Is leveling antiquated? Or am I just getting old?

Of all the gaming genres I’ve dabbled in, there’s always been a special place in my heart for the classic MMORPG nerd. I’ve certainly dedicated far too much time to them. One thing I have noticed, though, is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to deal with the typical process of becoming top-tier which 9.9/10 times means hitting some sort of max level first. But while this is a standard, I have found it to be one I’m growing tired of quickly.

I question if the idea of leveling is becoming old or if it’s just me.

I’ve always hated leveling, from day one. I’ve only ever maxed out characters in two MMOs, despite having played many; Guild Wars and WoW. It usually took me months to get it done for each character. The common denominator is that I did so during my early years of college or during summer / winter breaks when I had a lot of time.

The carrot on the stick is so shiny…!

Since then, I’ve grown up a bit. Yeah, yeah, I’ve become that guy with the 9-5 job, bills to pay, rent to take care of, etc. I find that if I’m not already tired from my fan-dangled commute, I’d rather spend my precious few hours / free days of waking life doing something else. Writing, coding, drawing, reading, seeing the outside world (the sun!? what?!), or maybe just sleeping. Lets face it – we all end up spending too much time gaming anyway.

It isn’t a bad thing or a knock to those who do the whole 9-5, raising septuplets spiel on top of hardcore gaming at all. I just think my priorities have shifted of late and I’m hitting that “mmo-burnout” that lots of people are talking about.

While my own factors may play a huge role in this changing mentality, I can’t help but wonder how other people feel. One big problem is that every MMO feels the same these days, and with more and more coming out to try and vie for a top-spot, you have to wonder how many times are gamers going to be willing to do the same grind over and over again before they really just stop. Maybe that’s why so many new MMOs are failing. It’s not necessarily that they are bad or boring, but it’s like starting over from scratch with each new game. At some point, one just gets weary of it.

Gamers want an alternative to WoW. They’ve been screaming for one for years now. The problem is every MMO seems to try the emulate the core aspects of  WoW that have been absurdly successful and that drives gamers nuts. We can’t deny that  it’s been a standardizing title for years. And yet on the same token, anything truly novel and unique from WoW’s model has to be so far outside the comfort zone of said gamers that they find the transition difficult and give up. It’s like the same demographic of people complaining about quality TV being on the decline, but then go and torrent their favorite shows  while indulging in horrid reality TV. And they wonder why gems like Firefly get the boot while yet another Housewives spinoff gets the green light.

Grand Theft Pinto
Just five more levels and I can get a REAL mount…

When I game, I want content, not grind. I don’t have time to sit through hours of kill-ten-rats anymore. If I had to start over in WoW or GW, I’d probably pass. I’ve tried Rift and Aion, haven’t gotten past level 23 or 12 in either, respectively. And it’s difficult to talk about the subject with other gamers because most often it’s the trollish “leveling isn’t hard, you’re just bad.”

Well, leveling isn’t hard, but if it’s boring and grindy, what’s the point? You learn your class while leveling, sure, but I find it hard to believe that there’s no other way to go about the learning process.

I’ve vowed not to play any new MMO until GW2 comes out. Knowing that a large 1-80 grind is in store for me when it does, I decided that it’d be best not to force myself to avoid another burn-out before it releases.

What do you guys think? Is the concept of leveling antiquated? Is there any way to make an alternative system or to make the leveling experience better?

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree with you on this one Izzie. I’ve hit sort of the same burnout in my MMO gaming at the moment. Even though I’ve stopped playing as much for school, work, and the like, I find that I’d much rather play games like Team Fortress, Minecraft, or League of Legends instead of Guild Wars, RIFT, Aion, etc.

    The only explanation I can offer to myself is pretty much what you stated: “every MMO feels the same these days”, which means that MMO players are paying money and spending time on rehashed and rebranded content.

    One parting point: With all of the information on content about Guild Wars 2 that has been released, do you think that leveling will be at all important other than to serve as an “achievement”? They’ve already said that ANYONE of ANY level can have fun playing in any zone inside of the game. I do not think that the focus of leveling in Guild Wars 2 will be on the destination, but rather the journey. Just my $0.02 though 🙂

    Nice blog post (digging the background, too btw), keep ’em coming!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks a ton, Ken!
      I’m with you on that. The games I play now are ones where I can pretty much hop right into the action. Even with MineCraft, there’s a grind, but it’s the kind that you see instant results with so it makes it a little easier to deal with.

      As far as GW2, it remains to be seen. While I do think the journey will matter more than the destination, as long as there are level requirements for certain content (dungeons, zones, armor) the inherit need to power-level to max will always be there. The only thing that will change that will be if close to nothing requires the actual level and it becomes symbolic.

      But when that happens, it also becomes obsolete so it’s a very difficult balance to strike. To that end, I don’t blame A-net or any other development company for the issue of leveling. It’s the type of thing that will take a HUGE overhaul to accomplish.

  • The idea behind leveling is a rather old one. Its a means of gauging yourself and your content, and allowing for spurts of additional abilities and progressively better skills that are intended to allow you to “conquer” the environment in game.

    The thing is, that “level” went from a means of progression, to a means of holding back content and forcing you to do the grind so that big daddy can pull more money from you. Over time, the big daddy got so rich that any problem they had they were easily able to come up with a way to string you around some of their pitfalls, until his game got so entranced in time consuming activities, that one would find themselves simply paying money in the game just to keep up with all their side skills and grinds, but not progressing through the content, which more times than not didn’t make sense.

    Recently though I’ve been finding the tabletop to be more to my liking, and in such games I play with gaming systems that allow for a steady progression, that revolves around progression of the story and not so much the grind, for example you won’t level from pouring water down an ant hill or “mutilating the corpses” as it were. It just comes down to good old fun and having some fun rewards through the adventure.

    Some friends of mine are experimenting with how to introduce some RPG content into Vanilla Minecraft Multiplayer, and we’ve already come up with core classes and general idea of professions that we can all play, and I’m learning what kind of content to include in the map to make it more fun for everyone, and to provide for an entertaining experience.

    Even in this case, there isn’t leveling though, and instead has to do with pooling together resources to be able to build larger structures, and potentially allow for a more aesthetically pleasing world, and provide for tangible rewards that can be both seen and felt through gameplay.

    In the end though I have to agree, life tends to catch up to you, and unless the game allows for a decent means of progressing through content without the grind (And preferably not forcing the grind on you to get to the fun content of the game) I don’t see myself taking too much part in leveling games.

    Great post and thanks for sharing!
    – Entropicurity

  • I think leveling is not antiquated, I think the way they execute is antiquated.

    What was the point in Vanilla, BC and WOTLK? Getting to 80 to get to the good stuff. And even then you had to farm reputation, badges and rince and repeat formulas to get prepared to the better stuff. It’s fun at the first time but not a second time. So if you ever want to experiment with other classes, it can take up to a year to try.

    But I’ll go and grab Cataclysm as one of the prime examples. If honestly I would have got into WoW when Cata was released (Or at least The Shattering), I would’ve made at least 10 characters up to level 60 because of all the content their leveling offered. It was fun. It was fresh. It had a purpose and it made you feel involved.

    It’s all about execution. Not make you work to get to the fun stuff, but that getting there is just as fun.

    Guild Wars 2 seems to disregard levels and will let you de-level to participate in dungeons and events. So it seems everyone will be able to play with each other no matter what level you got!

    ArenaNet is really my last chance before i leave the MMO thing for a while, because like you, one is so involved with one’s life, that wasting it on a lethargic leveling feels like a waste of time.

    • Anonymous

      Cataclysm WAS a step in the right direction, I’ll give you that. The fact that they only added five levels instead of ten kind of forced them to re-think the level-cap journey. They made it worth while. Although I didn’t get very far on any alts, I know that going from 80 to 85 really was much more enjoyable than i recall 70-80 or 60-70 being.

      that said, once you hit cap it’s once again a huge grind and I just did not have the patience to deal with the gear / honor / badge grind again. WoW is getting repetitive and dull.

      GW survives somewhat because it’s much more story-driven. There’s not much about the new content (like war in kryta) that’s particularly NEW, but the lore is what keeps us going. That, and they have been putting real effort and emphasis to improving the game in preparation for GW2.

      I agree, though, GW2 will likely be my last foray into MMORPGs, and that’s mostly because of the community and dev team being something that I love and keeps me coming.

  • Heya Izzie,

    basically, all the things you have summed up are very reconisable. I find that I agree on most things in this article above here of you, so I will keep things short and simple for once ^^

    Truth be told, I have had the same experience lately as well. Lately, in this context meaning, the last couple of years. Frankly, I never gave it much tought and kept focussing on other games like mentioned by other gamers here; Minecraft and such ..

    The way I see this, is actually very simple. We are getting older. Most of us people like to think we do not mature. That we will not mature. (since we are still gamers and all that) But in fact we do, one of the most prominent ways of telling, is by our choices, and although we still game, it is in fact, more serious. Hence your opinion on Wow and other related games. I myself, find that I too have fallen to this theory, since I have not been online since a long time in GW (to name one) just for the fact that it is not that entertaining enough anymore. (maxing all yer characters does that)

    So the summen up my opinion, we are just getting older. ^^


    • Anonymous

      Haha, yes, we are getting older. And perhaps our tastes in video games change with time, as with many other things.

      It’s tough because gaming has become such a big part of some of our lives and the realization that we may be growing out of it, or certain aspects of it, is hard to grasp at times. I pit it in the quarter-century life crisis 🙂 Thanks, chill <3