This is the traditional RPG leveling system where you gain levels by earning XP through completing quests and/or killing bad guys. The amount of XP required to gain a level usually increases each time, forcing the player to take on harder quests and badies. Typically badies encountered earlier in the game provide less XP if revisited. With each level you usually gain a bonus to your character stats, health and mana. The majority of RPGs around today use this system.
- The system rewards you for putting more time and effort into gaining XP. Experts can rush through levels and noobies can level at their own pace.
- Can lead to 'grinding', if leveling requirements are excessive or unreasonable.
Unique to Eve online, this system levels your character's skills over a period of time. The player selects which skill to learn and then starts the count down. The higher level skills take longer than the lower level ones.
- Great for casual gamers, as you can level your character without even being logged on.
- No 'grinding' required.
- Can take a seriously long time to get a lot of the higher level skills.
- No fast track to leveling. Just have to let the clock do it's thing.
This is where performing an action levels a certain skill/attribute of the character. For example, successfully attacking an enemy with a sword increases your sword skills and abilities. This system was used in the popular Elder Scrolls (Morrowind) series.
- The more you perform a particular action, the better you get at performing it.
- Encourages players to explore a range of actions within the mechanics of the game.
- Can lead to 'grinding' through repetitive use of the same action.
So which leveling system is the best? If an RPG was to use a combination of all three, I think it would go far. WoW uses a combination of the XP and Action based leveling systems, and it seems to work very well (more XP than Action). The downside however is that WoW suffers greatly from 'grinding' syndrome. If it were to somehow add elements of the Time based leveling system as well, it may reduce the 'grind' and appeal more to the causal gamer. Perhaps in the future, game designers will be able to combine the best of each leveling system into one awesome RPG. Or better yet, invent a new leveling system altogether.