So, I’ve started playing World of Warcraft again. In large part to play with a couple of friends. The wife and I have been playing a couple of weeks now, but we’ve yet to actually play with the friends we came to join. You see, they started before us and as such they are about ten or so levels ahead. We have been trying to catch up, but since they keep playing also we essentially only succeed in keep the gap consistent.
Another friend of ours decided to join us too. A little later than us. He’s about ten or so levels behind us and in similar fashion he is trying to catch up but is really only keeping the gap consistent.
People keep telling me that it’ll be okay when we hit the level cap, which will only take a couple of months (or so they tell me). For the moment, the wife and I are splitting our time between some characters to try and slow ourselves down a bit, which will let the man behind us catch up but lets the people in front of us get further away.
I really dislike this, and it happens in every game. Well, not in EVE. Whenever I get into discussions about class based or skill based systems, after going back and forth for a long while I always end up settling on the fact that either system works and either can be better and that it all depends on the quality of the system. But one tangent that always emerges is that I wish less MMOs were level based.
I understand that, in general, people like levels, because it’s an easy way to measure progress and be rewarded. Ding! But levels divide your players, which can be good (spreading them out over different level appropriate areas) and bad (you now have to deal with special coding for any PvP interactions around the power increases levels provide and prevention of power leveling, etc). In my opinion, games need to find other ways to reward people, and to separate power from what is essentially time played. In EVE, it doesn’t matter if you’ve played for 5 years or 5 months, once you get into a ship the only thing that matters are the skills related to that ship. And a 5 month player can kick the ass of a 5 year player given the right ships and situation. But when was the last time a level 15 killed a level 80 in WoW? Never? Is it because the level 80 is better or because he’s been around longer? Neither actually, it’s because the game doesn’t allow people of that sort of disparity to fight in most cases because they are well aware of the futility of the position of the level 15 player.
We need an alternative to levels/time defining power in fantasy games. And we need ways for people to play together no matter how long they’ve been playing without starting over.