Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Whence Progress?

The Aggronaut has a post out singing the praises of a World of Warcraft currency exchange proposed by Blizzard that Bel has dubbed BLEX. In it, Bel mentions a mentoring system as part of his wishlist for WoW innovations. Lord Tridus from A Goon's Day Off thinks that such a system is simply a bandaid, for the problem of levels and old content. I threw in my two cents. (Quotes are his.)

"Flatten or wipe out the level curve entirely and content now becomes scaled on gear"
This system has worked fairly well in The Secret World, but the classless Ability Wheel and Skill System are very different from the classful system of WoW. I wonder if there would not be balance issues if they didn't completely redesign Azeroth from the ground up (and not just the landscape). And in TSW, you still cannot walk into the top areas in low level gear and expect to survive.

"as gear stats are all based on easily scaleable formulae already"
But that scalability depends on levels—that is, a single stat unit on gear has greater impact at lower levels than it does at max. Without levels, what would they scale gear-stats to?

For better or for worse, MMORPGs seem to be about all about character progression. Progression through gear can work, but there might be an upper limit to it that would be just as bad as plain ol' levels. And then, like Funcom's AEGIS for TSW, Blizz would be forced to come up with some other new system to represent progress to satisfy those players that are at the leading edge of content/stats.

The nice thing about a mentoring system like Rift's (unlike GW2's, for instance) is that you can choose whether areas you have already surpassed will be trivial or a continued challenge. There are plenty of times where I just want to beeline my way across a low zone rather than deal with the trash mobs milling about. Other times, I want to participate in the content at level; zone events, for example, or dungeons. Mentoring allows me to do so.

Like Tridus, I would like to see a truly level-less game. But I wonder if we're in the minority.

As far as BLEX, it sounds like a good idea. I've never gotten involved in that type of market, but I have considered it in order to get some quick game currency. And if it beats criminal gold farmers at their own game while replenishing the development coffers, so much the better.
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  1. To my way of thinking an MMO without levels might well be a great game (or a terrible one or anything inbetween) but it would be an entirely different subgenre. The MMORPGs I want to play are 3D Graphic diku-MUDs or, if you prefer, 24/7 auto-DM'd online D&D games.

    By all means developers should try out other types of MMO but as a player I'm probably going to be no more interested in them then, as a reader, I am in all the various genres of literature I don't have a taste for. I'll stick with levels, please.

    1. I, too, think of MMOs as auto-DM'd tabletops. I might not actually like a single-level game if I encounter it. But I am willing to try one if it comes along. I have it already in a sense. Because of the way I can mentor down my insta-60 in Rift, I can always be at exactly the level of difficulty/challenge I want.

    2. But if you're going by levels as the mark of it being the current genre of MMO, doesn't it stop being that as soon as you hit endgame and levels are no longer a thing?

      That's the whole problem. Levels work fine in games that end. MMOs don't end, but the levels do. So you have some stretch of time where levels matter, and then a much larger stretch of time where levels are totally irrelevant except when they're causing problems.

  2. I wouldn't mind seeing a really well-done level-less MMO, as long as it doesn't result in an aimless mess with no way to better yourself or your experiences.

    1. That, ultimately is the point of levels, isn't it? A sign of character progress. I've made the argument on this very blog that real life is full of levels, whether they be grades/years in school or color belts in martial arts. Tridus mentioned using gear progression instead. That's just leveling by a different process, though. You're still left with areas that low-geared characters should not go into, when complete freedom of movement is the main reason I have heard articulated for level-less worlds.

  3. I loved Ultima Online for its lack of levels. There's definite progression with being skill-based, but it never divided the world the same way. I don't see how a clever use of Achievements and quest-based unlocking couldn't solve similar issues without forcing a direct grind to achieve skill. You could even do class-based quests which give a sense of basic progression, while also building up the lore again.

    1. I'm certainly up for more lore and class-specific quests.