A Character Level that is light on new abilities.
In games with a Character Level system, the bonuses a character gets over their lifespan are usually spread over the levels. If a character's attack bonus is supposed to increase by 30 and their magic defense is supposed to increase by 10 over the course of 15 levels, it's straightforward to increase the former by 2 every level and increase the latter by 1 except on every third level. Some benefits don't divide so easily, though. For example, the ability to throw a fireball is binary--either you can or you can't. As a result, such benefits must collectively be spread over the levels. But what if there are not enough benefits to spread one to every level, or game balance requires them to be clustered? Some levels will only get the standard small numerical benefits that every other level gets. Those levels are called Empty Levels for they are empty of cool new abilities. Empty Levels in regards to abilities only applies if these extra abilities occur at least half of all levels--if special abilities are a rare occurrence, the player doesn't feel like they're missing anything when a level-up doesn't add a new ability. If the game's design includes a randomization factor for additional skill or power points alotted, it is possible that any level could be considered "empty". This variety may be responded to by some players with Save Scumming. In a Class and Level System, where each character class has its own abilities, direct benefits to a class-specific ability are usually sufficient to make a level-up special enough to avoid an Empty Level, even if the benefits are strictly numerical. Empty Levels are not inherently bad--and indeed may be necessary in a game where levels outnumber abilities--but they can cause friction when different characters don't have the same number of Empty Levels. Empty Levels hurt the most when The Enemies Level Grind Faster. If high-level characters face higher difficulties--often due to Level Scaling--Empty Levels confer a Low-Level Advantage for preceding levels.
ExamplesDriving Game MMORPGs Platform Game Puzzle Game