A couple of posts by Emil Pagliarulo to end all doubts about level scaling, first this one:
This has been mentioned several times in past threads and interviews, but for those who missed it:
— Yes, there is a variation of level scaling used to control the difficulty of the main quest, so you can proceed through the game’s main story at any time and have a good deal of it (not all) be balanced for to your level and abilities.
— Other areas are “tethered” to certain levels
— There are places in the Wasteland where, if you’re not careful, you’ll certainly get your ass handed to you. Best to leave and come back when you’re better equipped/more skilled. Funny — just a half hour ago, our effects artist, Grant Struthers, told me this awesome story about how he watched a Deathclaw just rip this (well armored) NPC to pieces…
— That said, if you leave an area that’s too difficult, and then return later, no you won’t find that everything has increased in level, and it’s now even tougher.
— No, Raiders won’t eventually be equipped with Power Armor.
The balance has been feeling really great, and the team is really confident that we’ve solved the level scaling issues we had in Oblivion. Yes, we identified those mistakes, and learned from them. *gasp!*
And another comment:
I’d like to respond to your comment if I could, Mr. Teatime.QUOTE from Mr.Teatime:Sigh. Level 1 completes the game.
That’s bad. I imagine the big bad ass boss at the end, the uber monster, can be something that a level 2 gecko has a chance of taking down. How can anyone not call that stupid? Imagine the master like this, if you chose to combat him, or Frank Horrigan.
This is absolutely not true.
One important thing to remember about Fallout 3 is that the game uses an experience points based system of leveling; you don’t level up based on skill usage. And, you get the majority of your XP from completing quests. So on the main quest path specifically, we are much better able to determine what level you’ll be at — especially your minimum level — when you get to any specific quest.
So while we do some level scaling on the main quest, things are generally at the player’s level anyway, because we know your minimum level along that path. And even where things are scaled to control difficulty, it’s not like a Super Mutant is going to scale down to level 2 anyway. Most of the level scaling stuff we do is just to eliminate frustration at the lower levels.
So by the time you get to the end of the game, you’re going to face challenges appropriate to the level you’d naturally be at.
I hope that clears things up a bit.
He added this later:
No, even when we use some level scaling, things are “tethered” to a range of levels. So generally, if you you’re level 20 and then try to do something aimed at level 12, you’re going to own that situation. And it’s really hard to be level 5 doing something aimed at level 12, because you would have leveled up several times on the main quest by then, simply by virtue of playing it.
Fallout 3 is much better about higher levels being able to tackle lower level situations. You leveled up for a reason, and earned the right to kick some ass.
After the break another old explanation, the original one by PCGamer Desslock:
Fortunately, Fallout 3 will not use Oblivion’s level-scaling, but contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, scaling isn’t completely discarded.
The first important change is that creatures never scale up in abilities to match your level, so each Deathclaw in F3 will always have the same attributes, regardless of your character’s level when you have the misfortune of encountering it.
Second, each territory in the game is now assigned an encounter level that determines the level and equipment of critters when you discover that area, so a first-level character that wanders into an area designated as “encounter level 5″ will be badly outmatched by the inhabitants. Loot is also generally scaled to the area’s encounter level, but some item items will be hand-placed, which is similar to how Morrowind handled loot.
An area’s level doesn’t remain static, but it gets locked as soon as you enter it. If you enter a city block designated as a level 5 area, it will remain a level 5 area and never scale up in difficulty. Areas you haven’t yet encountered do “tether up” in difficulty level, but the tethering level doesn’t linearly scale with your level, so there’s still an advantage to gaining experience levels.
The city block that’s initially designated as a level 5 area will tether up and be designated as a level8 area if you don’t wander into it until you’re a level 15 character. But since an area’s level is locked once you enter it, you’ll still get the satisfaction of returning to a previously difficult area and annihilating its residents once you have a more powerful character.
Bethesda’s still tweaking these systems, but they should make exploration more interesting and not diminish the regard for advancement by making you feel like you can never really get ahead. I’d still prefer a static world like Gothic’s, where encounters are always consistent regardless of your character level, but this toned-down scaling system sounds like a huge improvement over Oblivions.
There, I hope this is clear.
Spotted at NMA.