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# Who needs levels?

## 24 posts in this topic

Ok, So many people are arguing this in other posts.. it''s about time we had one dedicated to it. Who cares for levels and who doesn''t? why or why not? Levels can add to a system or can take away. I can see it going both ways. If you don''t have levels, how do you plan on showing the player that they''ve gained in some way? Cyberpunk uses a totally skill-based system which is level-less and class-less. This works well for the setting and game design, but not for all games. How do you plan on making your game design work out regardless of if you choose to have levels or not? J
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Game stats come in the end of the game design process IMO.

First off, you design the game, write the story, prepare some cut scene...

You think about the gameplay, how, what, why should be done by the player to make the game a good experience.

Thereafter you think about a gaming system like in RPG (well stats in RPG are just a way to avoid the players killing themselves or the MD cause ''hey, I can''t miss it! I killed this ugly monster !"), if required.

Most of the time, you''ll ask yourself: ''what does it gives to the player ? In which way does that enhance the gaming experience ? Does that allow more freedom ? Or Will this feature make my game sell good ?''

And here, if you''re an experienced pen&paper RP Gamer you can think about the kind of system you want to include, if not, you just look at previous game systems.

I want a simple system working in a classic way : I''ll do AD&D like rules.
I want innovative and free system : I''ll design a ''proficiency'' based system.

I don''t know : Many games don''t use any visible rules, look @ OutCast, FF... No known rules but still a good gameplay.

Don''t forget that a rule system might not give you anything usefull.
(For a FPS for example, it''s pretty useless)

-* So many things to do, so few time to spend *-
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Actually, I think levels have their place, not as part of the RPG game system, but as a talking point. "I made level 30 last night!" boasts some guy. "Just one more level and then I can use the this Vorpal Mace of God-Slaying!" quotes the long enduring player before he gets PKed. Sounds a lot better and simpler than "Just need to get 50% in sword use, 30% in style attacks, and 45% in Agility and then I can use the Dance of Flying Ferrets attack"...

Levels provide a common comparison. Heck, just have levels in a game, but don''t acutally use it for anything!
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I''m against leveling myself. I go against the other designer for my current free-time project here, but that just makes it more interesting ''cause we''re always bouncing ideas off eachother.

I think usually levels are done a little too artificially. You gain a level and all of a sudden you''re stronger, faster, meaner... that''s not realistic or immersive to me. I''d rather find out gradually that things are getting easier. Perhaps, if you make the leveling detailed enough, it''s not so bad. In the end, the PC is a discrete math machine, so you''ll always have SOME kind of leveling ( just with 32k levels )

Give me one more medicated peaceful moment..
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~
ERROR: Your beta-version of Life1.0 has expired. Please upgrade to the full version. All important social functions will be disabled from now on.
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Why have levels at all? I mean, if you can improve your physical attributes in a game (which is absolute crap aswell) they who cares what level they are on anyhow.

I personally think levels are on the way out. They are becoming an obsolete part of the game due to the fact that we''re adding more to rpg''s.

That''s my logical thinking any how.

WE are their,
"Sons of the Free"
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I think the question of whether or not to have levels relies on how they are treated.

The usual problem is that an increase in level brings a ridiculously higher degree of ability. Some games go as far as treating these increases as compund interest; that is for every level you go up you gain a percentage of your points, not just a fixed amount. That means the higher in level you are, the more points you''ll get for leveling. This method encourages powermaxing to no end.

I say, if levels are waranted {given the theme of the game}, give fewer points for each sucessive leveling, up to a certain level {but don''t cut out points entirely, unless there''s a logical reason.} This way there is less and less return on leveling, forcing the player to pay more attention to the skills they learn.

---Sonic Silicon---
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As I mention earlier, levels are just remanence (?) of the older Battle systems that mutated in RPG.

They were used to make easy comparaison between different characters/creatures to choose to fight or not.

I prefer games based on proficiencies that are adjusted by the characters attributes.

(Attributes = Strength, Intelligence, willpower...)
(Proficiencies = Sword mastering, blacksmith...)

Anyone has best words for my attributes and proficiencies words ?

-* So many things to do, so few time to spend *-
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I for one detest levels.
I played AC for about two months... Got to level 6 and decided that I hated the game for one reason.
If you look up in the right hand corner of the game screen there it was, big... 72pt font numbers... containing your level. Under that was a progress bar showing how many total XP''s you had and how many you need for the next level.

In the 2 months that I did play, I have finally figured out the reason I hated the game so. "Level chasing" thats what I did.
Everytime I got on (which wasn''t often, I''m a busy guy) I chased the next level. Never taking the time to meet anyone as I had done in UO... I just wanted the next level.

At any rate, I think the internals of the game need to keep levels. But the game the player sees needs to give them another way of progressing. Be it the UO way of Noteriety and Fame or a Title that your given. Again, with these you will find that people chase these, but they are much more arbitrary than a progress bar.

Dave "Dak Lozar" Loeser
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I think everything we''ve been talking about is very connected. In a game where murder is not the priority I don''t think levels are a good idea. They cause ppl to just focus on leveling instead of actually playing the game. However, if you want a game to be murder-based then levels are just fine.
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Well, I need levels, why? Because players think they are fun, so do I. I don''t see anyother ways to express gaining experience, but if I find better way I''ll do that, probably. Old, safe and reliable way. Only game where I have seen good non-levels is Cyberpunk, but since I don''t copy anything I won''t use it.

Why are you guys using them anyway if you hate them SOOO much as I can see many, many posts.

Time comes, time goes and I only am.
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Correction, Arch. The MAJORITY of players think levels are fun. A MINORITY of players are looking for something else entirely, but settling because these games are close. I''d like to see a game that appeals to the latter, and to do that right, levels have to go. So be it. I don''t think any munchkin-less system would work with the kind of player you think of playing a MMORPG.

So I personally want to screw levels, knowing full well the consequences. There will always be an audience for leveling and similar phallic compensation, but that doesn''t mean I''m looking for the large, stable audience. Wow. I''m a psycho.
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IMNSHO, levels aren't bad, it's just the way they are implemented is.

It's ok to reward players, the problem is that were just rewarding them for the wrong reasons (i.e., for killing helpless animals).

Edited by - The Senshi on June 27, 2000 3:35:04 PM
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Anybody ever play Shadowrun or Vampire? Those games didn''t have "levels", but they did have stat growth. Most recently, Vampire on the computer (which is a kick a game BTW) lets you spend exp. on stats and powers, and there is a rank for the total amount of exp that you''ve acquired. The rank means NOTHING, but you still get stronger. I like that system.

I recommend you take a look if I''m not making any sense, even though the game uses hit points (ugh...)

/*initiates shouldn't have signatures*/
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Levels could be avoided altogether.

In my opinion, a level based system will usually confine players into a certain way of thinking (I''m level X, you are level Y). A skill based system does basically the same thing (I''m skill Z, you are skill W) but the area is a little larger (well, usually skills have a wider range than levels).

I still think a level system within a skill system is preferable to all others (meaning, for example you have a skilllevel of 60 in one handed slashing sword fighting; that would put you at level 6 of that particular skill) And instead of using numbers, let''s just stick to titles (swordmaster, blademaster etc)

Players need SOMEthing to boast about

As a poster mentioned earlier in this thread, it really DOES depend on the type of game AND the type of player it is made for.

I think the current type of player for rpg (UO, EQ, AC) DOES want some sort of level system where they can compare numbers with eachother and look up to player that outrank them, and look down upon those puny players below them...

Maybe the future brings other systems...systems more to my liking.

Silvermyst
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quote:
Original post by Paul Cunningham

Why have levels at all? I mean, if you can improve your physical attributes in a game (which is absolute crap aswell) they who cares what level they are on anyhow.

Paul: Why do you think that improving your physical attributes in a game is absolute crap? Of all the types of improvement, improving your character physically is one of the most realistic (below skill improvements).

In many ways in real life it is possible to improve upon your physical ''attributes.'' For example, a person can make themself stronger or gain physical endurance over a period of time. Why shouldn''t an RPG character be able to do the same?

I admit that some attributes are probably debatable as to whether they can be improved. For instance, how much can someone really improve their appearance? But most of the ''classic'' attributes can be improved upon in real life, so it only follows that it should be possible in a game setting as well.

Anyway, maybe I''m misunderstanding you. What is it about improving physical attributes in a game that you do not like?
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The Players need SOMETHING to boast about.

A true statement to be sure, but that''s not the same as the Players need LEVELS to boast about. That statement, I do believe, is quite false. To back up that belief, I simply point to the fact that you rarely see players boast about being level X. Go to any sort of Pkiller msg board and you will constantly see players boast about killing other players, and while you will also frequently see them include lvl comparisons in that boast, the bottom line is they still have something to boast about. I simply think that, even when looking at the mass market, it''s no longer true that players absolutely need levels. The problem is that there aren''t any developers willing to take the risk of providing an alternate system. (UOs system was a little too lacking for my tastes. I don''t want any closed end advancement system. The only caps we have in real life are those we impose on ourselves.)
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Personally i think having levels in rpgs is a game design flaw. Its an attempt to compensate the player for the lack of enjoyment that should come from the role-playing experience.

Why do i think attribute increases are crap? Mainly because of the way its implemented into games. They allow characters too much flexability to the point that it doesn''t matter how you started the game. Thus no role playing AGAIN! It discourages role playing.

I have no problem with skills as they contain a positive reflection of real life so they become useful to games.

Hitpoints are over used as well, the abuse of this system has lead to styles of games where characters just happily walk into a volley of 100,000 arrows and laugh. You don''t need a million/hundred HP in games, its pointless, why not just grant the player cheat codes if they want them. Personaly i''d prefer this to the current system of hp exploitation. Maybe it would kick the lamers out of games due to boredom, hip hip horray.

- You only need 30 -40 hp and a brain, that''s what i say -

Ok flame away, i''ve got 109,463 hp anyway.

WE are their,
"Sons of the Free"
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quote:
Original post by Paul Cunningham

*snip*
They allow characters too much flexability to the point that it doesn''t matter how you started the game. Thus no role playing AGAIN! It discourages role playing.
*snip*

Ok flame away, i''ve got 109,463 hp anyway.

*hands Paul a Ring of Protection from Normal Flames*
I couldn''t agree with you more, Paul. I think I mentioned something very similar in an earlier thread on role-playing games.

Often, advancement is simply an excuse for "if you figure you need magic, just practice long enough until you can do it.".

In reference to your comments about hit points - they are most definately a double standard. On the one hand, you could say they represent your character''s advancement in toughness. Then why not simply stick to advancing a "toughness stat"? There is "constitution" in ADnD for example, which indicates your health. How can you suddenly be tougher if you didn''t get healthier?
So it''s not your advancement in toughness then, it''s something else. You get better at avoiding/taking damage? Well, there are all those other skills you have that amount to the same thing, why double up? There isn''t much sense in that whole idea, unless you''d ONLY have hitpoints, and not skills or any of that stuff related to damage.

Give me one more medicated peaceful moment..
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~
ERROR: Your beta-version of Life1.0 has expired. Please upgrade to the full version. All important social functions will be disabled from now on.
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You guys are all hardcore RPGers. If you want the true experience, you''ll probably be waiting for a long time.

You guys are in the minority (Go play PnP for now). Pkillers are in the minority (people want to escape real life and human nature - not face it in a game they paid good money for to have fun in). There''s a good reason why Diablo did so very well - it was big, according to sales figures, it was very big. Levels are not important really (I joke when I say players need something to boast about - ahh the coldness of text with all but a few smileys to use). What''s important is that the GAME is fun and/or interesting.

BUT, the developer who can pull such a ROLE-playing game off, will rake it in big time due to a market that''s just asking for it - Women. Would you be ready for them to play with you? Surveys show: maybe.

Good Luck. I hope to see this true role-playing experience game some time in the future, because really, reality sucks.

Flame away.
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Ok... funny how lots of people seem to be saying "hey, levels aren''t necessary because you should get your fun from the role-playing experience".

Hmm, who said you could only have levels in a roleplaying game? Why not in an RTS, where you want to advance your troops, or in a click-em-up/RoleplayingLite/whatever you want to call it like Diablo?

And who said you couldn''t have more than 1 way of getting fun out of a game? There''s no reason why in a single-player game, levels should detract from the roleplaying. The only case I can think of is when the whole levelling system is handled badly, such as Landfish has pointed out: the times when you are presented with row after row of irrelevant opponents merely in the name of making you the correct level for future encounters. If done well, a level system is just an added way of having fun in a game. Just like in Elite, you could be raising your Elite rating, or collecting credits, or just trying to explore. More different kinds of fun within one game can only be good, providing the makers don''t add extra ones in to compensate for poorly thinking through the other options. Many games already make this mistake, but that makes the implementation bad, not the design.

And beware of being roleplay-bigots It''ll be a long time before the computer can give you the same sort of fun as a tabletop (or LARP ) RPG, so it makes sense to design in some other elements of gameplay to augment the storyline. Hopefully Vampire: The Masquerade and Neverwinter Nights might go some way to addressing the lack of ''real'' roleplaying, for the minority that want it.

Not that such elements -have- to be levels, by the way.

Now, onto my personal experience: I am currently designing a MUD, which is level-less and classless. There are very different considerations here than there are in a single-player game. Foremost is that the game is meant to provide for infinite playability. This means there always has to be some sort of goal for the players. You can''t achieve this with storyline alone, as you could never write enough stories and sub-quests quick enough for all your players. So the computer has to do some of the work, whether that is automatically generating quests, or providing some sort of numerical scale that a player can aspire to climb. And players -do- like some sort of ''ladders''. Some players want to be able to compare themselves to others, whereas other players just want to be able to measure their -own- achievement.

Another part of running an online game is that you want players to stay around: one way of doing this is to make them feel they have ''invested'' in the game. A level-based system is a (usually)one-way method of recording progression, and time/effort invested. The hope is that people will be reluctant to quit the game once they have got a lot of levels, as it would take them a long time to reach that point again in the future if they ever decided to come back. This seems to hold true in practice, although you could consider it more of a ''marketing'' ploy than a ''design'' issue. The fact is, though, if you can keep hold of your experienced players, your game''s roleplaying, community, and general atmosphere are going to be a lot better than if you just have a load of newbies who stay for a week and leave.
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Ok, I''ve refrained from commenting as of yet to see what kinda feedback i could get Now..

Levels are not evil. We have levels in life. Think about your job, what level are you? I bet if you got a tree out and looked down it, you''d find you''re position number 43 or some such. There''s a number with that level, you just don''t know it. You know a TITLE. The level has been pulled away from you and you''ve been given something instead. Perhaps the title of Janitor isn''t nessicarily one you''d think of being.. but that''s a different job skill than what you have, right? I mean, if you were to strip out the corporate ladder of things, and right them all based on job-type, there''s levels within jobs. There''s the lowly toilet-bowl janitor, and the supreme "i clean bill gates'' office" position It''s all based on salary level within the work place. Which shows you how inter-twined the things are. Some positions some people see as being "easy" and others "hard" but they also see people as how much they''re making.. "oh look at her, she''s got such and easy job, and she gets paid more, too!" is it really an easy job, or does that person just do it well and make it seem easy? Your boss, they get paid more.. why? are they more skilled? well.. yes! people rise through the positions by being skilled at what they do. In a company there''s not many levels, true.. but in a game, should there be a lot of levels? In a company, levels are limited.. you have a maximum goal to attain.
Now, let''s structure this more.. you begin working at a dock, unloading things. You know NOTHING of this. You begin working, being instructed by a trainer. Perhaps they show you videos and you "learn" something. You take a test to assure you know it all right. You get safety lectures, etc etc. Well, then you go and start your job. You''ve got skills you''ve never used, so naturally you''re a bit shaky. You go and start working, and find you know what you''re doing. Then you mess up, and someone corrects you. As time passes, you come to know your position well, and you begin to help your particular dock''s supervisor with deciding where to put things. You''re learning new things that''s based on what you did previously. Eventually, the supervisor is promoted, and you get his job. You get comfortable in that position and you work hard to move up again. You start learning how the second dock works, and you have to learn some new things along with that. Their layout is different, etc. Eventually you become supervisor over those two docks.. and then five, and then the harbor.. lol
So now that you know you''ve got a ladder that you deal with, tell me people don''t "skill up" and try to gain levels in life. It means higher pay, higher status, and more benefits. Who the hell doesn''t want that? Bill Gates has NOWHERE to go, basically. he could become president, but i doubt that lies within his scope of vision But he is at the top of his job market. However, he competes with others in the same position as he is. In a sense.. those two keep people from attainting their level of status.. how? well.. this is the interesting part that i''m still working out, exactly
At Bill''s level, he''s god.. but he''s not alone. There are other gods, all competing to be your god, and the god of gods. How does this battle play out? well.. they keep raising the bar. Bill says "i''m upping you by 20" and the players at his poker table of life either say "fold" or "i see your raise" and some follow with "and raise you 10"
So now, the poker example. Imainge all the classifications of Bill Gates'' job starting with his position at top to way down bottom. He''s in a management position, but he came from software development. This means that all jobs lead to one job in the end, right? You eventually become the top programmer, and then you have to achieve management status. Management status is the upper crust of all jobs. The IT professional is a software engineer who just made it to the top and learned the corporate world Well.. thinking about this, then.. you wonder about things. But back to the poker. Bill and others sit at a table together. Those people are in his "level". Now, someone else.. a new person, sits with them. He has not the skills to play poker on their level. he gets decimated. He goes away thinking "i''m not good enough" but in reality, he just tried to skip the ladder of success. He didn''t know their rules, how they played, and how brutal they could be, all while smiling at you! So, let''s look at this from someone who IS in a position to break into Bill''s table.
They step up, sit down.. aware they''re in the biggest of all leagues. They fire it up, win a couple hands.. and they''re on a roll. Well, the big guys think "do we WANT another person in here?" Bill telepathically says "no no no". So what happens? they all work against the other player. He''s frightened them. They keep betting and betting until he has nothing more to bet and MUST fold. So this right here becomes that someone decides not to like this guy, and on a gamble.. tries to outdo him. It could cost the companies a lot of money, but for the winner.. well, they''re still alive. Sometimes more''n one company does this to a single other company. So they''re raising the bar.

How does this apply to levels? well, if you can''t reach the max level because the max level is constantly going up.. well.. how''s that for true to life? As people try to hit the top, they push the top higher. The top never stops.. but the levels below it become baised on that top. So it''s like this.. people at the top have to get a lotta exp to move up. The top expands quickly, while the bottom doesn''t move. That way at the lower level, you still don''t need much to get levels, but it''s always getting progressively harder to get to the top. This is because the top guys keep pushing the top higher. That way they have something to push for, yet they''re not gaining any levels, they''re just trying to keep people out of their level

So go ahead.. try to ponder that a bit. it isn''t fair to those who come later, but hey.. too bad. You get in the game early, or you have to spend a lot of time working your way up. that''s how life is

J
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No one in the world is better or more important the one self. There''s no levels!!! If you want to have levels then they shouldn''t be so generic in a "ROLE PLAYING game"

Hell, measure your sword, skills, pants, or even dick :-) BUT levels DON''T do this do they. No, levels measure if your ROLE is better or worse than another because levels are used GENERICALLY.

That to me is Anti-role-playing!

WE are their,
"Sons of the Free"
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Some harsh words there Paul

I think you need to tone the emotional control up a bit and gain some control over your feelings. In the wise words of Master Yoda: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering!
What''re you afraid of? hehe

Anyways.. the point of levels is to allow people to have a status in some way. The levels, like stats, could be hidden except for "novice" etc. a Novice is someone who is just starting to get going.. and they''re not intermediate And then comes Advanced. They''re all levels, just generalized levels. It''s important that in those times they DID classify people into levels. Not "you''re level 30 of the barbarian guild" but you''re an apprentice or a journeyman etc. They''re all level classifications.. it''s just a matter of using a classification system themed to the game You don''t merely want to say "you''re a commander" but "you''re a commander of the human forces naval fleet, group 16" or some such. That means a LOT when it comes down to it. Personalization of the levels is a BIG thing. That way someone of level X might have more skill than Level Y, but level Y is from another place where things are run differently. Think military ranks if nothing else

J
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NIPHTY: I agree. Levels give status. But...games NEED levels because they simply lack the opportunity to give players status in any other way.

Players COULD get status by politics, guilds, infamy and fame, family, friends, ranks in armies, ranks in sports, special honours etc.

Levels are the simplest answer to the fact that games just miss any real sense of status.

So...getting rid of a level system will only work when a REAL system is used instead (how that would be achieved I don''t know).

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quote:
Original post by Niphty

Some harsh words there Paul

I think you need to tone the emotional control up a bit and gain some control over your feelings. In the wise words of Master Yoda: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering!
What''re you afraid of? hehe

Sorry, i forgot the smileys :-). They make a lot of difference.

WE are their,
"Sons of the Free"
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