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Player gathers points/XP and levels up based on this.

Is there some standard researched system which thresholds work well for level 2, level 3 and so on?

Or is each game basically solving it on its own?

(I want to avoid reinventing something that has a clear answer)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that you're far from.the first game maker to ever ask about such a common feature as this. So you'll find you can glean a lot of information by searching for past Q&A on the topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Sep 15, 2022 at 11:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also note that problems in game design are much more subjective than problems in something like engineering, so there aren't really "solved problems" as such. Mechanical game systems are as much an aesthetic feature of a game as the art and the music, and you wouldn't say that using certain colors is the optimal solution for how to make a game look good. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 15, 2022 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory I started from that, but what I found was of "How can I calculate current level from total XP, when each level requires proportionally more XP?" variety. When writing the question SE also has not found any matches at all. Though if I managed to create a duplicate, feel free to close it as one. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2022 at 17:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I thought it was a duplicate, I'd have closed it as a duplicate. What I was suggesting here was some additional reading that may give you more insight about this kind of feature (like the fact that all those questions asking for help with leveling use different numbers). \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Sep 16, 2022 at 17:27

3 Answers 3

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Consider for a moment what these thresholds do.

They set the pacing of player progression for the early, mid, on into late game.

They do so relative to the rates of XP earning.

So: every game that aims for a different pace of advancement, or a different curve of deceleration, or has different rates of XP earning, will use different thresholds.

You can look up the XP thresholds used in a dozen games by searching various fan wikis, and see that they're all different. So this is one of those questions you can answer for yourself.

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If your game has an XP system then there will presumably be some way for the player to choose how much XP they try to acquire; i.e. the player can stay in the current stage of the game and grind for XP, or they can press on to the next stage. (If there is no such choice, and instead the character receives XP on some fixed schedule, then XP is irrelevant and you only need to choose a balanced schedule for giving out character upgrades.) As others have noted, the XP curve can be balanced either by requiring more XP to level up higher, or by giving less XP when the player is already at a higher level; these are equivalent, so I'll assume the former.

A player who chooses to "grind" may fight twice or four times as many enemies as another player who just "presses on", and therefore gain twice or four times as much XP. Probably you don't want their character to be twice or four times as powerful; it would trivialise the game to be twice or four times higher level than you are "supposed" to be at a given stage in the game, especially if it's a long game with many levels (e.g. Final Fantasy or Pokémon).

To avoid this you need some sort of diminishing returns. You probably don't want a player to get more than N levels ahead of the curve by grinding, for some number N. So you want a player with, say, twice the expected XP to be (at most) some fixed number of levels higher than the level the game is balanced for. Mathematically, this entails that the relationship between XP and levels must be (at least) exponential, i.e. the XP required to level up grows (at least) by some constant factor per level.

In contrast, a sub-exponential relationship between levels and XP would mean that the grinding player keeps getting further and further ahead of the curve as they progress through the game. This will make the later stages boring when they are supposed to be challenging; the payoff for grinding should be that it makes the game easier but not too much easier.

On the other hand, if the relationship is super-exponential then the grinding player (who consistently fights twice or four times as many enemies as another player) will get ahead of the curve early, but fall back towards the curve as they approach the late game. That doesn't sound as bad as letting the player become too overpowered, so maybe it is an option, but perhaps players who grind will feel like they are being "punished" for it.

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Each game handles it on its own.

Often these games increases the XP needed by each level, and that's usually handled by some sort of algorithm, but that algorithm varies for each game, as each game progresses at a different pace.

Such Algorithm can be as simple as e.g. XPNeeded = 100 * 1.2 * level, but can be more complex depending how fast you want to level up early, and how large you want to scale it at larger levels.

For a unique example of a game that solved it on its own: Paper Mario. This game kept the XP needed the same, but lowers the XP gain as you level. At some point, weaker enemies don't give XP at all. The enemies I'm that game didn't have levels, but these were based on when and where they appear in the world.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The last paragraph of this answer really seems to indicate that there was an actual level/xp system, it was just "inverted" (enemies give less xp instead of player requires more) and "hidden from the player". It is a valid example. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Sep 15, 2022 at 12:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another unique example is how Breath of the Wild handled xp and progression. In BoW, killing enemies adds to an invisible xp counter. This counter affects the types of enemies that spawn and what modifiers weapons will have. To prevent the player from leveling too quickly, you only get xp for the first 10 kills of an enemy. Source: youtu.be/rWFy8v9snfs \$\endgroup\$
    – Unknown
    Sep 16, 2022 at 2:09

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