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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: The Case for Never-ending Progression

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126 posts found

Novice Member

Joined: 10/22/10
Posts: 78

1/17/13 1:23:15 PM#61

It already exists (well, some of what you're asking for anyway), and it happens to be my favorite MMORPG. Mabinogi. The level cap is "infinite" and since there aren't any classes, you can max any and every skill in the game. It would just take an extremely long time, and they release new combat skills with patches. It's one of the reasons I enjoy the game so much, my character is always improving. There's always something to strive for. Hell, there are still some dungeons I haven't even entered yet, because unless I had an extremely strong party carrying me, I'd get wrecked.

I haven't played in awhile, but my character is around level 1,200. Not bad, but the top players are around 7k! It's pretty crazy. The thing with Mabinogi is, the higher level you are, the easier it is to level. Especially if you choose to pay rebirth every week. Rebirths allow you to reset your current level (not total) each week as well as your age and appearence if you so choose. You basically reset your current level to 0. If you're already fairly strong, you can gain 40 levels or so in no time.

There also aren't any level requirements when it comes to gear. A level 1 can wear the same armor as a level 2,000, it doesn't matter. What does matter are enchants and equipment upgrades. These are what separate high level players from lower ones. There is a massive variety of enchants and same are rare/very difficult to obtain. When you find an enchant scroll, there's also a time limit before it expires. So you'll need to find a high level enchanter to minimize the risk of damaging your item or the enchant itself. Going back to weapons and armor, if you have a recipe for an item, you can usually pay a high level blacksmith to forge it for you. These items will have a bit higher stats and durability compared to their regular counterparts.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 9/21/12
Posts: 1566

1/17/13 1:39:17 PM#62

EQ in its prime did this well.  With the AA system you were always improving your character permanently (not gear based progression).  In addition, AAs were more interesting than levels because you had a choice where you grew in power.


The EQ AA system remains the greatest single system in MMO history because of this.


Yes, it made it tough to play catch up.  But there are ways around this, such as the speeding up of initial AAs that EQ did in its later years.  But the notion that people should be equal is ludicrous, the trick is to have content for people of all AA/gear/skill levels and EQ succeeded with that.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

1/17/13 1:48:08 PM#63

I like open-ended progression in theory, but in practice I become suddenly demotivated the first time I encounter a bot or exploiter that has run up an absurd level.

When the people ahead of me on the curve are no longer people who I want to emmulate or be associated with, progress no longer feels like a reward.


Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 7148

1/17/13 2:07:12 PM#64
Originally posted by Sovrath
Originally posted by azzamasin


Leveling a character that takes years to reach max level on "mostly" the same content is not a grind to me, but reaching level cap in a matter of weeks and doing that same content to aquire gear is the biggest grind known to man.  I can't explain it and many more like me can't either but what I can tell you is that I would rather "grind" for skills, stats and abilities 100 times over grinding for gear or to reach content.  It's jsut that simple.

yeah, I feel the same way.

Me too.  This is one thing I loved about Lineage 1.  The leveling curve was hellaciously slow and you could also advance items.

I don't know what the answer is either Bill, but I like the article and agree with you 100%.  I miss character rewarding progression.


Novice Member

Joined: 10/05/08
Posts: 423

1/17/13 2:09:55 PM#65

This has to be one of the most stupid ideas I ever read.

Endlessly gaining levels is pointless. What people WANT is meaningful levels, something to HAPPEN when you ding, not just for your damage output to go up at the exact same time the enemies hit points go up.

GW2 PROOFS this, lots of people have complained that once you got your elite skill equipped, the game essentially doesn't advance your character anymore. Sure, you got more points but so do the enemies so their is no progress, just number stacking.

EQ and WoW also did the same skill with a higher number behind it and it again is not really what people who want continued advancement want. They want MORE skills, not skills just with bigger points attached.

And it ain't just your levels that got to scale endlessly, your gear too. 100 hitpoints in your armor is better when your character has 100 hitpoints then when your character has 10.000 hitpoints. 

And scaling down is HARD as GW2 shows because you might be close in basepoints but your armor and skills show through and in general, every lvl 60 is a one hit onder in a starter area. 

No... the answer does NOT lie in infinite levels, the answer is simpler, either create infinite content OR... create a MMO with an ending. I know, I know, radical thought but a journey isn't just about the first step, without the last step, everything from the start to everything that happens in between has no meaning.

Games with infinite levels exist and they don't work except for people with most the simple reward satisfaction.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 6/15/09
Posts: 449

1/17/13 2:14:30 PM#66

The real solution is the same one that pro-athletes get: real skills. No levels, just the same basic stuff for everyone all around. For example, chess has the same rules whether you are just starting out, or are a 50 year veteran. You probably don't have a chance vs the 50 year veteran cause of his expirience and skills, but you still can play against him if you wanted to.

An MMO designed around this would have to keep the basic stuff very simple, and just focus on having the players "learn" the encounters. Pick the class and dungeon, then go at it alone or with friends. The designer can then decide if they want to give the players the ability to make better gear from the rewards they get from the dungeon, or just use the dungeons themselves as the gateways to qualify for other dungeons. Once you have all dungeons unlocked, you can do completions, as in trying to get all different types of armor, dungeon achievements, special scoring, or restart from the begining, but this time keeping the gear you have made up to that point. There are many possibilities.

If the MMORPG world changed from being just about a "level", then we can once again move into the skill portion, which is severely lacking in western games.


Novice Member

Joined: 3/02/08
Posts: 273

1/17/13 2:19:34 PM#67

The most fun I've had in games with an rpg theme are games like Sacred, Diablo 1-3 & Torchlight II, co-op modes with a Hard Core/Permadeath option.


The chance to lose everything including the character itself and not just the stuff being carried/worn, made them more enjoyable in a counter intuitive way.

MMO's general approach to death & respawning just turns it into a 'Meh, whatever. It's not important' moment.

So this would just make levels just as meaningless.



Spotlight Poster

Joined: 9/21/12
Posts: 1566

1/17/13 2:21:53 PM#68
Originally posted by Sephastus

The real solution is the same one that pro-athletes get: real skills. No levels, just the same basic stuff for everyone all around. For example, chess has the same rules whether you are just starting out, or are a 50 year veteran. You probably don't have a chance vs the 50 year veteran cause of his expirience and skills, but you still can play against him if you wanted to.

An MMO designed around this would have to keep the basic stuff very simple, and just focus on having the players "learn" the encounters. Pick the class and dungeon, then go at it alone or with friends. The designer can then decide if they want to give the players the ability to make better gear from the rewards they get from the dungeon, or just use the dungeons themselves as the gateways to qualify for other dungeons. Once you have all dungeons unlocked, you can do completions, as in trying to get all different types of armor, dungeon achievements, special scoring, or restart from the begining, but this time keeping the gear you have made up to that point. There are many possibilities.

If the MMORPG world changed from being just about a "level", then we can once again move into the skill portion, which is severely lacking in western games.

An MMORPG without permanent character progression is pointless.  Gear cant be the only way to progress.



Novice Member

Joined: 3/13/06
Posts: 89

1/17/13 2:33:11 PM#69

Honestly the gaming industry and players as a whole are a bunch of idiots.  Developers think they can just churn out the same old shit month after month and think that's ok.  The players beg that they want something different, but when that comes out they scream for more of the same.  It's a BS cycle that never ends.  As a guild leader, I lol when a new game comes out, everyone gets hyped up, buys it, plays the shit out of it, then drops it in a heart beat.  Then the next big thing comes around and it repeats again.

Honestly I'm sick of this shit, developers need to add more player generated content systems in game to help them elevate some of these issues.  At the end of the day though, developers think they know what players want, and players think they know what they want, and both are wrong.

Fuck this industry, I'm on the verge of "retirement"


Novice Member

Joined: 6/10/06
Posts: 79

1/17/13 3:11:47 PM#70

The first mmo i ever played had no real level cap. There was a 'level cap', but afterwards you just accumulated exp and were able to spend that exp to increase your stats further, infinitely. You could also spend exp to improve your equipment. But essentially, there was no paradigm shift that occurred at 'endgame', when you hit the level cap, you more or less continued doing what you already were doing (grouping or soloing, grouping was much faster). It worked just fine, and it did have somewhat scalable content as well.

Though levels ended, you did not have all your abilities at the 'level cap'. As time went on and people got more and more powerful new abilities were released that essentially just required you to have a certain amount of stats before you could unlock the ability to obtain them. Since many abilities scaled with stats, depending on where you were and what your stats were, some abilities that seemed almost useless in the past became mainstays, and other abilities you heavily depended on dropped out of favor. So there was constant evolution.

Secondly, the scalable content was essentially done like this: A large portion of the dungeons in the game simply had harder version that you could only enter when you were a certain level or had accumulated a certain amount of stats. The harder versions were the same as the normal ones, only things were harder and gave more exp for killing. The bosses also changed somewhat, mostly slight appearance differences and modified drop tables. Further, to keep things interesting, each dungeon scaled at a different level/stat breakpoint. The result was you sort of cycled through them. Though there were favorites that often times people stuck with for efficiency sake even when harder iterations were unlocked. People very happily did this for upwards of a decade.

As far as people expressing concern over new players being met with an impossibility to 'catch up'. I can only speak from personal experience that after playing that game for around 3 years, 'the most powerful person' was well known. After i quit the game for around 5 years and came back, 'the most powerful person' was someone who had not even began playing until after i had quit. Certainly its advantageous to be on at the start, but its also possible for someone to catch up or even pass their seniors, though with the scalable content why does it really matter? You are progressing for the sake of progression. The payoff is when that thing that started out difficult becomes easy for you.

I think this is a good system, the key is on ensuring the combat is fun, this particular game did it by having a system where CC and debuffs were employed to set things up, then people could use their super powerful ultimate attacks and just one shot everything (if it was all set up right). The skill in setting it up was something you could actually work on an appreciate, and then just seeing everything die instantly is a suitable payoff. Since things come in waves you feel like pressing on for the next one.

The drive to gain enough stats to be able to one-shot 'the next hardest mob' so you could go group at THOSE instead was what kept you going. The pvp was also scaled in many cases, though there were non scaled team pvp events also. Because the game was set up around cc and debuffs and timing, the weaker people, though not able to really be heavy hitters who used powerful attacks in pvp, were still able to play support roles for their team. I see no reason why we cant just grind exp forever, it works and its much more sustainable than grinding gear forever like current mmo endgames employ. In such a system any new content can be scalable and enhance the breadth of the games activities rather than simply being one more singular dungeon that gets farmed for a while and then ignored.

Honestly reading the article it seems like you were describing this game.


Novice Member

Joined: 5/20/05
Posts: 2054

1/17/13 3:15:39 PM#71

Endless leveling is stupid especially if your game have pvp, well because they create huge gap and have fight finish before they even begin, since it would be a number fight rather than a player fight.


Also the point is not to gain numbers in a character sheet, nobody are interesting in those, well almost. The point is to be able to do things and do them better than before, this is what are suposed to simulate experience, that is why it's called "experience points". The problem with themepark is that they are empty shell, you kill a green goblin at low level, then blue goblins a medim level, then a red goblin at high level, and people wonder why players leave after a couple of month? What an endless leveling would even acheive? pretty much nothing.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/08/07
Posts: 1616

1/17/13 3:22:52 PM#72
Bill I hope one day you become a developer or a gamer designer or at least be paid to consult on a few projects.

Novice Member

Joined: 6/10/06
Posts: 79

1/17/13 3:24:51 PM#73

Originally posted by Requiamer Endless leveling is stupid especially if your game have pvp, well because they create huge gap and have fight finish before they even begin, since it would be a number fight rather than a player fight.  
Its exactly the same with gear grinds. The argument is that not going to an arbitrary paradigm shift of a gear grind at 'endgame' is better than doing so. You are arguing for a completely different kind of game where all progression stops at a point.


Novice Member

Joined: 3/02/07
Posts: 1432

1/17/13 3:28:24 PM#74

Well done - this is a profound truth.

I'm hoping DUST 514 offers the unlimited progression described.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/02/10
Posts: 510

1/17/13 4:15:54 PM#75

What does leveling up entail foryou?

In PvE, it's dishing out more damage and absorbing more damage before dying. Making - the same! - dungeons and content harder means having monsters dish out more damage and absorb more before dying. So, we'll have a stalemate. Also, running the same dungeons over and over to gain another level, after which you will run the same dungeons over and over again appeals to no one. If you actually have new dungeons you could run at higher levels then it's no different from the prevous levels you did, have new content. Unfortunately, providing endless new content is rough on developers. So, for PvE, endless leveling is pointless.

In PvP, you end up with higher level = stronger players easily killing lowbies, not because of more skill, just because they have an extra ten levels. This will turn most people off in no time. Only if there is parity in levels and gear does skill matter, which is what PvP should be about.

So, no, endless leveling is crap.


Elite Member

Joined: 1/07/06
Posts: 6482

The adult I am takes care of most things real life. However my inner-child is a GAMER!!

1/17/13 4:23:32 PM#76
Originally posted by johnnychangs

The option to level/upgrade/improve your virtual character/items is what drives most people to play games.  Many successful games have this type of system.  Some of the first Single Player games that I recall are some of the early Need For Speed games.  Race, earn money, buy parts, upgrade car.  This system has evolved into other games, like most current shooters and such.  Kill lots of enemies, buy weapon parts, upgrade weapon. So on and so on.


With most level-capped MMOs, reaching max level gives the player the option of continuing their playtime by doing group/raid/pvp content.  Some players love these options, but they are not for everyone.  Average Joe Gamer will either create a new character, or stop playing the game.


Having "never-ending progression" is a great idea but really must be done properly with many different options.  Maybe one day there will be a game with all of the following


  • -Some type of open storyline, using either a completely random mission system with travelling NPCs/mission givers/mission terminals.
  • -Huge skill tree with the ability to learn everything
  • -Some type of an implant/upgrade system a'la Anarchy Online
  • -A very complex crafting+resource system a'la SWG pre-ncu
  • -Separate gear for PvP&PvE that actually provides some bonus (not just cosmetic)
  • -Legitimate open-world sandbox, not like the alleged "sandbox" games we've seen in the recent past

Thats just the tip of the iceberg really, but my brain hurts.


Great article btw, thanks

Highlighted red as being the most important thing for me and better then what OP suggested.

To be honost all I saw in OP was a combat oriented online game,I actually think that that's the reason why these MMO's don't do well anymore longterm as they are played as simple like a COD game or any other multiplayer game as that's your end game in today's MMO's.

In SWG even when I reached cap lvl I never ran out of things to do and enjoy.

I feel there is to much focus on progression instead of trying to make a world that feels alive due to it's players. To much focus of what we know and understand from singleplayer games are put into MMORPG's.....because it's what most know.....

Growth in a MMORPG use to be to me that you got very involved with the ingame community at lvl's of helping eachother, adventuring together, just have plain old fun, hunting for that specific type of resource, going hunting for some hides (not caring about xp) because you need them for some crafting recipies, sharing adventure story's at campsites, wanting to pvp to defeat another person and not because your name is placed on some sort of scoreboard, crafting all sorts of things (combat and none-combat items) for other people/costumers/guildmembers/friends.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/18/10
Posts: 3225

Veni, Vidi, Converti

1/17/13 4:39:17 PM#77
I think you touched upon a key element of mmorpgs: Longevity and investment of players in their characters that increases what they can do in game. If the players that 1st began stick around - that's a sign there might be something worth progressing for?

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/17/10
Posts: 2976

1/17/13 4:43:45 PM#78

 While I agree with the topic to an extent, I do not believe that an mmo requires dev and player made content to produce longevity. Case and point, the mmo's of the past that have lasted and are still going strong each of which are developer driven.

 When you make it available for the players to create the content the dev's will eventually become lazy and in that sense not produce content anything further. Why should they  need to pay an employee when the players are paying you for the content they'd make?

 Over the years players have offered their service to test the developers games. However, now it has changed from a free service into one in which the players are paying to the developers. Therefore free labor. Don't believe that developers won't do the same with the player made content.

Somebody, somewhere has better skills as you have, more experience as you have, is smarter than you, has more friends as you do and can stay online longer. Just pray he's not out to get you.


Advanced Member

Joined: 9/28/04
Posts: 1843

1/17/13 4:50:04 PM#79
Originally posted by haplo602

So he just did the same as Oblivion mechanics. Remember the frustration when everything jumped to your level each 4 levels ? Your numbers increased (levels, skills etc) but they were meaningless because the mobs jumped with you.

Worst idea ever.

 Actually he took that worst idea ever and fixed it. By doing so he fixed the other worst idea ever...the idea that content should only be temporarily viable.

“I hope we shall its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~Thomes Jefferson


Advanced Member

Joined: 4/14/05
Posts: 61

1/17/13 4:58:06 PM#80

notice how no one can agree on anything?


this is why we get the games we get. developers are trying to please 1000 different voices. 


in the end the best games can be brutaly simplistic and not what we expect that we would want.. it's the titles you for some reason cannot put down.


alot of the IOS titles are prime examples, often the most over developed games are the least fun, while diving a bird into the ground somehow is something people universally enjoy. 



at sorry to break your hearts, but the days of gamming studios making massive mmorpg's for computers is comming to a end,  the holy grail is now cell phone/ facebook apps and games. 


a modern version of runescape on IOS has the best chance of being a real "wow" killer. 

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