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One of my first posts here was called “The Case for MMOs with Little or no Leveling.” Nearly two years have passed since that post and it’s been a cause I’ve consistently rallied behind. I think the time has come to re-assert that argument, and with greater clarity.
In these posts, I will do the following things:
What is the Problem? / “Dragonball Z” Progression
In short, your average MMO allows a newer player to be one shot, by someone who can be one shot, by someone who can be one shot, by someone who can be one shot, by a max level player with good gear.
I call this Dragonball Z progression in reference to a show I find ridiculous where early on in the plotline a character having over a power level “Over 9000” is seen as a shocking revelation, but by the series end there are characters with power levels in the billions.
The consequence of this is that the driving motivation to play most of these games is to acquire power because content is not fun until you have the power to do it. It also makes all older content in the game redundant and useless as a single player can effortlessly plow through content designed for entire groups of low level players.
This has given rise to a dominant “power leveling” mentality within the MMO industry. Players plow through content as fast as possible to become competitive in PvP, so they can do the same PvE content as their friends etc. This mentality overrides, roleplay, immersion, or enjoying the content that is being powered through. Everything before high level endgame play is perceived as a barrier to entry by many players.
This means a large number of players aren’t really enjoying the content they perceive as a barrier to the level of play they want to be on. Whether their goals is to play with the higher level friends, or simply to enjoy competitive PvP, many aren’t having fun until they reach that point of play, and this leads them to seek out games that don’t present this barrier to entry.
Another problem is the idea of loss of relevance of previous progress. You may work very hard to achieve a high level of power, only to find that once you reach it, the next expansion moves the goalpost making it easier to achieve your power level and creating a new power level that makes your character seem weak. This is of course since if increasing power is the primary content, the cap must be lifted for it to continue to work as the game’s primary content once players start to reach that cap.