The first part was defining the three types of advancement. This part is my thoughts on it.
I’m not a fan of extrinsic stat management. It’s most common form is gear. Gear is showered on you whenever you beat anything from a level 5 quest to the toughest endgame instance. In FFXI it was very easy to fill your storage with all the gear offered, and to have five sets or more.
The secondary aspect of buffs I’m not keen on either. I have yet to see well-designed buffing in a game; instead, it’s just a rotation of abilities done mechanically as buff timers fade. Either that, or it’s one ability with a ridiculously long duration, like 2 hours.
In my MMO, I’d reduce both methods of extrinsic stat advancement. I’d much rather people have the freedom to develop the base character, without the need to rely on gear or buffs so much. This accomplishes a few things:
- It lets gear be used for style, or actual different modes of play. You don’t give up on a Great Axe because dual wielded swords are better statwise, but they may be better because they chain attack easier, use better offensive or defensive abilities, or you just have a pair that looks cool as hell.
- It forces rewards from a mission or instance to be permanent. You cannot obsolete a stat increase, but you can very easily make weapons junk.
- It rewards doing all events. If you get stat increases from it, you have less incentive to skip things. You can however skip instances if the armor isn’t balanced correctly, or may be only incrementally useful
- Reduce buffs whenever possible to passive stat boosts. This also forces support to be, well support, not hamsters running in a cage. Give them debuffs, crowd control, terrain modification, and other things requiring more active participation.
So my point is more that we need to make rewards instrisic and reduce outside gear. Ironically I think this makes gear more valuable as a reward and not less.
Skill advancement is tougher, because I can’t make a rule on it. It very much depends on the design of the MMO played. The best MMO keep a constant drip of skills coming to make the grind up challenging and to differentiate segments of it. In FFXI at 10 a ninja got dual wield and subbed voke, at 12 utsusemi: ichi, at 37 a boatload of things. There were always carrots to chase after, and as you leveled, the playing of ninja changed.
Location I think is very much neglected. There is nothing like the feeling of beating a mission to see an open door, and stepping through it to enter a new world. Offering new locations, or control of them is a huge carrot, done very rarely and with great effort. I think if somehow we could reduce the effort, but make meaningful location control and achievement still, it would be great.