People in Star Wars Galaxies today say, “I hate levels. Remember SWG when it launched? It didn’t have levels.”
No, they don’t hate levels. They just hate being told their level is too low. SWG just hid the levels from them and called them “skill boxes”. The fact that they called their levels skill boxes isn’t what they liked. They liked the fact that a newbie character could get a pistol from a friend and join a 20 person group to do what was essentially the “end-game” on the first day they played. They enjoyed the fact that they could team up with a buddy and take down a master bounty hunter with newbie characters. They never were told that “your level is too low” and they never felt that they had to level.
As much as people hate levels, they love levels too. In Lotro, there are class-traits, race traits, virtues, reputation and equipment to all work on when you’re tired of leveling. But guess what? All that stuff has levels too. You have to kill something many times for your character to get a bit stronger. It’s just packaged in such a way that it doesn’t look like leveling.
The levels are a necessary addition to any MMO. Without levels, what purpose is there in doing any activity more than once? If you want me to kill hundreds of trolls in the Misty Mountains, then I need to see my XP bar moving towards the next level, or my deed bar moving up to the next virtue, or silver adding up to the next gold, or my legendary weapon bar moving up to it’s next level, or my reputation bar moving uptowards kindred.