It doesn't have to be that way. MMORPGs can have different styles of play without resorting to quest/mob grinds. Surely, players will do repetitive tasks, but that is up to them. If it is forced, there is something wrong.
I'm not saying that it has to be that way, but that's a cornerstone mechanic in the most popular MMO approaches. When an enormous portion of the game is based around repetitive spreadsheet action, a lot of players *will* be forced to do it regardless of whether or not different activities are available. It's not just quest/mob grinds either, there's plenty of crafting grinds and trading grinds and breeding grinds and on and on and on.
And it's a very rare MMO idea post I see that doesn't seem to be overwhelmingly influenced by existing games with the above mentioned design.
Sorry, didn't mean the statement to insinuate such a thing.
Yes, it is common place in most MMORPGs, but designers, if they are worth their salt, should see these issues. Most don't seem to care about solving the problems as they aren't large enough deterrent to play and they tend to keep players playing without having to create new content.
Everything can be a grind and the funny thing is players tend to place the grind upon themselves. I remember trying to get a black mare in UO for quite some time. I then hunted a variety of Cu Sidhes when I played during that expansion to sell to other players, always on the prowl for superior stats/colors for myself.
Players turn almost any activity into a grind. If they want to eliminate the grind, there needs to be enough variety in activities for players to take part in that they never feel the grind. Even then, players will have favored activities/desirables that tend towards grinding just because they WANT it. At that point it becomes the player's fault, not the game.