After the recent announcement at Blizzcon Syp seems to just be getting a little more cranky at people based on an ideology that is slowly dying, an ideology that never really belonged much in the first place in this genre. Levels and the defined process they make are a required part of mmo’s or so he thinks. Work for it like he did but really, that ship sailed long ago; in fact I think it was more the imposter here than any other sort of system.
I’ve read plenty of posts lately based on how much easier and quicker it is to level now in wow than it has ever been and the whole process keeps getting streamlined, in most mmo’s it seems a mere formality now. No one “earns” those levels, there is little challenge and cooperation involved. It’s a nuisance rather than the rite of passage it used to be, keeping groups and friends from playing together and restricting players from content and playing their own way.
The reason levels almost look required is because the latest generation of mmo’s have clung to the belief that we gamers need to be constantly led and given a very specific and narrow path to traverse. Without this the worry is there that we would get bored, frustrated by facing things we shouldn’t, or just wouldn’t have any direction. This right to an extent only because it is what has been learnt over more than a decade but, like most things it can be unlearnt… and really should be.
This is where I agree with Hiveminded in that forced levels should be done away with entirely. There are far better ways for it to be done that don’t invalidate tremendous amounts of land, content and mechanics. having levels creates a large problem of waste; wasted dev time and resources.
Levels like this are stupid and bad design as all they do is restrict what the player can do and with who the can play with. The amount of times I’ve become frustrated because I’m a level or two behind or ahead and can’t join in is just too many to count and I haven’t even been playing in this genre that long. Then there are those times were a couple quests can make a huge difference like travelling and being attacked by a higher level opponent means you should just assume the position… it would be better to not go there.
I understand the thrill and player purpose that it tries to create but you can still have those types of systems without the needless restraint. You can still have power growth; you can still have skill gain and customisation; you can still have raid, dungeon, and pvp grind. You just need to forsake the silly mechanic of dramatically increasing power just because you killed a certain amount of rats and how content has level requirements. You can even create an environment based around progressing more based on options with the freedom to challenge yourself as you see fit.
If you remove the tiered crafting system as well you can create a far more balanced system wherein you keep a wide range of valuable materials rather than a few high-end useful ones. And environment like this would promote exploration and create a far more open-ended experience.
I just don’t see the point in levels any more. Without you let people play with who they want, when they want and where they want; that’s rather freeing and creates a much more social environment. It also lets people truly play how they want; content becomes more personally meaningful. It could also be designed in a way that is more nuanced than just designated a level; differences in difficulty, mob density and group make-up can all have a place within the open world experience as you don’t just have to create to support a certain silly mechanic.
So yes, when I here about games giving out free high level characters for no effort I’m glad. First because it creates a more open ended experience for the player as all the content is still there for them to explore and enjoy to an extent. And second because maybe, just maybe, it means developers are starting to understand how much of a limitation it is for everyone.