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Regulating leveling-up in online games


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#1 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4935

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 02:30 PM

One again I find myself running into a familiar problem - a game rushes through its early content and creates unrealistic expectations about what the rest of the game will be like by being too easy at first. Somewhere between level 5-10 it hits a reasonable pace for story delivery and repetition of actions required to achieve quests. Around level 20 it starts to get a little slow and repetitive but hits a good once-a-day pace for leveling-up and it's associated rewards like an energy refill or being able to purchase new skills or abilities, or unlocking a new area or quest chain. Then around level 30 it starts to go sour; quest requirements get more and more repetitious, key item drops get absurdly rare, and it becomes impossible to level up once a day; a few levels later it becomes impossible to level up even every other day. And at the point where the game becomes more boring and frustrating than fun, I quit, so the game has now wasted all of it's high-level content as far as I am concerned, because I'll be starting a new game instead.

But, online games, especially the ones that are more social games than proper mmos, have done some interesting things with time recently. In some of them time is money - for example, you can claim your daily reward once a day, you can cash in 3 scores per minigame per day, you get paid for making your first forum post of the day (but only the first one), you get free auctionhouse fees on the first item you list in a day, etc. In some of them time is AP (action points, or energy) - for every 3 to 5 minutes you earn a point of energy which you can use to perform actions within the game, and once you are out of energy you can't play any more (aside from aesthetic-customization play or market research which require no energy) One thing I haven't seen yet, but I'd like to see, is leveling-up capped to once per day and intended to remain at once per day the entire time the player is playing. There's no reason to have a maximum level at all if the main reward is something infinitely repeatable like an energy and health refill. Any additional XP you earn after achieving your daily level-up would be saved for you, possibly in a container you could put into a pet or sell to another player, or put back into your xp meter the following day if you don't have as much playing time or if you urgently need the rewards of that day's available level-up.

Thoughts? What other rewards would it be appropriate to attach to a daily level-up? How many hours of play do you think should be expected per level? I don't have a problem with slower players leveling up every other day instead of every day.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


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#2 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 9165

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 06:20 PM

I like your idea very much.
I can see a tradeoff between someone that plays often, but only short sessions, and someone doing their gaming of the week on a single day. Both accumulate the same amount of xp, but one gets the level up "much earlier" and reaps the benefits earlier in the said week, which has a cost of option. This generally leads to hardcore gamers playing 2-3 days in a row and becoming quickly unreachable.

Your system rewards coming often, or banking xp (and allegedly spend it automatically over the course of the coming days to level up, or demand that you at least login).
It could turn off hardcore players if badly implemented however.

What turns me off here though is that the challenge wouldn't "increase" per se at a given point in time: You'd always get your level/day if you invested a certain value of time or perhaps I'm missing a point?

#3 2DExtremeOwner   Members   -  Reputation: 142

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 06:27 PM

I'm no expert but wouldn't limiting the players progress be down right counter productive in the end? Say I play for a week and I like the game, now I'm level 7, I tell my friends to join and they start at level 1. There will always be a gap and a limit to our experience together in the game, that is, if you have some sort of quest requirement.

Unless, if I understand your explained method, I limit my "progress" and give it to someone, one person only, to help them catch up.

I don't hate the whole idea, it depends on the gameplay. Like, maybe if there's a real reason to cap everyone for world wide events and such. An event based game? Say every month or so you have a level cap increase along with an event. But, in the end, it does depend on the game. Levels could mean everything or nothing.

Edited by 2DExtremeOwner, 23 August 2012 - 06:36 PM.


#4 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 9165

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 08:18 PM

You underline one of my biggest concerns with social games.
If a levelup is a meaningful addition to your profile, there will always be distanciation between players to a point where its impossible to play in the 'same league' as your friends. This drives you to catch up, but it is an impossible task.
If it was possible to catch up, it would be an altogether different story, but I can hardly see this balancing out for every player, plus, the player that's ahead would feel cheated if everyone behind him gets bonuses.
For example, if you get 100% experience points + a modifier determined by your friend with the highest level...

Which begs to question if it could work "without levels" and I really haven't seen that working.
Mare's approach is a step in a direction that can work but it does not obliterate the 'gap' issue.

#5 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4935

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Posted 24 August 2012 - 12:11 AM

What turns me off here though is that the challenge wouldn't "increase" per se at a given point in time: You'd always get your level/day if you invested a certain value of time or perhaps I'm missing a point?

Glad you like the idea. :) Personally, I don't think "challenge" is something that ever really increases in an average RPG - grindiness is what increases instead, and I don't think it _should_ increase. Now, complexity would naturally increase as the player's skill tree and tech tree expand, and the number of areas the player has unlocked in the world expand, and along with them the number of crafting ingredients the player can gather or drop-hunt, etc. But I think difficulty should remain constant from the point where the player has completed all the tutorials (level 5-10) ad infinatum.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#6 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4935

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Posted 24 August 2012 - 12:15 AM

I'm no expert but wouldn't limiting the players progress be down right counter productive in the end? Say I play for a week and I like the game, now I'm level 7, I tell my friends to join and they start at level 1. There will always be a gap and a limit to our experience together in the game, that is, if you have some sort of quest requirement.

Unless, if I understand your explained method, I limit my "progress" and give it to someone, one person only, to help them catch up.

I don't hate the whole idea, it depends on the gameplay. Like, maybe if there's a real reason to cap everyone for world wide events and such. An event based game? Say every month or so you have a level cap increase along with an event. But, in the end, it does depend on the game. Levels could mean everything or nothing.

Yeah the design would hopefully make it unimportant for anyone to ever catch up to anyone else. Leveling would mainly affect which areas of the game and crafting techniques are unlocked, and what appearance customizations are unlocked, etc. PvP would be affected as little as possible, and PvE I'm not sure whether I would even want it to be cooperative... there are multiple options there that seem workable, so I'd have to work out the rest of the design first and then see what approach to multiplayer pve (if any) fit best with the rest of the design.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#7 Lyuke   Members   -  Reputation: 175

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Posted 24 August 2012 - 04:52 AM

You said what i've been thinking for many years. Most of the so called "social game" that are around the web, aren't social at all for various reason.
One of this is the difference between players and that they can just trade/chat/battle against eachother 1vs1.

That's why i started to put down some ideas for a real "social" browser game, where players can interact more and play together for a better purpose than to hava a better score. And i've been stuck exactly to the question "How to control the level up grind?".

The first thing that came in my mind was the "energy bar", for now is the best choice to prevent someone playing 24/7 and run through the whole content without enjoying the fun with other players, than leave the game since he didn't have fun!

Stupid me, u had this idea, but i didn't understand all of what u said. So i retrive back what i say, i will think about something else xD
Spoiler


[This are my thoughts]
My concern is actually the immersion about all this different kind of "level up system". If you play a game, you play it because you like the stories and u want to be a part of that world! Do something that u can't do in real-life, something that u always dreamd of but wasn't able to.

So if we put a control like the Energy Bar, it's like saying "I can do 30 times this action in 5m, than must sleep for 4 hours to fully restore and go back to the field for 5m and so on"... sry what?

Another example is the timer: "I can do 30m of actions/movement, but than i must sleep.. oh wait, if i drink this potion i will be able to move again for 30m!"... Nah totaly don't like it..

So my problem is that i want to find a way to make the game/story more immersive, where there are realy low number of contradictions,and at the same time not too easy to grind it!
Sadly the best choiche for immersion is "Let everyone level as much as they want" but there's still a problem: Grind.

Edited by Lyuke, 24 August 2012 - 06:41 AM.


#8 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2769

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Posted 24 August 2012 - 06:20 AM

I do agree that the diminishing returns and endless grinding in most online games is a big turn off for me. Since gaining levels always provides the same benefit and it just takes increasing longer the higher your level I'd much rather just be award a level up at the start of each day.

But under such a system I'd like to see crafting, gear, and areas removed from the level locked mechanic. Instead they should be tied into game play. I rather play half an hour exploring the dark woods to find the entrance to the lost castle unlocking a new area then grinding for half hour to reach level 3 to unlock a new area.

It could also be fun to bring in the new game+ mechanic that a few games have in that once you reach level 40 your current characters retires and you create a new character to start again with at level 1 with an extra generation point to spend and all the previously earned content left unlocked. It could even tie into trophies and housing. It would be fun to be able show some one your house and be like there is the axe Minotaur King that TechnoGoth the 3rd killed, over there is gold wedding rings from when TechnoGoth the 7th saved and married the princess.

But then I think more games should focus on content and not grinding to increase longevity.

But then I'm not really the mmo player. The online game I'm playing at the moment is Fallen London which is fun text and story based game. It has you increasing stats to unlock new content and overcome challenges.

#9 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 9165

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Posted 24 August 2012 - 08:44 AM

I don't think "challenge" is something that ever really increases in an average RPG - grindiness is what increases instead, and I don't think it _should_ increase.


Though it is single player, I like how Skyrim approaches this. You level up in skills, and the higher up the ladder of this skill you get, the harder it gets to go any further. That said, you are left with a bunch of untrained skills you can look at and work on, and no matter which skills you advance, you come closer to a level up.
This basically means that, if you are hellbent on training your "core skills" it will take increasingly longer to levelup, because its harder to become a master archer when you are tier 2, than become tier 2 when you are a novice. You always have the option to "round" your skills for a relatively quick levelup.

That said, around level 60, there really isn't room to do this anymore and it proves the limitation of this system. Having an ever-growing pool of new skills could help.

What other rewards would it be appropriate to attach to a daily level-up?

I've always been a bit weirded out by the concept of energy which, to me, essentially frustrates the hardcore players into paying money to get their "fix" and artificially bring them to par with the play session time of a casual gamer. I don't think it "benefits" the casual gamer per se either.
Refilling stats (HP, MP, etc) is plenty enough for a level up, along with a few stats increasing, unlocking a skill or something similar. This concept stands the test of time from Gary Gygax's D&D, Ultima and Final Fantasy series up to now. Perhaps the level up doesn't need to be the driving factor. It is a punctual reward that keeps you in the game. It shouldn't be "more than that".
The problems with games that emphasize too much with levelups is that they take away a lot of potential in-game mechanic excitement and focus them at the level-up moments, which as you point out, can be once a day or less. It's basically saying "we'll make your game boring, but you won't believe the level ups you get!".
I'd much rather have the player focus on in-game mechanics.

A terrific example of this is the introduction of "experience" in minecraft (if you haven't seen it, have a look now!).
The game's mechanics are great (if they appeal to you that is) and they remain the driving factor why you're playng this game. You're not looking forward to a level up or earning experience, you're just happy if you do. It is a punctual reward that has the only advantage to allow you to enchant items, which in turn only gives bonuses to your efficiency performing tasks or resisting combat.




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