Skills or Levels: Gaming for the Modern Socialist - Page 2

Posted Mon, Mar 18, 2013 by ricoxg

Level-based: The Progressives

Thus we come to the alternative game style which is most often associated with theme-park games--level-based progression. The two are not quite as synonymous as skill-based progression and sandbox games, but they’re found together far more often than not. The reason they’re often married is because theme park games are looking for the easy everything. The developers want the game to be easy--easy to maintain, easy to upgrade. Most importantly, they want it to be easy to predict what you’ll do.

In level-based games, where you go, what you can make, what you can wear, what you fight… it’s all based on your level. So, yeah, it’s a lot easier for developers to build a game around that. They can keep everyone on neat little tracks from point A to point B. The advantage is that they know exactly how powerful the others in your group are, and precisely how powerful the opponent is, whether mob or player. If you lose a fight in a level-based game, it wasn’t due to the fact that the other player had more skill than you; he just played his character better than you did.

Where skill-based games expect you to fail, level-based games are trying to keep you from it. You only attack mobs that are the right level, or get missions/quests that you can actually complete. Then, if you do bite off more than you can chew, there’s rarely any real loss involved. The Affordable Healthcare Act allows you to rez at your nearest spirit healer with little to no real penalty.

Skills or Levels

Absolutely, comrade. Healing is free… if you don’t count the 14% sales tax we use to pay for it…


The result of all that is a consistency that a lot of players (and I shamefully admit, often older players such as myself) prefer because you always know what you’re going to get. You know how long it should take to accomplish certain tasks. You also know about how challenging any given part should be: easy. It’s not a bad word, but “easy” is what we’re talking about here. Level-based games are just easier all around and, for a lot of gamers, just what they’re looking for.

Enjoy WoW, Comrade

Of course, we have to get to the touchy part of the game-type, how it relates to the socialist model for economics, and why that appeals to a lot of people. Before you get out of shape about your game being a communist propaganda tool, take a second to look at it. Consider some of the core concepts of most theme-park games.

The biggest, or at least one of the most glaring, is the concept of uniformity. There’s an illusion of choice and individuality, but ask yourself if that’s actually real. There’s always a best set of gear for a given class, best talent/skill/whatever build, and best line-up of abilities. There may be some minor differences here and there, but everyone is just expected to conform, and those who don’t find themselves without a group soon.

The second is that of imposed equality through game mechanics. While it doesn’t really shout at you like the some of the other things pointed out above, it’s still pervasive in these types of games. You can’t have exceptional weapons and armor for your level because they’re all restricted by level. If the gap between those who have a lot of in-game currency and those who don’t widens too much, systems are put into place that serve no purpose other than to suck cash out of the game. Additionally, all crafts tend to be equally accessible by everyone and no one is really allowed to become the grandmaster forger of awesome swords +12 on the server because anyone can get that recipe if they want to.

Skills or Levels

Ten folks a fishing, and not one of them doing it wrong…. Because you really can’t.


That sounds like a lot of bad stuff, so why would anyone like something like that? Because it’s fair… well, people think it’s fair, but that’s another article. The idea is that if we even everything out to where I can’t craft anything you can’t craft, and I don’t have access to any abilities you don’t have access to, then you should never get steamrolled the way you might in a skill-based progression system. You’ll never get run out of the market by a competing corporation like you would in EVE because resources and recipes are pretty universally available. It’s more complex than that, but really it’s all about leveling the playing field so everyone has an equal chance, and that’s why it appeals to a lot of players.

Tao of the Reed

You may think the point of this article is to point out which system is best, but that’s not the case. It’s no secret that, being a rather capitalist-oriented fellow myself, I happen to prefer the skill-based progression system and sandbox games. But this isn’t really about what I prefer, it’s about answering a question: which system is best?

Skills or Levels

Maybe it’s just a dream, but maybe ESO will manage to combine the best of both worlds to redefine what progression means in MMOs.


The answer is neither. They both have their place in the gaming industry, just like the economic and associated governmental models have their places. We couldn’t have a good capitalist society without a socialized library or education system, both of which are institutions I’ve taken serious advantage of over the years. In the same way, I think the next exceptional game will be the one that finds the proper balance between the two.

Until then, we’re all going to have our preferred system and good reasons to like it, but we also need to understand that not all players are alike. What works for the potty-mouthed pre-teen, probably isn’t that great for the employed adult gamer with responsibilities. Both systems have strengths, and both have their weaknesses. I’m very interested to see how the hybrid system promoted in The Elder Scrolls Online addresses each and whether this will be a redefinition of gaming, or another failed attempt at having our cake and eating it too.

Perhaps, the best method is to be like the reed in the wind; bending upon the breeze, it finds its strength in flexibility.

once again ricoxg writes a piece that barely disguises his political views.

so we're to buy your line of sandbox games are the capitalists game of choice eh? Well here's the rub the skill based progression systems ultimately reward those who have the most time to put into it. this could be argued about MMO's in general. but in level based games it only works for equipment as once you leve cap you will ( or should) be balanced against others in terms of raw power.

however in skill based games the no lifers will have access to as much power as the game has, meaning the game rewards them for having way more time than other folk. you can run around with a huge weapon skilled up to the max then throw fireballs of carnage the next simply cos you don't have a job IRL to pluck you from your march to uberness for a few hours a day.

so the "conservative" model (to use your own description) ultimately allows the few to lord it over the masses destroying all who come near them as mere playthings. I can see why you would advocate it knowing your own view on society. The analogy with conservatism doesn't end there, you allude to it yourself. "these games are more prone to cheaters" yes you find in these games that many of the ultra rich and powerful actually abused the system to get there. (familiar anyone?) be it by means of manipulating the auction house to garner insane amounts of in-game currency or by using cheat programmes or macros

here's the rub tho , unlike in RL where the lords of the masses are the rich and powerful, in MMO land the lords are the unemployed. so while we all go to work and pay taxes they sit at home sharpening their skills ready to destroy us for having the audacity to Log in for a few hours to relax after work.

thanks but no thanks , perhaps that's why these types of games are niche or fail utterly within a few months? Because as with society in general most folk (the masses) dislike feeling they are simply peons for the powerful to use and abuse as they see fit. As with every walk of life the less rules you have in place to protect the masses from those who would pervert and cheat the system for personal gain the less friendly and enjoyable that place ends up being. You can't change human nature but you can legislate for it and employ systems to ensure the many are allowed to have fun un spoilt by the few.

Ginzo... you seem to have missed the point. The skill-based system NEEDS a loser. This is WHY it has a fanbase. It's not SUPPOSED to be "fair". Just like there are people with the luck/perseverence/inheritance/dedication that allows them to drive a Rolls Royce while you drive a Kia, there are those in skill based games with the luck/hacks/disability/dedication to have more shinies than you.

Liking one or the other isn't wrong, and if you don't like it, then don't play sandboxes. We won't miss you, I promise.

all games have folk that are better geared or whatever , I said clearly that ALL mmo's reward those with most time to throw at it. That being said the reason imo that most sand box MMO's fail miserably to grab more than a small fraction of MMO players. is that while you can flex your ego about how tough you are for enjoying losing long enough to achieve Uberness then set about crushing those new to the game most folk dont seem to like that sort of skewed way to play.
If i wanted to be king of the MMO (and i mean any MMO sand or theme) I'd give up my job, divorce my wife and wave the kids goodbye. So if by that you mean luck/hacks/perseverence i'll pass thanks cos I also won't miss playing with you.
All mmo's have learning curve's, demand time investments (perseverence) not just the sand box griefers paradise type ones. So the premise of the whole piece that somehow only the sandbox type hack fests are for the "uber conservative rightous " players is utter garbage imo.

I've played all MMO's pretty much since SWG and EVERY single one involved failures and success's I raided in EQ2 and WoW and had as much failures in both. So trying to convince us that sandbox games are the only place where players have to endure fialure to ahcieve success is laughable, as is using a political analogy to make the point.

Ive played enough sandbox games to learn that anonymity plus internet gaming = act like an online sociopath for enough gamers to make me believe that these games attract more of that mindset. If you allow folk to grief and harrass other players then folk will do it in any game. However once a game actively removes any system to curb acting like a moron it simply encourages more morons to come and play. I dont mind my games trying to prevent folk being morons and actively spoiling others fun , cos its not something I do anyway. I dont act like a jerk in real life (you know where there's consequences) so i dont get a boner doing it online. Some folk do tho they enjoy doing stuff in game that would earn them a punch in the face if they did it outside their bedroom. So logic dictates that they will migrate to the type of game that lets them behave like that.

funny thing is on these type of games the forums usually start with the theme of " this game is only for the hardcore" Then within a few months it changes to " is this game dying, It's full of hackers"
Followed by a few more months " come back they fixed stuff"

double post urgh

Very interesting game it is. I've played thrice when I was in college.
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