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The Think Tank: How do you feel about quick-leveling promotions?

Shawn Schuster

With TERA's new level-58 boost for brand new characters, Guild Wars 2's automatic level 20 for new characters last month, and EverQuest II's upcoming free level-85 heroic characters, it seems that studios are finding new ways to push players through the early content and into the end game. Games like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online have streamlined the starting zones, but these new promotional events are much more straightforward and obvious.

So how does the Massively crew feel about this? Should this type of advancement be available only during special events? Should level boosters be rewards for veteran loyalty only? Do you consider double- and triple-XP weekends the same thing? Or is it all nonsense as we should all play these games as originally intended?

The Think Tank How do you feel about quickleveling promotions
Doesn't bother me at all. I mean, it's a design problem when character advancement is so boring that people are willing to do something to skip it, but since most studios haven't solved that problem, then yes please, let us have double-exp weekends and free level 80s in WoW and free level 20s in Guild Wars 2 and all of it. Heck, give us the opportunity to buy advanced characters outright. Speaking as someone who's done that in games where it's legal, I can say it's only enhanced my enjoyment since I've spent more time playing and less time leveling skills and doing boring things. I know there's a contingent of players out there who think that long grinds build real-life character and that kids these days have it too easy, but hogwash. My time is way too valuable for that junk. Let's skip the timesinks, please, and get on with the actual fun, especially when the fun is tucked away in endgames.
The Think Tank How do you feel about quickleveling promotions
I totally get the idea behind getting people to see the newer content of a game before making decisions on whether to stay, but skipping levels seems to miss the point of playing an MMO! It's about a huge adventure, not about looking at one area because it's shiny. It's about finding friends and having that friendship forged in the flames of battle! What about all the grand quests that came before it? The ones that shape you into the world and give you the feeling of conquering a major task or building up to something greater? It also seems as if it might interfere with the long-term players if there are newbies running high level content that may not have done the introductory content in the beginning. Of course, I could be wrong as I haven't done any level skipping or out-of-game leveling.
The Think Tank How do you feel about quickleveling promotions
I wish every MMO had quick-leveling promotions. I don't play these games for progression, so anything that helps me avoid level grinding and get on to the business of enjoying various virtual world features is fantastic.

It depends on the type of game, too. With sandboxes I likely wouldn't use quick-leveling as much because good ones like Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and the like don't level-gate the world or arbitrarily restrict players from doing things and playing creatively. With the themeparks I'm currently slogging through -- LotRO and Star Wars: The Old Republic -- I would absolutely pay top dollar for a max-level character in each because all I care about is a) seeing Rohan and snapping a few screenshots and b) watching the class story cutscenes. Unfortunately for me, getting to do those things requires months, if not years, of endlessly tedious kill and FedEx quest nonsense.
The Think Tank How do you feel about quickleveling promotions
I know this probably makes me sound like an old-fashioned fuddy duddy, but I hate it when MMOs allow you to skip levels, either by offline leveling, leveling scrolls, or promotions to let you jump ahead. It seems to defeat the purpose of having levels in the first place, diminishes the leveling accomplishments of others by comparison, and generally hurts a player's knowledge of the class when he's handed the keys to a high-level character without having "grown" with it over time.

That said, I'll admit I've been a hypocrite and done this a couple of times. Not every game places the same emphasis or importance with levels. I do wish that I had been able to go through the first 55 levels in World of Warcraft with my Death Knight, however. Being forced to start at a high level (or, I guess nowadays, mid-level) makes me feel as if I'm being cheated out of content and fun.
The Think Tank How do you feel about quickleveling promotions
I'd really rather not have the fast leveling stuff. However, if the alternative is that I have to play through 100 hours of crap just to get to the actual game, then yes, fast leveling is a godsend. Really though, designers should just make a game that lets people do the stuff they want to do now, rather than force them to play through stuff they don't want to do. Fix the early game, don't give incentive to skip it.

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the carest of the carebears, so expect some disagreement! Join Senior Editor Shawn Schuster and the team for a new edition right here every other Thursday.

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