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[Column] General: The Grind

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe CitadelPosts: 23,001MMORPG.COM Staff Epic

One of the things that players love to hate or hate to love is the MMO grind. In his latest column, Matt Miller takes on the subject of grind and offers his unique perspective. See what he's got to say before heading to the comments to discuss.

A lot of MMOs get accused of being a “grind”: doing a repetitive task many times in order to receive the reward you were looking for. The definition of grind has changed over time, and usually with a new batch of players coming onto the MMO scene, but at its core it is almost always considered a negative thing because grindy mechanics are repetitive in their very nature. Players don’t want to be forced to do the same thing over and over again, they want a variety. Over the years they have gotten variety, but as each new batch of players comes in they will always protest it’s not enough.

Read more of Matt Miller's The Grind.




  • KerengarKerengar HerentalsPosts: 64Member Uncommon

    You Sir, are right in every sense!

    About the question you just asked: The only thing that can keeps me going after I reach max level in about 6 months after release is an interesting world with tons of lore.

    I don't care most people just click passed all the quest text, they are wrong, period. If you don't know why you have to do something then you're just brainless doing a grind which makes no sense to you. And sadly that seems to be the way 80% (if not higher) wants to play their precious mmo..

    I want lore and meaning behind my character! Why does he need to kill those wolves at the Forest's Edge? Why am I travelling into the Temple of Agonizing Torture? It sure as hell aint for pleasure.

  • AregadonAregadon KarlsruhePosts: 4Member Uncommon
    “You think THIS is grindy? Back in MY day we had to Grind for 6 hours straight on one map just to get a lvl up!!” Now Im satisfied :D

    "Ich wei

  • sumo0sumo0 odensePosts: 115Member Uncommon

    @ Crynn

    Maybe some people have other reasons to play an MMO than for the story:o

    And maybe some people even prefer a good single player RPG if for the story:o

    Food for thought.


    @ OP

    A good sandbox with territory control can keep me engaged. Think Mortal Online or Ultima Online eventhough i was a stupid teenager in 1999 who understood nothing.

    Themepark MMO's are games that i play to max lvl and then maybe until the free month is over.

  • knightauditknightaudit Victoria, BCPosts: 310Member Uncommon


    Great article and very entertaining. To answer your question about what keeps me going ... it is the little things in the game ... As you remember in COH ... badges.. I was all over that. In Wow it is the Acheivements. I like the little things they offer. You can ignore them or do them ... it will not matter one way or another but just somethign fun to do.

    As an older gamer I know that my time in game is limited and i want to get in and really do something for me so that I enjoy what i am paying for. If that means I simply waltz through low level dungeons where nothing can hurt me ... so be it .. my game, my time and my enjoyment.

  • WinterclawWinterclaw St Petersburg, FLPosts: 28Member

    Matt, you are assuming we don't get bored of a game before we hit the level cap...


    There's not a lot of games that have kept my interest that long.  Usually I make a few of each class and get bored of trying to level them all.  I like to make a few characters because I'd get bored leveling only one character a lot faster.

    MMOs bore me because of this grind thing.

  • Shroom_MageShroom_Mage Lafayette, LAPosts: 863Member
    Grind can be defined as work toward a reward without fun.

    Add fun and it's no longer a grind.
    Remove the reward and it's no longer a grind.
    Remove the work and it's no longer a grind.

    The difficult part here is fun. Fun is the best way to get players to play your game, but rewards can be used to entice players to play when fun doesn't exist. However, this creates a grind, which can cause player burnout. When a player is burned out on a game, that player is less likely to log on again each day.

    For most games, rewards are completely unnecessary, but with MMOs where players expect and are expected to play for months or years, it can be difficult to keep a game fun, causing developers to look to grinds to keep people logged in.

    "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Dr. Seuss

  • BadSpockBadSpock Somewhere, MIPosts: 7,974Member

    I'm just tired of all the gameplay that doesn't have any effect on anything.

    No, I don't want to be the "one" hero/savior to be Mr. Super Special pants - phasing and instancing is anti-MMO as can be - but the alternative from "classic" MMOs is just as bad - give us new options.

    I want to be a participant in something that happens only once.

    But I want those one-time situations to be available every single play session.

    A truely dynamic world.

    PvP isn't the answer, it's an "easy" solution to a problem but is usually far too "gamey" to really create immersion.

    MMOs need a reinvention of PvE. From the groud up. Truly dynamic, systems driven content that is non-grind.

    Only way I can think of to do that is probably impossible with current technology.

  • KitsunechiiKitsunechii Posts: 10Member

    The leveling thing is the worst part... Once you hit level cap it's alot easier to do what you feel like doing with your friends/guild. In most games you can't really do anything besides grind until cap.

    Quests are the same as mindless mob grinding except you have to run back and forth all the time to turn them in. During leveling you only have one option, which is to get another level. And in most games you'll be grinding quests or running the same instance over and over with random people that will, in all likelyhood, be annoying douches. 

    At level cap you got access to the entire game. You will most likely look awesome, have cool abilities and probably be in a guild you like and maybe even be the leader of it. And as a bonus, you have the ability to help new players which just might come back and reward you. 

    End game is only grindy for those who make it grindy. 

    Leveling is forced grinding wheather you want to or not.

    The one game i keep coming back to is Dofus. it has 15 classes which can all be played differently, a mob exp cap system which makes lower levels desired thus involving new players in higher level gameplay. It has annual events and competitions aswell as areas only available under certain times of the year. A multitude of different dungeons and even more different equipments... etc etc. In short, Dofus has more then any mmo I've played (i've played many) and you only have to grind for a few very special items. Since nothing is "soul-bound" yoou can buy pretty much everything. You get access to end game from from mid-levels too which is easy to obtain.
    this turned out to be moreof a recruitment message for Dofus... anyway Dofus is a great game but few people gives it any chance. 
    Games like Vindictus or C9 is full of grind but because of their gameplay, it is bearable for a longer time compared to plain old tab-targeting. Not to mention that you will look awesome quite early and don't have to wait for cap.
  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 17,354Member Epic

    "What motivates you still playing your character when you’ve reached the level cap?"

    If a game is still fun, I'll still play it.  It's about that simple.

    Having a lot of fun things to do at the level cap is a lot easier in a sandbox game where reaching the level cap doesn't really change very much for you.  Letting players replay lower level content in an interesting manner works, too.  (See hard mode in Guild Wars 1 for the best example of this that I'm aware of.)  But it's much, much easier to do that if your game isn't mostly about loot and progression.

    Looping a tiny subset of the game's content endlessly because there's nothing else to do at the cap is a complete non-starter, for me, however.  I understand why game developers do make incredibly grindy endgames:  some players are stupid enough to loop some tiny subset of content endlessly for the sake of rewards that are only useful in future content that they'll also hate.  There is real money to be made off of those players, and you'd sacrifice that if your endgame consisted of a message that said, "You have beaten the game and should now quit and stop paying."  If I were responsible for designing the endgame of a progression-heavy theme park, I'd probably do the same thing.  But that doesn't mean that I have to like it, or pay to play games that manage to create an endgame that is less fun than not having an endgame at all.

  • DJMantissDJMantiss Tracy, CAPosts: 100Member

    What keeps me playing are the "hooks" and how well executed they are in game. Hooks can be anything and vary from person to person, however I look at hooks as something that makes you want to log-in after cap and you've done msot of the developer created content.

    For me this means that the game needs to be more than a simple theme-park treadmill with nothing at end game except a few raids and faction grinds. I need a game with a lot of random content and something explorable/interesting and challenging regardless of my level or tier of gear. At the same time I need a strong end game of challenges. These challenges can be hard-mode group content, raids, large scale engagements or comeptitive PvP. 


    For the first part I feel that games these days need 5+ different ways to get to max level and important locations should in fact be out of the way and take some kind of commitement to get to. EQ did this well in that simply going to the bank was something where you would say goodbye to your group and tell them you'd be back tomorrow. Now that is just insane, but having things too convenient makes any game, no matter how large, seem small and pointless.


    I also want deaths to mean something, I don't care if its experience lost, gear damage, time-lost, whatever. However it needs to matter, otherwise you get into games where you can just spam die to end-game and you never feel that risk vs. reward.


    Having optional things that force your character down a set path can be great too, something that means you cannot get the other quests/items/perks whatever had you chosen a different route. I like people being varied and unique. Nothing is worse than seeing 20 exact copies of you with different hair styles at each tier of the game.


    I could go on but I have meetings! Regardless what I see more often than not in these betas are games that could be great but lack those hooks to keep players coming back. So instead people experience whatever is shiny and new and quickly move on in a few months. 

  • newchemicalsnewchemicals San Gabriel, CAPosts: 43Member
    This is a reason why I like EVE Online, no levels.
  • Four0SixFour0Six Missoula, MTPosts: 1,170Member Uncommon

    After I finally hit cap in CIty of, I actually played with that character more than I had been in weeks. This was pre-incarnate trials, pre-statesman TF, pre-invention enhancements, so arguably there wasnt alot to do with "Draxxel". But, there was something gratifying about playing with my 50. I very much liked the progression system in CIty, I VERY much liked the fact that I had to put in lots of time to level after 25 or so. The grind made it feel like I had accomplished something. As time went on there seemed to be a level of appeasment that went on with the development team, as in my eyes, they began to cater to the WoW crowd. SMoothing of the "leveling curve", the 2xp weekends, and the final straw, the incarnate trials. The incarnate trials are what made it seem like a grind, and the were. Prior to that I would be happy to mentor down, or even play without rewards to just play. After I felt there was a push to "earn rewards", and with that came the empty grinding.


    My 2 pennies.


  • SovrathSovrath Boston Area, MAPosts: 21,639Member Epic

    What motivates you still playing your character when you’ve reached the level cap?


    It's either pvp or "enjoying the world" and making money to afford better equipment. That is if the game allows fo top equipment to be sold to other players.

    I just don't have the inclination to be a "raider". I certainly don't want to organize it and I can only do such content so many times before I start "phoning it in".

  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 3,656Member Rare

    Though I'm not a new-batch player so I could rightfully say "Back in MY day we had to ...", I have to admit during the whole column I just said "nope, nope to that either, etc" :) Grind sucks, it sucked back in the days as well, it's only a time-sink to keep players ingame thus keep receiving their monthly fee.

    I'm in games for the rpg part, meaning lore, story, exploration, ect. You even said the right answer in the column, "For a lot of people a “near perfect” MMO would be one of infinite levels, where the experience of leveling never ended." Hard to develop? That's not my problem as a customer :) just roll in a lot of good writers, designers, get them to work, say a raised monthly price and I'll happily pay it if the content upgrades they're coming up are good. Just like where TSW tries to go with the Issues, frequent story and lore updates, with RP elements, expanding the game world (ok, and expanding the gear grind as well, but there are still too many players needing that grind sadly).

    "Thus we come to the inevitable end-game." Inevitable? I've played actively in the last 5-6 years and not-so actively before that, but beside some occasional raids I've never touched endgame grind :) Let's be honest, treadmill is not a content nor a progression, even if you move the treadmill 1 inch forward every week, you won't get far in the end... But of course it's only IMO, I too know guys who are playing endgrind since years, and they're happy if they can get +1% on their characters with 4-5 weeks of grind. Poor chaps. Lol.


    And for the question: "What motivates you still playing your character when you’ve reached the level cap?" Roleplay, exploring every corner of the world, community, helping out buddies (hence the occasional raid). But mostly roleplay or other social activities, festivals and stuff. Usually if I reach the cap I switch to a new alt, or a new game until the next expansion arrives.


    Edit: almost missed, for that near-perfect game you don't necessarily need infinite levels and big dev team. One word, Foundry :) In STO I keep playing my VA because you can do a lot of fun stuff at level cap besides the grind (which is horrid in STO btw). One of the fun stuff is playing well-written and implemented Foundry missions. (I promise won't put here another Foundry vs Architect rant :) ) Dedicated fanbase can create and deliver new content in the game, expanding the game world without a boring grind.

  • JenuvielJenuviel Seattle, WAPosts: 960Member

    > I’d like to pose a question for you all. What motivates you still playing your character when you’ve reached the level cap?


    Playing alternate characters is pretty much the only thing that will keep me playing an MMO once I've reached the cap (dungeon runs, dailies and pvp just aren't enjoyable to me in any form). In order for alting to be worthwhile to me, though, the game needs to have enough variety that I'll be able to have a sufficiently different experience leveling up again. Ideally, that means new races to play, new classes or skills to try and new areas to explore.  Realistically, just one or two of those three would probably be enough; the more variety there is, however, the longer I'll probably stay.

  • ElSargentoElSargento MexicoPosts: 1Member

    What motivates you still playing your character when you’ve reached the level cap?

    I would have to say, a) making my toon look awesome with armor-equipment, b) harder challenges, and c) revenge on all the monsters (which sounds better as “helping the noobs”).

    Grind is definitely a problem that should be addressed from many views, I personally believe that some grinding is ok, but when the fun turns in to a job, one just stops playing.

  • ComerEsteComerEste Palm Harbor, FLPosts: 7Member Common

    What kept me playing a game after hitting max level used to only depend on how good the game's lore was and if I am able to find a good guild to be a part of. As I experience more and more games, the things that keep me playing, along with the afore mentioned reasons, are how a game handles PvP, if the game places more importance on skill instead of time investment, how complex the crafting system is, and how much content can I (the player) create/control with out having to wait around for the devs to create something for me.


    All of that is the reason I eagerly await the upcoming MMO releases like Star Citizen, The Repopulation, and Elder Scrolls Online. Those games seem to want to push the next evolution of MMO's forward.

  • MuffloMufflo StockholmPosts: 30Member

    Sometimes I feel like this website is repeating jargons of arguments that really aren't arguments. Matt Miller^ just wrote an article about what grind IS. 


    Matt, you did not bring anything new, fresh or interesting to this debate. You just put up the old information so that people could comment below like this. 


    Can this stop? Can you be creative, bring new ideas? 


    What if you would ask questions like: What can games do except leveling to get interest? Do we need levels? Do games need progress bars? Is this generation of gamers more spoiled than the last?

    The sylvari ordered Rice n chicken in a bar. The waiter asked him: "exploded or intact?" He angrily answered: "Intact of course! Do you take me for a fool?"

    Those were his last words.

  • jbombardjbombard SapporoPosts: 580Member Uncommon

    Progress is key to keeping people interested.  Whether it be story progress, content progress or character strength progress, people need to feel like their time spent accomplished something.  When a game fails to provide this at endgame, you find people resort to playing alts to stay busy. What I will continue playing at max level and what I enjoy depends on the game.  


    Using WoW as an example, for a game that relies so heavily on gear as the motivating factor the gear is pretty damn uninteresting.  Which is why in the past they have had such a large population of alts.(it will be interesting to see how there new anti-alt stance affects the bottom line)


    In a game like WoW where max level is all about gear progression, that becomes the focus.  In a game like Skyrim, gear isn't that big of a deal for me because it's easy to get it is all about exploration and seeing the world.  How people play and what they enjoy in a game relies heavily on what kind of environment the developers crafted.  Small design details can often have a very large impact on how the community interact with the game, subtely discouraging undesired behavior or encouraging desired behavior through game mechanics and design play a large part but often go unnoticed.  Too much stick and not enough carrot, and I will generally find something else to play.  Too much repetition and not enough progress and once I again I will find something more interesting to play.


  • VancePantsVancePants Los Angeles, CAPosts: 43Member Uncommon

    The most reasonable post level-cap solution has to be based around User Generated Content. It takes the work ethic, skill set, and creativity of the players and reinvests it into the game. It sustains the community and let's game makers focus on moderation instead of content peddaling, so it's also less of a grind for them (har har).


    Releasing strong content creation tools is probably more difficult with an MMO, where server control is so important, but I believe providing those digital Legos and harnessing the imagination of the players is the key to lasting success. 


    EDIT: Good article btw.



  • FrinkiacVIIFrinkiacVII Scranton, PAPosts: 45Member Uncommon

    What kept me coming back to my main "toon" on CoH (the only MMO I ever played with any regularity, and even then I took some long breaks, like for months at a time) was the ability to team up with people and just chat over the in-game chat functionality.  It was fun.  People would need my archetype to do a mission, I'd join, we'd enjoy it.  After a while I used to enjoy edjucating newbs (and by that I mean showwing them the ropes) and helping other people get stuff they wanted, etc.  I used to give people spare influence a lot.  I did grind for some things, but more often than not it was for stuff I wanted my character to have, because I thought they would.  I once logged in at 7am on a saturday morning (okay, twice) just to use Warburg when there were no other people lurking there to gank my Peacebringer so he could get the "Rocketman" badge.  That was the only character I ever tried to get that badge on, because he was my "space guy" toon.  That kind of stuff really appealed to me.

    Edit: one thing hat used to annoy me was people who were never on anymore, or when they were, it was strictly on the test server just to beta whatever new thing was coming.  Allowing the community to beta test new content before it was fofficially released sucked all the oxygen out of the room as far as my fun level was concerned, because I didn't want to do test server stuff and everyone else was there exclusively for like a solid week or two whenever there was new stuff to try out.


    "Well sure, the FrinkiacVII looks impressive - DON'T TOUCH IT - but I predict that within 100 years computers will be TWICE as powerful, ten THOUSAND times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." -Prof. Frink

  • AlBQuirkyAlBQuirky Sioux City, IAPosts: 3,828Member Common

    Originally posted by Matt Miller
    What motivates you still playing your character when you’ve reached the level cap?
    For me? Nothing. Maybe in game friends getting together for some fun, but really? Nothing. "End Game" to me means just that: End of the Game.

    I dislike reaching the end game. I am sad when it happens, especially in the heavily story-driven MMORPGs released these days. I just saved the world! Why on <insert MMO game world name here> would I go back to someone else's meager "quests?"

    I played my level 50 (max level) Defender in City of Heroes because I had acquaintances that held Task Force Races, had a weekly Sunday Event, or speed Cimerora runs. I had fun side-kicking or mentoring with lower level players and helping them out. In other games where the only end game consists of developer generated content solely for end game, I soon left.

    For me, and I know I am different in this than most other players, I play MMORPGs for the journey, not the destination.

    - Al

    Personally the only modern MMORPG trend that annoys me is the idea that MMOs need to be designed in a way to attract people who don't actually like MMOs. Which to me makes about as much sense as someone trying to figure out a way to get vegetarians to eat at their steakhouse.

  • sketocafesketocafe StoupaPosts: 948Member Uncommon

    What motivates you still playing your character when you’ve reached the level cap?

    Something I've yet to encounter.

    WoW held me longest after hitting the cap the first time in TBC, I spent a lot of  time doing the badge grind and then working up through the raid tiers. That worked once, and only in that expansion. Maybe it was because it was new to me, maybe it was because it seemed a difficult goal that first time to get into raiding (and it kind of was starting out in BC roics and Kara/ZA etc.) With wrath it was a lot easier to get started, but I was pretty sick of it soon and when the last time gate came down on Icecrown I never logged back in after the first time we attempted Arthas. I'd stabbed the fucker, and apparantly that was enough for me. For months beforehand, I had only logged in for raid time, and maybe a couple hours to farm flasks etc. 

    Since then, with later wow xpacs and any similar game I can barely stomache the thought of starting a gear grind type deal after hitting cap. If the first month of raiding doesn't offer a lot of fun times and interesting encounters, I stop logging in.

    Now I just play EvE and won't ever hit a cap. I go through periods of high and low activity, which seems to help to refresh my desire to play after a longish stretch of only logging in to set a training que. All of the content I truly enjoy in EvE is created with other players, so there's no end to it. It also comes in fits and starts, with a bit of boredom sometimes which may help make the exciting moments moreso because of their relative rarity. 

    As to your question, I dunno. Whether it's a themepark or sandbox I'd suspect the key to keep me interested is to create interesting systems which allow for some flexibility in the day to day experience you get. I didn't even last my usual month in Pandaria endgame because of those damned dailies, but I fucking loved them on Quel Denas on my first (pvp) server, because while the quests didn't change, the world pvp could make it different e'rry day.

  • BattlesnakeBattlesnake Derry, NHPosts: 6Member

    The main motivator for me as a player is a challenge that requires me to think, adapt, get in "the zone", etc.

    Repeating the same task over and over CAN be challenging, but is not necessarily fun.  Leveling in a game can be fun if you're still mastering the mechanics.  Same as raiding can be fun if nobody in the group has a strategy yet (until they Google it and ruin the fun).  PvP can be endless fun if it is fair, because human opponents learn while you're learning so the challenge never stale.  AI cannot compete with that.

     The learning IS the fun.  And when you apply what you've learned and succeeded your body literally rewards you with drugs.

    So I just need an end-game that rewards the player through an IV!

  • H0urg1assH0urg1ass Austin, TXPosts: 1,923Member Epic
    Originally posted by Shroom_Mage
    Grind can be defined as work toward a reward without fun.

    Add fun and it's no longer a grind.
    Remove the reward and it's no longer a grind.
    Remove the work and it's no longer a grind.

    The difficult part here is fun. Fun is the best way to get players to play your game, but rewards can be used to entice players to play when fun doesn't exist. However, this creates a grind, which can cause player burnout. When a player is burned out on a game, that player is less likely to log on again each day.

    For most games, rewards are completely unnecessary, but with MMOs where players expect and are expected to play for months or years, it can be difficult to keep a game fun, causing developers to look to grinds to keep people logged in.

    Nothing sums it up better than this.

    For me, "fun" is defined as exploring and finding new things to do spontaneously.  This is why I find the Fallout and TES series to be a lot of fun.  It's different for everyone.

    FoofyWatch: A YouTube Channel dedicated to Overwatch.  Check it out here!

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