I touched briefly on the idea of character advancement in yesterday’s post, and I think it warrantsÂ further discussion. Â Right now MMOs seem to have one common theme: Pick a class, quest to level, unlock all abilities, then do end-game activities to get loot toÂ make your abilities better. Â That’s the gist of character advancement. Â If IÂ were responsible for looking at how characters would advance, level up, improve, etc., in a MMO here’s what I would do.
Play-style should radically change based upon one’s chosen profession. Â I use the word profession in its truest sense. Â Wizards being blacksmiths, blacksmiths being thieves, everyone being everything, it just doesn’t make much sense to me. Â Professions require extensive training, prolonged study, and practice. Â I like when players need to specialize and choose a path. Â Be one thing, and have the game be capable of supporting whatever choice you make by providing a unique and 100% fulfilling experience.
Blacksmiths should become better blacksmiths by making weapons. Â Thieves should become better at stealing and moving about undetected by actually trying to do so. Â Warriors wanting to increase their strength and skill with a blade should have to go out and slay beasts. Â I like when I see that my character has become better at using swords because I have actually used a sword. I’m not a believer in universal advancement or “choose where your point goes” systems. Â If you use a sword and gain a level, why should you be able to increase your armor value? Â I’m not saying that everything should make perfect and realistic sense — it’s a game after all — but these things are capable of being great gameplay mechanics.
It’s not the ‘weapon’ that matters, it’s how you use it
Magical attributes on weapons are out of control. Â We went from the days of Longsword +1, to named items, to items with +850 Strength, +50% attack speed, +284 Dexterity, and the ability to proc fireballs. Â We long ago reached the point where our actual ‘characters’ are now our weapons and armor. Â That ‘thing’ we control with WASD is justÂ an empty shell. Â Our ‘characters’ in today’s MMOS are randomly dropped or bought withÂ tokens.
I believe the character you level and spend time advancing and specializing should make up 80-90% or more of the equation. Â Weapons and armor are tools. Â I’m all in favor of providing that carrot on the stick and desire to obtain more powerful artifacts, but not at such a high price.
I would remove the concept that skill = items,Â macros, addons, and rotations. Â Ability should be based on howÂ you’ve chosen to build your character combined with how well you control him or her beyond which the order in which you use abilities. Â Ever group with a good healer in EverQuest? Â Knowing when to heal requires instinct, anticipation, and understanding of each and every mob you encountered. Â Conserving mana required forethought and efficiency. Â Playing with a good Enchanter was like watching a master working his trade. Â The way they orchestrate the fights and control every second of timing means life or death for everyone. Â So you see, skill is not always based on twitch or rotation but in understanding and experience.
Effort and Reward
Advancement should take time and effort. Â I know many of you reading will disagree. Â I truly believe that for any character to have honestlyÂ advanced and not fall into the trappings of random advancement, universal advancement, or item advancement, there must be effort involved. Â Effort can take time, and if a game is designed around the idea of legitimate character advancement then such actions will not feel like work or feel like they take time; You will feel like you are playing a game and building something, earning something, and as a result you will see and feel the rewards you’ve earned.