Random Vertical Progression Musings

A few tidbits from the blogs that address vertical progression:

  • Keen proposes that levels should be removed from WoW because they are easy but time consuming to obtain, and are required for access to group PVE and PVP content.  This is perhaps a natural extension of the issues with PVP gear and reputation that have been hounding Pandaria since its release. 

    I generally agree that MMO's should not be designed to require one form of content (solo, group, PVP) for access to another - frankly, I think the quality of WoW's leveling game as a solo experience has suffered for all the changes required to keep the level cap accessible to group players.  (EQ2 has the same problem.)  The challenge is that levels are tied to meaningful progression - acquisition of spells, talents, etc that actually influence how you play the game.  I've spent a fair amount of time one-shotting my way through story content I have overleveled in WoW and LOTRO, and it can be fun, but the complete lack of any change to your character becomes very noticeable.  I also don't think it's good design to hit newbies with three hotbars full of spells, but I don't see how any form of up-mentoring that does not include every meaningful form of character advancement - levels, spells, talents, etc - will be acceptable for min-max'ed endgame content.

    I think it is far more likely that we will see some form of instant max level functionality added to the game, probably in the next year or so.  The lack of a function for mentoring down in levels from WoW in 2012 is a bit sad, but we haven't commonly seen the opposite approach offered because it does not actually solve the problem.

  • Spinks reminds me that Assassin's Creed 3 is coming.  This is a game I am looking forward to playing - it was the only line not directly tied to Turbine swag that I stood in at PAX East this year - but I do have an odd vertical progression block.  I'm currently partway through the storyline of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, the middle game in what became a trilogy around AC2 protagonist Ezio Auditore.  While it looks like the new game will be doing a ton of cool things, and I'm guessing they will probably offer some form of synopsis, it seems a shame to have a future game spoil the end of the previous entries.  Oh well, I suppose console games only get cheaper. 

  • Meanwhile in my baby-friendly MMO of choice. WoW Pet Battles have some odd vertical progression.  In principle, the system is independent of the game's regular leveling curve, though it is far easier if you have a flying mount and outlevel the local mobs.  Each pet gains levels separately, while the level of wild pets scales such that all of the zone in the game map in approximately the correct order to the 25 levels of battle pets. 

    If you really need a pet of a certain level, you can always go tame whatever you can find locally (up to the highest level of a pet you currently own) - you can swap out your pets anywhere at any time when not in a pet battle.  However, if you want to keep a specific pet handy - perhaps a favorite that you had from prior to the pet battle system, or perhaps a wild pet that has useful stats - you will need to keep that pet leveling as you go.  You also generally want to have approximately level appropriate pets handy for taming attempts, as it is possible to (and extremely sad when you) one-shot a blue quality pet you were hoping to capture. 

    All of that said, it's a relatively non-linear progression in that you can always choose to go backwards, and that is a good thing.