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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Levels are Great, Skills are Swell

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25 posts found
  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 12845

 
OP  10/23/12 6:01:29 PM#1

Leveling up is how we determine how well we are doing playing the MMOs we love. In today's Devil's Advocate, we take a look at the nature of leveling and present pros and cons of the ways it's handled in most of today's games. Check it out and then leave your thoughts in the comments.

I've been thinking a lot recently about the nature of progression. Not gear progression, mind you, but rather the way we represent character growth in an MMORPG. The idea of using levels to determine character progression is the standard upon which most MMORPGs are built, but there's also something to be said about more freeform modes of determining character growth, such as using a skill-based system. 

Read more of Victor Barreiro Jr.'s The Devil's Advocate: Levels are Great, Skills are Swell.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  Hrimnir

Hard Core Member

Joined: 5/24/10
Posts: 1066

10/24/12 2:27:51 PM#2
 
 

I dont want to post a long diatribe, so ill ljust put these two cents in:

Everquest 1.   Levels in that game (at least for the first expansions) were not used for anything other than to put a cap on your skill levels.  I.e. 1H Slash, 2H Blunt, etc.  Levels weren't used to determine how hard or if you could hit a mob, etc.  They weren't used for gear purposes.

Levels are only a valid use of progression when they take a reasonable amount of time to obtain.  This is why D&D had so few levels.  It was always meant to be a very important tick in the book of your characters progression.

In current MMOs people hate levels because they are relegted to arbitrary, easily seen through barriers, most importantly a barrier to the all important "end game", a term which never existed back in EQ1 days.

Levels and classes are an important and neccesary part of a PVE oriented MMO, developers just need to have the stones to not cater to ultra casual whining about leveling time and such.

 

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

  Loktofeit

Elite Member

Joined: 1/13/10
Posts: 11834

Currently playing EVE, SMITE, ESO, and Combat Arms

10/24/12 2:44:07 PM#3

Levels work very well in a game with only one path. For example, in WOW and most mainstream MMOs, you can only play a genocidal murderer. Any other career path is not only secondary to murdering but tied directly to it. In most mainstream MMOs, you cannot equip a hat you just crafted until your murder level is equal or greater than the murder level of the hat. Most go even farther in the restrictions, making it such that you cannot possible create that next tier of hats until you have satisfied the appropriate murder requirement of the hat you wish to create.

The more paths a character can take in an MMO, the more the current level system - adopted from PnP with the same flaws it had back then - falls apart.

Levels work great for WOW. I think WOW would actually be a lesser game if it was skill-based (UO, EVE) or, worse, playerskill-based (Puzzle Pirates). Each system has its place, and it is entire dependent on the focus and design of each game.

 

  Torvaldr

Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 5511

10/24/12 3:49:12 PM#4
Originally posted by Hrimnir
 
 

I dont want to post a long diatribe, so ill ljust put these two cents in:

Everquest 1.   Levels in that game (at least for the first expansions) were not used for anything other than to put a cap on your skill levels.  I.e. 1H Slash, 2H Blunt, etc.  Levels weren't used to determine how hard or if you could hit a mob, etc.  They weren't used for gear purposes.

Levels are only a valid use of progression when they take a reasonable amount of time to obtain.  This is why D&D had so few levels.  It was always meant to be a very important tick in the book of your characters progression.

In current MMOs people hate levels because they are relegted to arbitrary, easily seen through barriers, most importantly a barrier to the all important "end game", a term which never existed back in EQ1 days.

Levels and classes are an important and neccesary part of a PVE oriented MMO, developers just need to have the stones to not cater to ultra casual whining about leveling time and such.

I think your denigrating comment about casuals is totally misplaced.  Casuals aren't the ones typically complaining about leveling speed or restrictions.  It is the raiders and the hardcore pvp types that bitch about levels and restrictions.

Take RIFT as an example. The fast leveling speed in that game is there, not for the casuals, but so raiders can get up to speed as quickly as possible and raid with their peers.  Alternate Advancement in RIFT just got the shit nerfed out of it so raiders don't have to waste time grinding AA so they can min-max.  PVP players complain about being weaker and not on a level playing field.  They not only don't seem to like a level system, but gear tiers as well.

Casuals seem more than happy to go at their own pace as long as they can participate.  If there are any nerfs or requests by casuals I would say they want an easier option for content completion rather than everything being hardmode only.  They even seem to accept of a slower rewards scale granted for easier content compared to hard.

As far as levels go, most of us like to measure progress in one manner or another.  Levels provide that, although I agree that trivial levels minimize the effect they're in place to provide.

I think a mind wipe so people could play an mmo like it was their first time again, would be easier to build than a new mmo people here would actually like. - DamonVile

  Wizardry

Elite Member

Joined: 8/27/04
Posts: 6544

Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

10/24/12 4:28:16 PM#5

Leveling is treated like crap and how players treat it is sickening.

Levels in reality give ZSRO indication of anything,other than to say you have a number beside your name.Actually levels in 99.9% of all MMORPG's is a mere sense of how many quests you have done.Since 90+% of quests are doable by ANYONE,usually solo as well,it says nothing about your player.

Skills are hit n miss in every game,some ideas are ok some are just dumb.

AN example of good>>>Having separate weapon skills,example 5/100 in Axe or 15/100 in Sword ect ect.

Bad idea>>>You get 2 points a level to spend.You want to put both into fire but the game says no you can only put one per level,so in essence pretending to be a free system is totally restricted.This is why i always hate this type of system,everything is restricted including many spells/abilities until you actually gain the proper level.You might say well that is the same as option 1,yes it is,but option 1 is not trying to fool me into beleiveing i have some free system to design my player,i don't like misleading games.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Napolianboo#p/u/15/rCYLLQCNc1w
Samoan Diamond

  Yamota

Elite Member

Joined: 10/05/03
Posts: 6492

"Only cunts name their swords"

10/24/12 4:34:09 PM#6

Levels are nothing but a primitive way of measuring the power of your character and is used primarily in ThemePark MMO's which have such structured content. When I played pen and paper RPGs, waaaay back, there was nothing as generic as a level. Rather it was the level of your sword skill, your attributes, gear and dice rolls which decided the outcome.

The whole concept of level as the determining factor of your characters power should be abolished. It is simplistic and as such makes the game simplistic.

  Yamota

Elite Member

Joined: 10/05/03
Posts: 6492

"Only cunts name their swords"

10/24/12 4:38:03 PM#7
Originally posted by Loktofeit

Levels work very well in a game with only one path. For example, in WOW and most mainstream MMOs, you can only play a genocidal murderer. Any other career path is not only secondary to murdering but tied directly to it. In most mainstream MMOs, you cannot equip a hat you just crafted until your murder level is equal or greater than the murder level of the hat. Most go even farther in the restrictions, making it such that you cannot possible create that next tier of hats until you have satisfied the appropriate murder requirement of the hat you wish to create.

The more paths a character can take in an MMO, the more the current level system - adopted from PnP with the same flaws it had back then - falls apart.

Levels work great for WOW. I think WOW would actually be a lesser game if it was skill-based (UO, EVE) or, worse, playerskill-based (Puzzle Pirates). Each system has its place, and it is entire dependent on the focus and design of each game.

 

Yeah I dont understand why so many MMORPGs are about kill kill kill instead of actually doing something that requires thought and creativity. Heck even if the killing required thought and creativity it would be more welcome than the simplistic mass-murdering that is currently going on in most MMOs. 

I guess it is just simpler to cater to the masses that way. *shrug*

Yet the best movies, such as Batman, are about so much more than just killing. Why can't games be more like that?

  Myrdynn

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/25/07
Posts: 1319

10/24/12 4:41:47 PM#8

Asheron's Call did it perfect.

Gain EXP to gain levels

gain levels to gain skill points

use skill points to buy skills

spend EXP to increase skills

 

  Mike-McQueen

Novice Member

Joined: 10/30/05
Posts: 248

10/24/12 4:54:43 PM#9
Way back when someone used to "level!" You'd get the "congrats!" From friends and group members and generally anyone else around you. It was a milestone that often took a long time to get to. Now someone goes "ding!" And even I just wanna smack them. Sad but true. My biggest qualm lately with levels is the power difference between them. IMO 4 level 10's should be able to take a level 20, probably pretty easily too. 

I'm a unique and beautiful snowflake.

  User Deleted
10/24/12 4:59:29 PM#10
I hate leveling, in fact the only game I ever level capped was world of warcraft and I was barely able to get there, I had 4 lvl 80's, two of them made it up the ranks without granted levels. My hunter took 3 years to yet to 80, my dk started at 55, my shaman started at 50 pretty much granted free levels and my pally I raised from level one all except for a couple granted levels, I couldn't make it past lvl 25 in swtor, and 27 in GW2 before I threw in the white flags, leveling is just bad
  Ozmodan

Hard Core Member

Joined: 2/27/07
Posts: 6562

10/24/12 5:13:19 PM#11

Geez Victor where have you been?  There are several sandbox games that use both levels and skills.  Asheron's Call I believe was the first one.  Levels did not really mean much in AC1, they just indicated you had more skill points to spend.

To the guy above, attempting to use EQ as an example here is ludicrous, EQ straight jacked you with highly restrictive classes and  a skill system and class system are two extremely different animals.

And yes it works very well, I consider Asheron's call still to be one of the better MMO's out there if you can by the highly outdated graphics.

  Metanol

Advanced Member

Joined: 1/20/05
Posts: 237

10/24/12 5:45:36 PM#12

I love leveling in style of Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 - 3.5 e and Pathfinder, but I very much dislike the leveling mechanics of "mainstream MMORPGs". I don't want a fully "skill based" system, where you just level up skills, I want classes with freedom, and with restrictions. D&D for example has a nice set of rules. A Paladin can't multiclass to a Barbarian etc. Bards cannot be Paladins.

I want my RPGs to give me options, dozens if not hundreds of them. RIFT is probably the best modern MMO with it's class system (Souls), but I find it a bit too restricting too. Not to speak of the gameplay...

Of course I would totally approve of a ruleset ala Fallout 1 & 2 used in any RPG - MMO or otherwise. Where your levels only allowed you to raise certain things, but there was the skill based mechanics in the back.

But WoW-leveling? With you picking a Warrior, or a Rogue, and being only IT forever? Nay. The 3 or 4 talent trees are not enough character customization for me. I have this problem with GW2 too. Unlike GW1, where I loved the customization & possibilities.

We´re all dead, just say it.

  mikecackle

Novice Member

Joined: 4/05/12
Posts: 157

I'm a player not a gamer.

10/24/12 7:30:37 PM#13

I cringed at this authors statement. "The trick is to combine the ability of level-based games to have clearly definable linear goals that appeal to people who just want to feel more powerful"

That is the total opposite of the word fun.

First of all, everyone wants to feel more powerful, the levels are holding that power back. All this linear restriction this, linear do that.. is what we call BAD LINEAR design... It provides a easy development path, which leads to ultimate boredom.

  Ortwig

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/20/12
Posts: 1032

10/24/12 8:01:03 PM#14

My issue with level-based systems is that they inherently cater to, and--I submit--actually generate the "I'm max level, I win" mentality.  Levels focus the player so much on progression they begin to disgregard the actual content of the game.  The result is an obssession with "endgame" grind instead of actual game play.  Yes, a level is an easy thing to focus on, but to what end?  Should MMOs really be set up in a way that promotes "winning" by getting to max-level "first?"  

I'll admit that a very immersive game can overcome the levelling power up mentality, but the mechanic itself will stil cause some to disregard even the most interesting content.  A game like Skyrim is so well-drawn, it could probably work with levels too, but it works much better with a skill based system.  Character power should sit in the background, and the world itself in the foreground.

D&D was the first RPG that did levels, but made levels very slow going.  Later games like Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest went skill-based to get away from "power-up" thinking and brought the focus back to where it belonged -- game play and story.

  Hrimnir

Hard Core Member

Joined: 5/24/10
Posts: 1066

10/24/12 8:06:41 PM#15
Originally posted by Torvaldr
Originally posted by Hrimnir
 
 

I dont want to post a long diatribe, so ill ljust put these two cents in:

Everquest 1.   Levels in that game (at least for the first expansions) were not used for anything other than to put a cap on your skill levels.  I.e. 1H Slash, 2H Blunt, etc.  Levels weren't used to determine how hard or if you could hit a mob, etc.  They weren't used for gear purposes.

Levels are only a valid use of progression when they take a reasonable amount of time to obtain.  This is why D&D had so few levels.  It was always meant to be a very important tick in the book of your characters progression.

In current MMOs people hate levels because they are relegted to arbitrary, easily seen through barriers, most importantly a barrier to the all important "end game", a term which never existed back in EQ1 days.

Levels and classes are an important and neccesary part of a PVE oriented MMO, developers just need to have the stones to not cater to ultra casual whining about leveling time and such.

I think your denigrating comment about casuals is totally misplaced.  Casuals aren't the ones typically complaining about leveling speed or restrictions.  It is the raiders and the hardcore pvp types that bitch about levels and restrictions.

Take RIFT as an example. The fast leveling speed in that game is there, not for the casuals, but so raiders can get up to speed as quickly as possible and raid with their peers.  Alternate Advancement in RIFT just got the shit nerfed out of it so raiders don't have to waste time grinding AA so they can min-max.  PVP players complain about being weaker and not on a level playing field.  They not only don't seem to like a level system, but gear tiers as well.

Casuals seem more than happy to go at their own pace as long as they can participate.  If there are any nerfs or requests by casuals I would say they want an easier option for content completion rather than everything being hardmode only.  They even seem to accept of a slower rewards scale granted for easier content compared to hard.

As far as levels go, most of us like to measure progress in one manner or another.  Levels provide that, although I agree that trivial levels minimize the effect they're in place to provide.

I said ultra casuals, not casuals.  I agree with you 100% thats its generally not casuals.  They usually like the fact that they have a lot of content that takes a long time, etc.

The ones im talking about are the same ones who make posts like "once you get one class to 80 you should be able to start any other character at the same level", or the ones who complain that having to set aside 45 minutes to run a dungeon is unacceptably long, etc.

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

  Torvaldr

Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 5511

10/24/12 9:24:42 PM#16
Originally posted by Hrimnir

I said ultra casuals, not casuals.  I agree with you 100% thats its generally not casuals.  They usually like the fact that they have a lot of content that takes a long time, etc.

The ones im talking about are the same ones who make posts like "once you get one class to 80 you should be able to start any other character at the same level", or the ones who complain that having to set aside 45 minutes to run a dungeon is unacceptably long, etc.

Yeah, I hear ya.  It's funny you mention the max level character whine.  That was my suggestion to the RIFT raiders that wanted account wide PA (alternate advancement).  Obviously Trion caved and they won that round.

I think a mind wipe so people could play an mmo like it was their first time again, would be easier to build than a new mmo people here would actually like. - DamonVile

  User Deleted
10/25/12 7:12:11 AM#17

I used to be like that, get to max level and start doing the fun stuff and pwn.

I just got done leveling in MoP (took me a month!) and I took it slow and enjoyed every step. Took in every detail.

I don't know if it's because I'm older & smarter about how I consume my content, or if MoP is just so much more interesting. Definitely don't have more free time to spend on leveling, so it's not that.

No matter what you do, most people will do a mad dash to the "endgame" whatever that is - even if it's just collecting skins (look at GW2, a game that made it a point to blur lines along level differences, yet people disregard it and exploit looping DEs etc).

  User Deleted
10/25/12 7:23:50 AM#18
Originally posted by Loktofeit

Levels work very well in a game with only one path. For example, in WOW and most mainstream MMOs, you can only play a genocidal murderer. Any other career path is not only secondary to murdering but tied directly to it. In most mainstream MMOs, you cannot equip a hat you just crafted until your murder level is equal or greater than the murder level of the hat. Most go even farther in the restrictions, making it such that you cannot possible create that next tier of hats until you have satisfied the appropriate murder requirement of the hat you wish to create.

The more paths a character can take in an MMO, the more the current level system - adopted from PnP with the same flaws it had back then - falls apart.

Levels work great for WOW. I think WOW would actually be a lesser game if it was skill-based (UO, EVE) or, worse, playerskill-based (Puzzle Pirates). Each system has its place, and it is entire dependent on the focus and design of each game.

 

Pretty much.

 

Furthermore, If you are stuck on a linear path, ticking away lot's of levels along that path probably makes it more bearable, in fact it pretty much becomes the key gameplay feature.

  hardicon

Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/23/10
Posts: 355

10/25/12 7:57:49 AM#19

imo asherons call already did leveling perfect.  leveling got you new skill points to spend, your experience you earned went to increase your skills.

 

the wheel was already made on this issue and it was perfectly round and rode great.  All these systems we say in mmos now that are broke was already perfect in older mmos.  the new mmos (warcrack and anything that came after it) is what broke the genre and probably ruined it as well.  we just need a company to go back and look at the old mmos to see what they did right.

  victorbjr

Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/13/10
Posts: 154

10/25/12 7:58:03 AM#20
Originally posted by Ozmodan

Geez Victor where have you been?  There are several sandbox games that use both levels and skills.  Asheron's Call I believe was the first one.  Levels did not really mean much in AC1, they just indicated you had more skill points to spend.

To the guy above, attempting to use EQ as an example here is ludicrous, EQ straight jacked you with highly restrictive classes and  a skill system and class system are two extremely different animals.

And yes it works very well, I consider Asheron's call still to be one of the better MMO's out there if you can by the highly outdated graphics.

Hi! Victor here. I have to apologize for the late reply. I think my failing in the article here is that I never played Asheron's Call... and its visibility on my internal radar on must-play games is low because I don't see it talked about often in my circles. In other words, I did not know how Asheron's Call worked, so my premise is slightly skewed based on my experiences. 

That said, I do believe I will rectify the situation by playing the game and giving it some attention in the next Devil's Advocate, time permitting. I start a new fullt-time job next week, so my time for gameplay will be reduced severely. 

Thank you though for the input! :D

A writer and gamer from the Philippines. Loves his mom dearly. :)

Can also be found on http://www.gamesandgeekery.com

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