Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Level 9 Guitar Player
Alexis posted in his usual well spoken but curmudgeonly way about XP buy systems of leveling up, or "arcade games" as he calls them. I love Alexis for not being afraid to just let it rip and write his mind. Half the time I think he is an old man shouting at kids in his lawn about their arcade games and half the time I think he is a total genius. Being a genius half the time is good enough to keep me coming back to his blog, at any rate.
I started to write a comment in response to this sentence of the post: "I'm curious as to how this works out logically, however. Not that I feel the game has to be 'logical,' but since experience points represent, well, experience, how exactly does one become LESS experienced in the process of gaining a better strength or a nice new gnoll knee knocker?"
My comment grew some roots and sprouted into this post:
On the odd chance this was not a rhetorical question, spending experience points to gain some specific skill at the cost of not advancing another skill as fast or even deteriorating another skill, makes perfect sense to me. The basic situation as I understand it that you are presenting is a PC spending XP on some bonus ability rather than on leveling up (leveling up being defined as a different set of ability increases).
I have played guitar for going on 17 years now, and in general you could view my playing career as a steady increase in experience and ability, with new levels of expertise achieved over time. Your traditional D&D model.
Now since this is real life of course I do other things besides just play guitar. For the last year I have spent comparatively less time playing the guitar, I have not been performing live, I have not been recording, and I have spent much more time at a new job (a salaried position, which has turned out to be a terrible idea in terms of the amount of time I put in).
In game terms, I spent my XP points from this last year of living on a bonus profession to earn me more money rather than continuing the obvious point of the game, to perfect my guitar mastery :)
Perhaps I might have achieved name level this year in guitar if I had not spent my XP on this arcade game of a job!
What has happened to my guitar skills in the meantime? Can I and do I pick up my guitar regularly and make beautiful, high level music? Sure!
Is my playing ability at the same level it was when I was devoting much more time to it?
Of course not!
Have I in fact slipped slightly in some measurable levels of player ability due to spending more of my experience points picking up a whole host of new skills related to my new job?
Yes. Sometimes the run that I hear in my head stutters on the way to the fingers and I end up having to slide a half step to cover a missed note. My hands are physically weaker to the point that when I get on my friend's bass guitar and jam for an hour my hand feels like it is going to cramp up and my fingers burn. My calluses are gone. I am not placing the meat of my fingerpads precisely at the point where the note will sound true and not buzz or vibrate. The unique vibrato muscles in my left pinkie finger seemed to have almost completely deserted me.
I feel that XP purchase systems are almost always more "realistic" than the standard D&D level up method. That is not to say they are actually realistic, but if they take into account that the average person is simultaneously bettering many skills and letting many skills slip out of practice, they have a massive leg up on D&D with its strange idea about classes. You could hardly come up with a more unrealistic way to model humans gaining experience than the D&D class based leveling up system.