Friday, February 23, 2007

Our Vertical Obsession

Sifo put up a very interesting blog post that got me a thinkin...and no, I didn't hurt myself this time. It wasn't the main subject that caught my attention, although I may address his main argument in a post later on. What caught my attention was when he said this:

In MMOs the player level progression is always upward. When you reach that level ceiling then Devs really need to focus on the content. Leveling is usually enough to keep people satisfied but when they reach the max level it is all about the content (ie quests).

The bold text is my emphasis, not his. In MMOs, the player level progression is always upward.....our vertical obsession is laid out before us with these few simple words. It's very true with most MMOs that are offered at this time. The main way in which we grow our character is always upwards in level. Most MMOs have two sets of progression...a crafting progression and an adventuring progression. In these two fields you have the opportunity to increase your level, and with each level you unlock new content or recipes....it's the standard MMO formula. With Vanguard hitting the scene, it introduces a new way to level your character: Diplomacy. OK....not too clear why I need to level this skill up just yet, but I'm sure it'll be made clearer to me later on.Why do we need to concentrate on leveling UP? Why are we always thinking so vertically? Isn't there a way we can get some horizontal thinking going here.

What is horizontal character growth in an MMO? It's when you fill out your character within a level. Think of your character as a tree. Each branch is a level...each branch and leaf off of that branch is an attribute of your character which needs to be filled out within that level. Most MMOs do have this: WoW being at one end of the spectrum and Vanguard being at the other. WoW has very little in the way of horizontal growth. Sure you have your Sword, Dagger, Wand skills...but not much else beyond basic weapon and/or tool use. Vanguard has almost too many things that your character is working on at any given time...some may say too many. Vanguard has Combat Awareness, Sword kills, Acute Pastry Detection and hundreds of others that I'm sure I'm missing.

Sure, going "Ding!" is very nice in an MMO, and lets face it, it's the main way we all measure our e-penis, however; its also part of a big problem we are facing when it comes to these games fulfilling our expectations. Now, I'm not saying that Vanguard is the next big thing in MMOs,(for the record, my money is on LoTR and Warhammer), but when it comes to character progression and growth I think they've got it right. Sure, I have no idea of what half of what those attributes are or why they matter...but I always get the sense that my character is progressing in something. Players seem to just care about levels and I think we're our own worse enemy on this one. When we give the focus to levels, well, thats what a developer will give us...no depth, just height. Sure, we hit the level cap...what then? Exactly....what then? I don't know about you, but at level cap, my character better be progressing in something (besides grinding for new gear..thank you very much), or it's "bye-bye" to the subscription and onto something new.

I don't know...it's something to think about. We all want that new MMO to stick with us in as many ways as possible, and in this post-WoW MMO world, character progression seems to be stagnant. I'm hoping that developers and players look at this aspect of the game in more detail as MMOs evolve into that elusive and non-existent "third-generation".

D out.

3 comments:

Stargrace said...

It took me a while to learn what diplomacy was for, besides brainlessly talking to npc in order to 'beat' them. A few things I've been told.

1. It's not complete yet. Once they implement it you'll reach a skill of 300 and then be able to pick a diplomacy class and then through that some how make good coin off of it.

2. You'll need people with diplomacy skills to unlock certain areas (such as raid areas) so those diplomats in your guild are going to become very important in the future.

I realize that what diplomacy was for is not the topic of your post, but it was the vertical climb that Vanguard seems to have nailed with it's multiple spheres, and I agree. Until you complete each one of those spheres, that jaunt to the ceiling is not quite so fast, and perhaps it'll last until the next expansion hits to appease the masses.

Unfortunately, it also has to be something a majority of people will want to do. Crafting can be fairly one sided, with people choosing one or the other and then a small portion choosing to work on both. Diplomacy at least gives a 3rd option of 'leveling' as you progress your character.

Geregor Bedstone said...

Ok, for everyone that want more information about diplomacy, try the site http://www.vgtact.com/

Diplomacy is not completelly implemented, there is only the basic system: the newbie diplomacy quests and the civic diplomacy. Civic diplomacy have a few quests, but the player is free to try ALL the NPCs inside a city or outpost, no directions given. Civic diplomacy can make some buffs appear at a place (cities and outposts)and can change the number of specific NPCs (more guards, less guards, the people is happy with the king, the people is unhappy with the king...)

They will implement to diplomacy next months:
1- the classes after skill 300 (I am not sure how many players are skill 300 now, but I guess that they aren't more than 50...);
2- the merchant system (get money, know the world, trip to all cities at Telon, I advice to buy a fast horse and a ship...);
3- the writs and embassies (partially implemented, some cities have it, you can be an ambassador to other race or a royal officer that deal with the military questions - or any other important city's question - inside your city);
4- open dungeons and quests (implemented? not implemented? no idea, high level diplomacy, no one get there yet to say the story);
5- player city administration (remember the politic class at SWG?).

The more important feature at diplomacy is that is a sphere that really can change the game world. But you don't see a lot of that at low skills.

Geregor Bedstone
dwarf
cleric 13 / armorsmith 21

darrenl said...

Awesome information guys...thanks for that. Glad that some people are on the ball on where to find this stuff.