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[Column] General: The Case for Never-ending Progression



  • NovusodNovusod Lakewood, NJPosts: 893Member Uncommon

    I think Star Wars Galaxies had the best infinate progression system. The main point is they set the bar very high to obtain Jedi status. One had to max out every other single class to unlock Jedi. Even for the hardcores this was difficult to do and Jedi were very rare in the pre-NGE. They also took the the Jedi thing a step further in that if your Jedi died in PvP is was permadeath but there was a benifit that a dead Jedi would unlock a Jedi ghost that would be a helper for your next charactor. Only a small tiny elite ever abtained a second Jedi with previous Jedi ghost unlocked. One of the endearing mystries of SWG is if your second Jedi died as well do you get two ghost Jedi helpers? Nobody even knows for sure how many ghost Jedi could be unlocked but the system had the potential to be infinate.

  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 2,865Member Uncommon

    Nice column, Bill. I've never been one of the "life starts at level cap" players and I hate grinding as well, but there are games with good ideas in the endgame department - at least these are working for me:


    AoC - horizontal options with the AA system, it freshened up a few builds, widened the options (too bad it brought a massive grindfest as well, so I use it mostly with the timer, and only on rare occasions with xp :) )

    TSW - also horizontal with the auxiliary weapons, some (small) content updates with the new questlines, and focusing on RP with Albion and Crusades (I think more games should use rp'ing to keep players in the world)

    STO - new content in the game all the time via Foundry, the DOff system (both as a separate minigame, and as some mild horizontal development with their boosts), and also a mild horizontal part is to honing your BOff's (since you get xp for the bridge officers beyond the level cap too). Ok, there's also an enormous fleet grind, but I avoid that as far as I can :)


    In short, for me the perfect endgame would be horizontal development with only a moderate (at most) level of grind, massive content updates (maybe with ugc), and roleplay. I know, keep dreaming :)

  • MuffloMufflo StockholmPosts: 30Member
    I ont thought of one Game as I read this: Maplestory

    Maplestory has infinite levels, with interesting skills an dungeons as far as any player has leveled into the game. I know it's old with 2D-graphics but it's definitely worth checking out if you crave the things you write about.

    The sylvari ordered Rice n chicken in a bar. The waiter asked him: "exploded or intact?" He angrily answered: "Intact of course! Do you take me for a fool?"

    Those were his last words.

  • WickedjellyWickedjelly Yahoo, COPosts: 4,990Member

    Great bible thumping but won't work.

    Times have changed and regardless the attempt some will always balk about their perceived version of "end game".

    1. For god's sake mmo gamers, enough with the analogies. They're unnecessary and your comparisons are terrible, dissimilar, and illogical.

    2. To posters feeling the need to state how f2p really isn't f2p: Players understand the concept. You aren't privy to some secret the rest are missing. You're embarrassing yourself.

    3. Yes, Cpt. Obvious, we're not industry experts. Now run along and let the big people use the forums for their purpose.

  • ksternalksternal Hainesport, NJPosts: 81Member
    Curious why they would show a game aka City of Heroes/Villains which the dev's killed even thou it was making a profit on the front of this page?
  • elockeelocke Manassas, VAPosts: 4,242Member Uncommon

    Not sure I would want to play a game with no level cap.  I need to have milestones and level cap is one of them.  However, I do like where you are going with this thought process, Bill.  I've always enjoyed games like FFXI and EQ2 mostly due to how progression in their games is handled.   I always felt like I had something to work on when I log in to those games as opposed to WoW or Lotro or even Rift, where most content is finite. 

    Even though WoW, Rift and Lotro have Rep grinds, that kind of progression feels tacked on, like you said in the early part of your article and didnt' feel organic enough to enjoy as opposed to the AA system in EQ2 or the subjob system in FFXI which made leveling any/all jobs worthwhile. 

    Good article though, this is definitely something that needs to be talked about among MMO designers and put into action because I'm finding even console games are starting to "get it" when it comes to progression and more bang for your buck.  Just play Farcry 3, Sleeping Dogs, Assassin's Creed 3 and numerous others who have adopted Open world aspects that add to your character's progression in games that aren't even RPGs.  Just sayin.

  • kiltakkiltak Austin, TXPosts: 103Member

    The problem with a never ending leveling is that at that point you're leveling just to level and to me that isn't the answer. I don't disagree that having the abilitie to make tweaks to you're character is a must but leveling just to level seems a bit point less.

    So how do you keep players invested in a game beyond leveling. Well it all comes down to a lot of different things. A sandbox game where the players evolve the world is the best option. Eve is a great example of this. The players define who the universe unfolds around them, not the devs. All Dev's do is give them the tools that enable them to do so.

    In all honesty I think Elder Scroll has the solution to all these problems. The game is very much story driven yet it doesn't tell you what to do. You are free to explore the world as you wish. There are no levels but instead have skills that you can develope, which of course makes you a better fighter or crafter. The more you use a sword or cast a spell the better you get at that and the more options open up for you.

    Levels pretty much lock you in to playing in a certain area based on you're level. Thus pretty much limiting you're options. In so doing so can actually kill player experience. Some of my favorite experience in MMO have been those I created on my own. What I mean is when I am off exploring I finding interesting places and I take the time to explore them (now what would make it better is if I had hints about other locations or secerets at those locations that with bit of time and effort can be unlocked giving me better insights in to the world) but also there those moments I come across dangers and I am forced to fight or run for it. Those are the moments that I feel are the best experiences, not the leveling or quest but the exploration, the hidden dangers, the desire to find secerets and then unlocking those secerets by solving puzzles and riddles or just following leads till everything fits together and makes sense. 

    I don't want to know that the big red dragon standing in front of me is beyond my limits to fight and conqure. I want to find that out for myself. The not knowing makes it half the fun. I think MMO need to dig deep and really put a lot more thought process in to the world they create. They need back history woven in to the world it self for players to unlock just by being courise about the world and exploring. It needs to keep conflict between players out in the world not in instances. These worlds need to have fate quest that can help shape the world around them. What do I mean by fate quest. Think of Lord of the Rings. Bilbo didn't asked to be handed the One Ring, it came to him by fate if you will. He then  passed the ring to Frodo who was fated to lead it to where it can be destroyed and thus leaving Gollum fated to be the one to ensure it's destruction. None of the characters asked to be placed in those positions but there they where. That is what MMO need as well, quest that allow players to make choices that can eventually reshape the world around them. 

    I could go on but I think every one gets my point. Leveling for the sake of leveling is pointless. MMO need to think much deeper and broader and find a way to open there world to the players in such a way that they decided how the world evolves not only on a personal experience but on large scale experience.

  • LhynnSaintLhynnSaint CordobaPosts: 119Member
    City of Heroes did it right.
  • SpottyGekkoSpottyGekko RotterdamPosts: 3,916Member Uncommon

    Endless vertical levelling (i.e increase in power) is not practical, for obvious reasons. If it's mitigated by "scaling everything", then that levelling becomes totally pointless.

    A rabbit in the "starter zone" would hit you for 10 points if you were L10, but it would smack you with 10,000 points if you were L1000. What's the point ?

    Endless horizontal progression is probably quite feasible. EVE-Online has been doing it for almost 10 years now. That's because horizontal progression makes a character able to do more things, but it doesn't make that character infinitely powerful at any of those things. More choices, not more power.

  • SidraketSidraket merced, CAPosts: 79Member

    You dont have to scale everything the same way though. There could be areas favored for leveling which scale with more rapidity meaning that players are always matched against more optimal time:exp reward payoffs for best leveling experience, and you could have other areas which have much wider gaps between when they scale for use in events or which drop valuable items. The idea is to get to the next teir in THOSE, there may only be 3 or 4 total, each 'step' having a dramatically higher payoff for the player, those can be the goal, with the other part of the games content having many more scaled iterations for grinding through.

    Of course the motivation to keep going is to get to the next step of the less scalable area which has dramatically better something or other/perhaps even be designed differently from the first version, as well as to gain enough power to more quickly and easily deal with that content for whatever rewards it gives, and thats the motivation which keeps people playing, and the more numerously scaled 'leveling' areas are just there to mix things up and to keep content from ever becoming obsolete.

    I think people underestimate the drive that 'just getting more powerful' has. Its been said before but current mmo endgames are all based on that, its not like people do the gear grind for cosmetic reasons, its for numbers. In the end mmo character progression has all been about getting more powerful for powers sake. This is even more meaningful when its not your gear but your character itself that is growing.

    The great thing about this is that new content that is developed as the game goes on can simply be new abilities that get added as the playerbase levels up, it doesn't have to be entirely new areas - and when new areas ARE designed, they can be used by the entire playerbase, forever due to scaling. It saves dev time, and it gives all players more things to do. For pvp all you need is level brackets

  • bunzagabunzaga Salt Lake City, UTPosts: 30Member
    Originally posted by azzamasin
    Originally posted by jtcgs

    Nice read...but the answer was already given at a GDC a few years ago.

    100% scalable content where the CONTENT scales to the player, not the player to the content.

    The developer gave a slideshow showing how to do it.

    player = level x with y skills

    mob then = level x with y skills

    if player = priest, mob also has z skills and x loot table

    he then showed a graph on how to scale a mob to the player no matter their level and how the mob would remain a challenge. He then moved on to how to scale a mob to a GROUP, with skills for each type of class in the group so a mob would be custom fit no matter the group combo...and that it can even be done for full groups of 5, 10 and even RAID sized groups.

    The man came up with a way to make 100% of a game 100% viable 100% of the amount of time playing no matter the players class, level or group size.

    Do you have the link to that GDC interview?  I am a nerd when it comes to gaming systems and would love to see this presentation.

    I would also like to watch / read this if it is available.  I do my best to attend all the local IGDA meetings, and Indie Game Nights, and would love to absorb this kind of methodology.

  • znaiikaznaiika denver, PAPosts: 203Member

    Just a thought:

    Level-up for xp "infinite", "not just 1-80" and stop, a system to convert level-up xp in to currency, non decayed skills, double the ammount of xp needed for every next skill level, one could learn all skills if desired, achievements, with today's graphics and "aim to hit" combat, gear-up from crafting not from npcs.

    Pluss new contents.

    Every content have all dificulty levels of npcs, let players decide how they want to handle those npcs, "solo or group".

    This will give you endless playebility.

  • verynewverynew St - PetersburgPosts: 12Member

    I see two ways to escape End-Of-Progression trap:

    1. EXP. leak: the higher your level the faster your EXP. leaking - you can even loose levels that way which would slow down leak. Basically level would depend on skill much more than on time spent in-game.

    2. Horizontal progression: replace EXP.grinding with money grinding and give players ways to affect game-world using those money. Basically grinding don't make your character stronger, but you can hire guards. That way players skill can challenge time spent in game.

  • darkhalf357xdarkhalf357x Brooklyn, NYPosts: 1,160Member Uncommon

    Good Article Bill.  I agree and would love a well implemented system of infinite progression.  Under that context i would sub to the game forever :-)

    But in my limited knowledge of development I can't comprehend how it could be done in a sustainable model, though I would support it if there was one.

    Wish developers would take the risk to try and figure it out.

  • elockeelocke Manassas, VAPosts: 4,242Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by darkhalf357x

    Good Article Bill.  I agree and would love a well implemented system of infinite progression.  Under that context i would sub to the game forever :-)

    But in my limited knowledge of development I can't comprehend how it could be done in a sustainable model, though I would support it if there was one.

    Wish developers would take the risk to try and figure it out.

    In a way it has been done.  In FFXI.  I still to this day haven't gotten every job to cap or seen every Mission.  That game keeps the content flowing, it's just unfortunately an old game and filled with UI and control blunders galore.  That being said, I think the answers are in other games, they just need to be grabbed and innovated on in newer games.  Like EQ2s AA system, or Rifts Planar Attunement, TSWs auxilliary weapons, Eve's endless skill system and so forth.  Imagine an MMORPG that managed to put these things in their game over time or right at launch?  This coupled with making worlds and not just game lobbies brings us back to why we loved MMOs in the first place, they never end and are MASSIVE(deep) in gameplay.

  • AlverantAlverant Wheaton, ILPosts: 572Member Uncommon

    Just to add my 3 cents, I see some problems with unlimit leveling.

    First you need to make levels distinct. Like what's the difference between a lv 170 character and a lv 430 character? Do they have different content? Do they get to fight different enemies? There's going to come a point where things start feeling the same. That leads to bored player who winds up quitting. Also if you give out different abilities at different levels, you're going to run out of room on the screen to do everything. In City of Heroes I had a character with over 100 abilities that I could turn on and use but on a regular basis I was only using 40 at most. The rest were near useless until I needed them, then it became impossible to find them to use. But people like having tangible rewards. Sure you can increase their HP but a flashy new ability is a way of yelling, "Hey people lookit what I can do now!"

    The advantage of a level cap is that once you reach it, you can make a new character and start again with a different kind of character learning different tactics and ways to play the game so you get more out of it. That leads to a higher retention rate and a better game. Plus having different characters help with teaming. If you need a buffer, you're more likely to have one if you're encouraged to try different things.

  • aymanzoneaymanzone DubaiPosts: 35Member Common
    best end game content by far was Vanila wow... not cosmic barbie thoughts /sigh... 
  • AmatheAmathe Miami, FLPosts: 1,772Member Uncommon
    Original Everquest has a robust alternative advancement system which was a lot of fun, and which struck a balance between endless levels and some type of cap.  I will never understand why every game doesn't have a system like that.  It was awesome.

    EQ1, EQ2, SWG, SWTOR, GW, GW2 CoH, CoV, FFXI, WoW, CO, War,TSW and a slew of free trials and beta tests

  • TheocritusTheocritus Gary, INPosts: 4,043Member Uncommon
    I like having unlimited progression in a MMO because I like to have incentive to keep playing...For me the worst type of gameplay is to hit a max level and only have gear as an incentive to keep playing......
  • red_cruiserred_cruiser Milwaukee, WIPosts: 474Member Uncommon
    Asheron's Call... when it first came out... sure felt like it had never ending progression.
  • pressedNutzpressedNutz Victoria, BCPosts: 36Member

    Games now no longer need levels. They simply need something that goes DING after some effort has been put in.


    As long as devs can find something meaningful and or rewarding that goes DING! then we players will be happy.


    We just need to find what that ultimate DING is...

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  • HysasHysas OsloPosts: 1Member Uncommon

    I love the mecanics of Discworld MUD that I played a while back.

    Even though it is only a text based game, it still had a genious take on how character progression should be.

    With no lvl cap and just a skill based advancement system that scaled exponentially it made the uber players of the game that devoted most of their time on it take on more of a leader part in the game.

    They would control guilds and politics, and since the game was text based and free of constraining graphics, the sky was the limit.

  • joneb1999joneb1999 MotherwellPosts: 3Member

    The key to a really succesful ongoing game is ending mindless repetition and involving the players more deeply in their world.


    In the relatively short time I have played MMOs, (since the release of the first Guild Wars) but with many years experince of single player rpgs and video games the problem of continuing on with a character is new content challenges rather than repetition. Even with games like Skyrim it is the DLC that helps keeps it alive.


    With MMOs the games society of players and guilds need to be heavily involved in advancing and building the gameworld. Players  need to have rewards for playing together even if some players would rather solo especially if they are casual. Guilds need good rewards to work together.


    I know this is contentious but to be honest the society is really very important in an MMO and I think if there is enough encouragement casual solo players wouldnt mind so much as there would be a large pool of players to pull from. Also Im not saying discourage soloing or eliminate it. But it should not have any focus. If a player wants to solo he shouldnt be able to do the content easily but be slower and much more careful. Too many mmos allow solo builds that can plow through content.


    Part of the encouragement for a player society could be when you design the game world make it much bigger than content in it but allow every guild and player  to be able to build their own content so to speak, as in maybe a home and other constructions and keep it fortified from attacks from npc monsters whilst still questing away from home. As players get more powerful the threat arround their homes does too. Maybe some threats mean players may need to seek help from others.


    The following is maybe a too simple  suggestion for one way for players to add content without actual player character vs character pvp -


     The player home could then be anything like a castle to a winding dungeon in a hillside and players would summon guardian monsters and soldiers so guarding it from other players and monsters invading (but players character pvp not having a combat mechanic here, just monsters vs monsters vs players).   The game mechanics that could be introduced to avoid serious ganging up on one player by many could be that all other player created monsters ONLY will attack each other first and enemy players before invading a homestead.  Also to avoid the mmo develop simply into being just being players defending their constructs or attacking others only one invasion can be allowed on a construct every so often.


    Players with loads of money can create huge fortresses and invading armies to take over npc villages and towns creating their own quests / events.


    Remember the player characters themselves wont be able to fight each other and if a player doesn't want to have a home but just be a nomad then thats fine too meaning players dont have to take part.




    Taking  GW2 as an example classes should have cross party skill combinations that do make a huge difference and could tie in to a much better loot drop from the monsters that they are used against.  Guild members should be allowed to delevel to help lower levels and this helpfulness should reward players and guild.


    But these are just suggestions formed out of my head as I type so there wil be plenty holes in my ideas but this is the sort of thing that is necessary. Players need to be more involved than just  taking from their game world. They need to be able to add to it and modify it.  BUT more new well thought out dev content is needed to to progress a characters story.

  • WulfynWulfyn YeovilPosts: 19Member Common

    One could argue that having levels at all is the real issue at hand, but levels and the RPG are part and parcel. That number which gives you some measure of growth in a persistent world isn’t going anywhere. 





    This statement, I feel, is an argument from tradition. You're saying that the reason why levels are in RPG games is because it has always been that way. That's not really a strong argument by itself tho, is it? I mean I'm sure everyone here can come up with an example that demonstrates the falalcy of thinking that somehting cannot be because it never has been until now.


    So I'd be interested in hearing why you think that gamers would not go for a games system that did not have levels.


    Thanks in advance.

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