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MMO's The Grind

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The leveling grind is often cited as the worst part of an MMO. What would people prefer in place of it ? A grind like that seems to be a method to moderate the speed at which an MMO's content is completed, so what kind of alternatives are there?

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Purchased statistics?

Got some kind of trainer instructor in there that you can pay to do some of that experience gain for you automatically. It may also keep the cash flow in the game more critical to advancement, and speed of advancement.

That way there is a point in the game where the user can think about saving to make the most powerful character, or save to buy the most powerful item... for the obsessed player... both.


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Original post by vaneger
The leveling grind is often cited as the worst part of an MMO. What would people prefer in place of it ?

A grind like that seems to be a method to moderate the speed at which an MMO's content is completed, so what kind of alternatives are there?


More content. There really isn't any other way.

Any leveling system is going to be based off of completing content, whether you complete that content once or you grind it out 100 times.

The only exception to this is fixed advancement over time, such as leveling up once a day, every day, regardless of play time. That, however, defeats the entire purpose of low level content. Plus, it encourages your players to create a character and not play for a month so that they can max out. The danger with that is that your player is likely to find something else to do in that time period and cancel his subscription.

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Well my current idea for content anyway , is to have a given event but the player can play it from 3/4 different factions. The goals of each faction might be different, so that might add replayablity once you get to the 'end game' with one character.

as for 'leveling' i dont know yet.

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Eve Online does the levelling system fairly well.

You can spend all day killing rats (pirates actually) and you don't gain a lick of skill from it. You do gain some cash and resources, but your 'skills' come from training skills. This takes real world time, and it happens while you aren't playing, however you can only set one to train at a time, which can make the early ones annoying because training times are short so you'll lose out on time because they'll finish while you are offline if you don't plan it.

Things are offset by the fact that you still need to play the game to buy the base skill (each skill has 5 levels) and then you also need to play to be able to build or buy or steal your items.

Balance is also fairly nice. The game is based around users flying spaceships, from smallest to largest: Frigates, cruisers, battleships, (and then capital ships and tech two ships, as well as a few subclasses, and non combat ships)

Battleships are 'king' of space but can knocked out by a two or three guys flying frigates, which cost far less to buy and outfit than a cheap battleship, if that battleship isn't fitted out to deal with frigates. And if it is fitted out to deal with frigates then it is going to be crippled against other battleships.

The game is based around working in groups, and while a brand new player isn't of much value, in just a few weeks you can play very key roles in a large group.

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Original post by vaneger
Well my current idea for content anyway , is to have a given event but the player can play it from 3/4 different factions. The goals of each faction might be different, so that might add replayablity once you get to the 'end game' with one character.

as for 'leveling' i dont know yet.



I would agree that is probably the best way to add additional content.

One more thing I'd like to add (that I left out of my first post), is to not treat leveling grinds differently than equipment, skill, etc. grinds. A grind to improve your character is the same regardless of the reward.

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Well all in all you'll have to come up with an entirely new system all together.

Grinding means going out and killing monsters for hours on end right? So if we charged money for skills how would they obtain this money? Currently you'd have to go kill monsters, for hours on end - or compelte quests making you kill mobs, for hours on end. Or perhaps you'd say have it skill based, the more you swing your sword the beter you get at it right? So how do we swing our sword? Go kill mobs for hours on end.

The point is, if you take out killing monsters, or humanoids, or quests that involve that - you've changed the game completely. One way to get out of the grind is to offer it in a more intuitive way - more pvp and make it more important and dominant to the game.

However, we are still disguising it. If your out on a battlefield killing and being killed for hours on end - all of a sudden your grinding again.

To take out the grind is really asking for a completely different game. Find ways to disguise this better, but don't look to remove it.

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I also think that we should start experimenting more with ways to completely ditch the level system. There is absolutely no reason for having "levels". I think gamers are sohisticated enough to understand that "levels" are merely an abstraction for the size of a character's skillset and the throughness with which they have developed their physical/magical/etc attributes.

I would like to see characters acquire skills and items and develop attributes over a non-discreet scale (you don't have a 80/100 strength, you are just "pretty damned strong").

No levels, no grind. I'm with smr.

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Real-world achievements.

Imagine a MMO for teens, where parents are given the opportunity to enter their kid's grades, or the fact he/she mowed the lawn, or worked out for an hour, and have him/her rewarded with experience/items in-game. It'd be pretty hard to prevent cheating and implement it, but think of the motivation it would potentially provide for kids in high-school to get better grades (and thus get that weapon or the next lvl they are so looking forward to), or work on improving themselves ('leveling') in real-life.

Of course, the game would have to be fun in other ways too, otherwise the levels/equipment/status in it wouldn't mean anything.

Just a crazy idea, thought I'd throw it out.

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The only way is to gear the game towards playing together instead of what level do I have to reach to wear that shield or hold that sword, or get that enchantment for a cool glow.

Imagine a game where the things you do affect the world for everybody. You fight on a bridge and decide to cut it down and kill the player. Nobody can cross, players decide to help build the bridge back up and gain skills with wood working.

You can destory and ressurect any part of society, perhaps having cities / allegiences / clans with their own cities with many territories to it which are capturable - resources become more available and in these towns items become much cheaper, almost free while other cities begin to have to pay more.

One thing I should mention is whether you have 6 skills or 600 skills, (abilities) this won't add anything interesting or useful to the game - it only adds complexity and agrivation. I've been there - Guild Wars was a pain in the ass. There must be at least 30 or more elite abilities, you have two classes with at least 30 abilities each then you enter into campeigns which just release even more abilities. Also, if your upgrading a skill don't make it two different options (fireball 1, fireball 2, fireball 3) just imrpove the skill gosh darnit! IT would be different it fireball 1 did more damage but shorter range, fireball 2 was an aoe around you and fireball 3 was an aoe you cast away from you - but usually these differences lay with .2 casting time and 5 - 10 dmg. Sorry, not enough difference, that's pointless.

Why can't thieves pick pocket other players? Rob banks, kill store keepers or steal things off the table. Why can't you sign up with the guard to kill such people and not receive bad or negative points. Why can't someone defeat a dragon and have it bow to his will for the next day allowing the player to critically attack one of these territories - not automatically over taking it but making the people there have to fight the dragon and a buffed version of the player and any friends he decided to send a tell to.

It seems everything lately builds on more areas and more mobs and color swatches and level one more time for a new shield with twice as much armor. There's no reason to play the game when everything in the game is so calculated. Games were and always are about competition, competing against each other. Start focusing on having players compete with eachother instead of compete with murlocs who just respawn every 5 seconds and die on 2 swings.

Seesh that's a rant..

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I'm going to point out Puzzle Pirates here. First off, Puzzle Pirates does not have levels. It does have skills, though - e.g., your Sailing skill indicates how good you are at manipulating the ropes and sheets of fabric on your ship to help it go faster. What's different about Puzzle Pirates, as compared to other MMOs, is that in PP, your sailing skill is determined by the player's actual skill in a puzzle game (hence the name "Puzzle Pirates"). If you want to get a higher skill ranking, then you have to do better at the puzzle. Moreover, there's no actual indicator of how much better you have to do to get the next "level"; nor does your "level" actually determine anything in-game except the starting difficulty of the puzzle and a string on your character sheet. A Novice sailor can do every bit as well as an Ultimate sailor if he's good at the puzzle; likewise, an Ultimate sailor can bring no benefit whatsoever to the ship if he's doing poorly. All your skill ranking does is give you bragging rights and allow other players to judge how good you are.

So, this is one way to eliminate the grind. Instead of grinding, you can practice the puzzles in an attempt to get better; however, practicing is different from grinding, as the latter implies doing the same thing over and over again for some quantified length of time until you achieve some goal, whereas the former implies attempting to improve your methods over and over to become better at a task.

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Talroth already beat me to it, but I was going to suggest the level system of EVE. This system has both strong sides and fallbacks. For instance, it gives long player players an advantage over people who just start out:

Because levelling is based on real-world time, you cannot speed it up. This means that you'll NEVER overpower a long player player, no matter what(Unless you get his account suspended for a longer period of time).

A strong point is that you'll immediately eliminate sweat shops. This means a whole lot of people are not going to make money off your game, and you keep players from gaining levels way too fast.

Perhaps a mixture of the both grinding and real-time levelling would allow players to speed things up. For instance, if you're training your 'horse back riding' or 'mountain climbing' skills(*cough* bishop pass *cough*), you could speed this up by 10% to actually practice these skills. If you're working on your electronic engineer skill, you might aswell build yourself a new star ship(which involves eletronic engineer) to speed things up. Ofcourse, it's adviseable to limit this, otherwise you'll end up with sweat shops again.

Toolmaker

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Another way is to have "levels" based on real player skill... how one would implement such a system is beyond me. Doesn't it make more sense that a better player should be able to beat a less skilled one, instead of the player with more time to grind nearly always beats one who spends time outside the game? It works in 3D FPSes and RTSes.

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Well, one point about Eve Online's balance system is that even if someone has been playing for ages longer than you, you can still 'catch up' to them. There are really only so many skills someone can learn, and after awhile real world 'skill' of tailoring your ship build to counter them (if you know their build) becomes far more important than simply having extra skills.

Now, players that have been around longer can cover skills in more areas, such as they can be expert miners AND experts at one part of combat, a new player can catch up to a single aspect of the skill tree fairly easily. So just because a player has been around for a year longer than another player, doesn't mean the older one will always be better at a single aspect of the game than someone else. They can just be more diverse and do different things.

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Until swinging your weapon and blocking require real skill I just don't see how that could be achieved.

I'd love to actually control (4-10) different melee moves you can pull off and in either direction (to the right or to the left) and moving your shields and docking right, left, up, down, back or side step.

Basically, create a game that plays like a spartan warrior in 300. Me sitting there watching the fighting scene wishing it was a game might sound corny to you, but take any mmo to that level and you'll have a blockbuster - don't even care if you have any other feature then levels, items, abilities, 4 classes and everyone's the same race... if you take a game to that level it'll be fun.

Gunz online is a load of fun, but it didn't reach over 9k players (not in america at least).

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Original post by markadrake
Until swinging your weapon and blocking require real skill I just don't see how that could be achieved.


Ever played Rune? Or if fantasy isn't your style, how about any FPS?

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Original post by smr
Quote:
Original post by markadrake
Until swinging your weapon and blocking require real skill I just don't see how that could be achieved.


Ever played Rune? Or if fantasy isn't your style, how about any FPS?


What FPS does a good job of melee combat?

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I haven't played Rune. The closest game I've played to what I'm talking about is Gunz Online, which I mentioned.

Fantasy is fine, but I don't get into the sci-fi spaceship stuff and as for FPS I'd have to backup tstrimp's question. I can't even think of how you would reliably control your sword and shield via first person and not see the people coming at your sides or from behind. It would leave you open to being backstab 99% of the time, the game would simply not be fun anymore.

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Original post by vaneger
The leveling grind is often cited as the worst part of an MMO. What would people prefer in place of it ?


Nothing. I loved how it was in Everquest. Get a group of friends, hang out for a few hours chatting while playing a game. If anything, I wish it would go back to that. The way games are now with 5 million quests don't lend themselves well to groups actually staying together. Most the time you are together for 1, maybe 2 quests and then gone. You never really get to know people, and you are always moving around so much that there is really no time to actually chat. Not to mention, have you ever tried doing a collection quest with a full group? Man that sucks hard.

I know you will never see a game structured like Everquest again. I'm not saying it was perfect, as it was far from that, but it just can't hold the interest of the average selfish, ADD having WoW player. But the dreaded 'Grind' doesn't always have to be bad.


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Quote:
Original post by tstrimp
Quote:
Original post by smr
Quote:
Original post by markadrake
Until swinging your weapon and blocking require real skill I just don't see how that could be achieved.


Ever played Rune? Or if fantasy isn't your style, how about any FPS?


What FPS does a good job of melee combat?


Rune did a rather good job of it :)

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However in RPGs the characters skill should always be the main focus (player skill is less relevant), for an fps or mmofps the grinding isn't really an issue as player skill is more important than character skill (Thus you don't "grind" to raise your characters skill, you practice to raise your own skill)

The only way to make player skill influence rpg combat is to turn it into an action rpg or a tactical/strategic rpg (depending on what kind of player skills you want to focus on).

However both action rpgs (Elder Scrolls, diablo, etc) and tactical/strategic rpgs (SSI goldbox games, fallout, etc) generally allow character skills to influence the outcome to some extent.

for MMORPGs the best way to avoid grinding is to ensure that
1) There is enough content
2) There is no real incentive for repeating the same action for long periods of time.

One way to reduce the incentive for repeating actions could perhaps be to let monsters start out relativly weak and poor (a newly spawned dragon is still alot stronger and wealthier than a 3 month old rat ofcourse) when they spawn (not much xp and loot) and grow stronger and wealthier as time passes, thus making it more rewarding to find and slay monsters that have been alive for a long period of time than to raid the same dungeon over and over again.

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Well I plan on this being an action RPG in an MMO setting. It's also going to be a cyperpunk / sci fi theme as opposed to fantasy.

It will focus on territorial control within (mostly) a single mega city, where the various factions seek to overthrow or maintain the lead gang's control of the city.

Ranged combat will focus on guns and explosive projectiles, while melee I'm not sure of just yet.

Aside from physically fighting to achieve goals, players could also hack into various companies to attempt to sabotage them and gain a technology advantage.

As for how to make it feel less grindy, I'm not sure yet. I know I want to have the focus more on developing story than having to develop character 'levels'.

And at somepoint players will encounter shapeshifting aliens and then first contact will be made. What happens then will be up to the players, perhaps an invasion or perhaps diplomatic treaties.

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I'd suggest something of an expansion on what guild wars did. They took out most of the level grind by capping it very early in the game and making the rest focus on acquiring skills and combining them, with an ever-growing library which you had to pick just a few from to bring to any given area. There were also attributes, aka skillpoints in a normal RPG, but those could be shuffled at any time you could reselect skills as well, for free, allowing you more ability to explore the skills. Just do that, but without those first twenty levels. Just an ever-increasing library of skills that don't stack but can combine well, and let players find skills they like. Then, as the expansion part, stick in something to try to stop the inevitable cropping up of "builds" (which would totally undermine that kind of system unless your players find hundreds of them like in GW), find some way to make sure they can't always/reliably take the same exact skills with them while still leaving them enough ability to choose their favorites that they're rewarded for having more skills even if they have a per-mission skillbar limit. How, I'll leave up to you. Then finally you want to listen in on the community occasionally to make sure they're all roughly balanced.

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I haven't read the whole thread so I'm sorry if this has been mentioned in another form but I like when games make the grinding *worth it* on another level than just gaining levels (no pun intended).

In Guild Wars I remember reaching level 20 by grinding Griffons with my Warrior/Ranger and his trusty side kick Janel the panther. I'd kill them and a third of them would drop griffon wings which could be exchanged for max damage weapons at an npcs near the city. Once I'd fill up on them I'd sell them for a hefty price and make quite the profit (unintentionally, I wanted to get to 20).

The best part though was having people tell me to 'screw off' because they thought I was ripping them off until they went out and tried to get their own. They'd come back... they'd always come back.

So basically if monsters you kill drop useful items that can all be used for crafting or meaningful exchange it can make it a lot more worth it.

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