The Daily Grind: How can MMOs create personal progression in a post-levels world?

    
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Massively OP Kickstarter donor Craywulf wants us all to sit back in our armchair designer, er, armchairs and tackle a design problem some gamers are convinced is impossible:

How would you provide personal progression without leveling?

The easy answer is “skill systems,” of course, but let’s be honest: Skills are levels by other names, even if they work to different ends. So let’s skip past the easy answers!

In my experience, if a game is determined to create and quantify a sense of progression rather than just provide a virtual space that enables experiences instead, the best way to do it is base it on time (perks reflective of how long you’ve been playing the game) and accomplishment. Achievement systems, as much as we might cringe at them, would be far more palatable and in fact brilliant if they usurped experience grinding and skill leveling altogether. In fact, in many games where levels have been simplified or negligible, achievement ranks become the more important factor anyway.

What do you think? If you were an MMO designer, how would you provide personal progression without falling back on leveling systems?

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

Kaladoren would be pretty easy to fix too.  just use different damage/mitigation calculation with PVE hits versus PVP hits.

PVP hits should calculate with everyone being at max level/skills, and then they can leave PVE alone (not make you level up super fast, which many PVE’ers hate), and everyone can get right to the activities they prefer without one player types’ needs interfering with the other.

CazCore
Guest
CazCore

StefanHayden i’m working on a wiki-like action/shooter/social virtual world.  not too far along yet unfortunately.

schlag sweetleaf
Guest
schlag sweetleaf
tobascodagama
Guest
tobascodagama

Sigbjorn I can totally see that. Setting up statblocks for all the 4e monsters was a real pain in the ass. The game was obviously built around playing pre-made campaigns rather than improvising on the fly.

daikatan4
Guest
daikatan4

You can have personal progression, the feel of accomplishment, by advancing in a storyline.
LotRO players are stuck in level 100 for quite some time, and I still go back to see new areas and the progression of the LotR story.

CistaCista
Guest
CistaCista

Loopstah Zones are not needed in an MMO.

blackcat7k
Guest
blackcat7k

Zaeja blackcat7k 
If these so called action systems were actually skillful I wouldn’t be able
to do things like brute force through them and ignore mechanics based on
getting overpowered gear. I wouldn’t have the developer adding new armor and
weapons that nullify the challenge so that early content is joke.  I
wouldn’t be able to waste minutes of my times killing someone 10 times over,
but ending up slowly chipping away at their health due to bloated stats nerfing
my attacks. Many of these action systems break down into time = power because
the action is extremely mundane and there’s nothing challenging about it.
 Player skill is more than combat examples I pointed out, that’s a
small part of the equation. Regardless. what you’re talking about in social and
political realms is exactly what I mean by “player skill”: People
being able to find a way to play the game to their strengths. Like someone
ignoring combat completely in something like Ultima Online, but yet
being extremely deadly because they’re a Grandmaster Tamer with a dragon in tow
called “Toasty”. 
Being able to actually need someone that knows how to pick locks, grow
plants, talk to NPCs, but doing it based on being able to work within the
world’s mechanics. Not by having stats maxed, and not by minor +1% buffs that
takes months to accumulate. Many of the systems in these MMOs that could house
gameplay are hidden behind a bar that counts down to zero and does an RNG roll
based on stats. 
Nix to that. Let’s have players actually do those things:
Pick locks – No bar/stats: Take a cue from the https://youtu.be/DMRyHVsedZ0 series. If you know how to
handle the lock, you open it. The Elder
Scrolls Online, and Warframe do
this to some degree.

https://youtu.be/rnrzryitO3c tried this, Vanguard
attempted https://youtu.be/mIMFJHX3Dgk… actually over the
years developers keep toying with these ideas by making a little mini game here
and there. Enough with the pussy footing around, make the whole game with that
kind of thinking. So that people can actually find their place in it.
Not by rolling the dice, but playing the game and having the developer put so
many pieces differing mechanics in the title that players would hard pressed to
master them all. It’s an MMO that has so many differing mechanics that it
shatters any chance of the player autonomy that defines this genre today. I
want to see an MMO again, not multiple players sitting around pretending to be
social while they yell for a group to do the same instance, and yet none of
them having enough wherewithal to actually form one.

NoYou
Guest
NoYou

Wratts “increasing proficiency in weapons/skills/crafting sounds great, but levels are gross!”
/facepal

NoYou
Guest
NoYou

Kayweg “I always liked games were(sic) your skill LEVELS very gradually increase through repeated use.”
FTFY.

Not disagreeing for the record, but those are levels.

Metadirective
Guest
Metadirective

But do we really need “progression” just designed to make us believe we are stronger? I wonder how chess players, footballers or travellers do to continue going on? Maybe they take pleasure at being better or simply experiencing for real?  Wasn’t something lost in translation with the first MUD and affected everything?

Do levels suck?

MMORPGs still live in Bartle’s heritage of vertical progression so fertile for Skinner boxing. 
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/KeithBurgun/20150806/250584/Psychological_Exploitation_Games.php