Buy Abilities Once

Just so we have a single post to refer to this single point:

A modern MMO has skills that scale with level. You acquire the skill once, and its numbers increase with you. If your game has something like Fire Bolt I-VII or Lesser/Moderate/Greater Sudden Strike, it better have come out before 2005.

See City of Heroes (note: 2004) or The Lord of the Rings Online™ for how to do this properly. See Asheron’s Call or World of Warcraft for how to be old school. See Dungeon Runners for an attempt to cut the difference.

Having single skills that scale with level allows you to do reduce some of the harm caused by having levels. See sidekick, mentor, and exemplar systems across various games. Having many levels of skills hides the fact that players are not getting anything new this level while creating hell levels and erratic power curves.

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Buy Abilities Once”

  1. /agreed

    I’d love to see this taken to its logical conclusion and have MMOs stop inserting needless levels.

    Each level should give one ability, possibly also give a spec point. Once you’ve learned all of your abilities, you know how to play your class right? WTF is up with going through numerous levels with no main abilities to train?!?

  2. I actually disagree with this. I’ve been happy when I get to purchase new ranks of particular spells in WoW, I wouldn’t really notice if it just scaled as I leveled. Then again the main issue is how boring leveling in an MMO can be. I’m going thru LOTRO the first time currently and 20-30 hasn’t been very exciting so far…

  3. If you’re not happy with the LoTRO model (I actually am), you’ll hate the later levels as the only things you’ll get will be innate skills such as dodging better and the like…

    Speaking solely from a developer point of view (I put on my very dusty wizard robe and hat…), not having to come up with a new name for Fireball 2.0 – see Everquest 1 for an almost entertaining plethora of bizarre names – really makes life a lot easier.

  4. Totally agree.

    I kind of think of a game in terms of its “effective levels”. ie after a level-up I stop and say – do I have a new shiny to play with? Does my character feel any different? If not, sorry bub, that wasn’t a real level, your game just earned grind factor +1.

  5. I dunno, as a player I kind of like the way WoW does it. It feels more fun to me that each level I tend to get something different — I’d much rather have a big discrete jump in the damage my lightning bolt does every six levels than 1/6 the jump every level without me doing anything. It creates more milestones, and milestones are satisfying.

    LotRO’s skills were consistently underwhelming. I level from 5 to 6, I want a new shiny thing to do; something that changes the way I play — not some sort of passive that adds 1% to some chance I probably should care about but don’t. I know in the back of my mind that it scales, and forty levels from now will serve to distinguish me from other classes, but like I said, I just don’t care. It’s 1%. In my head, 1% is small, no matter how large it is at the logical conclusion of the multiplication problem.

    Warhammer gives me the same feeling. I look through the skill list at my trainer, and I see my level 40 skill, and I see that it does maybe 120% of the damage of my level 1 skill. Again, I understand that it’s because it’s showing me how the level 40 skill would work if I had it now, but it just makes it seem weak. It doesn’t feel like it’ll be any more fun to kick monsters’ asses with that spell.

    Plus, if you’re not worried about deprecating old skills, you can add a lot more flavor and variety to the skills you hand out. Who cares if it’s just a reskinned fireball, it’s GREEN! That RULES!

    These are all based on my impressions as a casual player rather than hardcore math, which I understand is not the approach that everybody takes. Even from a “does this make optimal gameplay more or less interesting” perspective, though, I feel like getting a boost to one of your attack skills every few levels means that a given ability isn’t ALWAYS the right thing to do against a given type of monster. You have to reevaluate for mana efficiency vs. damage, or whatever, in a way that constantly scaling abilities would never prompt you to do. Sure, maybe there’s only one right answer at any given level, but at least the answer is different from level to level.

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