Progressive Conservative (Or, Why I Hate Experience Points)

Delta VDelta V wrote on 12 Jul 2012 23:51

Experience points are, at this point, lazy (or counterproductive) design. I'd also be inclined to condemn most level, skill, and class systems to the same category. There are better ways to do player progression, without becoming trapped in the same mundane loop. XP encourages grinding (and robs actions such as exploration of some of their intrinsic value), levels subvert player skill (and too frequently lead to artificial gating or purpose-destroying scaling) and classes stifle playstyle experimentation (and generally drive me bonkers, really).

I despise how boring the early sections of most RPGs are, combat-wise, since you're too often not only weak, but have few real options. The skill tree takes time to fill out, your arsenal is pathetic, and in a lot of cases the things which make your chosen class fun are still out of reach. New-Game-Plus options relieve some of that early-going dullness, but if you want to try a different approach to the game, you're back at square one.

It's not that I'm entirely against the entire paradigm of progression and accumulation, but I think it needs an overhaul in RPGs. That same issue comes up in the free-to-play model, frankly - the unlocks you can either earn or pay for can't imbalance the rest of the game too much. The best systems of progress work in that fashion, I find; acquiring new options instead of clearly better options doesn't debase the player's start point. Accumulating "loyalty, loot, and backstory" (as FM5K said in the Win States thread) seems to me to be a much more naturalistic, organic method of marking a player's progress. It also allows for more to be put at risk, which increases the player's investment in more interesting ways.

XP and levels, though, seem like empty calories. Numbers go up (and so very rarely do they come back down). Enemies aren't smarter or faster, just higher-numbered. And activities like exploration get rewarded in obvious, unbalancing manners.

Is this just me? Am I being too picky?



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