(EDIT:) Melf_Himself of course has a wonderful post, which seems to be a response to Syncaines posting on if levels are an effective game mechanic.
(EDIT: Looks like we are not alone discussing this issue...MMOMENT of ZEN)
Syncaine goes on to argue that MMO's should have levels, as it is what the player expects. He argues in his comments how Guild Wars is NOT fun due to the small amount of levels or none if you wish...
Melf had this to say...
"However, leveling is boring once there is too much time in between levels, as there are no new shinies to play with"
This is my major concern...and I started a nice long comment there, that has turned into today's post.
What surprised me in Fable 2 (my current example of an RPG done right and is probably beyond irritating for most to read about now) is the fact that you really do not pay attention to level when it does not exist.
"Leveling" is the current bane of the MMO.
Due to the need to make each consecutive level take even longer than the last that the rewards start to diminish for the player, the player starts to burn out.
The need to flesh out those levels also leads to the current "sameness" of the genre as well.
Example: Most carrot/stick MMO's lose me between the levels of 40-50...meaning I just cannot go on due to boredom and lack of return on playtime.
When I started playing and could get 1-3 levels a session then it turns into a week of sessions equaling 1 level...that is a bit too much.
Guild Wars DID do this right by only having twenty levels, then the REAL meat of the game starts and allows you to progress based on your skill as a player.
Same with Fable 2. I can focus on advancing "skills" and not the levels.
As you fight you use "orbs" which after a certain amount gathered allow you to increase the power of a skill. This could be called a level for the skill per se...
As you fight you get surprised when an announcement is made that you can increase a skill...
Why is this? You realize how fun the game is (something else most MMO's today have forgotten), that you forget to even increase those powers, as it also relies on your skill with that power. Even a 2 star rating (their version of a level) skill can be as effective as a 5 star.
In so many words, if I wanted to, I would never need to level that skill, and just progress as I have been.
Also, your "orbs" (the name for their skill points system) increase based on your skill as a player. The better you use the specific attacks you already have, the more you are rewarded in that type of skill.
Use ranged more, get more ranged reward, melee attacks equals melee rewards.
I do NOT need a calculator, and charts to figure out how long it will take to get to that next level. It also puts a more "mysterious" turn into the game, and does not rely on the mechanics to calculate when I can reach that next level. (more about those mechanics in a moment...)
What it boils down to, pure and simple...I am not locked off from content due to my power being less than adequate.
Back to Guild Wars.
Each level has some basic reward, and does not inundate you with boredom in the skill dept. As well, having to be selective in your skills makes it more fun to get that new skill for you to try.
But, you were not relegated to reaching a level to get that skill either.
If you wish, you can go and capture skills or even buy them in other towns. In so many words, you were not forced to level to get the next goody.
You instead as you leveled had the capability to increase that skills power if you wished.
Also, the skills are not a ton of retreads like most MMO's. They all were unique or different in some way.
(Conan was really bad at this. I would get Stilleto I, Stilleto II, etc...snooze)
Fable 2 was the same way. Each "progression" in a skill made changes to how the skill worked. Like increasing certain ranged skills leads to getting access to bullseye and then eventually targeted shots to the head, etc...
Now, back to mechanics. This is also where the level "fails".
As has been seen in WAR. This became the overall goal.
The fun became work as the player tries their hardest to get levels.
AoC fails in levels due to the fact they decided they must be like other MMO's and add a ton.
80 levels was way too much for Conan, as it was quite fun for 40-45.
Then you were done.
Let the burnout commence.
We know we may never lose this usage of "levels" for an RPG (again a throwback to Dungeons and Dragons...unless someone has an earlier version of gaining levels while playing a role of an avatar of some sort...)
But, there needs to be some leeway of how levels are approached.
I still feel Guild Wars had the right idea. Either Insta-level or not make the gross majority of the game about the levels.
I also think some games need to make the mechanic of play time the fun part and not make it a job to level.
Anyone else have any thoughts?