No level cap, no need to level

| Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Imagine with me a world, a world much like the world of the World of Warcraft which we all know and love and/or hate. But imagine that in this world, you have every ability and a full talent set at level 1. And you can raid. Essentially level 1 is level 80. But you can still level. There is no PvP and all NPCs scale to your level.

At level 2 you will gain stats. But raids are designed to scale perfectly with level, so there's a level 1 Naxx and a level 2 Naxx and the difficulty between them, damage, health, adds, are all exactly in proportion to the increase from the level. The gear is stronger as well, but also in proportion, so no matter what you do, level 1 will be just as easy or hard as any other level.

A level one can see exactly the same content. The gear they get is exactly as powerful relative to their enemies. But...

But the higher level you go, the more stats you get. A level 80 might be a hundred times more powerful than a level 1. But they'll never meet in battle and never raid together.

Would people stick with level one to quickly see the content or would they level up for stats which give no benefit?


Issy said...

People would level up so they could look down on all the lowbie noobs of course...
Isn't that obvious? :P

Syl said...

The thing you describe has been done before in classic RPGs on consoles such as the playstation for example, where you were able to progress through the game at any level with the content scaling with you. Final Fantasy 8 was such an RPG for example.
and I must say that personally I really enjoyed these games, it took the entire aspect of "the grind" away and let you focus on the game's story in a much more unhindered manner. there's also two sides two this coin: while you might progress faster without a level requirement, mobs scaling means that there is no such thing as 'low level' maps, you won't zoom through old areas because the mobs there grow with you.

However, for this to work in an MMO that game would have to set focus on things like story and content depth (or go sandbox) and that's not really the case with today's MMOs; grinding and leveling up, collecting items and raising gear level etc. is a big part of their content and progress structure. if you took that requirement away, many people wouldn't bother to level and hence 'finish' the game (get bored) faster. this isn't in a dev's interest who wants you to pay subs for as long as possible.
so even if they took level requirements off the board, they'd have to implement substitutes that work like a similar hurdle, for ex. linear and gated instance progression.

Anonymous said...

I think the premise that "level 1 will be just as easy or hard as any other level" is probably not a good one on which to base a game's design. Usually progression is discussed in terms of gear/level/etc. of the character, but players also progress in their knowledge of and facility with a given class or spec. By keeping difficulty constant across levels, as suggested in the quote, you face an unpleasant choice between over-challenging beginning players or under-challenging veteran players. Either way, the game would run astray of Csíkszentmihályi's notion of 'flow', with negative consequences for player engagement.

I'm also a little uncertain how you forsee group content functioning in such an environment. If you throw a level 1 and a level 80 in the same group, do the bosses hit as hard as a level (1+80)/2? If the level 1 is your tank, this could be problematic. Alternatively, if only same-level characters can group together, it may be difficult to find enough people to form a group.

While there are some problems with the current WoW implementation of endgame at level cap, it seems to me like big changes would introduce other problems that would not be easy to solve.

caerphoto said...

If all NPCs scale to your level, what happens when you're a level 328 in a group with a level 1? What level are the NPCs then? Or maybe you can't group with people. But then, you might as well be playing Oblivion.

What do you mean by "the higher level you go, the more stats you get"? Do you start off with only a Strength stat, then at level 5 get Agility, and so on?

Anonymous said...

once upon a time in vanilla WOW you could Raid Deadmines as level 10's or Uldaman at level 30. Then characters got more powerful and devs pulled the options.

Klepsacovic said...

Just to clarify a couple things:

Players could not raid with players of other levels. Outdoor mob scaling should have been left out, since I don't think it's really relevant. So level ones can raid, level tens can raid, but not a ten with a ones raid.

I'm not proposing an idea to use in any game, only to consider how this would change or possibly not change, player behavior.

Me said...

What Issy said is likely true. Also, wouldn't you gain experience from raid trash and bosses? In LotRo, as long as you have the "radiance" gear and traits up to 8, you can start raiding at 60.

What happens if someone levels in the midst of a boss fight? Are they instantly booted or do they then "carry" the group somewhat. I'm leveling a shaman just using the dungeon finder. I could see groups forming to level together by raiding.

Tesh said...

It seems cleaner to make a level-less game and measure "progress" by collecting *stuff*, Achievements or some other totally useless and irrelevant stat for the junkies.

...and yes, I think it's high time an MMO goes that route.

Ferdinand said...

Pretty sure the writer is asking a simple question about a hypothetical MMO without actually advocating that the game actually be developed. Could you get people to play a game more just to see little numbers that confer no competitive advantage tick upward?

The answer is yes. See: Achievement Points.

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