This is a response I wrote as a comment on my STO Fleet's "Editor-in-chief" Tipa's West Karana blog:
I remember talking to a friend about an alternative progression scheme where XP would be used to "purchase" skills and attributes (SA), with no real class distinctions limiting which SA are available, nor a particular level system other than the amount of XP spent (hello STO). He didn't think it would be practical, as the choices would be too complex, and people would be frustrated by the system; or that people would still define SA a la "Elitist Jerks" and pigeonhole "classes" or roles. I never played Tabula Rasa, but the leveling system seemed kind of like this, from what I read; where you started with a generic soldier character and specialized as you went.
What we are really talking about is a system that reflects reality in terms of the way we think we train in real life. Expertise is important. You wouldn't expect a peewee soccer player to make it in the World Cup. River rapids, cliff faces, and ski runs are rated for the expertise required to navigate them successfully. Of course, a game is compressed in almost every way, including the time it takes to become an "expert." But is leveling not the way we train in real life? Martial arts have a colored belt system, where participants demonstrate certain skills and are certified to have achieved a higher level. We have levels in school all the way from kindergarten to twelfth grade (in the U.S.) and then levels in college (albeit only slightly less regimented). I like the way WoW refers to the levels as "seasons of adventure," at least in the letter you get in-game when you hit 80.
Of course, I know my own skills as a player are much improved from when I first started playing WoW about four years ago. It takes much less time to level a lowbie toon than when I first played my hunter in June of 2006. And thankfully, this understanding of game mechanics translates to new games to one degree or another. The question then becomes: how do we make the leveling process less repetitive and more like true experience? And perhaps just as important especially in our STO fleet: how do we get characters of different level playing together so that each player has a meaningful experience in the encounters?