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Ask Massively: Mind tricks are the lazy way of doing things edition

Eliot Lefebvre

Recently, I've become enamored of the Bavarian Fire Drill. For those who don't want to click on that link (it's work-safe in the sense that it contains no cursing and not work-safe in the sense that you'll be clicking for hours), it's the art of infiltrating a building by carrying a clipboard and acting like you're supposed to be there. Sure, you could just wave your hand and tell people that these aren't the droids they're looking for, but wouldn't you rather have the chutzpah to just walk around like it wasn't a thing?

That leads very naturally to this week's installment of Ask Massively, in which we discuss whether or not leveling mechanics have worn our their collective welcomes in MMOs. As always, if you've got an urgent question for a future week, feel free to leave it in the comments or mail it along to Questions may be edited slightly for clarity and/or brevity.

Kaahn Stewart asked: Do you think it's time to do away with leveling? It seems like the leveling process is becoming more and more trivialized, which makes me wonder why it's even there in the first place. Why not have a game start at endgame and provide players new abilities or skills for running content, rather than grinding needless levels?

Because that's still leveling -- it's just leveling through a different set of criteria.

Some games are certainly trying to do away with the idea of gating things to level whatever -- The Secret World, for instance, has a rather different way of having characters grow and improve over time. But even if you switch new abilities and skills to being locked behind content rather than via reaching some high-water mark of experience points, you still have a situation in which you need to do X in order to learn how to do Y.

In some ways, actually, leveling is a better way to handle things than strict content gating. You need to earn a total number of points to level up, but the game doesn't care how you earn them.

Now, a lot of games have also made it easier to level up, which can be seen as making leveling less relevant. This is really a conscious move, I suspect, since slower leveling just makes gaining levels more tedious rather than more difficult. (Your primary enemy should not be boredom.) It makes it easier for players who want to push up to max level to do precisely that, but it doesn't force players to do so -- you can take your time, explore a bit, and head off the beaten path if you so desire.

Is it time to play around with different ways to gate abilities and progression? Certainly. But leveling itself is still serving its purpose. Sometimes it needs a bit more fine-tuning than it receives, but there's no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Russell Clarke asked: Why a turkey anyway?
Because turkey is delicious. I've grown more and more fond of turkey as the years have gone by. Turkey burgers are a thing of wonder, for instance. (I recommend mixing some parmesan cheese and soy sauce into the meat before making patties, and topping it with a slice of swiss or provolone cheese.) Nom nom.
Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!

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