Yesterday’s discussion about level/world scaling and a comment from one of our readers really got me thinking more and more about levels in MMORPGs. Do we really need them? Are they still a core tenet of MMORPG design?
More and more the answer is becoming, “No.”
World of Warcraft has long been without need for levels. Today the patch basically took 120 levels and condensed them into 7. For years online games, MMO, MMORPG, or otherwise, have tried to implement ways in which players of disparate levels can come together. ESO scaled their entire world. EQ2 has had mentoring (and scaling?) for years. The list goes on.
Many of these games are about simply playing and having fun doing something when you log in instead of playing in the one or two zones prescribed. There are positives and negatives with that statement.
In general, progression can still be had without the official institution of levels. We can use skill points, achievements, and alternate advancement in their place. Games can be made where the world isn’t broken up by level requirements, rather progression requirements. This post won’t specify the best route, rather propose there are other routes which may work well, even for people who enjoy the “ding.”
I would love an open-world MMORPG where I’m not given a label or a number to indicate my advancement. I think I might appreciate knowledge of how good I am at using a sword or shield and armor, and then going out and seeing what I’m capable of accomplishing.
There’s no doubting levels have meant less over the years, particularly in the highly-dominant themepark genre where getting the end is where it all begins. And before Bhagpuss comments about never reaching end-game and playing the game to level only and having fun there, amen brother. I agree. If only the entire game was the journey to the end — that was my EverQuest experience. These games, however, are simply, and sadly, not designed that way.