It's not enough to say "Points-based systems are bad and unwieldy; let's do away with them!" To make this a useful part of the game, something has to take the place of, or at least act in substitute for points systems. It is not impossible to have a game with the same kind of progression and rewards for time investment but to do without the points, and perhaps at the same time to make the game more "actionful" than a list of shiny red, green, or yellow numbers in your chatbox.
Let us first ask, then, what points typically lead up to. Points are generally used to accumulate 1) levels and/or skill points, 2) reputation with a certain faction, 3) as a measurement of success in competitive arenas, such as PvP, 4) currency or other economic exchanges. Of these four uses for points, currency seems the least likely to change; it's a standard of just about any game out there that you have to pay for something along the way (up to and including paying real-life money for the game itself, but even these alleged "free-to-play" games manage to sneak in as many ways as they can to get the consumer to buy things. But that's a different peeve). In a heavily player-on-player competitive game, there are definitely other ways to make one's progress up the mountain of bodies than a simple (high) number: if the idea to let players spread the word themselves absolutely fails, then there are always things like badges, achievements, and sheer kick-assery to prove that you can beat another player. I personally enjoy the games where you get visible rewards for completing certain tasks in PvP; in the game Team Fortress 2, you can earn things like "dueling badges", which show off how many players you've beaten one-on-one. In Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, you could earn things like cloaks and helmets for doing well in PvP (though admittedly WAR was mostly a points-based sytem in this regard, and differed very little from the standard "more points = better gear". There were a few items you received directly as rewards for completing certain entries in the Tome of Knowledge, however. I liked those). For this section, there's really nothing standing in the way of simply giving us the items we want for services rendered without the need for a medium of points.
Reputation with certain factions gets a leeeeeettle more tricky, especially if we're talking about heavily PvP- or player-centric games like EVE Online and reportedly the World of Darkness MMO. Much like with PvP points, however, there's not really any excuse to put in points as a medium of exchange other than to make players grind for it. I've thought about this particular aspect for a long, long time, especially when it comes to games and factions that sell themselves on popular franchises like Star Wars. Many years ago, I started a loyal Imperial Stormtrooper character for Star Wars Galaxies, and it took me MONTHS to finally complete one dinky little set of generic Stormtrooper armor in the game. (You could earn it two ways: by grinding faction points for the Empire and buying pieces from an NPC, or paying out the wazoo for player-made armor that was only slightly better.) For the longest time, I kept thinking to myself: "I'm a member of the Empire in good standing. I have at least according to role-playing enrolled in the Stormtrooper Corps. I have proven myself by shooting a lot of Rebel NPC scum. Shouldn't I just be able to REQUISITION THE DAMN ARMOR?!?!" This set-up was particularly irksome when you consider that the Empire employs tens of millions of Stormtroopers to police the galaxy, and it's not like your generic Stormie armor was custom-fit Composite plate armor. It was about as good in the game as it is in real life: a layer of plastic separating you from the claws of Rancors, the blaster bolts of Rebels, and the Force pressure of Jedi. It really. Should not. Have been. That hard. To get.
The flip side of this scenario, the free-enterprise system of all-player-made goods and services, didn't turn out to be much better. The only difference is that currency tends to be a little more common than faction points - unfortunately, the prices of such items reflect this. A much better solution to both problems would be, to my way of thinking, to treat item and service acquisition like it is in real life. Currency is used for a great deal, of course, and of course sects, factions, corporations, and other sorts of organizations usually want a slightly more exclusive membership than "Free stuff for everyone!" At the same time, however, these organizations don't usually keep track of their members according to a list of ever-growing points and numbers. If you do well, you get rewarded with items and services, not +100 points and a pat on the back. Here, again, the best choice simply seems to be to cut out most of the points grinding and take us directly to the goods and services we can reasonably expect for someone of our standing. Complete a mission: get one-time access to the faction armory. Complete a really IMPORTANT mission: get access to any two items in the armory! Oooo!
Lastly for this section we come to levels and skill points. I'm sure I don't need to go into it again, but suffice to say that a level-based game is a points-based game, and both tend to be incredibly grindy. Unfortunately, there are very few other ways I've seen this kind of points accumulation change for the better, but I'll give you three ideas: these ideas are, respectively, the Worlds of Darkness, Star Wars Galaxies, and The Elder Scrolls. In the Worlds of Darkness, we still acumulate points - in fact, we take it to the next step and use our points to buy more points (dots)! However, the scale is the saving grace of the system, where we earn experience and dots in the low-to-mid single digits. Not only is this immeasurably easier on the book-keeping, it frees up a lot of the need for bigger and bigger quests leading to bigger and bigger rewards. This means that while you may earn +3 XP for completing a quest, that +3 XP is a LOT more useful for any kind of character in the World of Darkness than thousands and thousands of experience points would be in other settings. +3 XP is another Skill dot, or perhaps a Skill Specialty, whereas 3,000 XP in another setting may be only 1/100th the XP you need to raise one level.
Returning briefly to Star Wars Galaxies, it shares a very important paradigm shift with The Elder Scrolls concerning player progression: it is the idea that you should be rewarded for doing certain actions WITH those certain actions. In other words, you get better at something by doing that something, instead of doing something completely different. With most points-based systems, the points serve as a generic one-point-fits-all (even the Worlds of Darkness have this particular design flaw), but in the old, pre-"Combat Enhancements" SWG, and in The Elder Scrolls games, you get better at using a sword by swinging a sword; you expand your knowledge of Medicine by healing people. While both of these systems still use points (many thousands of experience points in SWG, and a 1-100 scale AND a level system in Skyrim), they are much, much more intuitive and rewarding ways of managing a points-based system than level or faction grinding. There is no need to grind for better gear; the gear gets functionally better as your skill with it improves. There is no need for level locks or unlocks; there's nothing stopping a level-1 anybody from picking up a massive two-handed Ebony Greatsword and start to swing it. The only points you have to worry about are the ones you automatically earn by simply doing what you do anyway: playing the game. There is no need for the artifical grind simply to earn experience - you go out and whack a few bandits, and in the process you get +1 to Heavy Armor and Blades. Wonderful! You progressed without even having to think about it! You healed your commanding officer of some nasty Crippling damage. Now not only can he fight better, you also earned enough for another box of Medicine!
And now, at last, finally, we come to the crux of the matter: how to reward and progress player-characters without the need for oodles and oodles of points. At this point, I have a confession to make: I like getting rewarded for things. I like achieving achievements. I am, in fact, an achievement whore. The premise of the following idea is that, like The Elder Scrolls
, the old Star Wars Galaxies
, and the World of Darkness
systems, we should be rewarded for doing
things. Especially doing new
things. This idea comes in three components: the skill use = skill progression of TES
; diminishing returns for repetitive actions from Dungeons and Dragons Online
, and rewards for exploration and novel experiences featured in many games, but most recently for me in DC Universe Online.
For the WODMMO, then, characters could gain experience in certain things for doing certain things - it's really weird to be able to put points in Seduction if all you've been doing for the past week is punching random NPC spawns. If you want to put points into Seduction, you should have to do something seductive, yes? Corresponding with this, doing the same thing over and over doesn't teach a character anything new, really, it just teaches them how to do one thing better. That's great for specializing, but "practice makes perfect" for only so long before a character stagnates and becomes useful for only certain, limited things. It seems better to give players full rewards for doing new things, and to reduce rewards for doing the same things, especially if those same things are incredibly easy for the character. Not only is this more in line with "real" human progression, it also livens up the game for players if they're continually led to new heights and depths, or asked to do a even more challenging task with a twist. This acts on the same premise of exercise and bodybuilding: you have to keep using heavier weights and put your body under more pressure in order for it to grow.
To finish up, then, I'm going to list a few of the ideas I had for achievements and explorations, along with some rewards that seem fitting, both to help characters progress and to do it without relying on points:
- Explore the depths of the sewers - find and defeat a big ol' Alligator (Reward: +1 to Brawl and if mortal, +1 to Stamina for holding your breath that long and Alligator Skin, which you can take to a crafting shop and trade it in for a modest currency fee for Alligator-Skin Wear such as a belt, boots, or purse)
- Open up a Tailor Shop, get it off the ground by investing money and manpower (Reward: a small, but constant income, as well as a permanent discount on all purchases AND the ability to buy custom-made items)
- Rob a player-owned store by getting through their security and emptying the cash register (Reward: a lump sum of currency, +1 dot in Security/Larceny, and the ire of another player-character if they ever found out you did it)
- Track down the bastard who dared to rob your player-owned store. Do this by entering the grimy underworld of your city and looking for singular items that may have been fenced or pawned (Reward: the name of the bastard who stole from you, as well as +2 dots in Contacts and a new Specialty in either Occult (Underworld) or Finance (Pawning and Fencing))
- Flee the wrath of the player you stole something from: do this by hiding in the sewers where all this began... until the heat goes away (Reward: An achievement for exploring the Deepest, Darkest Depths of the Sewers, as well as +1 dot in Sewer Lore and +1 dot in Occult for all the strange things you saw but can't explain)
This is just one tiny possible scenario that player-characters can enter into in a world that rewards exploration, interaction, and actually DOING things. It is managed by rewarding players for individual tasks and accomplishments that they got for simply playing the game the way they wanted to play it all along.
237 days ago
While it makes sense improving a skill related to certain activity by doing exactly that activity, this in no way means it isn't a grind. Its just a grind by another name. Because the number one job for a MMO is to make player waste time, these sorts of achievements can't be too easy to get. So in practise, if you want to put a point in for example seduction, seducing 100 people is really no different from killing 100 people. You still have a grind. I dont like it.
237 days ago
But the bigger issue is that this sort of development system easily becomes a goal in itself (like in WOW), which in my opinion is very wrong. "Your goal for playing this game is to get better at playing this game." Ugh. CCP at least has created a world where its not like that. Theres the territory, the politics, etc etc. Creating a skill development system is still secondary to making a game where playing it keeps people interested at playing.
236 days ago
That's were the "diminishing returns" bit comes in. You WON'T be rewarded for grinding, but you WILL be rewarded for finishing quests and engaging in new experiences. (Naturally, some achievements will be MUCH harder to get than others; the difference is that you have more fun getting the same kind of progression you'd have in another MMO without the need for arbitrary time-wasting. FUN time-wasting is another matter entirely. That is the singular purpose of anything intended for entertainment.) It would be a grind, indeed, if all you had to do was find 100 people to seduce. It's much less of a grind if you have to find 100 NEW people to seduce that aren't seduced in all the same way. (This should make itself apparent if you can gain points and XP off of other players, such as with my proposed Nature and Demeanor system.) ---- I proprosed for a while that players create their character at start and that was it - no progression, which means no grind of any sort, which means that you're stuck with the mistakes you made at character creation. On the plus side, that means that all players would do would be to play the game. A lot of people think that they're not making any impact or being rewarded for their play if there's no character progression, however. It's not the grind itself that really gets to me (how else do people get better at things besides repetition and novel experiences?), it's the fact that so much of it is arbitrary. ---- All games make you better at playing those games. That is a fundamental aspect of gaming that I am not seeking to change. Even if they throw in territory and politics... that's still all within the game. It doens't help you in real life much, and the value of such systems exist only for the furtherance of goals you have in the game. I don't know what you mean when you say CCP hasn't done this. EVE Online is an extremely cyclical system.
236 days ago
To put this a liiiittle more succinctly, these improvements should help change the paradigm from "I'm going to log on and get 5 levels today" to "I'm going to log on and mess around in Elysium - oh, wouldjalookatthat, I got a dot in Etiquette and Politics!"
239 days ago
HAHAHAHAHA... ahhh I am not trolling or at least I dont mean to. But I find it funny u speak of this like its a new idea when the FIRST EVER!!!! MMO AKA Ultima Online was like this. It was EQ that implemented the damn lvl system and points for every freaking thing in the first place. Also a more current MMO Darkfall online is like this. I agree much with what you say but alot a fanboy, casual gamers, etc. might not like this type progress specially the carebears. They love to see that they are hier lvl that they have the last item from that last room. If CCP caretake to us UO type players who are currently out of luck with any main game they will have a nitch that will blow their minds.... yes but the carebears are the most anoying crowd to keep happy and they will try and take care of them; in turn will piss us off to all hell to have to play their carebear ways and eventually end up with another dead game AND I WILL HATE for that to happen. So I hope what ever they do they do it right day one and stick to it so MODMMO lives on.
239 days ago
The scheme may not be new, but as compared to the current paradigm of MMOs - those in the vein of World of WarCraft, the new Star Wars Galaxies, Warhammer Online, EverQuest, Guild Wars, and DC Universe Online, among countless others, it would at least make for a novel change of pace. There are plenty of games that get bits and pieces of it right, but it's time to bring back the classics, and to improve upon them. ---- I am not interested in keeping the "carebears" happy. EVE Online isn't very "standard paradigm"ish, and CCP seems happy enough with the way it's been going for the past decade or so. An encore of that same kind of attitude would be alright for the WODMMO.