Continuing the discussion, are levels really necessary? Just how much value do they add to an RPG, or particularly an MMORPG?
In a classic MMO the ideal monsters have a certain, predictable difficulty, while ‘special’ mobs and bosses should be significantly harder. This is usually identified by combat levels. But because the player usually only fights monsters around the same level range as themselves, no matter how strong the player gets the monsters are similarly matched. It’s almost as if you’re only truly fighting 3 kinds of monsters: easy, normal, and boss.
This topic’s been ranted about plenty of times before, but in terms of combat, I’d like to suggest an alternative.
What if an enemy’s combat level was instead determined by their intelligence?
Level 0: Zombie (blindly heads towards you and will attack if in range)
Level 1: Animal (wanders around the world, will attack you if you enter it’s range). This is actually the AI for 90% of all MMO monsters.
Level 2: Scout (follows some pre-set path that it walks, attacks if you enter it’s range). The other 5%.
Level 3: Actual Fighter (basic combat skills, like knowing when to run away or stay out of the fight, when to run and get help).
Level 4: Adept Fighter (can try and hide from you, stalk you, hunt you)
Level 5: Commander (can orchestrate battle on a 5-10 NPC scale, setting up ambushes, planning ahead)
It seems that ‘difficulty’ in the modern MMO means how many hit points your current ‘sack of potatoes’ (NPC target) has, plus perhaps a frustrating ability or stun. So what do you think? Would the combat level system for NPCs be better off being intelligence?