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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Levels

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56 posts found
  BahamutKaiser

Novice Member

Joined: 3/08/13
Posts: 295

On hiatus for a while guys, MMOs still aren't interesting me.

5/15/13 3:56:30 PM#41
I view levels as a simplified and standardized method of gauging power, sometimes stats and efficacy are too convoluted for players to understand, so levels make character power recognition and progress accessible.

The alternative requires statistical formulae to be simplified so players do not have to struggle to figure out what stat is interacting and how...

Since character development is such a big part of what you do with your time in an MMO, I don't think standardized levels are the best medium for progression, on the surface it makes RPGs more accessible, but ultimately it subtracts from the depth of the gameplay.

More action and minigame oriented games could probably approach this more easily since many statistics are removed in lineu of actual control. But I think the main thing an MMO needs to present is the actual enjoyment of the gameplay in order to sell more open and complex character development.

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes.
That way, if they get angry, they'll be a mile away... and barefoot.

  sunshadow21

Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/15/04
Posts: 355

5/15/13 4:10:14 PM#42
Originally posted by Ozmodan
The biggest problem with leveling, you basically kill the content as you level.  Once through a low level area you are done with it, unless of course you make alts.  That in itself is the number one reason having levels in a game is dumb.  It restricts the end game to small portion of the game.  Never had that problem in UO, nor SWG, nor AC1.  You have to wonder why anyone would spend time developing content that people only go through once in development of their avatar.  

Final Fantasy proves this to be not necessary. It pulled off having multiple level mobs and quests in the same area quite well. Now, if you insist on using the current model of one level range per zone, than yes, there will be problems, but having levels is only one small part of the much bigger design flaw.

  mmoguy43

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 3/31/09
Posts: 2300

5/15/13 6:02:49 PM#43
I don't know why but the article reads like:
Hey, I'm innocent! You still have your game of "levels". It only isn't the one with a giant number over your head. :p

If you want players to get past the concept of levels = content then make levels not define content.

I don't judge a game by it's levels at all. I judge what happens in between them. The levels should build on it making it more enjoyable. Otherwise it is a shallow game with levels.

In the general sense I feel most MMOs that stick to the traditional model but have a few "twists" are still doomed. Only way out is for some very different and unique concepts. Traditional character levels are ridiculously overused.

Currently I'm obsessed with the game Don't Starve as I shove any F2P MMO available to the side to play this. There are no levels. The learned experience you gain goes to further improving your chances of survival. That is the experience that actually feels more rewarding than any DING or stat distribution.

So like I said, MMOs are often too ordinary and the best way to get out of this rut is make something very different. Something that requires a lot of learning as if it were a completely different game. Maybe even a very different character level system.

Let's build the ultimate MMO 1 feature at a time
http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/398555/page/1

  Ratslaugh

Novice Member

Joined: 12/24/06
Posts: 23

5/15/13 9:11:22 PM#44
Originally posted by logan400k

Levels were not the only way to do things from the early days of role playing games. Runequest used a skill based system. In many ways it was totally different from D&D and Chaosium still uses its BRP (Basic Role Playing) system to this day for games.

 

I am not sure how it would translate into an MMO where players demand instant gratification from the system to compel them forward. MMO's are a competitive sport now and we mine them like gold or drill them like oil until the precious substance is gone and then move on. So a system where skills moved up incrementally from use and a player had REAL choices about how to make their character and what path to follow might not be desirable by the game paying public. Right there is the crux of the issue: convincing the current slate of game payers i.e. those who spend the money on MMOs OR convincing different people to spend money on a non-traditional MMO.

I played Runequest with my friends for almost 10 years from one campaign to another.

 

Hehe, RQ and the world of Glorantha would make for one seriously funky MMORPG!  I'd play it.

  Alverant

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/12/07
Posts: 286

5/15/13 9:45:20 PM#45

I think the concept of levels needs to be reconsidered. In the days of PnP games it took a long time to gain a level. In an MMO, you can gain multiple levels in a night. One guy here even said you should be able to hit max level in a week (he said 20 game hours which can be done in a week; 3 hours M-Th, 4 hours Friday, and spilt the other 4 hours over the weekend). I disagree with that idea but to each their own.

A level number is a quick indicator of power. A lv34 character vs a lv40 monster should be a tough if not impossible fight. The problem comes when you link a level just to experience and not factor in gear or incarnate abilities or whatever. So how about creating a point based system where your level is a combination of multiple factors. You could spend your points on combat and non-combat abilities and have 2 levels to reflect that. That way spending a point to increase an attack would boost your level the same way a piece of gear that does the same thing would. That would make gear the same as points.

Non-combat leveling could involve tasks like crafting, skills, reputation, or other new things added to future MMOs. Perhaps you need to have a certain non-combat level to create certain items or access certain stores or use certain abilities. To use City of Villains as an example, perhaps you couldn't use the flyers until you reached non-com level 20 and had to use the ferries until then. Or maybe you would earn addition costume slots at different non-com levels.

If combat is a focus of an MMO (and let's face it most are) then what content is available would still depend on your combat level. You won't be allowed to do some missions until you reach certain levels. You just have to give enough incentive to gain levels in both areas.

Earth & Beyond did something like this with combat, exploration, and merchant levels.

  Ortwig

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/20/12
Posts: 1044

5/16/13 7:13:27 AM#46
Originally posted by logan400k

Levels were not the only way to do things from the early days of role playing games. Runequest used a skill based system. In many ways it was totally different from D&D and Chaosium still uses its BRP (Basic Role Playing) system to this day for games.

 

I am not sure how it would translate into an MMO where players demand instant gratification from the system to compel them forward. MMO's are a competitive sport now and we mine them like gold or drill them like oil until the precious substance is gone and then move on. So a system where skills moved up incrementally from use and a player had REAL choices about how to make their character and what path to follow might not be desirable by the game paying public. Right there is the crux of the issue: convincing the current slate of game payers i.e. those who spend the money on MMOs OR convincing different people to spend money on a non-traditional MMO.

RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu did it right.  BRP was skill-based, so you gradually "leveled-up" your individual skills as you used them -- the more you used them, the better you became.  There was still a sense of progression without the big character level thing; you could even argue that you got more "dings" since you were always using a variety of skills and they were all increasing gradually -- Skyrim does this nicely.  

The great thing about it was that your health never really increased (maybe thru magic), but that your Dodge and Parry skills become much better so you were much harder to hit as you progressed.  You picked up better armor, but that health meter stayed the same; you just got better at protecting yourself.  There still was also the chance (albeit low) that a lower level creature could hurt you with a lucky blow.  There certainly was a greater sense of danger in RuneQuest.

The other side benefit of skill based was that it removed preoccupation with "your level" and put the focus back where it belonged: the content and story of the game.  

  ET3D

Advanced Member

Joined: 4/16/06
Posts: 169

5/16/13 7:29:55 AM#47
When I was playing CoH levels were to me the things that kept me from the stories. I played mainly to experience the story arcs, and it was usually that I either outlevelled content (replayability be damned, I want to play all the stories!) or, more rarely, that I had to grind to get to the next level of stories. I killed many Paragon Protectors getting from level 38 to 40. took me months because it was so boring. If CoH wasn't so good for alts I might have stopped playing.
  opposedcrow

Novice Member

Joined: 9/26/11
Posts: 55

5/16/13 9:49:48 AM#48
I agree that the concept of "gaining levels" needs a serious retooling, if not being done away with altogether.

I've gotten to a point where I can't devote a lot of time to MMO's but I still enjoy the journey to an MMO's endgame (a.k.a. reaching the level cap) but when I see all these MMO's with lvl 70, 80, 90+ level caps, I just feel more discouraged than enthused.

I understand many MMO players enjoy the grind, but what happens if the level caps of MMO's continue to increase? Will new players continue to flock to MMO's that sport lvl caps of 100? 120? 150?

I know that grinding is an inherent part of the MMO formula, but perhaps there's a better way to get players to grind without forcing them to slog through hours upon hours upon hours of leveling their characters...
  mmoski

Novice Member

Joined: 6/27/08
Posts: 263

5/16/13 10:18:58 AM#49

I actually think "levels" are a key factor to a game, but this depends on the game and the context in which the content is built for the "levels", some games get away with obfuscating  "levels" to other systems, and in some cases works amazingly well providing a broader game.

Take a look at a typical PnP RPG which has levels, why does this work ? Well the core of this is that the GM can provide content for any level, this concept allows levels to work independently as a mechanism for player progression, playing a PnP game doesn't really limit or gate content, it's down to a person to provide the content for its players to make that game work.

Where as in a typical level based MMO game, there are no gm's, and the role of levels is generally limited to the created content, this is the heart of many other issues within using levels. If you were to produce a game that didn't have any form of levels then, the key factor would be to ensure you have enough content that is scaled in "gameplay" difficulty, which may result in alienating players who are not skilled enough to enjoy that content.

Replacing the GM ! The best approach yet to be visualized fully by any game is allowing players to create content for players, or creating systems that produce content based on the players levels/difficulty (procedurally).  These two things are a lot harder to achieve than what we see currently in most MMO's, but will be key to pushing MMO's into a new breed of gaming.

  Keilani

Novice Member

Joined: 10/01/11
Posts: 17

We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

5/16/13 11:42:04 AM#50
I like levels. I think it has a big role in PVP. This way you can compete in PVP with players who have the same experience as you (levelwise). The lower levels cannot PVP with you so that gives less drama.
About drama, when players who lose in PVP see your level, they cannot possibly say you cheated. It just means you spent more time perfectioning your character.
Levels are also needed to give players the possibility to arrange the stats of their chars (or should there be a fixed amount of points at the very beginning? This idea I don't like).
Gears are the answer to the content too but mainly on a almost end-game point.
If there weren't no levels, why would people even have to fight mobs?
I think it's more interesting to play a game with levels and level restricted gears. This way you look forward to using those gears when you reach the required level.
I don't look at the level cap in games. But honestly, the higher level cap, the more grindbased the game is.
There still are people who like grinding (like me), there's not much but they still exist. And I like seeing my level raise in game, means I am making some progress. And if there won't be levels, what requirements would the dungeons need for players to be able to fight in them? The amount of days spent in the game?
I still think levels are needed in a game but raising the level cap to 200+ too fast kills the game because most players get demotivated and think it's an all way out grindfest. Level caps of 50 to 100 sound good. Or as you said "... When Dungeons and Dragons Online launched with “10 levels”, a vast majority of players wrote it off as not having enough content. The fact that each “level” was subdivided with bonuses and perks for each partial level achieved was something that they wouldn’t even know unless they played the game..."
But completely removing levels system from a game? No, thank you, I'll pass on such a game then.
  Quartilius

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/29/13
Posts: 2

5/17/13 7:18:00 AM#51

For me, EVE Online tackled the idea of progression (no levels) perfectly. As your stats increase, you're able to equip better items and then eventually given enough stat increases you're able to fly a more powerful ship.

But conversely, you never had to upgrade your ship. You could stay in the frigates for years, raising different skills to become a better frigate pilot.

The game excels (I believe) because the low level ships are just as important to group & PvP dynamics as the higher level ships. It's the constant rock/paper/scissors of fast vs agile vs high dps vs utility etc

The problem is, I can never get my head around how it would work in a fantasy MMO setting. The basics are there: you give a guy a sword, he can deal damage, he can either raise his ability to deal damage or raise his off hand strength to be able to hold a shield - he can now tank, badly, and can choose whether to become better at blocking or dodging or maybe start learning how to heal?

But regular MMOs just don't seem to have the in-depth character variation of EVE. And frankly, it saddens me, because I'm not a huge fan of space sci-fi and would love to see a fantasy MMO of EVE's standards!

  st3v3b0

Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/09/04
Posts: 125

5/17/13 10:53:02 AM#52
Originally posted by Quartilius

For me, EVE Online tackled the idea of progression (no levels) perfectly. As your stats increase, you're able to equip better items and then eventually given enough stat increases you're able to fly a more powerful ship.

But conversely, you never had to upgrade your ship. You could stay in the frigates for years, raising different skills to become a better frigate pilot.

The game excels (I believe) because the low level ships are just as important to group & PvP dynamics as the higher level ships. It's the constant rock/paper/scissors of fast vs agile vs high dps vs utility etc

The problem is, I can never get my head around how it would work in a fantasy MMO setting. The basics are there: you give a guy a sword, he can deal damage, he can either raise his ability to deal damage or raise his off hand strength to be able to hold a shield - he can now tank, badly, and can choose whether to become better at blocking or dodging or maybe start learning how to heal?

But regular MMOs just don't seem to have the in-depth character variation of EVE. And frankly, it saddens me, because I'm not a huge fan of space sci-fi and would love to see a fantasy MMO of EVE's standards!

This is precisely how I feel and I think it could work in a non Sci-Fi MMO.  I hate how MMO's want to classify people right from the start.  Why not just give them various abilities and then build from there.  Based on what the player wants to use as weapons he/she can work up skill trees (similar to SWG and EVE) towards what he/she wants to learn.  Want to be a Rogue type class that wants to heal?  Perhaps offer a skill tree for each "role" and then once you get to a certain point you gain special abilities ONLY available to the combination of those two roles.  If someone wants to be a jack-of-all trades and be able to tank, heal and dps let them progress as they want.  Sure you may not be as powerful as any one or two roles, but you will have the ability to get as good with time.  Levels to me are a cop-out to make developers lives easier for telling players where to go based on their level, what gear they can wear.  Sure it is easy, but that does not make it right.

  residentx

Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/30/10
Posts: 67

5/17/13 2:04:29 PM#53

Matt,

 

I just don't see how you can make a game without leveling. Most of the MMOs now are geared toward younger people. The leveling is a universal concept that all understand.  With that said, I felt COH was great because the game was more than leveling. At a point, you made it and you could focus on other things. The loyal community that COH developed was rich because the focus was community...not leveling. Leveling attracts the achievement minded but I don't think that builds a great community.  A good MMO needs both to survive.

 

I don't see how you could see this a mistake...

 

  residentx

Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/30/10
Posts: 67

5/17/13 3:50:35 PM#54

One of the things I love about these forums is the different opinions. I've played COH, STO, and SWTOR.  All were level based games. My question to the audience is how is statistical/skills based limits different than leveling? One method is obvious but the other is indirect but they exist for the same reason...to classify players.

As a game designer, I could see why Matt would want something different than specifically levels. Levels limit the software engineer when it comes to content. From his perspective, it would be a lot easier to do the "grinding gear" ..."look new bling...go get it mentality." He could possibly double dip the user too. The first time you grind, the next time you buy for an alt.

Do you even need to bother with story then?

Directly about COH, I enjoyed the idea behind the incarnate system but I hated how everyone had the same powers. I just hated, hated, hated, hated that. I got to a new level but I wasn't unique anymore because everyone had the access to the same powers! This was a major turn-off to me. I did 3 alts in Incarnate and then deleted them because once you got to the top, you couldn't use those powers in the lower game and there wasn't enough content to justify continuing them. Also, the blizzard of different currencies/xp was irritating too.  

I felt the sub-50 game...which you guys disregarded and offered for free...best represented the game's core concepts but the pressure of the F2P model just didn't let you guys think through things completely.  I so enjoyed working with sub-50 players, seeing their unique powers...seeing them in action...and bonding with players by helping them choose useful powers.  

The incarnate game was for hard-core players only and had limited appeal...now it's possible COH had plans for incarnate archetype unique powers. Any comments, Matt? 

 

 

  xBenzinx

Novice Member

Joined: 5/30/08
Posts: 10

If upon login you see a bunch of UI buttons that allow you to queue for stuff, quit immediately.

5/19/13 8:16:04 AM#55

I personally believe that leveling is a core part of mmo gameplay, but only insofar as fostering a 'learning' experience for the player.  I think that most MMOs focus too much on it when ideally the game proper shouldn't begin until you actually hit the level cap.

 

I think 'we as mmo gamers' are stuck in a levels=content mentality because that's how developers make their games.  95%+ of their created content is for leveling, when 95% of a players time will be spent at the level cap. Instead of creating end-game content, developers create busywork for their players.  Repeatable & ultimately grindy content like daily quests, heroic versions of instances, and battlegrounds are their poor substitutes for creating meaningful content.

 

 

At this low point in MMO gaming, I refuse to play even the shiniest turd.

  DamianoV

Advanced Member

Joined: 3/20/04
Posts: 12

5/29/13 6:11:06 AM#56

Not personally a big fan of ye olde experience level, but it is a simple method of achieving the primary goal... providing a yardstick to measure a player's progress.  I'd love to see more experimentation along the UO/Chaosium/RuneQuest line, i.e. skill-based (which is, at core, just multi-class leveling from a highly detailed perspective, of course).

Even less of a fan of gear-based progression, to be honest, but that is a combination of disgust at many of the present incarnations of that system that I have encountered, and a philosophical issue based on a desire to recreate some of my favorite pen-and-paper characters more closely... if equipment is a paramount importance in character development, you really can't have/allow thieves, after all.  (Not assassins or thugs... actual pickpocket, cat-burglar, taunt-as-you-disappear-into-the-shadows-avoiding-combat-completely _thieves_.) 

One interesting thought experiment I've been toying with for quite some time is a "knowledge collection" advancement paradigm, based loosely on the age old idea of seeking out the martial arts master or ancient mystic on the lonely mountaintop, tracking down grimoires of forbidden knowledge, et al.  Progress would be attained by learning new abilities directly, through a badge-like system of collection perhaps... to use CoH parlance, it would be a little like Accolades on steroids.

The advancement paradigm of achieving certain ranks, i.e. white belt/black belt or journeyman/master, would be done by passing series of "tests", proving mastery of skills/ability to perform in-game.  It effectively turns the existing paradigm on it's head... you learn/collect abilities to earn levels, instead of vice versa.  Might be interesting...

 

Blogging semi-regularly at http://damianov.wordpress.com

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