On class levels

I was reading an article which was saying that (and I'm paraphrasing here) "every game will have some form of levels. It is impossible to remove them completely."

I was planning on trying to do some form of classless/level-less system, and the more I think about it, the more I realize this may be correct. You can't remove progression based systems like levels from and MMO game without making the game a straight adventure game. That doesn't mean that something can't be implemented where instead of levelling through experience, you do so through alternative methods.

I was thinking that instead of granting experience towards your class, you instead award experience towards your character itself. Fighting increases your strength. Dodging increases agility. Hitting things through practice increases dexterity. Meditating increases spirit. And so on and so forth.

Players work on stats by playing the game. Their character's level could be expressed as skill with the individual classes, similar to how Dungeons and Dragons does things where a level 4 Rogue is more skilled than a level 3 Rogue, and the level refers to the class itself and not the actual character.

What if a class level was an indication of a player's skill instead of just how much they've played the game? I was thinking that since the main focus of this game would in fact be story through quests and objectives, why not have that same system determine class skill? It wouldn't be so much a level as it would be a rating. Maybe each class could have their own organizations such as the Order of the Holy Hand for paladins or the Shin-Tao dojo for Martialists and so on. Players can approach these organizations whenever they wish and take on special quests which require players to have knowledge of their class in order to beat. If they can overcome the challenge, they gain a rank. If they fail, they can always come back and try again after playing and practicing for a while and maybe raising a few stats.

The key here would be that the quests would be based on skill. The Martialist would fight against opponents with AI that can counter certain moves in certain ways. The Priest quest would require you to keep a certain number of a squad of soldiers healed and alive while they assault a fortress. They'd be designed in such a way that you can't just spam heals or Bladestorms or a macro button which plows through everything in your path. You would have to know the class's abilities intimately and be able to adapt to situations dynamically.

There are always things which I'm trying to design around or to defeat like players being able to look up quests on the internet or being able to min/max to the point where only one build is acceptable for certain classes, but I think that randomized quests could possibly be implemented to at least deter that a bit.

To sum up: Classes have ranks, which are determined by quests requiring skill. Players level their stats by doing things related to those stats, which then allow greater chance of success in the ranking quests.

The important thing is that there is no difference between a level 1 Warrior and a level 10 Warrior. Only that the level 10 Warrior has demonstrated that they have mastered a certain number of skills that the Warrior class is expected to have. It has social value in the same way that purples show everyone that you are skilled enough to beat raid encounters. Players who play slowly can take their time in earning their way through the ranks. Players who play quickly can move through them as fast as they can.

Of course, there are other aspects to this which could have other ramifications such as creating new problems with player dynamics, but I think this has at least some potential to replace the current "Grind XPz to the next ding" mechanic.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 10/20/2009 12:54:00 AM


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