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Getting Rid of the Grind

David North Posted:
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The word grind is a common word to throw around when playing MMOs.  I think we have all experienced it to some degree, even if you mostly play games in other genres.  I can honestly say that grinding is my least favorite part in a game.  In fact, I will say that I absolutely hate grinding!  To top it all off, it’s such a huge part of the leveling process for your character, that it’s nearly impossible to avoid.  I’m not the only player that hates, and fears, the grind. I’m also not the only player that has made my opinion vocal.  ArenaNet has heard the angry growls of the players, and tried to find a way to fix this issue in Guild Wars 2.  So have they taken the grind out of the picture?

The answer is yes, and no.  While playing since launch, I’ve taken a lot of notes about this subject, as it’s one of the major factors that can just drain the fun right out of a game.  It seems that ArenaNet has tackled the grind, taking steps to see what causes grinding, and taking actions to weaken its strong grasp on the leveling process.

The worst quest I’ve ever seen in an MMO had me grind for feathers from birds. I only needed 10 to drop. After killing 50 of them, and barely half way to my goal, I went on to a different quest.

For the new MMO players out there, grinding is when a player has to do the same thing over and over again.   This ranges from collecting a ton of same item for an NPC, or killing the same monster over and over again.  It’s found in every MMO, at least the ones I’ve played, and it gets boring pretty fast.  So how did ArenaNet tackle this? 

Guild Wars 2 still has objectives like kill this monster, and collect this item.  So how is it different from any other game?  Well first thing I noticed is that these aren’t the only objectives you have to complete.  Putting out fires, fixing machines, even playing-chess like games against other players are just some of the objectives you’ll come across while exploring.  By offering a variety of different objectives, a player will be doing some new things in every new zone they enter. 

So variety is the spice of life, right?  Having you complete a variety of tasks helps break up the grind.  ArenaNet takes things a step further with variety, by giving the player choices on how to complete the objective.  For example, one objective may ask you to kill some Sons of Savnir, feed some bear cubs, and wash off some cave paintings giving power to the ice dragon.  Having all these choices allows you to do nearly anything in an area, and it counts towards completing your task. 

Some games put you on a single quest that takes nearly 10 to 15 minutes to grind and complete.  Killing an enemy might be fun the first 5 times, but when you recognize the AI’s attack pattern  killing the same monster 50 times in a row can put you to sleep.   This is a big problem.  In guild Wars 2, I’ve noticed that a solution has been put into place.  The objectives in Guild Wars 2 go by fast.  Need to kill some centaurs?  Kill 10 of them and you will have done your part.  The mobs also come in groups, so when you fight 1 you will probably be fighting 2 others at the same time.  The best part is that the enemies will be a mix of professions, so no 2 fights feel exactly the same. 

You really do need a good reason to go around picking up explosives off the ground.

The last little ingredient ArenaNet added to their quest is a story.  Every zone has its own story going on in it, and the quests try to reflect that.  If the zone has Charr fighting ghosts, then a lot of the quests and dynamic events will have you assist in the war.  This makes you feel like there’s an actual reason why you’re picking up unexploded mortar rounds.  It keeps things connected, and from feeling random. 

ArenaNet has bragged about their dynamic event system, and they have every right.  Think of Dynamic events as huge quests that require a group, and affect the world around you.  These are scattered throughout the world, and in variety.  You may have to escort a caravan from one settlement to another.  Other dynamic events require you to help an army assault a fortress.  These events require you to interact with other players, and take part in huge epic fights. 

Grinding is in my opinion, the biggest problem in the MMO genre, and for years it seems that different developers are too afraid, or lazy, to tackle the issue.  ArenaNet has done their best to offer a new take on how players “quest”.  While Guild Wars 2 isn’t completely grind free, it’s the first MMO I’ve played that doesn’t force the player to go through painful and mind numbing tasks.  Just be giving the player options, they achieved a lot.


David North