Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Level Up In Multi-player Is Bad-Wrong, Says Me

The fundamental problem of leveling up, is that you have to level up.

I quote this from the article 'Unlocks' and the Gamification of Gaming:
"EA had designed a game with a serious problem: new users, already at a disadvantage against their more experienced peers, had the deck further stacked against them through the use of unlocks. EA’s marketing for the Ultimate Unlock Pack explicitly acknowledge the problem they had created..."
The problem is new-coming players have to level-up to have a chance against long-time combatants in a multi-player setting. Did we ever stop to think if "level-up", which is perfectly appropriate in a single-player setting, makes sense in multi-player?

It's no surprise to me I found in Guild Wars 2, that a quick PVP match has everyone temporarily pumped to level 80 (for the duration of the PVP), to have it an equal playing field.

Why do we have Level-Up again?

And don't tell me it's because that's always how it's been.

There are several reasons, but for pragmatic reasons, level-up is there so you are not bombarded with so many attack options at the start that you don't know how to use them all.

Level-up is so you can work your way into learning new powers bit by bit since in a level-up system, you unlock powers a few at a time as you level-up. It forces you to concentrate on some new ability at the moment, sort of like a flavor-of-the-month power.

So that contradicts a bit with having everyone suddenly pumped to full power when in PVP. Imagine you are a level 1 player, enter PVP and so you're now level 80. You now have access to all these attacks, which do you choose? How are you supposed to know which to choose?

Three things come to mind:

  1. Force it: Learn by trial-and-error
  2. Get help: Have a friend teach you, or read up crash-course tutorials
  3. Learn it the way the game meant you to: Stop the PVP, and go through the single-player aspect and level-up to 80

I think having these workarounds is far better than having an unfair playing field, especially if we talk about tournaments.

In contrast, other highly competitive games always have everyone in an equal playing field.

Street Fighter characters all have access to all their attacks at the start, in multi-player Starcraft, everyone starts out not having anything researched, and you all start with an equal number of units.

It's no coincidence these two games have a highly engaged competitive community. It's also no coincidence the three things I mentioned above also work to some extent for Starcraft and Street Fighter.