Levelling: a psychological urge?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:44 pm    Post subject: Levelling: a psychological urge? Reply with quote

I was randomly reading through mud blogs today, and came across this comment from a player:

"As long as there is a level max, people will do their dangest to reach it as quickly as possible. City of Heroes has a level cap of 50, and not much to do once you get to it. The story and the joy of the game is in the travel up to level 50. Still, a good 50% of the player base there tries to power level as fast as humanly possible, and many time through bugs and exploits.

It doesn't matter that the meat of the game are the story missions done at every level, from 1-50. It's something psychological, to have the highest level character possible.

I think he actually makes a very good point. I occasionally hear people claim things like "If people are botting/grinding up to the top level, it's because the game is boring", but that view never sat very comfortably with me - particularly when the players will continue to bot/grind through the interesting content even though there's nothing fun to do at the end of it.

I've heard players complain about muds that leave all the exciting stuff to the end game. But if most people are going to ignore everything that comes before it anyway, maybe those muds have got the right idea after all.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We recently restarted SlothMUD after a 13 year run with one solid player base(out of almost 20). We are a multi-class mud with 8 options and an avatar class. Each class has 40 levels. We allowed each player to choose 4 classes and then they got access to the avatar class when they had reached level 40 in their chosen 4 for a total of 200 levels. When III started, it probably took the power levelers about two + years to max out their levels. From there, we had smaller things to do such as buy skills, stats, etc but for the most part, the game for that character was all but done. By the end of III, the bloat and power increases over the 13 year run had moved this up to about 4-6 months for a power player to reach max levels.

One of the many changes we made for the restart was to allow multi-classing in all 8 classes with an emphasis on things such as prime skills and abilities and class ordering to give each classo a distinct feel. The feeling at the time was that more classes equals more levels, spells, and skills and also elongates the game for each character. Out plan was to open up the Avatar class after the initial 8 classes have all been leveled to 40.

It has only been about seven months since the restart but what we have found is the players(especially the older, returning players) expect to reach the "end of the game" or the Avatar class as quickly as they had at the end of III. We found ourselves making quite a few changes because the experience grind has now been increased immensely due to the additional 4 classes and 160 levels. One of the changes has been opening up the Avatar class at 4x40 for the initial 5 levels, and then every additional 40 in a class the player gets, they open up an additional 5 levels for Avatar class. They will then have to level the remaining 20 levels when they have reached 8x40.

I guess what I am getting at is, seven months ago I would of wholeheartedly agreed with the blog post that Kavir read. However, in our position, I'm just not quite sure anymore...

I am biased but our game has some incredible content. We have almost 30k rooms, over 9lk creatures and 8k objects which were all hand written and crafted into great story lines from almost twenty years of existence. We have almost one thousand hand written quests, probably 300+ of them written in MUDL, our custom ingame scripting language.

Even with all of this content and more, it seems that the leveling increases as we had them originally may of been too much for our players.

Only time will tell...
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well the argument is that many players simply want to reach the top level as fast as possible, regardless of how much content you provide for them along the way. City of Heroes has literally thousands of missions, yet (according to the quoted player) around half the players still try to powerlevel as fast as possible, often using using bugs and exploits, even though it means they miss out on the meat of the game.

Your change seems to have increased the amount of effort required to reach the top level, but I don't see how it would change the attitute of the players. You've said it's only been a few months since you restarted, yet already the players are talking about their expectations for reaching maximum level.

I think I should probably look into more ideas for end game content.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would say that improvement is a psychological urge. I took psychology for college and it was pretty interesting. There have been many historical discoveries into the human mind, each theory is different from the last. But I think wanting to be at the 'top' of the ladder or food chain, or whatever is definitely something that most people would want. The thing about video games is it becomes much easier to do than in real life. It's hard to climb that corporate ladder, or to get promoted in the military. Not many people become Vice Admiral in the Navy, or a General in the Army. Either way you look at it, there is definitely something there.

Even games that don't have levels have improvements coded in. If they don't then the players are still trying to become more powerful socially in the game. Whether that means gaining different "ranks" like Knight, Master Knight, Holy Knight. Or whatever. Every game has some sort of improvement. Without the ability to gain then a game becomes a bit boring.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was just having a read over Raph Koster's original Theory of Fun presentation (I own the book somewhere, but can't find where I left it) and noticed he makes some related observations.

To briefly summarise, he argues that the human brain tries to optimise and simplify problems into a predictable pattern, but once it's done so the activity becomes boring - a routine. A treadmill.

He goes on to suggest that competitive games have more lasting appeal because their gameplay is less predictable - each game is similar, but slightly different. He also proposes that game features in general are all just ways of offering more variety, more puzzles for the players to solve.

It's an interesting thought.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's certainly a multitude of research out there to back Koster's claims. My favorite article related to this is a little dense, but can be found here.

It's interesting, because the default solution to keeping players entertained is to throw new content at them -- more zones, new puzzles, higher level caps. At first, players may see these as part of a global pattern with many varied outcomes (zone X gives loot Y, but zone Q gives loot R and zone S gives loot T, I get new skills at EVERY level), but of course, we are pattern-finding savants and quickly recognize after the fact that each of these are their own unique pattern with a predictable outcome: Pattern 1 is X->Y, 2 is R->S, 3 is S->T, and we get bored.

If your rate of content creation outpaces player consumption, this is a great strategy because by the time people realize the global pattern is reducible to many little local patterns, there is a new global pattern to break down. Of course, it is a pipe dream to think that content creation by a development team can outpace player consumption.

Player vs. Player content is interesting, because suddenly your environment is reactive and adaptive to what you do. Outcomes are not as clear and details of each encounter are much more varied. Something that PvP content provides which most PvE content does not is the creation of feedback loops with your environment, allowing you and your environment (in this case, another player or players) to influence the behavior of each other, which can result in a very rich set of possible global patterns ala emerence.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

are you trying to convince us our yourself there buddy?

I like that theory of fun article.

predictability in gaming is a sad fate. one that every game suffers from.

I try to avoid it. but then who can avoid it totally.

only those who dont play.
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