This is the first part of a series on “no progression” for Character Advancement in Role Playing Games (RPG). Often times what we see in RPGs is a vertical progression scheme whereas we see our characters transition from a base state to an advanced one.
Richard Bartle categorizes players into four distinct types (achiever, explorer, killer, socializer). Note- all four types can be intermingled to compose a player. Read Damion’s writeup for more clarification too.
If RPGs embraced “more” lateral development then we would see stronger emphasis on Bartle’s Four:
Socialization (no barriers between friends), killing (enrich PVP no more being a helpless victim to a veteran), exploration (no longer herded from point A to point B), and achievement (there will always have goals to achieve like acquiring a new costume or trophies).
Socializers – will find that they can interact with other players better due to barriers enforced by “Level” division has been knocked down. So now a newbie can converse with a veteran easier and they both can benefit from each other’s company
Achievers – should still ideally always have goals such as acquiring trophies to show off in their homes to other players or perhaps they can still have rare armor/weapons to shoot for. The difference being the rare stuff is no different from the casual items. Guild Wars does this and you still see many players striving for the rare loot for the visual quality. They could also even earn XP (experience points) and Levels even though these don’t mean anything beyond how much time they’ve invested into the game.
Killers – enjoys more competition due to Level barriers being knocked down. Casuals can defend themselves well. Hardcore killers will enjoy very satisfying fights. If they enjoy praying on ‘lambs’ well there will still be plenty of vicitims because the casual gamers will have less “player skill” then a skilled veteran. If this is a “virtual world” they can still fight to own Land. We could still have money here and item decay.
Explorers – can freely explore any area of the world and can still experiment freely with various game mechanics without restriction.
I think most of us can imagine the challenges for such an implementation. Pretty much any implementation I envision would still involve acquiring money for Land and such. Off hand what I would probably end up with is something close to Starport whereas you don’t have to grind for skills but you still face the challenge of accumulating wealth to build a massive empire.
Tobold wrote a blog on this subject here. This concept is pretty hardcore what he proposes is no vertical progression whatsoever in the game but rather you play to build houses, etc. This leads to very perplexing thoughts what I think about when I read this article is about FPS games like Unreal Tournament 3 and such whereas I play for pure FUN. I think publishers consider including treadmills whereas it takes 300+ hours to hit level cap more of a sure thing. At least that way they can guarantee subscription for 6+ months (well estimate X many gamers will stick around for that until the next expansion is ready). However, I really like Tobold’s comment on this type of system:
“In my game all items would be created by the developers, just as they are in World of Warcraft. Thus you can’t design yourself a dragon head to hang on your wall without slaying the dragon. The head becomes more than a decoration, it becomes a trophy, a status symbol, telling the story of your successes in the game.”
I’m not sure how I feel about no progression whatsoever since every game I play has some sort of progression. In real life, we all strive to accomplish goals, etc and we transition from a base state to a goal state. Anyway, I’d still be interested in seeing games play around with this concept.
Every once in a while I have seen people recommend this type of system. One designer in particular that comes to memory, proposed creating a system whereas players simply experiment with different templates. So perhaps that could also improve the exploration mechanics and if you mix this with Tobold’s ideas for acquiring trophies to give the Achiever types something to strive for that might be interesting.