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Reader Comments (7)

Posted: May 24th 2008 2:02PM Oneiromancer said

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For all EQ2's faults, its "mentoring" system is one of the best things in the game. It is also worth mentioning that the person being mentored gets a bonus to their experience gain rate...I can't recall exactly how much, but it's not insignificant. Originally, the person mentoring had to find all their lower level spells and re-populate their hotbars, but a while back they changed it so that your spells automatically scale to the appropriate level (so you can even use less powerful versions of spells you don't get until higher levels).

I wish that WoW had something like mentoring, I missed out on a lot of lower level dungeons and I'd love to play them again at the appropriate level of difficulty without making those I am with lose out on XP. And it would make leveling up an alt much more interesting, since so many people are max level. But, it probably won't happen for a long time, if ever.

Posted: May 24th 2008 2:11PM (Unverified) said

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For what its worth, Age of Conan has a great apprentice system that is nearly identical to CoH's sidekick system. You can go up or down. Additionally, AoC's mini pvp games use this to bump everyone up to the same level to balance the games out. I hope this becomes a standard feature in mmog's going forward.

Posted: May 24th 2008 3:27PM (Unverified) said

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The entire concept of levels is purely there as an insultingly Pavlovian reward cycle. That there are massive flaws in any game based on them is something the designers of pen and paper RPGs realized in the 1970s. This is the negative flip side of Gary Gygax and Dungeons & Dragons' legacy: elitism, exclusivity, barriers to entry and fun, characters defined not by what they can do but by their gear (think about how retarded that is for a few minutes).

There are exceptions to this of course: EVE is skill (more accurately, flight-time)-based; Champions Online will be point-buy. I think it should be a requirement for every single MMORPG designer, aspiring or otherwise, to download Steve Jackson Games' GURPS Lite free pdf and start doing some thinking about what kind of world they are making simply with the character code.

I've read a lot of words on the subject of virtual world building that are focused on the gee-whiz window dressing, but the fact is that the single biggest factor in how your world develops and feels to play in is that same character code, the (mostly unseen) rules, and the balancing (or unbalancing) effect of your gear.

Personally, I am tired of living in virtual worlds where your gear is more important than your skills, attributes, spells and abilities. Virtual worlds need to be more like Grand Theft Auto 3 or 4 and less like Dungeons and Dragons in order to progress to the "next level".

Posted: May 24th 2008 3:51PM (Unverified) said

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The current system of levels has two merits: It's easier to discern relative power between characters or characters and NPCs, and it's easy to design and scale. Less airy and amorphous.

But generally speaking, that's it. With dedicated thought the leveling system could be significantly altered or even done away with entirely. I don't think the D20 system is the root of the problem. It's actually quite a genius system all told- what WoW did was oversimplify it in the end, and also (along with several other games) create *too many* levels.

In D&D level 40 is epic and godlike, in WoW level 40 is still in noob territory by endgame denizen reckoning. GW takes it even further and cuts off leveling at a mere 20.

Making the games more like D&D is a good start. D&D emphasised that its DMs place as much import on rewarding quests that required thought and reason as with mindless hacking and slashing.

Ultimately Cameron's right that we should be able to play with the people we care about and he gets it right when he places the blame on a gear economy. I think there's ample room for epic and legendary weapons and armour, but many games have gone too far in making their 'economy of prestige' entirely gear based, which locks them into a simplistic levels system and becomes something of a vicious cycle.

Games like Morrowind/Oblivion show that gear can be awesome and yet not fundamentally game breaking. That's the balance that needs to be reached and once we breach that, we'll get a solution to the bland levels problem.

(Also, nice choice of image with the kids book, it made me giggle^^ You guys have a great sense of humour with your choice of pictures.)

Posted: May 24th 2008 5:26PM (Unverified) said

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I think it's impossible to look clearly at this problem without recognizing that the problem is not just the gear issue but the level issue as well. Levels are absurd and arbitrary. What should distinguish your character should be their appearance, their relationships, their skills, their attributes, their style of play. WoW, and other MMORPGs, address many of these in cursory fashion or not at all.

Every single level 70 player of a given race and class in World of Warcraft or its ilk has the exact same base attributes (barring what are usually rather minor Talent modifiers). Every single one of them who has bothered to visit a trainer, spend a few silver and whack a few dozen mobs has the exact same weapon skill (again, barring a few minor and arbitrarily restricted class and racial modifiers). Why is that? Why even have those skills at all?

If you're not the right level you can't pick up and use a given item? Think about that for a bit. Gear centric and level centric thinking based on D&D, which is really the Microsoft of RPGs (great financial success, near-monopoly conditions in the market, grotesquely flawed once you get under the hood), are what is holding this kind of game back.

Posted: May 25th 2008 8:28AM (Unverified) said

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I think the problem is that MMOs are partly like the real world and partly not.
In the real world, many things (not all) are easier to do, or more natural to do, with people of your "level."
Many objects have level requirements. Like you ride a big wheel before a bicycle before a motorcycle.

The big difference is that, in life, you don't know about this game called "Life" (no, not /that/game called Life) while you're still outside it, by hearing about it from someone who is playing it and wants you to join.

And when you do join Life, some number of years or levels after someone else, you can't immediately jump in and do all the things they already know how to do.

Posted: May 25th 2008 7:58PM (Unverified) said

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Flawed analogy: you are talking about acquiring individual skills. Sure, there are skills associated with adulthood in every culture: learning to drive, literacy, minimal math and social skills. But these are separate sets of often unrelated abilities, and people vary dramatically in their relative levels within those. Levels grossly simplify all this.

In order to look rationally at levels, you have to look at what they give you that skill- or attribute-based systems wouldn't (an easy yardstick, that's about it) and what they cost you (barriers to entry, to playing with your friends, treadmill style of play with less immersion and fun).

The use of levels as a defining element was useful to introduce large numbers of people to MMORPGs - but as the player base matures and their tastes become more sophisticated, level based systems will lose their attractiveness. The trend of the future in MMORPGS is customization - players want their avatar to be unique. This means more than just a skin or armor set, this comes down to their skills and abilities as well.

As much as AoC is touted as groundbreaking, as much as Warhammer is anticipated, they are still level-based three talent tree systems with tweaks to questing and pvp. WoW's engine under the hood of a sexy new chassis.

We gamers are still stuck on this level treadmill together and will be at least until Champions Online launches if not longer.

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