Tobold's Blog
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.
This does seem really odd. If anything to me this just seems like a desperate ploy to get people to keep their subs active from a game thats is slowly dieing. Lets hope it works out for them.
The title made me expect that they were adding an offline client, so if servers were down or a person couldn't get online, they could do their normal soloing, just with less in the chat channels. That would be prone to cheating though.

Sounds like a great way to reduce server load. And make people feel absolutely no investment in their characters, making it easy to quit. Which would make sense if you're not playing anyway.

Rested XP does this to a much lower extent, as it does require us to play to get the levels.
This solves the problem of people going away for a week and finding their regular play-group has out-leveled them. There are of course other solutions to that problem (like side-kicking for example), but very few games use them.
"a game thats is slowly dieing"

Actually, all indicators show it is on the rise.
Xfire and Raptr show played times at an above average ranking than it's normal showing (with number of players increasing as well as played time).
Sales indicators show good numbers for Rise of the Godslayer, and with rock bottom prices for the main client (I found it for 5 bucks yesterday on sale at in the US)...along with reviews calling it the most "improved mmo", I beg to differ.

I actually think AoC is doing considerably better than it has in the last year. Upcoming financials should show this as well.

Well glad to hear it. I guess I was mostly going by the fact that I just don't know anyone playing it anymore but its good to hear its doing well.
IT is quite a bold move on the part of Funcom and it will be very interesting to see how this pans out. I can see this being very useful for people who want to level alts up quickly for end game but I wonder if many new players people will choose the bonus levels to bypas levelling content.
AoC is far from dying, they are getting a lot of attention with the expansion on the way, and have greatly improved the game from launch. There are tons of people on every time I play, and it seems to be growing.

I think that this is a great idea. I love to play a lot when I can, but sometimes real life gets in the way and you are unable to play for one reason or another. This system helps you keep your character closer in level with your playing group when you are unable to play, as well as lowering the feeling of obligation to play that happens when you are subscribing to a game.

I don't feel that I will be "missing" parts of the game, or using these levels to skip any content. It will definitely assure me that I should never be at a level where I have run out of quests, as I can use the extra levels at that time to qualify for more. There are lots of quests anyway, so that may never be necessary.
It's already being done in Dark Age of Camelot, but you have to have logged at some point during the 5 days between the free level. And it only gives you the amount of exp needed to gain the next level, so if your level 20 you get enough exp to get to 21- you can't bank it so you can skip level 49 or something. And you have to talk to your class trainer to get it. No doubt AoC will have a similar caveat.
Tobold, I think the comparison with EVE is a bit tenuous; with EVE, the only option for progression is the "real time skill acquisition" system, and the rate at which advancement happens is fixed. Playing or not playing does not matter at all.

Not so in AoC, which has in-game progression as well as upcoming out of game progression.

I can't understand why this is perceived as a bad thing. The player isn't forced to level up, he has discretion over how to allocate (or not allocate) these levels. It's just another option which the player can utilize or not utilize as you see fit.

If the player is skipping content, it's because he doesn't want to engage in that content, so this is a clear win for him. For the player who wants to see everything, he just won't use this functionality, so it doesn't change anything for him at all.
I am all in favor of free levels, as long as the players have the option to simply not apply them.

I love leveling toons but I accept not everyone does. If it alleviate the pain of leveling for such players, then so be it.

I would not have a problem if companies sold pre-made high level characters, or simply level.
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.

This connects nicely with your previous post Tobold...Because in a way, the ´ultimate perversion´ makes perfect sense from a resultdriven gamers point of view. From using ´cheat´ sites to this, the literal endgame. It will be the final but also logical step in trying to maximize results/rewards and reaching ultimate efficiency.
I think it's a good idea. It's just a shortcut version of "rested" xp.

Even better would be an option to select your character level on or at any time after creation. If people want to skip the content then take their money and let them get on with it.
I've recently gone back to AoC with a friend. It's pretty busy with a lot of pugs, including pug raids as well as groups for all levels and many guilds recruiting.

What I found with the offline leveling is that it's very nice to smooth the content. I skipped the early 40s content and did the late 40s early 50s content in a blitz with my friend. This meant I ended up as a level 51 with all my quests orange or yellow and my friend had to take a break from playing for real life reasons.

It's pretty tough to solo a level 54 quest with a level 51 character. So I put myself up to 54 and now I'll have a lot of content in the mid 50s. It was very useful to be able to adjust my character by a couple of levels to better suit my questing. I still have 3 levels in the bag so if my friend comes back in a week or two and wants to play his high level Guardian I'll be able to adjust again. If he's gone longer and I get ahead of his Guardian then he'll be able to tweak to match me.

At the end of the day anything that reduces the effect of levels as a barrier to friends playing with friends is a good thing.
Well i don't see why everyone is suddenly seeing this as "bad". It's totally optional and still time-restricted. It's not like you can buy 80 levels in one go here.

This is a feature for CASUAL players imho. Hardcore players will level faster than the offline system, and most likely they'll appreciate having a little level bump here and there either way.

You can also NOT apply this on characters below lvl 30, so you will be leveling your character almost halfway anyway.

The more active plauyers say they're most likely only going to to bump themselves between lvl 70-80 since 1 level there is worth alot more "grind" than 1 level at lvl 50.

I'm also sure, just looking at friends and such, alot of CASUAL PLAYERS tend to burn out "mid-game" in ANY MMO . Even Blizzard had some stats recently about people not even getting past lvl 10. Casual players burn out, get bored , get distracted. They want to take a break and are forced to cancel their sub to do so, now they can take the break , keep the sub running AND advance their character.

Above scenario did not make them level FASTER. Timewise they at least stayed "connected" to the game. If i got to lvl 50 in WoW now and got bored, i will cancel my sub and might take a YEAR to return [if ever]. This system will actually make people check back in more often, without cancelling....

You have to consider the AoC END-GAME too here. Just like WoW, AoC have all the "serious" stuff at the END GAME. If everyone drops out at lvl 40, then the END GAME dies.

AoC, have some sort of RvR/Guild Siege system at End Game. You need LOTS of players at lvl 80, you need LOTS of resources to build a guild city....increasing the ability for even casual players to reach end-game makes this side of the game alot more exciting. It's like Blizzard having 50 awesome raids at lvl 80, but only 10 people reach lvl 80...

And finally, the new expansion brings along an "alternate advancement" system, similar to EQ2/SWG which is not tied to your level....if this is not telling you where this is going then you're just being blind....
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Oh and on another note, i'm not sure if i'm in a timewarp or reading this blog "late" since everyone talks about this as if it's still waiting to be released.

This feature is LIVE ALREADY. It's been live for a week....

The expansion comes 11 May on top of this....just a little heads up :)
I am finding the opposite in my current game of choice (Starfleet Commander for Facebook). Since that is largely a PvP game, time off means that you lose ranking relative to the other players, so in effect you lose levels. I think that's closer to real life.
I'm with Silvertemplar on this. Looking at any given feature in a void is BAD.
I don't like that mindset.

If leveling is no fun, why do they include it in the first place? If it is fun, why can I circumvent it?

Besides is totally un-immersive.

Bottom line:
I don't like it. But then I've already sworn the day I figured out that FunCom Marketing lied to me that I'll never again buy a FunCom game.
I can't seem to find the old comments any more - but Ultima Online _did_ sell levels.

Something that worked like a 75% completion skull set, comlete with stats and such.

For real money as well.
Oh jeez, honestly? You can't see the man behind the curtain?

Why do you think you grind and repeat stuff over and over? Just to make you feel pain?

It's to pad out subscription times.

Here it's actually honest about that and completely free of grinding.
Offline levelling only makes sense in an open-ended setting. In a closed-game with a level cap, it actually discourages playing. I like the rested xp idea better to compensate for offline time.

I agree with Beowolf, it seems to be another tactic to keep subs active.
I currently have an active sub to AoC and I've played quite casually for the last few months. Think my highest lvl toon is 34 atm.

Anyway, I've enjoyed the game as one of my 3 mmo's that I rotate through (WoW & LOTRO being the other 2 favorites).

That said, I personally think the "off-line" leveling is a huge mistake. I play casually and have no desire to rush to the level cap or end game content. I play at my own pace and I'm quite happy doing so.

I think this poorly thought-out "idea" will backfire in a major way for Funcom, which is unfortunate because AoC IS a lot of fun and has done a great job over the years to listen to the player base and develop the game into the top tier mmo experience you can now find there (imo)

Whoever came up with this idea needs a nice slap of reality...and I can almost bet he'll get it from the community pretty fast.

I don't see this lasting.

Or if it does, I see the server populations dropping and people quiting from lack of interest and investment.

That's my feeling anyway...

Sad news indeed :(
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