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Author Topic: Do levels suck?  (Read 63325 times)
schild
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Reply #35 on: December 23, 2005, 10:37:57 PM

Just dont show the player the levels. Dazzle them with stories, player-generated content

Player generated content is often more assy than levels. The only place you're going to get Good player generated content is on a web forum.
Lum
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Reply #36 on: December 24, 2005, 12:58:39 AM

I don't know. Why do there have to be 10,000 people on a server? Why not make a full game fit for 50 people. Say I bought a subscription. I could invite 50 people to live in my pocket world. Would that be more manageable? Hell, make it 10 people. I can only have 10 friends with me through the entire game. That would result in something far more manageable. You wouldn't have to create little community centers for 10,000 and could make a single cohesive game perhaps with 1/10th as many quests and storylines as there are now.

At this point you're not talking about MMOGs. NWN servers can handle 32 people at a time. Battlefield servers I think can hold up to 64 people. Both of these games are pretty popular but they don't have the social and community aspects of a MMOG.

Not to say those games aren't good, or that there's not plenty of room for new and good ideas in online gaming... but for an MMOG you have to have some level of community beyond "people you know immediately".
Lum
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Reply #37 on: December 24, 2005, 01:01:42 AM

Just dont show the player the levels. Dazzle them with stories, player-generated content, and a massive skill library.

Then you get folks who (quite rightly for their play style) complain that you're "hiding the numbers". One of the things that bothered me the most about EQ (and that I appreciated the most out of DAOC when I started playing it) was that EQ didn't report how much experience you earned. It would just say "You earned experience!" and you could peer at your little blue bar and maybe it went up a few pixels? I found it incredibly irksome.

If you just mean "hiding the numbers inside other numbers"... well, by that logic UO was a level based game. It just had a lot of levels. I was a 300th level dex monkey!
schild
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Reply #38 on: December 24, 2005, 02:11:39 AM

I don't know. Why do there have to be 10,000 people on a server? Why not make a full game fit for 50 people. Say I bought a subscription. I could invite 50 people to live in my pocket world. Would that be more manageable? Hell, make it 10 people. I can only have 10 friends with me through the entire game. That would result in something far more manageable. You wouldn't have to create little community centers for 10,000 and could make a single cohesive game perhaps with 1/10th as many quests and storylines as there are now.

At this point you're not talking about MMOGs. NWN servers can handle 32 people at a time. Battlefield servers I think can hold up to 64 people. Both of these games are pretty popular but they don't have the social and community aspects of a MMOG.

Not to say those games aren't good, or that there's not plenty of room for new and good ideas in online gaming... but for an MMOG you have to have some level of community beyond "people you know immediately".

Ok, then I'm taking the Massive part out of MMOGs. Though, I don't really buy that. I mean add an auction house or something and it's all suddenly massive. Add ways for players to voluntarily interact without forcing them to. You know why I'm not going to be able to stick it out in Guild Wars this time?

Grouping with random schmucks. That shit makes me angrier than fuck. At least I can yell at my friends and call them terribly naughty things without feeling bad.

Point being, maybe it's time to take a step back from Massive. Everyone is trying to make things more and more massive. In reality it NEEDS to be scaled back because no one can make interesting content for a massive crowd.

Edit: Well, maybe someone can make interesting content. But it doesn't seem to be happening.
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Reply #39 on: December 24, 2005, 02:16:57 AM

Quote
Do levels suck?

I'm unsure, so I went to read your article.  There were a lot of words, so I was discouraged at first, but luckily you included pictures:



Ahh, as it has been clearly illustrated, levels make us smile, therefore they must not suck.  Thanks!

The above space is available for purchase.  Send a Private Message for a complete price list and payment information.  Thank you for your business.
Nija
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Reply #40 on: December 24, 2005, 03:54:09 AM

It seems to me that if everyone is able to participate effectively in some fashion, then their levels wont matter as much. Make the difference between level 1 and level 100 minimal enough that it does not guarantee that a level 100 guy will automatically beat a level 1 guy.

I'll comment on this one point because my thoughts are scattered (as are most of my thoughts if you have had the pleasure of reading any of my posts) on this topic, and a lot of people smarter than me have said things I believe better than I could have already.

Again, Raph needs to look back to UO. A "level 1" guy shouldn't ever, ever be able to defeat a level 100 person unless they are AFK for minutes at a time. However in UO, I could make a char with 50 hiding, 40 str (hit points, out of 100 max at the time) and enough Dex so that I could push through a person/animal/monster (LOOK! PLAYER COLLISION, another thing of the past) and I could humiliate a several-year old maxed out character. I couldn't kill him, I couldn't take him on directly. I could pre-occupy him though and keep him busy.

Back in 'Nam some of my friends and I had a grand pasttime of making funny-named newbies to mess with the Covetous Crew outside of Covetous. (clever name isn't it?) One of these characters eventually ended up being a pretty popular thief char, but the point remains that I took a one minute old character and took him willingly to face one of the most infamous "pk" guilds on the entire server, and survived because I knew how to play.

Also, I could take a one minute old character and have a friend gate me to any depth of any of the world's dungeons, even Hythloth, and I would be able to surive there as well. Could anyone do that? No, you'd have to learn how things work, learn how to take advantage of the options you had, and finally just be good at the game. You can't do ANY of that stuff in any of the games on the market these days. (don't mention UO now, it's been retarded since '00 at latest, but if you ask me - early '99.)

Levels? Skills? Soulbound items?

Fuck all that shit man. I want to be able to pick up a GM heavy crossbow, some bolts, a bag that I had set aside with 20 of each reagent, my death robe, and maybe a recall scroll just in case and go out and compete with anyone on the server. Is it too much to ask for that type of gameplay?

Apparently so, as the industry and several newcomers are falling over their dicks trying to copy WoW. Or in DDO's case - trying to copy Guildwars. There is nothing massive about that game, they need to drop the moniker.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2005, 03:56:56 AM by Nija »
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Reply #41 on: December 24, 2005, 04:03:27 AM

The problem is that graph is simply completely wrong.

This is the graph of the population on a WoW (every) server after a few months from its (of the server) launch:



The point is that what is in the "database" (Raph's graph) doesn't matter. It's what the players play that has some relevance.

A graph saying something worthwhile would be one grouping the /played value of every character and put it on a chart.

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Strazos
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Reply #42 on: December 24, 2005, 12:12:10 PM

Again, Raph needs to look back to UO. A "level 1" guy shouldn't ever, ever be able to defeat a level 100 person unless they are AFK for minutes at a time.

I must ask, Why Not? Why should you not be able to compete, just because the other guy has played more? Granted, it seems like you example took advantage of some game mechanic exploits, but my point remains.

If you, as a player, are skilled enough, you should be able to wipe out any advantage earned by "play time." Best case, playing more shouldn't make you better. BEING better should make you better.

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Reply #43 on: December 24, 2005, 01:01:02 PM

I must ask, Why Not? Why should you not be able to compete, just because the other guy has played more? Granted, it seems like you example took advantage of some game mechanic exploits, but my point remains.

If you, as a player, are skilled enough, you should be able to wipe out any advantage earned by "play time." Best case, playing more shouldn't make you better. BEING better should make you better.

I'd like to see a game that applies "common sense" even when talking about stuff like dragons and conjuring butt monkeys and throwing fireballs.

The level 1 guy would start with a practice sword or a bronze sword or something like that. An established player, be it a warrior, should have armor that would repel every single attack from a bronze sword or a wooden practice sword. A high level thief type character would be able to endlessly dodge those attacks.

Now, if you catch that afk mage in cloth you would be able to cut him down. That's the instance that works I guess. If you're a level one mage and you specialize in Lightning magic, maybe you can also zap that armored guy if he's wearing the correct stuff that is very susceptible to lightning.

Then again this all takes into account a game involving dice rolls, which from what I can tell is the only thing we'll get in our lifetimes.

Even if it was a skill based game, something of a mix of mount and blade, die by the sword, and severance: blade of darkness, here's a scenario.

Your newbie dude swings his sword for the first time at an AFK knight standing there in shiny armor. PING as it hits and vibrates, causing it to flail around wildly. Another awkward swing done by the newbie, PING again, and the vibration is so great this time that the newbie actually drops the sword.

Then again I think I'm the only one who would enjoy a "common sense" game that involves fairies and fucking dragons.

The WW2 RTS version of this is called "Soldiers: Heroes of WW2" - and I'd recommend it to everyone. $10 at Frys, $8 at amazon, and a SP demo is available for download at fileshack and fileplanet (probably).

Again, the guy shouldn't win just because he's played more. He'll win because he's got the equivalent of steel. Steel vs bronze? Zulu war aside, there is some logic to it. Unless you want to talk about stuff like Planetside, where I'm all for 1 minute old characters killing 30 day old characters.
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Reply #44 on: December 24, 2005, 01:22:10 PM

The problem is that graph is simply completely wrong.

This is the graph of the population on a WoW (every) server after a few months from its (of the server) launch:



The point is that what is in the "database" (Raph's graph) doesn't matter. It's what the players play that has some relevance.

A graph saying something worthwhile would be one grouping the /played value of every character and put it on a chart.

In other words, it's not wrong, you just wish it were of something else. :) I did point out that the bulge at the early levels is characters who were abandoned. if anything, the WoW graphs confirm my graph...?

I agree that what's in the database isn't ewhat matters, it's what players are playing that matters. By that same logic, we could do a graph of where players go, and it'd ullustrate some of my points even more clearly.
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Reply #45 on: December 24, 2005, 01:41:48 PM

The figures from DAOC (and, I suspect, every other live MMO) back up Raph's graphs. Huge spikes at both ends, and where the middle varies is where you lose people.

As well as the beginning. There are a disturbingly high number of players who spend 5 minutes in a game and never come back, ever.

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Reply #46 on: December 24, 2005, 01:51:40 PM

Stuff

You're confusing context with mechanics. A game can still function closer to "real life" while being in a fantasy context. The presence of "dragons and fairies" has no bearing on combat mechanics.

Lets take your level 1 guy with a bronze or wooden sword against a warrior in plate. True, that level 1 guy is going to have a very hard time doing any kind of damage, but plate armor is far from an invincible shield. There are plenty of spots where a thrust from even a sharp stick can get through, and even a level 1 guy, who would know more than your average citizen NPC, would have some knowledge of this. So, killing a big guy in plate is extremely doubtful, but doing damage is plausible. Same thing applies to a thief; he's not a Matrix agent, so he will invariably get hit, if only by dumb luck.

Suffice to say, I think it's incredibly stupid for a "higher-level character" to be invulnerable simply because of their level, which is really a measure of time played. You can have the best equipment in the world, and still be killed by a sharp stick, especially in large numbers. Lets use your Zulu War as an example. Even with superior training and equipment, the British were far from invincible. The British won because of their superior tactics, especially in battles such as Rorke's Drift, where they were vastly outnumbered. You could also reference history's great battles at Marathon and Thermopylae.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2005, 03:22:30 PM by Strazos »

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Lum
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Reply #47 on: December 24, 2005, 02:23:43 PM

Actually, the Zulu War was a masterpiece of tactical guerilla war fighting on the Zulu side. At Isandlwana, Cetishwayo beat the British troops. It's literally the ONLY time British troops suffered a loss in all of their colonial wars. Admittedly the Brits were outnumbered 22,000 to 1200, but then again the British had rifles and the Zulus had spears, which helped to even things up a bit.

After Isandlwana the British, shocked that a bunch of spear-shaking savages actually routed a British regiment, commited the entire might of the British army to pound the Zulus in dirt.

Enough of a tangent, though! (And yes, the British at Roarke's Drift, fought around the same time just down the hill from Isandlwana, managed to hold their attackers off.)

Anyway, here's the requisitie wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Isandlwana  History is fun.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2005, 02:26:17 PM by Lum »
Xanthippe
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Reply #48 on: December 24, 2005, 04:09:08 PM

The Battle of Little Big Horn is another example, and with closer numbers.  780 US Calvary vs. 1,750 Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho. The Indians had guns, although not in as great a number, and had more limited ammunition than the Calvary.  They also had better tactics.

It was another Pyrrhic victory.
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Reply #49 on: December 24, 2005, 06:11:12 PM


Levels usually suck for me. I usually don't make it very far in level based games because I grok the pattern too quickly. Killing a level 1 mob is usually the same as killing a level 50 mob regardless of the twists a designer throws in to make it feel like it is different. I detect this in the first 10 levels or so. I'm one of those people stuck on the first downward slope in that graph.

Additionally, there is something that sticks in my mind and nags me in level based games. I can't really identify it other than it's something like I know I'll never be able to follow the same linear path as the people before me because I've already groked the path and they've already completed the path so what's the point? Boom. I'm gone from your game.

In the end all I can really do is point to games that I've liked playing in the past, which are not level based, and of which I've never grokked the pattern. Darklands. Wasteland. Fallout1/2/T. Golden Axe. UO. Planet's Edge. Castles. Pirates. Your usual TBS/RTS fair such as C&C/Warcraft/Warlords*/RomeTW/Homeworld/Civ. Diablo1/2. Savage. FPS games (pretty much one is like the rest). Even 2D fighting games like Street Fighter. I might have tired of these games but the game mechanics didn't drive me away.

Games with levels that I don't have a problem with include Guild Wars, Planetside, and NWN.
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Reply #50 on: December 24, 2005, 07:33:05 PM

Levels in and of themselves don't bother me, it's the level disparity that bothers me.  Maybe it's left over from my mudding days, but I am so very disappointed by the invulnerability of max level players when it comes to min level players.  It wouldn't bother me if I could actually hit someone if it was only for 0.1% of their health, but in the MMOGs I've played, every swing I take is deflected, misses, or is absorbed.  Just silly.

Peasants with pitchforks who normally fight orcs should at least be able to scratch the dragon slayers.  Especially a pack of peasants.

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Reply #51 on: December 24, 2005, 07:59:41 PM

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Reply #52 on: December 24, 2005, 08:37:33 PM

The figures from DAOC (and, I suspect, every other live MMO) back up Raph's graphs. Huge spikes at both ends, and where the middle varies is where you lose people.

As well as the beginning. There are a disturbingly high number of players who spend 5 minutes in a game and never come back, ever.
Raph's chart is valid even in WoW, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that he's using the wrong chart.

The accounts on a database don't matter much. It's the contemporary, active accounts that give you an idea what the players are actually doing.

I can create multiple level 1 character, but this doesn't mean that my playtime is all spent on them.

-HRose / Abalieno
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Reply #53 on: December 24, 2005, 10:00:30 PM

The accounts on a database don't matter much. It's the contemporary, active accounts that give you an idea what the players are actually doing.

Sure, if you have no interest at all in finding out when/why people are leaving your game.

It's very easy to focus on the most active players (who unsurprisingly, also tend to be the loudest) but the ones who give up and leave tend to be a bit quieter.
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Reply #54 on: December 24, 2005, 10:11:58 PM

Sure, if you have no interest at all in finding out when/why people are leaving your game.

It's very easy to focus on the most active players (who unsurprisingly, also tend to be the loudest) but the ones who give up and leave tend to be a bit quieter.
But it's totally not the point of what is relevant in this discussion. Raph's graph isn't supposed to figure out why some players leave the game. It should just compare the volume of content available with the volume of players. And what is relevant in THIS context is the volume of players at the same time. Also because it's what matter to make the game accessible, bring the players together and enjoy the game. Something that is NOT POSSIBLE if all the players are spread thin around a desert.

So yeah, I'm not interested to find out why the players are leaving. Or maybe I am, but I think that another perspective will tell me a lot more about this specific argument (and in fact I was writing a longer reply that will explain what is my point here).

-HRose / Abalieno
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heck
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Reply #55 on: December 24, 2005, 10:19:25 PM

Level systems in and of themselves don't suck.  Being locked into a particular level system with one character seems to be where things get problematic.  In games like WoW, when you cap at max level, people find the endgame lacking.  In games like the initial version of SWG (which I think you had a big part in?), you could change your template/professions at any time.

You can keep throwing out new content and items here and there, but the real fun comes from experiencing the same game from a different point of view...ie a different class/profession.  New toons and multiple character slots on a server are fun, but to start over from level 60 to level 1, with a new toon, can be too daunting to bother with in the long term.  I think if you gave players the option to shuffle the skills of their character at will, while changing the game (slightly!!!!1) every so often, they'd find it much more desirable than having to completely reroll when the endgame gets dull.

And re: Being able to jump into a game and immediately pose any threat whatsoever to an established player.  That kills the whole point of building up a character in the first place.  Ok, if there's collision detection and actual skill involved, then a newb with a .5 dps weapon should maybe be able to kill a vet with mega-armor and a 1000 dps weapon...if the newb jumps around and dodges better than the vet (and it should take an hour and 45 minutes).  "Maybe".  But in the long term imo this is alot to ask.  RPG's are all about progression and development; Circus Atari and Asteroids are about being able to instantly be better than a vet because your reflexes are better.
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Reply #56 on: December 24, 2005, 10:59:40 PM

Stuff

You're confusing context with mechanics. A game can still function closer to "real life" while being in a fantasy context. The presence of "dragons and fairies" has no bearing on combat mechanics.

Lets take your level 1 guy with a bronze or wooden sword against a warrior in plate. True, that level 1 guy is going to have a very hard time doing any kind of damage, but plate armor is far from an invincible shield. There are plenty of spots where a thrust from even a sharp stick can get through, and even a level 1 guy, who would know more than your average citizen NPC, would have some knowledge of this. So, killing a big guy in plate is extremely doubtful, but doing damage is plausible. Same thing applies to a thief; he's not a Matrix agent, so he will invariably get hit, if only by dumb luck.

Suffice to say, I think it's incredibly stupid for a "higher-level character" to be invulnerable simply because of their level, which is really a measure of time played. You can have the best equipment in the world, and still be killed by a sharp stick, especially in large numbers. Lets use your Zulu War as an example. Even with superior training and equipment, the British were far from invincible. The British won because of their superior tactics, especially in battles such as Rorke's Drift, where they were vastly outnumbered. You could also reference history's great battles at Marathon and Thermopylae.

I'd love if that shit was possible, personally. I just don't think anyone would ever do it. I'd love to see a 5 minute old newbie get a nice stiletto and be able to do an attack in a way that you could puncture the chainmail armpit of a fully armored knight and mortally wound him. That kind of stuff is A++ cool, but both you and I know that it'll never, ever be seen.

People are too interested in making 20,000 polygon models and fucking with water reflections and other worthless things.
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Reply #57 on: December 24, 2005, 11:19:22 PM

Here are my graphic leet skillz:



Now, the first graph represents the situation on a server a few days after the launch. The blue line traces the *activity* on the server in a set moment and not the number of characters created that never come back. In the first weeks all the players are concentrated in the first levels and then slowly decrease. During this phase there's overcrowding and if you were in WoW at launch or at the launch of a brand new server you know how this is absolutely true. Everyone is running around the newbie zones and only a few players that never log out are able to reach an higher level compared to most of the other players.

Do you remember all the queues that lasted for multiple hours during the first days and all the players raging against Blizzard? That wasn't simply the server load, it was because all the players were packed in the newbie zones and the early levels in general. The red line here shows the volume of the content available targeted at those levels. At the beginning of the graph there's more of it to accomodate the number of players, but it's still not enough. There's more of it compared to the mid-levels because each race has its own newbie zone and content.

(the graph still doesn't factor the "time" needed by each level, or the first levels still wouldn't compare with the amount of content in the mid-levels, since each level takes more time and so requires more content available)

The second graph, instead, shows the situation of the server after a few months. Only a few new players are active at the same time and 99% of the game is emptier and lonely even if the game remains hugely successful. There's basically more than enough content for the whole level curve. At the exclusion of the last few levels where all the players start to amass. If you notice, the red line at the end of the graph rises more than the red line of the first graph. This because Blizzard developed and added more "endgame" content. But as you can see, even after this effort, the content is still nowhere enough for the number of players that are hoarding at that end.

And this is why right now we have all the complaints about not enough raid content, or not enough viable progress for casual players after level 60.

Now what even Raph seems to overlook and that from my point of view is the BIGGEST problem, is that the situation shown in the second graph gets worse over time. Till the point it becomes a plague for the whole game. A plague that will just shatter the game in the longer term, creating a number of unsolvable side-effects that will slowly kill the game. Till the point where it will need a replacement because broken beyond repair. As I said the inequality between the content available at the mid-levels and the few players populating those zones is still somewhat bearable and a non-issue in WoW because the game is still hugely successful and, between alts and new players, even the early levels are kept somewhat playable and fun.

But what would happen if the game wasn't a so huge success, and what will happen in the longer term? That the early game will be totally DESERTED. Only a few alts will dot the graph here and there, having an hard time finding someone alive to group with and, maybe, do those instances that were so popular the months before. The consequence of this trend is a recursive aggravation where less and less players enjoy the loliness of the early levels, deserting them even more till they won't become just a lonely "desert", but a swamp that you won't be able to cross anymore.

And here we hit something bigger that was again always overlooked. Why the possibility to solo is considered so fundamental today? There are surely various reasons, but the main one is that the possibility to solo is a somewhat effective antidote to a deserted game. So, even if there aren't enough players or if you play not during the peak time, the game remains playable. You won't crash against impassable barriers because the content is inaccessible. It's not because playing solo is more fun. It's because, after the gaps between the players become so huge, the solo play becomes the only viable solutions when playing with your friends is not anymore possible because the game put a WALL between you and them.

The huge gap that was created between the veteran players and the new ones will transform into an impassable barrier that will progressively isolate the game and the community (the elitism will to the rest). Slowly killing it in the longer term.

This is how these games die.

It's true that extended treadmills and character progression are effective mechanics to retain the subscriptions. But it's also true while going in that direction you progressively isolate the game from new players. It's as conservative approach that aims to preserve the current situation as long as possible but that is still cruising toward an unavoidable collapse.

An healthy online world that slowly *grows* instead of slowly collapsing, is one where new and old players are brought together and not cut apart. A type of game where the content is experienced and brings life to a world, and not burnt and thrown away as junk. The difference between a place where you live and one that you colonize and leech till there's nothing left.

Perfect mirrors of the American capitalism and colonialism.

* HRose flees far away after that last line

-HRose / Abalieno
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Reply #58 on: December 24, 2005, 11:26:52 PM

And re: Being able to jump into a game and immediately pose any threat whatsoever to an established player.  That kills the whole point of building up a character in the first place.  

Raph's article debunks the notion that your character is getting more powerful. Your character is actually getting LESS powerful the more you level. You just don't notice because you get distracted by the shiny and the fact that you can peacock strut your number to players with a lesser number.

That is pretty sad for achievers actually. No matter how fast they run on the treadmill they get less and less powerful. What happened to the lone hero who could kill the dragon? WoW gives you a mob of 40 peasants and calls it a "raid".
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Reply #59 on: December 25, 2005, 12:32:58 AM

Quote
what even Raph seems to overlook

Actually, I touched on that here and here, but lord knows I've said it enough other times too. :)
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Reply #60 on: December 25, 2005, 12:48:54 AM

But it's totally not the point of what is relevant in this discussion. Raph's graph isn't supposed to figure out why some players leave the game. It should just compare the volume of content available with the volume of players. And what is relevant in THIS context is the volume of players at the same time.

Ah, but statistics without context will make liars of us all. Take the first graph you posted, a typical WoWCensus readout. By this metric alone, we'd decide OMG WOW MUST HAVE 99% OF THE CONTENT FOR LEVEL 60S!!! (which, not coincidentally, is a common forum refrain).

Yet one of the reasons WoW is currently selling 3 copies for every man woman and child on the Internet is the game's breadth and depth of content. Although on older servers many players have progressed to the end of the level curve, the fact that there was no lack of content getting there is not insignificant. It delivered MILLIONS of people to the end of that curve. That it doesn't then continue to provide huge swatches of content doesn't mean the game is poorly designed, it means that however huge the development budget, it can only deliver so much content, and the development team chose to concentrate their efforts on the "missing curve" that you dismiss.

You said that the problem is that there's not enough content at the far end of the curve. There will *never* be enough content, because the time spent by players at the endgame dwarfs any development team's ability to create challenges. This is why there's so much attention paid to procedurally generated content and player-generated endgames (political, combat, cooperative, whatever) because no matter how much content you create, you not only aren't going to keep up, you also with every addition run the risk of invalidating large swatches of the rest of the game by throwing off the power curve somehow. (Treasure that results in players becoming exponentially more powerful, for example.)
« Last Edit: December 25, 2005, 12:53:43 AM by Lum »
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Reply #61 on: December 25, 2005, 01:03:59 AM

the game's breadth and depth of content.

I disagree with what you said.
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Reply #62 on: December 25, 2005, 01:16:19 AM

I'd love if that shit was possible, personally. I just don't think anyone would ever do it. I'd love to see a 5 minute old newbie get a nice stiletto and be able to do an attack in a way that you could puncture the chainmail armpit of a fully armored knight and mortally wound him. That kind of stuff is A++ cool, but both you and I know that it'll never, ever be seen.

People are too interested in making 20,000 polygon models and fucking with water reflections and other worthless things.

Well, this we can certainly agree on. But using this idea, let me modify my earlier concepts a bit.

Fresh off the Turnip Farm Newb vs Dragonslaying Veteran in Plate of Uberness.

Under conventional level rules on power, the Vet should be able to one-shot the newb, with the newb doing Maybe fractions of a point of damage in return. But things do not have to be this way.

At the other extreme, lets say combat was totally twitch (ie - FPS). Now, both people still have their respective weapons, the newb with a starter blade, and the vet with a vorpal lance of armageddon. But, seeing as this is twitch, ruling out any sort of special abilities, neither weapon will do anything unless a player is able to make physical contact with a strike. Now, seeing as the vet is wearing plate, the newb doesn't have many places to aim - but there are vulnerabilities, such as up under the helm, the armpit, back of the knee, etc etc. It's simply up to the players to be able to Hit those points, perhaps multiple times.

Now, some, perhaps a lot, of people will say this is unfair - that I can roll up a toon and cream any character in the game. Fine. I will even concede that this doesn't necessarily seem "fair" in the context of a game. But, we can compromise.

So, take the former example, but take the FPS aspect out of the equation, partially- Still leave the maneuvers in. Now, think for a second - what's the easiest way to strike at the vulnerable spots of a loaded-down knight? Approaching from behind, or at least flanking. Developers should easily be able to code this, in the form of giving to-hit and/or damage bonuses.

Now, what about the people who say that time spent should give an advantage? Well, I agree, in part. An adventurer who has been around awhile has become pretty good at not dying, either by avoiding blows, or absorbing them....but they're not invincible; just take a look at whatever literary or mythological source you like. Great heroes still get hit and take damage, but they don't die, because they've learned from through experiences how to stay alive. SO, some sort of bonus should be given for "level" (if the game must have them). One way to think of it is that an experienced person has learned to move in combat, how to maneuver and protect their vulnerable areas. That same armored knight, if he's worth even a percentage of the weight of his gear, is going to do everything he can to not give an assailant an easy opening for a quick kill.

But finally, I think the big equalizer, or in most games the largest unequalizer, is hit points. I do not think they are bad things - they're an easy way to measure the health and well-being of a character, and the amount of abuse they can take. What IS bad is how they are implemented - characters just seem to gain HP into infinity. It seems that in most games, even if a high level character can be hit by a lowbie, his HP and resistance is so sky-high that the lowbie can't even hope to chew through the pool - not even multiple newbs. What do you do? Cap hit points, and cap it low.

As an example, some of you may have played the Gemstone series of MUDs. They capped HP very low, and I think it worked well. What I think this would do in a modern game is force characters to avoid being hit, or at least minimize the damage. If a person is caught off-guard, or if a person gets off a particularly good attack, ANYONE could be one-shot-killed. Also, in Gemstone, there was practically no such thing as group healers - healing is either something you did by stopping combat and taking a few moments on your own to heal up, or going back to town and being healed by other characters. By coincidence, by removing the "need" for a healer in groups to keep everyone's HP up (because they're concentrating more on not getting hit in the first place, or taking as little as possible), you can break the reliance on the Holy Trinity.

Anyway, that's my ramble. I hope it made some sort of sense to someone, somewhere. In short, you can still have levels and let them have an effect, but let the players (both attacker and defender) be the difference - Not Time.

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Reply #63 on: December 25, 2005, 01:19:50 AM

Quote
what even Raph seems to overlook

Actually, I touched on that here and here, but lord knows I've said it enough other times too. :)
The first link discusses again possible ways to optimize the production of content. That has nothing to do with what I tried to say. My point is that the more you stretch the treadmill the more the game risks to break. And it will. The problem is not one of quantity, it's the one of accessibility and viability.

If new players join a barren world and have no ways to reach their friends or where the whole community currently is, the game will die over time. No matter how good are your "retention mechanics". It's destined to collapse sooner or later.

WoW will collapse later because it is more easily soloable, so accessible. But the model is still doomed.

The second link only passes by the issue without getting it (it's mostly a problem of economy and dynamism that I somewhat discussed here).
Quote
Newbies are reduced to one or two areas per level range, and the entire process of levelling up is seen as just "the prelude to the real game."
This is true but, again, what I'm saying is not that the newbie experience is blander compared to the resources and value put on the endgame content (in WoW the endgame content is actually worse than the early game). what I'm saying is that, overtime, the newbie experience degenerates till the point the game becomes completely inaccessible because there aren't anymore players around to group with, enjoy the game and experience what requires more than one player available and well balanced groups with all the classes represented. Which is what you said in the first article (that I liked more): "they (levels) are used to keep people apart" And spread thin, I would add.

Till the point where the "latter" game is completely isolated and anymore accessible. Or you are ALREADY part of it, or you are out. If a mmorpg is a flow of water, this equals to cutting off the fount. You will still have the players gathering at the end like in a pool (I often use the image of a dam at the level cap) but the water will stagnate and it won't last for long.

So you can switch "overlook" with "not pinpointed well enough".

Actually, what you write in the second link is the opposite of what I'm saying. You point out the problem of twinking and increased knowledge that brings to trivialize some parts of the game. While I'm saying that with less players around and without a strong community supporting the early levels, the newbies will find the game *too hard* and inaccessible to be viable and fun.

This is a general trend. I always totally agree on your premises and those articles are wonderful. But then I disagree on the conclusions, and, most likely, on the possible solutions.

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Reply #64 on: December 25, 2005, 01:20:23 AM

Quote
- Hrose
It's true that extended treadmills and character progression are effective mechanics to retain the subscriptions. But it's also true while going in that direction you progressively isolate the game from new players. It's as conservative approach that aims to preserve the current situation as long as possible but that is still cruising toward an unavoidable collapse.

I'm no coder, but considering how fast technology iterates, this "inevitable collapse" could be desirable in the long run.  The market seems to be exploding, but how many of these new customers go straight for the eccentric 1st generation antiques?  Better to view an MMO as viable for only a short span of years to better prepare for the next iteration, hopefully learning a couple things in the process instead of forever trying to play "catch up" with an outdated base/model.  As such, I don't think this "slow growth" method is very practical, as it implies a ponderous pace that will be swept away by the next big thing.  Of course, I guess this is based on the assumption that there will be a next big thing.  (I think there will be)

Levels?  I don't have much to add..  I'll just echo that the MMO leveling system, although filled with illusions and fallacies, is a fundamentally effective way to engage players.  It forms a simple to understand basis of comparison that fuels the achiever mentality. 

I'm not sure if one can talk about RPGs without this kind of idea floating around.  I also don't think disguising it counts.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2005, 01:23:00 AM by Zane0 »
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Reply #65 on: December 25, 2005, 01:49:08 AM

Ah, but statistics without context will make liars of us all. Take the first graph you posted, a typical WoWCensus readout. By this metric alone, we'd decide OMG WOW MUST HAVE 99% OF THE CONTENT FOR LEVEL 60S!!! (which, not coincidentally, is a common forum refrain).

Yet one of the reasons WoW is currently selling 3 copies for every man woman and child on the Internet is the game's breadth and depth of content. Although on older servers many players have progressed to the end of the level curve, the fact that there was no lack of content getting there is not insignificant. It delivered MILLIONS of people to the end of that curve. That it doesn't then continue to provide huge swatches of content doesn't mean the game is poorly designed, it means that however huge the development budget, it can only deliver so much content, and the development team chose to concentrate their efforts on the "missing curve" that you dismiss.
I really don't know where you are trying to disagree here. I took those premises (like the "not enough endgame content") to prove them wrong. Not to consolidate them.

Imho, WoW wouldn't be a better game if it had another 10 instances at the current endgame. That's not what I'm trying to prove. I'm just trying to say, as did Raph, that this model brings directly to an UNSUSTAINABLE siituation. And the game WILL collapse because of this.

1- The developers cannot keep up with the *increasing* demand for content.
2- The players need more content to remain in the game and have "things to do".
3- The more content added at the endgame and the more the treadmill is stretched, the less the game will remain accessible for new players.
4- This can last till a point (stretching and more stretching). Then it breaks.

Quote
You said that the problem is that there's not enough content at the far end of the curve. There will *never* be enough content, because the time spent by players at the endgame dwarfs any development team's ability to create challenges.
But that's my point as well! I'm not going against that idea, I'm proving it.

Quote
This is why there's so much attention paid to procedurally generated content and player-generated endgames (political, combat, cooperative, whatever) because no matter how much content you create, you not only aren't going to keep up, you also with every addition run the risk of invalidating large swatches of the rest of the game by throwing off the power curve somehow. (Treasure that results in players becoming exponentially more powerful, for example.)
And here's another point (where I strongly disagree with Raph and Dave). The generated content and AIs are *chimeras*. They will never work. Going in that direction won't bring to any result. The demand for (that type of) "content" can only be delivered in that way. You cannot magically (algoritmically) produce content. you won't fool anyone if not yourself (see Mike Rozak's splendid definition of content).

As I said from MY point of view (the whole thing I'm saying here) is that quote I took from Raph: "they (levels) are used to keep people apart"

A solution to the problems I pointed are different models that could bring the players TOGETHER instead of apart. Levels, today, are used to chunk the community (which can also be good as I pointed to Raph here) but also to shatter it.

You already summarized my "view" on these games when you said I see them as "living worlds". I'd add that the model I would like to see is the one of a circle, where the whole game is self contained (+here, the comments). Opposed to the current model that is just a lineear, endlessly stretched string that is viable only if you start at the same time of everyone else and are able to "keep up" with them.

If you join late, you are out. If you lose too much terrain and cannot keep up, you are out. (this is what Raph overlooked from my point of view)

Quote
Then there’s the sandbox game. Here we move away from a single-player game because the focus is more on the actors as active subjects more than a linear, fixed story that is narrated or re-enacted. In the sandbox you can fit pretty much everything, even the whole game of the first type. But, in general, the sandbox has “toys” into it that you can use freely and “creatively”. The player here can have different roles and the model is particularly appropriate for the myth of “satisfying repetable content”.
Quote
The other way is what I have as an ideal: the living world. A living world is a sandbox, or a complex system. In a complex system all the elements have a precise function that isn't "replaced" or "mudflated". All these elements are tied together, forming a complexity and shaping up a "world" that is self-consistent and self-contained. Where you just don't need "more space" to justify more content and where you don't need to mudflate and replace anything because every element has a purpose and is justified.

This model ideally allows the system to never age. Both new and old players exist on the same level and play together, not far away. There's no need to build barriers since the game itself takes advantage from the ties between the elements. The development can go on at the same time on all the levels without leaving out either side.
Can you see that I'm pointing to the same problems you pointed too?
« Last Edit: December 25, 2005, 01:57:53 AM by HRose »

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Reply #66 on: December 25, 2005, 02:06:48 AM

The market seems to be exploding, but how many of these new customers go straight for the eccentric 1st generation antiques?
Ah, good point, except, it's not.

No new customers play old mmorpgs BECAUSE of what I said. Because, over time, these games aren't anymore viable and fun for a newbie.

You cannot put the cart ahead of the mule and say my theory is broken because old games don't have appeal and so you won't have new subscribers anyway. It's that idea that causes the new players to not exist.

Let me relink what Raph just linked above:
Quote
This means (mathematically) that the game as a whole loses a degree of accessibility to newbies. Features and things to do will tend to be added at the high level in order to satisfy the high level players demanding greater challenge. It is a very common thing to see muds where 90% of the zones are intended for groups of maxxed out characters only. Newbies are reduced to one or two areas per level range, and the entire process of levelling up is seen as just "the prelude to the real game."
Of course old game have no appeal. Because no developer spend time to improve the early game and all the development is focused to retain the subscribers they already have.

But they don't see new players BECAUSE OF THAT. "No new players" is a consequence of that development, not its cause.

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Reply #67 on: December 25, 2005, 03:39:29 AM

Another WoWism on "why levels suck" - take a look at the level 60s.

If a guy bought the game in let's say October and has a level 60, how does he compare to someone who bought the game in December last year? The level number doesn't mean anything at all. It shouldn't even be there, as an 18 hour /played level 60 is probably 20% as capable (item-wise, as wow is an item whoring game) as a 500+ days /played level 60 that has chock full of purple gear.

It's just so damn meaningless. Then you look at the upcoming expansion where supposedly they're going to up the level cap. So they have .. Man I'm not even sure how many dungeons and raid instances that they have for level 60s now. Let's say they have 15 seperate instances, crammed full of content, fully itemized, people have spent tens of thousands of man hours creating these.

When that expansion comes out and people roll up Blood Elves or Panda dudes or whatever they do, nobody is going to use those 15 level 60 instances. They are going to be in the expansion equivalent of Azshara camping the birds, or running macro programs until they hit level 70, or 75. Whatever the new "Max" is. Because  you ain't shit if you ain't max, right? That's the mentality.

So all those great purple sets, gone. Wasted. All that art that made tauran-sized leafy shoulders and crossdressing night elf female sized leafy shoulders. 100% wasted. Sure, you can use those skins for other items or something, but everyone will laugh at you.

I don't know. I just like it where you had your character, you had your knowledge, and you had your friends. You kind-of knew what you were capable of if you've played enough, or tried enough stuff. You didn't have a level limit that kept you from entering a dungeon. You didn't have some retarded number that made you "matter".

In my case, in UO beta, I just had me, my hinds outside of Moonglow, a club, and some leather armor. And I'll be damned if those SoB motherfuckers are going to skin my creatures and deflate the prices of leather on my island, even if it's only for 30 minutes. They are NOT going to buy reags at the North mage shop in peace. I need that garlic and it's not going to recycle for an hour.

Whoa, excuse that UO tangent. Levels suck, it's not just the "system" and the fact that "skill %s are levels too in a different way!"

Bullshit, go back to being denied a group because you're level 59 and not 60. Or you're 60, but only have 1 purple and 6000 mana as a priest. WTF U NOOB.

Merry christmas by the way.
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Reply #68 on: December 25, 2005, 04:03:47 AM

Another WoWism on "why levels suck" - take a look at the level 60s.

If a guy bought the game in let's say October and has a level 60, how does he compare to someone who bought the game in December last year? The level number doesn't mean anything at all. It shouldn't even be there, as an 18 hour /played level 60 is probably 20% as capable (item-wise, as wow is an item whoring game) as a 500+ days /played level 60 that has chock full of purple gear.

It's just so damn meaningless. Then you look at the upcoming expansion where supposedly they're going to up the level cap. So they have .. Man I'm not even sure how many dungeons and raid instances that they have for level 60s now. Let's say they have 15 seperate instances, crammed full of content, fully itemized, people have spent tens of thousands of man hours creating these.
Aye...

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Reply #69 on: December 25, 2005, 04:14:05 AM

Whoa, excuse that UO tangent. Levels suck, it's not just the "system" and the fact that "skill %s are levels too in a different way!"

Bullshit, go back to being denied a group because you're level 59 and not 60. Or you're 60, but only have 1 purple and 6000 mana as a priest. WTF U NOOB.

Merry christmas by the way.

What is sad is that in my younger days, that is how I thought in EQ.

(with 65 level cap) "He's 63? Hmm, that's kinda low...."

Or how about people getting rejected for shit because they don't have Flowing Thought 15 or some nonsense? Fuck that uber shit.

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