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Community Spotlight: Optimal Level Cap?

Posted by MikeB Thursday March 24 2011 at 5:03PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread 'What is the optimal level cap for an MMO in your opinion?" by blognorg. Pretty self explanatory! Let's get right to it, starting with blognorg himself:

For me, a game with a low level cap is a little bit of a turn off.  I'm kind of old school in the sense that I enjoy level progression more than end-game content. Personally, I would probably go with 100. It's not so low that levels would take too long to achieve, yet allows for some a solid amount of time before the cap is reached..... but not so much time that I can never imagining reaching it. I've thought about no cap, but it's nice to have something to shoot for. 

Let me know that you guys think.

What's the rest of the community think? Let's find out!

Hyanmen is fairly specific about his leveling expectations:

It should take 3-6 months of casual leveling to achieve the max level for one class. After that, 2 months at most for the subsequent classes.

The level cap should be at least 50, with progressively introducing the player to various gameplay features for every 5 levels gained. Main story at level 1, main way to progress at level 2, sidequests at level 10, more mainstory and sidequests until level 20 (this is the 'tutorial' and thus takes less time to complete). At level 20 you get to do quests that flesh out the storyline of your class. At level 25 you are introduced to guilds (and are encouraged to join one). At level 25 you can also do the first side-event such as instanced dungeon. At level 30 you get to specialize further in your chosen class (all the while you can change classes anytime you want but start at level 1). At level 35 you are introduced to a larger "group" of guilds but can not join one yet. Instead you can participate in the NPC-based PvE content of the system  (that acts like a pseudo-"dynamic" content). At level 40 you can join the player-run group of guilds and gain access to their headquarters as well as guild-based PvE content. At level 45 you get to participate in the guild-based PvP content against other group of guilds.

All the while the main story as well as the class-based quests continue roughly every 5 levels, and the normal sidequests every 2 levels or so.

sloeber is old school, preferring anywhere from 100-150 levels:

as an old school player i would go about 100 to 150 lvls.

Make it so hard that the hcore player would need a month to get there so we normal (read casual) players get about 1 year of lvling goodness.

This way towns wont be crowded with max lvl players who just do endgame (grinds) and be bored for the rest of the time.

At least they would have been busy for the first month(s).

thats my tought on it.

but thats way too hard for you youngsters out there hehe.

They call rushing to lvl cap in a week HC these days too......hehe it took me TWO MONTHS (2 hours every evening) of fishing to get my GM (100) fishing skill (thats the max skill for fishing in UO in the old days :) )


Loke666 much prefers a lower level cap:

20. Adding more levels are just fluff, you dont need any more.

What really matters is how long time it takes to max out your level. If you add too many it just gets annoying, the only difference is that you have to change gear a little more.

And don't add more levels with expansions. That is the reason most games never gets balanced, once they finally are getting better they add more levels and start from scratch again.

There is no advantage with 100 or 200 levels compared to 20 assuming it takes the same time to reach that last level.

This might sound like a cop out answer but I don't have a fixation on the number of levels personally. Whatever the level cap is I feel there needs to be enough content to get you there, there are few things I hate more than content gaps where I have to grind endlessly (I'm looking at you launch Conan).

If anything, there should be enough content that you can hit cap and roll a new character and go through different mostly different content.

What are your thoughts on an optimal level cap? Share 'em in the comments below!

PNM_Jennings writes:

3-6 months of casual play? That statement is almost ridiculous. If you are a casual player, you aren't looking for a massive time sink. I consider myself to be leaning towards casual, and I would say at most one month to cap. If it takes 3-6 months to cap, then that means grindtopia, and personally, I don't have the time or inclination to spend months grinding. I want to play the game.

Thu Mar 24 2011 5:58PM Report
neonwire writes:

How strange to focus on such a stupid and meaningless discussion for the community spotlight. It is also strange that you have skipped past all of the replies that have pointed this out. Quirhis reply summed it all up.....

How 'bout 3446?

-Just kidding. I agree with xeniar and Disdena. The number is completely arbitrary and unimportant.

He (and the others who said the same thing) is correct. The number only has any relevance to the game in question. There isnt an intelligent answer that can be given to the OPs question when it is applied to ALL mmos. Isnt that obvious?

Thu Mar 24 2011 6:16PM Report
StormwindX writes:

I personally believe that levels are non influential, as far as game design goes. I mean, if the devs want it to be so, then a game doesn't even need levels, and can offer alternate means of advancements all throughout the gaming experience.


But if levels do need to be in a game, then I believe that, even though the number is irrelevant, pacing is king. As long as the devs can pace the flow of the game (and subsequently of the levels) well enough, then the game should be enjoyable enough to the point where you don't really care what level you are, as long as you are having fun.

Thu Mar 24 2011 8:51PM Report
orator1970 writes:

Levelling up does add a certain achievment factor especially in an mmo game but it should not be the main purpose of playing a game, most mmo fall flat when you reach the level cap so i am all for scrapping it altogether

Fri Mar 25 2011 4:34AM Report
garry writes:

How about this. As a former game designer (PnP) now retired I have a suggestion to game companies. Make a game with no open levels, using skills/trees etc for open advancement, but also have a level system in background as a practical framework. As a player progresses in the skills etc...they will suddenly began obtaining new things (such as increased stats/skill points). New abilities that go on the hotbar will show up all of a sudden. Specials can also show up at various times (both temporary and permanent - on gear as well).


In this type of system be up front about the unknown and surprise factor of your system. Within the system PC's will have a Luck factor where other things show up. Like the pleasant surprise you get when you spot a $20 bill on the sidewalk. A little fanfare (fluff) could be added to make it even more fun. I mean, who doesn't like suddenly finding and opening a treasure chest or suddenly getting a new piece of gear or ability. How about finding your 10-20 sword suddenly (magic-tech) suddenly does 20 - 25? Just an idea.

Fri Mar 25 2011 1:13PM Report
mrcalhou writes:

The number is completely arbitrary. Mike, of all people, shouldn't you be aware of that?

Fri Mar 25 2011 10:18PM Report
TheCrow2k writes:

"There is no advantage with 100 or 200 levels compared to 20 assuming it takes the same time to reach that last level."

I disagree with that statement. As people level they like to see "progress" beyond just a number ticking over. They want new abilities/perks available as they level & new equipment to become available as well. Having only 20 levels means long gaps between "payoffs".

They recognised this very early in D&D Online and basically divided each level into 4 progress points, achieving point 1, 2 & 3 each gave a new skill point to spend/perk to buy, unlocking the fourth progress point rewarded an entirely new level unlocking something a bit more powerfull, new equipment and granting access to new instances.

Therefore having say 100 levels instead of 20 is actually worthwhile to a large extent as it gives you more opportunities to reward players as they level.

Mon Mar 28 2011 1:09AM Report
immicheng writes:

Who don't want to grow fast? Or  in other word, I want others to grow slowly. so that I can catch up the pace of the server...

Mon Mar 28 2011 4:38AM Report
zonzai writes:

I hate that leveling has become the soule purpose of MMO's.  Look at games like Guild Wars where the level cap is only 20 though.  There's a lot of stuff to do after that point.  Why can't other devs follow suit and just make a game that's fun to play instead of trying to amke one that has enough grind content for 50 levels?

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