I went back to 2005 on Raph Koster's blog to find a post that has stuck with me for all these years. It was about the pros and cons of levels in MMORPGs (and maybe into the full spectrum of all MMOs).
In it ( https://www.raphkoster.com/2005/12/22/do-levels-suck-part-ii/
Raph states the following:
So it is that the greatest weakness of levels — the fact that they prevent people from playing with one another — can also be their greatest strength; arguably more powerful than any of the Skinner Box sort of bits of psychology. Group identity is routinely cited by players as the most powerful retention factor in online games.
The question is whether one needs levels to accomplish this. Let’s consider the factors that seem to go into creating a success. Leaving aside the basic question of whether you have fun gameplay at a core systems level, the things that have been listed throughout this article are:
- feedback for achievements
- public status based on achievements
- gated communities that require special status to enter
- the lure of power based on significant achievements
- regular changes or variation in the challenges undertaken within a given playstyle
- cozy worlds created with players segmented based on when they entered the game and the rate at which they leveled; or self-selected by players
Now, I agree wholeheartedly with this. To define it further, it's clear that Raph is talking about the power gaps that level based games use. That's the thing that hinders the "Massively" in multiplayer as far as game play among players as a whole.
I'm just wondering if others agree, and if a worthwhile discussion can be had about it. Can something besides (explicitly) levels with big power gaps make for a great game, yet still hits on the bullet points listed above?