Do Levels Suck?

Slartibartfast

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Interesting article over at Raph Koster's website:

http://www.raphkoster.com/?p=214

He talks about the ways the concept of leveling changed when it made the transition from D&D to MUDS and MMORPGs. It's really an interesting article and is something that I've thought about more than once. It's always bothered me that in games like Final Fantasy, all experience and leveling does is hinder you from getting through tougher portions of the game, ie, you don't have a chance at dungeon x until you're at least level y. It seems like such an artificial and cheap way to provide more content. I always liked the way Zelda did it better, by using items and puzzles to provide access to various parts of the world, instead of just having to hack through monsters for hours. It's also kind of a cheap reward system. Which is not to say I'm above it, I've hit level 88 or so in Diablo II, solely through doing Baal runs. Each level is a little bit of a thrill, but then it's just on to the next one. I know I get addicted to it, I just don't like it. I don't mind it so much when it occurs more naturally though. For example, in Dawn Of Sorrow, you are limited to certain parts of the castle based on the abilities you have, which can only be acquired by defeating certain bosses. There is a leveling system in place, but you never really find yourself having to stop advancing and just grind, becuase you earn xp fast enough that as long as your killing say 75% of the monsters you encounter, you will be on a high enough level to get where you need to go (this doesn't hold true for Julius mode so much, mainly because you can't use healing items). So while in Diablo II I was always trying to level up, in Dawn of Sorrow it's not really a motivating factor.

He also talks a lot about the way players advance through levels in MMO's, which should be interesting to anybody who's played them. Anyways, highly recommended, Koster is an excellent writer and has some really fascinating ideas.
 

|MaguS|

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Well lvls were always set in place to make a limit for future adventures and areas to explore. Even in D&D you require certain levels and abilities to accomplish anything. In games they are put in place to add more to the game... without them your just going from point a to b with encounters inplace for no reason...

Levels are good when done properly, I think if you can go gain more then 5 levels in the same area then its not done right. EQ1 had this flaw you would see lvl 50s all the way to 60 fighting in the CC in Velious just because that one area/level was too good.

A game like Dragon Quest kept you moving foward because older areas wouldn't benefit you at all due to experiance and gold lower after you level.

D2 was just flawed in xp gaining... it was all mob and difficulty based, not really area.
 

Slartibartfast

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Well, I think they did what they could with D2, given the relatively small size of the game world. It just happened that baal's minions gave the best xp, so you had the endless baal runs (I've done over 100 in a row before). I just think it would be cool for an rpg to come up with a system besides just character levels, or for levels to mean more than combat efficiency.
 

Firebot

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Anything that Raph says should be ignored, considering that SWG is his bastard child. He's the John Romero of MMORPG's.
 

Slartibartfast

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Firebot said:
Anything that Raph says should be ignored, considering that SWG is his bastard child. He's the John Romero of MMORPG's.
I read his book and thought it was great. Very interesting and very well written. I've never played any MMO's so I don't know about that, but IMO his theories are sound and well thought out. Just because you don't like one of his games means he's an idiot, and I don't think he's on par with romero's "i am a god" post-doom schtick.
 

Trimlock

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Skill based > Level Based
i will continually give any game that doesn't have lvling as their main source of advancement, i hate it, i don't really get it, theres so many ways you can move around level's
 

arentol

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Tetrahedron said:
Skill based > Level Based
I agree with this in principal, but in reality it often forces skill grinding, or allows (and therefore causes) macroing to increase skills. Building an effective, non-exploitable, non-forced grinding skill based system is very hard.
 

tys90

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If anyone has ever played UO in it's prime (right after skill locking and before the "power hours") they might agree that it's skill based system was one of the best in the game. It took a lot of work to become GM (100/100 skill points) at something, which did mean grinding skill points some, but you could still get to 100 in a reasonable amount of time in almost any skill, especially the basic fighting skills. IMO, that was the best I've seen a skill-based system work, and I definently preferred it over all the other level-based MMORPGs I've played.
 

Nasty_Savage

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To get rid of the grinding, you should make the grindables less prevelant. Make the spawns more random then going to see a nest of monsters every 20 feet or so. Make it require work...the level based system is fine...its the implementation that is flawed.
 

Tetrahedron

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arentol said:
I agree with this in principal, but in reality it often forces skill grinding, or allows (and therefore causes) macroing to increase skills. Building an effective, non-exploitable, non-forced grinding skill based system is very hard.
well that is what skills are... i mean things do have to somewhat reflect RL, if you want to be good at basketball for instance... you have to grind away and get good.. I do not see how a video game with skills needs to be any different.
 

Neurofreeze

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Well it sort of varies from game to game. One of the big premises of leveling is that it is itself gameplay. In games with good leveling systems, leveling itself is fun, often requiring some sort of strategy and foresight. Disgaea is a pretty good example. FFX actually had a pretty fun leveling system with the sphere grid too. Leveling provides a more consistent release of rewards, eg. you work and build up for X amount and you're rewarded at the end of your efforts.

The difference between games like Zelda and traditional video game RPGs is that in Zelda there is only one way to get that specific item/heart/etc; however it's action-oriented. In video game RPGs, especially MMOs, you have multiple ways of doing it (kill monster A or boss B or quest C), although it tends to require more foresight than anything else.

It's also very stat-based. If you're a min-maxer you'll like traditional video game RPG leveling systems.

Skill-based systems in MMOs tend to sound pretty neat until it becomes a far more monotonous grind than killing monsters. Seriously, fishing? Dancing?
 

rhouck

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Agree on many counts... though I'm not sure if it's something that can really be effectively solved in a computer game

I think it's sad though when people love to play computer MMORPGs but have never played paper and pencil... the computer really does remove 95% of what made paper and pencil fun :)
 

Torgo

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Levels suck only suck because I'm always taking it to another level.

Oh SNAP!

Seriously, I'll post something meaningful later. I've got to run out the door so consider this a placeholder.
 

Blakestr

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In 50 years we won't have levels or skills (well, perhaps ranking levels) but your ability will be just that, your ability. It will be how good you can, literally, in your hand, wield a weapon against another player or how fast you can correctly ennunciate a spell, whose maximum power is dependant upon how precise your utterances are. Even after casting it, could you control the spell well enough to not destroy yourself...

One day people, one day...
 

DudeItsMe

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Levels were fine when done right. My first 60 levels in World of Warcraft were fun and exciting. Yeah I never got another 60, but that's because my Warlock rocked so much (I had lots of high level alts though Lol).

A game most of you have probably not heard of by the name of Demise: Rise of the Ku'tan was probably the king of the level grind. There were 13 guilds, max for one character being 12 I believe (if done a certain way), with the max level in each guild being 999. Many people enjoyed getting characters with multiple guilds to Lvl 999. I never got past 250 in a single guild, but at that point I was only clearing Lvl 24ish with ease of the 31 level dungeon. Definetly an example of levels done right, where they were still fun.

Really I couldn't name a game where I feel that levels were done poorly. If everything was skill based, I'd beat everything entirely too fast. IMO levels are a balancing factor that allow the beginning of a game to be almost as challenging as the end. Levels also provide appropriate timesinks to prevent rushing through a game too fast.... would you take your time in a game if you knew you were powerful enough to beat it from the start?

As far as the Zelda games that did not require levels... yes, those were done well. But I never found those as fun as any level style RPG's.
 

Drudenhaus

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I much prefer games that are skill based (UO, Eve online), although skill based + level based isn't always too bad (Shadowbane did a good job combining them).
 

Kiggles

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Reading the editorial now. I will comment later, but right off the bat, I detest Level oriented systems. They have redeaming features. As mentioned earlier, games like FFX had some enjoyable leveling systems; however, I typically find them far too formulaic and repetative to be enjoyable. Repeate task X times, then move on. I am objective oriented. Taking the Zelda ideology you are limited by your skill (equipment) set and the next task before you. Progressing to new areas depends upon completing a quest, or some sort of definite task. IE: Completing dungeon # X.

I am still waiting for an online action RPG akin to Zelda's gameplay. PSO was close, but still statistical/level oriented, opposed to skill set oriented.

Again, level oriented progressions are interesting, and I know there are a lot of people who enjoy the design the limits players by numbers, opposed to twitch skills. I ussually am not one of them, however. I'll be back after finishing the article to be a bit more topical.

EDIT: "If you think I am saying that typical RPG combat sucks as a game, you’re right."

Ok, I really like this editorial. So far some of it is beyond my scope. Analyzing how original PnP game mechanics have evolved isn't in my history. I just felt a lot of the arguements Koster is making intuitively.

Still more to come, I am sure. That comment really struck close to home, though. :)
 
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Meh.

Levels are just one method of tracking progress and rewarding players.

MMO's are somewhat generic when compared to a single player game that is able to have much more story for the player to follow.

Levels don't bother me. Then again, first rpg's I ever played were the pen and paper type, so I was accustomed to levels before I ever played a computer rpg.
 

Worldhammer

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I agree with some in this thread. Doesn't it really amount to the same thing? The only real difference I see between them is lvl based systems you get better alot at once while skill grinding allows a smaller increment of advancement over time. The smaller increments make little difference until they start to add up. Seems pretty much a wash to me.
 

lt.murda

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I like levels no matter what anyone says.It adds a new deminsion to the game.In my opinion it would be rather boring to go whereever in the game you wanted.I like how to access certain areas you have to have a certain level and abilities in order to survive there.Thats what make those games worth playing.You keep working to get somewhere and you get rewarded.
 
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