Removing the Level Curve

I like curves.  True Story.  Whether it comes to art, driving down roads, or pixel beauties that can dominate the world with destructive magic, it’s all good.  However, there is one curve that can begin to drive even me nuts: The Level Curve.

One of the funny things about me is that I love to play mmos, but hate to group up while leveling.  There is just something about it that makes the process feel incredible dull and slow.  It should be fun having extra people around, just not for me.  I loathe it to the degree that I have even lost a girlfriend because I refused to group with her every time we both played a game.  Apparently, telling a woman that you will group with her in RL while leaving her at the mercy of a pack of wolves, isn’t romantic.  Go figure.

At the base of this disdain for level parties, is the increasing difficulty to achieve the next level.  While my play style can hardly be summed up as efficient, the one area I do like efficiency is with questing and leveling.  Adding more people to the group just ruins that for me.  However when GW2 announced that there would be no increase in time to level, it got my rusty innards crankin.

What if each level took the same amount of time in WoW or EQ2?  My first thought is awesome!  How nice would it be to know that when you invest a few hours into the game that you are guaranteed that next step up?  Surely there will be ways to make it faster or slower depending on your play style but the idea of evening it out is very appealing.  If I know that while questing for two hours I will make X progress, perhaps grouping won’t be so unattractive.  Take out the quests and it more or less puts everyone who groups working at the same pace.  Excellent.

There are some downsides to removing the dreadful curve, although, how bad they are is completely subjective to the individual.  Evening out the leveling time for all levels makes the initial experience much slower.  I love when you make a new character and the levels just seem to fly by.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment and excitement.  Slowing this process down may make it harder to become absorbed and invested into the character/game. It will also have and effect on the skill progression.  Slower levels means new skills, less often.  That kinda stings because already I feel a lot of mmos beginnings are boring because of the monotonous spam of two or three buttons.  Then again GW has never followed the traditional level=skill rut system.

Another downside would be the diluting of levels…. meaning? Power?  Importance?  Ravious asks a great question on Kill Ten Rats: “…important question that should have been immediately followed up is ‘how do levels matter?'”  Touche.  When you make all the levels the same in terms of investment, what makes them special?  Will this make levels more player progress identifiers?  A gauge for skill restriction? A WoW common trait?  All these things sound almost counter what I have come to expect from GW.  Weird how taking out the curve could actually make them more like other mmos than different, from a certain perspective.

The industry seems to be playing around more and more with how experience works with levels and gameplay.  Some have removed it completely, ushering in a form of skill enhancement rather than character enhancement.  GW2 is going to attempt to make all 80 levels similar in time requirements to progress.  While the focus of the masses has been payment methods, I think subtly, companies having been pushing for a way to break the mold of how levels work. This is a change that needs more attention imo.

Part of me is excited for it and other parts of me dread the unknown.  One thing I can say is that GW did a great job of making sure levels were not important.  GW2 will most likely have the same thing.  Most of the other big MMOs out there have now reached the 70+ level cap.  GW2 is going with 80.  I don’t doubt that that number will mean nothing in the big picture.  What I do think is that perhaps ArenaNet has deciding marketing their product with more levels will give the impression of equal content to the competitors.  For those of us on the inside, it is not needed.  However for newer players looking at a WoW box vs a GW2 box, more levels could mean something.

Just some random thoughts for the end of the week.  What do you all think about the possibilities/detriments when removing the level curve?  Excited? Scared to death?

Thanks for reading.


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