It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
Grinding is one of those tough topics to discuss because the term means different things to different people (like meaningful travel, camping, etc.)
Until we would all agree as to what it means for the purpose of this discussion, we'll see some posts saying 'yeah, no grinding!' and then just as many posts asserting 'no, grinding is great!'.
And, not only do people have different definitions, people also have different tastes and tolerances... what one might find too repetitive and therefore boring and grindy, another may not.
That said, I'll attempt to add clarity and at least talk about what I consider grinding, the good and the bad.
First of all, the 'bad' grinding actually fits into a larger issue -- overly repetitive gameplay. Whenever an MMO has an advancement path that involves doing something fairly simple over and over again it risks creating a situation where 'bad' grinding not only exists as something you can do, but worse yet, sometimes it's the most efficient way to advance your character. This scenario is especially bad because the player should never find himself in a situation where he can choose one of two paths: Path 1 is more fun, more engaging, more challenging but then also less efficient in terms of character advancement. Path 2 contains the overly repetitive gameplay but is also a more efficient path to advancement. Studies have shown, both studies I have been involved with and also those I've read about, that in such a scenario, many (sometimes even most) players will choose the path with more efficient advancement even though it's less fun. Allowing this to occur (and it's happened under my watch before, so I bear some responsibility) is an epic fail in terms of MMO game development. It's bad(TM). We need to avoid it if at all possible.
Now, again, where this can get tricky is that everyone is an individual. Some people find certain MMO gameplay to be overly repetitive and grindy while others will find the same activity just fine. The answer here for us is to know our target audience. And that's where, of course, we need to listen to all of you!. We need to make sure we don't have unnecessarily grindy content and mechanics in Pantheon, of course, but more specifically, we need to avoid what most of you guys feel is too grindy. When it comes to activities other MMO players in general may find too grindy, we need to keep in mind that Pantheon isn't being designed to be all things for all people.
I'd also like to talk briefly about why grindy content and mechanics have appeared in MMOs. At one extreme, I've seen people assert that we put in grindy content just to punish players. This, of course, is ludicrous. I don't see any MMO developer, regardless of the type of MMO they are playing or their vision for what an MMO should be, purposely putting in grindy content just to piss off players. That would be, well, really dumb at worst and simply bad game design at best.
I also see the assertion that grinds are put into MMOs to slow players down -- to slow their advancement. In my experience this has occurred, but perhaps not as frequently as some might assume. There have been times where players are indeed chewing through content so quickly (for any number of reasons) and I’ve been part of meetings where the goal was to find out some way to slow the rate of advancement. In those meetings, adding grindy content and mechanics have been brought up (although usually as a temporary, band-aid fix). Here's what I have to say about these scenarios: 1. of course, we'll do our best to not let that happen. 2. you really have to look deeper and try to understand why players are advancing so quickly.... is there an exploit or bug? Is there a system out there that is just too easy? Did we stupidly put in an item or two that are seriously too powerful that players are using to rip through content at a ridiculous pace? I think it's really important that, on a case by case basis, the reason the rapid advancement is occurring has to be understood and then addressed. Simply slowing the player down in other ways and not addressing the core issue and cause is a band-aid approach, and I'm definitely not a fan of band-aids. Does it take more time and effort to both understand what is going on and then to properly address the situation? Yes, and so adding some grind is the quicker, easier way out. But that doesn't mean it's acceptable. It isn't.
What's left? What's left are systems and mechanics that are put into an MMO on purpose as part of character advancement that is not a reaction or a fix. There's a lot of great examples out there... faction grinding comes to mind. In order to access a certain area or to be allowed to speak to a certain NPC or to receive a certain quest, you have to have the right mixture of factions or the game won't let you proceed. If we take a look at this example purely as an idea (in other words, remove the various implementations you've experienced, good or bad, and just look at the concept), I don't find anything wrong with it. Using the faction example, that is pretty much what factions are there for: they allow a character who wouldn't normally be able to interact with an 'enemy' faction to change how they are viewed in the world and, with some work, be able to change their faction standing and earn access. As a concept I think most of us would agree that it's a good one. Quick hats off to Bill Trost for coming up with the faction system in EQ -- before he did so, we were going to have a simpler D&D-like alignment system where your character could be evil at one extreme, neutral in the middle, and good at the other extreme. Classic, workable, but pretty simplistic. Bill game up with the faction system in EQ to replace the alignment system with something much more interesting. What if good and evil were more relative? What if one group didn't like another group, and then when you did something the first group did like, they liked you more and the faction opposing them liked you less? And then, adding more complexity, what if you did something to please one group but then found out it also pleased another group, didn't affect at all your standing with yet another group, and then pissed off yet three more other groups you didn’t even know existed? IMHO this system was ingenious and far, far superior to a more simplistic alignment system and I was more than happy to rip out that system in EQ and replace it with the faction system.