The Daily Grind: Are levels in MMOs overrated?

    
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Today’s Daily Grind question comes from an anonymous Kickstarter donor who wanted to see just how many cans of worms he/she could open in three words:

Are levels overrated?

I’m a sandbox fan who favors skill systems, so naturally I’m not the world’s biggest fan of leveling systems in MMOs, but I’ll admit that even skill systems are usually numerical, with lots of little levels instead of one big level. No, the problem isn’t numerical levels by themselves.

The problem, as I see it, is that developer overreliance on level-based systems to gate and pace content formalizes an unwelcome verticality in a virtual world, resulting in the many churn-through, linear themeparks the genre now offers. Sandboxes and sandparks can get by in spite of levels, but they have to work so much harder to do so — consider the Guild Wars games, for example, which rather overtly use levels to block off and funnel players through upper-level areas, even though levels are otherwise relatively useless.

Do you agree with our donor that levels in MMOs are overrated? What would you do instead?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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CazCore
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CazCore

*virtual overworld

an overworld that will be added eventually (with dungeon entrances for entering a new procgen adventure).
which will be an online virtual world.  that’s the plan.  :)

CazCore
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CazCore

well, my “solution” is only for the PVP part of the problem.

there are still other problems with levelling.

and the only reason i decided to have levelling in any form in my game is because i want PART of the game to be a realtime action-based  take on the original Rogue game.  which included levelling which seems to work pretty well in that context.  and i instantly realized it wouldn’t HAVE to crap up the eventual PVP part of my game.

however SINCE then, i’ve opened myself to the possibility of using some form of character progression outside of those procedurally generated instances, and into the eventual virtual overwor setting (the VW part of the game will not be happening anytime soon).

CazCore
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CazCore

i actually think i have a very easy solution to this problem.  :)

levels and char progression are fine in sp games & co-op games.  they make a lot more sense in that context.

but once you add PVP into the mix, its a crime to give vets and noobs entirely different damaging abilities against each other.
it cheapens the gameplay from both victim AND killer perspectives.  i do not want easy kills simply
because i played the game longer.  i PVP for a challenge, not for any schadenfreude or loot. 

what i’m gonna do, and what i hope a lot of future games that have levelling in PVE do, 
is to use different damage/protection calculations in PVP versus PVE combat.

that way players can be effective in PVP, and have extremely fair PVP fights.  all from day one.
and never have to grind up PVE when all they might want to do is PVP.

yet each player can STILL have all the character progression they may WANT when doing PVE.

and to prevent the all-too-common lameness of somebody coming along and backstabbing somebody who is almost dead to a PVE battle, you can even have seperate PVE and PVP health pools.

CazCore
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CazCore

Wratts in your dragon example, thats how Kill 10 Rats quests should have been handle instead.

instead of Kill X of Y, the goal should have been Kill all X at Y location, or, get from A to B,
and in the process they’d be involved in slaying a number of those monsters, as a byproduct.
but never having to worry about an exact number, and with the immersive ability to see your progress simply by looking around and seeing how many more are left standing (or close enough to you in the A to B scenario).

the whole thing would seem more natural, immersive, and less like a chore.  i know people would say “but it could be that somebody was already there and killed all/most of them at that time!”.

well yes, but this actually isn’t a drawback.  it makes the world more dynamic, and makes you feel the impact of other players on the world.  much more immersive and believable, and allows you to really FEEL the presence of other players.

ya know….. the kinda thing multiplayer games SHOULD be all about.

CazCore
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CazCore

Estranged Rheem Octuris 
this seems to be the problem with most modern gamers. 
they seem to have no way to self quantify their own accomplishments.
that’s why gaining skills in an old school FPS doesn’t seem  rewarding to them.
they don’t have the computer quantifying it for them and shoving it in their face in the UI
with some numbers and badges.

they don’t seem to be able to judge real gameplay at all.
maybe that’s partially because so many modern games have put such little focus on that and offer such trashy gameplay anymore.  which unfortunately is not a bad commercial decision, when so many players are so bad at evaluating anything for themselves, and only seem to care about concepts/themes and virtual item/number acquisition nowadays.  :(

CazCore
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CazCore

Rheem Octuris 
” Players need to feel like they’re progressing somehow, otherwise, what’s the point. ”
let’s assume this is true for all players (it is for me at any rate) :

it doesn’t mean it has to be character progression.  it can be real life skills progression.
in games that are based on real life skills. 

it doesn’t have to be some numbers on a character sheet.

CazCore
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CazCore

SoMuchMass i agree that char progression is intrinsic to RPGs.

but RPGs are not intrinsic to MMOs.

this will become more and more obvious as the newer wave of MMOs rolls out.

CazCore
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CazCore

Esoteric Coyote BalsBigBrother 
i actually don’t want ANY form of character progression at all.
i only want real life skill progression like in Quake.
skills that are directly transferrable to a newer game, such as Unreal.
because they are based on ME, not a character tied to a particular game.

CazCore
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CazCore

Wratts BalsBigBrother well, there was still a noticeable power gap between vets and noobs, but it WAS much reduced from the typical RPG way of things.

a small group of noobs could possibly win against a “maxed out” player.  which is not possible in most MMORPGs by any stretch.

CazCore
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CazCore

Werewolf Finds Dragon since i liked your comment, i feel obligated to say i disagree with the extrovert part.  i think its actually introverts (in real life) who tend to love the power curve in MMOs so much