Spheres of Progression
Something that excites me about a few games is that they see an opportunity to become something more than a group and grind or a race to the PvP endgame and take it. I’m talking about the games that offer different and interesting ways to progress, beyond the classic “kill ten rats” style adventure treadmill. Today I wanted to call attention to a few of my favorites.
My favorite example of this is Vanguard, which is a game that suffered from great drama but also offers great rewards to those willing to look past that. Vanguard has three progression paths which it calls spheres, and the reason I think it works so well is that the mechanics of the game were designed to accommodate them from the beginning. In addition to the adventure path Vanguard has a fully developed tradeskill path, complete with quests and levels and a strategically satisfying method of crafting. Unique among games I’ve played is the third sphere, Diplomacy which plays as a card game tied to storytelling and allows for interaction with some npcs that would otherwise seem to be just filler for cities in a meaningful and rewarding way. Each of the spheres has levels and equipment, and Vanguard goes a step further with an inventory system that allows you to manage your clothing for each sphere separately and then let the game trade between them as needed. You can approach Vanguard easily as a new player and never touch the adventuring side of the game, I really believe the experience is that rich.
Some games grow into an additional path, by popular demand. I would place the development of Everquest 2’s tradeskills in this category, and the things that Domino the tradeskill developer has done to encourage players is truly amazing. With the addition of tradeskill epics in Rise of Kunark and with the last two expansions featuring long quest progressions that offer a way to experience the new content through the eyes of a craftswoman tradeskilling in EQ2 is easily as rewarding as the adventuring side of the game. Kudos to them, and wishes for many more ways to use crafting to explore and shape the world of Norrath in the future.
Some games have multiple paths not because they are designed to have them, but instead because they are designed to be a sandbox for player innovation. EVE is a game that by virtue of its skill system and specialization in ships and equipment allows players to train to be combat pilots but just as easily the same character could train to be a miner, or a merchant or even an inventor. The possibility to carve a niche for yourself in the game are limited only by the amount of time you are willing to put into learning the skills and making the effort. Your hard work is sure to be rewarded.
What are other examples you have, and how have multiple progression paths in games affected you?