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Ashaman73

Demonizing grinding ,why ?

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Well, we all know grinding and most of us will say, that grinding - doing something over and over to archive a goal - is boring and lack of gamedesign. On the other hand, everyone do it. This is not a new MMORPG only feature, I already grinded 4x99 berserkers in Bard's Tale(1985) or worms in Dungeon Master(1987), and I have to say, that it was one of the game experienced I remembered best and I didn't felt bored (althought I got some drinks while fighting the berserkers ;-) ). The fact is, the gamers are attracted to grinding like flies... whatever, but take a look at tower defense games. This games are all about grinding, aren't they ? Why does everyone try to fight grinding by limiting or punishing the player instead of pushing it. What would happen, if we take a MMORPG and introduce tower defense gameplay to it. How would it look like ? You start with an easy mob, killed it and get some temporary boost (blessing, adrenalin boost what ever). You have some time before the next mobs comes in to adjust your potions, spells, heal whatever. Every mob will get stronger and stronger, while its experience ratio will increase from very weak to good. At start the gain will be low, but while grinding over and over the difficulty and reward will increase dramatically. With a good run the player will be able to gain a lot of experiences, after some time his supplies will be used up and he has to take a break (go to nearby town to buy/sell items, visit the trainer etc.). If it makes the gamers happier doing it, why should we try to hinder them ? Are (MMO)RPGs really games any longer or are they not already some kind of virtual world or even virtual reality ? In a virtual world, is it bad to do some work to gain an advantage ? Or to "grind" some mobs while chatting with some friends ? In my opinion it is time to stop swimming against the current and turn our gamedesigns around and start utilizing "grinding". What do you think ?

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IMO the word "grinding" is attached to a game-mechanic *when* it becomes boring. If you're doing something over and over again, but aren't bored, then it's *not* a grind.
If you're doing it over and over again, wishing you didn't have to because you're bored of it and just want to progress to the next challenge, then that is a grind.

So... I guess this depends on exactly how you define "grinding". I define "grind" as tedious/monotonous/boring. If it's fun/entertaining (even if it's repetitive), then it's not grinding.

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I dont know that grinding necessarily has to be defined as boring... but certainly its at least not fun.

The problem with grinding is thats its based on hardwired reward-reponse mechanisms in the brain, where people are conditioned to repeat certain behaviours with the expectation of a reward. Just because you feel compelled to repeat a condition for a reward doesnt mean you're having fun, it just means you want to get back the feeling of fun that you had in the past.

Its like gambling addiction... people get addicted to gambling because of the high they feel the first time they gamble, and spend more and more money trying to get that feeling again - because the high they get diminishes as they get used to gambling, they put more and more effort into it just to try and keep the reward the same.

Grinding is designed the same: rewards like levels and abilities are frequent to begin with, and the player enjoys the high of accomplishment when they get them. As the game progresses, the levels and abilities are spaced further and further apart, and the player needs to invest more and more time into the game just to get the same high the got from 5 minutes of play time when they started the game. The player is conditioned to repeat the action, and they expect a reward, but for most people they eventually either need to reach an end (eg, end game content, or a new reward system to grind on which starts the process over again) or they realise they arent enjoying themselves and become disillusioned.

In the example in the OP, Im not convinced of the reason why the "reward will increase dramatically"... Simply having to work harder for something can sometimes have a minor effect on how proud you feel about it, but in general (particularly in games) I think the pride and effort dont increase at the same rate: To feel twice as proud, for example, the player might need to work 4 times as hard. You feel more when you get the reward, but in terms of overall reward for effort, you only actually get half as much.

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The only reasons why you would put grinding in your game is to artificially lengthen the game or to reward the player's commitment. Both are examples of bad game design in my opinion.

Putting grinding in an MMO is a necessity to keep players playing for months and months, obviously. I can't think of a reason why you would want to put it in a single player game. Even if it is to reward commitment it's a pretty bad way of doing so.

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Quote:

Hodgeman:
So... I guess this depends on exactly how you define "grinding". I define "grind" as tedious/monotonous/boring. If it's fun/entertaining (even if it's repetitive), then it's not grinding.

Well, defining grinding as the boring part of doing something over and over again is an knock-out argument :). My fault, let's say that I want to talk about repetitive actions encountered in RPGs to archive a certain goal.

Quote:

Its like gambling addiction... people get addicted to gambling because of the high they feel the first time they gamble, and spend more and more money trying to get that feeling again - because the high they get diminishes as they get used to gambling, they put more and more effort into it just to try and keep the reward the same.

This holds true if you hunt for certain, but seldom, rewards like rare or unique drops. But what about rewards which are assured like a certain amount of experience ?

People tend to "grind" to gain the next level, they don't feel happy or have fun, because they need just to kill 1000 mobs to gain the next level. If a game designer wants to get rid of this kind of grinding, he "tends" to punish the player i.e. by decreasing exp gained from certain mobs, decreasing spawn rate, item drop rate whatever, which shifts the grinding to other mobs or to longer grinding sessions.

My idea is to reward them for doing some repetitive work, but to increase the challange at the same time. If they want to optimize their experience rate support them, give them some opportunities to mow through hords of enemies and let them feel good, just like a tower defense game. Increase the challange until the player have to capitulate, give them some special reward if they overcome a certain number of "waves".

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If a game designer wants to get rid of this kind of grinding, he "tends" to punish the player i.e. by decreasing exp gained from certain mobs, decreasing spawn rate, item drop rate whatever, which shifts the grinding to other mobs or to longer grinding sessions.

My idea is to reward them for doing some repetitive work, but to increase the challange at the same time.

So decreasing the exp gained and so forcing the player to move up to bigger mobs isn't increasing the difficulty?

Also, why do you think that tower defense is grinding? Its a strategic puzzle. You have to build a path that is optimal, find faults and then work quickly to fix them. That means long term planning combined with fast passed edits before the mobs get through. That's not a grind, that's a dynamic game.

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I'm not sure that grinding is always bad, but I can give you an example of when it certainly is bad.

MMOs where the end game is PvP. Dark Age of Camelot was a good example of this, the end games was actually good fun, but to get there you had to grind, and at each next annual expansion you had to grind some more to stay powerful enough to even be able to enjoy PvP.

So effectively they had this really good fun PvP system, but they didn't want people to be able to jump straight into it because it would've meant they could do so, and also get bored of it earlier, and stop playing earlier.

Effectively they used grinding as a tool to make people play longer to reach the enjoyable part of the game to milk them of subscriptions for as long as possible.

In the long run it just didn't work, the grinding was too much for some and they gave up early, for some the repeated new grind with each expansion was too much, having done it once, got a taste of PvP then being forced back into it before they could PvP again and so on.

You shouldn't force players to do tedious rubbish before they can enjoy themselves, just let them enjoy themselves from the off. It may work short term, but as with Dark Age of Camelot, and now Mythic in general, it just didn't work out for them long term. People got fed up of being given the carrot and stick treatment.

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Original post by Ashaman73
This is not a new MMORPG only feature, I already grinded 4x99 berserkers in Bard's Tale(1985) or worms in Dungeon Master(1987), and I have to say, that it was one of the game experienced I remembered best and I didn't felt bored (althought I got some drinks while fighting the berserkers ;-) ).

Ah, thank goodness for Mangar's Mind Blade...

Seriously though, this example isn't grinding. It was a one-off event that constituted 1 battle out of thousands. Grinding is when you have to keep repeating the same thing over and over as the main gameplay mechanic. Bard's Tale -did- have a big grinding element but that one battle wasn't it.

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Grinding is when you have to stop questing and go out to kill mobs so that you're high enough level to continue questing or there is no more quest. If the questing quantity is correct, then all quest have level range, and players will complete all quest will be at the appropriate level for the up coming quests. Basically, questing should not make the player under-leveled or over-leveled for the level range they intent to be. If the rewards are too much experience, then the player cannot complete all quests as they are over-leveled to get the quest. Quest should not give too less experience, the player has to go out of their way out of the story line and join the mob killing; this is grinding.

To combat grinding, there must be enough quest for the player to maintain working the progression path, but not too much that the player is force to make decisions early on because players do not want to have early permanent decisions ( they don't want to feel regret ) .

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Grinding has been demonized since a few people got huffy about the amount of time spent grinding in EQ. Instead now, we just have a different kind of grinding .. quest grinding. To me, this is as bad if not worse than the normal grinding that comes to mind when you mention the word. You spend more time running around to do and turn in quests than you do actually playing half the time.

On top of it, they have devalued the experience from individual mobs so much that you can't hope to level at even a decent pace without doing quests. And then on top of THAT, they devalue the experience you get in groups so much that you are penalized for grouping. My wife and I play games together. You used to level slightly faster in a duo than solo in EQ, AC, <insert older game here> (in the general case .. yes there are exceptions). In those games it generally took longer to kill mobs so the fact that you could kill almost twice as fast was a huge benefit. In WoW things die so quickly that you run out of stuff to kill when duoing. Your experience is also cut directly in half which means while you are killing faster overall, you are gaining less experience.

Both of us are sick of the quest grind. We are sick of having to run all over and do a bunch of gimmicky quest related stuff just to level. Every new game that we try now burns us out rather quickly due to quest grinding. I'd pay good money to go back to an open game that promotes exploration and killing over following the quest rails. I know we can't be the only people who feel this way.

I think there can be a balance, and there needs to be a balance. Reward killing and exploration, but weave in far fewer, but much more significant quests and I'd be hooked.

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Dranith, you identify two problems of questing.

Problem 1: Travelling takes too much time.
Problem 2: Mobs do not appear fast enough / players are required to kill too much to complete the quest.

Solution to Problem 1:
Quest should be design in a way that keep the player near the source of the quest so that they do not have to waste time wondering to reach locations.

Solution to Problem 2:
Quest should not require the player to kill monsters or by gathering a specific monster drop as these condition cause the player to spend time grinding. Instead, they should be required to gather something that cannot be in competition with other players or in competition with time.

With these two ideas in mind, I believe someone should be able to develop a questing system that will not be too "grind" intensive.

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Original post by Platinum_Dragon
Dranith, you identify two problems of questing.

Problem 1: Travelling takes too much time.


Running back and forth between quest giver and quest location is what I'm talking about. I actually have no problem at all with traveling taking time as long as the traveling coincides with exploration. I don't like doing a quest running back to turn it in and then the next step is to go back to where I just left to do something else. Not to mention reading quest text and figuring out the gimmick of when I need to click the doodad they gave me.

Quote:
Original post by Platinum_Dragon
Problem 2: Mobs do not appear fast enough / players are required to kill too much to complete the quest.

Solution to Problem 2:
Quest should not require the player to kill monsters or by gathering a specific monster drop as these condition cause the player to spend time grinding. Instead, they should be required to gather something that cannot be in competition with other players or in competition with time.


This would mean that quests just take less time so there would need to be more of them to fill the same time frame. That is definitely not what I want. I have no problem at all killing many mobs either by grinding them or for kill count quests, so maybe I didn't phrase things correctly in my original post. The comments about not having enough to kill were in relation to the penalty you receive for grouping while leveling (this shows up very clearly in WoW).


Quote:
Original post by Platinum_Dragon
With these two ideas in mind, I believe someone should be able to develop a questing system that will not be too "grind" intensive.


The less time quests take, and the less you have to do with them the more there will be. Like I mentioned above, I would much rather have far fewer quests (maybe 10% of what you see in WoW) but make those quests much more significant. Make those quests take more time instead of all the 'FedEx' / 'Go pick up X' style quests that exist now. Bring killing back to be a more important part of the equation, and more directly reward exploration (somehow) instead of sticking to set roads and going where quest givers tell you.

To put things in perspective, I think a game that is about halfway between what EQ was around PoP time and what WoW is now would be damn near perfect.



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I like grinding.
Don't get me wrong. In rpgs, I love the repetitive fights, because in enduring I grow stronger. What makes it boring for me is not the fight themselves, but all the animation that leads to the fight = loss of time.
Grinding isn't "bad" design, its simplistic design. Making a design simple isn't always bad, unless, of course, its clearly by a) the lack of a better idea and/or b) lazyness.
The most addictive games I've played were extremely repetitive. Repetition makes the game's mechanics easy to understand. That doesn't make them easy to master.
Tower defense was one example, but every RTS is, to some extent. Think of Starcraft like a grinding master-tournament. Even the fact of joining a session to kick someone else's ass is pretty much grinding. The game starts the same, etc. That's because grinding is part of the game's mechanics, and how people's brain approaches the idea of gaming.
Imagine a game where you never do the same thing twice, never get a chance to learn from your mistakes and apply that knowledge to earn a better score, etc. If you don't learn, or don't get better, etc, what is the point of gaming?

Grinding in RPGs is a bit more obvious, but it represents the truth. You learn from your actions (they give you experience points to examplify that, but chances are you learned a thing or two in many of the battles, like not using a spell against such an enemy type).

The flaw about grinding design is not the grinding itself, but to ensure that what requires grinding is worth it/always fun.
I don't think it is a problem for an RPG to ask the hero to fight so often (assuming the encounter rate is balanced) but if your battle system sucks, you will feel like grinding is boring. You want the reward, but not the challenge. Design flaw here? not grinding: battle system.

I honestly believe that the negative impact of grinding can be lessened by a good core design of its related components: not by removing it.

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Dranith, I only take part of your situation and pull it towards one extrema, but you pull back towards the other extrema. You see, the system has only two directions too go, toward one extreme or the other. If you cannot decide with side of the extreme to be on, then you will want somewhere in the middle. The point in the spectrum is just not in the right balance for your taste, but designers will not know where the point will satisfy the most players.

yes to repetition, but there is a difference between grinding and simply repetition. Grinding is when you are forced to repeat when you just want to move on, but you are too weak due to the game design slowing down the rate you are leveling up. Grinding is the result of slow leveling or the lack of player skills / luck. The balance of skill, luck, and leveling rate will give lack of grinding, but still have enjoyable repetition.

edit: remove a directed comment to make it as a general comment.

[Edited by - Platinum_Dragon on February 12, 2010 1:18:43 PM]

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Original post by Platinum_Dragon
Dranith, I only take part of your situation and pull it towards one extrema, but you pull back towards the other extrema. You see, the system has only two directions too go, toward one extreme or the other. If you cannot decide with side of the extreme to be on, then you will want somewhere in the middle. The point in the spectrum is just not in the right balance for your taste, but designers will not know where the point will satisfy the most players.


I believe that Wow shows that designers do know where the point that satisfies the most players is. It just doesn't happen to be my taste, which as you said is somewhere in the middle((EQ + WoW) >> 1). I know my tastes in this case aren't the norm and I've come to terms with the fact that it will be a while, if ever, before an MMO that satisfies those tastes exists. I just was weighing in on the conversation.

I wasn't trying to be the typical internet denizen who believes that "If I don't like it EVERYONE WHO DOES IS WRONG! Designers need to listen to ME!".

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If only we could create a system where players can shift the degree of the game play they want, then the game will be great. Some players will see this as unfair, but they have to see that reality is always unfair. Everyone takes different amount of effort to do the same task. There is always a distribution curve, where everyone believes themselves to be better than "average" ( what is average?--midrange, mean, median, or mode--all four of these describe a different type of average ). A good system will need to be fair where? Some players are more skillful, so they want to have the right to win with their greater skills. Some players play longer, so they want to have the right to win with greater time investment. Where is the balance between skills and time? The game-play therefore needs a dynamic shifter so that all players can get the same level of "game experience" not "character experience."

Quest should be long, but they should not be "killing thousands of monsters" long. Quest should have a good exploration route so players can understand the "setting/environment" of the game world. Players should be active along towards the two "destination" of a quest. Everything from the place you get the quest to the destination to get the quest required items and the path back should have elements that will keep the player engage. There should be multiple destination where you can possibly complete to the the quest required items. Quest required items may be loot or monster's dead body. Most quest should not need the player to return to quest giver because players need to continue from their current location.

Hey, my running list is just a taste of what I believe will increase the dynamics of quests.

Edit:
The multiple sides of grinding:
Quest grinding
Simple grinding (for levels)
Loot Farming (for wealth, economy effect)

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I was playing Wonderland Online for awhile. One of the items they give you is a remote control that you can use to set your character into a sort of automatic mode. It was quite clear that this was so that people could have their character fight endlessly in an area where they could collect certain dropped items. Something seems not quite right to me when a game is setup in such away that you can leave it unatended for a few days.

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A good game will design in a way where the player will grow, not the character that the player is controlling. The problem with this is that the player cannot measure their own growth unless they are competent. Incompetent people have difficulty in self assessment. That's why systems are designed with "inflating" numbers ( character stats ) to help the player get a sense of progression. Grinding is the side element caused by Character Stats, and the Economic System.

The problem is that players are used to getting rewards without any efforts, so they are not as willing to put out effort to accomplish tasks. The trend of least effort for the most reward. If someone can find an alternative, then they will seek enjoyment in the least effort leading the the sensation of boredom. Boredom comes from the lack of effort, and grinding becomes an effortless task after you memorize the repetitions.

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When I think of grinding, I think of when I first played Dragon Warrior on NES. Took me almost a year to finish it, because I only had a few hours to play it. The story of the game can be told in 2 paragraphs, with 5-10 hours of grinding between each sentence.

That's 5-10 good hours. Because you had to walk all the way back to the starting castle to save, no matter how far into the world you wandered, and death could come as easily as walking 1 tile into an unknowingly unsafe zone, and dying when the random battle was too much to handle.

Basically
-Hey look a bridge, there is a cave there too, I wonder what is inside.
-Cross the bridge, die.
-Grind for 5 hours, until you can just barely survive walking around on the ground past the bridge.
-Enter the cave, die when the dragon there holding the princess is ten levels too strong.
-die,grind for hours,die,grind,die, etc...
-can beat the dragon now, but potions are needed
-grind for hours just to be able to afford 99 health potions
-beat the dragon, save the princes, and notice that there is more land to the south
-go back to step 1

Eventually it ends.

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Quote:
Original post by Dranith
I believe that Wow shows that designers do know where the point that satisfies the most players is.


do you think the biggest draw to WoW is the combat and the grind? I'd say it's much more the social aspect and the world than anything.

The grind is detrimental in almost all cases. Even in WoW, to use your example, as an AOE specced mage the most efficient way for me to level wasn't to quest or to run instances(I preferred instances as they weren't grinds though). It was to run in circles for hours doing the same attacks on the same enemies over and over and over.

Questing is a far better grind. There might be better ways to do it like auto-complete quests where you can choose to complete a quest without running back to the quest giver (some exceptions for story line quests etc.), but I'd take that over a true grind.

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I tend to think of a good game experience as either

1) Something that is entertaining in itself, like blowing stuff up, or gawping at a stunningly rendered pseudo medieval world.

or

2) Something that may be frustrating, but creates a good feeling of satisfaction if you should master it, like Demon Souls or I Wanna Be The Guy.

Both these are reasons why someone would play. But there is a third reason people often play, when the game offers a reward.

A game experience is considered a grind when the player is playing only for the in game reward and not because it is 1) fun or 2) a challenge. The player is only interested in the promise of a game experience that the designer could have given him at the start of the game, but decided to make him work for it. This is of course bad. If he would have just as much fun flipping burgers, he should do that instead which would give him more money to spend on games.

I think grinding tends to exist in MMOs because the content team cannot produce quality content as quickly as the players consume it. They could make challenging content fast enough, but most players aren't all that interested in challenge. So they make lots of grindy content. This is a valid excuse for making it a grind, but we should still do everything we can to make games less grindy.

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Original post by Scarabus2
The only reasons why you would put grinding in your game is to artificially lengthen the game or to reward the player's commitment. Both are examples of bad game design in my opinion.
Agreed. I don't think it's even slightly defensible from a quality standpoint, only from a business standpoint.

Quote:
Putting grinding in an MMO is a necessity to keep players playing for months and months, obviously.
No. You can put in a ton of content, put limits on how fast the player can see the content, and/or make the game skill-based. Any of these approaches can have players playing for months and months and need not lower the quality of the game.

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Original post by Stroppy Katamari
Quote:
Original post by Scarabus2
The only reasons why you would put grinding in your game is to artificially lengthen the game or to reward the player's commitment. Both are examples of bad game design in my opinion.
Agreed. I don't think it's even slightly defensible from a quality standpoint, only from a business standpoint.

Quote:
Putting grinding in an MMO is a necessity to keep players playing for months and months, obviously.
No. You can put in a ton of content, put limits on how fast the player can see the content, and/or make the game skill-based. Any of these approaches can have players playing for months and months and need not lower the quality of the game.


This is like an argument whether a game should be a novel or the summary of the novel. It seems that people prefer summaries more than the novel itself, which makes things meaningless because a story is not useful without all of the details for the reader to think. People think about the details, but they only care about the summary if they stop thinking aka read between the lines.

Grinding is not required, but repetitively fighting monsters is necessary (even if it is as little as fighting each boss until you reach the final boss). Like a novel, the story needs conflicts (ex. fights against monsters, psychological conflicts created by storyline of the game). The crisis of the story is the moment the player begins to fight the final boss. And the climax is when the player defeat the boss "permanently."

A game even if skilled based, will still have top players that zip through the content as fast as the developers are willing to let them through the contents.

In essence, the content must be slowed down to the point where the best player will reach the end of the old content after new content are created to maintain a good game flow for all players.

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