Behind the Grind

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2) Make the combat more satisfying. I don't think anyone has really nailed this just yet, and since most games are intent on replicating the Everquest / World of Warcraft gameplay, I don't think that we can hope for this to change anytime soon. This requires innovation, and innovation means risk. The last few games to try and re-invent this particular wheel (Champions Online, APB, Age of Conan) have not been particularly successful, which means publishers are going to be even less inclined to throw money at this in the future.

I think a problem with that is that in order to make combat more satisfying, they have to allow for player strategy to make a large difference. This means that some or all encounters can become much easier than intended if the player uses a strategy that's good enough. What we have then are scenarios where players can take on enemies that should be way out of their league. However, MMO developers seem to fear that kind of scenario and are instead bottlenecking strategy.

VondeVon:
This was focused on MMOs but it made me think on the grinding games I play - Final Fantasy in particular but even games like Assassin's Creed (The races, feather/flag-finding, rescues, treasures etc) can get very aggravating in the second or third play-through. The first time around the grinding has purpose - whether a tangible increase in levels or an intangible increase in the efficiency of the player. It can also make the game feel deeper because there are so many things you can do. But once you've finished it 100% and just want to play again to get the highlights... Grinding becomes a chore and worse - a chore you've done before.

Chrono Cross had the right idea. It let you play New Game +, with all of your strength and items remaining from your previous play-through. It enabled you to breeze through the mini battles and just enjoy the revisit.

For MMOs, one thing I know I would love to be able to do is pimp out my nest - let my grinding also supply ingredients that can be used to furnish my home! I can chop trees for wood and then go kill an monster whose skin I think would look nice as upholstry. Both get me XP and maybe tradable items, but I get something lasting out of it too. Not a weapon I wont use because I already have a box full. Not potions that aren't needed because my healing magics are freakin' awesome. Just... stuff.

I'm from the stuff generation. I like stuff. Having somewhere in-world where I can store, display (for at least myself and friends), and re-arrange it is enough to keep me hooked.

Oh, and I'm not talking achievements or trophies that people collect but nobody really cares about - I want my avatar to be able to see and touch and interact with it. Give me some land and let me build my own house - not Sims-Level detail, just the shape and set-up of rooms. And maybe a garden. And a spot where I can put a fountain. And a surfboard. And an outdoor fridge for when I can't be stuffed going inside....

I think the old ultima online did this, with players being able to buy land and build houses (and subsequently be robbed lol)

The only MMOs I've ever played that had actual fun, challenging gameplay were Planetside and City of Heroes / Villains. In Planetside, the whole game was PvP with guns, so it was always different and exciting no matter what you were doing.
But in CoX, you had to make it interesting by moving around voluntarily - as a tank char, you did the standy-still thing, but as any other char, you could effectively play mobile, running and zotting, at least while your endurance held out.

Pretty much just stating the facts, but I enjoyed the article Shamus.

It's always interesting when a game makes an honest attempt to spice up the combat, but 9 times out of 10 it just becomes a side-note and everyone forgets about it. I've picked up The Witcher off Steam this weekend and the pre-loader claims it has an "innovative combat system". It is different, but it's nothing to write home about.
Aion has a sort of 'combo' system, but I could tarnish that either by noting how it essentially requires some moves to be in a set sequence rather than freely available, or I could state that since the combos replace single moves in other games the damage potential is equivalent.
Another game that always comes to mind is SCE's attempt at J-RPG back in the 90's -- Legend of Dragoon. But that combat would probably drive off some casual gamers, and I can't imagine latency would work well with it.

There's a meme: "You're doing it wrong"

Blizzard's WoW is a very back-end loaded game. They try very hard to have everyone at max level, and design the game around that. They have nerfed and nerfed and nerfed the precap content to the point that leveling to 70 is boring as hell, yes, but shouldn't really take any serious time commitment. 70-80 takes slightly longer, but at least you are in the relevant expansion with majority of the player base that's at cap.

At level 40 with 120 hours played, I have to say you must be getting on very very slowly. The game can (and should, in it's current iteration) be advanced through much more quickly than that.

No wonder you think it's boring! You must be stopping to smell every single rose. The content you are playing through is like 6 years old, and largely abandoned. Get a move on and start leveling into the interesting stuff...

I think that this is what Shamus wants to see.

image

And that is an official Arena.net image. Getting to max level was fairly quick in Guild Wars one but the real grind was unlocking skills like a collectable card game. Even that wasn't a case of waiting exponentially longer between each new skill unlock.

An opportunity to praise Demon's Souls? Oh boy!

Demon's Souls combat is what I wish MMO combat could be like. Hell Demon's Souls is basically an MMO. Summoning allies to fight through a dungeon and kill a difficult boss sounds a hell of a lot like an mmo. It doesn't really have tanks, DPS, and healers (although there are personal and team healing spells as well as a tanking ring) but if you play as a team then teamwork can help take down a boss, whereas lack of teamwork can fuck you over (I've been killed by teammates doing dumb shit in that game too many times. Do NOT spam arrows at the Old Hero. DON'T FUCKING DO IT. Idiots).

Anyway tl;dr Demon's Souls has really interesting combat, most MMO's don't, they should try and be Demon's Souls.

V8 Ninja:
I ran into the exact same problem you're describing with Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. At first the game was fun because it was new and everything you did had a reward, but later on everything was pointless. I had gotten the best weapons I could currently buy, I was sitting on a boat-load of money, and it took nearly 5 hours of straight-up combat to even get close to leveling up my character.

I think you played it wrong... maybe. But seriously, I know what you are talking about, but when I played TES 3&4 I went through exploring and playing through stories, I was never interested in leveling, it just came with the story. I think that is what MMO's need (like the article says) More of a story, or something like that, and then some sort of change to the visuals. I would like to see a TES mmo, because something about their games are SO much more immersive than other games (at least in my opinion)

and now I need to go play Oblivion... damn.

Shamus Young:

samwise970:
It's not fair to Blizzard to only play a third of the game (actually far less, just a third of the leveling) and dismiss it all as a grind.

Play through the expansions and then the end game content before judging it. WoW is far more than pressing five buttons.

Then it's not fair that they charge me $15 a month for three months before I get to those "fun" parts.

I mean, if it sucks, and you have to do it to get to the good parts, then it SHOULD get mentioned. It's part of the game. Time-wise, it's a big part of the game.

This is what sprung to mind when reading your article. I fell your comparison of the leveling in WoW is not apt to comparing it to TF2. TF2 is pvp game. The enemies you have played against are scripted and, whats worse, scripted to be boring, as they are not supposed to pose a challenge to the fledgling player. TF2 is new indefinably because you are playing against players, who effectively "write" hundreds of line of script just by playing.

As a former WoW player, I hated the leveling grind (after my first character), it was a part of the game I did not enjoy. But WoW has two answers to the grind: endgame PvE (raids mostly) and endgame PvP (arenas). Arenas stay fresh in the same way TF2 does. Raids do become stale after a few months because they are scripted events, highly complex events that require the players to muster 25 concentrated players to beat, but still scripted.

On your last two points on reducing grind, I disagree on the first. I am currently playing League of Legends, and I have to reach the level cap (30) to do ranked matches, which is what I am interested in playing. Leveling up to 30 gives me many rewards, awarded both when I level and after every match I play. But it feels like a grind, something I have to do till the fun kicks in.

I wholeheartedly agree with the 2nd point, but I disagree that WoW does not accomplish it. I feel the combat both in endgame raids and in high ranking arenas is the most satisfying I've played, and they alone (I didn't really play for in game rewards, just for the pure challenge), kept me playing the game for well over a year.

Leveling is a large part of the game? Depends on how you see it. I spent, percentage wise, a small part of the hours logged leveling. Your mileage may vary, but I agree the process is way too long and not nearly as hard as it should be.

I love your columns, I love the insight you provide, but I feel you are playing the answer you were looking for. My major gripe is the endgame has too much grind between sessions of the "real" game.

TL:DR WoW contains top-notch gameplay, but its (purposefully?) buried in grind.

As the two articles attest, Grinding can be acceptable if the action itself is enjoyable.

I've played very few MMO's but the few I have played have convinced me that the combat needs to be... I don't want to say Visceral, but rather Active. I'm thinking more along the lines of Monster Hunter or Phantasy Star Online. DPS doesn't enter into it: I control how fast (and when) I inflict damage by actually pressing an attack button.

Also, I believe there needs to be an element of randomness. Of the non-MMO grinding I do, I've enjoyed the Item Worlds/Random Dungeons of the Disgaea series and related games. Particularly when the layout provides a unique challenge. In an MMO quest, for example, instead of just having, say, an ambush by the Goblin Chieftain's minions when you reach a certain room in his cave, have the ambush set to a random flag that gets triggered in a random place. It can happen in the central chamber, or in the middle of a tunnel, the Chieftain's throne room, or even outside the cave. switch up the appearances of enemies and/or their number. Maybe even randomize (partially or fully) the layout and events of the quest. Sometimes you get pincer attacked in a corridor, other times you get dropped down a trapdoor with a hungry giant spider at the bottom, sometime they sic some Trolls on you.

I think EVE Online has a good idea with the user-run content. Even if you have the majority of the content be game-generated events, the option provides an interesting way to keep things interested. This can range from things as simple as player-set bounties on items (instead of grinding for particular items, you can pay other characters to bring them to you while you go do your thing), to even player-generated dungeon challenges where they can set up their own raids, boss fights, or obstacle courses (with the caveat that they can't be too tough for the maker himself to get through) that other players can pay or wager stuff for the opportunity to finish it and win something of the creator's.

Everyone's favorite thing to do in a game MMO or RPG is GRINDING, the joys it brings of racking up XP from the same monster that stays the same. You just have to LOVE how the stupid enimy gives the same amount of XP over and over again and when finally after hours upon hours of grinding you get a small reward and told to do it again for another small reward or wait for it....wait for it the big reward or a boss fight or new area YAY. lets just hope old republic offers something new and more entertaining than grinding cause if its the same find a enimy and just spam slash it til it dies for EX.....yeah its only fun for the first 5 mins til it gets old.
TIMBAP_AJR

You forgot to mention FF Online as well, while its not single player friendly, and even in groups most of the enemies were pretty crazy, the reason for me leaving that game was because i got so over-frustrated with it.

every moment i was in that game i was amazed at the differences in each individual creature i was fighting, never was i ever bored or hated the lack of rewards, i ran around practically naked and was having a blast.

if this next iteration of this game fixes the language barrier, and makes it easier to solo/group. then i believe you will have a serious contender with these other MMO's

pastafarian:
As a former WoW player, I hated the leveling grind (after my first character), it was a part of the game I did not enjoy. But WoW has two answers to the grind: endgame PvE (raids mostly) and endgame PvP (arenas). Arenas stay fresh in the same way TF2 does.

I stopped reading right there. Your statement about Arenas couldn't be more wrong. Having been very heavily into PvP for a while during my WoW days, I originally thought the same thing that you did. The problem though is that the more I climbed the "ladder", and the better I got at PvP, and the more studying I did on how to get better at it, the more something occurred to me:

PvP is scripted.

Now sure, sure, it's a script where the other players can kinda go improv on you, but even then it's within very tight confines. High-end arena is all about using very specific macros, or very specific spells at very specific pre-scripted times. Being good at PvP in WoW basically like being a good actor. If you stick to the script you'll rake-in the ratings, but the further off-script you go the worse you'll do.

PvP gets very boring once you realize that you're basically just adhering to a very carefully balanced script.

Now yeah, Team Fortress definitely has a lot of that kind of thing, too. If there's a choke-point being held-down by a sentry, you practically HAVE to use an Uber to break in there and destroy it. The difference though is that TF2 isn't so carefully balanced that you're forced to adhere to such a tight script. There are dozens of things you can potentially do to get that Sentry choke point down, and the better you are at the game, the more options potentially open-up depending on which class you're playing at the time.

So in short, the difference between WoW's PvP and TF2 is that WoW is VERY tightly balanced to the point where you have far less choice than you might think you do (if you want to do well, that is), where TF2 is a little more fast and loose with the rules, allowing you to kinda think on your feet on how you want to respond to a given situation.

One of the better combat systems I encountered in an MMO is from Cabal: Online. It has a combo system that makes fighting mobs feel like a pseudo rhythm game. Oh, and your DPS is dependent on your combo up to perma-knockdowns/stuns. Generally, the latter is preferred for mobs and the former for duels.

Another is the one from Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine. The game has a rock-paper-scissor system that makes on-the-fly decision making all the more important. For example: Attack commands can be Countered (does damage to the attacker and knocks him back, but plants the defender to the ground) or Guarded (the Attacker deals less damage and is more prone to attack, while the defender will move slower when under the command) while Shot commands (guns and most magic) can neither be Countered or Guarded, only Dodged (again, plants the defender to the ground). It's quite the system, unfortunately, if you get mobbed, you're chances of survival is almost nil.

You mentioned Guild Wars 2 and SW ToR, while ToR will have a similar system I guss, Guild Wars 2 isn't exactly an MMORPG in the sense of WoW. I think though that TERA: The Exiled Realms of Arborea might have a chance. They have real time combat. You have to actually aim at your enemy, plus you can manually dodge attacks. Bigger bosses are slower and so you can dodge their attacks as well, quite some interesting gameplay, watch some trailers.

http://www.tera-online.com/

FallenTraveler:

V8 Ninja:
I ran into the exact same problem you're describing with Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. At first the game was fun because it was new and everything you did had a reward, but later on everything was pointless. I had gotten the best weapons I could currently buy, I was sitting on a boat-load of money, and it took nearly 5 hours of straight-up combat to even get close to leveling up my character.

I think you played it wrong... maybe.

Yeah, I just learned that I was playing with a pretty awful character build my first time through. I'm thinking about going back to the game with another character build that should be a lot more helpful.

Shamus Young:

samwise970:
It's not fair to Blizzard to only play a third of the game (actually far less, just a third of the leveling) and dismiss it all as a grind.

Play through the expansions and then the end game content before judging it. WoW is far more than pressing five buttons.

Then it's not fair that they charge me $15 a month for three months before I get to those "fun" parts.

I mean, if it sucks, and you have to do it to get to the good parts, then it SHOULD get mentioned. It's part of the game. Time-wise, it's a big part of the game.

I think Blizzard agree with you, or they wouldn't be redoing the orginal world with Cataclysm would they?

Not a wow player my self. But I really see that as the big problem with MMO's over a PnP campaign, they are utterly static, they can't adapt or tune to challenge you, the tech just isn't there to do it on such a large scale.

If BioWare can deliver on the statements of intent for SW:tOR, it might have enough content to keep people going in a manner that is no too grind heavy.

That is, no content crossover between factions and variation between the classes in each faction.

actually delivering that could be a struggle though, that' a hell of a lot of content.

The true "grind" takes place when developers ignore the words of Rush - "The point of the journey is not to arrive" (Prime Mover for any fans out there).

Gaining levels, gear, items, or any other tangible or intangible rewards in MMO's will always be a grind since you're always looking to the end-goal. Everyone wants everything "uber" maxed. The players as well as developers overlook the fact that getting there is 99% of the fun.

Eventually it just becomes a race to the finish while the areas that should have engaging content, stories and characters are spread too thin to keep people entertained. I can go three or four play sessions without an in-game reward if the game play itself is the reward. But with the "go collect 25 rare drops that serve no purpose other than to fill my ridiculous quest goal and come back when you're done" quests, my intelligence gets insulted and I start to calculate how much time is needed to do these pointless acts instead of enjoying the acts themselves... in other words, the grind.

V8 Ninja:

FallenTraveler:

V8 Ninja:
I ran into the exact same problem you're describing with Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. At first the game was fun because it was new and everything you did had a reward, but later on everything was pointless. I had gotten the best weapons I could currently buy, I was sitting on a boat-load of money, and it took nearly 5 hours of straight-up combat to even get close to leveling up my character.

I think you played it wrong... maybe.

Yeah, I just learned that I was playing with a pretty awful character build my first time through. I'm thinking about going back to the game with another character build that should be a lot more helpful.

haha, I guess that would give you a tough time :D good luck on the next run!

I want a MMO that fights like God of War.

As hatefull as this sounds, everyone knows full well that if you do somethig for long enough without fresh progression, it becomes stale. I have completed twelve playthroughs (proud fanboy) of Mass Effect one and now eight of Mass effect two but, as awesomely varied and flexible as the storyline is, when you realise you know exactly how many thugs there are in the next room, or where the best cover is going to be when you head through that door, or what smarmy comment which character is going to make in the next conversation, it's just not as absorbing as it used to be.

That's probably way down on the list of my problems, but nevermind
The point is that Grinding can be seen as a test of character. If it seriously is that important to you to get to level X that you are willing to slay the same gubbins again and again for that meaningfull 'ding' when your character gains a level, hold true to that. Dedication is a virtue.

This shows why player created content could really, really shine in pretty much every context. Yes, have rules so killing a kobold doesn't give 10million xp, but having someone able to make quests and even adventures like pen and paper DND would be kick ass. As it stands, I'll keep off the computer with friends and make my own quests that I can enjoy and flavor to my liking.

More Fun To Compute:
I think that this is what Shamus wants to see.

And that is an official Arena.net image. Getting to max level was fairly quick in Guild Wars one but the real grind was unlocking skills like a collectable card game. Even that wasn't a case of waiting exponentially longer between each new skill unlock.

Gotta agree here about Guild Wars. Technically when in combat it's the same thing where you're slowly whacking away hitting numbers for skills and waiting for cool downs. By placing the emphasis on skill collecting though rather than leveling and loot, combined with the amazing number of combinations you can have with the skill counts and dual classes, while not having the "action" thing down it added a much bigger tactical and strategy side to the game.

The traditional RPG way, single player or MMO, is that as you level up you follow a skill tree. To be able to gain more skills and try new things you have to continue to level up. Guild Wars was different in that while progressing through the game earned you more skills and combinations, at anytime you could stop and re-invent yourself. With my Warrior/Elementalist I did so 5 times playing through the original game.

Now I'm not trying to say Guild Wars is greater than all else, it still has it's own problems. But it does provide a different experience, not for the person that wants an action game, but for those that like strategy and tactics. Though of course this can still be broken as WhiteTigerShiro talks about above, when the community starts to determine the most effective strategies and builds and everyone's expected to follow along, all that individual strategic creativity can be lost.

And this is the reason that MMORPGs are dead to me.
In all the games I've played, no matter how fun it's described by other people, the fact of the matter is that grinding gets things done but grinding is not fun. (haha rhymed there)

RandV80:
Though of course this can still be broken as WhiteTigerShiro talks about above, when the community starts to determine the most effective strategies and builds and everyone's expected to follow along, all that individual strategic creativity can be lost.

I agree that the strategy game still seems to get "solved" pretty by the brute force of a lot of people finding the best builds then sharing them so you don't have much chance of finding a great build by yourself. The builds I have seen still leave a skill or two free to experiment with and it does still take skill when playing. I enjoyed the game the most playing random PvP just after launch due to finding or researching interesting builds and surprising people.

Shamus Young:

samwise970:
It's not fair to Blizzard to only play a third of the game (actually far less, just a third of the leveling) and dismiss it all as a grind.

Play through the expansions and then the end game content before judging it. WoW is far more than pressing five buttons.

Then it's not fair that they charge me $15 a month for three months before I get to those "fun" parts.

I mean, if it sucks, and you have to do it to get to the good parts, then it SHOULD get mentioned. It's part of the game. Time-wise, it's a big part of the game.

I suppose you're right there, and this is the reason why something like 70% of WoW players never get past level 10.

My point is that since making the original game, Blizzard has really tweaked questing in the expansions, and really improved the grind. It's still there, absolutely, but that is how the game is designed, as EvilDemon mentioned. But things such as heirloom items and badges make endgame grinding and leveling Alts much more fun than ever. I'm leveling a new mage to have him ready for Cataclysm, and I have yet to feel any grind, thanks to heirlooms and my improved knowledge of how to play the game.

Also, you can gain experience from PVP now. Just throwing that out there.

This is the exact reason Blizzard is remaking the 1-60 zones in Cataclysm, and changing how questing works dramatically. Things like phasing (which isn't new but Blizzard acts like they invented it) are really fun and add some to the actual story other than text in quest logs. Drop rates are also being changed (as in removed), which will take out frustrating hours of searching for the illusive boar that actually HAS a liver.

I've read every one of your articles here on the Escapist and feel that I have really similar taste in games. Getting to 80 in WoW took me FOREVER, and the hardest part was getting through the 1-60 content that hasn't seen the improvements in game design that the expansions have. But I feel that if you get through and all the way, you will enjoy the game much more.

I really hope you play Cataclysm, I would love to see what you think of it.

I've played dozens of MMORPGs since I began with Ultima Online back in 1999. Here are what I've found really reduce the problem of grind in an MMO. It's not really about combat mechanics.

It's all about varied combat situations.

  • Have PvP from start to finish and amp up the xp rewards to match monster grinding so I can switch between PvP and PvE for leveling purposes (a la Warhammer Online or Dark Age of Camelot).
  • Insert interesting 'boss' encounters throughout the game, not just at the end, and make them a part of regular gameplay instead of exclusive to raids.
  • Give monsters AI. ANY AI. Enemies in MMOs almost NEVER have any AI programmed in, especially enemies in the day-to-day grind. Players just stand still and attack because that's all that enemies ever do.
  • Stop with the 'go here and kill x of y quests'. Write quests that occasionally ask players to think, or give us something interesting to do other than poorly disguised grind.
  • Public Quests are awesome, and every game should have them. They're social, quick, commitment-less fun and I don't know why more games haven't done them.

Shamus Young:

samwise970:
It's not fair to Blizzard to only play a third of the game (actually far less, just a third of the leveling) and dismiss it all as a grind.

Play through the expansions and then the end game content before judging it. WoW is far more than pressing five buttons.

Then it's not fair that they charge me $15 a month for three months before I get to those "fun" parts.

I mean, if it sucks, and you have to do it to get to the good parts, then it SHOULD get mentioned. It's part of the game. Time-wise, it's a big part of the game.

Thats actually one of the big things there working on with cataclysm is to fix up the 1-60 experience.

Also I liked matrix onlines take with combat...but sadly that died several years back due to many things not the least of which was only selling it in America.

Anyone ever consider just making it so the xp needed to lvl up is scaled more narrowly? or not to make the experience gain gets smaller as u lvl. <.< thats more or less the only reasons i cant see a game through to the end.

The higher the lvl the lower the xp gained per kill, at the same time the amount of xp needed to lvl gets steeper and steeper...that just makes no sense to me. All i want is end game damnit! Make the lvl up your tutorial for how to play your class! cause essentially that is all it is. Once u know how you can bust some serious boss skulls!

STO and Guild Wars did this well. STO you can max out at around 2 weeks, by then you know how to play your character, and they throw you all the cool exciting boss encounters and such. Guild Wars (which i really cant consider an MMO more like Diablo with a chat lobby u can run around in.) u maxed out in a single afternoon! I thought that was FANTASTIC! cause then its all about the challenge of defeating increasingly harder boss mobs.

everyone wants end game action. just not everyone can sit through the "grind" :(

Nibelung2:
Just being a little fanboyish, but DDO have an awesome combat system that isn't "stand still and press 1 to 5"

Ironicaly, while WoW is this on leveling and the endgame is a bit more action-related; DDO is agile, and the endgame is "stand still and smack everything as hard as you can". But it deserve a note anyway.

Out of every graphical MMORPG I've played -- which isn't THAT many, just DDO, WoW, and Guild wars -- DDO was definitely my favorite thanks to the fact that combat involved more interactivity than idly pressing the occasional number key. That as it may be, I haven't gotten to max level in any of them other than Guild Wars. Guild Wars 2 has made some bold promises that I'll have to see to believe, though. I quit WoW around level 16 or so because the game was just boring me (although I'm told that the elements that bored me three years ago are largely changed now) and I simply decided that I didn't want to keep paying for DDO around level 12 and couldn't find much in the way of free content.

To anyone who says that I'm not giving those WoW a 'fair shot' - I play games to have fun, not to judge developers. I can tolerate not having fun for minutes, but if I'm not having fun for hours, I'm not going to keep playing. That wouldn't be fair to *me,* and I'm the one coughing up money.

WhiteTigerShiro:

PvP is scripted.

This is one reason that I hate doing anything online. If you don't do things exactly like the wiki says, your performance will usually be less than optimal, and it will definitely incur the derision of people who *are* following a guide.

Shamus Young:
In contrast, just about every monster fight in WoW is the same. You click on the dude and then press the number keys until the dude falls over and gives up the XP. Some classes are more interesting than others, but the gameplay isn't really deep or interesting enough to keep you engaged for the long haul up to the level cap.

WoW has made pretty good progress on that front.

First off, WoW's quest-centered leveling adds some variety. The quest design in Outlands and Northrend is also much better than the original 1-60 content, and offers a lot of cool stuff along the way.

They've also got dungeons (with a new dungeon finder system that actually makes getting groups for non-80 dungeons feasible), and I think you can also get exp for pvp now.

They're making an honest effort to add story to the mix, but with limited success. The quest lines are very story-centric, but as a whole WoW's lore has just become too disjointed for it to work. Their attempts to portray Arthas as a big threat have made him look like sort of a joke.

Shamus Young:
My main character in World of Warcraft is just over level 40 and I've put a little over 120 hours into it.

Really? 120 hours is kind of long for level 40. Especially if you're doing it slowly, since you should pretty much stay in the rest exp.

Shamus Young:

Then it's not fair that they charge me $15 a month for three months before I get to those "fun" parts.

I mean, if it sucks, and you have to do it to get to the good parts, then it SHOULD get mentioned. It's part of the game. Time-wise, it's a big part of the game.

To be fair- Blizzard isn't solely responsible for how fast you progress. You could get to 58 in a couple of weeks or you could get there over six months. It's not Blizzard's fault if somebody decides to pay to play for 10 hours a month. How much your time is worth to you would be a better metric to judge off of.

With a game as large as WoW and with as many different facets, it's sort of inherent that compromises have to be made to appeal to different people. Some people like leveling. At the current speed of 1-60 (1-58, really) content, there are enough areas to explore, dungeons, professions, and other things to keep most people occupied on their way Outlands.

Of course, there's always the make-things-interesing-your-own-way route. Personally, I think that if you aren't dying a lot, you're not trying to fight enough monsters at once.

Personally I think of 'grinding' as 'Repetition without fun'.

I make this distinction simply because you CAN enjoy something that is repetitive as long as the context is different.

In your example you say that playing TF2 is not griding when your still playing the same game and the same general activities. That is problably because the context changes. You're not playing the same map, you're not playing the same class, playing against the same players, the same actions, weapons, tactics etc etc - by changing smaller elements of the game it keeps it from being repetitive.

Its also less likely to be seen as a grind because its much more intense and 'active' than an MMO game where the pace is generally slower.

As with WoW it can feel like grinding if you're 'purpose' is to level up. After the first time to level 80 any subsequent characters feels like a grind because you're running the same quests in the same areas and even if the class is different you know how its going to end and in the back of your mind you're thinking "I WANT to be cooler than this"

As with anything in life different people like different games. I used to play alot of FPS games until they got really boring and I hated having to group with a bunch of 10 year old idiots who would spawn camp or complain about getting killed. With MMOs you can have fun on your own if you take the game in the right mindset.

At the moment I am playing EVE online and spent most of the 6 months I have played running missions. The act itself is repetitive but I don't consider it a grind because each mission is different and I enjoy the combat element of the game.

Its the same with any game and if you play it enough it'll feel like a grind and you have to manage YOURSELF to keep it from being a grind. If you kill spiders for 20 hours its a grind because YOUR doing it, not because the game WANTS you to. I think alot of people blame the games on being a grind after they've been doing the same thing for too long without looking for something else to do. Obviously if the alternatives are pretty lame then it doesn't help but I don't think that ANY game will have enough content to satisfy every MMO player.

Its the one worry I have with SWTOR: They say its going to be story based; great - but what happens when that story runs out? You can only have so much content until its all used up and with some MMO players maxing out within a day or so its going to be the 'human' content that keeps people interested in MMOs (ie, raids, guilds, groups, corps, events, PvP etc etc)

Also thinking about it its interesting how you say to keep the rewards interesting as I feel that with any game the 'reward' should be the enjoyment from playing the game.

If you feel that enjoyment can only be obtained by getting 'uber phat lewt' then you'll probably feel that the entire game is a grind and that the quests are simply barriers preventing you from obtaining the loot you so rightlfully deserve.

This creates a vicious MMO circle - if you enjoy the content you won't be able to compete in the end game because you won't have the equipment (generally because you've taken the time to enjoy the game rather than rush through). Then you'll have to 'grind' quests & instances in order to get the equipment you need to be able to participate.

If you just want the loot then most of the game will feel like a grind because you have to work your way through the 'meaningless' content just to obtain your gear. Running through these pointless quests over and over would then become a grind.

At the end of the day a grind is what you make of it and everyone needs to play the game the way they want to play it. The grind is a perception of how you play the game rather than the game itself.

aldowyn:
My solution to this has always been the same: flatten the curve, make the increase in effort steady. Not too much, but still. Make it closer to a line, instead of a exponential curve. Sure, it'll take a little longer at first, but near the end you'll shave so much time it's not even funny, while still spending 20 times as much time to get to lvl 50 as you did getting to level 5 (numbers random, point unaffected)

Here's a link to the article More Fun To Compute pulled that graph from:
Progression and Leveling in Guild Wars 2

ArenaNet has made a lot of promises for GW2, and this announcement concerning leveling is the most recent (just last Thursday). Combat has also been promised to be much more active than it was in GW1, and in other MMOs as well. There are active blocking skills (see: the Shield Stance video on the warrior page here, Whirling Defense on the ranger page here), position dependent skills (see: the new boomerang Phoenix on the elementalist page here), dodgeable projectiles, dodges and counters combined with melee attacks (Serpent's Strike on the ranger page), the ability to block projectiles and attacks by simply standing in front of your squishy teammates without any skill usage, and that's just what we've seen so far. Yes, it's still all speculative, but we're going to be seeing the first real player-run demo at gamescon this month, and suffice it to say that the GW community is ecstatic to see what we've been waiting for over three years to see.

Shamus Young:

samwise970:
It's not fair to Blizzard to only play a third of the game (actually far less, just a third of the leveling) and dismiss it all as a grind.

Play through the expansions and then the end game content before judging it. WoW is far more than pressing five buttons.

Then it's not fair that they charge me $15 a month for three months before I get to those "fun" parts.

I mean, if it sucks, and you have to do it to get to the good parts, then it SHOULD get mentioned. It's part of the game. Time-wise, it's a big part of the game.

I think this is one of the biggest problems with WoW, and it really makes no sense. WoW is really at least 5 or 6 games in one. There's the raiding, arenas, battlegrounds, crafting, working the Auction House, RP, etc... and to get to any of them on a serious level you first have to play the worst one, the leveling game, for about 6-10 days of gametime. It's like it's the down payment where you say "yes I am serious about playing this character", but it's way overboard and ends up excluding huge numbers of people who might enjoy the later games but never get to see them.

Hopefully you make it through, Shamus! I'd definitely be interested to hear your opinions on the endgame content.

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