MMORPGs: More Grinding Please

Grinding in MMORPGs is like death and taxes in real-life, it’s the only thing you can guarantee.  Some people don’t mind it, while other like me believe it’s the bane of existence in MMORPGs, however you rarely hear an argument for grinding. Today Spinks, over at Spinksville, made the statement asking, “Who are these people who want difficult MMOs?“, followed up by this statement in defense of grinding in MMORPGs.

The one unique selling point for MMOs has always been the virtual world and being able to be part of a virtual community. Pushing hardcore game mechanics on top of that has never really been a comfortable fit. Activities that busy people around the game world are good, especially if they are thematic. This is why we shouldn’t be so down on the concept of grinds.

To catch you up, over the past few days there has been much debate in the MMO blogosphere about what makes MMOs fun and one of the prevailing arguments has been the challenge of it. However after the statements above it seems Mrs. Spinks not only doesn’t care for any sort of challenge, but she’s more than fine with grinding away on mindless quests.

So I ask Spinks, Who are these players who prefer mindless grinding over any sort of challenge? I doubt Spinks is the only one with this type of opinion, but isn’t the main reason we play video games because they’re challenging? What’s challenging about killing 10 rabbits or delivering a letter across town? Absolutely nothing.

When looking at video gaming as a whole, MMORPGs are the only genre where you spend the majority of your time grinding. I get developers have to add content to slow players progression through the game and keep them playing, but how about some challenging quest or content players enjoy so much they won’t mind repeating.

Imagine a game like Call of Duty, normally when you begin this type of game there’s a extremely short training tutorial that teaches players how to move and use their weapons, even one or two training courses that players can run through to test their skills. Now imagine if instead of a 10 min intro tutorial this was extended to 50 hrs of gameplay which needed to be completed before the real game began. That would suck big time, right? Single RPGs don’t do it either, so don’t use the RPG genre as an excuse. So why is it ok for MMORPGs to do it?

The only legit answer is that developers have to fill the game with something and shit quests are the easiest way to accomplish this. Before players can access any sort of challenging quests or raids, they first have to spend hours upon hours of grinding though monotonous quests. This shouldn’t be accepted by players and is the main reason the MMORPG genre is still not part of the main stream of gaming.

As a MMORPG gamer and talking about the genre to friends who’ve never played any, but are still gamers, the reaction is always the same. I don’t have the time for it and it’s boring. That’s basically it, there’s no counter-point to that statement mostly because they’re right. “Oh, well after you spend about 50 hrs gringing, it starts to get fun”.

Grinding is the reason I’ve only reached the end game in two MMORPGs since being introduced to the genre 8 years ago and is the reason I quit playing a MMORPG 9 out of 10 times. Grinding is the reason why MMORPGs are not mainsteam and the reason botting is so popular. Grinding cannot be fixed with voice-over questing (sorry SWTOR). Grinding can only be done away with once developers realize thousands of quests are not needed and start creating high quality challenging content that offers players a real sense of accomplishment.


  1. Spinks is a lady, actually.

    Let’s get more radical and do away with levels and gear. Play is sole predicated on player skill, and there are varied challenges throughout the world. To go certain places, you have to up your own game.

    How commercially viable will such a game be?

  2. @tesh – i’d buy it.

    However I do like the getting better gear, the balancing of stats, the challenge of getting better gear. It is part of the fun of most MMORPG’s – do away with levels possibly but not the gear and stats after all in real life what you wear does affect attributes you posess so thats as should be.

    Challenging quests are a part of it, but I still think the way forward is to make worlds more sandbox. Having lots of content is important, but for longevity the games need to allow a bit more freedom for the players to make their own entertainment.

    EVE has shown this way really works (although the combat system is soo boring….), there is no reason the same philiosopy cannot be brought to other MMORPG genres. Mortal and Darkfall have tried it and the ideas are sound – with much better implementation it should work. When players are able to influence the world more the game becomes dynamic and unpredictable and adds so much more.

    Cut down the grind & instead give players the tools within the game to make their own entertainment, their own content – have a company with money to pump into it take charge & give it the necessary bling and polish, add lots of interesting and challenging content – balance the reliance on stats with a good helping of skill and your onto a winner.

    On a related point – I dont care what anyone says about gameplay being the important thing – Ive spent a fortune over time on my PC in order to play games I dont think its too much to expect great gameplay & great presentation these days – If it doesnt look good its going to lose players interest.

  3. I have seen EVE described as grindy, from someone who felt they had to grind out missions to earn enough ISK to pay their subs every month. COD looks like the grindiest game in the universe to me (a hater of FPS), all you ever do is run the same scenarios over and over and over again.

    Sometimes people enjoy quiet repetitive activities either in games or out of them as a way to relax. You could describe knitting as grindy but many people get a lot of pleasure out of it as a hobby. And ultimately, a game which is constantly requiring 100% attention and reflexes isn’t going to be relaxing for a lo t of people.

    I think it’s good to have some peaceful grinding in an MMO as an option, whether it be gathering materials, working on faction, or some other activity. I’m all for players making their own entertainment but if you go with a pure PvP sandbox world then for a lot of people that involves griefing each other (NOT RELAXING). A more PvE setup would involve more RP and fun events.

  4. Spinks has the right explanation. Its a leisurely time sink, that to them, is not boring. My roommate’s mom plays WoW. She loves it. Has almost all classes at 85, all professions maxed multiple times over. Never groups or even speaks to people that are not in the guild (real life friends and family).

    Personally I HATE this. I dont go to a playground full of swearing 12 year olds to relax. I hate the grind. But when the casual/relaxers combine with people who are willing to deal with he grind, those groups far outweigh those of us that refuse to be bored to death from our video games. Mix this pseudo-enjoyment of the grind with a subscription based financial model, and you get a powerhouse that does not give 2 shits about people who actually want to be challenged.

    This is what I’m really hoping GW2 destroys. There is no subscription, as far as pure profit is concerned they want you to buy the game, play it, finish it, and go away happy enough to recommend it to your friends. They are most likely already done getting all the money they will get from you (outside of some minor micro-transactions).

    I love MMO’s. I want a single character that keeps developing over years. But I don’t want to deal with the bullshit that WoW turned into, and changed most of the MMO industry into. This is why I haven’t played an MMO for quite a while, and only GW2 looks to be any more than a “WoW in (insert different locale/genre)” clone.

  5. COD looks like the grindiest game in the universe to me (a hater of FPS), all you ever do is run the same scenarios over and over and over again.
    Until you don’t want to. You finish any time you want to. It’s that thing called free will.

    Which doesn’t happen with grinds. You need 1000 dead bears. Any less is worthless. You don’t finish any time you want to.

    Even with knitting, if you stop half way through a scarf, half a scarft is still something.

    way to relax

    Oh rubbish, really!

    It’s not relaxation – people essentially want to be asleep at the wheel, essentially, yet have a constant, comforting drip feed of ‘I win’.

    It’s basically sycophancy.

    If you want to say “Well, I like computer program that sucks up to me, is sycophantic and massages my ego”, okay, good, because that’s being upfront honest about whats going on. But the pretending about relaxation is just dishonest – if you want to relax, go to bed or lay on the grass in a park somewhere.

    Come out of the ‘relaxation’ closet…

  6. ACtually, Before WoW, there was Ryzome. In Ryzom, you dont grind, it was survival. It was the idea that low level monsters, that dont give EXP, can kill you, so you had to band up and fight against the nature (The environment made different monsters, agriculture, the carnivore monsters ate the herbivore, etc…).. It was a true sandbox, open world MMORPG… after…well… Pure shite.

  7. Actually I love what is called grinding these days. Quest and story was at one time what many ask for. To me the grind is repeating the same task for some kind of currency, tokens, plaques, what ever so I can use a gazillion of them to buy good gear at just the rate so that when I’m finally set up the next set is ready for launch. Same PVP maps, same grind, same being owned by warriors of various types, same daily/weekly quest, over and over. I don’t care if its post max level so called content, with out variety, story or even just a hint of making a difference in the time line, its just boring. Give me the 10 rat tails task as long as its once , and comes with some connection to the story.

  8. I like grinding. I have done the same task over and over in games for literally months on end. People who play mmorpg’s like planning, they like improving efficiency by leveling up, by getting better gear and what not, they like long term goals that come through hard work, to stand as king and survey the world of noobs, to be respected in the context of the game because others know the effort they put in. I say remove all level caps and replace micro storylines with macro plots. Replace “go fetch this or that” with “try to be king over the entire virtual world” or something like that. That’s the way to get people to play your game forever and not just finish the latest expansion and then quit.

  9. It makes me feel sick when I read comments from people who say they LIKE grinding.

    Who ARE you people? I’m all for games being relaxing, simple and easy, sure. But add boring and insanely repetitive into the mix as well and you’re not playing, you’re working.

    How difficult or easy something is is completely unrelated to how grindy it is. In fact, having to do a difficult and taxing dungeon over and over feels way more draining and boring to me than fetching 10 eggs 9000 times. At least with the eggs you can set up a bot or a macro to do it for you…

    Have easy sections, have difficult sections, have relaxing sections, have intense sections, make all of it fun, but don’t DON’T make us do the same thing over and over and over.

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