Fine, I’m way behind the video game curve. I just started playing Mass Effect, and while I like it (mostly because I made my character HOT!!!), I noticed something interesting in how the game handles character advancement. Your super kewl ninja/soldier/spy/candlestick maker has levels and skills, and when you gain X amount of experience points by killing people and doing good deeds, you increase your level and can add some bonuses to your skills. All good. What I find interesting is how the levels feel small and insignificant. Going from level 3 to level 4 is … well, ho-hum. I’ve leveled and not even realized it. (“I’ve got points to spend? Oh. Okay, I guess.”)
I guess there’s two reasons for that. First, it’s a video game so I cannot see the numbers being crunched. When I level in D&D, I can better see the impact because I have to do the stupid math in my equally stupid head. Second, and here’s where I get all game designer, is the impact is low. You get a few points to spend on a few skills, and moving from +5 for Pistols to +6 doesn’t seem to impact the game much. It’s like the level gained is a tiny thing that doesn’t do much.
Now I realize a rpg has to make leveling significant–or just not use it at all, that’s a viable alternative. But if you have levels like I have in Triune, then they had better be meaningful to the players.