Alternatives to XP-Based Leveling
Damianov saw a concept for leveling that involved ranking quests by difficulty and then advancing based on completing so many quests of a certain rank. He admits that there are some flaws with the system. There is definitely some great potential as well, though. I’ll look at both.
The main flaw with a system like this is that everything in the game would have to be quest based. Even if everything wasn’t stuck in a city, I think this would give the game a very strong “DDO” feel. No one is going to want to fight their way through a bunch of mobs that give no reward in order to get to the content that they can progress with, so it would be all of these encounters spread out across the land. I guess one solution to this would be to have random mobs strewn about that provide gear or other materials, while the quests are how you advance, but again, I don’t think people would want to spend half their time advancing their character and half their time finding gear, with no common ground.
Another problem with this system is the conflict of instancing vs. camping. If everything was instanced, this would obviously prevent camping but instances are horrible immersion-breakers. There’s nothing like climbing up to a “griffon’s nest” (example used by Damianov) when a load screen pops up and everyone else disappears. I just don’t think I could do this personally. That said, I also don’t enjoy the thought of a riotous mob of players waiting 45 minutes for their shot to steal the egg when it respawns.
So what is a possible solution to this? Have enough quests that they can simply do another one. This means an enormous number of quests, and by quests, I don’t me “kill 10 rats” or “deliver this to Bob, standing six feet away from me.” I mean true, meaningful quests. The whole idea behind this system is that you feel like your quests matter, otherwise why would they be your only source of advancement? This is good and bad. This means that quest designers actually have to put their thinking caps on and create some intriguing quests that really challenge and entertain the players. This also means though, that they have to come up with an incredible amount of these.
For example: Assume you have to complete 15 of these at each level, and there are 25 levels, that’s 375 quests, and you are probably going to want at the very least twice that many to leave some options including a mix of solo and group quests and long and short, that’s 750 quests. Furthermore, once you get the higher levels, like almost all games, quests are going to become much more intricate, difficult, and time-consuming. It’s going to to difficult to make quests that seem important that don’t take more than 20-30 minutes. If all your quests take an hour, that’s going to make questing very difficult for a lot of players, especially if you have to find a group to do them before you go. This balance can surely be found, but it will take a lot more planning and writing to find it.
This is highly ambitious, and would take a lot of work. If you don’t have enough content to keep the players interested long enough due to a lack of quests and/or make the leveling curve too easy, players are going to reach max level far too soon and be left with nothing to do and leave. There are other elements to keep them there, such as crafting or PvP, but that’s a different topic.
The last real problem I have with this is that even if quests are more fulfilling, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being lead around being told what to do. I think there needs to be some balance between player freedom and being sent from one spot to the next. I think this would also force developers to feel like they had to fill every inch of their world with quests since there would be nothing between them (mobs) and then it would feel more like an amusement park than an MMO.
I’m all for getting more interactive, challenging, and all around fun quests in MMO’s, but if they aren’t implemented well in this system, it will absolutely kill the game as it’s how you level. To date, I haven’t found a game that has quests that are more than tasks. Warhammer looks like its going to start to break this trend, but until we see more of it, I think this goal is too ambitious to build an entire game around. I’m barely scratching the surface of this concept (in a somewhat incoherent fashion,) but those are my initial thoughts, I’d love to know your opinions on it.