This is a cross post from here: http://guilelessmonk.tumblr.com/
In RPGs that depend on leveling and grinding as a system it is very common for you to unlock the same ability several times only each time the new version is scaled to your level. The most popular RPG series all have it: Final Fantasy Series (Fire, Fira, Firaga), Persona Series (Zio, Zionga, Ziodyne), and Dragon Quest (Frizz, Frizzle, Kafrizz). Here is a quick question, why?
Why not instead of leveling up the same spell make it so you can put as much or as little mana into the one fire spell from the beginning, maybe put a cap on it based on the characters level. It isn’t any more complicated than having the same spell multiple times and it is pretty intuitive; put in more mana in, get out more damage out.
Part of it is the hold over from the pre-mana system where you would get a certain number of spells of a certain power level. x1 level 5 power, x3 level 4 power, and so on, so it became useful to have the same functionality at differing levels of power. But once mana was adopted on whole why didn’t anyone make the change?
I would like to hope that the reason is just that no one thought of it but I don’t think I’m smarter than everyone working on some of my favorite games ever, and I’m afraid the reason is cheap lastability. I’ve talked about ‘Leveling though Numbers’ before and that is simply what this is, it is a false addition to the combat (false because the mechanic already existed) meant to give the players a false sense of achievement and growth.
Dragon Quest games still use this mechanic, Persona games still do too. Final Fantasy seems to have moved away from the same spell over and over but only in the sense that the entire series has moved away from the old battle model and not in the sense that they have stopped the use of leveling through numbers.
I’m not saying that these are bad series, or that games that do this are completely bad. Final Fantasy 6 is one of my favorite games ever and it does this in spades, but that doesn’t mean we should be okay with games putting in false growth to give the player a false sense of achievement. False sense of achievement is the Farmville method of addicting gamers to a reward feedback loop that doesn’t challenge them or cause them to get better at anything, even at the game they are playing.