MMO Rant #12: The Grind

Why do I have to spend so much time and effort to progress? What’s with the repetitive, uninteresting gameplay? Why can’t they come up with anything but kill quests? Familiar words to many of you, I’m sure. I’ve read those words. I’ve said those words. Why does every MMO in existence have a grind? Why don’t they just get rid of it so I can get down to having fun?

Because you have fun grinding. Yeah, I said it. You enjoy grinding, whether you like it or not.

Any game that involves progression has a grind. What do all MMOs (worth a damn) have? Progression. Of any sort. No, not just levels. Not just skills. Not just items. Not just money. Anything that can be unlocked in any way. Removing levels and skills and gear and money from the game wouldn’t even get rid of the grind, unless the game is completely one-dimensional and boring (yes, I am oversimplifying things for the sake of my own rant. Deal with it).

The point is, what the heck do you expect developers to do? I’m sure many people who complain about “the grind” are simply talking about the time it takes to gain levels. Okay, so you make levels go faster. But you can still grind them. Grinding is self-imposed. It’s almost masochistic for some people. And, for almost every person who has ever complained about the grind, it’s inevitable.

So let’s go back to making levels go faster. How fast? How about 20 hours of play time to the max level? Okay, cool. Note: What follows is a dramatization performed in the head of one game designer. Use caution when reading.

Man, how long does it take to level in this stupid game? */ooc Hey noobs how long until I’m capped if I don’t suck like you?* Oh, well that’s cool, I guess. Just 20 hours. I’m gonna play 10 hours a day and grind those levels out.

The very next day… Wait, son of a b%&#@, I’m grinding! Take the grind out of this game! Damnit, this sucks. Can’t they come up with something better to do than give me a treadmill to run on or are these designers complete nincompoops?

Man, it takes so much effort to kill these things too. DING! Awww jyeeeah baby. Level 50. I’m halfway there. Wait, what’s this new ability I see here? “Death Touch.” Swiggity sweeeeet! Oh look a mob, die. Oh look, a DIE. Oh DIE DIE DIE. Yeaaaah. Man this is the best ability.

DING 75! New ability again. YES. “Gain Level.” Man this is the best ability evar. Genius devs. DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING. Level 100! Phew, I made it after two hard days of grinding. Stupid devs.

Okay, I’m capped, now what? Wait, you want me to earn reputation with a bunch of different factions? GRIND!!1!1one! Screw this. Oh, okay, I only have to do like three quests to max that out. Hold the phone, what’s with these raids? I have to go through one to get to another? I have to get good enough gear to defeat the tougher ones? This is ridiculous! Oh, okay, I just have to solo one at a time and I will get fully geared out each time. I guess that’s cool. Even better! I can just summon the raid mobs to me and kill them all at once. I heart my AoE Death Touch I got at 60.

I wonder what other players are selling. I’ll head to the bazaar. You want HOW MUCH for that stupid cloak?! 8,000,000 Pomegranates?! Oh, okay, I just have to kill a couple mobs and I should be able to afford that. Alright cool. Man this game is way better than any MMO I’ve played, and I’ve played them all. There’s no grind at all, I can just get right into the fun.

2 days later… What. The. Deuce?! How many kill quests are there? How many stupid raid mobs are there? This is completely stupid. I already have all the best damn gear, why do you want me to keep killing all this other stuff? I’m max faction with everyone and their mother now and I give out loans to God on a regular basis. Do you seriously want me to defend your hapless village against Drilgars (which are obviously just copies of orcs, because they are humanoid, buff, and icky looking. Uncreative idiots)? I just defeated a dragon. By myself. With. My. Thumb.

This game is stupid. Seriously, there’s nothing cool to do. I’ve seen it all. I’m maxed out, I’m tired of the idiots in out-of-character chat, and the developers are uncreative dolts. I saw maybe like 50 pretty unique quests and then they all became repetitive. I bet my dog could come up with better quests than these guys, and he’s a lab. Screw you MMO Game Developer 01, I’m done with your game.

How do I log onto the forums? Username: leetsauce007. Password: leeroyjenkins. Nice. What’s the most popular forum? I’m posting there because people will want to read this. I must be heard. Okay, New Topic. Here we go. Subject: “Farewell Everyone”

First, a quick background. I have played more than a dozen MMO games in my gaming career, including all of the major ones. I’ve spent countless hours learning the ins and outs of the games I play, and have an intimate understanding of the mechanics and the implementation requirements for content, art, code, sound, and various other pipelines. I hope the devs read this, because I have been a long time fan of this game and have been posting on fansites for more than 3 years. Also, I am a scientist.

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am going to be quitting this game. I’ve been playing since launch, and there just isn’t anything fun left for me to do. The endless grind finally got to me. It has been more than four days now, coming up on five, and I just don’t see where any of this is going. The lack of creativity in the content and glaring bugs like mispelling “demolition” are just annoying at this point.

I will really miss you guys, and hope to see you in other worlds. As of this posting, I have canceled my account. Goodbye, my friends.

Man they better read that. Refresh. Hmm, I’m getting a drink. Refresh. WTF?! I am NOT a n00b. Reply.

I am NOT a n00b. I will have you know that I have all the best gear, more than 19 Trillion Pomegranates, I have killed every boss, and my faction is maxed with everyone.

Refresh. I am NOT a catass! Reply. LOCKED?! I HATE these devs. I need a beer. Man I would so punch a dev in the face if I ever met one.

1 hour later… I wonder how much I could sell this sword for. Probably a lot. I guess I’ll log in and find out. Hey, I haven’t killed this demon naked yet. I’m gonna totally do that and post a screenshot on the forums. Idiots will probably think it’s a fake. Newbies are so stupid…

6 months later… They made it take SO LONG to get to level 200. Holy cow I can’t even believe I survived that long without breaking my monitor in frustration. Stupid grind. Can’t they come up with other ways to keep us entertained?

The very next month… This fan gathering is going to be the coolest week of my life for sure. I’m gonna get all the girls because I’m maxed out in EVERYTHING now. This will be so great. Man I can’t wait to meet Blackguard so I can punch him in the face. Whoa who are those nerds? Ha, they wish they were as cool as me. Hey that one has on my guild’s shirt too. He’s coming over… what did he say?

“HEY MAN! So awesome to meet you after more than 6 months. That was some awesome stuff in the raid last night man.” What a nerd. Am I really in this guy’s guild? I wonder where the devs are. Oh awesome they have the devs out front signing stuff and meeting people. Names on their shirts. Sweet, I can find Blackguard easy as pie. Time to rock.

“Blackguard! It’s Leetsauce Doubleoseven. You are so cool, I love this game. You are by far my favorite dev. I’ll buy you a drink later–Long Island Iced Tea, right?” Crap, close one. That dude was like eight feet tall. I can’t wait to get on the forums again; I’ll tear him a new one.

1 year later… DING! 400! I am officially so badass that the townsfolk cry tears of blood when I walk by. Yesssssssssssss… (And the saga continues for years to come until Leetsauce Doubleoseven moves on to another, less grindy game).

Note about topics I was going to cover but didn’t because I got carried away with the story of Leetsauce Doubleoseven:

  • Do developers intentionally make things take time? Yes. Is it their fault? No. Players want to play these games for hundreds and even thousands of hours, which means you have to try to give them thousands of hours worth of things to do (or they’ll complain that there isn’t enough to do to keep them interested). It ain’t easy. The fault is when that content is not cohesive and/or sucks.
  • Players will often stick with the familiar. Meaning, if they can either Kill 10 Rats or Search for the Buried Treasure after Discovering the Location of X, they are sometimes more likely to just kill stuff because they know how to do it and know that it’s quick. I firmly believe that MMOs NEED kill quests, and a lot of them, I just don’t think they should be the only quests (or even called “quests” for that matter).
  • Most games do have a crapload of interesting things to do, there’s just less of it than what a lot of people call boring. It doesn’t take long to drop 25 mobs in the world. It does take long to create a scripted event. So, there will be some scripted events that are awesome, but a lot of mobs that just use their normal AI. If we just had the compelling content in the game, players would complain about the game having no content because resources are finite (and they’d kinda be right).
  • What I and many other people REALLY complain about when referring to the grind is that we don’t have as much time as the next guy, or that we have wives and lives that prevent us from playing more than an hour a day and we can’t progress as quickly as we want. As I said in the post, grinding is usually self-imposed. You CAN play an MMO casually as long as you don’t expect yourself to advance quickly–you have to set realistic goals and expectations or the game will absolutely feel like a grind.

There it is, my commentary on The Grind. It’s one of the four-letter words of massively multiplayer games, and I’m pretty sure my stance on it is going to be controversial. Luckily, I don’t care.

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