Every Level Should Matter

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Every session of EQ brings a set of new realizations. The latest realization is that we’ve lost the importance of levels. We went from every level mattering to every 5 or 10 levels bringing a big upgrades, and now we’re pretty much at the point where the levels are just tacked on and what truly matters is whether or not you’re the max level.

EVERY level should matter. When I’m level 11 I should be on the edge of my seat to reach level 12. Level 12 should make fighting the same monsters I was fighting earlier a whole lot easier. If I ‘leveled’ and received nothing, haven’t felt like I’ve increased in power, or essentially can’t do anything new that I previously unable, then I should not have leveled at all.

What I really like about EverQuest is that I’m always feeling like a new level brings so many new opportunities. Characters progression is drastic. Life-changing abilities and spells are granted, stats and health increase, and new monsters are no longer out of your experience reach. All of this makes leveling up something to truly look forward to.

This also means that earning a level should be significant. Requiring effort makes achieving that new level even more meaningful. Mastering this curve yields depth, and increases the scope of your game.

  • I’m of the opinion that levels are an outdated game mechanic. Unlocking character progress via some “fill up a bar” means is fine, but using it as a content gating mechanism via methods like “you can’t even hit a purple con mob” is just garbage.

    There’s a reason all these game worlds are too shallow anymore, and it’s that 90% of them aren’t even relevant once you’ve outleveled them. GW2 as a recent example went to sooooo much trouble to downlevel characters for lower tier zones that they could’ve saved them tons of trouble by just removing levels altogether from the game. Folks were progressing through zones following the story and achievements anyhow. There wasn’t any reason to level gate the content with all the other progression mechanics.

    Then there’s the gear issue. I wonder how many resources these companies spend on designing and implementing pre-endgame gear only to have it all be completely worthless a month after release. Same with crafting systems that have you burn through worthless tiers of equipment.

    Levels unecessarily limit these games today IMO. Get rid of them. There’s plenty of other ways to guide the players path through your game world and not invalidate content for powerful “end-game” characters.

  • This is one of the big attractions for me too. That said, I preferred it a lot when casters got their spells in a big bunch every fourth level rather than spread out so they get something every level like they do now. I thought the four-level wait was paced just perfectly so you were overpowered and felt like a powerhouse each time you got a new lot and then you got weaker and weaker until by the time the next four levels were almost over you were desperate for those new spells.

    I think spreading the entire spellbook semi-evenly across the full level range is blander, although it is still a stronger flavor than most MMOs offer these days.

  • The problem is that we’ve grown to expect levels quicker (or more often) which forces the developer to make the levels less rewarding. Originally, getting a single level in EQ was much more drawn out than getting 5 levels in today’s MMO. I have constant discussions with friends about how MMO’s are getting simpler and simpler, and we all seem to have our own opinions about whether that’s good or not. I do like a good complex, difficult MMO, but at the same time I don’t always have 4-8 hours of time to sit down and play. If I’ve only got 2 hours of time to play, I do want to feel rewarded for that time…

    Basically, making every level significant means making it harder to level (more time, more xp between levels). This will, unfortunately, drive a lot of people away these days.

  • “If I’ve only got 2 hours of time to play, I do want to feel rewarded for that time…”

    Just taking this out, as it summarizes part of the problem I feel is inherent. By that I mean that people think that if you don’t level in that 2 hours you weren’t rewarded. Gaining XP/Money/Partial Level is still being rewarded for that play time. People have just lost sight of that I feel.

  • @Gali: EQ figured out the gear issues by not having level requirements, and allowing people to trade gear even once equipped. Zones remained relevant because harder mobs were mixed in with lower level mobs. Gear was so integral to so many characters that people would go to those zones and try to get gear.

    @Bhagpuss: I thought I would hate the spells being spaced out, but they did a nice job of making sure they spaced the main spells that really kick you up a notch. You still get that boost in power every 4-5 levels, while still having something to look forward to in the 2-3 levels in between.

    @Sean: I think the real key here is why don’t you feel rewarded for gaining that experience in 2 hours. Is it that you felt you didn’t get to do anything in the 2 hours because things were difficult, or that you didn’t reach a milestone?

    @Drathmar: Well said.

  • Yeah levels should matter. And even in “hybrid” early EQ they probably do because that’s just built into every aspect of the game.

    But if somebody can get to level 40 easily in a few days, and it sounds like you are above level 20 in not much longer than that, they don’t really matter. I expect you to be over this completely within a month.

    Don’t mind me… I’ll just be over here trying to figure out why I hate games on phones.

  • I’m gonna have to disagree with you here, Keen. This may be a similar situation to understanding (rather, not understanding) what someone feels, but I would place EQ low on the totem pole of seeing a great difference in every level. I suppose it depends on the class, but EQ feels like the level difference isn’t so much what matters compared to the move to a higher level camp/area. EQ (again, for some classes) changes very little from level to level. I’m sure we’re talking about experiencing different thrills, but mine was getting to explore a variety of new content designed for my level range, which was in packs of 5 in EQ (yes for some classes there was some flexibility).

    I think the pacing of games has a lot to do with what you are touching on. In EQ, there is a longing to reach the next level, because it’s a journey and it opens up new possibilities (again, in packs of 4s or 5s). The experience becomes more memorable because it HAS to be worth something to you if you spent that much time on it.

    I feel like EQ is the strict, low tech, attentive parent of the pre-90s and current MMOs are the distracted, accommodating, raise-kids-with-gimmicks parents of today.