Global Chat: Why level in MMOs if you don’t grow?

    
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Using World of Warcraft’s latest expansion as an example, many bloggers recently pontificated on the uselessness of adding new levels to MMORPGs if your character didn’t grow in any useful or noticeable way.

“Leveling, as in playing a roleplaying game where you expect your character to advance and evolve, has never been worse,” said Murf Versus. “When you level up in Battle for Azeroth, you get nothing. No talents, abilities, or anything of any kind of merit whatsoever.”

In An Age sees this kind of leveling as a punishment, saying, “You get nothing but weaker during the leveling process. That’s literally insane game design.” The Ancient Gaming Noob agreed, adding, “Why have more levels when it is pretty clear you can do without them? The answer, to my mind, is because people expect them.”

Forge on for more MMO essays, including thoughts on WildStar’s sunset, EverQuest classic, and hidden secrets that communities are uncovering!

We all began with good intents.

Occasional Hero: WildStar and the futility of online gaming

“Gaming ultimately isn’t about permanence or achievement for me. It’s about having fun. […] I got a lot of memories out of it. So in a way, even when they shut down, MMOs are still permanent in the ways that matter.”

Unidentified Signal Source: Sevenish reasons I wouldn’t play classic EverQuest now

“Another big one is navigation. We didn’t have in-game maps either. Nor did we have a mini-map or even a compass. Yeah, there was a skill called Sense Direction that would tell you which way you were facing but you had to be constantly clicking that thing forever before it became reliable enough to use. Of course I eventually learned that the clouds in the skybox always moved the same direction, which made the skill mostly irrelevant. We did have some maps online though. There were people who spent their time using the ‘loc’ command to make line drawing maps of each zone, eventually complete with roads and points of interest. Now most games have all this information available in-game. No more binders full of maps somebody spent hours making.”

Through Wolfy’s Eyes: How Rend changed my PvP mind

“It was a subtle sort of magic, this factional association. At first I felt like I did in every other PvP situation, soaked in sweat and mouse-looking in every direction for threats. Eventually, though, I came to associate the starting base as home and its inhabitants a tribe that would at least be around to maybe help. And while I did try to grow myself, I started to slowly realize that things I would have considered vendor trash in other MMOs could be of use to others in their own efforts.”

Shocking!

Superior Realities: Dungeons and Dragons Online impressions

DDO is a very odd game. Playing it feels like I stepped through a portal into some alternate reality where MMO design evolved along entirely different lines.”

Moonshine Manor: Farewell WildStar

“The game remains my favorite MMO of all time, but I’ve had a strange relationship with it toward the end of its life. I stuck around through some of its rocky times, even when almost all of my friends had long gone. I found a few different guilds, and sometimes even just stuck it out completely on my own. The point at which I left was when the writing on the wall became too clear to ignore.”

Galumphing: Matryoshka Secrets

“At some point the Warcraft developers/designers started hiding things in the game for players to discover. I’m not exactly sure when that was, but it seems to have really ramped up during Legion. The secrets are often hidden deep within other secrets, with the ultimate solution leading to a reward like a mount or pet.”

Every day there are tons of terrific, insightful, and unusual articles posted across the MMO gaming blogosphere — and every day, Justin reads as many as he can. Global Chat is a sampling of noteworthy essays, rants, and guides from the past few weeks of MMO discourse.
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Schlag Sweetleaf
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Alex Js.
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Alex Js.

Lol, perfect gif, and not only for WoW but for just about every current PvE-centered MMO ;-)

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Needs more lockboxes. :P

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Arcanum Zero

Just to offer a different perspective, this is not a new ‘problem.’ The developers and fans of non-level-based tabletop RPGs like GURPS and Shadowrun and World of Darkness have been harshly critical of Dungeons & Dragons for its ever-increasing to-hit rolls, armor class, and hit points for more than 30 years now.

I don’t say this to defend BfA — by all accounts it sounds like BfA is just broken. But the idea that all leveling up does is timewalk players is nothing new. It’s even more pronounced in tabletop, where ‘level scaling’ has always been the default practice for all but the most diehard gamemasters.

D&D is doing okay. You might have heard.

What I think is happening is Blizzard is playing a dangerous game of chicken. They seem to be testing the waters with the idea of a future where progression in WoW is meaningless. As someone who has only ever played MMOs to play dress up in imaginary lands, I think that sounds like an amazing MMO–

–but it is an MMO that will live and die on the ever-increasing quality and quantity of its content, and woof, that’s a hell of a sword of Damocles to volunteer to sit under, especially when you know static mediocre content coupled with a decent loot table will run to acclaim for years.

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Dean Greenhoe

Just like a game where I fight through all the content to finally beat the end boss and WIN!

In mmo’s I tend to quit once I hit max level. Once the main goal is accomplished I see no need to continue. I feel it is time to move on to a new challenge.

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IronSalamander8 .

I have to agree with the main idea here. Part of why I stopped playing BfA despite the fun I first had with demonology. Adding 10 new levels with no other character growth (as opposed to getting new gear and the dull azerite system) made hitting the level cap a dull whimper instead of a loud cheer. Even worse I did grow weaker comparatively as I leveled up as it was taking longer and longer to kill things and in the end I was casting health funnel more than all other spells combined. That was a terrible experience and was the nail in the coffin for my time there.

Luckily I have FF14 to play and finished the Star Control: Origins campaign over the weekend (about 24 hours or so to do).

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Weilan

Question:

What game is this?

comment image

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Schlag Sweetleaf

AC2 I believe..

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Weilan

Thanks.

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Sally Bowls

A new level cap is the most palatable way to destroy players gear. When you have a game with progression and where one player could have been playing a decade longer than another, you need a way for the newer player to feel competitive. You can do “seasons” where you gear/ranking reset periodically or you could do like EVE and allow the new player spend money to catch up. Or you can leave all the level X gear in the game because everyone now wants X+10 level gear.

Hamblepants
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Hamblepants

That Rend article gives beautiful words to the main reason I’m excited for Camelot Unchained, thanks for sharing it (the factions, and the depth and meaningfulness that makes them magical for pvp).

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Hikari Kenzaki

Level cap increases only occur because a large group of players feel that raising the level cap is a commentary on the game’s overall health.

In the recent level cap increase in STO, they came right out and said the level cap increase was only attract new or past players to the game.

https://www.arcgames.com/en/games/star-trek-online/news/detail/10878744-star-trek-online%27s-level-cap-increases-to-65

The More Things Change…
Levels themselves are only a part of the picture in Star Trek Online, with other important aspects of your character’s overall progress represented by systems like Specializations, Reputations, Item Upgrades, Starship Mastery, and more. As these have continued to grow over the past several years, levels themselves have come to mean less and less.

This Level Cap increase is not an attempt to change that perception, or to upset expectations as to what a level means in this game. Instead, we’re hoping to use this as an opportunity to show other potential players, as well as Star Trek fans everywhere, that this game – this rich, robust, story-driven experience – is still growing, still changing, still expanding, and still waiting for them to enjoy.

Alex Js.
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Alex Js.

It’s not “useless” to add more levels if it still gives a virtual impression of “progression” to millions of hamsters who bought the new expansion ;-)

Seriously, though, I wish more MMOs would drop this silly “leveling hamster wheel” progression system for main part of the game and instead rely more on user-generated content, where most of the people would still have reasons to log in even years after reaching “max level” of their abilities and without new buttons added to the UI bars. Like EVE already does ;-)

And I know what you’re thinking: “but that would require similar PvP system with large territory control, lawless space everywhere and immersive financial system which has potential to be abused by scammers, and I don’t wanna PvP or get scammed!” Well, such game can (and should!) also include a part for PvE hamsters like YOU, something like a single instanced (no one can join it other than people in your group) “endless dungeon”, similar to FFXIV’s places like Heaven-on-High, with virtual “gear levels” (FFXIV’s Aetherpool gear), randomly-generated floor designs+sizes, “boss” monsters every 10 floors and “save files” to save your progress so you could restart from certain floor set later. Just make it something like 1000 floors at launch and keep adding 300-500 floors each new patch, and that’s it, a PERFECT “progression system” for all PvE hamsters (who are obsessed with seeing higher numbers next to their “gear level” and “progression status”) with minimal effort (even less than what Blizzard puts now into their expansions) ;-)

P.S: You’re welcome, Amazon’s “New World” developers (if any of you are reading this)! ;-)

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flamethekid .

with they way they casualized leveling when it comes to most remaining mmo’s they might as well remove the entire concept of leveling and go for an entirely skill based game where you get stronger by going out and looking for skills and training those skills you get to level up

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I realize you’re being sarcastic, but that sounds awesome to me. It’s like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies and Guild Wars 1 all mixed together. I’d play that.

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Sally Bowls

I don’t quite get what that solves though. The problem is a new player joins a game where an old player may have a decade of skill training. You either have to provide the new player with massive catchup mechanics, causing the “back in the day” “nerfed for casuals” comments or you have to make the old skills irrelevant because the new stuff needs red skills which nobody has, even the people with a decade of blue skills.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Nah, that’s EVE. Ideally, there’s a low cap for the skills that a decade of offline leveling – not exactly a boon to anyone’s epeen anyway – won’t help. With the games I mentioned, you would be caught up in a few months.

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flamethekid .

just cap the skill and have branching paths for said skill

either that or have leveling boosting or enhancing the same way you find skills look around the world and randomly find level boosting enhancements,locations,skills,random encounters etc etc.
and low levels have a higher chance of finding them

its alot more organic than a shopping list of quests

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Minimalistway

I would love that, seriously

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David Goodman

Well, using WoW as an example, while you do not earn any new skills or improve the base power of old skills as you level (amd I do see the merit and enjoyment in that), its somewhat incorrect to say that you dont get any stronger.

Equipment that you get has level requirements and higher levels let you equip stronger gear. This makes you, objectively, stronger.

A player at level 120 is absolutely stronger. The content that requires level 120 gives more direct power.

So WoW is strictly a gear-based progression game using levels as a way to gate the progression you can do to get stronger gear. And at 120, item level gates content with even better gear.

There are a LOT of things wrong with this system, make no mistake. However to say you dont get stronger with levels is a deliberate falsehood. Its just that the levels do not, in themselves, confer power.

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thirtymil

You actually get weaker with levels in Warcraft now.

At level 116 you are weaker than you were at 110, because your Legion legendaries no longer confer their bonuses. If you don’t keep getting decent loot drops/quest rewards from 110 to 119 then you are weaker at 119 than you are at 110 as the effectiveness of your gear drops compared to the mobs that stay same level with you. My time-to-kill went up significantly from 110 to 120 as a feral druid, and at 120 I couldn’t solo packs of five mobs that I could at 110.

The problem is they added mob scaling to match your level but didn’t add anything on gaining a new level. If you don’t give the players extra passives or skills to become more powerful as they level up and the monsters retain level with you, you’re actually getting weaker unless you keep upgrading your gear. The best you can hope for is to remain as equally powerful as you were before.

The only point at which you start getting stronger in BfA is at level 120 with a decent set of improved gear – but even then the mobs still scale to your gear to a certain extent, like they did in Legion.

It’s a massive flaw in the system in my opinion because WoW is built on the power/progression mechanic and they’ve basically just broken it. Levels mean absolutely nothing useful in WoW and they may as well replace them with gear score.