Do MMOs need character progression systems?

laxielaxie UK - Leamington SpaMember RarePosts: 896
Bear with me here. I'd be very curious what you all think about this.

Most MMOs out there come with a character progression feature. Your character does an activity, some number in the background increases and your character becomes better. Be it by linear levels in WoW, allocatable skill points, skills that train as you use them (e.g. Ultima Online) or passively trained skills akin to EVE. All of these systems and games are vastly different, but they all have the growth of a character in common.

On the other hand, there have been games where no character growth is present. Openly sandbox games like Second Life, where the sense of "progression" comes from building social connections. Exploration driven games, where you learn about the world, but the character stays the same. Or games like Star Citizen, where your "progression" is largely measured by wealth and player skill.


My question is this:
Suppose you have a social MMO. You harvest, craft, claim land and build. You form guilds, grow a business and work on large community milestones. The crafting has a player-skill component to it, so you as a player learn how to do it better, which ingredients work best. You learn about trade routes or how to optimise your NPC run factories. Clearly, there is progression going on. A player starts as a nobody. Looking back at your early days, 3 months into the game, you will see turning from a street urchin to an owner of a powerful trade empire. Your position in the society moves up.

But there are no levels, no skills that your character increases. You get better by understanding the systems better, and by owning more stuff, but a 1-year-old veteran character will craft the same item as a fresh one (provided you use the same crappy process).

Will the lack of numerical character progression be a deal breaker?

Would players leave the game, because there is no number reminding them that they are progressing? Would players get confused, because after a play session, they can't point to a number and say "Aha, this is what I did today. I can't wait to push that further tomorrow!"
davidknight7
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Comments

  • jmcdermottukjmcdermottuk LiverpoolMember RarePosts: 1,488
    The numbers may be less visible or of a different nature but character progression is still present, be it through levels, item level, wealth, political influence, whatever you choose for the game setting.

    MMO's which exist in a persistent world would be pretty boring if there were no progression at all. With nothing to work towards, with no goals, what would be the point? I don't think it needs to be represented by numbers on a character sheet, but clear progression has to be seen somehow, be it wealth, territory controlled, something tangible according to the game's theme and design.
    Kylerandavidknight7
  • waynejr2waynejr2 West Toluca Lake, CAMember EpicPosts: 7,693
    MMOs might not and RPGs do including mmoRPGs.
    davidknight7vomomotoTorval
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  • KyleranKyleran Paradise City, FLMember LegendaryPosts: 26,827
    Your point about SC not having a progression system is one reason I'm not much interested in it.

    Progression systems are important to me and simply earning money isn't really enough of a draw.

    davidknight7vomomoto

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  • sunandshadowsunandshadow Pittsburgh, PAMember UncommonPosts: 1,723
    edited November 30
    I'm with Kyleran on this - no they don't need to have a progression system, but if they don't it's pretty boring.

    I was a member of Gaia Online for years; before they added their MMORPG-section zOMG, Gaia was a sort-of-MMO with no progression besides wealth.  But the primary reason everyone was there was to post on the forum.  The "earn money to buy clothes for your avatar" system was a toy that helped retain people and gave them a currency to pay each other for small tasks with, but that's about all.

    I also spent a couple weeks playing Myst Uru Online - that had no real character progression because Adventure games generally don't, instead the progression was gated by solving puzzles, because that's what adventure games do.  But the game didn't seem to have enough content for more than a few weeks of classic adventure game play.
    Post edited by sunandshadow on
    I want to help design and develop a PvE-focused, solo-friendly, sandpark MMO which combines crafting, monster hunting, and story.  So PM me if you are starting one.
  • GorweGorwe Ald'RuhnMember RarePosts: 4,279
    Not really, no. I'll elaborate later.
  • AlbatroesAlbatroes Member EpicPosts: 3,675
    Most mmorpgs are pretty much social experiences anyway with 'artificial' progression. Just take wow for example. Even casually playing them, you can still be within range of the most hardcore players by simply doing dailies and stuff. Even in WoD without the whole world quest system, you were still making money with minimal effort and getting gear as well. Then you have LFR which gives marginal inferior gear with a fraction of the effort, which again, you only need that kind of hardcore gear for hardcore content, like heroic+ raiding. For clearing mythic dungeons, all you have to do is just pay attention. So unless you count actually playing a game for 10 hours a week to get geared up decently even too much time to plug in, then I dont know why you'd even play a game at all and just spend time on forums or social media apps.
  • 45074507 Member UncommonPosts: 204
    As long as the game is sufficiently difficult and complex, having no character progression can work. However, I can't think of a single game whose systems are complex enough to fit this sort of design - it would need to be a truly next-gen game for this to work.
  • DMKanoDMKano Gamercentral, AKMember LegendaryPosts: 17,116
    edited November 30
    Without progression - i have zero interest in playing.

    I am 100% driven by progression in MMOs.

    While progression systems are not "needed" - without them IMO we would be left with the dullest most boring game in the history of MMOs.


    Post edited by DMKano on
    IselinTindale111Vynt
  • WizardryWizardry Ontario, CanadaMember EpicPosts: 13,175
    The title i THINK is missing the RPG part because a simple MMO does not but a RPG must have progression it is a staple definition of a rpg.I can't see there being a single argument otherwise,your roleplaying a living person,of course you are going to progress,we are not machines or robots that are stagnant with information fed us in some computer chip.
    I also draw the line on FAKE progression,like what Eve does by simply putting a check mark in a box,that is like the lowest form of design possible,a 0/10 idea.
    Kyleran

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  • CryomatrixCryomatrix Cambridge, MAMember UncommonPosts: 1,048
    I like progression, it is how you set it up that matters and what the progression allows you to do.

    Cryomatrix
  • nariusseldonnariusseldon santa clara, CAMember RarePosts: 27,651
    laxie said:

    Suppose you have a social MMO. You harvest, craft, claim land and build.
    Sounds boring. I will pass. Give me a traditional progress, kill stuff with fun combat, loot cool item game instead. 
  • PantroXPantroX Member CommonPosts: 2
    MMOs are not fun without progression systems.
  • DKLondDKLond AlbertslundMember RarePosts: 2,162
    Of course not, but I enjoy progression a lot.
  • KyleranKyleran Paradise City, FLMember LegendaryPosts: 26,827
    Wizardry said:
    The title i THINK is missing the RPG part because a simple MMO does not but a RPG must have progression it is a staple definition of a rpg.I can't see there being a single argument otherwise,your roleplaying a living person,of course you are going to progress,we are not machines or robots that are stagnant with information fed us in some computer chip.
    I also draw the line on FAKE progression,like what Eve does by simply putting a check mark in a box,that is like the lowest form of design possible,a 0/10 idea.
    And here I love EVEs passive progression system, perfect for people like me with limited free time.

    But the real challenge in EVE isn't training skills, it's learning how to put them to best use.

    Some people become masters at this, I'm definitely not at that level.


    ConstantineMerus

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    On hiatus from EVE Online since Dec 2016 - CCP continues to wander aimlessly

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  • cameltosiscameltosis ipswichMember EpicPosts: 1,741
    MMOs do not need character progression, they just need a massive amount of people in the same virtual environment. 

    MMORPGs.....different matter. I don't think they necessarily need character progression, but they should really contain progression of some sort. Progression is the carrot that keeps people playing for longer. Progression also often changes the way the game plays, keeping it fresh and interesting. 

    I think a lot of people would struggle with the system you have described (building a trade empire) but there would probably be a sufficient market to make a niche game like that. 
  • vomomotovomomoto Member UncommonPosts: 68
    Kyleran said:
    Your point about SC not having a progression system is one reason I'm not much interested in it.

    Progression systems are important to me and simply earning money isn't really enough of a draw.

    Same here. I heart loot and XP
    Kyleran
  • shetlandslarsenshetlandslarsen Member UncommonPosts: 46
    It is not needed but I prefer it in my games.
  • Siris23Siris23 Minneapolis, MNMember UncommonPosts: 288
    MMOs do not "need" a progression system.

    MMORPGs do need a progression system.
    KyleranTorval
  • nariusseldonnariusseldon santa clara, CAMember RarePosts: 27,651
    Siris23 said:
    MMOs do not "need" a progression system.

    MMORPGs do need a progression system.

    Some MMOs listed on this site's gamelist has no progression system anyway. Overwatch is an example. 
  • NeanderthalNeanderthal Member UncommonPosts: 1,724

    I believe that MMOs and/or MMORPGs don't need character progression or at least not the type of never ending vertical progression they usually have.  In fact, I would say that the "living world" MMO that some people on this site like to talk about can never happen if it has endless vertical progression.

    Whether it would work or not would depend on how it's done.  I have ideas about this but it seems pointless to ramble on about it so I won't.

  • laxielaxie UK - Leamington SpaMember RarePosts: 896

    Whether it would work or not would depend on how it's done.  I have ideas about this but it seems pointless to ramble on about it so I won't.

    Feel free to ramble on. Always happy to read what others think :grin:
  • Loke666Loke666 KalmarMember EpicPosts: 20,995
    I would say that MMORPGs need some kind of progression but I don't think it actually need character progression as such.

    They have already cut down the progression from 6-9 months in games like EQ to a couple off weeks and leveling is turning more and more into a tutorial while the progression is more and more about gear.

    There are other progressions that could work as well. You could have a realm progression (think a CIV like MMO where your realm becomes bigger and more advanced giving it's members access to new tech) or having a guild progression instead where you and the other members levels the guild.

    I think the important thing is that we have something to work for to keep people interested in a MMO for more then a short while.

    And even character progression could be handled in many other ways then levels, it has just become popular since it is so simple.
  • esc-joconnoresc-joconnor TokyoMember UncommonPosts: 515
    I don't think there is any game out without some kind of progression. You are thinking of power progression, but even in the game you suggest, claiming land, building, that is development progression. Even a PvP game like Overwatch has Rank Progression, and defeating your opponents in a match is a kind of progression. 

    A game without any progression isn't a game at all, it's just a VR social space. 
  • anemoanemo Member UncommonPosts: 1,239
    Complexity can be an advancement system.

    ______________________

    For instance if you have a system where some "truths" are different for different characters, you're going to have a system where trial and error is needed to do the same thing as someone else.   Which also means that based on what someone learned (Trialed and Errored) how to use will cause them to play differently, and/or that they can do some things cheaper than average again causing different play.

    In some cases the act of customizing and tweaking a system to work how you want it to can act as a tech tree, leveling (since you have older work that is worse but was used to get you here), and/or character customization.   Getting your forge to the perfect point to have the right combination of speed/waste/quality/fuel use, and then you need to combine that with every other crafting station/step you need to use that also has it's own settings.

    In some cases doing things the "right way" could be pretty onerous.   But just to get it done well you're able to skip some steps, which ends up meaning you have different people playing different (similarly to class play).   This is especially true in complex puzzle games IE: Zachtronics games when you want the story or access to the next tool.


    laxie

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  • blamo2000blamo2000 Member UncommonPosts: 167
    edited December 1
    No.  And good thing too.  I have no desire to mix in with the big AAA game crowd and I see no difference between games with really lite character progression systems such as Division, and games with none, such as Player Unknown whatever.

    The tricky part is understanding what it does and what it is for, and then deciding if it is for you or not.  It isn't something that can be tacked on afterwards.  It has to be a core design philosophy.  This separates the games that have it as a an actual system that requires thought, or the games that have it for a little flavor and feel it justifies the including rpg as a genre descriptor.

    Most triple AAA games and Asian games have it in a flavor-only capacity that does not allow you to gimp your character.  These games also have pre-designed characters you are forced to play and a set story-line.  These games also usually have very thinking lite philosophy to them.  They are made to be as passive as possible, like a movie or book.  You ride along with the story.

    The games I like really put effort into me creating my own story.  try to allow me to create my own narrative.  They are active games and require thinking and foresight.  This is also usually reflected in the character generation and development system.  And these games usually have combat that requires thinking.  It is possible to make a gimp character that completely stinks.  It is possible to be trounced in combat.  It is possible to paint yourself into a corner plot wise.  

    The games I like are not popular because the budget usually goes into the game and systems, and not graphics and voice overs.  Also, children find these games to be impossible to play.  There is no AAA game that will be made with systems complex enough to not include children into the market.  Today's market includes such esteemed factors as deciding if a game is good by seeing how many people are watching other people play it online.  I find it hard to believe adults do this outside of very specific scenarios of information gathering or watching competitions of the best players.  Only kids could ever tolerate just watching other people play a video game online for no reason other than supposed entertainment.  I could be wrong, but I highly doubt it. 


    For me, a game with no decent and impactful character development is not worth playing.  In the larger market, most people would think the games I like are unplayable due to the graphics or the requirement to think and plan and be an active participant and not have a story narrated to you.
    Post edited by blamo2000 on
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