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Samhain's Zergwatch

Samhain's Zergwatch is a blog that started in 2006 on a different gaming community server and has since evolved into, a place to gather my twisted thoughts on the whole mess. Explore the oozing underbelly of gaming with me.

Author: zergwatch

Grinding is an essential component of every MMORPG

Posted by zergwatch Friday March 21 2008 at 12:01PM
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Recently, in the MMORPG.Com forums, there was a post from a person asking the MMO community to recommend a game with no grind. The overwhelming response from the community was somewhat disturbing. MMORPG's are about the grind. If you don't like it, then play another game. Of course, some people recommended the instanced world of Guild Wars or the convenience of offline grinding in EVE (I've never played EVE, so I don't exactly know if that is a true assessment).

Has the MMORPG gaming community been so tattered and tortured by the "Grind" that we feel it is a necessary component? Does an MMORPG really need to include some forms of grind to be an MMORPG?

It made me think back to an article written two years ago by Raph Koster and how his sarcastic, yet brilliant summary of the MMORPG has pretty much gone unnoticed and forgotten. It has fallen on virtual deaf ears. In his article entitled "What are the lessons of MMORPG's today?", he outlines some fundamental flaws of the modern MMORPG.

In the modern MMORPG, you create your character, talk to the guy with some sort of symbol hovering above his head then perform certain tasks, sometimes in a particular order for him. Rinse and repeat this several hundred times and you have successfully completed the MMORPG grind. Eventually, you find yourself with a journal full of things that sound something like this:

Kill 20 of these, Find 5 of those, Kill some guy, Kill his friends, Kill his family, Steal his family treasure, Kill 25 of something else, Kill 10 of something different that looks and sounds like the rest, but has a different name.

Is the community satisfied with the status quo? Do people seriously enjoy repetitive gaming? Does the future hold more of the same?

When Raph Koster wrote this article, I had hopes that somewhere, someone at some software development company actually read it. If you are a true fan of MMORPG's and have not read this article, you should stop right now and go read it. I want to point out some of my favorite quotes in his article.

Lone heroes can’t slay dragons. It takes an army.

In today's MMORPG, little attention is given to the solo player. Sure, games like EQ2 and WoW have solo paths to get to max level, but the solo player is forgotten once the level cap is hit. Even though MMORPG's are games of social interaction, there is a good amount of people who want both. It's one of the reason why Guild Wars has been so successful outside of competitive PVP.

People are only good at one thing. You never, ever, ever change jobs. If you want to, you probably need to die.

Once upon a time there was a game called Star Wars Galaxies that challenged this logic. We are so set on MMORPG's needing to have levels. Games have become a race from 1 to 70,80, etc. If you are 20, you can't play with a 70. If you are 50, you don't want to be bothered with teens. You could freely build your character into whatever path you wanted. You could mix and match different professions. You could mix crafting with adventuring. Today, you pick a profession and if you change your mind, the only solution is suicide and reincarnation. Everquest 2 has a great system that allows for mentoring. City of Heroes has it too. Games based on player levels need to have some sort of system that allows friends to play with eachother regardless of level.

Which leads us to: If you don’t keep up with the Joneses, you will never see them again. In fact, if you don’t keep up with your friends, you will never see them again either.

We are told at end game, MMORPG's are for group players only. If you don't have a large group to slay the draon, then you cannot play. Unfortunately, along the way, on the grind, we are told the exact opposite. You are on your own. If your friends can't keep up with you, then they are left behind. Only the fastest grinders survive. I have seen many people quite MMORPG's because they couldn't keep up with the power gamers. (this is where the power gamers tell the solo players to buy an Xbox 360. yay)

Actually, in general, taking your time is counterproductive.

This is the statement that hits this grinding nail squarely on the head. People who embrace the MMORPG grind say the grind is part of the fun. The grind is the journey to the end. If you honestly believe that killing 500 boars, 500 wolves, 2,000 spiders and 1,500 skeletons is a fantastic journey that we should be embracing, we can only hope that somewhere, some developer with a revolutionary vision disagrees.

So when MMORPG players scorn those who are looking for a fun and less grindy alternative, it's pretty sad to see pages full of players supporting the MMORPG instead of embracing the possibility of a grindless MMORPG. An MMORPG where the adventure truly is the game.



HelloKirby writes:

I agree.  Although the name is misleading.  At first I thought that you were going to tell those who don't like grinding to shut up. :D

Fri Mar 21 2008 12:56PM Report
Gnomig writes:

Great post, really. I agree totally - and I too was a bit mislead by the title ^^) And now i'm going to read the article you referred too.


Fri Mar 21 2008 2:29PM Report
Anofalye writes:

Best groupers have to be groupers.


Best soloers have to be soloers.


As simple as that.  As long as you make a minority better in an activity they may, or not, play, this destroy the said activity.  If raiders are better than everyone else, than everything else is worthless and dead.  Raiding ala EQ kills grouping.


Again, best soloers have to be soloers.  Best groupers have to be groupers.


Either have a casual approach and make any path lead to total uberness, or have a specific approach requesting that the players does the said activity where he want to be good.  Never, ask a player to play a foreign activity.  Asking peoples to PvP or Raid in order to progress in PvE at any moment, this is nonsense, it destroy the PvE aspect in question.


Again, best soloers have to be soloers.


Best groupers have to be groupers.


You want to be good at soloing?  Then solo!  You want to be good at grouping?  Then group!   The rewards has to be linked with the activity, it is part of the progression.


And we play games which are focused on the progression (thereby the many levels).

Fri Mar 21 2008 3:24PM Report
zergwatch writes:

Progression is a word used too loosely to describe "There's really nothing to do".  Its  a series of events and paths you are forced into to get the items you desire.     Progression is an excuse for lack of creativity and its apparent that people are hooked on the idea of progression.  Grind a dungeon 20 times to get the items you need to grind the next higher dungeon 20 times. Progression.

Progression is not an adventure.

Fri Mar 21 2008 3:29PM Report
Pepsipwnzgod writes:

I was half agreeing with you at points then sort of frowning at how it turned out... grind IS a necessary part of an MMO, for the shere fact that without grind people would hit max level with no skill, on lineage if your any higher then 50 or so you almost def. know your class due to the fact that it takes SOO long, "repetetive killing" is useless in some peoples mind but when you kill something over and over distinct strats build for the next mob so you gain a certain intelligence of your class, the grind itself is a somewhat fatal flaw to many gamers who cant focus for more then 20 or so minutes but there are several games that are QUEST based such as EQ and WoW, Guild wars is a game that requires NO skill and that is why it is succesful, someone who IS good in GW can meet you at level 1 and run you to level 20 in around 5 hours, get you the best gear in 20 minutes and a generic 1.2.3.... build in another 10, but grinders require time and the fact that many dont allow 70's to interact with 1's is a perfect idea otherwise you get games like terf wars where you can hit max level in 12 minutes due to the fact that someone feels like helping... grinding is the only part of MMO's that make them unique, and the only part that developes skills

Fri Mar 21 2008 5:01PM Report
JB47394 writes:

zergwatch: "Is the community satisfied with the status quo? Do people seriously enjoy repetitive gaming?"

Yes and yes.  It's reasonable that there should be people who find simple, repetitious activities to be entertaining.

zergwatch: "Does the future hold more of the same?"

Sure.  Grinding is a reasonable form of entertainment (barring issues with addiction), so it'll continue to be something that people will do for fun.

That said, grinding is decidedly not fundamental to a Massively Multiplayer Online game.  It's silly to suggest such a thing.  Is grinding fundamental to the sorts of games that people on MMORPG.COM play?  Sure.  Take away the grind from one of those games and you have a very different animal.  I'm waiting for a company to build such a game.  Unfortunately, I see nothing on the horizon except for more of the same.  Kill loot level.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Fri Mar 21 2008 6:39PM Report
Tron420 writes:

About Grind:
I play MMOs because I like to kill things. Lots of things... When I get used to how a mob behaves, I have fun with figuring out how to kill as many as possible without down time. A certain amount of grinding is part of RPGs. period.

About solo play:

I like to solo to a certain extent, but end game content that requires an army of friends is THE REASON I PLAY AN MMO AND NOT A SINGLE PLAYER GAME. The solo player has not been ignored, there is an entire genre of games dedicated to the solo player. If you like to exclusively solo, then MMOs aren't for you... That is not to say that end game solo activities shouldn't exist, but I agree that developers shouldn't spend too much time on it.

Fri Mar 21 2008 7:03PM Report
Ravensfare writes:

I have honestly got to agree with you on this one.  The game is or should never be about the grind, but about what you can do on your own as well as a group.  The Adventure should always be first, because without it, its nothing but another emulator spitting out code for a few to follow.

Fri Mar 21 2008 9:01PM Report
daveains writes:

Levels at all are just ridiculous- why in the name of your preferred deity would you create a game designed to let people play together, then tell them "hey, if you don't play within a few percent as much as someone else, you can't play with them"?

And then, hey, we'll put in endless grinding so that you can gain these levels, and tell you that it's how you can measure your progress!

Bullcrap. Free your minds children, if you think hearing a level ding qualifies as an accomplishment, then you are doomed to be endlessly cheated of your game time by people who really don't care whether you have fun or not, as long as you stay subbed.

The purpose of an MMO is to let people join together in virtual activities to have fun. If that's not what you're getting out of a game- unsub. I totally did, and I will not play a grind game ever again. I've been cheated out of too much fun time already.

Fri Mar 21 2008 9:38PM Report
Gishgeron writes:



What scares me is that you are quite disconnected with the very ideal of the thing you are speaking of.  Let me assist you, the game (MMO's) are about massive amounts of people getting together in a world and doing stuff that, sometimes, effects each other.  It is to mimic real life, but be far enough removed by it in fantasy that it still allows an escape FROM real life.

To that point, I feel you do not even understand yourself.  I shall assist you again.  You do not play MMO's because you enjoy always having to be with an army of friends to do stuff.  You enjoy them because its a world that is filled with other peopler, and you can do things with them that are meaningful to YOURSELF.  I capped the last word for a reason.  Whether you are helping someone, or raiding for gear, it all boils down to doing something that your feel is meaningful to you...which makes your mindset as much "solo" as a solo player

The solo player wants to do something meaningful for himself as well.  More importantly...he wants to do something meaningful WHEN he can either not find a group, or not find time to do group activities.  He still wants to play, and still wants his time to be meaningful.  He wants to be a part of the massive online world, not just a blip that stands in the distance waiting forever to be able TO do something fun.

THAT is the problem, the fatal flaw, this genre has suffered for too long now.

Fri Mar 21 2008 9:42PM Report
NovaKayne writes:

IMO, it is only a grind when it becomes boring to play through the levels you are playing.  When I am having fun in a group or solo, I do not see a grind.  I only see a lot of fun doing what I was doing.

Vanguard had a great idea at first.  The RUMOR system.  There were not floaty things over everyones head that say "Hey, come here and do this for the grind".  You had to talk to the NPC's in the area.  Get to understand what was going on and learn the story line behind the quests.  Each NPC you talked to gave you hints and clues as to who had the quests.  Not the floaty thing over the head.

Now THAT was true immersion.  Talking to the NPC's hearing their stories and having to PAY ATTENTION and figure out what was next.

It was not implemented as it was one of the things they did not manage well and the content needed for dialogue with each NPC to support such a thing was scrapped in favor of a simple, easily manageable floaty thing over the head.

Truly the original Vanguard:SOH I played in early beta was astounding and NOTHING like the buggy watered down POS that was released.  Great ideas but, bad project management and lack of WoW factor for the producers can kill a game.  V:SOH was proof.

Sat Mar 22 2008 11:15AM Report
B.a.C writes:

You Know, I kind of agree because grinding is an essential element in all games but the perfect Rpg  would be an Rpg  that you dont need to grind alot but that you need to grind a little;and, another thing that would make an Rpg perfect is when u can rely on other people or go solo.

Sat Mar 22 2008 3:49PM Report
vajuras writes:

Very good blog nice read with very interesting responses

Sat Mar 22 2008 6:49PM Report
illyana writes:

thats why i love Guild Wars: grinding is optional

Sat Mar 29 2008 9:55PM Report
vajuras writes:

"thats why i love Guild Wars: grinding is optional"

Yep thats what I loved about it too. Thats my favorite mainstreamy - gamey type of MMO

Sun Mar 30 2008 1:47PM Report
methulah writes:

It's good. It's a nice article, however, when you say "less grindy," most developers seem to understand this as meaning same progression method, just easier.

Sun Mar 30 2008 6:33PM Report
Hrizip writes:

I have written an article  which deals with the same issues, based upon Raph Kosters post.

If you will check it out, no point in me pasting the things I wrote here to this message board.


Fri Jun 20 2008 7:18AM Report writes:
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