Levels give your users a taste of success that motivates them to visit your site again. As a huge fan of running I’d compare levels in game design to the levels you reach in running. Runners love observing their progress and achieve better results and… as a result of the growing popularity of running apps and wearable devices like Nike Fuel Band or FitBit they love to share their progress with friends.
A beginning runner gradually builds his form starting from small distances and slow pace. First, you want to run your first 2K, then when you reach your first 5K you begin to think about improving your pace. The same happens with the player of your system. One of the reasons why Angry Birds is an extremely engaging game is its well-designed levels system. The player progresses smoothly, gaining confidence and experience. First couple of levels are easy-peasy and gradually, you get to the more difficult levels with more options.
Now that your player knows the game a bit better let her try some new game items. First running shoes, or apparel is a big thing for the runner.
In game design, just like in running the level difficulty is not linear.
It ususally takes more time to achieve 5K-10K than to achieve 1K-5K, as this is the next higher level which requires more effort. Now comes a question ‘Why shall I do this?‘. It’s time you gave you player some extra motivation like goals, showing the remaining number of points to the next level, giving extra points, or providing some tips.
When reaching 10K level your player is definitely ready to share her achievements with her friends and maybe take part in the new challenge like a street run. This is getting pretty good. Let your player earn / purchase some more equipment along the way. Runners are crazy about their running shoes and gadgets like GPS watches, wireless earbuds, mp3s, heart rate monitors, etc. Provide them with a variety of virtual goods like power-ups, avatar, accesories, profile upgrade, or decorative items.
In World of Warcraft you can purchase new pets, mounts or helms in the item shop. LinkedIn offers profile upgrades at different prices. Playfish offers Playfish Cash (PFC) to spend on virtual goods. You decide what your player may want to purchase in your game / service.
21K (Half Marathon) is the level when a runner should think of improving performance like scoring better times or lowering heart rate.
If you want to achieve higher levels (20K, Marathon) you need much more training / experience than in the beginning. Give your player some tips on how to improve her performance and don’t forget about motivation.
Finally, we’re getting to the PRO level – a Marathon. This is the time when you might want to think what’s next, how to engage your player with more advanced activities. Remember never to give the highest level or your player’s motivation will go down.