Experienced Points: Ding! Now You Suck Less

By Shamus
on Oct 25, 2009
Filed under:
Column

Here is a bit about leveling and about how too many games screw it up.

I usually cite examples in my articles. When I’m talking about a bad trend, I’ll bring up a game following this trend. Inevitably this derails the conversation when some idiot fanboy experiences a short-circuit in his reasoning center:

Me: Too many games begin with the “amnesiac” premise. STALKER was a recent example.

Fanboy: But! I LOVED STALKER! So therefore amnesiac plots are always awesome and you are wrong and biased!

And then the discussion thread becomes a referendum on the game I cited instead of about the actual subject of the article. Also, people will dogpile on me for NOT referencing certain games:

Fanboy: How can you bring up amnesiac plots and leave out Muradin Bronzebeard from the WoW expansion?

Me: You know, there are games in the world I have not played…

Fanboy: Unprofessional!

I tried to sidestep this trend this time around by not citing any games. (Although Oblivion slipped in there.) This didn’t really help as much as I’d hoped. And one poster predictably jumped in and called me “unprofessional” for not citing specific games.

Hm.

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20205Feeling chatty? There are 45 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. MintSkittle says:

    Pretty good article, but I too think you should have listed some games guilty of these screw ups.

    Off topic: When are you going to talk about Black Sigil? I just found it, but apparently it’s been out since June.

  2. Cybron says:

    Fanboys will be fanboys I suppose. Can’t let that stop you from using evidence. You can, however, let it keep you from answering stupid posts in the comments.

  3. SatansBestBuddy says:

    See, now, it’s harder to get what you’re talking about if you don’t give an example, so cutting examples just so a fanboy or two doesn’t leave a comment telling you how wrong you are is a screwy kind of logic since you’re now trying to please a small number of loud people while screwing over a large number of quiet people.

    Typically, if people agree with you, they don’t leave a comment, since hey, what’s there to say besides, “I agree with you,” that’s a little empty, about as good as saying nothing at all, only now with words!

    If they’ve got their thinking caps on, then they might be able to provide additional examples or maybe another angle to the discussion that you didn’t think of yourself. (these are the worthwhile comments, though they can rub you the wrong way when they’re pointing out what they think is obvious but you’ve never heard of it)

    And then there’s the fanboys who think that since you cited an example from a game they love that you must hate that game and everything about it and everyone who loves it and that makes you a bad person who also woohoo’d his mother.

    These are not the people you should try to please, and yes, omitting information so as to make yourself look better by not “dissing” their favourite game is, indeed, an attempt to please them.

    Don’t.

    Just don’t.

    They’re only there to tell you how wrong they think you are, you shouldn’t be taking what they say to heart or keep it in mind or whathaveyou.

    So, yeah, wow, that was more than I really needed to write, I think I had a point here, too…

    Oh, right, ignore them, cause they don’t really give a damn what you’re writing about and won’t contribute to the discussion to follow and thus, do not matter.

    • Shamus says:

      SatansBestBuddy: It was not an attempt to “please them”, it was an attempt to get them to NOT threadjack the discussion. I don’t care if they’re happy or not, I just care that they, you know, leave the discssion alone.

      But anyway, I think this experiment proved it doesn’t work anyway. It just winds up with a different sort of threadjack.

  4. Rutskarn says:

    I think what one should be taking away, here, is that game-related Escapist threads are 100% threadjack. The possibility of an earnest discussion is painfully slim if the subject is even marginally controversial, and the troll factor is intensely high. Basically, just write the best article you can, and maybe the discussion that “does” pop up will be worthwhile.

  5. eri says:

    It is the nature of the Internet that idiots have a voice when they should not. Learn to deal with it, and destroy them if you feel so inclined.

    As for your article, you bring up good points, but they’re all very obvious ones. I suppose I do have something I can add. Playing Fallout 1 and 2 recently made me appreciate their approach to “auto-leveling”; instead of making the same enemies stronger in a simplistic 1:1 sort of way, as the plot progresses, you start running into harder enemies more often. Although I’m pretty sure that enemies as a whole start to get a little bit stronger as you go on ahead (you find more “tough” variants, etc.), the way it really works is that, following the story in the intended progression, you will make your way through areas of the world that have enemies of increasing difficulty; furthermore, these are justified within the in-game universe and story (i.e. Super Mutant patrols around their base).

    The auto-leveling in Fallout 3, meanwhile, means that although you will find Super Mutants in plot-critical areas, they’d be scaled to your level. The issue with this is that the scaling works forwards, but not backwards. For example, if you come across a regular Super Mutant at level 1, you’re going to have a really tough time beating it. However, when you reach level 10, most of the Super Mutants in the game get replaced with Super Mutant Brutes, and at level 15, with Super Mutant Masters. This means that while you’ll always find enemies that give you a challenge as you’re leveling up, once you do get to a higher level, you’ll encounter the easy enemies far less often, which preserves difficulty, but removes that sense of accomplishment in being able to go back and crush your old foes with ease. At least the enemies themselves don’t change their stats along with yours – in Oblivion you could actually over-level, such that enemies had so many hit points that you could not effectively fight them, even when using the best items in the game.

    One of the biggest issues is that game designers, I think, are always worrying about “balance”, as if balance is something that matters a lot in a single-player game. The fact is, I’m playing an RPG to engage myself in the world and the story, and while I appreciate having a game that isn’t too hard or too easy, the fact of the matter is that I’m not really competing with anybody. I think the main story needs to always be balanced well, such that there are no major difficulty spikes, but the rest of the game… eh, who cares? I enjoy obliterating people, and I don’t mind if I can do it easily or have to work for it. If I come across a really difficult enemy, meanwhile, then that gives me incentive to keep playing. In an open-ended game, difficulty shouldn’t be constant anyway, because that’s not how the world is arranged to begin with.

  6. AndreyB says:

    In wanted to post this on the escapist, but as you revealed, things got offtopic fast enough; I really liked the sound Fallout 3 made you leveled up, also, I think that the game worked its leveling system pretty good. I also agree with Eri above me, with the whole meeting stronger enemies trend. I encountered a Super mutant around level 3 I think,a fter hearing many terrifying stories from my friends and I ran around wasting what few bullets I had in the thing. After capping level 30, I still get an enjoyment out of busting their heads, especially the Super Mutant Overlord, because they remind me of my first encounter when I was drastically outmatched

  7. Chris Roberts swan song, Freelancer, added in leveling to a space sim, as far as I could tell in order to keep you glued to the rails in the plot. You could get money, but until you leveled up, the shop keepers wouldn’t sell you stuff.

    Interesting game, a lot of good points, but a lot of game designer “you will play the game my way” interposition (guess they didn’t like the way some people used Jump Points in Privateer for example; did not want you autopiloting and not looking at the scenery).

    • Shamus says:

      Freelancer is indeed one of the games I had in mind. The leveling in that game was about as meaningless as it could be. You couldn’t level until you finished a plot point. You couldn’t upgrade your ship until you leveled. So, “you will be level six in this area and use THIS ship, then level 7 in this area and use THIS one.”

      That game made me angry for what it could have been.

  8. Galenor says:

    This discussion on the level up system is EXACTLY why I took a shot at beta access for the MMORPG “The Secret World”. It’s an MMO, but they boast two things, them being…aw, hell, I’ll quote it straight from them:

    Freeform gameplay – Experience a game that has no classes or levels. Truly freeform character customization allows you to create the alter-ego you want to play, and gameplay that goes beyond the usually rigid MMO structure allows you to play the game the way you want to play it.

    Now this has grabbed my interest. No levels? What the crap? So, whats the incentive to play the game? What does this mean for the atypical “You’re too low/too high/just right for this dungeon” mechanic? Can I make a new character and jump into endgame? Will the game be more about a linear story that gets harder and harder as you gain more and more powers and gear, and more areas are accessable to you the further you go? And if we’re doing the story idea, then what of grouping up? Would it be like the Final Fantasy games, except your party is made up of anyone LFG at the time? And then, what would you do when you reach ‘endgame’? Will they drop everything completely and just make it PvP orientated?

    It’s very interesting. Definitely want to pick apart the mechanics and see how they make the game rewarding, and how they’ll treat everyone given they’re all on the same basis, level wise.

  9. Telas says:

    I mentioned Wasteland in my comment on the article. Great game, and let you go places you couldn’t handle, but gave you fair warning.

    Could you cite some examples of games that have done a good job at the leveling up aspect of the game? (Other aspects don’t matter, but I think it’d be neat to share opinions on this.)

    Finally, there are tabletop RPGs that don’t have leveling. Spirit of the Century, for one…

    • Shamus says:

      Good leveling in games:

      1) Fallout
      2) Diablo 2 (A bit shallow for my personal tastes, but it worked really well)
      3) Final Fantasy X (I’m no expert on the FF series, so please don’t rage out because I neglect to mention your favorite of the series. This one worked for me, and that’s enough.) This one was crazy unconventional and tough to compare to the others, but it was really flexible.

      I also give Morrowind partial credit. It had some auto-leveling shenanigans (although not nearly as bad as Oblivion) and it was way too complex up front, but I enjoy the system now that I understand it.

  10. pixelsocks says:

    I agree with several of the points in the article, but I think that some are isolated in a way that’s unfair to game designers. Auto-levelling is the case that jumped out at me, because it touches on the virtue of gradually introducing gameplay elements.

    I’ll admit that I’ve never seen one word of praise for auto-levelling on the internet, but consider the case of Final Fantasy Tactics. Enemies reliably keep pace with you as you level, but your characters diversify their combat tricks as they grow. So instead of simply outweighing your enemies to win, you’re required to effectively exploit the game’s gradually unfolding mechanics.

    It absolutely limits player freedom, but that limitation gives the game definition. Especially in light of how slow strategy RPG gameplay is, I doubt the game would have been enhanced by the addition of filler enemies to stomp and pass by. In some cases, I think it’s reasonable for a designer to emphasize a game’s strengths by limiting access to its weaknesses.

  11. Swimon says:

    I just came up with another fault in many leveling systems.

    In some older JRPGS (Haven’t played any new ones so I don’t know if this problem still occurs) and in the occasional western RPG (“Baldur’s Gate I” for example) they give you a level but it’s only a flat stat increase you can’t customize your character or change tactics in any way. This sucks as the feel of progression really fades when the new level doesn’t give you anything new, it just makes the enemies a little easier.

    To be fair Baldur’s Gate actually let you choose in what you were putting your theiving skills but that was so limited and only for one class.

    Edit: Also while I agree that autoleveling and making the levelsystem front heavy is horrid, for some reason I love Morrowinds level system. It’s hard to learn but really interesting and unique (except for other Bethesda games of course^^) and I think part of it is how easy it was to exploit. It was as open and free as the rest of the game, if you wanted to be a ridiculously overpowered superwarrior you could, if you wanted to preserve the games balance you could do that too (even if it was hard at times).

  12. Jamie Smith says:

    I’ve thought about talking about something similar; the way some games use leveling really bugs me. If you aren’t getting anything substantial out of it, who cares? And if you do get something good out of it, only to be told by the computer that no, you needed a different skill, now you can’t get this super-mega-item, then it’s frustrating.

    Oh, and the ding noise is a must. Though Champions Online’s leveling notification is nice, too.

  13. WILL says:

    @Shamus: “…you know, leave the discssion alone…”

    I see a typo! UNPROFESSIONAL.

  14. “You can’t please everybody.”

    On a side note, in my homebrew system I’m experimenting with a novel experience method: random experience. Based on the events of the session, I roll a die a couple of times for each character, and they get either an attribute, a skill, or a talent point. Different classes have different chances of getting one of those.

    It’s working really well, and I’m loving the level-less system. But I’m also not interested in game balance or making sure the game is “challenging” for my players as long as they’re having fun and I’m having fun. But I can adjust the critters on the fly if the PC’s are stomping everything into the ground.

    I agree that making people adjust the difficulty in order to accommodate their playstyle is just rude, though. For me, the difficulty setting ought to be more about “how unforgiving do you want the game to be” rather than “how do you want to PLAY the game”. I want to play the game the same way regardless, it’s just that once I’ve gotten BETTER at it, it’s somewhat fun to still be beating up “tougher” foes.

  15. Henebry says:

    I noticed, as I read your piece, that I really missed the references. The funny thing is that I’ve played few computer rpgs (I’m a dyed-in-the-wool tabletop player), so generally your references go over my head. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them—to the contrary, I feel like I’m learning something about these games I’ve never played by listening to you talk about them.

  16. Jeff says:

    Point 5 is precisely why Oblivion failed to capture my interest.

    My min/maxed uber-character isn’t all that super at all. It’s that the average player is falling behind. Which is, of course, ridiculus.

  17. Mephane says:

    Freelancer is indeed one of the games I had in mind. The leveling in that game was about as meaningless as it could be. You couldn’t level until you finished a plot point. You couldn’t upgrade your ship until you leveled. So, “you will be level six in this area and use THIS ship, then level 7 in this area and use THIS one.”

    That game made me angry for what it could have been.

    Oh yeah. It was such a great game, only the singleplayer levelling system was totally stupid. On the other hand, multiplayer was totally free-form gameplay. And if you then take into account user-made content (I loved the mod that actually removed equipment slot level restrictions, allowing you to put any equipment on almost any ship, just imagine a Starflyer packed with triple Nomad Energy Blasters…), I would still rank it within the 10 best video games ever. Heh.

  18. Yar Kramer says:

    @Jennifer Snow: Personally, I’d prefer being able to set it in terms of “forgiving” rather than “unforgiving,” and even then I’d rather difficulty were entirely separate. But yes, I agree that “difficulty” should have nothing to do with “how you play.” ;)

    Two thing I also don’t like: 1. not giving enough opportunities for levelling up. (Yeah, I could grind for these level 3 orks when I need to fight a level 7 boss, but that isn’t fun.) And 2. when the game is based on chance, ridiculously favoring the AI enemies so that even if you do level up significantly, it is meaningless because they get all the good stuff. I’m looking at you, Puzzle Quest.

  19. Zerotime says:

    Tyrian kind of sidestepped the “why you can’t equip this weapon” issue a good six years before Freelancer even came out, by having your ship’s generator as an upgradable item. Want to have a Zica Laser and an HXC C-class shield on your ship? Fine, but you’ll be able to fire twice a minute and you’d better not get hit by anything because your shields can’t recharge.

  20. You do a game without levels by increasing your skills.

    Star Wars Galaxies had no levels. You just had skills, and each skill cost a number of points from your total 250 (255?) points. Once you gained enough experience in a type of activity, you could buy a new skill box, with more abilities.

    And yeah, you could totally just go “end game” except that 1. You’d die right away and 2. There wasn’t really end game as such. It wasn’t like you beat the rancor and won….

    Swimon: To be fair, Baldur’s Gate was running of 2nd Ed rules. And that was how 2nd Ed worked. Levelling up gave you HP, a better to hit, and better saves. Your loot was your level more than anything.

    Also, you might remember that whole “Casters get access to entirely new spells.”

    I also think you got additional benefits – weapon mastery, etc. I don’t recall BG too well, but I remember 2nd ed, so….

    From the article, #1 is why I have 50 characters per account in WoW and 14 in DDO. That first 10 levels or so it just glorious. You go from nothing to a defined character. You make choices about who you are, and how you’ll exist, and you see a distinct change as you process – a level 1 mage plays much different than even a level 10 mage. A level 4 character in DDO has up to 3 classes, and is truly a tank, a dpser, a heal, a caster, etc, vs someone that is within 1-2 points from everyone else every where.

    Plus, the speed of progression is awesome. At regular intervals, you feel like things change, and get better.

    Once you hit the higher levels, you may go *days* (at least at the rate I play) without anything changing at all. It could be weeks or months between significant differences in character feel. That sucks.

  21. Susie Day says:

    I’ve been playing Dragon Quest 8 of late, and the leveling is pretty darn good – except for one thing. If you do -everything- in the game you level too much and it becomes too easy. I like the game for the tactics as much as anything else, and being stuck in the middle of a dungeon with no magic, no potions and one character left standing … and then making it out alive … that’s my idea of a good time. But, there’s no way I can -keep- from leveling and still experience the whole game. It’s like an 80 hour game, so I don’t really want to play it twice.

  22. krellen says:

    Number 5 is my big pet peeve. I get tired of designers telling me how “hard” the game should be; levelling is a nice system to let me choose.

    Number 4 is important, too. Gives games replay value – if there’s three different ways to solve every major obstacle, then there’s at least three different games to play.

    And I missed the examples too, Shamus. I’ll concur with the suggestions that you ignore the fanboys and talk about realities instead of theories from here on out.

  23. CaroCogitatus says:

    I recall being impressed with the leveling in Dungeon Siege. You start off with very low skills in archery, sword, arcane spellcasting, etc. Each time you use a skill you have a tiny chance that you get better at that skill.

    So if you use your sword a lot, you get to be a better swordsman over time. Neglect your sword and you’ll never get better at using it. Ditto for bow, spellcasting, whatever. It seemed very realistic and interesting at the time. You’d get a little “mini-ding!” every few seconds as your skill increased, then a full sized “ding!” every 20 minutes or so for a more traditional levelup (I think — it’s been a while since I last played).

    The game itself didn’t hold my interest, but I still like that method of building skill sets.

  24. NobleBear says:

    Good grief!

    And to think if you did something else like politics, it could only get worse. O.O

    I tend to be one where I like examples. I don’t fault the writer for somehow not adhering to my individual, internal standards for journalism excellence; examples for me, add clarity. I’m allowed greater insight into what is more exactly meant when certain points are made, especially when examples given are ones that I personally connect to; that’s when I can blow off a bit of steam knowing the writer understands what I was going through, although we have never met.

    All that said I appreciate and support the reasons why you tend to withhold them.

    My favorite example of enjoyable leveling are FFX(named)Jade Empire and, please don’t make fun of me, Ratchet and Clank.

  25. Dev Null says:

    But I LOVE playing the same amnesiac plot over-and-over, and therefore fanboys are awesome and you are wrong and biased!

  26. Andrew says:

    It’s pretty hard to not bring up Oblivion when you’re talking about terrible leveling systems. I remember reading a guide on “efficient leveling” for that game, and laughing at how ridiculously unintuitive it was… On another note, I can see where you were coming from by not providing examples, although it seems to be a lost cause. Oh well- at least the comments over here are worth reading.

  27. Viktor says:

    The one that bugged me was KotoR 2. Be whatever you want to be, as long as you can fight in single combat on your own with no allies, you have 3 specific skills, and you take certain force powers. Other than that, wide-open char-gen. It’s ridiculous when a game based around teamwork and freedom would repeatedly make quests that force you to go solo and have to engage enemies in melee.

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    But! I LOVED OBLIVION! So therefore autoleveling is always awesome and you are wrong and biased!

    Nah,I didnt even play oblivion.

    What you also shouldve mentioned is that fact that (almost) every game now has rpg elements,which isnt really productive.It also is useless,and provides just filler for otherwise extremely short game.

    Oh,and fallout had the level cap,didnt it?

  29. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Not a very long time reader but I thought I’d drop in some random observations. Also all in favour of examples, when you give an example I can immediately think “yeah, played that, he’s 100% right” or “naaaah, that’s exaggerating the problem” (and sometimes even “hmm… never heard of that, let me check what that game is”), without them the thing becomes slightly abstract.

    More on the topic, I’m actually a huge fan of a morrowind mod (can’t remember the name) that unlocks the levelling lists and makes random spawns regardless of your level (in most locations I think). It breaks the game for most people since even the initial scouting of the land can give you some of the more powerful critters but I found it particularly fun that I had to dodge and sneak my way past them for a while before being able to take them down, or actually take some down way before I was supposed to. This was an nth playthrough though so I was more having fun with different mods than trying to pass the game and I can see how this could make for a very frustrating experience otherwise.

    I also miss the fact that most games don’t really give you the “all-powerful” feeling when I think they should, sometime near the beginning you can beat a band of 3 soldiers, and by the end you can also beat a band of 3 soldiers only they’ll be uber. I remember in Planescape Torment (totally not brought up by the amnesia reference) when you return to the initial city with a levelled party I made a save game and unleashed all hell upon the inhabitants of the parts I didn’t like simply to get the feeling that something should run and cower before me (didn’t end well far as I recall but still, it was fun while it lasted).

    Finally, what Victor said, I totally hate how many of the games assume that you’re going to take some of the classes or make some of the choices while giving you an option to do otherwise. While I can understand that if you just stepped out from the sheltered life in the vault you can either learn to fight for survival or die, this is justified by the reality of the assumed world being a harsh and unforgiving place, why give the player the ability to play, for example, a support class and specialise in it (Kotor, I also think I “broke” one of my chars in Neverwinter in this manner but I learned my mistake fast) while knowing that halfway through he will HAVE to face some party eater in single combat? I mean, at least give some tips in the character creating tutorial or something, like “remember, your character is the hero of the game and should be able to hold his/her own in battle. Selecting a non-combat class is going to make the game quite a challenge”. This is perhaps the one point where linear progression systems (such as in most JRPGs) are superior to open systems, you can’t really mess your character up (Drakensang anyone?).

  30. Mari says:

    As a player of JRPGs and their American kindred, I have one to add. It’s well and good to get frequent level-ups but they mean nothing when they’re “auto” levels with random stat increases assigned to stats that I don’t even understand even after *gulp* reading the manual. I hate getting the *ding* and being informed that I’m now level 31 and have +1 dodge and +3 endurance when the game has never bothered to explain to me how dodge or endurance really impact my character beyond the vague description “dodge factors into reducing damage from hits” or something similar and endurance seems pretty pointless because I have instant travel anyway. Yay me. I got two vague number boosts and no choices. And I’ll do it again in another ten minutes.

  31. Shinan says:

    I completely agree with the ding sound. That’s the most important thing in any leveling. Almost as important as achievements.

    I really love those dings…

  32. LintMan says:

    @CaroCogitatus:
    When Dungeon Siege came out they said there were no “classes” – your character could learn whatever skills you wanted, just by using them. That seemed to promise wide-open character development.

    Unfortunately, the reality was something quite a bit less. It was really really easy to gain levels in multiple skills, but those levels didn’t really mean anything. Everything was based off your stats (str, dex, int) – all the good magic items for each skill had corresponding high minimum stat requirements, and damage was keyed off your stats too.

    Your stats all went up automatically as you used the relevent skill. The problem was that your stats only went up as based on your “uber level”: a behind-the-scenes level number based on your TOTAL experience. And because the level costs increased almost exponentially, you could take a pure level 30 combat mage and then go up something like 27 levels of melee fighter skill while only raising your uber level by 1 (to level 31 or so). So after all that fighter leveling, your character’s stats will have increased only a single time and won’t have nearly enough strength to use any level-appropriate weapons or armor. Only a dual combat/nature mage avoided this problem (since both those skills used int).

    Being a jack of all trades basically gimped your character because all your stats would be “average” and none high enough to use the good items or to do level-appropriate damage. So the end result was that you end up specializing all your characters, anyway.

  33. Hal says:

    Of course, it also helps if leveling is something that makes the game experience more enjoyable, not simply less painful (there IS a difference).

    While I absolutely love Deus Ex for what it was, one of the most frustrating aspects of that game was leveling your weapon skills. At the start of that game, you are most likely going to be using a pistol. If you use the default pistol skill the game gives you, you’re in lots of trouble. Your gun shakes, your aim is poor, your damage is pitiful, and your enemies could pluck a fly off of your ear blindfolded from 200 yards after stepping off the Tilt-O-Whirl.

    Leveling in a game shouldn’t mean “now you suck less.” It should mean, “All that fun you were having? It just got better.”

  34. Gary says:

    One of the things I liked about Guild Wars was that the mosters in one area were always a certain level. No matter how high you got you could always go back and slaughter easy stuff or go forward and get massive XP for taking on a challenge.

  35. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Meh. Gothic 3’s “Horn of accomplishment” when you got a new level is by far the most satisfying sound to get.

    I kinda liked that system. Every level made you earn 10 Learning Points (11 if you got “Improved Learning”). You had the choice to spend it on boring things like + 10 Str, +50 HP (or smaller amounts spreaded), or to spend it on new abilities (use Greatswords! Skin animals! Sneak! Lockpicking! New Spells!).

    but the trick was, you needed a minimum of.. oh.. 150 Str to be able to learn to use the greatsword. Etc…

    So, a somewhat enjoyable balance between rewards and pure grinding. The only problem that I had about it was how freakingly hard the game was, and how magic made it ridiculisly easy.

  36. Heron says:

    I like how Champions Online does it – you get one big experience bar and ten little ones. Every time the big one fills up, one of the little ones fills, and the big one starts over. Makes me feel like I’m getting experience faster than I really am (which in turn makes me want to keep playing).

    I also like the satisfying sound and animation that occur when you level up :)

    However, I think Champions has the same problem Mari describes (post 33) – specifically, there are way too many stats, and I can’t keep track of which ones I need. Why are the default stats for Ice powers Endurance and Dexterity, but the default stats for Fire powers are Endurance and something else? Wouldn’t fire be more dexterous? What’s Ego? What’s Presence?

    I realize they did it to give variety to the characters, but they end up feeling arbitrary; I’ve ended up dumping everything into Constitution, Endurance, and Recovery for every single character, regardless of class. If I can absorb an essentially unlimited amount of damage, and my energy reserves are limitless, who needs another ten points in Dexterity?

  37. Pickly says:

    Leveling is a mechanics I wish would just go away, for a number of reasons (for a couple of examples: It limits the amount of areas that I can go to at a time without being under or overpowered, it takes far to long to “complete” a planned character, leaving less time to try them out.)

    As for what the articles says:

    Numbers 2, 3, and 4 don’t need leveling to have within the game.

    For Number 5, a difficulty slider/levels actually would be more effective, since it wouldn’t interact with other areas of the game the way leveling does. (There are probably other systems that could be used to similar effect, avoiding other elements of gameplay.)

    For number 1: Putting in “achievements” and “rewards” in a way that directly changes gameplay (As opposed to titles and such) interferes with the gameplay of people who enjoy other elements of the game

    (So, for example, there might be a skill I’d like to try out, but to keep “reward” people happy that they’ve “earned” it, the skill is withheld until a later point in the game, which means I have to do a bunch of other stuff to get the skill, which inevitably results in the skill being a letdown when I do get it.)

  38. Atarlost says:

    @LintMan #35

    Actually, you can play Dungeon Siege as a jack of all trades. You just need to play the whole game that way so your stats are balanced.

    You wind up using parthian tactics on everything though. Maybe someday I should try a run with specialized charachters.

  39. Danath says:

    Oh god I hated FFX’s leveling system, same goes for 12 D:

    SHAMUS! You are totally unprofessional and… *glances at article* how could you leave out Muradin Bronzebeard?!

    Oh wait, wrong topic.

    Anyways, as far as leveling goes, auto-leveling is my bane, I hate it and any game that tries it with a passion reserved previously only for Jet Li and his movies… and possibly Mac. Auto adjusting difficulty can also go die in a fire, if I’m doing good, I don’t care if the game increases in challenge, I’m happy with what I chose, I don’t need to have my ass handed to me for the game to say “time to drop the difficulty” either.

    tldr: Really anything that makes my level irrelevent and the AI dependant on choosing my challenge level blows and should never have been designed.

  40. EmmEnnEff says:

    Personally, I think there were games where leveled enemies were done fairly elegantly (Baldur’s Gate 2, where a level 7 party would be fighting skeletons, while a level 17 one would be fighting greater mummies and liches) – probably because about half the enemies in a dungeon had a fixed level, and you would mop the floor with them, but you still couldn’t waltz right through.

    You would definitely feel more powerful… Unlike when you are fighting common bandits wearing a set of armour that’s worth more then a small town in Oblivion.

  41. Melf_Himself says:

    Nice article… But, you want games to have *more* levels?

    “I just went from level 89 to 90 and all I got was +2% damage, +20 HP and this lousy T-shirt”

    …That kind of thinbg is all too common. I much prefer games with less levels, where I get something substantial each time.

  42. Pansyfaust says:

    Did you genuinely expect anything less from The Escapist’s beef-headed community?

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