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The Space Between

Gaming and Life, Rants and Raves, now with 30% more loot!

Author: TesterNGS

How to Kill the Grind

Posted by TesterNGS Tuesday December 18 2007 at 4:36PM
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How to Kill the Grind

Surely I'm not the first guy to presume to tell developers what I think they should do to reduce the grind feeling that creeps into most MMORPGs, but I'm going to write this anyway.
To me, the grind becomes notiecable when you begin to do the same thing in the same manner over and over again. Its great if PvE combat consists of taking aim, pressing a button a few times, then maybe using a special move. But when you do that again and again without the need or ability to change things up, then it becomes a grind. Kill tasks, delivery missions, and item collection quests are fine, but when you force players to do them over and over, while they fight recycled critters by pressing the same three buttons, then you've created a noticeable grind. So what can developers do to hide the grind?
Speed, variety, and balance, for me, are the keys to making the grind less noticeable.

A fast game will hide the grind behind a steady stream of quick encounters (when it makes sense). A fast game also has the benefit of making players feel powerful - we typically play heroic characters after all and, to me, its not heroic to slog it out with an angry boar for 30 seconds. A short encounter duration (the time it takes you to kill that boar) means that you're not standing in one place for a long time cycling your attack animation. It keeps you moving, which goes a long way to hiding the grind.
Balance also goes a long way to mitigating the grind feeling. If a game forces players to stop playing and start grinding, then its out of balance. With a few exceptions, when you're at a certain point in a game, you should be able to consume all the basic content that exists for your level range. A bad example of this kind of balance is WoW, which forces players to stop playing and start grinding faction just so they can gain access to a piece of content. A balanced game keeps players on track and gives them in a steady stream of achievement, and that helps the game feel less like a grind.
Even if your game is slow and unbalanced, a monumental amount of variety will keep it feeling fresh. Combat becomes boring when every fight is executed in the same manner - so add more critter behavior, animations, and abilities. Questing becomes boring when you're on your 10th kill task of the day - so add more and different goals. Simply exploring the game becomes boring when the climate and terrain doesn't change - so add points of interest and vibrant zones, and give players quests that make them experience that variety. Even gaining powerful items becomes boring if they look similar to another item you used 10 levels ago. Variety is king.
Of those three things, variety is probably the toughest one to get right. This is because its just so easy for developers to recycle content. It saves budget and gets the game done (and making money) much faster. Lack of variety is the biggest reason I've canceled my subscription to every MMORPG I've played, including Tabula Rasa and City of Heroes.
In summary, I feel that a "grind-free" (players will always create their own grind) game is a game that keeps the player moving, provides many valid avenues of advancement, and that is always giving players something new. Will such a game ever exist? For some people it already does, but not for me, and not for all the gamers who constantly jump from game to game looking for one that finally gets it right.

Auspice writes:

Dude if you want to play something that doesnt have a grind go play a hack and slash like Diablo, or Baldurs gate.  Thats what those games are there for.  When you want to just kill shit, and you arent trying to accomplish something, go play something like that.

While i see where you are coming from, i really disagree wholly.  What i get out of an MMO that i dont get out of something like assisins creed (which is a great game btw dont get me wrong)  is a feeling that i am better then everyone else when i can do all the things that take grinding, and the fun that you get comes from playing with a large group of other people, hence the MMO experience.

All in all playing an MMO isnt about killing shit, its about playing with other people, whether with them or against them, so it makes sense that when you are playing solo things will be a grind, where when you play with a group, there will be a lot more different situations.

When playing with a group you will have to react using your two or three buttons to compliment your partner's two or three buttons, or counter your enemy's two or three buttons. 

You are really playing the wrong type of game if the one you described is what you are looking for.  I suggest buying an xbox and getting assasins creed, bio shock, and halo 3, and stop trolling to cheapen MMOs.

Wed Dec 19 2007 5:25AM Report
visgrail writes:

It seems to me that most people break gaming down to solo-playing and group-playing, and the purist group-players really seem to hate it when a solo-player tries to find enjoyment in a MMO. There's absolutely no valid reason that a MMO can't be for both types of play.

Fri Jan 04 2008 12:28AM Report writes:
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