This post was set off by the one, the only Ravanel, on her post based on Lonegun’s post about who, and who is not, playing MMO’s correctly, based off a Massively article by Beau. Got it? Good.
Beau’s article, in a nutshell, focused on the recent decisions to offer max level characters to new players of TERA and Everquest 2, and he loves the idea. Offering them, though, sparked a bit of controversy. You see, because some gamers don’t like the fact that absolutely new players are capable of playing at the highest levels, without having to earn their scars through the leveling process. These players would not be as skilled or know their characters as well as those who have gone through from Level 1.
They are offering these free high-level characters as incentive for players who are fans of playing end-game content, without the arduous process of power-leveling. Lots of players have already taken advantage of this opportunity, and the results have been mixed. Some love it, and feel that now the entire game is accessible to them, instead of just a tiny portion, where others feel that they have been given too many options, and little direction. Getting a free high-level character is similar to eating at The Cheesecake Factory, you see. Suddenly having 20 pages of menu items is a little overwhelming.
Lonegun think’s the idea is madness. He posits that the process of leveling a character from scratch IS THE WHOLE POINT of playing MMOs. Afterall, these MMOs are created worlds with deep lore and exploration which open up as you progress through the game’s narrative. Without the leveling process, why even play MMOs?
“In my opinion people who are, “bored with the slog of leveling” are not true MMO gamers.” – Lonegun, The Rant: Leveling is a Grind
I can totally see where he is coming from. I mean, that’s why I play video games. To me, video games are an entertainment media meant to be consumed, just like books, or movies, or TV shows. We give them our time and money, and in return we are told a story. Opposed to the others, though, video games give you the opportunity to interact in the story’s world. In MMOs, the leveling process fleshes out the world, and gives a metric ton of story. After getting through the content, you feel more connected to the world and your character.
Ravanel, however, took offense to that. She, on the other hand, sees the leveling process as merely a stepping stone. She wouldn’t pass it up, herself, the first time around, but it’s not the part of the game that she enjoys the most. As like many, she feels that the endgame is the part that derives the best gaming experience.
“What I truly love about MMOs is endgame. The challenge of getting a group together and get the best out of yourself, combined with the comradeship that emerges in a group when doing things together. This is what makes me log in with enthusiasm and keeps me interested in an MMO.” – Ravalation: In Search of the True MMO Gamer
How can one argue with that? Take a look at the biggest MMOs that have been around for ages and what do you see? A solid, well defined end-game. LotRO, WoW, etc. You get to max level, you grind dungeons for gear, and then you grind raids for the best gear. It’s a template that runs deep in the MMO genre, and you can’t deny that it works as a great mechanism to keep gamers not only playing, but subscribing to play.
“I do not believe we have found the ‘true MMO gamer’ in Lonegun’s leveler, though. In fact, I do not believe either the leveler or the hardcore end gamer necessarily represents the ‘true MMO gamer’.” – Ravalation: In Search of the True MMO Gamer
I believe, though, that I have the answer, and it is much simpler than any of that. MMOs are a great boon to the video game industry. They are games where you can have character progression, player vs player combat, hard challenges, and easy grinds. Games where you can be told an amazing story and tell your own story. Games where you can corner markets, become a notorious pirate, hit the jackpot, form lasting friendships, and experience a world that never stops changing. We play MMOs for all of these reasons. In the biggest entertainment industry in the world, MMOs exemplify why we love gaming to begin with: there is something for everyone.
A True MMO Gamer: Someone who enjoys playing MMOs, no matter the reason.
It truly is that simple.
So, when it seems like everyone else is hitting the level cap or close to it in Guild Wars 2, last night I hit the half-way mark, level 40. The odd part: I haven’t even ventured outside of a level 15-25 zone! Slow? Well… that’s just how I roll. I really do stop to smell the roses. I’ll delve into that unknown cave, I’ll try to beat that random mob that says “group” but I know I can do it solo if I just keep trying. I’ll fiddle with my build over and over until I get it just the way I want it. So, this takes time.
But level 40, without even touching a zone above 15-25. This made me look at how my gaming choice of checking out and completing the starter areas, and maybe the next higher ups, are affecting my character growth. Well, from completing 4 full zones, I have a decent amount of skill points, so my skill choices are fairly nice for my level. However, my gear? All the basic stuff. Since my main upgrades are coming from drops (as drops appear to be tuned to your character’s level, not the level of the area), they just aren’t coming fast enough to beat out what the vendors sell at each 5 level increment. So, my gear is to my level, but it’s bland.
So then, am I hurting myself by being slow? I very well could be, since my gear is so basic for my level. This then begs the question: Why are there even levels in the first place? I’ve mentioned previously how I think that levels in GW2 are a very useless stat. With the majority of zones and dungeons just down-leveling you, and levels coming at such a fast and furious pace that most people don’t even notice them, the fact that the game puts a number to your development seems counter-productive. Guild Wars 1 had levels, true, but you hit “max level” before you were even out of the introductory area. This feels the same, but at the same time, it’s not.
So what do levels prevent us from doing? From what I can see, all the levels are doing is holding us back from getting into the high level areas. That’s it. Maybe, since higher level crafting materials are located in those higher areas, also forcing a level component to crafting, too, but there are plenty of ways around that.
So why even have them in the first place? They’re a time-block, and that’s all. Guild Wars 1, for example, is supposed to be played at max level, with power coming from different skills attained, builds, and player skill. Difficulty is decided by the area that you’re in, which is mostly determined by how far you are along in the story. Guild Wars 2 seems to be following the same pattern, with down-leveling of content to make the areas themselves far from trivial. But now, if I were to attack, say, Ascalon Catacombs, I’d be at a disadvantage because my gear sucks compared to my level. I’d be down-leveled, and all the white gear I have is down-leveled, too.
If those levels weren’t there, it wouldn’t be so much the gear that I have, but what attachments I put onto said gear, and how I use it. The gear would be an extension of my playstyle, not just something to replace every screamingly-quick 5 levels. I’m hoping once I finally hit max level, I’ll be able to really start replacing my gear with something nice that won’t be outdated by leveling. But until then, I guess I’ll just be underpowered.
Even if you stop to smell the roses, sometimes you’re left behind in the dust.
I was talking with a friend of mine about leveling in Guild Wars 2 and his thoughts were about how markedly different it is than Guild Wars 1. The more I thought about it, the more I think the leveling systems are relatively similar.
First off, the starting max level for characters in Guild Wars 2 will be level 80. Being so high, the first thought that comes to mind is the style used in most current MMO’s, which is a system where each level takes more and more effort to gain, and the amount of time it takes to get from level 79 to 80 is ridiculous compared to the time between level 10 and 11, for example. The Guild Wars 2 developers have already said that this will NOT be the case. The amount of time it takes to get from level 2 to 3 is the
same amount of time it takes to get from 79 to 80. So, then, why 80? After playing in the first beta weekend, the level has been put at 80 simply to throw a gate to the different areas. In my opinion, that’s it. If it took me, one of the slowest levelers ever, to go from level 1 to 8 in just a couple of hours, then theoretically I would reach max level in about 20 hours! That’s nothing! Gamers will reach that overnight the day it releases. Any pre-purchase head start will easily see max level characters before official release.
This is exactly like the system in Guild Wars 1. The max level in Guild Wars is 20, and is amazingly easy to reach, hitting max level WAY before you get that far into the main storyline. So, essentially ArenaNet made the leveling in Guild Wars an extension of the tutorial, and Guild Wars 2 will play the same way. If level 80 takes only 20 hours to achieve, leveling will have the same feel. Progression, then, will come from the same source that Guild Wars uses, and that’s elite skills, loot that meshes with playstyle, and player skill. Guild Wars 2 will seperate those who can play, and those who can’t. A themepark that will refuse to hold your hand. Finally.
The leveling and questless mechanic of Guild Wars 2 also brings about something that was unexpected but completely welcome, the removal of “gray” questing! I might finally level at a decent pace! Now, I care about story in my games. The individual small stories create the overall large story that builds the game world. So, I always feel like
I’m missing something when I find my quest log filled with “gray” or “green” quests that I’ve completely outleveled. The only reason to do them is for the story, and when the rewards that go along with it end up being vendor trash, the want to drop them is strong. So, thats where I usually hit my wall in most games, getting stuck in the quagmire of quests 10 levels below mine with the completionist in me yelling that I must finish them anyway. However, in Guild Wars 2 this isn’t a problem. Every event and quest you do, unless you head to areas much higher than your level, will be performed on or slightly above your level!
There was one time, in the beta chat, where a player was complaining that he “outleveled” the area and came back to beat a bad guy he couldn’t beat before, and still was beat down. The general response: “Well, find others or simply become a better player”. Just like in Guild Wars 1, your level doesn’t hold much power. The power lies in your skill.