The Rant: Leveling is a Grind

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An emerging trend in MMOs are the high level characters being handed out in TERA and EverQuest 2. The TERA character offer was a one-time event, but if they did it once then they probably will do it again. The high level character in EverQuest 2 will become purchasable in the future for those who did not take advantage of the original offer. But I am worried for the future of MMOs if the ability to buy high level characters becomes the norm.

I am gonna confess that I took advantage of both the TERA and EverQuest 2 offers, but I have my reasons. TERA kills my laptop and I plan to get into it when I can afford a new gaming rig. When that happens I will be on par with other players in the game. Having a high level character in EQ2 allows me to get into the lore of Norath in preparation of EverQuest Next. The TERA and EQ2 character offer is unique for where these games are at this time, but normally I would never purchase a high level character. Reading comments at various MMO websites, I am disturbed at how willing a majority of the MMO community is embracing these high level characters and wants to see this feature in other games. The most common reason I have seen given is, “I get to skip the level grind.”

In my opinion people who are, “bored with the slog of leveling” are not true MMO gamers. Of course I mean role-playing MMOs based on character statistics and dice rolls. These non-MMO gamers most likely have no need for lore when MMOs are all about being a part of the lore and the hero’s journey. The good news is that there are many types MMOs to play; MOBAs, FPS, RTS, racing, sports…

If you do not like leveling content then perhaps it is the particular game you are playing or maybe it is that you are not a match for MMORPGs. Having limited time to play is a poor excuse these days with so many MMOs offering XP boosts. The “I want to play with my high level friend” argument has also been addressed by MMOs that have level matching.

The inspiration for this rant came from the follow Massively article: Free for All: Why I’d love to buy high-level characters

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19 thoughts on “The Rant: Leveling is a Grind

  1. “In my opinion people who are, “bored with the slog of leveling” are not true MMO gamers.” Ouch, well, that hurt. 😀

    In an MMO, I usually enjoy the ‘leveling’ part on my first character. But to be honest, I’m not actually enjoying the leveling (I care very little for that aspect), I enjoy the exploration, learning how to play my character and the lore (if it interests me). If a game is designed well, I incidentally reach level cap when I’ve seen everything (or a bit before). After I’ve seen this, then it loses its appeal when I level more alts.

    What I truly love about MMOs is endgame. The challenge of getting a group together and get the best out of yourself, combined with the comradeship that emerges in a group when doing things together. This is what makes me log in with enthusiasm and keeps me interested in an MMO. I know this is not for everyone, in fact, this sort of gameplay is found in the more traditional MMOs (WoW, LotrO, SWTOR) and newer MMOs try to step away from it. However, this is what I like in MMOs, and if that makes a non-true MMO gamer (whatever that means), then so be it.

    I would never buy a level capped character, though, that obliterates the whole idea of a ‘game’ for me. If it is such a boring grind to level a character, I will just not play the game at all.

  2. While I wouldn’t say that there is only one true way to play an mmorpg, I completely agree with this post that the heart of the MMO should be in the experience that it offers between level 1 and Max. Endgame is inherently repetitive and ultimately boring. The thing that differentiates an MMORPG from a collection of facebook or cell phone games is the primary lore, lore that can only be understood by living it through the eyes of a developing character.

    I can see the reasons for selling high level characters at the game store, and I have no problem with it at all. In fact, I prefer that to the alternative of simply trivializing your leveling content to make it easier to churn through. WoW’s recent trend of nerfing xp requirements and marginalizing the content of its early levels is something that’s only happened in Cataclysm and Mysts, and it exists in sharp contrast to the original game and first two expansions.

    I’m right there with Ravanel, though, that group experiences are especially rewarding in MMOs. Even more satisfying for me are group challenges that occur in the context of a larger narrative. For me, recent endgame raid experiences have seemed too mechanical and devoid of that context. The adventure that exploring leveling zones provides seem to be missing on the 7th or 8th run up the same raid ladder.

    This is one of the reasons why the Heroic-4s in SWTOR are so brilliant. I love the intricate dance of balanced assignments that work so well in instances, and the heroics are like multiple mini instances in every zone. And they are tied into what’s happening in the surrounding area.

    • I really enjoy group experiences as well and I waited so long to be able to have a working looking-for- group tool in Guild Wars 2. Unfortunately it has been a let down and although I looked forward to running dungeons and earning armor skins as my endgame, I am spending more time in other games.

  3. I have to agree with your thoughts to an extent, all mmo levelling is a grind at certain stages although the focus and type of grind changes between them.

    I was going to do the Tera event and upgrade a sorcerer to cap just because it looks like a fun alt class. I’ve done all that levelling before and even though the have improved the process drammatically I still wouldn’t want to go through most of it. hmmmm, if only there was a pack of scrolls that give 5 or 10 levels, that way i could skip the process but enjoy the dungeons along the way.

  4. I don’t think that even the developers get the final say over what is the”right or wrong way” to play a game. Sure, MMOs are usually designed around a group dynamic and levelling, but if a paying customer wants to bypass that to get to endgame early, for whatever reason, then that is their prerogative .

    If the game can accommodate that and the developers are happy to embrace such a mechanic as selling a level cap alt, then so be it. Unless you are a martyr to PUGs then a player who has bought a level cap alt is highly unlikely to impact upon your game experience.

    I am by nature not an altoholic and in LOTRO have a level cap Lore-master that has done a lot of the game content. Although I enjoyed that levelling experience, a great deal of that enjoyment was contextual. I have often been tempted to roll a Hunter and did so recently. I deleted it at level 49 because the current levelling experience was uninspiring. Even with boosts, getting to level 85 would have been a chore for me.

    If I could buy a level 85 alt in LOTRO at present, I would happily do so. However, I would not recommend such a purchase to everyone. Perhaps if more games did what Guild Wars 2 does, with players been down scaled to whatever region they are in, then this issue would effectively be negated. This mechanic makes grouping with lower levels players more beneficial and means that you never out level a region.

    I appreciate that the phrase “In my opinion people who are, “bored with the slog of leveling” are not true MMO gamers.” was a personal opinion and designed to be a debating point, so I won’t in anyway try to paint you as a rabid gaming fundamentalist 🙂 but I do feel that such statements can be problematic. There is no universal definition of the true gamer, nor is there a standard set of rules as to what is the correct way to play an MMO. As paying customers are we not free to gain our pleasure in whatever way we wish, as long as we don’t break the TOS or do so at another players expense?

    • I agree that there is not a specific way to play a game and I am the last person to tell someone they are, “doing it all wrong.”

      For veteran players such as yourself in an older MMO it seems almost ridiculous not to offer high level characters as alts to experience the game from a different perspective as a different race/class. I am just not sure it is a good option for newer players.

      Good food for thought, thank you.

    • I challenge the idea that selling max level characters in a leveling game is a good idea at all, for any reason.

      The leveling mechanic is there for a reason. Off the top of my head, leveling is at least a way to ground the player within the virtual world (teach them all the places, peoples, and lore) while teaching them to play. I’m saying selling max level characters to brand new players is …missing the point, defeating it’s own purpose (unless that purpose is to increase purchases for the game and the feature, thus making it a money-making mechanic, not a game mechanic). Selling them to veterans who already have max level characters? I think that’s legit.

      Do you all think that selling max level characters in MMOs with leveling is a good idea?

  5. I’ve always really enjoyed leveling content, because it helps you sink into the world and also allows you to learn new abilities and grasp mechanics at a steady pace. It’s the endgame that gets tedious for me, hah.

  6. I really think that ALL MMO’s should equal HAVE TO LEVEL!

    I suppose it would be possible to create an MMO with no levelling, no grind…just skill and in game choices.

    I always think that it is of course the choice of the player and as long as it doesn’t break the game balance can see nothing wrong with it!

    What I love with LOTRO is the loud group of players always complaining of levelling too fast…add in the active RP’ers and you have a real go slow MMO!

    If ‘they’ could introduce new players to the game by having an instant end game access, great, they just have to hope those players would then be inspired at some point to re-roll and explore the earlier levels or just go crazy for RAID/PVP…as long as it is positive for the game (that also includes horror of horrors generating revenue for the company that runs the game!)

  7. Interesting discussion. While I disagree about the “No True MMO gamer” statement, I also hate the “Game doesn’t start till endgame” sentiment. I just used level scrolls to get a couple alts up to 20 in GW2. I see no problem with the high-level characters being offered by TERA and EQ2. And like Arcadius, I prefer it to nerfing the leveling game, for folks that want to bypass it. But I’ve got to wonder what what’s wrong with TERA’s leveling game if only a year and half out they feel the need to offer a chance to skip it.

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