Sunday, April 28, 2013

Scanbot Sunday - Time To Level

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! The weather has been beautiful here. I did quite a bit of outside things yesterday, relatively. After spending my Saturday morning carrying tables from the barn loft to the garage at my parent's house I came home and got a 50 minute bike ride in to meet my cardio goals for the day. Today I hit the trail again and this time took it all the way to work, beastly hill and all. The top of the hill greeted me with this sign.

I don't know what it means, but it seems serious.
I'm pretty sure this was the sign I passed going the other direction.
Dem Photoshop Skills
There is another pound and a half of Sour Patch Kids on my desk from unknown sources...

Today's Wildstar related topic is leveling speed, the impact it has on the game and the impact the game has on it.

How long should it take to level?

Back when I played Final Fantasy 11 reaching max level was essentially the entire game. By necessity it was an exhaustively long process with lots of gating. You had to spend some days, or weeks working on building up resources, since the two were almost always independent of each other.

City of Heroes had a pretty long leveling process also, and there was minimal end game at the time. The game focused mostly on the desire to try alternate characters with different power builds.

World of Warcraft came along and fundamentally changed this paradigm. Reaching level cap was not a journey in WoW, it was a destination. In many ways it was the start of the real game. As features were added to the game this became more pronounced. To a player starting World of Warcraft today the leveling process is mostly seen as an inconvenience, even more so for an existing player starting a new character.

Over the last 5 to 8 years other MMO's have come out, many emulate this formula where the "real" game starts at level cap. In these games, no matter how compelling the content is many of the players simply blast through it at max speed in order to get to this "real" game and then complain that there isn't enough to do.

There are many examples of games that have went with a different design. EVE is an example that I have experience with. This very different type of progression doesn't rely on levels in the same way, and it is entirely divorced from the game play. Your character in EVE will continue to progress at the same rate regardless of what you do during your play session, or how long your session is. I have friends who will take months long breaks from the game but keep their skill queue active.

The most recent released game that I have first hand experience with that does something different is Guild Wars 2. The design goal was to create a game that doesn't change at level cap, where the things you do at maximum level are the same things that you did to get there. I think they largely succeeded in this. As I played Guild Wars 2 I was rarely concerned with my character level, I was interested in exploring the world and finding map elements. At 50 I continued to do just that until I had reached 100% map completion.

What about Wildstar?

There is going to be exclusive max level content in Wildstar. Raids, PVP Arenas, and Warplots have been confirmed. This will spawn content locusts, players focused solely on reaching max level so they can establish their superiority in these competitive environments. This will eventually lead to a shortened leveling experience to allow their largely max level player base to recruit friends to join them without the caveat - after you've played for a couple of months.

Personally I hope that the leveling experience is significant. I want it to have weight. I want to spend time in each level range doing all the content I can get my hands on.

If the level 10-15 range includes two entire zones I am OK if the progression speed only allows for the completion of one of those zones. I think this adds value for alternate characters. If the level 10-15 range also includes one dungeon as well as two entire zones the pacing should allow players to fully complete one zone and also experience the dungeon at least once. If a player is not interested in Dungeon content they can make up the deficit with the start of the alternate zone, further exploring the zone they have completed, or joining PVP battlegrounds. Players who are not interested in Zone questing can run the available dungeon repetitively or join PVP Battlegrounds. There should always be options, but they should all take time.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like any existing progression models would work better for Wildstar? What kind of options do you expect to see to customize your leveling experience? What would you like to see?

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