| Mail |
You might also like: WoW Insider, Joystiq, and more

Reader Comments (43)

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 12:44PM Randomessa said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Either skill-based or level-based with some form of level-scaling or mentoring, etc. I am so through with being separated from my friends by levels.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 12:54PM Anatidae said

  • 3 hearts
  • Report
Through multiple Alpha and Beta phases of various games I have talked with developers about the big number level. I still don't get the appeal to have a level based MMO.

This is what I see having a big level gives you:
1. Clear progression. I'm level 10 now! Now 20, now 30, etc...
2. Unlocks content in a linear way
3. Gives illusion of power returning to lower level areas.

What levels also happen to provide:
a. Separates friends. Ever out-level your buddy and find questing together no longer works?
b. Developers spend years creating content that is raced through - all MMOs have become a race to max level where the game "begins" according to many.
c. Two games have to be created to be a success in MMOs, the leveling game and the end game.

It seems to me that the current end game models in the successful MMOs point to various ways to reward players with achievements, growth and progression without increasing a big level. Using the big one as an example, WoW players spend most of their time at the maximum level while still experiencing progress and rewards.

Again, levels make it easy for developers to create linear progression. Set a zone to level 50 and you'll not likely have level 10 players adventuring there. However, again, the major MMOs prove that they have to also provide content that players can progress through at "end game" without relying on the big level number.


I'll use WoW for more examples to get rid of the "level"
1. WoW continues to make "leveling" faster and faster - why? Because their main content is at 85 and they want you to join your friends quickly.
2. More and more old dungeons and instances are being retooled to also be "end content" or heroic dungeons. This is a workaround with the goal of making all that content raced through worth more.
3. New content is almost always aimed at the end game, Blizzard knows that the leveling process is a grind and the meat of the world is with everyone else - at level 85.


So what happens when an MMO developer actually gets bold and throws out the big level?

1. All world content has the possibility to be continually relevant. Look, you might become an expert at killing a grizzly bear in hand to hand combat in real life, but there is always the real chance that bear is going to maul you badly. In a FPS, even the noob can headshot you. Imagine an MMO world where nothing is ever truly, 100% safe and the whole world remains a place to adventure over and over (offering lots of variety in content)

2. Friends can always play together.

3. Since developers are not spending years building a leveling game then figuring out their end game, the whole development time can be focused on building just "the game" which could lead to groundbreaking MMO gameplay by just taking the time to get out of the "level box".


Looking at the GW2 press releases, I think even ArenaNet has caved and gone the way of WoW levels. Which will be a shame if so as GW1 is a great example of a game where adventure and rewards had nothing to do with leveling. I hit level 20 (max GW1 level) so fast I don't even recall the grind. My gear also maxed out and the only thing I got from new gear was new appearances. Yet GW1 is still a fun game today, both in PvE and PvP.

Ultima Online never had levels, just skills. Skipping past the fact that most (if not all) sandbox games since then have seemed to only focus on the PvP aspect of Ultima Online - there was a real attempt to create a simulated world in UO. It didn't matter if you were a new swordsman or 100% in skill - there were monsters you never faced alone. The whole world was a place where danger could appear. Early on, instant travel was so limited to match single player games, that it was an adventure just to travel from city to city.


Long post and all the advancements in MMOs have created fun games. Most MMOs are becoming more and more fancy game lobbies to get you into your mini-game (the dungeon or raid instance). Isn't SWTOR even removing the grind of harvesting by letting an NPC do it for you or something? Even less reason to travel the world at end-game levels.

I don't want a game to be hard, but I'd like to see a world where no place is really safe. Where travel means something again - even if instant travel is just very expensive to make it more rare (and even have some harvesting items unable to instant travel too). I'd like to see merchants actually have trade routes similar to EVE. Player housing in great in these games as it means something - for example a community might spring up around a sought after crafting resources (say a nearby metal mine).

One day a AAA title will try again to create a virtual world instead of just a "game" again. And maybe we will see something very cool.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 1:01PM Valdur said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Skill base for me.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 1:18PM Khal said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I prefer either a large selection of skills that you "rank up" from a generic pool of XP gained by doing things in the world (a la Asheron's Call, but way more skill choices) OR a large selection of skills that have a cap and that are only advanced by using them in the world (a la Ultima Online).

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 1:18PM metaphyzxx said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Personally, I'd prefer something of a combined model, where levels exist, but that's just to provide potential caps to certain skills. Levels don't necessarily equate to 'ability', but moreso 'access'. What I mean is, Imagine a fantasy MMO mage learns fireball at "level 1". It's technically the same fireball spell that a 'level 50' player uses, but because they're level 50, they've had the opportunity to add enhancements and modifications to the spell.
Perhaps bot fireballs have to do base damage of 500 units. But the level 1 player only has enough mana to cast it once. The level 50 player 'enhaces' the spell by making it cost less of his 'base mana', also adding splash damage, giving it an AOE component, Enhanced splash range, making it cover a more broad area, armor penetration, a ground flare adding additional damage because the ground around the target is burning as well, and a temporary blind on hit. Same spell, more or less, but the higher level character has more research under their belt. And the research options are available via options requiring levels.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 2:07PM dudemanjac said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
There was a game a while back called RF online where you got stronger with certain weapons and skills the longer you used them. While this did ead to ppl running out and killing things indiscriminately just to raise their lvl in this or that stat, it seems like the most realistic way of doing things. I actually suggested it it when I was beta testing. Essentially the more do something the better you get at it.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 2:31PM Sente said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Some of the comments here about disadvantages with a level system is not really the level system per se, but other restrictions that developers have attached to it - like the "cannot play with friends" argument.

The picture for this post is from City of Heroes, which is actually a good example of a level-based system without many of the drawbacks that typically have been associated with level-based systems.

Also, skill-based systems does not automatically make them better, they can have crappy design and implementations as well.

That being said, I think there are more potential for a good multi-player experience if the progression system is more oriented towards skill progression than levels.
If the focus would be on solo play with limited multi-player, then a level-based system might work just as well.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 2:38PM Mikx said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Skill based is probably better, but it has so many more pitfalls.

Useless skills, difficulty determining how skills interact, skill systems can be more generic and lack interesting mechanics, complexity, etc...

There, the problem is not really overpowered skills or combos of skills, but grossly underpowered skills and characters. Its rather easy to spec into really bad or limited use skills.

Of course, level and skill are not mutually exclusive. I think one of the reasons skyrim (yes, it is singleplayer) is getting a lot of attention is it finally jettisoned the convoluted elder scrolls skill based leveling/attribute mechanic. That was too complex (and grindy!) for its own good.

"Uh, yeah, I need to sit here and jump up and down for 5 hours so I can get the maximum bonus to my acrobatics and agility."

No thanks.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 2:50PM Cavadus said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I hate classes and I hate levels; it's that simple.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 2:51PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I don't have an absolute, objective preference - I don't think there's any reason why either system cannot be excellent.

However, the field has been so dominated by D&D-derived class/level systems for so many years, that these days, I will automatically prefer a skill-based system.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 2:57PM Ocho said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I seemed in the complete minority. I went level-based. Levels are an easy way to convey an overarcing storyline and still give feeling of growth. The primary reason I play MMO's is for the storylines, so this was easy. It also seems to be in the minority. So it goes.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 3:22PM Doran7 said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
there is room for both. most game use the level up progrssions.. I don't completely dislike it. Eve Online using the skill training mthod which I things is clever and I also like.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 3:41PM MetaReal said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
It's possible to have skill based and level based in the same time, it's the case for example of Battle Field Bad Company 2 which can't afford to be "unfair" like most MMORPG. In BFBC2 your progression unlock new weapons and play style in a way that a level1 can always get down a level 50 (horizontal progression versus vertical).

From what I understand it will be similar in SWTOR warfronts where levels 10 can beat a level 50 which simply will have more tricks but not necessarily over power. I didn't plan to buy SWTOR but I will if it's confirmed.

For me the main problem is not levels but a significant increase of the health pool per levels (leads in turn to power increase, leads to rapid deprecated content, leads to not playing with real friends, leads to play with "time-rich" equivalent players only, etc). This is simply not sustainable anymore in the era of social networking. This health pool bugs me so much I talked more here: https://plus.google.com/110873640795387924972/posts/7Tkev41SfxB

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 4:37PM Zydin said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
@MetaReal What you heard about SWTOR is correct, but as far as I know it only pertains to Warzones. I never got high enough in beta to try out open world pvp, but downed plenty of people that were 20-30 levels higher than me while in a warzone.
Reply

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 3:49PM madcartoonist said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
My first MMO was Star Wars Galxies and it was back in the day when it was skill based. I remember really liking it then, but I only had one character. I can see where if I was having a bunch of alts that having to keep using the same skills could be a tedious if I just wanted them leveled up fast. As it was, at the time I didn't mind punching a lot to become good at hand to hand combat. I still like the concept over all as it follows a more logical thought process. Why should all your stats/abilities/whatever go up with every level? If you leveled by shooting stuff or leveled by delivering pies (I'm looking at you LOTRO) then maybe what things you get better at shouldn't be the same.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 4:40PM Zydin said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
@madcartoonist I think SWG Pre-NGE hit the nail on the head. It was skill based, but it was tiered, so you have to complete say the lowest level of rifles and blasters to start using assault rifles (I don't remember the exact skill names).
Reply

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 5:10PM scfs123 said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I'm still waiting for an english MMO with Monster Hunter playstyle.
No levels, just gear+ability not to stand in front of giant rampaging wyvern dictates what you can kill.
Good times.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 6:17PM Shazzie said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
Skill-based, or a hybrid type system are my preference, though I can enjoy level-based too ('ding!'ing is fun, after all). Just please give me xp for something more than just killing rats. Give me xp for doing non-combat things, too. More than skill-vs-level, the way xp is granted is what has really gotten to me over the years. Find some other, significant ways for giving me xp than just giving it to me for each of the 10 rats I killed and for turning in the Kill 10 Rats quest. Reward other aspects of my gaming, please.

Posted: Dec 12th 2011 8:47PM (Unverified) said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
I think they're both the same: grind exp until you get something new or better.

What matters to me is how you grind that exp, how varied your choices are, and how well a game does it.

Posted: Dec 13th 2011 7:45PM corpusc said

  • 2 hearts
  • Report
@(Unverified) for solo'ing they are virtually identical in my eyes. they don't improve the grind at all. games such as Darkfall prove that.

however char skill based systems DO help with alot of the bad aspects of how levels seperate/segregate and mess up interacting with other people, and in group settings.
Reply

Featured Stories

Engadget

Engadget

Joystiq

Joystiq

WoW Insider

WoW

TUAW

TUAW