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General: MMOWTF: Teh Grind

StraddenStradden Managing EditorHalifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member

Dan Fortier returns this week to talk about the endless grind of some MMORPGs.

It's hard to remember the last time you read a forum for a new or existing MMO and didn't encounter endless rants, comments, and flame wars over that indelible aspect of the genre known simply as 'Teh Grind'. It's right up there with PvP. 'Epic loot' and "Is Guild Wars an MMO?" as one of the most debated points among fans and critics alike. Instead of taking the time and effort to dissect some of the more complex issues in games today, I thought I'd put the spotlight on one of my favorite whipping boys.

In a world full of instant gratification, it seems almost insane that millions upon millions of gamers would purposefully take on the second jobs that most MMOs have become. What makes the grind one of the most common yet most hated concepts in online games today? Will next gen MMO's continue to use this tried and true method or bend to the perceived pressure for 'something else'?

You can read the whole article here.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

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Comments

  • MageliteMagelite BallyclarePosts: 22Member

    Wonderful article, and I agree wholeheartedly. Enough grind, bring back the fun to MMO's.

    "Two things are infinite-the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe"-Albert Einstein

  • v2084cygv2084cyg Dayton, OHPosts: 1Member
    Hear, hear!  I'm tired of MMO's you pay to work for!  Grind is no substutute for content!
  • CaesarsGhostCaesarsGhost Marietta, GAPosts: 2,136Member
    I dunno... I miss the days when you were expected to go out and kill stuff on your own instead of getting quested through everything level by level.

    - CaesarsGhost

    Lead Gameplay and Gameworld Designer for a yet unnamed MMO Title.
    "When people tell me designing a game is easy, I try to get them to design a board game. Most people don't last 5 minutes, the rest rarely last more then a day. The final few realize it's neither fun nor easy."

  • TymoraTymora Manorville, NYPosts: 1,312Member

    I think players have different opinions about what exactly a "grind" in an mmo actually is.  I for one don't really mind grinding, to a certain degree, as long as there are other options for me in a game.  If I am forced to grind away to accomplish certain goals, I sometimes get discouraged, but other times I get a real feeling of accomplishment when I achieve success.

    Grinds can be fun for some people.  A comment that I read, "bring back the fun of mmo's" seems inaccurate to me, since many, or all of the original and early mmos were based on the grind.  It has only been in newer mmorpgs that questing and other forms of gameplay have become more popular.

    I never felt like I was caught in a grind when I played Everquest II and World of Warcraft, because when I felt like I was, I simply switched to something else in the game.  There were other gameplay options.  When I played Lineage II and RF Online, I did feel the grind, and it was heavy.  I tried to look to other forms of gameplay but there really were none.  This is the worst part of a mmo that has a grind, because there is no escape from it.

    Star Wars Galaxies, which I consider one of the best all time mmos ever (the original version), had a heavy grind within the professions.  Skills has to be used to gain experience, and so my character, as a Chef, needed work.  I spend countless hours grinding, but I did it in a public cantina, where other players would gather and roleplay.  This made me feel as if I was actually working and not just grinding, as I played out the role of bartender/chef, and the work I did had a little more meaning.

    I like the quest-grind, as it had been called, but I also miss the old days of going out without any quests, with only the desire to explore and slay creatures for experience.  I think the best thing I could think of in an mmo is a mix of everything, with lots of options and things to do.  I've had fun in almost all mmorpgs I've tired, but not a single one puts is all together for a complete experience, yet.

  • ReklawReklaw Am.Posts: 6,478Member Uncommon

    If people lack any form of imagination then yes grind does exist for a large portion of their play time, single player games are a bad example as it only one person playing it in a world of NPC's logic tells me there is not much competition between other players other then maybe showoff some fancy screenshots or share stats with others on website's. The competition factor between a single player game and an online game are so different from each other so with MMO's you need other way's what will provide competition towards other players. Now what I see with some MMOrpg's they give you that change to be part of a world that is made with the help of it's player base, meaning some games might appear empty at start but will in time start creating new city's/village's, a mmorpg needs to evolve, for such a game I want to get in a area and maybe come back in a few months and see a whole town being build, shops being opened. Patients is also very important especially if you want to play what I like to call a genuine mmorpg.

    Maybe in a few years we might get closer to large city's filled with thousands and thousands of NPC's doing there daily business together with PC's but we all know that technology to create MMO's that way is still far from being perfect this goes together with the limited capacity of most systems that even though some systems have really come along way i'm betting we havn't seen anything yet. Just look at what the last 20years did in gaming so really we havn't seen anything yet, its all just starting.

  • vajurasvajuras Austin, TXPosts: 2,860Member

    Excellent article thank for writing it. Yeah I've been wondering lately why I adore offline single player RPGs like Jade Empire, Oblivion, Crackdown, etc and puke at the thought of playing an MMO these days. I can only play an MMO for only so many hours, I never make it out of free trial usually. Thus I bought my xbox 360 console.

    Alas, I did realize almost all multiplayer games has some grind nowadays. BF2142 requires hours and hours if you want to unlock all your solider gear. I don't really know anyone that unlocked it without extreme hours of play. Rainbow 6: Vegas isn;t too bad but Lost Planet- they all give ya like 2-3 models to begin with (online deathmatch) and you gotta 'level up' to earn the best new outfit. After hrs and hrs of play, still havent unlocked my new costume. This is getting extreme- you cant even play a darn simple shooter online anymore w/o having to face a mind numbing grind for features that should be unlocked on day 1. The good ole days of having everything unlocked (like Quake 3, Unreal Tournament) seem dead. Everything seems influenced by MMOs which kinda sucks. Everything has Classes and Levels....

  • SamuraiswordSamuraisword Washington DC, MDPosts: 2,111Member
    I like grinding, it separates the men from the boys. Boys just lack endurance.

    image

  • vajurasvajuras Austin, TXPosts: 2,860Member
    Originally posted by Tymora


    I think players have different opinions about what exactly a "grind" in an mmo actually is.  I for one don't really mind grinding, to a certain degree, as long as there are other options for me in a game.  If I am forced to grind away to accomplish certain goals, I sometimes get discouraged, but other times I get a real feeling of accomplishment when I achieve success.
    Grinds can be fun for some people.  A comment that I read, "bring back the fun of mmo's" seems inaccurate to me, since many, or all of the original and early mmos were based on the grind.  It has only been in newer mmorpgs that questing and other forms of gameplay have become more popular.
    I never felt like I was caught in a grind when I played Everquest II and World of Warcraft, because when I felt like I was, I simply switched to something else in the game.  There were other gameplay options.  When I played Lineage II and RF Online, I did feel the grind, and it was heavy.  I tried to look to other forms of gameplay but there really were none.  This is the worst part of a mmo that has a grind, because there is no escape from it.
    Star Wars Galaxies, which I consider one of the best all time mmos ever (the original version), had a heavy grind within the professions.  Skills has to be used to gain experience, and so my character, as a Chef, needed work.  I spend countless hours grinding, but I did it in a public cantina, where other players would gather and roleplay.  This made me feel as if I was actually working and not just grinding, as I played out the role of bartender/chef, and the work I did had a little more meaning.
    I like the quest-grind, as it had been called, but I also miss the old days of going out without any quests, with only the desire to explore and slay creatures for experience.  I think the best thing I could think of in an mmo is a mix of everything, with lots of options and things to do.  I've had fun in almost all mmorpgs I've tired, but not a single one puts is all together for a complete experience, yet.
    This is a very good post actually. I think the problem is a single player RPG can get away with only being 7-10 hrs long. For instance I think me and my buddy beat Crackdown in less than 6 hrs. Lost planet less than 10 hrs, etc. An MMORPG tries to have a lot more longetivity so having a lot of options is key I agree
  • EvilsproEvilspro Drummondville, QCPosts: 6Member

    Great article. Grind system is sometimes really unpleasant. Killing 10 mobs of the same type it's ok but when you have to kill 100 for leveling to go on the next zone.

    When NPJ told us to kill 10 spiders, when you finish they told us hummm. .. i forgot to tell you to kill another 10 spiders... WHAT?!? I just spend 1 hour killing your spiders because my level was not enough high. I want to move on!! I hope some days someone will reinvent this system. I dont want a second jobs. I already have one and it's enough. I play MMO for fun and make fun with my friends and family. Not for the game editor...

    Vanguard have big potential. But the game is lunch and it's like is still in beta phase... I pay 60$ for a game almost unplayable.. and the system requirements ... I got it but the game is still unplayable... 

    I hope some day my dream will come true! A great finished MMORPG!

  • WolfriderWolfrider Sackville, NBPosts: 23Member
    Originally posted by Samuraisword

    I like grinding, it separates the men from the boys. Boys just lack endurance.
      Either that or have jobs, girlfriend, kids, a social life, etc. Grinding is something that is currently being tolerated by the MMO public simply because the novelty factor of the MMO hasn't quite worn off yet. It's getting there though, the genre is becoming saturated and there is ALOT of garbage out there. RF Online is a key example of a publisher that just didn't give a damn. I played it for 3 months (for an essay I was doing) and though I thought playing a game as homework would be great, it was more tiring than doing the research.



    I'm one of those players that hates the idea of XP in general. The whole reason XP exists  in pen and paper RPGs is that there is no objective way to test a players skill. In chess, checkers, go, action games, FPSs, sports, you simply get better with time. Because pen and paper RPGs exist largely in the heads of players, that skill progression has to be emulated. There is no reason (apart from tech restrictions and now, force of habit) to include any kind of leveling system in any RPG. Live combat people. Non fetch-quests that are Zelda and puzzle like in nature, well designed dungeons that make you think. Skills that require player interaction rather than randomly generated output with a few modifiers tacked on. A REAL STORY.



    Teh Grind is just about designer laziness. And I get that MMOs require alot of time, money and resources to put together and current technical limitations don't make everything listed above plausible. But at least some of it is.



    Of course, players share the blame here. You're the one paying the subscription fees. Speak with your wallet.
  • RyowulfRyowulf Greensburg, PAPosts: 668Member Uncommon
    Mmos cost a huge amount of money to make, so there just isn't enough to go around cuts need to be made somewhere.

    You can make the world smaller (but add pathing to make it seem bigging), you can limit the number of races and classes, you can have limited customization or you can use kill X mob and fed-ex quests and grinding. The point being a dev has to make cuts somewhere or they risk running out of money and releasing a half done game or selling off their game engine to bring in some cash.



    Maybe in time as the idea of game modules become more popular, overhead cost will lower and the grind will fade away. Of course all games will look and play sorta the same, but you can't have everything.
  • vajurasvajuras Austin, TXPosts: 2,860Member
    Originally posted by Samuraisword

    I like grinding, it separates the men from the boys. Boys just lack endurance.

     

    Or maybe its the 'boys' that have countless hours to grind while the 'men' have demanding jobs, wife, and kids.

  • The grind is something that is from both a limited budget and limited reasources, if you look at early single player games they were much the same way. Pac-man was a few mazes where the ghosts got faster every level. Space invaders was a single stage where more bullets would come every level. MMORPGs are single quest templetes where things hit harder every level. We really just need to wait for technology to catch up and make producing MMORPGs easier so less reasources must be spent on the technical aspects, and more can be spent on the design aspects.

  • DrowNobleDrowNoble Trenton, MIPosts: 1,296Member

    Well a "grind" is all relative really.  To me, if you never played EQ1 in 99-00, then you have no concept of what "grinding" really means. 

    I find that a game becomes grinding when it loses some fun value and you begin to notice it.  If I am enjoying the gameplay, I won't notice really that I have to Kill X mobs or loot Y items.  It's similar to watching a good movie, if you like it you won't notice it's 3 hours long while a 90 min sucky movie will seem like 5 hours.

  • KyleranKyleran Tampa, FLPosts: 20,008Member Uncommon

    I remember grinding my last 5 levels in DAOC pre-SI on the Trees ..and it really felt like one.  (Nothing like that anymore, thankfully)

    Lineage 2 (at launch) brought new meaning to the term grind.... quests seemed to be an afterthought just to make you run around and I gave up after getting my Ranger up to level 51 or so.... found myself at one camp grinding with 4 guildmates for a week....and decided enough for me....

    Lately games have more quests that disguise the grind..so it doesn't bother me so much..(though once I got past level20 in VG I felt the grind coming back..so I bailed quickly)

    I doubt we can ever fully get rid of the grind in MMO's....but efforts to mask it are greatly appreciated by myself.

    In my day MMORPG's were so hard we fought our way through dungeons in the snow, uphill both ways.
    "I don't have one life, I have many lives" - Grunty
    Still currently "subscribed" to EVE, and only EVE!!!
    "This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon

  • xxGuyxxxxGuyxx Rochester, NYPosts: 2Member
    Every MMORPG needs at least a little grinding, otherwise everyone would be max level within a month, and then the game would be incredibly boring. On the other hand, certain games could use a lot less of a grind(*cough*Maplestory*cough*Conquer Online*cough). I think there should multiple options for  leveling. In one game I play there are multiple options for a player to level, starting at 15, then even more options at higher levels(although most of the time there's only one really good option with the others giving a bit less exp).
  • Xix13Xix13 Tampa, FLPosts: 259Member

    Nice article stating in general what I posted on a specific game forum about grinding.  Yes, ALL MMOs have grinding.  I've play EnB, UO, SWG, Entropia, EVE, Horizons, Auto Assault, Hero and now 9Dragons and every one of them involved grinding.  Of these, 3 stand out as a bit different though.  Auto Assault was definitely an attempt at a completely quest-based levelling system, and it accomplished that fairly well until you got to the higher levels, when they just seem to have gotten exhausted and reverted to grinding.  EVE was a grind in the sense that you needed to let the GAME itself grind out real-time hours to gain any skill.  So while you may not have been grinding against monsters, you were grinding out the clock.

    I have to agree with an earlier poster in that I found SWG (pre-NGE, if not pre-CU) to be the high point of MMOs to date.  Yes, you did your grinding, but there was so much to do and so much support for non-combat gameplay that it was really a joy.  Add in the twitch-style of space combat (Jump to Lightspeed) and you had the best (to date) combination of RPG and shooter styles.  And the crafting was my favorite.  No other game has come close to the depth and complexity of original SWG for crafting.  So then, the question always arises as to WHY it was decided that depth and complexity were unwanted and the game dumbed down to an almost criminal level.  Why, pre-CU, you could even make a viable crafter/fighter hybrid.  It was the best to date, and nobody else has seen fit to even attempt to emulate it.

    Now, a little grinder that doesn't try to be too much can be fun.  I find Acclaim's new 9Dragons full of charm and there's a bit more variety to the grind than usual for these types of free MMOs, with a bit more variety in what you can do to take a break from the grind as well.  I'm enjoying it immensely so far.  You also need to make choices in the game, and I think that's what we're all really looking for:  choices.  Choices in gameplay, choices in skill allocation, choices in styles.  Choices = added complexity = steeper learning curve, though.  I'm just not sure why game development companies feel that having to work a little is such a bad thing. 

    -- Xix
    "I know what you're thinking: 'Why, oh WHY, didn't I take the BLUE pill?'"

  • SuplyndmndSuplyndmnd Grover, NCPosts: 553Member
    I think the only solution to "Teh Grind" is a complete revamp of MMORPG's in general.  I've stopped playing FFXI recently because it has become so much of a grind (read: repetitious) that I really could just sleep through pressing the buttons.  When your game is that exciting, you're going to get people who drop out.  I don't know if there will ever be a perfect MMORPG as everyone wants different things but perhaps that in itself is the answer.  Make an MMORPG that can be played any number of ways.  There are some people, i assume, that love to play and grind levels because that is just what they like to do.  I don't mind it when done in moderation. I think a better solution to making people grind out levels would be to insert a lot more quests between the levels.  Don't make me grind 15 levels to do a mission then make me grind 15 more to continue.  By the time I'm up to the next required level, i've spent time fishing, crafting, or even dealing with real life stuff that I must read a summary of the last mission I did to realize "oh, that's right, that's what is going on in the story".  I believe instituting a system where you can choose to quest or grind out levels in parties (or both) could be the solution that everyone wants.



    The only game that I know of that doesn't put a grind into levels is hotly debated as not being a real MMORPG.  That makes me wonder if we get rid of the grind, are we getting rid of what makes an MMORPG an MMORPG.  (I'm referencing Guild Wars here btw)  They have made the cap lower and give tons of quests and made leveling easy.  Too easy some would complain, but out of all the games out right now, they have absolutely made (in my opinion) a more captivating game by not making levels nearly as important as game play and storyline.



    In closing, I think with research and a million focus groups we would come to determine that one MMORPG cannot satisfy everyone without making it so flexible that it just becomes 5+ games wrapped into one box.  It's my opinion that some grind is necessary.  It cuts out the "riffraff" from just picking up the game, being your level in 3 days and not having a grasp of how things work and you wind up dying because of it.  But, until someone really starts complaining loudly and can create a system of their own that works, this is what we have.  A love/hate relationship if there ever was one.

    EVE - Sharvala
    FFXI - Shazamalicious
    Guild Wars - Xavier Lucifer & Charlize the Necro
    image
    image
    "Ranged...stuck...tree...15 random words... suck... noob fanboy... I MAKE GUIDE!"

  • SuaveSuave Enfield, CTPosts: 150Member
    I'd gladly level up my "Vacuous Article Reading" skill with artciles like these.  Nice work, Dan!  Your insight into the mindless mechanics of MMOs just keeps getting better and better.
  • BadSpockBadSpock Somewhere, MIPosts: 7,974Member
    Originally posted by Wolfrider

    Originally posted by Samuraisword

    I like grinding, it separates the men from the boys. Boys just lack endurance.
      Either that or have jobs, girlfriend, kids, a social life, etc. Grinding is something that is currently being tolerated by the MMO public simply because the novelty factor of the MMO hasn't quite worn off yet. It's getting there though, the genre is becoming saturated and there is ALOT of garbage out there. RF Online is a key example of a publisher that just didn't give a damn. I played it for 3 months (for an essay I was doing) and though I thought playing a game as homework would be great, it was more tiring than doing the research.



    I'm one of those players that hates the idea of XP in general. The whole reason XP exists  in pen and paper RPGs is that there is no objective way to test a players skill. In chess, checkers, go, action games, FPSs, sports, you simply get better with time. Because pen and paper RPGs exist largely in the heads of players, that skill progression has to be emulated. There is no reason (apart from tech restrictions and now, force of habit) to include any kind of leveling system in any RPG. Live combat people. Non fetch-quests that are Zelda and puzzle like in nature, well designed dungeons that make you think. Skills that require player interaction rather than randomly generated output with a few modifiers tacked on. A REAL STORY.



    Teh Grind is just about designer laziness. And I get that MMOs require alot of time, money and resources to put together and current technical limitations don't make everything listed above plausible. But at least some of it is.



    Of course, players share the blame here. You're the one paying the subscription fees. Speak with your wallet.



    People want a single player RPG they can play online. With a massive amount of people. Unfortunately, single player games don't work with a massive amount of people online, hence you have to create content that WILL work with a massive population all trying to do it at the same time. The inclusion of instanced content is a big step forward towards the more "single player" experience, but as we saw with Dungeons and Dragons online, too much instanced content in a supposed massively multiplayer game ruins it.

    MMO's are a genre with its own strengths and weaknesses. I think people who complain about the grind are either A)playing a eastern developed game like Lineage 2 or B) unaware that they are not playing an offline single player game.

    If you remove the grind, which would create an "end" point in a game, all you now have is a co-op game. Like playing Halo 2 co-op with a buddy and beating it. Remove the grind and you'd just have a co-op game with a frick'n huge player limit.

    Now what do single player games do to keep people playing after they "beat" the solo content? Multiplayer. According to the definition of "grind" used by most, any and all multiplayer gaming is a grind. BF, Halo, CS etc. People may not think of it as a "grind" because it's more "involved" gameplay because it's "twitch" gaming. Hence, why most all MMO's have PVP, to give players something to do, something more "twitch" and competetive to enjoy in a true multiplayer experience.

    People rush through the great, storied content to get to the "end game" only to realize they have to do the same thing more then once. Ever if you have 50 dungeons and 30 raids and 100 different PVP things to do, you'll end up doing the same thing over and over if you keep playing over a long enough period of time. Then you come to MMORPG.com or the game's forums and complain about the "grind."

    What makes every multiplayer encounter different is the people you play with/against. Want to remove the grind? Play with people whom you really enjoy playing with and you have a good time with. You'll then hear yourself saying "what grind?! I'm having a great time."

     

  • severiusseverius sacramento, CAPosts: 1,514Member Common
    Easily one of the best articles I have read from Dan Fortier.  Good job and I hope that this will have some sort of an impact on future games.

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  • pablo0713pablo0713 Granada Hills, CAPosts: 78Member
    Originally posted by Samuraisword

    I like grinding, it separates the men from the boys. Boys just lack endurance.


    Hehehe, reminds me of a quote by Charles Bukowski after his character in the film Barfly was told it takes nothing to be a drunk. His reply was that it takes endurance to be a drunk...and endurance is more important than truth.

    Lets Eat It!

  • pompey606pompey606 milfordPosts: 435Member Uncommon
    great article Dan, i felt it valued all points that needed to be made and i just hope devs start to take notes of grind, i think its a good way of lvling in a game but some games take it to far, if a game has a grind that cannot be it, it needs some parallel to the grind, what is that? i dont know, im not paid to figure it out, im sure somone is!

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  • blaamblaam parisPosts: 111Member
    I like the actual MMo as they are.. the grind become a real issue when one want to reach the max lvl as fast as possible.. most of the games have content for all lvls and if one decide to grind hes way up  its HEs choice.. and if the game doesnt have content for all lvls so one can have  a breack from grinding ( read lvl/craft or whatever involves killing same mob XXXXXX times) then the game is not worth it.



    i did play awfull grinding games ( AO back in the days before SL, Lineage 2 ...) but i still had fun and played them for several years, Although i  admit i wouldnt like to see games with such a time sink as L2.





    my 2 cents
  • uncusuncus Fonda, NYPosts: 528Member
    Originally posted by DrowNoble


    I find that a game becomes grinding when it loses some fun value and you begin to notice it. 
    QFT!  Anything that is fun is not a grind - when it stops being fun, it becomes grind.  Playing "peek a boo" with my nephew is fun for ten minutes, then becomes grind.  Doing the ol' bump & grind is not a grind even though it has grind in it.
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