Sunday, February 18, 2007

Left Behind

I haven't had a lot of time to play over the last month. I'm in a relatively hardcore guild. As a result, I'm way behind everyone else. Pretty much everyone else in the guild has gotten to 70. In fact, I think that I have the lowest level main character in the guild.

This experience has made me really understand the desire to power-level characters. I really want to play with my guild, to see new content with them. I like levelling, and I don't really want to skip content, but I do want to play with my friends.

Levels and progression are both boon and bane to this genre. The idea of slowly improving your character is a major attraction, and just the process of levelling up is fun. But when levels are out of sync, they are annoying because they are preventing you from playing with your friends.

I have a couple of real life friends on the server as well. One just started a month ago, so all of our levels are out of whack. To be honest, there's probably no real way we are all going to be able to play together until we all hit 70. When levels no longer matter.

In many ways, this is the central paradox of the MMO genre. Levels are the carrot, the reason for playing. They represent effort and achievement. But levels also prevent you from playing with your friends. This Penny Arcade comic sums up the dilemma perfectly.

I know different games handle it differently. WoW has the level caps and the slow-down in level speed, as well as rested experience. EvE Online has skills based on real-time, rather than in-game time. I believe that City of Heroes has a 'side-kick' system to temporarily boost a lower level character up. But I don't think any of these solutions truely solve the problem.

I have no idea what the perfect solution is. It may well be that there isn't one, that this is just a total paradox, and the best you can do is make a reasonable trade-off.

4 comments:

Anaea said...

That is my favorite PA comic ever. It really captures the sometimes tense process of leveling up with my husband. :) We each got so jealous of the other being a bar or two ahead!

I think Blizzard has tried to address some of the leveling disparity. 70s still need to grind Underbog etc. for their Cenarion rep to get the Heroic dungeon, so that will keep them in the loop of the 5-mans as their guildies level up.

It won't solve every problem, and it's still a far cry from being on the "exploration team" and seeing all of this new content with the group. I hope things work out for you! :)

Happypappy said...

I know exactly how you feel, I'm hit 69 yesterday and am nearly the last person to hit 70. I don't think the leveling to 70 has much to do with player skill though, its more of a time factor, I feel that when I'm actually playing I'm leveling very quickly, but I don't get much time to play, and thus I'm not level 70 yet....

Anonymous said...

My thought on leveling vs playing with friends is that you need to ask what your priorities are.

Do you derive the most enjoyment from playing with friends? Experiencing new content with them? Moving up together? Wiping together? Laughing about it later?

Or do you prefer to be 'solo'? Does seeing something first, or getting the coolest loot, or something else appeal to you more?

The problem with friends trying to play together is that you have to make a choice: do you move at a slower pace in order to experience things together? Or do you move at your pace and see things as quickly as possible? Are you capable of delaying gratification? This is something we do with other media all the time.

For example, consider seeing a movie. Most people won't go to the theater alone, or even rent a movie to watch alone. Seeing a movie is a social event. If you want to see a movie, you'll call up a friend and try to convince the friend to come with you. If the friend can't come, you'll delay, or if the friend doesn't want to come, you'll find someone else.

Video games are traditionally something you play with / move through at your own pace though. And since games like WoW allow for that, its sorely tempting to just go play a bit even though someone you normally play with can't make it.

I don't think its a failing of WoW so much as it is a failing of us as people. Players jumping ahead of their friends because they couldn't resist playing is a comment on our inability to delay instant gratification for the betterment of the whole. Its a comment on the selfishness of humanity.

Anonymous said...

The above poster nailed it.
Not only in a simple game but in Life, selfishness is something that negates the betterment of the whole in favor of personal gratification.
Maybe this embodies the capitalistic, destructive ways of our modern day society and thus, to put it in an extremely simplistic way, the root of all "evil".
WoW, as any other MMORPG, can be a mirror of life with all it's issues concerning loot, raid attendance and whatnot.
We are already a bunch of bastards in the real world, couldn't we behave honourably and be nice to each other in a game with no real consequence in Real Life?