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Can games developers *please* get past the “RPG = levelling” attitude? These are two different things.

Gamingtodaynews1e - Can games developers *please* get past the "RPG = levelling" attitude? These are two different things.

I love the idea of role playing games. I played a lot of D&D as a kid, and I love the idea of developing a particular character (not build) and exploring a story, picking different story-paths through a fictional world. The core of a role playing game should be story telling and the player having agency in telling that story. After all, that's what "role playing" actually means.

Back to the levelling problem: In game character customization is great, and learning and developing skills to unlock new approaches to gameplay is too. But should not be realized though a levelling system. A hit from a level 1 enemy should hurt me just as much when I am at level 100, and my hit should have much the same effect on him, too (we could incorporate something like hit chance, but is games that is largely realized through player skill). There is nothing wrong with a character developing skills in game, and getting better at doing things (taking about the character, not the player, to be clear here). But the effects of this should be realistic. I increase my skill in Heavy Armour? OK, maybe I can move in it a little more quickly, maybe I get a little less fatigued. I shoot a lot of arrows and get good at bows? OK, I imagine my accuracy (my hit cone) might improve, but my damage should stay the same. Character development can open new abilities or refine existing abilities, but it should not be turning up a "power" slider regarding a particular activity or equipment type.


I'm now at the point where I am frankly hesitant to even pick up a role playing game because I am always confident that levelling will break the game at some point in the play-through, and it will no longer be fun. This has happened to me over and over: I really enjoy the game initially, I level my character a bit, and I just stop playing. If you get near to the end of a game like Skyrim, for example, you are essentially invincible, and the enemies are all bullet-sponges. You never, ever encounter a challenge, nothing can really hurt you, and combat just feels like it takes longer than it should. What, you levelled up blocking? Yeah, well…. Other games don't fall into exactly this pattern (when we get down to specifics), but there is always a very close equivalence.

Then we have games like Cyberpunk 2077 where, for all it's good features (and I can recognize those: voice acting, character animations, graphics -chef's kiss) we are just playing "V's story" and none of our choices make any difference to anything. Even ignoring the levelling problems here (and this game does have them), where is the role playing?

My feeling, honestly, is that a lot of roleplaying game developers have probably never played pen-and-paper roleplaying games, and just don't understand why people are buying their games. We want an immersive experience in which the character has agency, and in which player choices matter. We want different approaches to game-play to be open to us, for sure, and "skills" can feed into that. But we are not choosing to buy a "role playing" game because we want a game where difficulty and balance are broken at absolutely every stage dude to a broken and massively over-emphasized levelling system.

Edit: forgot markdown does not work in titles, can't fix now, sorry about that.

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