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(Bonus!) Dev Discussion - Level Progression

VaknarVaknar Moderator, Member, Staff
edited October 2021 in General Discussion

Glorious Ashes community - it's time for another Dev Discussion! Dev Discussion topics are kind of like a "reverse Q&A" - rather than you asking us questions about Ashes of Creation, we want to ask YOU what your thoughts are.

Our design team has compiled a list of burning questions we'd love to get your feedback on regarding gameplay, your past MMO experiences, and more. Join in on the Dev Discussion and share what makes gaming special to you!

This bonus Dev Discussion comes directly from our Design team based on feedback you all shared during our recent playtest! Thank you again for all the wonderful feedback, suggestions, comments, and questions that arose from the Alpha One test period :)

Bonus Dev Discussion - Level Progression
Do you like to see a larger variance in progression speed between different leveling activities (ex. questing, grinding mobs), or do you prefer a more homogenized progression across different leveling activities? How do you feel about progression speed generally?

Keep an eye out for our next Dev Discussion topic regarding character inspection!

UPDATE: Greetings friends - thank you all again for taking the time to join in on this bonus Dev Discussion! After putting together a recap for our team, check out some of the top notes you shared with us below:

  • The majority of players would like to see a balanced, or perhaps homogenized leveling experience in which there isn’t a ‘best’ way or a way that can be exploited.
  • Quite a few players would like to level via their preference. Specifically, many players would like to efficiently level via questing, gathering, exploring, grinding, PvP, or crafting.
  • Many players are ok with the leveling experience taking a considerable amount of time - sharing the sentiment that ‘the journey comes before the destination.’
  • Some players shared their desire for questing, especially main story quests, to be impactful and meaningful with experience, while side quests encourage exploration or yield unique rewards.
  • There are some who would enjoy the main form of leveling to be grouping with players and grinding mobs or completing group-based PvE content.

While many people shared many wonderful ideas, I found this one to be equally disturbing and thought provoking:
Sargarius wrote: »
A quest should be like they were in everquest, Long and epic and rewarding.

Collecting kobold foreskins for food and water is not a quest.


  • I rather see it al homogenized (if it means balanced) in a way that the choice is made by player preferences or tastes and not because design. :)
  • AzheraeAzherae Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    The initially implied rate of progression sounded good to me (270-ish hours to max level).

    Assuming the 'standard' where 1-25 is around equal to '49-50' in terms of time, I'll enjoy that.

    I don't usually think of quests as a way to get exp, only as a way to get something that will make it easier to get exp otherwise, but based on my experience with it in games where questing is a valid way to get exp, I don't enjoy it when this method is efficient compared to facing mobs, since things get built around the concept, from the developer side, and I don't like the results of that in the open-world games I have played where this is a possibility (BDO being the biggest offender).

    I especially don't like it when players can level rapidly using 'standard' quests early on, but admittedly this doesn't affect things as much.
    Sorry, my native language is Erlang.
  • I like homogenized progression across different leveling activities ✌🏾
  • George_BlackGeorge_Black Member, Intrepid Pack
    edited September 2021
    Imo I'd like to see plsyers hitting max character lv after 6 months of 6 hours gameplay a day.

    As long as they game is filled with sieges, caravans and sea battles, as well as changing world due to the rise and fall of nodes, players will be happy to log in every day.

    Let the bulk of class abilities be unlocked by lv 30.
    Let the crafting progression have a max lv of 30 instead of 50.
    Let the players enjoy the journey of the last 20 lvs instead of reaching cap within 2 months.

    Mmos need to move away from "endgame".

    Now, open world raid bosses, and some challenging quests (requiring team effort) should give nice chunks of experience, but still, 45 days to reach cap as previously announcounts is too little (and this comes from a guy that knows he cant play 6h a day anymore).

    The main form of xp should be a group of players deciding to lv up, forming a solid group with a variety of classes/roles, and spending a few hours killing mobs in a good spot to lv up. No more easy, solo, themepark questing lv up.

    In addition, I hope to see yearly expansions thay increase the lv cap by 2 or 3 lvs every year, with 1 or 2 new class skills, perhaps new map areas, new gear tier for max lv players.
  • SaphyGamingSaphyGaming Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    It should be a mix of well written quest and a little exp. One or two quests should have unique rewards. The quests should not be too much exp because it should not go too fast with the lvln.
  • DazarocDazaroc Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I like having options. My first character will do as many quests as I can find, and I hope they're well-written and entertaining. After that, if given the option to level up gathering materials / killing mobs / exploring / predicting weather (lol) I'd like to be able to do ONLY THAT and still get to max level. By any means I think that has to go hand-on-hand with quick leveling, at all. As long as the quests are entertaining to do, I don't really care if they take 20min or 20h.
  • MybroViajeroMybroViajero Member
    edited September 2021
    It depends

    1.- Quest chain

    If these have a clear purpose that makes the player feel a clear progression then we are talking about a sequence of missions with a purpose that helped encourage the player to want to complete them.

    That would be fun and very immersive, on the other hand if they were the typical missions of go to side A to get this plant, then go to side B to give that plant to a certain person and after all that comes back so that we can give you the reward, where is the immersion in it?

    A sequence of missions must have an argument that makes you want to do the missions, otherwise it would be talking about some missions that make you want to use the automatic pilot.

    2.- Kill 1000 mobs

    If thanks to this I am going to strengthen my character, earn enough money, have many items, have the possibility of obtaining a rare item, then welcome to farming.

    If it's just killing to kill then the time you spend killing 1000 mobs is not worth the investmentXquest.

    Everything must have a clear argument/meaning so that the investment of time you make is beneficial/fun.
  • I prefer leveling via a story/quest chain with a variety of activities that have purpose to the story or npc giving the quest. A good balance of story - bulk enemy slaying - retrieval/delivery - tasks around town etc...
  • Didn't play the playtest, however, I think the main problem with progression in MMOs is its fundamentally wrong core design.
    Look at the question "Would you prefer killing X mobs or a quest chain?".
    Well, both! You can have both. And we should. Whether or not this is more complicated in the making / coding, I wouldn't know.
    Killing 20 boars is not rewarding on itself. But killing 20 boars to provide meat for the soldiers at an outpost, is a little bit better. However, if there are soldiers all around and there are boars right next to them, the reward is nullified again. It's not believable. Or when someone says "can you move these boxes?" and the boxes are right next to the NPC. The idea of an MMO to be immersive, is not having the ultimate hair graphics moving with the wind, is about the world realism and how it feels. What things (tied to lore or not) are or feel real within that universe.

    Questlines SHOULD have a little bit of grind, if it's required for something specific. But that requirement should come from a difficulty that happened before (whether it's something tied to the main story or something separate). ESO did this well. There is this lady in the early levels in a camp, she lost her son. The son went into a cave of spiders. I can't remember if the spiders were causing trouble. You get the idea.
    Another thing which I feel suits "sandbox" style mmo's that I haven't seen done yet, is the fact that quests DON'T give you experience. Although this is a bit more niche and would make progression slower, so I'd understand is this is a reach. But think about this, you accept to help somebody, you don't get experience from helping itself, but the things you do. Hunting, skinning, bringing back the thing. And perhaps this person can't really pay you, so what can they give? (if you choose to accept it). A piece of meat, or cooked meal that you can use later.
  • I think every option should be available to everyone, it would be very immersion breaking to push one option over the other in fact I think that there should be a mpre open variety of options to level up like the guy in WoW who just pick up flowers to max level
  • I have zero interest in doing task hubs and would prefer if they were simply not in the game outside of low level tutorial style quests.

    I'd choose for the game to be 100% grinding mobs to max level, preferably balanced in such a way that grinding in a full group is at least twice as efficient as grinding solo. This leads to the best grinding spots becoming resources to be fought over, which leads to dynamic social friction and PvP, and makes these spots more real and memorable.
  • Adventures guild where you can take specific special long and dynamic quests for dungeons in your adventurer level instead of finding the quests above a guy with a ?. The world should be big and free to explore without being binded to quests to deliver. Also, I wonder why no MMORPG has taken advantage of a adventures guild yet. In the adventures guild people will be chilling as main hub and looking for a party to play with. They can also get high risk high reward quests. Based on the difficulty quest they complete they will get Adventures ranks like bronze silver gold and be rewarded armor sets to reflect the ranks.

    Also: Huge towers that pop up in the world with about 20 floors each. Each floor having a endboss and a unique environment and crafting materials that reflect the floor which you can craft armor and weapons from based on the theme of the tower. Entering the towers come with great risk as they are seen as "raid difficulty" and when the entire party dies you lose half of your stuff or whatever penalty and get send back to the beginning of the tower. Every season a new tower would appear in the world for players to conquer.

    In terms of skill progression I would suggest checking out silkroad online's skills system. I think for an old MMO it was certainly done pretty well.

    (sorry if this post is not direct feedback but I hope my idea's will generate some over there :D)
  • mramazingmramazing Member, Founder, Kickstarter
    edited September 2021
    I would rather have it Event driven.
    3 ways to start event.
    1. X amount of boars killed in x timeframe to start event
    2. Stumbled upon area and event starts
    3. Quest to go to event area and complete event

    * If we are killing boars it should be hack-n'-slash style with boar bosses spawning every 100.
    * Maybe a bigger boss spawns at 500 killed.
    * The mega boss spawns at 1000 killed. The boss should be very hard.
    * It should progressively get more difficult each 100 killed.

    Maybe a Leaderboard for completion time? :smiley:
  • Personally if it’s a game I like grinding is the way to go for me. Quests are fun but if the story isn’t intriguing to me I won’t do it. Killing mobs and doing activities is the way to go for me. (Also killing players. But I don’t wanna talk about that)
  • Tearl StoneheartTearl Stoneheart Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I like the idea of BOTH!
    Let's say, for example, just a method of tacking # of kills for a certain mob and you get a title for reaching a certain number, which progresses: killer of Goblins, slayer of Goblins, etc. Perhaps there could be a little EXP bump for reaching those titles.
    But, Questing should be a core focus of an MMO. While there's a place for collection quests (20 rat skins), they should make sense and probably be meant for node development. Go->Do->Return for turn-in. But that shouldn't be the core mechanic of questing.
    What I'd LOVE to see in quests is a small story that leads you to the reward...not a reward for a turn-in. Maybe a story with a story of a monster that took something or has follow the clues and get to the (quest spawned) "boss" and get your reward from that final encounter. No need to return for the reward.
  • nonameftwnonameftw Member, Warrior of Old, Kickstarter
    I would like to point towards past titles and say that you devs should learn from the past.
    Example: SWTOR. EA spent a shitton of Money to voice act EVERY Quest. Every sidequest. Every single thing. It was definitely a cool experience and something that was never done before. It was fun once. Maybe twice. Because while it helped with the immersion the quest grind to get to max level was still massive. We are talking two weeks playing for 6-8 hours roughly.
    And even the best and coolest quests (Most of them we're still just standard quests) with full voice acting in the end break down to kill this or get me this. So leveling was still a chore to get to the cool stuff.
    The actual main story. Each class had a different one and so in theory it was possible to play the game 8 times and experience it differently.
    But barely anyone did this. Until the devs did one thing. At one point they increased the experience gain of the main quest twelve times. And people loved it! It was such a different and cool way of leveling that since then it became the default. Leveling a character now in SWTOR is ONLY story. (And the quests within obviously) Way less grind. No more unnecessary tedium.

    The lesson here is that the levelling experience should already account for a faster way of doing it after the first time.
    Make a collection of the best gems of quests that you design and make a pearl string out of it that leads to an easier way to max level once a player has already played to max level.
    Sidequests are also there to give the player and incentive to explore. Look around the corner. Use them for that! Not to artificially lengthen the grind. Playing the game should be fun. That should be the focus.
  • My only concern about level progression is tied to the power difference between players of different level.

    The greater the difference in power, the faster the lower level should be able to reduce the gap. If the difference is small, the progression can be stretched.

    It doesn't have to be a linear progression. Meaning that the level/power progression can be much faster early on and slow down once the character reached a level of power to be, if not competitive, at least still pose a certain threat to a max level character. In the right circumstances of course. The period of irrelevance and powerlessness should be short.
    Be bold. Be brave. Roll a Tulnar !
  • Gathering Experience and having a smooth leveling curve is hard... I would somehow dislike if everything does give Xp, like Crafting or Exploration. Also i dont like the Idea of Quest hunting just to level up. Quest should concenctrate on obtaining an Item / Some sort of Advancement which isnt coupled onto your characters level. So helping the fair maiden in the town for e.g. gives you a potion that makes you stronger or smth. like that.

    Actually advancing by Exp. should be done by sparring/Training/ Fighting stronger Mobs/Multiple at once. Also i feel like solo leveling is something that should be discouraged...

    Sooo... Doing Quests to get advancements or preparations for a bigger enemy and hunting these down in a group would be the most fun too actually level up. Im probably more on the side of 100000 Boar kills even though this is rather boring than having a well written quest. =)
  • mcstackersonmcstackerson Member, Phoenix Initiative, Royalty, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    I want to say homogenized. Nice to have options.

    It's hard for me to comment on progression speed because i like developing my character over time but dislike how it's required to get into content, usually because of how much you vertically scale. It would be nice if getting max wasn't necessary to unlock all activities.

  • One issue I had with alpha 1 was that it seemed grinding mobs was sort of inefficient xp wise. You could level up much more efficiently by doing quests, and it made farming mobs for xp just less worthwhile. So there shouldn't be a massive disparity in xp gain between the two major activities, because then people will prioritize doing one over the other, even if they find it less enjoyable.

    If you do emphasize on the former, than you have to make sure quests are full of lore and keep our interests. Neither should you neglect the fun in grinding. I personally think a homogenized progression is probably better since some people might prefer to just grind mobs over questing and vice versa. Let the players decide what they want to do to level up instead of forcing them to quest, or grind because one activity provides more xp.
  • I'd like to see mainly no quests and only few longer ones and meaningful ones every now and then.
    Class change quest, maybe kill a boss in open world dungeon etc. but mainly i'd like to see group based PvE to be the way to level and I don't really see quests bringing that much in to it

    I hate short quests where you just run around and talk, pet a dog or whatever. I mean we are there to adventure not to do mundane tasks and if the combat is engaging then I want to be doing that not walking and talking aroud.
  • YuyukoyayYuyukoyay Member
    edited September 2021
    Yeah I'd like it to where every method of leveling is equivalent to each other. Also so that it takes a long time to level, even at low levels. So if you wanted to level by grinding then you'd probably have to kill like 500 enemies at lvl 1. You should use grinding as a basis and make questing equivalent to the time it takes.

    I don't think questing should be more effective just because it is in other games. Some people don't want to jump straight into story elements and just want to do whatever they want for a while. The best thing I liked about Classic WoW is in design it was mostly based off of Diablo 2. Where the quests had story, but you could go out and find whatever you wanted to do to level instead. My only gripe with classic wow was that it did not initially give you experience for doing professions.

    I think ashes should give you experience for doing professions. Even if it's not character experience and only profession experience. I wouldn't mind having to level both because the time sink creates a rift between players who really want to do professions and those who don't want to do them. That way it gives players who stand out by doing professions more value because of the time they invested.

    Honestly I recommend limiting the story elements so that players can play how they want and not feel the need to go on never ending quest chains to max lvl. Just introduce the area stories and if they develop further then they get more in depth stories for the area that developed. It's a waste of time to develop the stories too far, but some kind of story is still expected to be there.

    I think Diablo 2's template was very effective in this balance. Where the game was hack and slash. There was a ton of story elements out in the world and through npc dialogue in town. A ton for every quest in the game and every npc in the game per act. So while you could only progress in the game by fighting enemies and doing quests. The game gave you nothing for listening to dialogue. Exactly as it should be because listening to the lore itself is the reward. Quests in Diablo 2 are not quite the same as mmo quests either. You didn't need to do them to progress the game except roughly 1 or 2 quests per act. They gave you huge rewards for doing them, but they were not always that easy and gave you ridiculously good rewards. Their role as side quests was very nice because it gave you the freedom to choose to not do them. Some of your choices had permanent effects on the future events in the game too. Like if you didn't rescue deckard cain and get his reward to identify equipment for free. Then later in act 2 you will still be able to use him to identify equipment, but he will charge you 100 gold per equipment for the rest of that game.

    If you tie leveling to questing like every other mmo does too heavily then it's going to have the same effect that it does to all those games. It's going to make people care less about the lore. However, if you hide the lore in plain sight through dialogue, and let people level and play the game however they want then it will always be a positive interaction when they interact with a npc. Even if the interaction is negative overall the experience will be positive.

    Overall I want the leveling to take a long time even from level 1 so each level up feels rewarding. That way you can give the player anything you want to give them per level and it will feel earned no matter what. Also to condition players properly to what leveling up really means. You will have less people quit if the difference between leveling on lvl 1 or the last level up is smaller. It should still take more time to level up on later levels, but giving players the first like 15 levels in the span of an hour is bad design. They will expect most of the levels to go that way, but there is often a huge slowdown by level 30 where most players quit. That is because they weren't properly conditioned into what leveling up means, and didn't feel rewarded for doing the content because it took too long.

    This balance between gameplay and story is often a core rule to leveling. I believe it is important for the gameplay to outweigh the story elements pretty significantly though. People are less likely to care about what npcs say if you don't let them play the game for a while first. I can't say I cared about what npcs say in most MMO's I've ever played. However, I listened to every word for every npc in Diablo 2 because it did not force it upon me. The order is important. Far more important than 90% of developers give it credit for. You would go out and kill enemies. Learn about a quest. Ask in town about the quest. Repeat forever. That is Diablo 2. Can easily be converted and applied to MMO's as well.

    The more activities you associate with leveling. The higher chance every single player will be happy. It's at least important to keep them happy while leveling. So when they are unhappy about other elements of the game they will not do things as extreme as quitting. I personally liked doing a mix of every leveling activity in most games I play. Usually in every system.

    U.S. East
  • I don't mind a relatively slow levelling experience, as that sense of progression and improvement diminishes once you're maxed and it becomes much more like an adventure game with gear.

    I dislike the concept of experience as a whole as it seems like a really arbitrary design choice. I got 300xp for telling this NPC I killed a goat. Why? Just when I tell him too, so much more learned I've become ...
    Quest rewards should be material to the world- an item, cash, faction ranking, a good price in the future from a vendor, providing things for your node.. or simply because the desperate NPC wants your help (and maybe it boosts your node rep or something).

    I like skill based levelling. e.g., Casting spells gets skill progression in that magic school. Enough skill level ups gets you to the next level. It is more logical and immersive (outside of leveless characters) than gating progression behind the game's design. Why can't I level doing what I want? If I don't take quests I lose a fair bit of Xp in contrast to others. A variety of factions offering missions of varying skill and risk/reward too peruse at any given time would be ideal to me. Ranging from simple supply groups that need materials or farmers to magic studying explorers looking for venturing cartographers/archaeologists, and to combat focused military and mercenary groups.
  • WongWong Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I prefer to have the option to do both. In many MMOs, usually my first character I will level by playing the story experience, and subsequent characters I will level by grinding mobs or doing repeatable content. Being forced to do quests on alts because the xp rate from grinding is so low kinda blows. Events are also very fun, and give a sense of community when they must be completed with a large number of people. For example the dolmens in ESO.
  • I feel like the important thing is that I feel like I'm accomplishing something or making progress towards a goal not just wasting time. If the grind starts to feel like a chore it's going to lose it's fun really fast. I totally get making it take a while, but there has to be a reasonable balance to this.
    Imo I'd like to see plsyers hitting max character lv after 6 months of 6 hours gameplay a day.
    (sorry dude, your numbers looked like the easiest to refer to)

    Most people can't play this much, unless they have no life, no family, no job, or are high schoolers with no responsibility (or I guess the streamer where playing all day is your job, because that many hours is literally a full time job) and that would severely limit the market. So if someone can manage only 3-5 hours a day for 3-5 days a week (and there are people who wouldn't even reach that) that would mean it would take them over a year and a half to reach level cap at that rate... If any one had that level of attention span... Just wow... Let alone ever creating an alt.

    For the record, by no means an I supporting the mess that is wow leveling where some people can literally get level cap in a day. Just because getting to end game is the only purpose... There has to be challenge to it.

    But all this does depend on other aspects of the game. If I'm level 35 can I meaningfully contribute to a node siege? Or would I just be laughably ROFLstomped out of the way? Will new content and dungeons that pop up be accessible to people who are newer or lower level? Or will it all be beyond reach until you finish grinding other stuff? We don't really know how dungeons, levels, or zones are going to scale yet...

    We have seen games suffer from being too difficult or too hardcore to make it an accessible game to a large enough player base to maintain sustainability. I don't think anyone wants this game or intrepid collapse just because they're not enough people playing it.

    TLDR: Blah blah blah the journey not destination, etc etc...
  • CicaedaCicaeda Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    If anything, I'd like to see quests give less experience, with a focus on providing items, equipment, and currency rewards instead.
  • George_BlackGeorge_Black Member, Intrepid Pack
    edited September 2021
    Times have changed.
    Also, level is not relevant in sieges with mega zerg guilds taking over or holding onto the castles every forthnite. You will get rollfaced if you dont go full 24/7.

    But for the duration of the journey, the people around you playing the game will always be at your lv and gear, as opposed to empty mmo worlds with not a player on sight because everyone has arrived at the endgame and parked their characters there.

    I have no illusions of owning castles because I have other priorities in life.
    But random PvP and caravans? Ye, whoever is near me will definatly lose. And in less than a year from launch I will be at lv cap, not being rollfaced at sieges. The slow journey and its encounters will still be better than my maxed out character.

    You mentioned alts. For me alts is a sign of non challenging mmos without depth. It is what it is. Character building takes time. Having many characters? I guess no time and effort is required.
  • AeriusAerius Member
    edited September 2021
    Activities with similar difficulty in organizing and accomplishing should reward similar levels of experience and overall reward. One would not want a serial flower-picker to be matching your experience when you spend that same amount of time slamming dungeon bosses with an effective group.

    While more difficult challenges should scale to provide better rewards, the simpler activities such as questing or grinding should still be viable, though perhaps taking a some more time to match the experience gain of the more hardcore content. If the divide is too drastic, people would feel compelled to engage in activities that they may not be so interested in.

    Recognize the difference in effort, but allow variance in gameplay paths. If somebody want to relax and farm some materials, they should feel like their time and effort earned them something worthwhile. Simultaneously, they should see that there are other activities available if they want to occasionally put in the time to group up and face challenges. Likewise, those who rush hardcore challenges must not feel like they could instead be picking flowers to get the same rewards, but that they can opt to pick flowers on off days where they want to relax.

    On the subject of speed, I would appreciate if Ashes retains their concept of having the levelling experience being more meaningful and long-lasting. It's better for the world to have people of all levels running about rather than everybody quickly being level 999. Observable diversity of dedication is a positive. With max level being understood as a tough milestone, levelling can have more impact, and there is the potential for more appreciation and immersion.
  • I would prefer to see a variance in progression. Leveling by questing (killing, delivery, escorts, gathering) with a connection to a small or story arch really helps the grind. Some players don't consider the storyline as that important, but as a means to end content. With nodes making different quests appear at different node levels, AOC has a unique opportunity to create a memorable leveling experience. Skyrim is a single-player game, but connecting small stories within the lore and that is why, ever riddled with bugs, Bethesda Studios released Skyrim fifteen times on ten different systems.
  • WasilahWasilah Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I would prefer if the various methods of leveling were balanced so that you level the same rate if your questing or if your grinding mobs in a small group. If questing is less effective than mob grinding then I hope at least that it has more impact on the area than just mob grinding. As of the last test most only did the quests for the end game gear until the gear drops were added to the dragons and then people just ground them and only did the jewelry ones because no one could craft them yet.
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