The Torchlight Frontiers Reddit has a new developer post that previews the vision that Echtra has for the game with regard to horizontal progression. In general, developers are tying player progression more to gear than to levels and "how different 'Frontiers' have their own progression and end game".
The discussion begins with Echtra's philosophy about making a game that grows "content over time", yet doesn't render earlier content invalid. "Moving the player goalpost feels bad. This also sucks as a developer to see your 'old' content become irrelevant to the majority of players".
To accomplish the goal of keeping all content relevant, the team has been looking at RPG mechanics and keeping all content relevant. The goals are:
- New content doesn't invalidate past progress
- Players can specialize characters in a wider variety of ways, for a wider variety of content
- Players have fun reasons to play all over the world, not just the "end game"
- Players at different levels / progression have lots of ways to play together that are rewarding for everyone
The Frontier system allows players to build a variety of loadouts to confront the challenges of any given zone. "The tools you use to progress in a Frontier come from your active and passive skills, your gear collection, your pet's abilities, and at least two more awesome features we haven't announced yet."
In one Frontier, you may be required to mitigate fire and physical damage. In another, perhaps it will be poison defenses.
Another way that Horizontal Progression will be achieved is through gear scaling, with the Torchlight 2 team giving a nice shout out to the Guild Wars 2 system.
Scaling is also used to reinforce the “different progression” feeling when playing in different Frontiers. Gear that drops in Goblin Frontier is aligned to that Frontier (you can see it clearly in the tooltip) and it scales favorably when moving around that Frontier. You’re a bit ahead of the monsters’ level.
Be sure to head to the Torchlight Frontiers Reddit to check out the full post and to participate in the discussion.