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What are some possible ways to get the sense of advancement/progression without the vertical xp/skill grind?
One alternative is the time-based progression ala EVE Online, and while that works for some things, it just doesn't do it for me. Leads to a lack of motivation to log in.
Another idea that I like is the idea of progression in a faction. Whether it's rising through the ranks in your army or church or guild, the progression comes through achieving tangible things and prestige within the system. I guess in a sense it's a little "quest" like, but I think it can be done in a way that doesn't feel as grindy as the "Kill ten rats" system. Especially if these factions are player controlled and therefore you're simply impressing another player with your skills and they promote you.
And then of course there's the idea of just allowing for horizontal progression by expanding your skill base/repitoire, but then how exactly you come upon these new skills or abilities is up in the air.
Any other idea?
Top MMOs: Asheron's Call, Shadowbane, EVE Online, Planetside
Played: Pretty much everything at one point or another