Leveling up is a concept in games in which a character experiences some sort of progression that usually entails unlocking new abilities, skills, access to new items, access to a new area of the game, or as a benchmark of how far into the game a character is. As a gameplay element, it was first widely introduced to audiences through the original pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. In its simplest form, leveling up occurs through the process of gaining enough experience points until a target experience point total is reached. Once the target is met, the player's character "levels up," and a new target experience threshold is set.
As an example, most characters start at level 1. To get to level 2, a character must acquire 100 experience points. To do so, the character must kill other creatures or complete various tasks or quests in order to gain the experience necessary. Once the character meets these requirements and acquires 100 experience points, he or she will then level up to level 2. Each subsequent level usually comes with benefits such as increased power, new abilities or items, and access to new locations. The amount of experience points required to reach the following level is also typically increased. Most leveling systems also allow excess experience points from reaching one level's maximum to spill over into the new level. So a level 1 character that performs an act that gives him more than the required amount of experience to reach level 2 will see that excess experience count toward their progress to reach level 3.
Many games also feature a level cap as well; a maximum level beyond which no further character progression is possible. This is often due to balance and a lack of content to make effective use of levels greater than the cap. However, some games raise the level cap through expansions that add content and challenges designed for characters of higher levels.
Leveling systems take many forms, and different developers have devised different methods to handle the accruing of experience, the manner in which characters advance upon leveling up, and the existence of level caps. One common manner in which games with leveling mechanics are handled is the general expectation of what a character's level is, or should roughly be, at particular points in a game. For example, a game may contain areas that are optimally designed to be taken on by a player whose character or party is at about level 20. Players that rush to this particular point in the game and reach it at level 15, for example, will have more difficulty with its trials than players with characters that are of a higher level. On the other hand, a player may spend time grinding levels by repeatedly fighting enemies purely for the experience gain to the point where they have leveled up well over the target level difficulty of the following area, making its completion a much more simple matter.
Another option that developers can also use involves level scaling. This mechanic ties content in the game to the character's character's level. In effect, the more powerful the player's character becomes, the more powerful the enemies become. This mechanic is used in games such as open world RPGs where the developer cannot control where a player is likely to travel at any given time. Thus, the challenges faced throughout the game are based on the level of the characters, rather than their location.
Although leveling up is most often seen in and associated with RPGs, leveling mechanics have become more and more prevalent in other genres. As an example, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare introduced a leveling mechanic to the game's multiplayer mode. When the player levels up, he or she receives access to new guns, perks and equipment as they progress. With the game's success, similar FPS titles outside of the Call of Duty series have made use of this progression template. In contrast, most mainstream multiplayer FPS titles of the past give the players all of their equipment upfront with no leveling system in place. Now it can be seen in racing games such as Blur, indie action games such as Altitude, Puzzle/Platformers such as Henry Hatsworth, and sidescrolling beat-em-ups such as Castle Crashers.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
The leveling system in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne affects the protagonist's aspects such as the maximum number of skills he can keep at any one time, with the skill slot limit rising at key level thresholds. It is also not possible to recruit or fuse demons that are beyond the character's current level. Abilities he learns as he levels up are dependent on the magatama he has equipped at the time the level increase occurs. He may also at random be given a benefit such as fully restored hit points. Most unusual, however, is the level cap. Like many RPGs, the game displays the character's current level in the status screen and stops counting at 99. However, the true level cap is 255.
In the Fire Emblem series, the typical level cap is set at 20, though if a character is a lower tier class and undergoes a class promotion, the level count will restart at 1 and can then be leveled to the maximum a second time. Specifics of the leveling system vary between games in the series, as some will automatically advance the character to the promotion class upon gaining enough experience points to reach level 21 of their current class, while others require the use of special items such as seals or crests to make the promotion occur. Some games also prevent key characters from changing classes until specific moments in the story.
Leveling up requires 100 experience points regardless of the character's current and target level. However, the higher a character's level, the fewer experience points he or she will earn from enemies. Characters that cannot fight, such as clerics or bards, earn experience by performing actions to heal or assist the other player characters. When a character levels up, random stats are chosen by the game and raised by one point. However, the nature of this random stat selection sometimes results in a character leveling up and receiving no stat boost at all.