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MMORPG Addictions - Is the solution to abolish levels?

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For rather a long period of time, I've played MMORPGs. Every single one, however, seems to fail at the same point - they reward the hardcore gamer, thus encouraging addiction. This may be a good business ethic, but is it an ethical one? I don't think so. As well as this, a very lowly-skilled player, spending enough time, can easily gain enough experience (in game terms) to get to a far higher level than another player, less hardcore, who has far more skill. There are multiple ways of dealing with this, as far as I can see. One of these is to thoroughly rid the hypothetical MMO of levels. However, this would almost certainly drive away many of the target audience, as much of the appeal of an MMO is the ability to gain instant fame simply by that number beside your character's name. Instead I believe that the player's skill should be measured by level, with levels in the traditional sense playing either no part, or being very easy to raise, and having a low skill cap. This should apply to equipment also. For example, if a player is relatively skilled at the game, then they will earn experience quickly, due to being able to kill creatures easily. This experience will not contribute to the player becoming stronger, but will rather contribute to the player's "rank". The player, due to weapons having little effect on overall strength, will easily be able to experiment with different professions, decided by the weapons wielded and the skills equipped. Likewise, the player's skills will not increase by a very significant amount, but will nonetheless be easy to make stronger, through the player learning how best to use those skills. To conclude, I believe that players should be able to easily become of equal strength to the strongest players, yet should not be disadvantaged because of this, and that a new player with skill should be able to be more well-known, and of higher rank, than a hardcore gamer with very little skill. -Delphinus

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Well, it would certainly be interesting. However, as you noted, it would drive away a massive part of the MMO player-base, and those who don't go near MMOs for the reason of addiction and leveling might not trust it in the first place. So it could end up a very small MMO.

Other than that, I think a big problem would be that combat would have to be more involved. In many MMOs, combat is very simple, and being more skillful than another person is relatively nothing, because combat is so simple. You may be able to be 5% more efficient once you (and adversaries) get past that new stage where you're still figuring things out. This would likely be the biggest problem, and if it is managed to make a more combat-rich game, you are likely going to have bandwidth problems (a major reason we haven't seen the wonderful combat of FPS in Massive scale). In a few years, these problems could be ironed out, and the making of a (player) skill-based MMO could be possible, and amazing, too.

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Has it ever occured to anyone here that you don't need to make an MMORPG? It is actually possible to build an MMO that isn't an RPG.

I'm all for driving a wedge between those two acronyms. Worst genre, ever.

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Original post by Delphinus
For rather a long period of time, I've played MMORPGs. Every single one, however, seems to fail at the same point - they reward the hardcore gamer, thus encouraging addiction. This may be a good business ethic, but is it an ethical one? I don't think so. As well as this, a very lowly-skilled player, spending enough time, can easily gain enough experience (in game terms) to get to a far higher level than another player, less hardcore, who has far more skill.

There are multiple ways of dealing with this, as far as I can see. One of these is to thoroughly rid the hypothetical MMO of levels. However, this would almost certainly drive away many of the target audience, as much of the appeal of an MMO is the ability to gain instant fame simply by that number beside your character's name. Instead I believe that the player's skill should be measured by level, with levels in the traditional sense playing either no part, or being very easy to raise, and having a low skill cap. This should apply to equipment also.

For example, if a player is relatively skilled at the game, then they will earn experience quickly, due to being able to kill creatures easily. This experience will not contribute to the player becoming stronger, but will rather contribute to the player's "rank". The player, due to weapons having little effect on overall strength, will easily be able to experiment with different professions, decided by the weapons wielded and the skills equipped. Likewise, the player's skills will not increase by a very significant amount, but will nonetheless be easy to make stronger, through the player learning how best to use those skills.

To conclude, I believe that players should be able to easily become of equal strength to the strongest players, yet should not be disadvantaged because of this, and that a new player with skill should be able to be more well-known, and of higher rank, than a hardcore gamer with very little skill.

-Delphinus


You talk about skill throughout the entire post and I get the expression that you think MMORPG's are all about (showing) skill.
First of all, most commercial MMORPG's are entertainment games and are designed to entertain its playerbase. These MMORPG's are just like other games, with the addition of a highly praised social factor (and here is the part were gaining fame becomes interesting).

You talk about all MMORPG's failing at the same point, but what really does failing mean exactly? In my terms it would mean the entire playerbase stops playing the game. Well if take a look at a very popular MMORPG named World of Warcraft, you see this one is doing everything but failing.

What I do agree upon is that WoW tend to reward hardcore players over the casuals, but this is still not really defined as problem frankly, in fact, this is an accepted game design (albeit not by everyone), due the lack of a better game design.

As for the WoW example applied on your conclusion, the creators (Blizzard Entertainment) somehow did accomplished this. The Arena system lets casual players with 'great skill' compete against 'skill-less' hardcore players and be victorious. Yet this arena feature doesn't seem to be key element of making WoW so succesful though, that is far more complex story...

Regards,
Xeile

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If you want to see an MMO that doesn't have levels and does depend on skill, check out Puzzle Pirates. The only determinant of your effectiveness in whatever you're trying to do is how good you are at the puzzle. And while your skill with each puzzle is reported (ranging from Novice to Ultimate), that's just a measure of how good you are, and it does not increase monotonically.

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UO didn't have levels (at least when I played it) and there was still a disparity with hardcore vs. casual players.

Dofus is a MMO with turn based combat. It didn't solve lag problems, it just made them annoying in different ways.

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Original post by PaulCesar
How about a MMORPG with turn based combat... you know... for what reason does it HAVE to be in realtime? You solve your lag problems, you can add more strategy, etc.


... Estimated time of next turn: 12 years, 9 months, 25 days, 18 hours, 35 minutes and 13 seconds...

Yeah, great concept that would be :P

Just kiddin' of course, but to be serious, hasn't Final Fantasy Online done that? (not sure, havn't player FFO...)

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Original post by Kest
Has it ever occured to anyone here that you don't need to make an MMORPG? It is actually possible to build an MMO that isn't an RPG.

I'm all for driving a wedge between those two acronyms. Worst genre, ever.


While I feel the genre is poorly designed as opposed to being fundamentally flawed, I do agree that there should be other MMOs that do not need to be RPG or at the least pure RPG.

I would like to see something that is somewhat a mix of MMOFPS/RTS where you take the basic quake style game, put it in a large MMO setting. Have two or more factions with NPCs in ultimate command to keep balance. Put captureable(SP?) forward bases and a good way of commanding multiple PCs and NPCs and you have something I would play. (Think MMO Battlefront II with better command structure and larger maps...)


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Original post by Xeile
Quote:
Original post by Delphinus
For rather a long period of time, I've played MMORPGs. Every single one, however, seems to fail at the same point - they reward the hardcore gamer, thus encouraging addiction. This may be a good business ethic, but is it an ethical one? I don't think so. As well as this, a very lowly-skilled player, spending enough time, can easily gain enough experience (in game terms) to get to a far higher level than another player, less hardcore, who has far more skill.

There are multiple ways of dealing with this, as far as I can see. One of these is to thoroughly rid the hypothetical MMO of levels. However, this would almost certainly drive away many of the target audience, as much of the appeal of an MMO is the ability to gain instant fame simply by that number beside your character's name. Instead I believe that the player's skill should be measured by level, with levels in the traditional sense playing either no part, or being very easy to raise, and having a low skill cap. This should apply to equipment also.

For example, if a player is relatively skilled at the game, then they will earn experience quickly, due to being able to kill creatures easily. This experience will not contribute to the player becoming stronger, but will rather contribute to the player's "rank". The player, due to weapons having little effect on overall strength, will easily be able to experiment with different professions, decided by the weapons wielded and the skills equipped. Likewise, the player's skills will not increase by a very significant amount, but will nonetheless be easy to make stronger, through the player learning how best to use those skills.

To conclude, I believe that players should be able to easily become of equal strength to the strongest players, yet should not be disadvantaged because of this, and that a new player with skill should be able to be more well-known, and of higher rank, than a hardcore gamer with very little skill.

-Delphinus


You talk about skill throughout the entire post and I get the expression that you think MMORPG's are all about (showing) skill.
First of all, most commercial MMORPG's are entertainment games and are designed to entertain its playerbase. These MMORPG's are just like other games, with the addition of a highly praised social factor (and here is the part were gaining fame becomes interesting).

You talk about all MMORPG's failing at the same point, but what really does failing mean exactly? In my terms it would mean the entire playerbase stops playing the game. Well if take a look at a very popular MMORPG named World of Warcraft, you see this one is doing everything but failing.

What I do agree upon is that WoW tend to reward hardcore players over the casuals, but this is still not really defined as problem frankly, in fact, this is an accepted game design (albeit not by everyone), due the lack of a better game design.

As for the WoW example applied on your conclusion, the creators (Blizzard Entertainment) somehow did accomplished this. The Arena system lets casual players with 'great skill' compete against 'skill-less' hardcore players and be victorious. Yet this arena feature doesn't seem to be key element of making WoW so succesful though, that is far more complex story...

Regards,
Xeile


For a MMORPG that allows low SP players to combat high SP players with high levels of success if the low SP player has a better understanding of the game than the high SP player, see Eve Online, my current addiction. Reactions are somewhat important but a good understanding of how to run combat in the game is in many cases more important than SP (unless you run into a ganksquad :p)

I think that skills should be used primarily to allow for the use of better weapons (but not weapons so much better that they are "leet") and expanded strategies. With this approach a player with a smaller group of strategies can defeat a player with a larger group of strategies if they employ it better

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Original post by Delphinus
Every single one, however, seems to fail at the same point - they reward the hardcore gamer...


Don't most things in life reward the hardcore? As a general rule, a student who studies more tends to learn the material better. A developer who spends more time writing software will tend to do better than those who don't practice the art as often.

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Original post by PaulCesar
How about a MMORPG with turn based combat... you know... for what reason does it HAVE to be in realtime? You solve your lag problems, you can add more strategy, etc.


How would you handle joining one in progress? How would new players get inserted into the turn system? Real time also prevents you from having to sit around for an hour while someone else makes a turn. To a degree, WoW is turn-based, for example. You character has a set speed at which it can attack for instance. That's sort of like a turn. Think Baldur's Gate. That was a real-time implementation of a turn-based system. Quite a fun game too.

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Original post by Drethon
I would like to see something that is somewhat a mix of MMOFPS/RTS where you take the basic quake style game, put it in a large MMO setting. Have two or more factions with NPCs in ultimate command to keep balance. Put captureable(SP?) forward bases and a good way of commanding multiple PCs and NPCs and you have something I would play. (Think MMO Battlefront II with better command structure and larger maps...)


This would be rad. Then you could have some players who don't have to get involved in combat but who just build the economy back home to support the war effort or something and commanders out on the battlefield. That would be absolutely sweet to see a blending like that.

And a dynamic map, where factions could change which zones belong to which faction.

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Original post by Xeile
You talk about skill throughout the entire post and I get the expression that you think MMORPG's are all about (showing) skill.
First of all, most commercial MMORPG's are entertainment games and are designed to entertain its playerbase. These MMORPG's are just like other games, with the addition of a highly praised social factor (and here is the part were gaining fame becomes interesting).


I do not believe that MMOs are purely about showing skill, but I do believe it wrong that MMORPG levelling systems are simply a conversion of time into character power, which only encourages hardcore gaming over casual gaming. So all you get is the algorithm: Time/Character Level=Character Power, which is mindless and makes it Progress Quest with other players.

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Original post by Kest
Has it ever occured to anyone here that you don't need to make an MMORPG? It is actually possible to build an MMO that isn't an RPG.

I'm all for driving a wedge between those two acronyms. Worst genre, ever.


It certainly isn't the best genre ever, yet, to my mind it requires only improvement (and possibly better technology's) to become far more entertaining and involving. Also, I was speaking of a hypothetical MMORPG, rather than myself making one, as I know the resource, time, and monetary cost.

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Original post by Delphinus
I do not believe that MMOs are purely about showing skill, but I do believe it wrong that MMORPG levelling systems are simply a conversion of time into character power, which only encourages hardcore gaming over casual gaming. So all you get is the algorithm: Time/Character Level=Character Power, which is mindless and makes it Progress Quest with other players.


Did you check out Eve-Online by any chance? With that game, time is also converted in to character power in someway, yet a beginning player can take out ancient one, if knowing the game better and applying this knowledge. That concept works fantastic.

I believe the real problem of leveling system is that it set players apart. If you want to play with a friend and also want to progress, but your friend is much lower in level, then you got a problem.

Regards,
Xeile

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Did anyone play the EF2000 or Total Air War flight sims? They aren't MMOs, but they feel like them in a lot of ways.

They simulate the aerial portion of a fictional, modern war. An AI commander generated missions for both sides of the conflict. The player(s) can choose which missions to fly in. If the player doesn't fly a mission, AIs will instead.

Hundreds of missions are generated and dozens are executed by the AI simultaneously. As you're flying to your target, you can watch other planes getting into BVR combat, bombing targets, etc. You can sometimes help other missions out if you're nearby. This is what feels like an MMO.

The only measure of progress by a player is his 'reliability' - the more missions in which you successfully come back alive, the more complex missions the AI commander will offer you. You start off with limited scramble/patrol missions and work up to deep strike missions.

There's no personal reward in this, other than being able to do more exciting missions. You only were able to use one kind of plane, and you could use any armaments you wanted. That goes against typical reward/reinforcement mentality, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Flight sims are one of the smallest markets for games, so I'm not suggesting anyone should make an MMO exactly like this. Some of the AI-generated and AI-executed mission concepts are interesting, anyway.

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Here's an idea. Have a game where making level requires you to pass a difficult test, and no, don't make this test anything like "collect 99 wolf pelts," but rather some difficult boss enemy or questionnaire (nothing like Ragnarok's stupid obscure job change questions, like "which item doesn't <random, obscure NPC you'll never speak to for any possible reason> sell?").

In a skill based game, a skilled player could very rapidly defeat bosses and surpass someone in level who plays the game for hours but never learns to be any good. Hardcore gamers will get more practice time, and therefore will have a tendency to be more skillfull players (play enough and even the worst gamer can learn) but time is no longer the variable that counts - practice and skill are.

It's neigh on impossible to have no level system at all because every alternative is almost always a level system in disguise. In any system, any time a character improves by a measurable amount (besides skill), and that amount is assigned a number (even if done arbitrarily by the players themselves), then it's a level system again.

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Advance in "rank" is still a grind.

For these ranks to be meaningful, they need to be able to be displayed to other players. When other players can see it, it causes prejudice among players. Certain parties will only accept certain "skilled" players and reject those "n00bz".

There...you solved one problem and made another problem.

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Why is a group rejecting someone a problem at all? Most people want to play with someone of their own skill, and it saves a group the time of having to weed out players who slow the group down.

If you're doing a ranking thing, though, I would have a person start somewhere in the middle, and work up (or down) on a sort of curve, that way, a new player isn't at the bottom, and old players aren't at the top, it just depends on where you stand, currently, in the crowd.

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Original post by Dekasa
If you're doing a ranking thing, though, I would have a person start somewhere in the middle, and work up (or down) on a sort of curve, that way, a new player isn't at the bottom, and old players aren't at the top, it just depends on where you stand, currently, in the crowd.

I'm not an MMO expert, but wouldn't that just lead to players starting up new characters every time they drop below the normalized value?

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Original post by DekasaIf you're doing a ranking thing, though, I would have a person start somewhere in the middle, and work up (or down) on a sort of curve, that way, a new player isn't at the bottom, and old players aren't at the top, it just depends on where you stand, currently, in the crowd.
As was said, this would mean that people would restart if they drop too low. Again, what Puzzle Pirates did here was show your "rank" (i.e. representation of actual puzzling skill) in addition to your "experience" (which was just a set of buckets indicating how long you'd been playing the puzzle). Thus it's easy to tell someone who's merely inexperienced from someone who's outright bad - the former was Novice in skill and Neophyte in experience, and the latter would be Novice in skill and Experienced in experience.

I'm not saying that Puzzle Pirates is perfect, but a lot of what y'all are discussing has already been solved pretty handily.

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I think Planetside handled leveling vs skill quite well. Levels were still in place (as Battle Rank), but gaining levels (through player skill) didn't give players more Power, it gave them more Versatility. A BR 3 character could wield any weapon a BR 20 character could, he just couldn't switch between as many on the fly as the BR 20 (at least without waiting for 12 or so hours while swapping sets).

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Original post by juanpaco
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Original post by Delphinus
Every single one, however, seems to fail at the same point - they reward the hardcore gamer...


Don't most things in life reward the hardcore? As a general rule, a student who studies more tends to learn the material better. A developer who spends more time writing software will tend to do better than those who don't practice the art as often.
Meritocracies don't have to reward the hardcore, just the skilled. Someone who is both is likely to be better still. (hardcore->skilled->hardcore and skilled) Most FPS games, for example, reward the skilled, though practice counts for quite a bit as well. But the level of skill required to excel in, say, nearly any MMORPG today is minimal, thus rewarding only the hardcore.

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Original post by Avatar God
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Original post by juanpaco
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Original post by Delphinus
Every single one, however, seems to fail at the same point - they reward the hardcore gamer...


Don't most things in life reward the hardcore? As a general rule, a student who studies more tends to learn the material better. A developer who spends more time writing software will tend to do better than those who don't practice the art as often.
Meritocracies don't have to reward the hardcore, just the skilled. Someone who is both is likely to be better still. (hardcore->skilled->hardcore and skilled) Most FPS games, for example, reward the skilled, though practice counts for quite a bit as well. But the level of skill required to excel in, say, nearly any MMORPG today is minimal, thus rewarding only the hardcore.


Right right. I was equating "hardcore" and "skilled," which may or may not be accurate. I just meant that those who devote time to a given discipline are generally better at it. Talent means nothing where there has been no dedicated application. Like, what good is musical "talent" if you never practice? We get better at the things we do repeatedly, not necessarily because the nature of the things changes, but because our ability to do them increases. And as a general rule, those who spend more time get better.

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Original post by juanpacoRight right. I was equating "hardcore" and "skilled," which may or may not be accurate. I just meant that those who devote time to a given discipline are generally better at it. Talent means nothing where there has been no dedicated application. Like, what good is musical "talent" if you never practice? We get better at the things we do repeatedly, not necessarily because the nature of the things changes, but because our ability to do them increases. And as a general rule, those who spend more time get better.
Yes, but say you were playing a hypothetical MMOFPS. You'd expect all those years of playing Doom, Quake, UT, Counterstrike, all those WWII games, and so on to transfer, yes? Certainly some things would be different in this new game - if nothing else, you have to get used to the terrain. But you'd be much better off than someone without all that experience. Someone who has only played the new game could become very good at it, but they'd need a lot of practice. In contrast, you should start off reasonably competent and gain skill in the new game very quickly, as you only have to learn what is different about this game compared to all the ones you've played earlier, whereas the player who has only played this game also has to learn fundamentals of FPS games.

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First of all addiction is, in my opinion, encouraged due to the escalting scale of rewards - not because the "end game" is limited to players who put in inordinate amounts of time. You start by getting character improvement once every few minutes, then hours, then days, then weeks, then months. You almost don't realize how much work you're putting in to get to your next reward.

Regardless it is a parent's responsiblity to monitor their children and an adult's responsibility to control him or herself. To put the burden of ethics on game makers is to give credibility to those who want to blame Columbine on Quake and Grand Theft Auto. I, for one, will not do it.

Secondly, skill IS a factor in every MMORPG that I have played. The differnce between MMORPGs and more skill based genres (FPS, RTS, etc..) is that MMORPGs are handicapped through the use of player levels, simplistic mechanics, and gear. The effect of this is that it makes the middle part of the "skill bell curve" much fatter than normal. There are less "good" players and less "bad" players - most end up being "competent". I don't think this is a point of failure at all. You forget the "ROLE PLAYING" part of MMORPG. When you reach the highest levels you're SUPPOSED to be a super-powerful wizard or warrior with a practicaly invincible weapon that turns you into a near-god.

There are, of course, a large number of players (myself included) who appreciate a more skill-based game, while still valuing the leveling and gear aspects of a traditional MMORPG. Many companies have realized this and have, as pointed out by many in this thread, worked to increase the complexity of game mechanics to introduce more skill.

I agree that nobody has gotten it perfect yet, but they're getting there.

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Even if you made every player character equal from the start with nothing to improve (skills or levels) there would still be the grind to get more "stuff". Then it would be the player skill + the quality of the "stuff". That would favor hardcore players simply because they have more opportunity to get the good "stuff".

OK... so now we have to make all the "stuff" equal so that hardcore gamers can't get the advantage (and become addicted). Well, even if the "stuff" is equal and bestows no advantage (think magic weapons, etc.) - there is still collecting MORE of the identical "stuff". Even simply gold or tokens or whatever your currency of choice is...

"I have more gold than you! I rule!"
"(Yeah, because you have no life and play all day! Loser...)"

Well, we can't have that now, can we? Get rid of anything collectible or just simply donate it to the total pool so that there is no record of what anyone has accomplished due to their long hours of effort.

So now, there are no levels, no skill advancement, no benefit for getting "stuff" and even no record of getting said "stuff" - every single player has been nerfed to be completely identical regardless of how much they play. Wow... cue the reading of Marx' Communist Manifesto which, in a striking, if perhaps not necessarily coincidental stroke, he asked for a classless society. (How amusing is that? I wonder what kind of MMO Marx would have designed? At least it would have been free!)

Anyway, in order to remove all benefit of playing more than less, we need to remove anything that may occur as a result of that play. If we remove all evidence of effort, we remove most of the incentive for playing. After all, how do you measure your time spent? In my opinion, playing for nothing is more of a "grind" than playing in order to achieve something.

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