I think it all started a couple of weeks back with Tom Chick explaining why MMO’s are Broken which was basically a re-hash of every “Why this game suxors” post on every MMO forum out there. The next day Trembling Hand jumped on the bandwagon. Scott Jennings over on Broken Toys tried to explain to both of them that first, MMO <> WoW, and secondly, while most MMO’s are fantasy based, they’re not developed in Fantasy Land.
As I said earlier, all of this is stuff that those of us that have been playing these games awhile have heard thousands of times and Scott pretty much nailed the response that we’ve all hashed out over the years. However, yesterday a friend of mine, Pentane, linked this Scientific American article on the Expert Mind. I highly recommend it for all you armchair game designers – even you real world designers will find it interesting but I’m guessing quite a few of you have already read it or some of the books that have been written from those studies. Also yesterday, Psychochild, posted the first in a series of articles on How to Replace Levels.
These two articles combined got me thinking about the whole levels in MMO’s debate again but in a slightly different way and I came up with a kind of challenge – design a multiplayer that doesn’t have levels of some sort.
The trick here is to think of a “level” as a game mechanic that meets the criteria in Psychochild’s post. In other words anything that is used to mark Achievement, provide others Information or help with Pacing through your game world is considered a level. So far I’ve only come up with one way that it can be done and while I think the game might have some interest it would be a decidedly niche game and I wouldn’t want to propose it in today’s market.