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Power creep is a process that sometimes occurs in games where new content slowly outstrips the power of previous alternatives. This leads to players abandoning previous options in favour of the latest and more powerful alternatives, resulting in an inevitable increase in power throughout the game.

I am developing a private RPG that has approximately 10 players. Although the scale of the game is very small, it is falling victim to power-creep. Four players have reached the current "end-game" weapon and armor set and are running out of things to accomplish in terms of collecting the most powerful items.

I have a lot of great ideas planned, but many of them involve releasing weapons that are not stronger than the current strongest. The negative of this is that the players who have already achieved something greater don't look forward to the content update, and tend to come online less often. I don't want to release a weapon that is stronger, because this releases a lot of new issues with balancing in other areas of the game.

I have a couple of ideas that could slow this issue:

  • Although the new weapons may hit less damage, they may perform different effects that benefit the player in different ways
  • Reduce the damage of all weapons, so the slot for the previously-strongest weapon opens up for a new weapon.

How do I slow/stop power-creep of weapons and armors? (This question is not about finding ways to keep players online longer).

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Instead of expanding your game vertically (creating more and more powerful content) consider expanding it horizontally (creating more and more versatile content).

Introduce weapons which aren't more powerful per se but instead use different game mechanics which make them more useful in some situations but less useful in others. Then release weapons of this new kind for all tiers of your game, so everyone can experiment with the new game mechanic.

Another option is to simply raise the level ceiling. Give the players more powerful items, but also add new, more difficult content which means they will need them.

And when that's no longer an option, consider to give some incentive for players to start over from the beginning. Give those who have reached max level the option to start fresh from level 1 with no equipment (no loopholes by trading your equip to someone else), but with some little permanent bonus which will mean that when they reach max level again, they will just be a tiny bit stronger than before.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Expanding horizontally can also be done by giving out hats, costumes and other cosmetics. GW2 could be a nice example to study - in its 6 years of existence they added virtually no stronger items and yet the player base doesn't seem to be asking for it and keeps playing. \$\endgroup\$ – wondra Jun 13 '17 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember in FF7 short vs long range weapons. Barret found quite a few good damaging weapons but were short range so the trade off was he couldn't hit flying or work from the back row etc. \$\endgroup\$ – lozzajp Jun 14 '17 at 11:08
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Create new enemies that are resistant to existing weapon types. The new weapons can be more effective on the new enemies, but not necessarily more powerful overall.

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