[MUD-Dev] What level maximum do players like best?

Damion Schubert ubiq at austin.rr.com
Sun May 22 10:08:14 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


eric at enkanica.com wrote:

> I see a distribution of level ranges that include 20 to 60, 70,
> sometimes level 100.  I remember 18 being a holy number for a long
> time, but I just assumed that it was because the demographic at
> the time was, in effect, aged 18.

I tend to look at the problem in this way, which is independent of
level vs. non-level based systems:

1) What's the difference between a 'newbie' character and a 'maxed
out' character, statistically?  2) How do you divide the difference
between the two into 'advancement shelves (i.e. levels in
traditional level systems, skill boxes in some others, etc)?  3) Are
these advancement shelves significant enough to give player a sense
of achievement when he reaches them?  4) At what pace should you
distribute these advancement shelves?  How does it differ for
hardcore vs casual gamers?

To answer your specific question about levels: Single-player RPGs
tend to gravitate towards 20 for that number, as it fits neatly into
providing enough advancement shelves to pull you through the length
of the game they provide.

Old Text MUDs used 20 largely because they were borrowing heavily
from AD&D.  It didn't take long for many Mud Wizards to discover
that this meant they weren't offering advancement shelves at a quick
enough pace, and by the time I stopped working in hobbyist text
MUDs, most had gravitated towards 50 or 60.  Everquest, Shadowbane
and WoW all used 50 or 60 when they launched, so I suspect this line
of thought extended into commercial level-based MMOs.

60 has the nice benefit of being evenly divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5 6
and 10, which allows you to, say, give a skill every 3rd level, or a
hit point increase every 5th level.

I think that 60 level games have about the right number of
achievement shelves, plus or minus 10 or 20.  It's just a matter of
feel -- 100 feels like 'too much' to me.  It either implies that the
difference between noob and uber player is too great, or that the
rewards for levelling are too small to be significant.

Still, I think you could have fewer levels if you found alternate
advancement cookies to throw in - for example, have 20 levels with
skills earned along a seperate path.

> Is there some magic maximum level that players particularly prefer
> to achieve?  Or do the majority of players simply prefer to
> achieve the maximum level?  Or is level 42 that magic number that
> most players like to achieve and then stop at?

This is really difficult to judge.  Look at our examples of
Everquest, Shadowbane and WoW.  In Everquest, group play is so
necessary that if you're a level 42 player and everyone else has
advanced past you, your ability to play is severely limited, which
pulls people along the advancement chain.  Shadowbane is a PVP game,
and the end result of all those levels is that people feel they have
to get to at least 60 to be a contributor to the PVP arena (we've
drastically increased the levelling rate to get people there
faster).  In WoW, though, it's easier to solo, and as such, there's
a lot more of people levelling at their own pace.  If WoWCensus were
up, we could see some reasonably accurate stats showing where people
get to.

--d
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