This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Why not just skip the leveling up part?” by Athecar. In the original post, Athecar compares the leveling up track to an “elongated tutorial,” but he feels it goes on too long, and wonders why we can’t just “skip the leveling up part.” Or at least reduce it to about a dozen levels, making the point that most of us have already done the leveling up bit countless times and it is getting a bit old:
“Leveling is like an elogated tutorial. As you level up, you learn how the game works, and then get to the endgame. A lot of people consider that endgame is the real meat of a game. That's where you get into serious competitiion, big battles, storyline, and other goodies. So why not change the dynamic a bit. A dozen levels might be enough to allow someone to learn how to play a character, or some form of level-less system. The point is, after so many different MMOs, levelling has gotten pretty boring. So let's do away with it. It might help the persistant worlds, too. There's plenty of mid level areas that are never revisited once a character levels past them. Suddenly, there's no more need for these areas, and the whole world can be relevant at max level play, which would then be the majority of the game.
In Dungeons and Dragons (tabletop, not online), levelling works just fine because there are always cutting edge challenges for you, scaled to your level. That's the benefit of a human DM. But MMOs don't have that. So let's try and put people at the max level that much faster, and stop spending time, effort, and money on the mid-game that is really nothing more than a time sink.
My case in point is Aion. Abyss PvP is really cool. The questing and leveling in that game makes me want to hurl myself out of a sixty third story window. Focus on the good parts, and just give the rest of it the axe.”
Of course, some people might argue with Athecar’s most basic point – that leveling is just a means to an end(game). Some people prefer the scenic route, the journey. So, what did the community have to say?
Acivim kicks things off by, you guessed it, disagreeing with Athecar’s basic point:
“Posted by Athcear on 3/29/10 at 9:50:24 PM
A lot of people consider that endgame is the real meat of a game. if you say so...
Honestly I really dont mind questing, I actually read the text and enjoy the storylines (crazy huh!?!) to me its about the journey and the destination.”
Kyleran offers a bit of a snarky response, watch out!
“I think they already have PVP combat games that do away with needless leveling, called first person shooters as I recall.
MMORPG's are all about character progression, its what defines the genre. Sandbox games don't suffer quite as severely as theme park games, but don't kid yourself, they have a progression system built into them that has to be climbed that lets the player enjoy more and more of the game.”
Gauge2k3 agrees with Athecar:
“'ve wondered this too. If endgame is the only place to be then why have anything else? I don't mind a journey if it is good, however the trend seems to be to put a journey in for the sake of having one.”
When looking at some games’ drawn out leveling grinds, I would definitely agree with you there Gauge2k3.
Cyphers would like to remind us that Guild Wars has essentially done what Athecar asked, and it has been successful, however, he agrees that the leveling experience has a purpose and a place in the world of MMOs:
“they tried to do without leveling in GuildWars, where you had only 20 levels to learn your character. You could reach L20 within a few full days if you wanted to, in fact you could already jump into the high end PvP with one of the available template characters right from the start. GuildWars had a number of pretty interesting game designs, like combat with a limited skillrange and skills that interacted with eachother a la Magic the Gathering, dowtimeless patching and NPC henchmen to fill out groups.
So it has been done. And it showed that such a system can be successful, because they delivered a few expansions that sold in the 100,000s to millions while there was still no level cap raise. But it also showed that many people actually liked to progress in leveling, because many were craving for a level cap raise. There are other methods to measure progress and growth in a MMO than levels, and I'm glad that a number of upcoming MMO's are experimenting with that. But the level system hasn't been successful by luck: it's what many people like.
About the urgent haste with which many players rush through the content, focused on reaching the level cap, I'm gonna say what I mentioned earlier on these forums: the way they do it resembles with sitting at a 5-course meal gobbling everything up just to know what the dessert is, while then being disappointed that it's just a dessert.
The endgame content isn't the be all and end all, the content of a MMO throughout the levels isn't there to rush by, it's there to enjoy your ingame experience, just like all the courses of a 5-course meal are there for your dining pleasure, and not just the final course.”
I personally don’t have an issue with the concept of leveling in general, my main issue has been with games that artificially draw out the experience without the content to back it up. Let’s take Age of Conan for example, at launch the game had an 80 level trek, with major content gaps that forced players to resort to mind numbingly boring grinding. If a few months out to launch you realize you only have enough content to go 40-50 levels, lower the cap to 40-50, or jack up the experience to meet whatever you’ve got content for.
Now, not all games focus on quest-driven progression, Korean games often feature grinding as the main means to level up, and that is fine. You know what you’re getting into. But if you are playing a game for 30 or 35 levels that has progressed steadily through questing and then all of a sudden there are large gaps where you are forced to grind, that really isn’t cool with me. For people who are on the “enjoy the journey” side, this is one issue that can ruin that journey. For those looking to rush to the endgame, grinding should also be rewarded.
What I’ve noticed in some games is that when they are openly quest-driven they will also seriously punish you if you attempt to ignore that and grind instead. Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing a quest or want to just explore and tackle whatever challenges you encounter. Unfortunately, this can be discouraged in quest-driven games as you feel like it is not worth it due to the developers decision to lowerr mob experience in favor of quest completion experience. Heck, this is an issue even if you’re questing. If the quest complete experience is good enough, players will often avoid as many of the encounters the quest actually throws at you in order to speed things up. Anyone remember ghosting missions in City of Heroes/Villains? I rest my case.
Like many things in life, the concept itself isn’t flawed, it’s the execution that has been a problem for some games. Simply put: match the “grind” to your content. And by content, I mean actual content, not filler stuff like repeatable missions. Masked grind is still grind (I’m looking at you Aion).
What do you think about leveling up in MMOs? Toss it out altogether? Or do you actually enjoy it?