The theory and origins of LEVEL

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Blash
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The theory and origins of LEVEL

Post by Blash » Mon Oct 15, 2007 10:38 pm

Note: This is my response to "The leveling curve."
Warning: This is a rant.

WHERE DID LEVELING COME FROM?

Let's look at LEVELING from a theoretical standpoint. Where did the term come from? From the olden days, games like Pac-man, space invaders, and super mario bros. would use level to keep track of how far one has progressed in the game. Generally this number would correspond to the number of the current map/level being completed.

I personally think a game that has leveling for skill is boring and is wrong. Why can't we do it like in the old days! Your level should be how far you have completed the game, story-wise or whatever--achievements.

BUT WHO SAID YOU EVEN NEED LEVELS? In the past, it was a way to make gameplay simplified for computer programmers to determine how opponents fared against eachother. LEVELS ARE AN ABSTRACT, ARBITRARY SIMPLIFICATION OF SKILL. THERE IS NO SOUND INHERENT LOGIC BEHIND THEM AS THEY APPLY TO CHARACTER STATS. (But maybe the player's skill, and not the avatar's.) Don't get it? Read on...

WHAT ABOUT SKILLS?

WHERE DID THE SKILL PROGRESSION CURVE COME FROM? Well, that's easy. Every time the brain/body engages in an activity, it learns--it remembers how to execute the activity with skill, better and better each time. Mental skills result in memorizing the commonly used facts, and having better reasoning abilities. Physical skills result in your body's muscle development, or agility, or dexterity. EVERY ACT HAS ITS SPECIFIC MENTAL AND PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS. The body and mind adjust to those over time through repetition/practice until the plateau effect, where the body and mind have adjusted to their maximum capacity for the activity, and no further development is either possible or required for the body to engage in the activity optimally. But this activity must continue to be engaged in or the body starts adapting itself to the activities that it is more currently engaged in, and hence the capacity for the old activities may be partially replaced or lost. Note that these activites are specific -- tied mostly to a specific body/mind action, and only partly to the career/occupation itself.

EXAMPLE A:
Physical trainers know that to develop strong muscle, you don't just lift 20 pound weights your whole life. Eventually your muscle development plateaus, so you have to move on to bigger and heavier lifting, like 50 pounds. While lifting 50 pounds, lifting 20 pounds seems easy, like lifting a paper plate compared to a ball of lead. If one goes back to lifting 20 pounds, then the body adjusts its muscle development back to 20 pounds, and your muscles readjust, and eventually you are back to where you were (after a long time), lifting only 20 pounds with ease, and not 50. This is what we call becoming "rusty" at something.

EXAMPLE B:
A typer develops dexterity, and can better control his finger movements, and even though he can't play the piano, he will fare better than someone who doesn't have the dexterity of a good typer. Both skills use finger dexterity, so both skills somewhat compliment eachother, but only partially--some skill is specific to being a piano player--memorizing the positions of notes on the piano. Some skill is specific to typing--memorizing the position of keys on the keyboard (subconciously).

This is where games come in--we could do without levels.

EXAMPLE C:
Sword-fighting is a skill that is developed through sword-use and skill-teaching and practice, or repetition. While being a great sword-fighter will give you arm strength, it doesn't give you leg strength, and it doesn't increase your accuracy with the bow for the most part, although it does allow you to carry heavier bows and use strongly tightened bows with more shooting power. That's how a game might should work.

So what does this mean? Physical skills are specific to muscles. Dexterity is specific to reflexes. Intelligence is specific to thinking.

So why not have swordmanship and bowmanship be partly related (arm strength component) and partly unrelated(long-distance aiming abilities vs. short distance aiming abilites), so that one can have some flexibility in skill if one wants to do something related with their avatar. One's avatar should be able learn any skill through practice, so that being a good player only means doing and learning about it alot instead of leveling up alot. A master bowman will be defeated by an journeyman swordsman, or an apprentice magician, but will be undefeated at the bow.

We don't NEED "level"s. We need mental and physical development levels determining the current ability of the skill, with a factoring of skill-specific ability (since the mind/body adjusts to specific skills optimally. example: memorizing 3+4 = 7 vs. being good at addition in your head in general).

My preference is that the skill is in the player and not in his character or avatar. This is achieved through strategy in gaming (mental), and through action in gaming (hand-eye coordination, physical), but boring repitition only achieves long hours of getting good at: clicking the mouse, killing things as fast as you can, learning the game, but it doesn't actually increase the player's hand-eye coordination or motor development, except as it relates to the specific tasks mentioned. But how fun is dexterously clicking the mouse? And the only thing stat systems can do is develop the players reasoning skills, but once the stat system is figured out in the player's head, then there's nothing left for the player to really DO except to sit there, watching, clicking, until the avatar progresses. Fun games make the player develop skill, and not their avatar, whether it be mental (solving puzzles, creating an optimal character, strategically planning battles) or physical (hand-eye coordination like in Super Smash Bros., space invaders) or social (as in Mario Party, or guilds), it gets the players into it and not merely the avatars.

By putting the skill into the player, any player who has good hand-eye coordination or is very intelligent will automatically be half-good at some skills, but will still enjoy the game because it will develop their skills--it will engage THEM, and not their avatars.
Last edited by Blash on Tue Oct 16, 2007 4:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Saphy » Mon Oct 15, 2007 11:22 pm

It is probably a misuse of the English vocabulary in the gaming industry. Maybe it should be called "Power Up" instead of Level. XD
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Post by oliver » Tue Oct 16, 2007 8:44 pm

If I understood the OP correctly, he wants the in-game skills (hand-eye coordination, mental skill...) to reflect the actual players' skill. I like that concept, because it could indeed remove the mind-numbing leveling (run around, attack monsters that you know you can beat, avoid stronger monsters, essentially wait for the next level).

But the problem I see with reflecting real-life skills in TMW is that it prevents the player to assume new roles. If you're in real life quite intelligent but not very good at "using your hands" (de: "zwei linke Hände" :) you will be in TMW just a reflection of that (maybe a mage who is not able to use any weapon). You won't be able to become an archer (for example) but are locked to about the same "role" as in real life. Now maybe I've pictured this too harsh, but I think essentially it's true :-)

The other problem I see is that it will be difficult to "measure" the player's strength, as long as you don't require every TMW player to have a Wiimote ...

As an afterthought to the "boring leveling": I regularly play an online egoshooter, and somehow it never gets boring (even not after one year with basically the same five maps). I suppose that's because there I play against other humans, not against computers; and this constantly creates new challenges (for hand-eye coordination as well as for strategic thinking). On the other hand, as the egoshooter has two teams, it is possible for new players to stay more behind and learn playing without being killed; in TMW this seems quite different, as seems to be difficult to find a PvP opponent which is about the same strength as the own character. Also, huge battles with ten players are more fun than one-vs-one action :-D
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Post by Blash » Tue Oct 16, 2007 9:59 pm

>>If you're in real life quite intelligent but not very good at "using your hands" (de: "zwei linke Hände") you will be in TMW just a reflection of that.

This may be true for someone who doesn't enjoy using hand-eye coordination, or playing hard games (like in the old days). But for me, if a game doesn't moderately to seriously challenge me, get EXTREMELY bored with the game. Of course, if its impossible to beat, I give up in futility.

I suppose the ideal would be to have a game whose difficulty adjusts to the players' skill, for maximum engagement, unless your opponents are other players. This could be solved, though, by filtering the players you can either combat with or see in the world, by their skill level. I dunno, though.

One could have a unique magic system also, where one can either learn spell tricks from books, or can use spells to make their own variations of spell tricks. Those who like simplicity will have a standard set of available tricks, while those who want to be strategic can experiement with spells.

>>The other problem I see is that it will be difficult to "measure" the player's strength, as long as you don't require every TMW player to have a Wiimote.

Well, obviously one doesn't have the advantages of WiiMotes for PC games, so strength development must be programmed into the avatar, but the player should still be able to engage their hand-eye coordination in realtime combat, as well as having to "figure out" tricks to do with their spells. That would be fun!

>>Also, huge battles with ten players are more fun than one-vs-one action.

That's true! That's a good idea. The mana world should somehow facilitate team play and team battles. That would make things infinitely more interesting! Also puzzle dungeons that requre good team-coordination and timing.
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Post by Saphy » Wed Oct 17, 2007 7:26 am

How about something like from the Lengend of Mana? Where there are multiple keys for the attack, and one can learn a specific combat skills by chainning certain keys while using a specific weapon. Something like "Forward Forward A B" when using lance will potentially gain the charge skill, or for bow, double shot, etc... Then, we could have a hierarchical combat skill tree where more powerful attacks require learning more basic one.

With combat skills, the game play can more more strategic. Such as the possibly to trap monsters or lure them away.
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Post by Hommer » Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:32 pm

I agree with this, away with levels. Use skills, you should develop a better skill at something depending on how long you use/do it. And the higher lvl your skill is in it, the harder it is to get bettter.
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Post by 5t3v3 » Tue Nov 06, 2007 7:08 pm

>>If you're in real life quite intelligent but not very good at "using your hands" (de: "zwei linke Hände") you will be in TMW just a reflection of that.

I guess what you want is an action game, like counterstrike or something.
Shouldn't mmorpg be massive multiplayer online roleplaying game?
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Post by Arenlor » Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:59 am

5t3v3 wrote:>>If you're in real life quite intelligent but not very good at "using your hands" (de: "zwei linke Hände") you will be in TMW just a reflection of that.

I guess what you want is an action game, like counterstrike or something.
Shouldn't mmorpg be massive multiplayer online roleplaying game?
It's an action RPG
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Post by paradoxfox93 » Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:42 am

5t3v3 wrote:>>If you're in real life quite intelligent but not very good at "using your hands" (de: "zwei linke Hände") you will be in TMW just a reflection of that.

I guess what you want is an action game, like counterstrike or something.
Shouldn't mmorpg be massive multiplayer online roleplaying game?
Point & checkmate.

He's entirely wrong about the 'origins of leveling' to begin with. Ref: D&D came out long before consoles of any kind. Back when computers were the size of a small warehouse Gary Gygax and the others at what became TSR invented the "level" system. Personally I AGREE. I HATE D&D level system. It really makes me sick :P That said TMW, RO, RS, WOW, and others are similar, but only in so much as they still use terms like "dexterity" and "charisma" and etc. to define certain aspects of a character's traits. As 5t3v3 pointed out so well it is a ROLE PLAYING game. Thus the system of "points" and "levels" is nothing more than a numerical measurement of of a charecter. In a ROLE playing (versus role PLAYING game, as i've seen most MMORPGs/MUD's..though MUD's more often had good RP sections) game typically the system is schemed to highlight the many ways a charecter may be unique and powerful in their realm of character. Yet so many options exist that it is impossible to create a 'Godlike' character (unless your GM/DM/ST lets it get out of hand). I personally am a major fan of the White Wolf system (as in: system of measurement). IDK how that would be implimented into a Video game or if it could even be done.

If it were done it would compliment my post over in the other thread. IK 5t3v3 made the point about a personal who works (key word) 6hrs aday avg would be upset to see character die (and even knowing that it would happen). One thing I never liked about D&D is that really was just numbers on a paper if you didn't have the right players. D&D was structured to make people give a **** about these numbers as if they were the point of the game. Which was cool back in the day because the numbers were meaningless with complexity of AD&D that only those intelligent enough to balance the system and the story were even playing. Then 3e comes out at the same time MMORPGs are adding graphics to the MUD's. Suddenly it's all about numbers and people have forgotten that in order to play a role you need a story. The numbers were good enough for em. It's all about PvP...where my numbers are better than yours. And I have a sprite that represents how awesome my numbers are. No real CHARACTER...just numbers. Anyway...I suppose I'm getting nostalgic for my Mage:tA..my g/f just bought me all nine 1st Ed. Tradition book for christmas (2nd edition was out of print 10 years ago when I started playing =D) I've always wondered if such a thing could be implimented into a video game. If story could be worked into the game in such a way the players were a part of it and wrote it. Thats what I always thought RPG's were supposed to be...interactive storytelling.

Anyway, that's MY rant....the other end of the spectrum as it were.

Oh and:

3e = D&D 4 dummies

Not that I ever played AD&D, it was devil remember? I had to write my own stuff till I discovered white wolf and could play on my parents ignorance till the day they flipped through my books....anyway...I digress *Nostalgic sigh*
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