Suppose that you’re looking to try a new MMORPG to play. Obviously you want to pick a game that you’ll like. You look through several games that are potentially interesting and compare features, reviews, and so forth.
One of the important characteristics of a game is how much grinding there is. This is something that you can’t pick up just by playing the game for a few hours. A lot of games have minimal grinding for the first several hours (or sometimes the first several dozen hours), but eventually degenerate into very painful grinding.
Professional reviewers won’t play until the point at which the game is mostly grinding, so they can’t warn you. The same applies to new player reviews. You can ask more established players, but different people often have radically different views on how much grinding is too much. Some players even like extremely large amounts of grinding, so they’re not going to warn you to avoid such games. Indeed, grindfests are likely to have many such players, and they’ll tell you that the grinding isn’t a problem.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an objective source you could go to that would say, this is how much grinding the game has? Or more to the point, this game has a lot more grinding than that one, with comparisons of a lot of different games. If the comparisons include a couple of games that you’re familiar with, then you’re set.
Such sources that rate the amount of grinding in games do exist. They’re called powerleveling services. They could loosely be called gold farmers. Although powerleveling isn’t the same as gold farming, they tend to be the same people working for the same companies.
Suppose, for example, that a powerleveling service in Lineage II charges $2000 to get you to the level cap. Meanwhile, they charge $500 to do the same in EverQuest II, $300 in Final Fantasy XI, $200 in World of Warcraft, and $50 in Guild Wars. Which game do you think involves the most grinding to get to the level cap? What do you think the company selling the powerleveling thinks?
The real experts on how much leveling a game entails are the people who do it a lot. Few do so more than those who do it for a full time job. Furthermore, random players don’t have as strong of incentives to get the comparison right as companies offering to actually level accounts for a particular price. Charge too much and you get no customers; too little and you make no profit from the customers you do get.
Furthermore, since they offer to level you part of the way, that gives you a good idea of what the leveling curve looks like. A company will charge more to level you from 79 to 80 in Lineage II than to go all the way from 1 to 60. In comparison, the cost of going from 79 to 80 in EverQuest II or World of Warcraft isn’t enough to pay a company to level you from 1 to 20. The cost to get to renown rank 70 in WAR is many times the cost to merely get to level 40. All of that gives important information on the leveling curves in the various games.
There is, of course, more to the amount of grinding a game has than merely how long it takes to get to the level cap. In some games, when you reach the level cap, it’s basically game over. Others abruptly transition to painful grinding the moment you hit the level cap. Even this sort of information can often be learned from gold sellers. If a company charges $200 to powerlevel you to the level cap in WoW, but $2000 for the full set of the top epic armor set of your class, guess which of the two takes more grinding.
Before reaching this paragraph, a lot of people would probably say, but gold farmers are bad! I’d agree with that. So does the idiot who will reply to this post to denounce it as favoring gold sellers without reading it. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not advocating actually buying anything from the gold sellers. To the contrary, I’d strongly advocate not doing so. If inclined to buy something from gold sellers, go play an item mall game instead and buy directly from the company.
I’m well aware of the problems with gold farmers. I don’t like getting spam messages from them. I don’t like having certain areas of the game world overcrowded with them. I don’t like the credit card fraud and stolen accounts that they perpetrate. I don’t like having company resources diverted to having to deal with gold farmers, instead of being put to productive uses like bug fixes, tech support, or new content. While their impact on the game economy is usually overstated, I don’t like that consequence of gold sellers, either.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t bring a silver lining. You don’t have to pay a dime to check their prices. Don’t discard the useful information they provide just because gold sellers are bad.