

This is my level 80 downscaled to level 39.

Mr Exotic Armor (One Ascended Chestpiece) Exotic Weapon Ascended Trinkets Warrior has 590 Power, 33.11% crit chance, 191.79% crit damage.

I dunno about you, but I don’t think that extra 40% crit damage helps that much if I can’t even crit in the first place, and have to take a “I hit for less direct damage than a lowbie in el-cheapo gear” tradeoff to boot.

80to40

Even downscaled to 40, he’s not as good as a level 39 in level 38 masterwork gear.

“….”

Non-80 Downscaling

So then I wondered, how about if a still leveling character downscales to a lower level? Do they get as chopped off at the knees as a level 80? Does it hit them as hard?

54to39

Remember my engineer newly decked out in yellow rares? 684 Power, 45.47% crit chance, 150% crit damage at level 39.

That seems quite respectable and on par with Mr Default But Current Gear Masterwork Ranger (just a tinge better, which makes sense, she’s in yellows.)

54to40

Even at effective level 40, she’s better than the level 80 in terms of power and crit chance.

More @ Level 20

Then for the hell of it, I decided to downscale her to level 20 to see how she fared, since I already had stats for level 20 previously.

And you know, maybe Wendon Waypoint and Brisban Wildlands are broken, (or rather, I didn’t have that waypoint and didn’t feel like running there), so let me find another region that also downscales to level 20.

I find Owl’s Abbattoir and Owl Waypoint in Snowden Drifts. Perfect. New location.

And maybe my level 80 warrior is broken. So I am also going to take my level 80 guardian along too.

lvl20comparison

From left to right, we have level 20 warrior, level 54 engineer downscaled to 20, level 80 warrior downscaled to 20, level 80 guardian down to 20.

Power: 266, 282, 225, 224.

Crit Chance: 8%, 36.66%, 21.33%, 19.33%

Crit Damage: 150.93%, 150.0%, 174.73%, 171.46%

Shall I quote armor for the hell of it? (Bearing in mind that the engineer is medium armor, and the rest are all heavies.)

Armor: 380, 346, 326, 313. (The engineer is 346, mind you, more than the level 80s. Evidently, my 80s are not considered leet anymore because I am only in exotics and need to be in all pink Ascended to be on par with lowbies now, where that stat is concerned. Such grind. Or maybe I should just make lowbies instead and not bother leveling. New suggestion: Option to turn off xp gain. We need it for uh… “roleplaying” purposes, yes, that is it.)

So yeah, I rest my case for now.

I’m going to duck my head down now, shoot some karka in Lion’s Arch (stats not required) and harvest nodes or something (stats not required either if I just run around and don’t kill anything.)

There’s also the world boss cycle, which seems to be the first thing getting tuned and is still pretty darned easy and rewarding for following the zerg around, minus a few bugs here and there, and I might do Teq.

Triple Trouble, I dunno, I think some tweaking is still in order, given what I heard listening in on the NA attempts. I suppose if I’m bored and have nothing to do, I can still help out in the OCE timeslot and see how things go.

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GW2: You Get No XP For Running Away

But you get tons from attempted genocide...

This isn’t a leveling guide per se.

I’m not teaching any shortcuts, efficient paths to circle around or profitable events or other things people do to SPEED their way through levels. That’s power-leveling. Such abnormal rates are best left to veterans to figure out for themselves when they want to level their alts (eg. via crafting and tomes of knowledge and alt-switching in dungeons and twinking out an alt, etc.)

This is an exploration of the set of questions that seem to pop up on Reddit or the official forums every so often from inexperienced or newbie players:

Why am I leveling so slowly?

Help! I’ve completed all the hearts and mapped the entire zone and I’m still not the correct level to go to the next zone! Or visit my personal story!

Versus my own personal leveling experience, both then (at launch) and now, where this problem simply doesn’t exist.

To sate my own curiosity, I thought I’d make an effort to track the source of where my XP was coming from, as I leveled an engineer in the Plains of Ashford from level 12 to 15 for fun.

(Yes, I could skip with an Experience Scroll, but I enjoy the experience of leveling and wandering through a map.)

Two things, first of all.

The NORMAL rate of experience in GW2 is a level an hour, give or take 15-30mins.

GW2 has a flat, not exponential, leveling curve. In theory, it takes just as long to go from level 11-12 as 78-79. (Though you’ll find in practice, it’s easier to rush through the later levels from accumulated power and ample sources of xp.)

If one is used to other games where you can hit level 10 in under an hour or something like that, it’s NOT going to happen in GW2 on your first character unless one adopts the more abnormal methods of leveling, and those won’t teach you anything about how the game or combat works, nor how to play your character and class well.

The next thing I’d advise is the value of prep time.

The following method of leveling presupposes that you will take the time every now and again to keep all your gear current and that you’ve experimented with the class you’re playing long enough to be familiar with various weapons and skills.

That you’ve developed a build and style of play that you’re comfortable with, where you can actually kill a normal mob in 5 seconds or less. (Give or take a few seconds.)

-Take- the time to learn how.

Why do I consider this so important?

Because if you CAN’T, your first impulse will be always to run away from mobs, in order not to get locked into an endless fight which takes forever, or where you might die and end up back at a waypoint.

You get no xp for running away.

You are not going to level up fast by avoiding fights and skipping everything. (Unless you just want to trade real money for gems, convert that into gold and craft your way to 80. All power to you, then.)

Here’s an actual example to demo what I do:

(Obviously, this is not the only way to level. It’s not the fastest method by far, it uses no special boosters and such, but I believe this is an -affordable- way of leveling normally and enjoying the process.)

Preparation: A leisurely 20-30 min, because I’m not hurrying to break any records, just showing how I do it in the course of normal play.

engi-preprep

Logging into my level 12 engineer alt reveals that her equipment has gotten a little outdated at level 6 and under, when she’s hit level 12.

Time to visit the nearby town of Smokestead and the trading post.

I set up a preliminary broad filter of level 8-12 Fine (blue) equipment to check which is the closest level range that has Power stats.

tp-browsing

(To save my mind and too much scrolling, I only look for one type of armor, in this case, boots.)

I sort by price and notice that they’re all in the affordable 1-3 silver range (which is good, I try not to buy overpriced stuff and would rather look for the dropped equipment level ranges which have ample supply).

The closest to my level, with Power stats, is 11. Perfect.

tp-specificsearch

We proceed to narrow down the search to level 11-12, and swap between all armor locations to buy the correct weight class of armor. Medium, in this case, for an engineer.

(TP improvements to actually search by appropriate armor weight class can’t come soon enough.)

We can also look for jewelery by searching for Trinkets. Again, buy whatever’s closest to your level that gives Power, assuming it’s affordable. (If it’s not, it’s also possible to trawl the wiki and look for karma vendors that sell Power jewelery that is closest in level, but eh, that’s too much effort for me, personally. I have a crafter, and tons of stockpiles, so I craft it if I don’t want to buy it.)

Yes, this presupposes that a newbie has enough money to buy decent gear.

The solution is to gather and SELL all the things, especially on the TP.

Buy all harvesting tools from the vendor and go around harvesting nodes as you level. As gear you can’t use falls into your inventory, TP it off. Don’t sell to a buy order already sitting there, set the price and wait.

In my little leveling experiment for this post, I sold off all the copper ore, green wood logs, blue and white drops, etc. at the lowest sell order, just to see what a newbie might receive, and earned 40 silver without real difficulty. This can pay for decent equipment from the TP, and I didn’t even check each piece of gear to see if someone was sneakily posting stuff for a couple silvers cheap to flip and turn a profit that way.

tp-runes

This next part is the closest to twinking as it gets.

The idea is that we want as much Power for our stats as possible. More Power, more dps, less time taken to kill a mob, more xp/time and you won’t be tempted to run around a mob rather than just cut your way through it.

Search for “Minor Rune of” and look for all the runes with +10 Power on the first rune application. We will buy one each of a different type – the cheap ones – and then stick ’em onto every armor slot we have. Once you can wear helm and shoulders, that makes +60 Power. Every little bit helps.

Search for “Minor Sigil of Bloodlust” and if it’s affordable, buy one for your weapon too. As you kill stuff, this builds up even more Power to kill things.

I used to like to put a minor sigil of speed on too, to give swiftness as we kill our way through mobs and make running around faster – but the price has shot up to 8 silver currently for whatever unknown reason. I don’t need to be fast THAT badly. Yes, I am cheap.

(At higher levels, one can move on to Major Runes and Sigils once one can put ’em on one’s gear.)

tp-purchases

We finish our prep with a nice and cheap way to get an XP bonus.

Cheap consumables. That also preferably help us to kill things.

One can look up the GW2 wiki for food that best matches your level range, and I’m a big fan of +Power on kill foods. This is less handy for endgame folks who want an always-on boost, rather than have to always have something dead first and keep killing things within 30 seconds to maintain the buff, but when leveling, this is very easily achieved as you go through lots of small mobs, rather than big reservoirs of hp or players who won’t cooperate and die within the time limit.

And yep, more Power the merrier.

Get a food. Get a wrench. The sharpening stone tends to be less useful for raw Power, but it is cheap as hell, and adds an extra xp bonus that one may as well have on.

adventureho

Buffed to the gills, we set out on our leveling adventure!

So here’s how this works:

  • Check the map, pick a direction, probably towards an uncompleted heart, point of interest (POI) or waypoint (WP).
  • Head that way with minimal reference to the map, killing ANY mob in your way, red or yellow.
  • If you see an event, go towards it and do it.
  • If there’s a gathering node in your minimap, go harvest it.
  • When you eventually arrive at your destination, complete it and pick a new direction.

(Have your adventure along the way. No, adventure does not mean running past everything, not looking at it! You only get XP for skipping in dungeons!)

For instance, in this real example, I walk out of Smokestead to stumble on an active Dynamic Event involving harpies and mortars. This yields 880xp for kills, and 375xp for the event completion.

Finishing it, I head to the nearest vista to grab it, killing everything along the way. 123xp from gathering, 346xp from killing, and 90xp for the actual vista.

I’m using a rifle on this engineer, having experimented previously and decided I can operate it without too much problems. Autoattacking from range 5 times tends to kill most normal mobs. I have an immobilize on skill 2 to stop them coming nearer. I can go into close range and shotgun blast with 3 when I need extra burst damage, and pound on skill 5 to jump and AoE damage wherever my mouse cursor points to. I tend to leave 4 untouched as I don’t need such a strong knockback in regular PvE play – it’s an option to remember that one has, to be used situationally. Further AoE damage comes from F2, the tool belt bonus from having a grenade kit equipped.

When I need even moar AoE, I swap into the grenade kit and spam all the things.

Elixir H seems decent enough as a heal, and provides valuable boons both in itself and in its tool belt skill. Utility goggles is a stun break, gives fury, and its tool belt skill applies vulnerability. (Moar damage, the merrier.)

Couldn’t care less if it’s meta or not at this stage, just mostly concerned that it can kill things and that one is comfortable using it. Plenty of time to experiment as we level up further.

Next, I head into Barradin’s Vault for the POI at the end. Thankfully, the ghosts have been completed, but I shoot my way through all the veteran oozes just the same, rather than run blindly past. 35xp from gathering a mushroom, 311xp for kills, 90xp for the POI.

Onward to the next vista, and then the next WP, stumbling into Badazar’s Champion along the way.

badazar

For fun, I decide to solo it.

See, this is what teaches you the limits of your class and pushes you to improve your play. Never assume that just because it says Group Event, that it can’t be done, especially in lower level zones where mobs tend to be simpler.

If you can’t solo it, there’s something you haven’t yet learned about GW2 combat – be it dodging, how to read animations, kiting at range, how your class works, etc.

It turns out, that Badazar’s Champion can be shot quite safely from range, with only one big attack that he will shoot at you. This is telegraphed by him drawing back his staff and then thrusting it out with a lightning bolt that zaps its way toward you. DODGE when he draws back his staff, and you’ll EVADE his lightning bolt quite handily.

Now, if you don’t have ready access to Vigor to regenerate back endurance, you will run out of endurance on the third attack. This is a perfect time to figure out what other class skills you have that can be used to absorb it. In this particular engineer’s case, I just toughed it out by throwing on a random boom (hopefully it turned out to be regen or protection) and healing it up with the heal skill. A guardian can “block” this, for example, and so on.

41xp for the dead champion (with a champion bag that yielded 1 silver 26 copper), and 396xp for the event completion.

On and on through the Plains of Ashford, from one waypoint or POI to another, doing all the events along the way, and massacring every mob within view.

On the whole, people don’t kill mobs very frequently, and this, I suspect, is where they are losing out on hefty chunks of xp.

Especially if the mob has been sitting untouched for a long time, in an out-of-the-way place, and has loads of bonus xp. Yes, killing them and hoovering up the xp is your reward for exploring off the beaten path.

excel-xp

The final result:

3 levels in 2h 45min, at a leisurely pace which included one merchant/TP break of 10-15+ minutes, sucking up my food time, plus me stopping every now and then to record numbers down on an Excel sheet.

45.1% of my XP came from killing things (both along the way – about 2/3 of it – and in events – about 1/3 of it.)

The event completion reward yielded 22.5% of the total XP gain.

Heart completion reward yielded 11.1% of total XP gain.

The other stuff, gathering, reviving NPCs, visiting vistas and WPs/POIs were much smaller contributions individually, but combined, make up the remaining 21.4%.

And I still haven’t even map completed all of Plains of Ashford yet. Or touched Personal Story. Or crafted. All of which are extra sources of xp.

 

Now I’m sure if someone else measured their XP rates using a different style of play – say,  race from heart to heart, doing the bare minimum, and covering a much wider map area, I daresay their proportion of XP from heart completion will be much higher.

But here’s the thing: folks are -complaining- that they’ve run out of map and places to go, that they’re leveling super slowly and getting their asses beat up by mobs their level or 1-2 higher (which are perfectly doable if you take the time to figure out what weapons skills are the most damaging and how you’re going to mitigate damage), and are getting told to go visit all the other starter zones like some twisted version of the Grand Tyrian Marathon or something.

You don’t HAVE to do it that way if you don’t want to.

ahhghosts

Moral of the story: You can, and should, be killing all the things.

If you’re not sure how, EXPERIMENT and ASK.

And you’ll handle your character a lot more confidently when you get to level 80, and hopefully, have some exciting adventures along the way.