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History of Power Levels (Criticism)

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Tuesday, July 24, 2018, 10:27 (329 days ago) @ CruelLEGACEY
edited by Cody Miller, Tuesday, July 24, 2018, 10:39

I feel like so many developers are ignorant as to the history of and reason behind 'level' in the first place.

It's a holdover from tabletop games. There level was meant as an abstraction to show how your character grows in power and experience since, and this is the key point, you the player aren't really performing the actions. Fire a bow in D&D, and you yourself don't pull out a bow and try to hit a target. You roll a d20.

Because you aren't actually doing the actions your character is partaking in, there is no way for you yourself to get better at them. Thus, the leveling system was meant to simulate that.

But in video games, you are directly controlling the action. If you shoot a bow in Forsaken, you are actually aiming and shooting. Thus, you yourself can actually get better at these skills. Some games require a lot of such skills from the player, others not so much.

So why do games have levels at all then, if their reason for being is not applicable? It was a fundamental misunderstanding from the beginning. Computers are bad at the DM aspect of RPGs, since no AI can follow and craft a story like a human. But they are great at crunching numbers. Thus, because programming a game that responded to your choice the way a human would was (and still is) impossible, they wrongly focused on the numbers aspect.

The second reason, is that such RPG games had very simple systems, so without a power level they'd have been mastered in minutes. Look at the battle systems of your favorite RPGs, and you'd see there is not a lot of skill or decision making required. The 'hard' part is hitting the required level. Attack, heal. Attack, heal. That sort of thing. It's why every JRPG is terrible and only to be played for story.

So in a genre like FPS in which player skill matters a lot, levels are simply not required since there are means for players to increase their own skill in actuality. Remember, levels were designed to simulate this in games where this was impossible.

Now, there is a place for a set amount of exp or skill points that a player has to intelligently assign their character (Deus Ex), which again goes back to the idea of abstraction. The player cannot get better at jumping or swimming or lock picking within the systems of the game, so a leveling system is appropriate for those actions.

It's kind of maddening that professionals do not understand this about leveling systems.


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