Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Evolution of Levelling

Today I discovered a wonderful website that allows us to recover many of the long lost screenshots from the Imageshack era. Back in the 2000's, most people used Imageshack to upload their screenshots and share them online. But when that website was updated to its new, completely different version, all of those old images were seemingly lost. Fortunately, there is a way around that: the Wayback Machine.

And this is me, a whole ten years ago, on Silkroad Online. These screenshots are full of memories to me:


This is my character, Feataler, with my dog Spikez. The pet was already named like that when I bought it from someone. I didn't like it at first, but I couldn't rename it anyway, so I kept it that way. Both names have meaning for me now; in fact, the area itself means something to me, because I've spent hours grinding monsters on it. Silkroad is a Korean grinder, and the levelling process was extremely long in comparison to today's MMOs. It was unbearable to many, but to me it felt good to just kill hundreds of monsters while listening to Dragonforce, it was relaxing, and in the long run having a high level character was something to brag about.

This brings me to my thoughts of levelling in Guild Wars 2. I've been mapping Kessex Hills and Gendarran Fields these past few days, and I've tried to enjoy grinding, killing every enemy I see and gathering every resource I find. To my own surprise, I'm already level 41; I'm not even using Tomes of Knowledge, because then I'd be level 80 in a breeze. At first I thought it was the lack of grinding that made things less memorable, but I thought it over and I don't believe that's what I was missing.

I believe the answer to making things memorable is simply to enjoy what I am doing. To take my time and relax while playing, because that's what I was doing back then, and that's probably why it became so memorable: because I was having fun. I love playing my guardian, its combat gameplay is exciting. It was a great pleasure for me to chain all those centaur-killing hearts in the North-Western area of Gendarran fields. I wish the game had more of these hearts and less of those where you have to go around disabling spike traps and what not, because those are what make levelling in GW2 so much of a chore for most people. I can't understand why grinding is seen as something negative nowadays, when killing things is so much more fun than disabling traps and collecting items, and it doesn't get in the way of exploration anyway.

Some enemies were tough, but mostly because my gear was very outleveled. I even died a few times to Toxic Offshoots and to some elite pirate and his minions.

I eventually just crafted a new set of armor, all level 35, which allowed me to keep up with these bosses and difficult events. I used up a lot of my resources, but I will have to max my crafting skills sooner or later anyway.

Levelling has changed a lot over the past decade. It has become more colorful in general. Most MMOs really suck at it: they'll make you start with some stupidly long and boring tutorial, and then force you through some linear, generic questline. GW2 lets you do what you want, and in the end, I think I found what I needed. I see so many people rushing to 80 and to HoT content nowadays, and I fell victim to that desire in the past as well. But I came to realize that what I've always enjoyed doing was the actual levelling, the farming, the progress. This is what I will remember later on, and not the part where I'm done getting everything I wanted and either quit the game or restart new characters over and over again out of boredom.

Alright, what I'm trying to say is the journey is more important than the destination. Overused proverb, but still true anyway.


  1. Guild Wars 2 for me was always that game that did the leveling right. Heck, I didn't even conceive of it as 'leveling', more like exploring while casually gaining some levels on the way. Level cap was never the end goal. It's hard to nail down what exactly defines that feeling of wonder and excitement the first period you play an specific MMO, and (at least for me) it's impossible to replicate. Once the 'new way' of questing of GW2 became familiar and I had explored all regions, that feeling faded and everything started to feel a bit of the same. If it would ever return I wouldn't mind that at all. GW2 is such a well designed game, especially for explorers.

    1. It's true that the concept and design are excellent, but what it's lacking in is the longevity. It's too easy to get level 80 in GW2. When I played Silkroad, I felt proud of myself everytime I got a level or a new weapon or a new skill, I'd stand there staring at it for a while in contemplation. In GW2 I only get that excited when I reach level 80. People have demonized the crazy grind in old MMORPGs as something very unhealthy only no-lifers would do, but the thing is removing the grind hasn't stopped people from no-lifing, they're just doing it differently.