Friday, April 30, 2010

Age of Conan introduces offline leveling

Age of Conan in an upcoming patch will get a new feature: Offline leveling, with you getting a level every 4 days even if you didn't play. Those levels go into a pool, from which you can distribute them to your characters. Syp from Bio Break thinks that this is a bad idea.

Given what I am playing at the moment, I couldn't help but compare AoC offline leveling to EVE offline skill training. On the one side AoC has the advantage that offline leveling is in addition to regular leveling, thus if you play more, you advance faster. On the other side I think that the EVE method works better, because skills in EVE aren't equivalent to levels. Only the skills of flying combat ships, which always have a high skill of the previous ship size as requirement, feel like linear advancement in EVE. Most other skills are more like specializations.

I still feel frustrated sometimes in EVE, when I want to do something, and the game tells me to wait X days before I can do it. But that doesn't necessarily make me want to not play, because even if I can't do what I want, I can do something else to have fun playing. The Age of Conan system sounds more like something which would actively encourage me to log off: Having trouble with some too hard enemies? Or being bored leveling in a zone you don't like? Log off, wait several days, and then skip the content. In comparison EVE is doing well, because waiting for a skill training doesn't make you skip content.

So I would agree with Syp that offline leveling in Age of Conan is a bad idea. And I share his concern when he wonders if this is "the future of MMORPGs". Offline leveling is a disguised method of selling players levels directly: Gaining X levels in a month for not playing means you paid your monthly subscription fee for those levels. Sooner or later some game will start selling levels directly, maybe as "character service" for leveling alts at first. But in a level-based game your level determines which content makes sense for you to play, and if you skip levels, you skip content. We end up with the ultimate perversion of paying a game company for the service of *not* having to play their game, getting *less* game the more we pay.

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