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MMOG Creators On The Levelling Treadmill

simoniker posted more than 11 years ago | from the step-step-stepping-up dept.

PC Games (Games) 74

Thanks to RPGVault for their article discussing the problems of repetitive gameplay in MMORPGs. The article defines the issue as "...the so-called "levelling treadmill" that involves repetitive play, often combat against NPCs that present little real challenge, in order to advance [the player's] characters" Representatives from NCSoft, Microsoft, and Auran offer their opinions, which range from "...levelling in and of itself is not evil" to "...levelling has to become dull or the level-up reward would lack value."

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"Levelling must become dull" (5, Interesting)

deemah (644363) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633313)

I don't understand why levelling must be a dull process for the reward to mean anything. The main problem with the majority of MMO*s is that combat is the main focus of levelling. The game then devolves into a "who can get to the spawn point fastest" competition.

Star Wars Galaxies has gone some way to remedy this with experience granted for other skill use but in doing this they've neglected the section of their playerbase who want to fight hordes of creatures.

What's needed is a balance between the two - have the tunnels of orcs or caves of tuskan raiders for players who want to go all out hack'n'slash to haunt but also have experience/level points awarded for other actions. Neverwinter Nights is one that balances these very nicely but then it's just a translation of the D&D rule set.

Re:"Levelling must become dull" (1)

Oddly_Drac (625066) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633697)

"The main problem with the majority of MMO*s is that combat is the main focus of levelling. The game then devolves into a "who can get to the spawn point fastest" competition."

Or camp with the most high levels that protect other players or just make it really difficult to 'steal' the kill.

I reached the point with Anarchy where everyone was going uber and calculating their point score increases to wedge in that one implant, or they were twinking their level 2 characters with millions of credits to ensure that they gained PvP titles at the expense of the newb who decided to give PvP a try.

I'm one of those sad gits that used to do the 'RP' in MMORPG...

The problems stem from more than just xp farming from combat, and the best approach I've seen in a while was Dungeon Siege's vocational training, each skill (okay, there weren't many) levelling as it's used...this would give the more 'peaceful' people some way to get those equipment building and supply skills up so a Doctor could be more than a shotgun caddy with uber heals...

Anarchy also managed to shoot itself in the foot heavily by removing encumberance...cue people carrying backpacks in their inventory...

Lastly I'd personally want to see an economic model worth a damn. Go check out the prices of things like Dragon armour and ask yourself whether the constant spawning of such high items actually devalues the ingame currency.

Note, I'd like to caveat the above by stating that I left the game just before Notum Wars, but the focus of the last two expansions has been to enable and keep interested the level 150-200 characters/players rather than refine the system.

For one thing, I can see that MMORPG is going to be at the mercy of the majority, and unfortunately the majority seem to be mostly interested in bragging rights.

Re:"Levelling must become dull" (1)

KDan (90353) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634019)

Lastly I'd personally want to see an economic model worth a damn.

Try Arctic [arctic.org] . It's a MUD. I haven't played it in a while but the economy there was the best I've seen, both for equipment and for xp (and even large quantities of currency were hard to get, so that the coins were actually worth something rather than just being 'gamble money' like in games like Diablo 2). Good equipment there was really rare, because 1) it popped very rarely, and 2) the total number active in the game was capped. So you definitely wouldn't see 50 ppl running around with a "Death Sword of Thakisis" or stuff like that. You probably wouldn't even see one uber item cause they would only use it while doing really hard zones with their clan - otherwise the risk of being ambushed by other ppl just for the purpose of recovering that item was too great.

Add to that that some items could only be repaired in very hard to reach zones (read, you have to go there with a buff party of experienced players to stand a chance to make it to the shop), that others simply could not be repaired, and that all levied a 'rent' while you were away from the MUD which cost more (a lot more) for good items, and there's your balanced economy of scarcity.

I'm not sure why no other online game that I've seen so far has been able to reproduce that at all. Imho they should hire the people who designed Arctic and get them to balance their games for them.

Daniel

Re:"Levelling must become dull" (2, Interesting)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 11 years ago | (#6636067)

I don't understand why levelling must be a dull process for the reward to mean anything.

I think the guy who said that has it exactly backwards. Levelling in my pen-and-paper D&D game certainly isn't dull, and even then the main focus is often (though not always) combat. Then again, we generally are fighting opponents that are actually appropriate to our power level.

Star Wars Galaxies has gone some way to remedy this with experience granted for other skill use but in doing this they've neglected the section of their playerbase who want to fight hordes of creatures.

What's needed is a balance between the two - have the tunnels of orcs or caves of tuskan raiders for players who want to go all out hack'n'slash to haunt but also have experience/level points awarded for other actions. Neverwinter Nights is one that balances these very nicely but then it's just a translation of the D&D rule set.


Morrowind has an excellent system, I think. You raise level by increasing your skills, which you can do either by using them in "real world" situations or by paying for training. The important thing is that EVERYTHING is governed by a skill (or more than one in some cases): Your ability to hit with a weapon and the amount of damage you do are effected by your skill with that type of weapon, your movement rate and endurance are effected by your skill with the type of armor you're wearing, etc.

Anybody can learn any skill, and that gets balanced by having class skills be worth more in terms of gaining levels, so you can have a fighter that casts spells but he won't gain levels as fast as a fighter who just focused on his weapon and armor skills.

And again, even the fighter who just focuses on weapons doesn't have to just go out and kill stuff to level up. If he manages to get ahold of a good sum of money somehow, he could get a bunch of training and level up that way. Note that a trainer can only train you up to a certain ability level, which varies from trainer to trainer.

Re:"Levelling must become dull" (1)

Mandoric (55703) | more than 11 years ago | (#6642800)

D&D leveling's fun mainly because of the context.

A party's typically supposed to be able to handle four encounters at their level before resting or heading back to town. A party's supposed to level after 12 or so such encounters.
So depending on your players and your DM, the typical party will level once every month to three months. This is more than consistent with the stance that leveling has to be rare to be enjoyable.
On the other hand, because that wait is broken up into 3 or 4 hour sessions weekly usually, waiting doesn't become dull.

The problem with MMORPGs is that they have to balance between many different types of players. Someone who plays every night may be happy with a 10-hour-per-level scale, depending on level rewards; someone who plays one night a week probably won't.

In addition, normal D&D encounters take anyhwere between an hour and the whole session, for something on your level - the fight may only take half a minute of game time, but give yourself your 6-player party, a minute or so per round per player for tactical thinking and dice-rolling, and the occasional 5-minute break when someone takes a spell lookup as an excuse to go buy more soda, and even subduing a few guards takes an hour or so in reality; whereas in an MMORPG (or even a real-time CRPG; NWN had to cut experience gains to 1/10 what would normally be given, and still levels extremely fast) this probably wouldn't take much over a minute. So, assuming a 3e-D&D-accurate ruleset in a hack-and-slash MMORPG, players would be hitting epic levels in their first night of play - not good for balance.

I don't think any MMORPG will avoid the level treadmill without taking a few steps that will majorly turn off subscribers - Permadeath in a PvP-only, heavily social game is about all I can think of, and few people would pay their $10 monthly for that.

Re:"Levelling must become dull" (1)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 11 years ago | (#6650475)

You make some excellent points, and several of them I hadn't considered, but I also think you missed my point to a large extent.

I think a big part of the problem in the situation you're describing (D&D in realtime) is that gaining a level in D&D means so much. Contrast that with Morrowind, where leveling really doesn't mean that much (you get to increase your stats a bit). The real character advancement is in your skills, which is fairly smooth and yet still enjoyable.

You could also look at "levelless" pen-and-paper RPGs like the White Wolf games, or the origional Call of Chthulhu or Deadlands (I've also played Rolemaster and Warhammer games where the advancement system was modified to be more like those systems). Character advancement is still enjoyable in those games.

IMNHO, levelling becoming boring is a sign of lack of creativity. To some extent that rests on the developers, but a much larger portion of the blame goes to the bored player. If you're going to just sit there and slay rats, of course that's going to get boring. If you're bored, do something that isn't boring, like maybe actually finishing a quest or something.

Re:"Levelling must become dull" (1)

InfoVore (98438) | more than 11 years ago | (#6644666)

Star Wars Galaxies has gone some way to remedy this with experience granted for other skill use but in doing this they've neglected the section of their playerbase who want to fight hordes of creatures.

They haven't gotten it right for the non-combat professions either. In fact, the leveling treadmill is far worse for the advanced artisan professions (Architect, Chef, Droid Engineer, Tailor, etc) than for the combat professions. Basically to level in these professions, your game play consists of sitting down next to a crafting station for seemingly endless hours making the same things over and over and over.

What makes it more frustrating is that it is almost impossible to make credits selling your items at that skill level. So not only do you have to do mindless crafting for untold hours, but now you get to run around doing unnecessarily lengthy 'delivery' missions to make the money needed to feed your resource harvesters. You don't dare do the marginally more interesting 'combat' missions, because as a wimpy artisan-type you will be quickly killed.

What SWG needs is consignment missions which award both XP and credits for making and delivering items of a certain quality. This would aleviate some of the boredom of artisan leveling in SWG.

Unfortunately, the leveling treadmill is what is going to limit the popularity of all these games. Even the 'skinner box' repetition-reward system can only go so far to keep people engaged. I haven't played a single MMORPG yet where the leveling treadmill didn't bore me into quiting after a couple of months. The fundamental playability problem for any MMORPG is: the begining is fun because you are learning and gaining skills rapidly, but it gets more tedious the more you try to advance to higher levels.

The core of the leveling treadmill problem is that in these games is: change = fun. The challenge is to create an environment where EVERY player feels like an active, important participant of the game world no matter what their level or skill. As long as the designers create static worlds and rely on character advancement through formulaic experience gains, every MMORPG will have the fun-killing leveling treadmill problem.

I.V.

game based on FUDGE? (2, Interesting)

Tirel (692085) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633327)

I found the role-playing system called FUDGE (the docs can be downloaded for free here [fudgerpg.com] wondefull. It has no concept of levelling at all, but a skill based system and is far more realistic than say, ADND. The only problem is that is relies on the GM more than other systems, but that could be changed. If they're trying to remove levelling (to an extent) they should definately check fudge out.

If there is no levelling (1)

wadiwood (601205) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633427)

how come you don't get wiped out by the first monster with an excess of constitution or skill compared to you?

Leastways I liked monsters or other players that matched my level approximately rather than being completely obliterated every time I played before I even knew what happened.

Re:If there is no levelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6633459)

I'm sorry, but I'm not here to entertain your comprehension failures. Perhaps if you actually read the documentation, I would be more inclined to help you understand why levelling is not really required for a good RP experience. Also, you might have sunk too deep into the ADND mentality to be able to grasp a new RP system, in which case there only one possible cure for you. Ya know what I mean?

):

RTFM (1)

wadiwood (601205) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634502)

Gawd, "read the manual" the coward says. And "I'm sorry I'm not here to..." - I didn't force you to reply did I?

I hate reading games manuals. That's one of the reasons I always liked space invaders until my computer started running the program faster than it would accept keyboard input. Dead dead dead wha? Game over.

Yeah, I am more familiar with a live DM who matches his monsters to his players, afterall he doesn't want the game to end too quickly either.

I sometimes play network quake and the like, and I tend to get creamed by the guys who play regularily which takes the fun out of it for me. It's like having your first game of golf against the professionals. (Hmm, maybe you don't play outdoor sport).

Do the MMORPG just hack and slash, ie you only rack up points for killing things, or can you make or lose points, like real life (sort of), by actions like losing iq points by watching CNN, and gain Karma by making donations to the "poor", is it possible to ask questions first (perhaps from a distance) and hack and slash later?

Are the groups of human players (ie creatures representing and controlled by real humans not entirely computer generated) likely to let a beginner into their group or just kill the newbie off for points?

Hmm, you're probaby right, I've got no idea what you mean. I've got a fair idea what Daniel meant.

I'm not real obsessive about games, and I still hate this glary purple layout.

Re:RTFM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6642638)

Do the MMORPG just hack and slash, ie you only rack up points for killing things, or can you make or lose points, like real life (sort of), by actions like losing iq points by watching CNN, and gain Karma by making donations to the "poor", is it possible to ask questions first (perhaps from a distance) and hack and slash later?


Depends.

Are the groups of human players (ie creatures representing and controlled by real humans not entirely computer generated) likely to let a beginner into their group or just kill the newbie off for points?


Depends.


--

P.S. Please sign up for organ donorship before ending your life. It's the only way for people like you to positively contribute to humanity.

P.S. (1)

wadiwood (601205) | more than 11 years ago | (#6659060)

At least the insults have a certain quality to them. Lemme try: You spend so much time with your computer in the basement that your breeding opportunity is nonexiestant, all suitable members of the opposite sex can and do outpace you easily.

Re:If there is no levelling (2, Insightful)

KDan (90353) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633473)

With many no-levels systems, you still get points for achieving stuff (so there is a levelling system, but it's hidden). So for instance if you've been playing for a long time and you've put a lot of points in various skills, you might be a lot more likely to dodge that backstab and respond in kind than if you just started.

And these systems are simply more realistic. Hitpoints that increase so drastically as in AD&D are a fun but stupid concept - no matter how great you are, if someone slashes at you with a big sword or a huge mace and hits you hard, you're out, if not dead.

It's interesting to consider how a system would work without levels at all (neither hidden nor visible), but there we're getting into real role-playing rather than hack'n'slash, which is what most computer rpg's are about. And we start needing an intelligent DM, which no program is yet close to (and many humans don't achieve either!!).

Daniel

Re:If there is no levelling (2, Interesting)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 11 years ago | (#6636230)

It's interesting to consider how a system would work without levels at all (neither hidden nor visible)

It's been a while since I've played it, so I could have some details wrong, but IIRC the origional Call of Chthulhu game by Chaosium was pretty close to that. Basically, if you used a skill you put a mark by it and if your character survived the session you would then get to make a role to see if the marked skills went up (Make a skill roll and if you failed you got to add 1d6 to it I think). I don't remember there being any levels at all.

Then again, the game concept does NOT include the idea that the monsters the characters are facing should be in any way defeatable by them.

Re:game based on FUDGE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6633445)

mmorpgs...... PACK YOUR FUDGE

Re:game based on FUDGE? (1)

Lurch Kimded (582588) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633683)

I agree, I think a non-levelling based MMOG would be a lot better one which was much more focused to traditional Pen and Paper styled XP where you constantly gain XP and it is up to you to apply this when and wherever you want. You apply it wrong its your fault. There are many systems which would be useful for this sort of thing, FUDGE, GURPS, Uni-System and the rest.

Having played Pen and Paper before any MMOG's I can say that levelling is a pain in teh butt and free form XP allows much more varied and interesting characters. Even a system which automatically allocates XP to skill sets, similar to an idea in Neocron, is preferable but I think the true freeform XP system is a lot more fun.

Re:game based on FUDGE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6635682)

Free form XP allows much more varied and interesting characters, but you have to keep in mind that people won't actually create varied characters...they will all pick whatever specific set of skills and/or stats were rumored to be the most powerful on whichever spoiler site they happen to read...
And if that particular set of skills does happen to actually be better than average, then new content slowly gets skewed in difficulty for them, and the normal players start falling behind, and start creating new characters in the current style...
see AC1 for plenty of example over the years, and similar effects in UO with tank-mages etc.

The problem lies in AI (1)

Filik (578890) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633397)

There are several things lacking in todays MMORPG's. The main issue is AI; you won't get any sense of realism with script-based npc's. Another problem is that for every mystery/quest the designers create a FAQ always pops up on the net. Thus every single mystery/quest needs to be totally unique. This can only be accomplished if they are created by the previous mentioned npc AI's (some npc's create problems, other npc's pays you to solve them). But of course these types of things require immense amounts of cpu and memory, making it unlikely that any company will spend money in this way until the MMORPG industry thoroughly collapses (which it probably will in 5-10 years when we will have too many mindless ladder-MMORPG's to choose between).

-Filik.

Re:The problem lies in AI (2, Insightful)

KDan (90353) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633503)

Another option is to play a less popular game. MUDs, being so cheap to run, had the advantage of being so numerous that even the most popular of MUDs didn't have a lot of information available on the net. The only pages with such information were private clan pages, on a MUD I played.

Another trick is to make that information *very* costly (and not in monopoly money, but in ingenuity, time, etc), so that people who do discover it will not be so quickly inclined to put it on a webpage so that joe newbie can make use of it and swamp the spawn point. This goes very well along with making the objective of the quest very scarce and valuable - because then advanced players will not share the secret very simply because they want the items for themselves, so the fewer ppl know about it, the better.

Finally, keeping the world updated helps a lot, for instance by changing things around so that the previous way to solve the quest becomes the way to die. Someone who discovered the hard-to-figure trick themselves will likely be well aware if something has changed and will be cautious, whereas joe faq-reader will just happily stumble into the trap and learn to be a lot more cautious of advice gleaned on the net, and that advice will get more complex (do this, but if you see this do that, and if you see this do that instead, and if you see this and that together then don't go there) so that figuring out the faq becomes as much work as figuring out the quest itself.

Daniel

FAQ off (2, Insightful)

truffle (37924) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633793)


FAQs are primarly useful in static quests, quests where you need to find 11 items in 7 zones dropped by 14 creatures. You can follow them like an instruction manual, bam.

This isn't necessarily a problem, the original questers have fun solving the quest before it's spoiled. Many people (myself included) enjoy completing quests without the slightest application of ingenuity. At that point the quest becomes a simple timesink with a rewards, but the reward is still fun.

You can make quests more dynamic by having more variable quest components. Instead of needing Harpy's Feathers and Eye of Newt for the quest potion, why not pick one item from quest item group A, and one item from quest item group B. At this point we're getting more into the area of automagically generated quests, which are cool.

I think there is also value in fixed rewards for variable quests though. Quests can become part of community understanding, which increases their value. For example, the epic quests in Everquest, for cool class specific items. Take one of those quests, make 25% of the content more dynamic, you'll have more interesting quests.

But keep in mind not everyone likes quests. You will soon have players complaing about "stupid quests" or "boring quests" or even "broken" (I can't solve it) "quests" if their real advancement is held up by a dynamic quest made just for them.

Re:FAQ off (1)

kormoc (122955) | more than 11 years ago | (#6635255)

Medievia [medievia.com] has worked in that autoquest system into the world. You find a scroll with a quest on it on a monster's corpse and you can choose to do it, or throw it away. The quests are created on the spot, for your level and class. Some are harder then others, but almost all are fair. You get money for completing the quest and you get quest points.

How leveling works is you have a list of things you need to get the required number of points in before you level, but you can level without meeting one of the things, so if you hate quests, never do them and just deal with the other items. As you get higher levels, your list of things gets larger, but it's still do able.

The money issue is taken care of as well. There is a auction system in place and to get a lot of money, you need to do a trade run. You buy a wagon or a mule or whatever and you load it up with special goods and walk it to the city that needs them and you sell them and make a profit. It takes a lot of time, and it's not safe, as there are monster fractions out to steal cargo, they will ambush travelers on the roads and by the time you get to your selling point, others may have already and lowered the selling price. They also have disasters that happen to a city and then the city will pay a lot for some goods that it needs to survive.

It's a great game and it's always getting better, so if you like muds, give it a shot :)

Re:The problem lies in AI (1)

perljon (530156) | more than 11 years ago | (#6638752)

Not neccesarly.... Basically, this is the SIMS. Put a bunch of sims in the game and have them act to fulfill needs. They don't need to be even as complex as in the sims...

If you found levelling evil, boring, whatever (5, Interesting)

jsse (254124) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633432)

you can pay people to level for you. In Taiwan you can pay less than 2 bucks per days to hire someone who happens to hang around in Internet shop all day. Those kids are so willingly to do what they love to do while earning a little wage and staying in shop for free. It's becoming popular as those 'power gamers' you hire can level much better than you. :D

You don't approach those 'power gamers' directly rather you pay the Internet shop owers to hire them for you. The shop owner bascially charge no commission in this deal but he'll charge you internet access fee for the gamer(s) you hire.

It has already become a social problem in Taiwan as that actually encourage kids skipping classes and social life. Besides, this is an awful sweatshop practise, though the employees seem to be very happy about it, but not their parents. :)

I've been told similar business has been found in Korea. Anyone knows?

Re:If you found levelling evil, boring, whatever (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6635725)

Oh my god, even MMORPG-character-ebay-sellers can move their work out to Asia! Remember that the next time someone tries to sell a character for $400 on ebay.

Re:If you found levelling evil, boring, whatever (1)

Yuan-Lung (582630) | more than 11 years ago | (#6638612)

Taiwan you can pay less than 2 bucks per days to hire someone

I am assuming you are using Canadian or US dallar here? 'cause $2 Taiwanese is like 8 cents.... not even enough to make a telephone call. ^^;;

Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (3, Informative)

Golias (176380) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633649)

A lot of game designers look at the ruts that EQ and AC players complain about, and think "monster camping is no fun... what we need are more quests/missions!"

The problem with that is, if monster farming is a treadmill, most single-player quests (and their MMORPG equivalents) are monorails.

Sure, there are some people who really get off on reading all that carefully-scripted NPC chatter, paragraph after paragraph of it, like you find in a lot of NWN modules, but most of us don't fire up a High Fantasy Adventure game so we can read pre-generated text. If we wanted that, we could re-read our LOTR books, including all of Tom Bombadil's meandering poetry, a copy of which is probably sitting in the immediate vicinity of each of our computers.

Here's a little secret for you "let's make lots of missions" guys: Everquest if chock full of quests, but the vast majority of players find it less boring to "kite" wandering guards, "farm" bandits, or "camp" the minotaur caves than to perform them. The only popular quests are the ones which drop some coveted piece of l00t that you could not get any other way. In other words, most of the players don't find the quests all that much fun, and only bother with them for the rewards, so that they really just end up being an even-more tedious form of The Treadmill. Plus, questing limits both the options of behavior and possibilities of outcome.

When I talk to people who continued to play EQ long after the Level Treadmill got boring for them, they almost always say the same thing: They continued to play for the social aspect of the game. That's right, those "EQ Weddings" we all snickered at when they first started happening, along with silly player-organized events (such as the infamous Naked Troll Run) are what keep people paying their subscription fees for a game that it now very long in the tooth.

Why not develop a game which throws the D&D/MUD convention of levelling out the window entirely? A sort of Tolkein-esque version of The Sims Online, if you will. Create a world that's full of fun things for your avatar to do... really fun things, not just reward-driven things. Interesting game-within-the-game diversions that players can get involved in while making small-talk. Give out meaningless medals or something to show off to others when difficult challenges are met, rather than ramping up character powers in ways that can actually interfere with the social interaction which is the true drive behind the game.

Before somebody has a cow about my suggestion being less appealing than good ol' hack-n-slash RPG's, those games will still be out there. Go play EQ and see how fast you can level that Iksar Necromancer, and be sure to use the EQVault and Caster's Realm web sites to find the phattest quests, so you don't waste your time actually talking to NPC's.

All I'm talking about is the possibility of just one MMO game out there for those of us that just don't care about that sort of bullshit anymore.

Re:Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (1)

KDan (90353) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634057)

You want to read this [mud.co.uk] . It's a bit more advanced than your theory. Social interactions is just one of the things that keeps people in a multiplayer online game.

Daniel

Re:Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634475)

Mudding harbors a very different gaming culture than the mainstream gaming scene. I know, because like a lot of geeks, I ruined myself academically for a semester upon discovering MUD's and forfeiting lots of sleep and study time. It's a whole different crowd.

Like I said before, a lot of people find enjoyment in power-leveling... for a while. Some get a kick out of quests and interesting story elements... for a while. However, what's keeping people on the EverQuest servers long after far more interesting MMORPG's with superior engines and graphics have come along is the social community. (Disclaimer: I no longer play EQ. I am only passing along what those who do still play have told me about why they are still at it.)

Re:Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6635587)

"Why not develop a game which throws the D&D/MUD convention of levelling out the window entirely?"

You should look into some of the free UO shards that have sprung up. I play on one called Darkenwood, where roleplaying is enforced. When you start out, you get a crap load of money to practice up your skills with. When you do that, they train up to however much you decide to spend, but it doesn't happen instantly, it happens over a long period of time, many hours in fact. You can still level up skills by going out and doing them, but if you don't want to, you can roleplay, and they'll STILL go up. No levelling treadmill whatsoever aside from making some quick cash to practice more skills with, but even that is simple to do.

Re:Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (2, Interesting)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 11 years ago | (#6635947)

Sure, there are some people who really get off on reading all that carefully-scripted NPC chatter, paragraph after paragraph of it, like you find in a lot of NWN modules, but most of us don't fire up a High Fantasy Adventure game so we can read pre-generated text.

I recently finished a six-month contract on a high-profile MMORPG, scripting missions and writing NPC dialogue of exactly the type you disdain. The company's polls show that about 5% of the player base enjoys reading the dialogue. With that figure, text is certainly not a priority for any design team -- but if you've got the resources, why not include the text? A MMORPG tries to be all things to all players, or at least as many things as possible to as many players as you can get. The text entertains the 5%, and the other 95% ignore it.

From the company's viewpoint it's just an incidental nicety. Because -- believe me! -- compared to artists and coders, writers are cheap.

Re:Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (2, Interesting)

Golias (176380) | more than 11 years ago | (#6640653)

Well, I'm not calling for RPG story-text writers like you to be fired off. I'm just saying that not every frikken game has to take the exact same approach to making their content richer.

Also, forcing the other 95% of players to follow the path of that 5% is not the way to make your MMORPG a richer experience. The reason why most people don't bother with it when it's "optional" is because most people don't find it all that much fun.

Remember how flipped out we all were when Quake added 360 movement to the FPS? When EverQuest added graphics and movement to the concept of a MUD? When Descent divorced flight-sim physics from space combat gaming? When Warcraft liberated computer strategy games from "waiting for the other players to go," in favor or RTS? The mid-90's were chock full of interesting new ways to play games on a computer. I miss that. I just can't get excited about SWG, because there really isn't anything new there. There hasn't been a FPS that turned my head since Jedi Knight.

I even miss the failed experiments from those days. "Die by the Sword" was a combat game in which you swung your weapon by using a complex set of key strokes to specifically "move the sword from upper-right to middle-left, while extending the arm."

Now days, it seems like PC game developers would rather chase after duplicating past successes than come out with anything new. All the really interesting gambles are happening in the console gaming world, which has it's share of stagnant "me too" games, but also seems to have plenty of room for new ideas. "Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball," for the X-Box, as an example, is a delightfully weird hybrid of Japanese dating sims, a simple sports game, cartoon pin-ups, and cut-out dolls. It's not everybody's cup of tea, but it's certainly a lot more interesting to discuss than the whatever next iteration of "Left vs. RIght fighting" will be.

Anyway, I'm starting to stray way off-topic. My original point was that, before I spend my hard-earned money on yet another MMORPG, I want to see some real innovation from somebody. The current favored approach to making them more interesting ("let's slap some 'missions' content on that thing!") is not going to cut it with me. Nor, I suspect, with a lot of other people.

Re:Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (1)

I. M. Bur (460890) | more than 11 years ago | (#6643145)

Remember [...] When Warcraft liberated computer strategy games from "waiting for the other players to go," in favor or RTS?

Sorry to nitpick, but The first Warcraft was actually Blizzards (very successful) clone of Dune 2 by Westwood.

Re:Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (1)

Sage Gaspar (688563) | more than 11 years ago | (#6640494)

I think carefully crafted quests will be much better than the treadmill. For example, in Everquest in Qeynos there wis a series of quests implemented a while ago dealing with badges that you get for performing tasks. You get a little manual of the laws, and then you get an investigator as a pet and travel around to various suspects. You retrieve a warrant, hand it to them, try and get them to sign a confession, etc. There's also action, in that some of them don't want to come willingly. You have to punch one guy out (not kill him). In one of them you have to solve a puzzle by manipulating tokens in the game world.

The reward is pretty snazzy, but even people that don't really want it end up doing it (despite its relative bugginess) because it is a fun quest. MMORPGs are rooted into the idea of quests being the same ol' hack-in-slash with a story behind it. EQ used to have horrible "dynamic events" where three DMs would spawn in powerful creatures in a newbie zone and corpse camp them. SWG, Sony's latest, has more types of missions but they all come from one of five or six molds. Eventually you stop reading the story because you realize that it's just a weak pretense to get you to do another deliver quest or destroy mission.

What MMORPGs need to do is wise up and break the quest formula. Have some themed DM or scripted events every year. One great example was the plaguebringer quest from EQ (the one that prompted the investigator quests). Another was one where zones became infested with evil creatures around Halloween time. Anything to make the world dynamic and interesting without resorting to randomly generated NPC or missions (it just makes everything phony and there's nothing of permanence).

Re:Quests can be as bad as the Treadmill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6668086)

<plug>
http://www.castleinfinity.org is a 6 year old free MMO sidescroller for kids (But still somewhat fun for adults), there's no real leveling that you have to do, but you earn scores for doing things like killing monsters, guiding other kids, dying, exploring, etc, and compete against each other on a large score list. You also earn body parts, which you can customize your 3 part avatar with. (It has a head, torso, and legs) The body parts can also be obtained by running around and finding secret places, some of which require multiple people to find.

The original company that made it (Starwave) sort of died, so we're running it off of donations now, while trying to figure out the crappy tools that they left us to update the game with.
</plug>

Whatever.. (1)

magsymp (562489) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633702)

I remember in the good old MUD days, leveling was still a pain in the butt, but you still enjoyed it.

You would get large hunting parties together, try to make your skill % go up. When you would level you would allow yourself a break, maybe for a PK-fight or what not but then you put your shoulder to the boulder and started leveling again.

Sometimes, I would be so fulfilled when I leveled. I would tell myself "just one more level" then I'll hit the sack... sometimes this went on for ever.

Oh good times!

mud.arcadia.net 4000

Re:Whatever.. (1)

Grithok (696050) | more than 11 years ago | (#6635232)

There is one game which has the option of not fighting in order to increase in power. Gemstone 3 gave Empaths experince for doing no more than healing the wounded. They could sit in town, never hunt, and still gain experince. Rogues could pick locks, well more than just rogues, and still gain experince. And every time you searched foraged for an item you also got a bit of experince. Of course it is a mud though. There were a few quests, but not many. And this game actualy falls under a true role-playing game.

Players Create Their Own Leveling Treadmill (3, Insightful)

truffle (37924) | more than 11 years ago | (#6633756)

Interesting article, but I think they're kind of missing the point. People aren't forced on the leveling treadmill, they jump on voluntarily. People hop on the leveling treadmill because they want more power, for its own sake or for the social status that comes with leveling.

It's possible to level by constantly facing new opponents, taking on the most challenging opponents available, and trying new things.

It's generally more efficient to go to a place that is "good" for your character to level. It's often more efficient to face weaker opponents, because it adds consistency to your hunting experience. Consistency is what allows you to play for eight hours straight, with a group of less than competant adventuring mates, while watching TV. It's less fun, it's less challenging, it's slower, but at the end of the day you're higher level and that's what counts, not whether you "had fun" along the way.

People complain about the leveling treadmill because they find it boring (it's still fun because leveling is constantly reaching goals, and every goal reached is fun). Sometimes people don't know what they really want though. It's easy to go completely off track in responding to these complaints. Lets look at what people really want:

- They want to be able to gain power consistently, constantly reaching short term goals
- They want to be able to come home from work, tired, play for a few hours, and reach some goals
- They want this entire experience to be easy

You can make this process as interactive, and fun, and mission based, and private dungeoned as you want, but it will still end up being a leveling treadmill of some sort. People are going to skip and ignore your NPC text, power through your dungeon to save the princess to go on to the next quest, do whatever they can to 'ding' as soon as possible. The fundamental goal is to gain power, over their peers, more quickly, and everything else is gravy.

That is fine though, I think we can make better MMORPGs with less repetitive leveling treadmills. Make people experience different content to level, literally force them. They may not care, they may not appreciate, they may even complain (don't fall into the trap of making this new content "hard" they still want "easy"), but at the end of the day they may have more fun.

Re:Players Create Their Own Leveling Treadmill (1)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634471)

quote
"- They want to be able to gain power consistently, constantly reaching short term goals
- They want to be able to come home from work, tired, play for a few hours, and reach some goals
- They want this entire experience to be easy
"

and this is why the diablo series was so successful. Honestly they could make a game that would sell by expanding upon diablos ideas and adding more classes, dungeons areas and such. Pure hack and slash with goals that are easy to obtain. This would satisfy the needs of a nice chunk of casual gamers while having the uber items and stuff for the hardcore types.

Re:Players Create Their Own Leveling Treadmill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6634596)

"Interesting article, but I think they're kind of missing the point. People aren't forced on the leveling treadmill, they jump on voluntarily. People hop on the leveling treadmill because they want more power, for its own sake or for the social status that comes with leveling."

People hop on the leveling treadmill not because they want more power for power's sake, or the social status. They hop on the treadmill so they don't have to worry about getting killed by that random bunny rabbit the first time they wander outside of the saftey of a city.

The problem isn't the leveling, it's how obscenely weak the characters start in the game.

Re:Players Create Their Own Leveling Treadmill (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6635618)

"People aren't forced on the leveling treadmill, they jump on voluntarily. People hop on the leveling treadmill because they want more power, for its own sake or for the social status that comes with leveling."

What you miss is that they may get on the treadmill for those reasons, but many quickly get bored of it, yet are unable to get off the treadmill. Why you ask? Cuz its a bloody Skinner Box. There is a very well written article on it here [nickyee.com] . Its simple psychological addiction. I'd love to see what the MMORPG creators from those various companies would have to say about THAT.

Daoc treadmilling.. (1)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634098)

I am not surprised that they didn't talk to Mythic in regards to Dark Age of Camelot. Lots of little treadmills in that one.

First off you have the 1-50 treadmill which isn't so bad until you get past level 35.. then it slows down alot (unless you are being Powerlevelled)

Then when you hit 50 you have to start treadmilling the Realm Points to make your guy stand a chance in RvR combat..

While you farm the points you also have to farm the cash to get the full suit of customized spellcrafted armor and weapons so you can make your guy more effective in RvR combat, then you can farm more money for a shiney new house.. oh and if you don't have a buffbot you will more than likely get your ass handed to you by those who do.

Farm exp and gold, then RPs and gold then more gold and more gold.

Being a crafter is a boring treadmill as well. Farm gold, diamond seals, crappy weapons with weird stats.. make lots of hinges, craft some more.. farm more get more seals.. yadda yadda.

If you want to enjoy the RvR aspect of the game you will have a hard time if you are a fairly casual player.. since that twinked out Inflitrator or whatever will drop you in a second.

Re:Daoc treadmilling.. (1)

analog_line (465182) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634944)

That's why I don't play on RvR servers anymore, just the cooperative one.

I liked RvR, but it isn't what it used to be, and I frankly don't care about the new "RvR expansion" because it'll be just as infested by idiots as the current RvR system. If Gaheris got taken down, I'd cancel. I've deleted my characters on the other servers. I just don't care.

Re:Daoc treadmilling.. (1)

ShortedOut (456658) | more than 11 years ago | (#6638940)

Yes, Mythic was absolutely brilliant with their treadmill.

They basically said, "Ok, we'll get you started by warming you up on PvE. Then, when you hit level 50, you're on your own to make your advancement."

Brilliant. They script monsters, for one treadmill, then you use each other for the other treadmill.

The thing is, RvR is totally fun in that game. I think DAoC will be one of the few MMORPGS from this era to last for a long time.

It needs PVP stupid... (1)

JavaLord (680960) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634226)

The problem with MMORPG is that they haven't found a way to properly do PvP and integrate leveling with it. Fighting the same computer generated enemies over and over again is boring. Fighting a thinking human is much more of a challenge, and much more rewarding.

Sure, some games do realm or faction based PvP, but if you could level in a PvP free for all leveling wouldn't be quite as boring. Of course, everyone is afraid of "griefers" but this fear is driving away the mass market appeal of MMORPG.

Darkfall [darkfallonline.com] looks like it will be interesting....

Re:It needs PVP stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6635692)

I don't even think that it's NPC or Human (though I agree on general terms). I find it boring because the combat systems are horrible simple and boring themselves. There is no skill in it. EQ, at higher levels, ALMOST makes it worth it. But when I played for months on end, I had very little to do other than click a few buttons and figure out when to run away.

Mind Numbing. People like different things. building, achieving, hack and slash. But in the end the *fun* comes out of both the accomplishment AND the way you got there. Achievement is only half the puzzle. Just as soon as a system is built that is fun an interesting to use, I'll have fun leveling.

An example: detailed swoard play. Strikets feightns and forms. Parry and reposts. Not automated rolling, but in such a way that anticipating a strike and intentioanlly playing a defensive stance with a parry/reposte MEANS something. So I have to think a moment, and make decisions as to how to combat the individual. If he had a huge hammer... no parry. He'd crush me. Other skills would be needed.

It's the little things.

Re:It needs PVP stupid... (1)

JavaLord (680960) | more than 11 years ago | (#6638505)

An example: detailed swoard play. Strikets feightns and forms. Parry and reposts. Not automated rolling, but in such a way that anticipating a strike and intentioanlly playing a defensive stance with a parry/reposte MEANS something. So I have to think a moment, and make decisions as to how to combat the individual. If he had a huge hammer... no parry. He'd crush me. Other skills would be needed.


I agree totally. Even if it were glorified paper/rock/scissors it would be better than it is now.

Re:It needs PVP stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6639135)

What kind of foolish, uninsightful, uninspired, stupid trash is this? What kind of an idiot are you to say such a thing? I hope you get mutant lice that eat their way through your scalp, then your skull, then make their way to your feeble, rotten brain, and consume it in its entirety. Perhaps their feces will make a more suitable replacement for your brain, JavaLord.

I kill monsters. (1)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634330)

I kill monsters
So I can get XP
So I can get skills
So I can kill monsters
So I can get XP
So I can get skills
So I can kill monsters....
I'm always running 'round in circles...

(with apologies to the "running in circles" anti-cocaine ad.)

That's what a lot of gamers want (2, Informative)

johnkoer (163434) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634440)

There are a lot of gamers out there that are looking for the easiest way to reach their goal, so even if there were plenty of ways of getting experience, many (not all) gamers would still stay with the camp and kill method. I have met plenty of players online that come from an FPS to an MMORPG, all they want to do is PVP. So they basically just keep camping different spots until they are powerful enough to go PVP. They have no interests in the quests, unless it will make their guy more UBER.

They are basically looking for a different market, more like a MMOFPS.

Re:That's what a lot of gamers want (1)

Reapy (688651) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634931)

I agree 100%.

Leveling and skilling up do not work in a competative environment. They work in single player vs ai. As has been stated numerous times above, players want power, to be stronger then the other guys, so they can walk their level 65 guy back to the starting point and awe the newbies with their greatness, or kill them, depending on the game.

This does not work, because, as was said, 75% of the guys are on the bottom rung. Being bottom rung sucks, but of coarse the upper tier wont have as much fun if the bottom rung isnt below them. How do you accomodate both? Take the action route.

How about, as soon as I get into the game, I can experience all the content? I picked a warrior. My friend picked a mage. I spent my starting points (the only points I get at all during my gaming experience) on a certain skill route. I can do x skill, and my friend can cast x spells. This is my character.

I walk into the game, and my character can get all the way to the bottom of death cave, or climb widows peak and beat Bargfart the oger.

But wait, it's hard to get to Bargfart, I can't do it by myself, I need at liest 30 other guys to make the dungeon crawl and get to him and kill him. We all assemble at the bottom of widows peak. We let anyone in the group, because we dont care about experience being bogged down.

There's a lot to do to get to Bargfart. We first have to go kill each of his henchmen located in the surrounding areas, and get the keys to his castle. This takes a few hours. We lose some people in the group and gain a few. Theres maybe 10 of us left when we get to Bargfart's castle keep. There's a group of 5 or so waiting for more to come by so that we can kill Bargfart. We group up, we go in, we kill Bargfart, and all get a nifty Bargfart helmet we can wear.

Let's say theres no pvp in the game, because that works and makes most people happy. Bargfarts helm lets me take more damage then before. But most imporantly, it looks like I have a giant caved out oger skull on my head. Thats cool. I can walk around and people can say, awesome Bargfart helm.

The best part about EQ, one of the most successful MMORPG's out there, was the world itself. Lots of variety, each zone was extreemly fun to explore, and be a part of, there was just so much variety and character all over the game world it was just a delight to be in the game itself and walking around.

Getting items are fun to. If everyone's the same powerbase, and the only thing modifying you are items, and a stack of certain items wont make you powerful enough to do everything on your own, you have a huge game world to play in all of a sudden.

You remove the, we made this area for low skill players, this ones for high level players, and the mid range players get this zone. Whats that you say, your friends aren't the same level as you? Guess your fucked.

Get rid of that, make every area accessable, use zoning so you get more content, make a shit load of items that you can wear and use with a different look, let you do things to mod the look of your items and clothing. Let the person get horses or wierd mounts.

Make the dungeon crawling challenging, needing a large group. Do odd things to zones like have monsters that are immune to all missle weapons, or can only be harmed by silver daggers.

Make a fucking world where you can all play together and be social, and the only thing you are competing for is a cooler looking character. The challenge should be the volume of mobs and difficulty in defeating them. Maybe to get to kill Bargfart I needed to go kill the Dragon back there to get a dragon scale spear that can pierce bargfart's armor.

That's adventure folks, that'll keep people, that'll let you shit out content for breakfast that everyone can appreciate. Leveling, skills, that's so 1960's, move on please.

Re:That's what a lot of gamers want (1)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 11 years ago | (#6635614)

I have not been able to understand the appeal of most MMORPGs as they are all about who can level higher, quicker. The only goal these games offer is a chance for a power ego trip...yeah, that sounds like fun...get 1000 of your buddies all wanting to be 'the best'.

I played 10six for years from early beta to 1 year before it was closed. 10six did not contain a single AI, it was all PvP in a good way, teams. There were 4 major groups trying to mine a planet, these groups were broken down into player created teams of 20. The 'goal' was to own as much of the planet as possible, and defend it from the other groups. It was always on and always running. You log off, your stuff is still there able to get looted...so you needed these groups to be on and watch your stuff for you.

The game required a lot of trust in others, which could be one reason it failed (and the fact that everyone wanted to have the 'power group' and said 'screw the newbies, they only hurt the team!' This caused the new user base to not want to play, thus killing the growth of the game). You raided enemy camps to claim them for your team and defended them from the other teams. It was considered a RTS game, but was played from first person as your player. You stand off to the side and order your rovers to attack while you distract the defences...it was loads of fun! Leveling was introduced near the end of the game (which could be credited also for killing it). Levels were used to determine how many camps one person could own at once. 1-10 were considered training levels which were very restrictive but helpful for the new people to learn.

I have yet to try Planetside, since it sounds simular to 10six...

From a Planetside player.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6636405)

All crap about weapon balance and bugs aside.

I love the game. The funny thing is I hate PvP in all other MMORPGs and that's all there is. The thing that draws me in is that I can be part of the big battles, still hit the BR20 (Battle Rating is your level) and take them out just as easily as a BR1. But I think that's the reason I can stand it. On Darktide in AC (the pvp only server) you portal in as a new character and you're immediately assaulted by X player that's probably 20-80 levels ahead of you just looking to make your day miserable. There is nothing you can do to stop him either. Planetside is very item centric and there are no items to search out, they're all provided to you just as long as you can actually use them.

Here's the downside to PS. The world is too big. Even with 1000's of players, continents are locked once a pop cap is reached, and there are never enough people on a continent to defend all the bases AND mount an attack. The problem really is taht per continent there are too many bases to attack and to defend. On top of that, the game is caters to the FPS crowd that wants "instant action". Thus there are options to drop you straight into battle, which is a bit ridiculous. Supply chains and vehicle lines can easily be broken past. The game also favors the attacker a bit much, and I feel, has limits in the character skill department (there aren't many variants on characters).

Re:From a Planetside player.... (1)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 11 years ago | (#6644750)

Funny you mention all that, that was exactly how I feared Planetside would be. Underdeveloped skills and not much for defense...

It is good to see that levels don't affect gameplay as much, that is a huge plus for me, I hate leveling games. And the current crop of RPGs, I just got Morrowind and after playing it for 2 hours I was so bored I thought I was playing Everquest! I'll have to give it more of a chance later (when I'm done playing System Shock 2, again!)

it's happened (1)

sdibb (630075) | more than 11 years ago | (#6634613)

Welcome to MUDs.

One aspect I miss (2, Insightful)

Tragedy4u (690579) | more than 11 years ago | (#6636296)

Is truely adventuring...thats what made D&D and other pen and paper RPG's fun. Getting out and exploring the realm, going into new area's, fighting new enemies, solving new puzzles and completing an adventure....one of the people in the article is right...its not about 'leveling' its the adventure that made RPG's fun and unfortuneately every MMORPG that I've played is nothing more than a hack n' slash repeditive game. Ultima Online was an exception for me for a short while, despite all its numerous faults it's the only game I've played that actually encompased the thrill of simply exploring the land and discovering new and hidden things....that lasted about a week until I was sick of being PK'd once an hour.

Re:One aspect I miss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6641578)

Seen Uru? Looks like instead of leveleling they're claiming to provide new content to keep people coming back - an ever growing place. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/techreviews/games/200 3-05-22-myst-online_x.htm

Perhaps the problem isn't gaining levels (2, Insightful)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 11 years ago | (#6636770)

but the mere existance of levels themselves. Personal enhancement can only affect your physical ability to a certain degree, and probably leaves other faculties lacking. Lifting weights all day doesn't make me signifcantly wiser, or smarter. In fact, I'm not sure what does make a person smarter. And practicing military drills all day might make me a better fighter, but the psychological impact is likely more profound. This sort of trait should be emulated by the Role Player, but the notion of RPGs as an acting exercise left long ago.

RPGs come with a buttload of predefined genre baggage. Designers are all too eager to accept them all. Numbers dictate actions, rather than the other way around. There needs be change, but god help us all should our Savior be The Sims Online!

leveling sucks (1)

orn (34773) | more than 11 years ago | (#6637524)

The people saying leveling as a goal is okay are idiots. Well, maybe not idiots - people play chess over and over again because (they hope) they are getting better.

But as far as mass media goes - if you want a game to really attract a large crowd - you have to cater to people's attention spans. No one but a geek (and I am one of those) has an attention span that will sit still for this crap.

No, the games that will last through the ages will continue to engage your mind all the way through the game. Novel writers don't write the same sentence over and over (well, except Jack: "All work and no play make J a dull boy..."), movies don't show the same thing over and over (except Run Lola Run: "I don't believe there's nothing left but running here again").

Hmm... anyway, as I was saying, if you want people to care about it, you can't deaden their senses to it. You need to provide them interest all the way along.

Rudy

PS. people that say 'bots are evil aren't reckoning with the fact that they make great screensavers!

It's mostly the player's fault... (1)

nifboy (659817) | more than 11 years ago | (#6637869)

Players, as a general rule, don't level anywhere they can die easily (Which is "Dull"). Sure, the Rabbit Cave gives a fifth of the experience of the Troll Cave, but the trolls kill you easily. In games that seriously penalize death there's even more of an incentive to stay in the Rabbit caves until you're powerful enough to stay alive for hours in the Troll cave (But you don't dare enter the Dragon Cave).

Levelling (1)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 11 years ago | (#6638106)

Any game that requires me to be bored to tears before I'm worthy of the next level won't hold my interest for long. Sure, you need to reduce the pace now and then, but this sounds like a cop-out for lack of creativity. After a while, you barely pay attention, farm out your levelling, focus on the social elements, or quit. The only interesting one there for me is the social one, and that means the developers are failing in their task of creating engaging gameplay. Not that social interaction is bad, but that is not something to be credited to the game developers.

Not that I play MMORPGs, if I want to seel trolls killed, I come here...

Eve Online rocks (1)

samsarajr (637480) | more than 11 years ago | (#6638178)

er above says it all... no levels - almost everything is player bought inc skills. PVP openended.. different but amazingly fun.. Elite on steroids. esp for my non eq nights

Re:Eve Online rocks (1)

Cornflake917 (515940) | more than 11 years ago | (#6638603)

I don't consider watching my ship mine asteroids for 3 hours straight so I can get a better ship a fun experience. Maybe it gets better once your character becomes stronger and you get deeper into the game. But I can only recall going into combat once in the game, and that was the tutorial. The only MMO game that I have yet to lose interest in is Planetside. You gain levels and skills just like RPG's but combat is just like quake3 and other FPS's. And you have to work as a team and communicate well in order to take over bases. And in my opinion thats alot more fun than watching a 3d model swing his sword at the air in his enemies direction and reading in a dialog box: "Your swing did 5 damage to the attack bunny."

The only problem with planetside is that your system as to be UB3r L33t for you to have an enjoyable experience.

MMORPGs and the Big Problem (2, Interesting)

skyknytnowhere (469520) | more than 11 years ago | (#6639661)

I used to play AO and now I play Planetside, so I like to think I've tried both sides of the equation.

The thing about AO was that you had a character to upgrade and advance in a multitude of (albeit tiny, almost meaningless) ways to get an overall better character. This persistent character can then go around and have fun in the world, killing monsters and gaining levels. There was permanence, my characters cool stuff stayed with him, and if you took over a section of Notum mining you kept it and the bonuses.

But you still had to play for hundreds of hours for all those tiny, meaningless improvements to mean anything, and to do anything really cool.

This is the same idea in EQ, you gain levels to use the burny swords and the glowy armor.

On the opposite side of the field, you've got Planetside. In just a few hours, a player can any equipment in the game, and blow up the people that have played the game since the beginning. This is the point, of course, and one of the reasons the game is so much fun.

But nothing ever CHANGES. You capture the same base night after night, fire the same guns, get killed by the same enemies guns, and get run over by the same vehicles, every day. It's not a level treadmill so much as it's building sand castles in front of the rising tide. No matter how much progress you make during the night, it will all evaporate guaranteed. Being a high level doesn't mean anything, save that you don't have to log out and log back in to play with different toys in-game.

Now, I don't think it'd be possible in the AO/EQ/DAOC style of gameplay to make lower level characters worthwhile, they are designed against it.

But I'd love to see higher level characters given new toys/a different paradigm of gameplay in Planetside, and the inevitable games like it. I think making even beginning players worthwhile to a conflict in an MMORPG is vital to making it fun, but at the same time, gaining levels should reward the player with more/better/different ways of playing.

Actually, after I wrote that, I realized that someone already wrote an article [stuartcheshire.org] to that effect, though about a different era of online games. But his point remains the same: Gamers of all dedication/skill level/hours of free time available should have fun things to do, that at least they percieve as worthwhile.

yes, that email at the bottom is my 15 year old self.

skye

EVE-Online has a nice twist (1)

Maserati (8679) | more than 11 years ago | (#6639975)

EVE doesn't use a Level or experience system in the classic sense. You train skills by simply investing the time required to advace that skill Ok, skills have levels. They also have Ranks, which is a multiplier of the time required. Attributes affect training time as well.

Going on vacation ? Start training something like Minmatar Cruiser 5 and it'll be done when you get back. The only real catch is you can't freely switch between skills under training, nor train with more than one character per account at a time.

So my two-days-after-retail pilot character is heavily loaded with high skills, my alt character just has enough to run the corporation and our maufacturing operations.

So in EVE it's "I get Electronic Warfare 5 in 9 days !" and not "5000 more goblins to the next level !"

I'm holding my promise (1)

zarthrag (650912) | more than 11 years ago | (#6640858)

As promised, I'm still working on a commercial project to deliver an MMORPG that addresses this and many other problems with MMORPGs. The leveling system is horrid, but hard to get rid of because characters want to compare themselves to gauge their progress. I personally favor a skill-based approach. It's not hard to tell if a player is actually *challening* themselves. And it's really easy to tell which skills are being used, and which are rotting from disuse. This RPG, which may be announced later this year and enter alpha around January or so, is almost entirely skill based. (using a percentage as an index, skills can actually have subskills, and are quite complex in nature.) If you spend all of your time sniping, your sniping skill will increase, but only if you continually persue harder and harder targets. Skills that aren't used often actually waste away. Depending on your character's attributes, this can be recoverd from fairly easily. For example, if your character learns to ride a bicycle, then doesn't for a year, you can "re-learn" in seconds unless you're trying to start off with BMX racing.... But if you haven't went swimming in a while, the curve isn't so flat... You might need a few minutes at the kiddy-pool to get reacqauinted with the water....While some special forces character will start acting like a fish instantly. In addition, your character's situation and physical condition is taken into account. If he/she is tired, sleep-deprived, *and* hungry, obviously your electrical engineering skill is gonna take a penalty. The same goes if your character isn't used to gunfire, death, etc. Skills in gaming are best approached from a psychological standpoint. Because everyone has good and bad days. On the other end AI does play a role, and so is the wretched quest system that online games have adopted. Players are great at making their own drama, and this game will nurture that to the fullest! There are plenty of ways to incorportate moderate PvP and still counteract "grief" players. The end result of this will be an RPG that is much more enjoyable than anything else out there. So I may as well reveal the name of the project: Project EqTn. (free character for life and 1,000,000 credits in-game for the person who figures out what that means...email zarthrag14@ou.edu minus the 1-4) The site will be up soon, maybe next month or so. Maybe later I'll put up a release revealing some of the nifty life-changing features. "I'm nobody, and if anyone disagrees with me, then I'm somebody, and that makes me special."

Hard to Create Online Game (1)

big-magic (695949) | more than 11 years ago | (#6642664)

Creating a long running massively multiple game is next to impossible. One of the main problems is that it is difficult to design a game that will handle both the casual player as well as the hard core game (many of which essentially live online).

Every new game states in their FAQ that they are designing the game with the casual player in mind. But every time this is tried, it is a disaster. The hard core gamer quickly exhausts the content of the game and moves on. That is a problem, since the hard core gamers are a very profitable crowd to have as customers (frequently with multiple accounts).

Also, complaints from hard core gamers need to be taken with a grain of salt. They will bitch about the level grinding, but really enjoy it (in a weird, twisted way). My friends and I would complain every day about the latest problem with EQ. But we would then run home and grind the night away. If it wasn't challenging, we would have lost interest.

Fix LevelTreadmill have Permanent Character Death (1)

Mythrax (696725) | more than 11 years ago | (#6657616)

I've played muds for over 10 years, and have played almost every mainstream MMORPG on the North American market. I believe that the missing element from an RPG vs Levelling 'ad nauseum' MMORPG game, is the idea of permanent character death.
Mentioning the phrase usually incites people to reflexively assume that perm character death could NEVER work. But I don't think it has been
given serious treatment as a conceptual game element.
Consider the following.
-One of the primary appeals of an RPG game is the creation of a fictional character.
-perm character death was the norm in paper RPG games, and the appeal of the paper RPG game had a substantial impact.
-Current MMORPG's suffer from a few conceptual difficulties, inflation of levels (both of players and monsters), inflationary hording of loot, repetitive quests and events, and the big question of whether or not to allow PvP, or PK gaming.
-The inflationary aspects of current MMO's are similar to nations printing their own money. There has to be a finite amount to give something value. The whole notion of meaning is that there is a start and end point, and the 'mean' occurs somewhere in-between. People are drawn to meaning, and character, otherwise Fantasy RPG's wouldn't exist.
-It is a measure of the immaturity of the MMORPG gaming genre and/or market, that no-one has taken a serious look at the potential implications of making a game with permanent character death. (Whether fantasy/magic resurrection or appeals process is included or not)
-It is a widely accepted conceit of writing drama that one of the fundamental hooks of a drama is the REAL possibility of losing a character that the reader identifies with. This element of risk makes the story INTERESTING.
-MMORPG's have a somewhat different dynamic than conventional drama however, since the readers are players, and are interacting and affecting the playing experience of other players. The game designers are the storytellers from one level, but the notion of timeline that is critical to drama, is either absent, or absurdly predicably cyclical in games, hence the experience of 'camping'.
-MMORPG's suffer from inconsistent levels of Role Playing given that people have different ideas of what appeals to them about the fantasy environment.
-The common element that draws people to a fantasy game, is the idea of pretending to be a svelte elven warrior princess, barbarian warrior, or effete and sinister mage.
A game designed around the concept of permanent character death, with the interest level of the game focusing on story, and character creation, rather than endless acquisitiveness could potentially turn a huge corner on MMORPG gaming history.
PvP could be allowed but would be held in check by the reality that lvl 50 PK'ers just wouldn't live to rise to that ridiculous a level, and then mindlessly take out their own personal aggressions on hapless noobs just entering the game.
Character creation, focusing on individual uniqueness, emotes, and skills, could be the draw of the game, levelling can be part of the process. But in a perm death game, having a tavern full of 50th lvl mages, and lvl 100+ monsters hopping across the countryside wouldn't happen. A lvl 5 or 10 character would be significant. Characters could age. A real story timeline could be introduced.
Perhaps I'm being too literal about the story and RPG aspects of the MMORPG genre. I believe that one of the current limits of the genre is overall motivation and age of most people drawn to fantasy. There is often a fairly prevalent adolescent notion of immortality, or lack of recognition of mortality, and the appeal of a consequence free virtual world, where one can become supremely powerful, is an essential part of the escapist appeals. But does the escape have to be all about levels and loot, or is it fundamentally about character, and the desire to BE someone else, if only for a short while.

my two cents on the subject of levelling treadmills...

Mythrax

mythrax@gamezmod.com

Re:Fix LevelTreadmill have Permanent Character Dea (1)

VvDarkPhoenixvV (669211) | more than 11 years ago | (#6670840)

Diablo II has hardcore - in it, once a character dies, it's back to the char creation screen. You can save the items you have equipped if someone else is playing hardcore with you and you've allowed them to loot your corpse; otherwise, the player has to start completely from scratch. After many, many runs through the game, hardcore has become the only exciting way to play Diablo because softcore holds no challenge - if you die, no problem, you'll just respawn in town. And since you have to beat the game in softcore to unlock hardcore mode, there aren't too many uber 1337 kiddies running around PKing, mostly because they have as much to lose as the other guy. The game still has some flaws, but it is a step closer to the feel of a table-top RPG.

-ash

Re:Fix LevelTreadmill have Permanent Character Dea (1)

solopido (163981) | more than 11 years ago | (#6678144)

While it's a cool concept and I've played a few MUD's that had permanent death. The reality is that the large commercial MMORPG's want that residual income, meaning that they WANT you to keep playing on and on and on... so if I spent 6 months of my life leveling up a character only to have him die some idiotic death (due to lag, stupidity or whatever) and have a permanent death.. well the bottom line is that I and I'm sure almost any other player would simply quit. It would've been a complete waste of time, not that they are already a complete waste of time but that's another topic... If you are paying for a MMOG service you better have something to show for it after a period of time.. in permanent death no one else will really give a shit if you lived or died, they were not a part of that story so why should they even care? So in the end it'll have little or no value to the players, so no one will play it much less pay for that service. At the very least it would have to be a free service like hardcore on battlenet and with diablo it's easy to level up characters fast (so no big loss) but imagine trying that with Everquest...

So if Everquest did that then they'd lose probably nearly all of their customer base, sure there would be a few hardcore players that would like that but realistically not all of us have 24/7 to play a game to constantly level up characters.

Re:Fix LevelTreadmill have Permanent Character Dea (1)

Mythrax (696725) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680205)

Lets start out with the idea of taking 6 months to level up a character. They key problem is having a 'character' that you have put effort into die 'some idiotic death'.

What MMORPG's producers are selling, is a sense of character, whether game producers, or players even realize it. Your own example of levelling up a 'character' for 6 months, then getting pissed becuase they died 'idiotically' illustrates the point perfectly. The idiotic death was not consistent with the hypothetical character you were creating, and hence you got pissed and quit. The loss of a character, measured in levels is frustrating. The levelling environment itself is frustrating, that is the point of this whole thread.

Non-permenent death prevents character building because character is by nature a limitation, a punctuation, the period at the end of the sentence. The 'reality' of fantasy is that people engage it in to explore their own 'character creations'.

You are correct about commercial MMORPG's wanting income, but you are stating the obvious, and the current levelling treadmill MMORPG income stream is starting to look grim and unreliable to those 'large commercially driven MMORPGs'.

Could it be that the fledgling MMORPG consumer market has started getting very fussy about their tastes, and are getting bored with treadmill gaming environments ?

As to the MMORPG's being a complete waste of time, well that 'other topic', so easily glossed over, is THE WHOLE POINT! Whether your character dies a permanent idiotic death, or whether they become fantastically successful, getting all the levels and phat loot, the bottom line is the experience of saying, after logging off, what do I have to show for it. The answer for almost every player is; unless their selling their in game loot on eBay, not a whole lot.

There is no self discovery, no storytelling and often very little else that survives retiring from a game, when that game is based purely on levels. I'm not saying levels shouldn't be in the game, but in a non-perm death environment, levels are the only measure, and character is limited to the color of the armor, or robe that you wear.

While there are examples of dedicated players that play in character, or that have a lot of character in their playing style, these players are more rare, and are often people who, having demonstrated a mastery of the treadmill game environment, are now dabbling in playing magnanimously.

Whether EQ loses their player base doesn't concern me, what I am concerned about is whether MMORPG gaming is a flash in the pan gaming genre, or something that can mature into more serious entertainment medium.

Other game (1)

desenz (687520) | more than 11 years ago | (#6667606)

I almost like the implementation of leveling in Eve:TSG ... almost... Rather then gaining XP for actions, you have to train your skills. More or less, once you have the base skill it can be set to train, and will keep training whether you are logged in or not. Sounds too easy, but once you get to level 3 or 4(of 5) It starts to take days of constant training that one skill. But that isn't so bad, since you don't have to be logged in.

The alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6668760)

The alternative is games like www.puzzlepirates.com

It has a very unique system in that every skill is a puzzle game. Think tetris/columns/Dr Mario etc...

You have levels and reputations. Your reputation is based on how well you do at each game vs the statistical curve. Your level is based on exp. There is nothing in the game that can't be done by very good players with level 1 characters.

It's a very different take on things.
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