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Reader Comments (59)

Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:09PM real65rcncom said

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While I enjoy the way ToR implemented it's leveling (the stories make the leveling far less painful due to the story), I've always been a fan of 'skill based' leveling.

The more you use a skill, the better you are at it has been my favorite as far as PvE. That way companies can just spend their time designing the actual worlds and things to see/places to go. Then the player just goes through the world leveling as they go.

Another way I prefer my PvP is no leveling of skills; everyone is equal from Level 1. The only differing factor is gear which would be gear; crafted PvP gear being the best while dropped gear being second best to keep crafters interested and the economy moving.

Posted: Mar 27th 2012 5:54PM (Unverified) said

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@real65rcncom : there are sooo many challenges to overcome in designing a "more you use a skill, the better you are at it" system so it doesn't turn into a "more you leave a paperweight on your spacebar, the better you are it" design instead.

Has anyone ever designed a truly great one? There have certainly been some high-profile examples of highly-exploitable munchkin systems lately, like Darkfall and Skyrim.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 6:18PM EuchridEucrow said

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@real65rcncom

Yeah, the whole "the more you used it the better you get" skill system sounds cool at first and then you go through the same 5 step process to grind yet another root in a mortar and pestle for the 100th time and you start wonder "Why is this so cool again?".

Improperly implemented, this kind of system is can be more rife with afk macroers than any other. And boy, does it ever get improperly implemented in games, even good games.
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Posted: Mar 28th 2012 8:24AM FrostPaw said

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@real65rcncom

The issue with "repeat a skill = get more skillful" is that in an mmo enviornment that progression is extremely long in order to draw out your gameplay and subscription period.

This leads to players using macros and leaning heavy items on their keyboard for repetition of said skill on something harmless that serves no danger.

i remember once leaving my Guardian in EQ2 to auto attack vs a grey enemy that couldn't kill him just to skill up on a weapon I was useless with. I just walked away and let the computer do the work.

You could argue without autoattack I couldn't do that but thats besides the point...the fact I was so bored of doing the activity is the issue. That I could leave the keyboard because it took so long to achieve is the reason mmos feel "grindy"

Until we can move away from this need to keep players playing for long periods of time, mmos will always have repetitive, mundane and tedious tasks to perform that take forever because the result of that is more money to the game developer/publisher.

If people stopped buying or spending money on games like this perhaps there might suddenly be a need to offer gameplay over grind but then how do you propose those companies make money month after month? there is a human limit to content production that is worth doing and that limit conflicts with the speed mmo gamers eat it up.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:09PM Kalex716 said

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Great article.

I personally am so tired of the standard "pick up quest A." in hub. "go to location B. on your map". and do something to complete it as the main means of character progression.

MMO's did not start with quest based drivers for content. In fact, quests were usually very rare, and while at one time (with the advent of 2nd gen MMO's like CoH, and WoW) this felt new and refreshing... Now its simply tired and old. I hate to say it, but I'd actually welcome camp grinds like EQ used to have if they modernized tool sets to stake out said camps and get efficient groups going.

If you want to make an MMO feel new, ignore quest based progression entirely, and make a game that stands on its own with a new/different/non WoW based content driving system. Then, if you work some quests in late in development for flavor its just gravy.

I'm never playing an MMO that has exclamation marks over any heads of any kind ever again.

Posted: Mar 27th 2012 6:53PM smokedog66 said

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@Kalex716 Spot on. I have to agree I would be happy to bring back an EQ style system would be a nice change of pace. I spent all last weekend playing Tera and I love that game so much but the questing is of the most boring variety and I wish I had a better way to level.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 10:46PM c0gnit0 said

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@Kalex716 I agree but only because of the era of mmo gaming we're in now. You said yourself that you enjoyed the quest based progression because it was new, but now you want camp based progression. Once you get tired of grinding monsters that keep respawning (for some unknown and immersion breaking reason unless you're very creative in your RP'ing), you'll want quests. I hate to beat a dead horse but this is why GW2 is going to be so interesting for me. Their take on questing isn't that it's exclamation points over heads and delivery quests nonstop, but instead just exploring the world and encountering unique events at every turn. It's like an actual adventure as opposed to a chain of NPC's directing your adventure for you. It seems like the most unique form of progression I've heard of in a while and I'm most excited to see how it will play out when the game releases. As for personal preference now, I'd happily welcome camp progression but after a while, wouldn't you like to have a quest? ;)
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Posted: Mar 28th 2012 5:26AM avaloner said

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Sad thing will likly be that after you have done several hundred of the GW2 "dynamic" events their going to feel like a grind just like anything else in MMO's. This will especialy be the case if some of them a long and drawn out. Its a little like how RIFTS zone events where cool the first dozen times or so then they got old. Even when new ones are added to the mix with some interesting mechanics, once you have done them a few times it becomes the same old same old.

When you think about it many games including single player ones can be considered to have grinding as part of their design. Even many of the examples Beau suggested about making leveling interesting would be considred grinding (like the one where you observe an animal to learn about it).

There is no easy way to remove the grind from MMO's. The reason that it has often been done the way it has is that it is easy for people to understand how to progress their characters, it also requires a easily definable amount of time to progress, making it easier for devs to design the game around it.

As I said there is very little I could think of to make leveling or progresion in MMOs not feel like grinding. You can change up the system as some games have done are doing, but even then it will just be grinding (GW2 dynaminc events for example). It might feel new and fun at first, but so did questing in MMO's 8-10 years ago.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:12PM pancho72 said

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Leveling is a side dish. It's a great metric for progress and can make for some interesting meta gameplay. But when leveling becomes the whole meal it feels unsatisfying.

Posted: Mar 27th 2012 6:21PM (Unverified) said

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@pancho72
Absolutely.

What is interesting is that the current school of game design - or the one responsible for the current generation of MMOs - disagrees with you. Most level-based advancement in MMOs is consciously designed to make use of an operant condition technique usually referred to as a reinforcement schedule. In the truly successful MMOs of our day, additional schedules are added by weighted drop tables for gear, tiered reputation and cash grind. The end goal is to make sure that you're always no more two hours away from *some* unambiguously positive reinforcement.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 8:28PM Vunak said

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@pancho72

Agreed to an extent though I do like skill based systems instead of level based systems.

Another thing I saw that is a common misconception is

GRIND =/= HARDCORE

HARDCORE is a play style of enjoying a more difficult experience.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:21PM Resurge said

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its a great idea n all, but tree climbing isnt going to make you better at killing monsters/players/spaceships/etc (which is the basis of 99% of all MMOs). Making fluffcraft is fun im sure, but unless all you want is to sell a bunch of stuff for $$ to other players ..again it doesnt make you better at the main emphasis of the game. Bottom line ..killing rats, then kobolds then people, then dragons or whatever makes you better at killing things .... which is sorta the point. The trick is to make it fun, interesting and new ..i like your ideas as addons to what we already have, but i do not think any of them replaces "leveling" in any real way that would make "sense" from a lore/real world perspective.

Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:23PM Resurge said

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@Resurge i sorta like the gw2 idea of "wander around till you find something interesting going on, and join in ..make $, xp and item rewards ..and get to see a cool ministory play out that you contributed to. I'm not sure how to make it more engaging than that.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 5:35PM (Unverified) said

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@Resurge

I think part of the point of the articles suggestions, though are to provide alternate ways of playing besides just killing 100 million things. Some people get tired of repeatedly killing things, and even throwing a veneer of story on it gets old after a while.

For people who are really looking for a "virtual world" to live in, providing alternate means of leveling that are actually fun would be a major deal. If I could go into a game and play it and have a good time without killing a thing, I would do it in a heartbeat. The problem is, since, as you say in most games, killing monsters is 95% of gameplay, there's not enough resources left over to put into making other activities truly fun, and that's too bad.

For people who want to kill monsters, there is ... every game ever. For people who want to live in a virtual world with a variety of options for how to spend their time, there's not much that's truly fun.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 5:56PM Resurge said

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@(Unverified) im behind variety and alternative leveling ..more ways to advance the better ..but for the combat side of things, i dont really see an easy solution. Hell, even DAOC had the option to just be a crafter ..sure you had to level a certain amount just to be able to do some of the things, and go to some of the places you needed to, but if say your friends sponsored you, you could easily be a lvl 15 mastercrafter of some sort. Problem was ..what do you do with a lvl 15 crafter when not crafting?
And i dont think someone who has spent 100 hrs crafting while i spent the same battling monsters should be proficient at fighting. Just like i cant make any mastercraft armor with my sword skill. So now we need more non combat options for endgame. And of course skills associated with those new endgame options - which sorta puts us back where we started. As you see it kinda snowballs. What we really WANT may well be impossible at this current time. A virtual world that really feels real is 17 ass-tons of work, and i dont foresee anyone sinking billions of $$$ into mmo product development just yet.

Soooo ...tldr ...i dont see an easy solution that will please everyone, and i dont know if it is even feasible for anyone to try with the business the way it is right now.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:22PM doublerainbow said

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I think one of the major flaws of design in these games are mechanics which promote competition and a hostile community.

MMO's are about community first, and the game second. So many Dev's seem to think they just need to create filler for leveling and great competitive end game content. The problem is that this creates a community of haves and have not's. It also helps trolls, bots, and other malicious players demote the quality of a social experience.

Take resource nodes for example. You have some people going around on bots and farming them all up while other gamers are actually trying to use them to build up their income and craft things. It makes more sense to allow everyone to collect a node regardless or whether player B came and collected that node 5 minutes ago. This promotes a happy sharing community and more items crafted is never a bad thing in my view.

Kill stealing is also a major pain in the butt. What if we had a system where people share an NPC or monster in the game world if they help fight it? This promotes community rather than discouraging it.

What about allowing everyone the chance at using loot they can use as long as a Raid or Dungeon boss drops it? The RNG and rarities of drops still apply, but not more fighting over loot and loot distribution helps gearing up become less complicated and hostile.

IT'S ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY! Your game design would probably benefit more if it centered around this philosophy in design first!!!!

My name is doublerainbow and I approve of this message :D

Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:24PM Resurge said

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@doublerainbow pretty sure GW2 has all of those things doesn't it?
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:36PM doublerainbow said

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@Resurge

Yes, and I am a fan of their philosophies without shame. Rift also has systems in game that allow sharing of loot and kills (Instant Adventure, Chronicles, Rifts of differing kinds).

WoW is planning to use a revised Raid Finder loot system that might spread to all other Raids and Dungeons. And this is to combat a particularly nasty community problem because of loot distribution. If that works it WILL make the game much better.

It isn't just GW 2 that has similar types of systems in place.
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Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:24PM SnarlingWolf said

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The thing is, players want a new version of the same game they enjoy.

They are technology and graphics whores who say "If they redid game with new graphics, that would be awesome". They want the same old same old in a new package. How many times have they released a Call of Duty that played exactly like the last CoD but yet broke sales records that the previous CoDs set in the first place? Players want the new and shiny on the same old mechanics.

Players have a comfort zone. If they can jump in a game and say "Hey I know this system" and start playing away they love it. If they jump into a game and say "What do I do? What is this?" they get uncomfortable and leave. This means evolution has to happen very slow, with one small change per new game so players can feel comfortable with the rest while learning the new.

Also, companies can't evolve the games because if they try to, they go broke. Any evolution will have a bumpy road with broken features, balance issues, etc. But if an indie game tries this and has those problems people run away because there are bugs. They'd much rather have a fully polished 200 million dollar game that played like the last game than a new different take with issue, bugs, and problems.


Players always blame the companies and I'm glad this article pointed out that it is the players themselves who are at fault. If WoW clones keep selling 2 million copies out the gate and getting over a million subscribers for the first few months what are people going to make? WoW clones.

This is why I've actually supported smaller titles that tried to do some different things even if I didn't really like those things. I want companies to see there is a market for new and different.

Posted: Mar 27th 2012 2:40PM doublerainbow said

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@SnarlingWolf

I think that change depends on leveling curves and how much community participation and feedback they are allowed. I would think that Alpha's and Beta's are very much about testing out any changes to how a game works.

People might be resistant to change, but change doesn't have to suffer because of it. If a company is fairly confident they can take a risk to change something, then I think it would be best if not necessary to attempt said change.
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