The downscaling in Mod 16 is broken. I am not talking about the current bugs (like unpredictable fluctuations), but rather the underlying design, which is just wrong.
It seems the current design has the following two goals (even though they might not be clearly stated as such).
Goal 1: Higher level players should find all content to be challenging
Specifically, higher-level players should not be able to vastly outperform lower-level players. There has been a real issue with the leveling dungeons, where developers attempted to solve the issue of queues not "popping" in a reasonable time, by encouraging higher-level players to run the content for daily rAD awards.
This led to actual low-level players, of appropriate level for the dungeon being left behind, and just feeling plain bored while the higher-level players just rushed through, killing everything in sight. (Or worse, when they rushed past the mobs, leaving the low level players to deal with them and die over and over).
Nor fun. So, Mod 16 attempts to fix this by equalizing the players - scaling down the high-level players to the point where they feel and perform like a low level player doing the same content. This may "solve" the problem just described, but there is a cost to that solution. The effort required was increased, but not the reward.
The thing is, the reward/effort ratio has a significant impact on which content people do, and how much they enjoy said content. If you are going to increase the effort, you need to increase the rewards.
If the rewards do not improve, the motivation to do the content decreases, as does the hard-to-quantify "fun" that many players get out of the game.
In other words: If I want to do hard, unrewarding work, I do not play a computer game, I go out and dig a trench and then fill it back in. This is a game - it is supposed to be fun, and a challenge without appropriate rewards is not fun.
The most obvious solution would be to modify the loot tables to give more "level-appropriate" rewards.
Goal 2: Decrease performance differences between players
While this goal is not expressly stated as such, it is pretty clear. Anything from the removal of buffs requiring coordination, through the removal of choices to making enchantments and boons much less meaningful basically leads toward the situation where the difference between any two characters of the same class and level is much smaller than it was before.
Perhaps this is done to reduce the difference between "good" and "bad" groups, and making sure people do not feel "unwanted" just because they have inferior gear, but this ignores one important fact: For many players, the improvement process is what motivates them to play.
If the benefits from improving your character are reduced, the motivation to play and spend money on the game is reduced too.
This is most clear regarding the downscaling - which is not really "downscaling" as such, but rather "capping". The basic idea is OK - it is just the implementation that is wrong.
- When doing lower-level content, a "well-geared" player and a "super well-geared BiS" player will end up pretty much equal. Again, this reduces the motivation for people to improve their characters. Why bother? Why spend time, effort and money if you get nothing out of it.
- Because of the way the capping is implemented, a player may find lower-level content to be generally harder than the highest-level content. This is just wrong.
If you level up from 70 to 80 and improve your gear a bit, you may find that level 70 content becomes harder than it was before. Anyone who thinks this is acceptable or "working as intended" should not be allowed to come anywhere near game design.
The downscaling can be fixed, but at the "cost" of accepting a wider performance gap between players of the same level. Well, IMO, that is more than acceptable - that is how it should be.
Here is an example of how it could be done.
Let's just look at a single stat (and yes, I am ignoring the fact that scaling is done on a per-item basis - in the example below I will just look at the total rating, which is much more logical IMO - it really should not matter where your stats are from.
Let's consider Armor Penetration, for example, and imagine we have 3 level 80 players
Player A is a "BiS" player with an ArPen rating of 75000 when standing in the Yawning Portal.
Player B is a "reasonable" player with an ArPen rating of 50000.
Player C is a brand new, "low-geared" player with an ArPen rating of 25000.
Now the "high target" rating for mobs in a level 80 area is 60.000 so Player A is significantly above that, Player B is below it, but should be able to handle the content, and Player C is significantly below the target and would probably get slaughtered.
This is actually just fine.
Now, consider what happens when those players go to a lower level area like one where the mobs have a target number of, say 50000 (the L80 area has a target of 60000)
Player A and Player be would both get downscaled to about the same value - probably around 40000, while player C would not get affected much (well, actually with the "per item" capping he could get affected significantly, for example if his only high-level items are his bonding runestones, but I will ignore that for now.)
The first problem is that Player A and Player B end up pretty much the same. This means that player B has little motivation to improve his gear to get to the level of Player A.... seriously, why bother if top-tier gear only has an effect in top-tier content, but not where most people are "supposed" to be spending their time?
The second problem is that from the perspective of Player A (and to a lesser degree Player B ) the Level 70 content is suddenly harder than the level 80 content. (This is because while Player A was above the 100% target number for the level 80 content, he is now significantly below the target for the level 70 content). I am not impressed with this design to say the least.
Here is how it should work. I propose a two-tier proportional scaling with a "floor".
Basically, if your rating is less than 100% of the target for your level (60000 for a L80), you get downscaled proportionally. In the above example, Player B with a rating of 50000 is at 83.3% in a L80 area - he would get downscaled to 41666 (and still be at 83.3%). A player with 60000 (100%) would get downscaled to 50000 and still be at 100%.
If you are above 100%, the additional ratings you get downscaled more aggressively - for example player A, who is at 125% might get downscaled to 56250, so he would be at 112.5%
Think of this like a higher tax bracket - there is still a benefit to improving your gear, it just diminishes the higher you go.
Finally, a "floor" would be implemented, so Player C would not get scaled proportionally as much, or even not at all. The idea would be to give him a fighting chance to complete the content, and not just punish him for having reached L80.