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Reader Comments (32)

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 8:18AM Arkanaloth said

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just depends on the game. GuildWars has never had a level cap increase and it does just fine. Course "levels" in guildwars don't carry anywhere near the meaning that they do in gear-based games.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 8:19AM Thunder7 said

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I enjoy levelling.....but it begins to get overwhelming if you want to start from 1 again with a new toon.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 8:24AM Rayne26 said

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Modearation is the key.
Games advance in time having to many lvls while others have very few from the beginning.
I think there should be a balance.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 8:31AM Dumac said

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I like to think of the leveling process as the character building phase , where your character is not yet complete in terms of stats and abilities but is getting there. And when you reach the level cap then comes the gameplay, your character is complete and you have all your options open to you, and you don't have to worry how much XP an activity is worth and whether you would be better off doing something else progression-wise. Im not saying that the two are separate and have nothing to do with each other, there is some overlap, but for the most part that is how i feel.

Which is why increasing the level cap feels like somebody is trying to mess with you. You completed something, reached the point where you couldn't go further and turned your priorities elsewhere, and now somebody is making you go back... Do it the way Guild Wars did it, please.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 8:39AM pcgneurotic said

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I agree with Dumac. The most fun I have in WoW is running around in high-end characters that can go about with impunity, checking out missed quests and investigating stuff.

I believe in sideways expansion - i.e. add more content lower down. Make the game fatter and more diverse, rather than stretching it out tall and thin.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 5:42PM eyeball2452 said

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@pcgneurotic

I disagee. This is the reason that I don't play CoH anymore. It turned into a real grind after about 30 levels and it never increased the cap. Re-rolling gets old after a while.

I'm done with WoW, played to 80 on 2 characters, but Blizzard has the right idea. I play for the story aspects of the game. I love questing and 5/10 mans. If the game isn't moving forward story-wise, I'm probably not going to stick around too long. I also like the resets at the beginning of each expansion. It gives each expansion a newness feeling, which is good imo.

The one thing I would change with recent gear dependent games is to add more ornamental armor into the game. If people are willing to invest huge amounts of time for pets, mounts and achievements, why not also use ornamental armor as a reward incentive, especially in PvP? I never understood why WoW made PvP = PvE. It should be it's own mini-game and not stat reliant.

The fun should be the competition, not the gear reward. In theory, gear rewards in PvE should just be a gating mechanism to get to new encounters rather than rewards in of themselves too.
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Posted: Jan 26th 2011 8:47AM Pewpdaddy said

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Can go either way for me, I don't care if you raise the cap. Just don't raise it to 100+. Stuff your expacks with content and new mechanics. Other than that I don't care.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 8:57AM Greyhame said

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I tend to prefer the increased level cap, mainly because I do enjoy leveling. It can be intimidating to start new characters at times, but as long as the leveling process is properly adjusted it works out okay. Being stuck at one cap gets boring after a while because there's not the same feeling of advancement.

And I'd say games where the level cap doesn't increase, but a new thing is added for you to work towards also have a leveling process, it's just not in the form of XP.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 9:04AM Orekri said

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I personally like the alternate advancement horizontal progression. I like having a way of continuing to advance my character while still being able to partake in all of the "end game content" and have all of my standard abilities. EQ had it, EQ II had it, FFXI had it, and now DCUO has it and I enjoy all of them that way.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 9:17AM Ocho said

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Basically, I think games should increase their level cap. However, the time it takes to level from 1 to the level cap should be roughly the same. Like having a race be the same distance, but with more checkpoints in between. This gives those already at the cap more room to grow, but at the same time isn't too harsh a penalty to others. That, and all "end-game" content should be changed to be more solo-able or small group-able, just so that the content itself still isn't a waste and those who weren't able to catch it the first time around can still experience it. Either that, or update ALL end-game content to the level cap so that it just expands what you can do at end-game.

Although... I do like GW's method, too... but as was mentioned, levels don't seem to matter that much in GW. You hit the cap in a week or so, and the rest of the game is acquiring skills and tweaking your builds to increase your power. So making parallel expansions is also a good idea... dang you Massively! I can't decide now!

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 9:41AM kjhasdfjkhk said

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Increasing level caps is kinda silly. It makes everything you've done before that virtually pointless. Expansions should add new content, new locations, new gear, etc, not necessarily BETTER, just new and different. Adding new skills is fine as well. Open up the classes more rather than just adding a few more levels that people will plow through in a matter of days, yet that make virtually all your gear, etc, completely obsolete in a matter of days. Gear that you've spent months collecting.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 9:47AM wagonfactor said

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DAoC did it the best and the worst at the same time. wow's xpacs are always fun and exciting the first few days when youre blinded by the shinyness. after that, you realize its just more of the same. ive played pretty much every mmo, but daoc and wow are the only ones i was actively playing when an expansion released. the day shrouded isles released for daoc was a glorious day for me. and then trials of atlantis which was phenomenal/terrible. i miss old daoc more than i will ever miss anything in my life /sadpanda

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 9:49AM Tanek said

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One of the problems I see with vertical expansions (raising the level cap) is that no matter how much content the developer puts into those extra levels, there will be a portion of the game's community that dismisses it as just "leveling" and not "the real game". Some of those people will just rush to level cap so they can reach the almighty endgame. And heaven forbid you don't have enough there to amuse them for the next two years.

All that is going to happen at a game's launch, why would you want to repeat it every expansion? Put the effort into making more content for that cap, into other ways to advance a character, and a larger number of people may see it all as "the real game".

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 9:51AM Jeromai said

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Expansions should leave it the hell alone. I might be biased, as my favorite games are City of Heroes and Guild Wars, but here's why I think this:

The level cap is exactly that, the limit to which the original game design was planned up to. There is a good chance that crucial math equations driving xp, level gain, stats and combat effectiveness were calculated up to that limit or thereabouts. Going beyond this point tends to run devs into problems with exponential increases and issues of being overpowered (players or mobs) or unbalanced in some form. That means more time spent redoing stuff from the ground up in order to accommodate level cap increases.

Constantly increasing caps run you into the "What was the point" syndrome. The grind of equipment at endgame for better gear, only to get invalidated by five extra levels. Time to do that all over again, or quit in a huff with better things to do. Besides, there comes a time when it gets really silly fighting bags of hp that started out in the conceivable 100s and 1000s and 10,000s, and then have to start labeling things like 1000k hp...and presumably 1000m hp at future point. Giga, tera hp? Poor broken integer limits.

The one game I'll excuse from this is LOTRO, because the story implies that we're not there yet until Frodo throws the One Ring into Mount Doom, so it makes a kind of sense that we'd grow stronger along with the Fellowship's journey until we are fighting beside them at Gondor and the Black Gate. Still, I have to note that they already had to tweak their stats system to acommodate the increasing levels, and that the legendary item grind appears to have been the source of much wailing and teeth gnashing with the rising expansion level cap.

Posted: Jan 26th 2011 9:59AM Jeromai said

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Conversely, if devs hold to a level cap, they ae effectively forced to become more creative and innovative in designing systems of alternate advancement, often lateral, and preferably optional, depending on player interests and playstyles. They have to develop more narrative content to advance story, and create different kinds of challenges for the player.

The cleverest of all are the systems that work in resets in some form. Things that encourage you to alt and/or revisit old content. Resets (or easy respecs, rather) of build to change up playstyles. Remorting is a system more commonplace in the old days of MUDs, but the idea is that once a player hits level cap, they can choose to go back to level 1 to work through the content again, but keeping some skills that make them stronger in the long run. Kingdom of Loathing does this to fairly good effect. Arena ladder that reset on a weekly or monthly basis for different people to get chances at high scores. The entire server reset of A Tale in the Desert is a complete reboot, if a little too drastic for most.

An alternative is not to have levels at all, or no level cap, and/or not have levels mean that much in the first place. Each comes with their own design pluses and minuses, but once devs have settled on one scheme, expansions should leave level cap increases the hell alone unless they really want to rethink all those crucial bits of the game and revise it carefully to accomodate the measly 5 or 10 level power increase.

And oh, the players expect it now that you've set the precedent. Hope you're ready for the same headache come the next expansion date.
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Posted: Jan 26th 2011 10:00AM Jeromai said

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ae = are
This comments system needs an edit function.
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Posted: Jan 26th 2011 10:33AM Tom L said

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@Jeromai You are correct that in LotrO increasing the level cap makes sense. So, the issue is story. If the story supports it then the cap should increase. The first rule of screenwriting is 'raise the stakes," which means that each obstacle the protagonist encounters should be more difficult than the last until the story is finished. If a screenplay doesn't do this we as an audience lose interest until the story gets back on track. That's no guarantee of success of a story, but it's definitely the foundation upon a good one can be written.

So, the proxy for that in games like LotrO and, to a lesser extent, WoW is to increase the level cap and expand the characters access to power to meet and overcome these greater challenges. WoW's story is a jumble with only the vaguest sense of motion. LotrO's is well known and well-crafted, so all Turbine has to do is not screw it up too much and it'll feel justified.

I don't see how a game like Guild Wars can keep a sense of advancement post lvl 20 while at the same time increasing the character's power to overcome greater obstacles without some form of progression, be it gear, powers, skills, etc.

Ta,
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Posted: Jan 26th 2011 12:22PM Jeromai said

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Guild Wars just harnesses different advancement and achievement systems besides the simple "get xp, increase in level, and thus power" formula. It definitely has progression systems, it just doesn't blindly raise the level cap per expansion to make its previous content obsolete.

One critical driver for Guild War's PvE is narrative in the main storyline missions. One hits level 20 before one gets halfway through the story missions. But if you want to see how the big over-arcing story of your character and the world ends, you're going to play through it once anyway. Going through it unlocks areas and maps and other content challenges as well, a kind of content progression.

Nor do you really stop gaining xp at the GW level cap. Every so often you'll hit the criteria for the next level, and you gain a skill point. It still has the effect of a sporadic "ding" and the skill point can be spent on skills to increase power & effectiveness (sort of, see next paragraph) or to buy certain consumables.

GW limits the fielded skills to 8 of them, so having 50 or 100 or 200 skills at your disposal just increases the range of potential options for a power increase. I gather that Eve Online's a bit like that in the sense that it doesn't take too long for a newbie to be on par with a vet in a certain area, but the vet has leveled in other areas and has more options to pick from. This flexibility also allows them to include PvE-only skills that can be purposefully a little overpowered, for that feeling of increased strength.

To go along with that, enemies can be set at 4 or 8 or even 10 levels above the character level cap, and get pretty sturdy as a result. They follow the same skill synergy idea as the players, and get their own mob-only abilities, which can adjust the level of challenge without needing to muck around with levels.

And there's hard mode: more buffed higher level enemies with better skills and sharper, smarter AI that moves more quickly and goes for the weaker links in your party. It practically forces the player to get smarter as well, even if they use a prescribed build from the wiki, not just rely on increasing character levels and automatically increasing power to defeat an opponent.

GW also has an achievement system that starts out easy and increases to exponentially notorious levels for prestige title rewards. So folks who love Achieving can work steadily at incrementing little progress bars and thus have a meta-reason to replay content.

No level cap increase necessary, just fancy dangling of carrots to keep that sense of advancement going.
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Posted: Jan 26th 2011 3:10PM Tom L said

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@Jeromai My point was (and I played GW for a while, so I get it) is that ultimately this is a moot discussion b/c the underlying issue is that of advancement. All of these systems are just versions of raising the level cap. In WoW you get access (or used to) more talent points to augment your existing skill set, while gaining access to a handful of new skills/spells. In GW, you complete certain tasks and you get another skill point to use to distribute amongst the skills in your current build as well as completing other tasks that open up the opportunity to buy more skills to choose from

It's the same system, just differently organized. This is a semantic discussion about the primacy of a number... your 'level'.

The issue should be, "does the advancement system of the game match the story and style of the game." For some games a level cap increase is proper, for others a skill advancement style thing works.

Ta,



At the core of the
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Posted: Jan 26th 2011 10:38PM Jeromai said

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@Tom L
I get what you're saying regarding it being essentially the same. From the perspective of a player who wants achievement and advancement focused things for his main character to keep doing, in order to stay subscribed to an MMO, yes, they are essentially the same carrot on stick.

However, my argument is that by going vertical and increasing level caps, a lot of other things are inadvertently affected, which may be damaging in the long run.

Besides all that I've mentioned above, there are issues of where the general population tend to be. They will chase the increasing level ranges and end up settling near the cap. This ends up creating empty newbie and lowbie zones as most vet players race away from the starting point, making it less attractive for newbie players as it's hard to find anybody populating the zone to play with. In a game with shallower level caps, alt-ism is a popular way of extending the game's lifespan, and the lowbie zones see a little more life.

Newbies also may look at a game which has 125 levels and become intimidated at the thought that they'll never reach the end point and give up before even trying.

I'm finding it hard to see good arguments for increasing a level cap that cannot be fixed by introducing other systems of advancement and achievement. Would any who support level cap increases care to supply some?

I'm of the opinion that MMO devs would be far smarter to avoid all the problems of an ever-rising level cap by not touching it and just working on those said systems of advancement that broaden the game horizontally instead of vertically. The overall effect of keeping Achievers stuck to the game is still the same, minus level cap increase problems.
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