Welcome to the greatest game ever created.
Like other successful games like World of Warcraft, Destiny, or Everquest, this game is always online. But it’s always offline, too.
At any point in time, there are over 7+ BILLION people playing.
Often applauded for its realism, known for its punishing but rewarding skill system, and regularly accused of being unfair, it’s the best selling game of all time.
In this game, L.I.F.E. (kind of an unoriginal title), you’re forced into a random starting character and have to complete a period of mandatory leveling up. After that though, you are free to choose your profession, develop your skill trees, and pick the quests YOU want to do.
I’m no expert at this game – In fact, there’s quite a bit about it I don’t know yet – but I wanted to put together a guide on the basics to make sure you’re enjoying it too. Fully understanding a few of the game’s mechanisms could make playing a WHOLE lot more fun.
Selecting your Character
In an interesting twist on the modern video game, instead of getting to fully customize the look, height, race, and shape of your character at the start, this is all randomly determined and assigned.
This means we don’t get a pre-game screen where we spend hours customizing eyebrow height, nose depth, race, genetic traits, and natural buffs; the system just spits out a character at random. This is the character you have to play as for the rest of the game.
This might sound horrifying to those who like to play games with a good degree of character customization, but these are just our starting stats and attributes. Eventually there are quests you can complete or places you can visit to customize many of these stats. Some stats and physical attributes, however, are set in stone.
Whether you are 6’5″ male and who can build muscle easily, or your character came with a bullshit buff like “pre-existing tendency to develop heart disease and diabetes” – remember – you don’t get to choose your starting stats.
If for whatever reason you aren’t happy about your starting character, you have two options:
- Spend the rest of the game complaining about your character or the level of difficulty you’re playing on. (Note: This is not recommended, as regardless of where you started, there will always be somebody who is worse off than your starting character, with a smile on their face who is just thankful for the opportunity to play.)
- Accept that your character is just what it is. You can’t re-roll a new character, so your only option is to take responsibility for making the most of your experience. It sucks that some people get to play on easy and others have to play on legendary, but what can you do?
Mandatory Leveling Up In L.I.F.E.
When you first start out in L.I.F.E., you’ll be in the care of 1 or 2 or other player characters. Again, you don’t really get to pick who is in charge of you and how good they are at the game – you’re just kind of… assigned to them.
Don’t bother complaining, it is what it is. It ain’t fair, but it’s the system our game developers put together. Just like some people have friends to power-level them in World of Warcraft, you might know people in L.I.F.E. who seem to have every advantage too, while you’re stuck with a wooden sword and tunic.
If you’re playing life on high difficulty and starting in a crappy zone with less than optimal caretakers, it will make your rise to a dragon-slaying hero even more satisfying.
Once you learn to develop two key skills (“walking” and “talking”), you’ll have to go through a series of mandatory quests that last approximately 9 months long, for a good 12 years or so. During these years of questing, you’ll learn such valuable skills as:
- Memorizing the state capital of Montana (shout out to our Montana players).
- How to do long division and algebra by hand.
- Figuring out where you fit into the social scene.
Now, you’re probably wondering what those skills have to do with being good in the later stages of L.I.F.E. Unfortunately, not much! This portion of the game was developed decades ago, and it hasn’t been patched or updated yet. Because it’s so outdated and imbalanced, you might find some players at this stage can be dicks, treating people poorly. Remember, this is not your fault; it’s an effect of bad game design.
Try not to worry so much; later the game gets much better, and so do the people.
Eventually, it will be time to choose your class and profession.
Picking Your Class and Profession in L.i.F.e.
I told you this game was complex, right?
Good, because the whole economy and character class/profession system is crazy! You can have both a class (how you want to adventure), and a profession (how you want to make money). Like in World of Warcraft, where you might be a Warrior but also a Jeweler, here in L.I.F.E. you can be a Warrior and a programmer.
Your CLASS is based on your physical training. You can read all about it here:
WARRIOR: You love the idea of getting stronger and more powerful. Every day is an opportunity to move heavy things or test yourself against others in competition and prove your might.
SCOUT: Built for distance and efficiency rather than strength and power, you can outlast any animal on the planet. Your muscles are designed with endurance in mind, and you can cover great distances whenever necessary.
RANGER: A jack-of-all-trades, Rangers are well-equipped for any situation. You’re good at strength training and pretty good at covering distances when required, but neither is a specialty.
ASSASSIN: Every building can be climbed, every gap can be jumped, every obstacle can be conquered. Assassins spend most of their time training with functional body-weight exercises, as that’s usually the only thing they need to lift.
MONK: Monks can kick your ass with their fists and feet, and they can do it before you even know what’s happened. Incredibly agile, lightning fast, and loaded with power, Monks specialize in martial arts to stay in shape and destroy the opposition.
DRUID: Druids spend a majority of their time training in the arts of yoga, tai chi, and other movement-based disciplines. Each movement has a purpose, and that purpose is to further improve the dexterity, agility, and strength of the druid.
ADVENTURER: Adventurers are brave souls who fear nothing and are always curious about what’s over the next hill or across the ocean. They are often found working diligently with their allies to help ensure that every adventure leads down the correct path, exploring and learning for the sake of others.
Next, you can also pick a PROFESSION based on how you want to use your skills to provide a service or create a good for somebody. Some players can effectively take their CLASS and make it their PROFESSION (see Professional Athletes or Athletic Trainers and Coaches).
For the rest of us, we’ll need to pick a CLASS which denotes how we want to train, and then a PROFESSION that allows us to participate in the game’s economy system and buy things. Oddly enough, the far majority of in-game items will provide you with zero to little advancement, while others might even encourage your character to backtrack! We recommend spending as little money as possible on useless items in the game, and instead saving it up to spend on in-game experiences, quests, or travel.
Here’s the cool part about picking a CLASS or PROFESSION in L.I.F.E: Unlike in other RPGs, you can change either one literally at ANY point. If you wanted to quit your profession tomorrow, you can. There’s nothing stopping you other than social pressure from your fellow gamers or the cushy in-game lifestyle you’ve built for yourself!
Yeah, you might need to learn new skills. Or use some of the money you’ve saved up. Or spend money on fewer things. But you 100% have that choice. You’re never locked into a decision unless you refuse to change.
The same is true for CLASS. If you no longer want to be a warrior and instead want to train like a scout and run a 5k, go for it! You don’t need anybody’s permission, there’s no quest to complete or guardian to renounce. You just… do it.
L.I.F.E. scores major points for this freedom of choice, though many players don’t realize it and stay stuck in a path long after they’ve stopped enjoying it.
Developing your Skill Trees
The ability system in L.I.F.E. is brilliant in that it’s custom to your activities: Much like Morrowind and the Elder Scrolls series, you don’t level up and get to spend specific “skill points” to make a skill or attribute better.
Instead, the more you use a particular skill the more likely you’ll be to improve that skill. Simple enough:
- Want to be better and faster at swimming or running? The more you swim or run, the higher your swim or run skill will be.
- Want to get stronger? Complete activities (the squat, the deadlift, the pull-up, the push-up) and get more strength points.
- Want to get better at a musical instrument or martial art? The more time you complete actions related to those activities, the higher level those skills.
In another forward-thinking game development, some of these skills are stackable too.
For example, if you improve your speed through sprints, it might translate to improved endurance in long distance running. Or if you improve your strength, it might translate to improved performance at football, swimming or climbing. There are an infinite number of skills to improve, so our advice would be:
- Be sure to focus at least some time on the main physical skill: strength. Every skill improves when you improve this physical skill (close to central in the physical skill tree).
- Next, train skills that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy a skill, only improve it when it helps you do things you do enjoy.
- Lastly, use it or lose it. If you don’t use a skill, your ability will actually decline in L.I.F.E. Your character needs constant activity or your character’s physique and skill levels will eventually suffer, and you will be cut off from higher-level quests.
Based on your genetics and the stats your character rolled, you will probably be genetically predisposed to be good at certain things and bad at others. But this is a game, which means you can do whatever you freakin’ want – original stats and scaling be damned. Read more about that game mechanic here.
The L.I.F.E. Questing System
Now, you’re probably thinking “what makes this game enjoyable, and why should we develop these skills?”
Like many open world games (like GTA), there is a preset storyline and questing system, but the world is also entirely open. You get to choose how you play the game. That means the “why play the game” answer will be different for everyone.
Here are some of the examples of quests that you can embark upon and could be worth your time:
- Exploring new locations: This can be as simple as exploring the next zone over in your home city, or taking a transport to a far-away and exotic zone to explore ancient ruins.
- Ranking up in certain challenges: Earning a new belt in a martial art, completing a certification or level of schooling.
- Reaching certain L.I.F.E. events: A new profession, ranking up in your profession, or starting your own profession!
- Skill-based challenges: Completing a 5k quest.
- Giving back to other players: Power leveling those who start out in crappy zones or providing armor or weapons to newbies.
- Building a guild: Creating a place for other players to hang out and quest together.
- Finding in-game romance: Don’t knock it! Maybe you want to find somebody special in the game to spend most of your time with.
Many of these quests can be completed solo, but there are some challenging quests that can only be completed by a group of two or more. Remember, L.I.F.E. is a giant multiplayer game, so of course the creators put in some quests that require at least two people!
L.i.f.e. Is a Multiplayer Game
Even if you choose to play L.I.F.E. as mostly a single player game, you will have to spend a significant portion of time interacting with other players so you might as well make the most of it.
Getting some others to run through the game with you and partner up makes the game a lot easier (though more challenging in other ways!). Of course, you can play the game however you want, but for most people we strongly recommend you spend at least some of your time building these alliances (called friendships).
We have two major tips for you when going multiplayer in this game:
GROUP UP WHEN YOU CAN: If you want to group up with somebody for a task or to try a new profession or a skill, there’s millions of message board posts dedicated to people looking for new members. We even have free message boards on Nerd Fitness with tens of thousands of members who would love to group up with you. Sometimes you’ll ask to join a group and they’ll brush you off or say stupid things. What do you expect? It’s a game and some people are just asshats. Move on and find a group that is interested in having you.
Want to improve your running skill? Join a group of other scouts who complete running missions daily.
Want to try a new profession? Spend time with people in the new profession you’re after and learn from them!
Want to try a hiking quest into the wilderness? Partner up with those who have completed the quest before and want to run it again.
DON’T BE AN ASSHAT: When we level up, we have a chance to help others. Think of this like a big “Player vs Environment” game with occasional “Player vs Player challenges.”
A word of warning: like any game, if you get really good at life, or if you’re somebody who others feel like got a lucky roll, they will hurl insults at you like:
Must be nice to be you…
YOU HACK! YOU CHEAT! YOU HACK.
If I had the system you had I would be so much better.
You suck. (And so on.)
Although some people do cheat at L.I.F.E., most don’t. They’re just doing what they can to play their character the best way they know how. Sometimes people are just upset at some of the game mechanics we talked about earlier – especially how you don’t get to choose your starting character and location.
Progress and Rewards in L.I.F.E.
The developers made an interesting decision, and chose to go with a HUD-less display in this first person MMO. By that, I mean there’s no on-screen information telling you where to go next, or how much life you have left, or how many more points you need until you level up. Just like the recently launched game The Witness, there’s no direction or instruction – it’s up to you to figure it out.
This has caused a significant uproar in the gaming community:
“How the hell am I supposed to know how close I am to the next level?”
“How the hell am I supposed to know where to go next!?”
“How do I know this is even helping me?”
To make it worse, the game has been criticized for having a tough grinding system. It doesn’t allow you to skip ahead in time or rapidly advance; you’re stuck developing skills and working on quests and missions while not being fully aware of what’s next.
The developers are fans of old-school gaming and responded: “Gamers these days are too soft. Remember the first Metroid? The first Legend of Zelda? There was no instruction! You just had to wander around and figure things out. Let’s get back to those days!”
This is why supplementing the mechanics of the game with your own mechanism to track yourself can be very helpful. It’s like giving the game an upgrade, mod, or add on just for you.
So, we suggest you track your progress on quests or your skill acquisitions. The game isn’t holding your hand here, and you might need to figure out the best way to mod the game. But we have some great advice on that here and here.
Press Start and Join the Fight
Like Diablo’s Hardcore mode, You only get 1 life in this game.
Combine this with the previously mentioned “use it or lose it” skill development system, and the sooner you stop using skills, the more rapidly your overall Hit Points will decline.
This means for players past your 40-50th year or so in the game, continuing to develop your skills is the best possible way to stave off rapid Hit Point Decline. Death comes to us all in L.I.F.E., which means you need to make the most of your experience while playing right now:
- Want to be a baker or spend your time playing some of the other games in L.I.F.E.? That’s your call!
- Want to raise a family and spend your time doing multiplayer quests? Awesome!
- Want to go it solo and travel and explore as much of the game world as you can? Great – do your thing!
Your character is going to die at some point. It’s inevitable. No character has cracked the infinite lives or immortal potion quests yet.
Which means you have two choices:
- Worry about the end, or just give up and turn the computer off. It’s going to happen, so what’s the point?
- Realize that your in-game time is precious, and you should make the most of it in whatever way feels significant and enjoyable to you.
I’m going with option B.
Here’s how I’m choosing to play the game:
I’m a warrior-poet, with a focus on assassin skills. I love crafting tales and helping others play this game to the best of their ability through my in-game blog and resource, Nerd Fitness. I’m trying to develop a few music skill trees, even though I’m not good at them. I’m working on some physical skills, and some concentration skills too.
I hope to turn my life into a permanent multiplayer game (with kids!) at some point, but in the meantime, I’m just gonna do my best to play this game to the best of my ability. I group with friends, do plenty of solo quests, and love any exploring or skill based mission.
What are some of your questions about Leveling up in L.I.F.E.? How can I help you?
How are you choosing to play?
PS: If you’re a fan of this post, check out my dead-tree strategy guide to living a better life: Level Up Your Life, available in book stores and online.
photo: strategy guide