Here begins a series of posts, when I remember to do them, in which I will discuss the elements that would make up the perfect MMO for me.
One of the things I hate most in games is levels that “matter”. And by that I mean content that is gated or trivialized based entirely on level. However, I do understand the desire to have a constantly rising metric by which players can compare themselves or show some aspect of their selves to others.
In my perfect MMO, there would be levels and there would be experience gained through killing, questing, crafting and any number of other things. These levels would be entirely a measure of effort. If you kill 8,000,000 rats earning 10 exp per rat, your level will be higher than someone who has killed only 1 ogre for 1,000 exp. However, if the two of you were to face off in combat, how you played, what abilities you used and other factors would determine the outcome, not level.
Level would simply be… well… experience. A beginner would be just that a “Beginner”. As that person played the game and did things they would become a “Novice” or “Neophyte” and progress up through different titles until they eventually reached something like “Extraordinarily Experienced Grand Master” or some such. This title could be modified by sub-levels determined by the means which you obtained your experience. If you did so through a majority of exploration you might be “Worldly Grand Master”, or if you did so by crafting you might be a “Grand Master of Labors”.
Looking at a person’s “level” (which would not be expressed by a number, at least not a single number) would actually tell you a bit of the story of their lives. And that is why such a system appeals to me. It also appeals because unless you plan so poorly that you exhaust the entire English language by allowing people to gain ten or twenty levels per session, you could literally have infinite leveling. All you need is another tier of words, and a formula to calculate how to gain that next tier.