Why Levelling In RPGs Needs To Improve



It’s really hard to imagine a role playing game without character levels, because we usually associate that with getting stronger. Creating a sense of character progression by levelling up, is much more than just gaining experience and watching that number go up.

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30 thoughts on “Why Levelling In RPGs Needs To Improve

  1. I actually liked the witcher 3's scaling. If you wanted to do all the quests, you were able to turn on enemy scaling, which could turn every encounter to a challenge, especially the Blood and Wine Dlc. Although playing through on Death March difficulty was frustrating occasionally, and the enemy scaling would lead to ridiculous encounters. Like a fist fight with a peasant where Geralt would get knocked out immediately. Or fighting 4 level 30 rats able to instakill you.

  2. I think It's important to precise that for skyrim in particular, enemies can only scale within a certain range, and some don't appear until the later levels of the game. Also, the game will sometimes throw weaker enemies at you just so you can feel powerful murdering it. So they were aware of the problems of scaling and made attempts to give the player a feeling of progression. But did it work? I haven't played without mods in a while, so I can't tell, but there's something quite funny about some random nord blacksmith selling dwarven, elven, or glass armor, especially when he was selling you hide and iron yesterday, before you utterly cheesed the game and gained 30 levels.

  3. I personally only play RPGs with leveling systems. Seeing to iconic "You Leveled Up" is what gets me hyped during a playthrough. I also prefer fixed difficulty because it gives me the sense of progression in my characters power. I always play on the hardest difficulty and create min/max builds, So no leveling system and/or scaled difficulty is no good.

  4. Fixed is the best…
    Plus combat mod like asis that can make enemies smarter like using potion and healing spell or using super magic spell and combat buff scaling with their own level are a big help for gameplay difficulty….

    Ohh wait.. we talking about skyrim,right?

  5. I really like how Outward handles 'leveling' but it boiling down to 'buying' a skill isn't very RPG like. Its kind of off in my opinion. Taking Outward as an example I'd suggest Skill trainer specific quests; lets say instead of outright buying a skill you go out on a quest with the trainer and 'learn' the skill

  6. The level concept is indeed a much over used crutch at this point…. a big part of the issue though is not the mechanics of progression but rather structure of progression I think.

    By structure I mean what the options to progress into are; eg. with Outward progression is solely abilities (skills in Outward parlance)… with Skyrim it's skills ranks, skill perks gated by those ranks, health+magicka+stamina, and various and sundry spells & spell like abilities. Pillars of Eternity is skills, spells & special abilities, and base attributes/stats.

    A lot of the source for the perceived problems is in my view that those options are set up as a very extensive linear scale… in other words you generally advance your character very 'vertically', and characters at the low end are completely outclassed by characters at the high end… mathematically speaking they generally have no chance. This is particularly true when dealing with flat numeric stats like the skills ranks from Skyrim & attributes from PoE.

    Something which also wasn't covered in the video is how immersion breaking all of this is, higher level characters don't just end up stronger… they basically become demi-gods. Combined with fixed levels, this also leads to incongruities where NPCs like the town guard, skilled fighters with decades of experience & regular training, are clobbered by some goon who wondered the woods for a week.

    Meanwhile, in Tabletop land, there is a semi-well known house varaint for D&D out there called E6, for 'Epic 6'. Essentially it hacks D&D so the max level for player characters is level 6… after which progression works similar to how Outward does it with ad-hoc feat acquisition. It has a whole host of advantages… it keeps D&D at that nice, dangerous 1st level feel, where dragons are always dangerous and require guile & preparation; it keeps the PCs to realistic, believeable human levels of ability; it speeds up character generation by keeping power level within a relatively small set of bounds; and it restricts access to some of the more world breaking spells.

    All things considered, I think those carefully fixed bounds, combined with an ad-hoc acquisition of abilities ala Outward, is the way to go. The chief things to play with limiting being health & base stats.

  7. A good example of better way to implement progression is games like dark souls, like you say, give players currency for killing enemies, and let them spend that currency were they want it, perks, abilities, attributes or gear, this way its not only simple but demands replayability, exploration and mixing and matching whatever you like. In other words, mix dark souls, witcher 3, zelda/outward type of system, and and evolved freedom of skyrim , and you got yourself an awesome rpg.

  8. Several things : a lot og games include both systems, with ennemies that start at a fixed level and then scale with you if you get stronger (there is an option in W3 for this)

    I think there is something to say about gaining XP through dialogs, especially in games where there are stats like intelligence. In Warhammer : Total War 2 (not an RPG, granted, but stay with me), there are puzzles you are meant to solve when discovering unclaimed ruins. If you solve such a puzzle, one could very well imagine that, in an RPG, your intelligence could go up, or something along those lines.

    Unlocking certain skills/items along the adventure is also good. The Pokemon games have such things. Find the spell to cut trees in your way and ulock new paths, find the pokeflute to wake that sleeping pokemon blocking the road.

    I like XP through progression and without EXP points. Outward does a great job of it. Acquiring stuff and skills is a progression in and of itself, no need for more. It feels more dynamic, more natural and a lot less forced.

  9. I think the best compromise is a straight up hybridization. Average enemy types like bandits level with you so you always have something at your level to fight. Small creatures like mudcrabs and larger monsters are fixed at low and higher levels respectively so you always have trash to stomp and stuff to build towards fighting.

  10. But Skyrim Did have some monsters who were fixed level, even a dungeon was fixed level. Wouldn't that make Skyrim sort of a hybrid system. Oblivion is truly scaled everywhere.

  11. Dark souls, kingdom Come Deliverance, and outward had the best leveling in my opinion. Perks adding new gameplay mechanics are a great way to give a sense of progression. Outward had this in with the skill trees and KCD had perks that you could get as you leveled up. In both games equipment played a huge role like in the gothic/risen/elex games. Part of what makes dark souls leveling so good is how good the combat is. It always takes skill, and you can kill anything and anything can kill you at any point. Levels Just lower the skill requirement to kill and survive. Obviously It can't be quite that extreme in a big open world rpg but you should mostly be able to kill anything at any given point and most things should be able to take you out if you just stand there and let it.

  12. Assassins creed valhalla will have no levelling and instead will have skills/powers the character will learn and use which will allow them to deal with tougher enemies… this is the first video I thought about.

  13. Scaling is for the most part a terrible way to do RPGs, but it deffinitly depends on what kind of RPG it is. For the most part, a static level system is what I want, but there has been cases where I wish parts of a game was scaled. For instance, in Witcher 3 it really did not make sense lore-wise for some enemies to be statically scaled. Geralt is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the world, but some common bandits can take you out in one hit if you fight them early.

    Regular guards in Novigrad for instance. And some of the pacing in the game when it came to quests felt at times a bit awkward. Such as some side quests had very high lvl requirements, but the monsters in them was not really that special, just a higher lvl version of already encountered enemies. It just took a bit away from the immersion of the game imo. It is still one of my all time favorite games though, and there are mods that fix this issue.

    There is of course an example of the exact opposite which is Elders Scrolls 4: Oblivion. I remember loving the game the first week, but I kept feeling that I never really got stronger, I actually felt like I got weaker for every level, even against enemies that I found easy when I first encountered them. And after a while I realized that everything in that game was scaled, even loot. And that just ruined the entire experience for me, it just made everything feel fake and pointless. It did not matter which dungeon I explored as good gear would be handed to you depending on your level. Skyrim made this a bit better, with a slightly mixed system between scaled and static. And they botched the main quest by having Alduin be such a weak boss. Seemed like all the scaling ended at around lvl 20 or something like that.

  14. skyrims scaling is only semi-player-level scaled. most enemies in the game have set levels like giants or mammoths and only those who really need this scaling do scale. humanoid enemies and dragons. this makes skyrims scaled enemies more like being handicapped in the early game while at 50 only dragons scale further. if you start skyrim on level 50 for example you won't encounter almost no enemy scaling at all, which to be honest, compared to witcher 3, ac origins and other similar games is actually brilliant.

  15. Dynamic levelling is not the best desicion, like there's no point of levelling if everything else is virtually just the same. Like "Oohh! strong armor, oh enemies still deal the same damage as they did when I was wearing 'crap' armor at low level"

  16. I know this is random and you don’t cover JRPG’s but the levering up mechanic in final fantasy xv is amazing immersive in my opinion you don’t just simply gain level after you defeat your enemies you have to either rest at camps or other settlements to level up and also eating food changes your stats significantly

  17. Every time I see those Risen clips, I just have to stop and think about how that game came out the same year as Demon's Souls

    On a side note, if you are reading this and haven't tried Outward yet, go try it.

  18. I think another “con” with fixed levels is that you’ll reach a point where enemies and such are super weak and the sense of challenge is lost. I understand you’re supposed to be getting stronger and feel that sense of progression but it does make me sad when I’m able to one shot everything even with higher difficulty. Sometimes there even comes the issue where even I can make things a challenge again there’s no middle ground for adjustment and suddenly it’s all way too hard. The only solution in most situations is just start a new character. I feel like there should be some fine balance to leveling enemies to keep them a challenge but not become to op, something to help keep things interesting even when you’re really powerful. Something that keeps you coming back to your high level character. This is what I like about a lot of dungeon crawlers like Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2.

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