Tuesday, October 21, 2008

MMORPG's are not for you

Every time I hear somebody complain about grind in MMO's, somebody comes along and says "All MMO's have grind. If you don't like grind, you shouldn't be playing MMO's. Go and play [insert random game with no levelling] Halo."


Brainwashed much? Why do MMO's need to have grind?

Let's pretend that I'm a gaming big wig making a presentation to my board of directors, before anybody's ever heard the term MMORPG.

"Welcome gentlemen! (This is 1998, there are no women on the board of directors of a gaming company)

I've come up with this great new idea for a game! Basically, we take the good old fashioned world of an RPG, and we let heaps and heaps of people run around in it and play together! What fun! I call it an MMORPG, as you can see from this breakdown:

- Players choose a class of character, aka a 'role' to play. Hence the term 'role playing game'.
- Everyone runs around in one big world together, giving the potential to be able to play with a large group of people. Hence the term 'Massively Multiplayer Online'."

"Gee Bill, that's a great idea. Gaming has never seen such a thing. Surely there's some way we can force people to pay through the nose for this."

"What? No, I just think it would be heaps of fun."

"Seriously Bill, get with the program. We can pretend that it costs a lot of money to run the online servers, and use that to justify paying a monthly fee! No other game offers such a large scale multiplayer environment, people will *have* to pay!"

"Look, ok, I guess we could justify $5 a month..."

"Bill ffs sit down. Now the problem is that people only play RPG's for usually 2 - 3 months. How are we going to force them to play longer?"

"Seriously, you can't *force* your players to - "

*board director uses floor lever to open secret trapdoor, dropping Bill in handy waiting pool of piranhas*

"So anyway, we need to force them to stay. Let's make it take roughly 10 times as long to get to the level cap."

"Ok Steve that's great, but what about when the players find all the best items in the game? Surely they'll use those to beat it somehow?"

"That's true Dave. Let's make the items completely random drops, with a miniscule chance that the good items that you actually *need* to do the hardest content will ever drop for you! It works for casinos, and it keeps people *totally* addicted!"

"Fantastic idea Steve! We can make the items special colours, as people are easily fooled by shiny trinkets!"

"Indeed Dave. Additionally, let's make the monsters hit so hard in the toughest areas that it takes a really unrealistic number of people to be ogranized together to have a chance of beating it! That will certainly present a barrier to finishing the game."

"I like where you're going with that Steve, great work! Now, where do you see a game like this going with an expansion?"

"Dave, you should know the answer to that... we'll add more levels, and make it take just as long to get those as all the other levels before them!"

*joint maniacal laughter*

Anyway, have I got my point across yet? If you think MMO's "need" grind it's because all you've played is WoW and EQ. Take a game like Guild Wars.

It has minimal grind, especially for PvP, well defined and balanced classes, tells a great story, and still gives me the potential to play with a massive group of players. Its only downfall is that it's not a persistent world, but I hear they're introducing this in Guild Wars 2, so I have high hopes for the future of MMO's.... grind free!


Thallian said...

Guild Wars 2 just made it to my "must try" list. A persistent world with immersion plus the ability to just skip to max level if you want = good thing.

Elementalistly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elementalistly said...

(oops...sorry...messed up post...trying again)

Yet so many people still fall for it...

The promise of adventure and playability with minimal grind..

Age of Conan brought a story, yet you must grind through that SAME story for each alt....

WAR supposedly alleviated grind by offering a multitude of various styles of....you guessed it...GRIND.

AoC would have been perfect if the story would have persisted ala Guild Wars for 40 levels...not 80..

WAR would have rocked with an "I WIN" button to max level for PvP like GW..

Guild Wars should have been the model and not EQ..

WoW is what ruined that idea...

Chappo said...

great post mate, I love a good cynical post and yours was masterfully done. Though to me I have to say that I can't picture an mmorpg without grind, because what is grind? Its doing the same thing over and over and over again. So if you want to eliminate grind then you are going to have to add a ton of things that the player can do, and I mean a ton of things, all equally exciting and rewarding, and I fear that this is never going to happen, at least for some time yet.

mbp said...

I am also very looking forward to Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars is just so much more "player friendly" than most mmos. I do get tired of the instancing though. As Tipa from West Karana pointed out Guild Wars PVE is more like a single player game than an mmo. I hope GW2 has less instancing. I would actually be prepared to pay a monthly sub if that is the price to pay for a non instanced world but I suspect GW2 won't go that way for fear of alienating a large part of their customer base.

I think I would even pay a monthly sub to play it but I suspect they would lose a lot of their loyal following if they try that.

Crimson Starfire said...

ArenaNet have already stated that GW2 will have no subscription fees. I suspect they are heading down the micro transaction path though (no issues here).

Can't wait, I already know it will be the most awesome MMO ever made ;)

Melf_Himself said...

@ chappo:

Yeah that's a good point. It doesn't bother me personally, because I'm primarily a PvP player and so I'm not fussed about 'content', as the unpredictability of PvP is all the content I ever need.

But a lot of the more PvE minded players need to know there's going to be stuff to occupy their time for a while to come, and to let them show off their dedication to the game.

Guild Wars 1 solved this problem by making all the high level items very easy to get, but the good looking items were very difficult to get. So if you wanted to look awesome you had to put in the hard grind work, and if you didn't care then you didn't have to bother.

One of the most awesome things they eventually added was a PvP reward that basically equated to a ton of cash, which meant that people who PvP all the time could deck themselves out to look cool.

The funny thing is, even before that the so-called PvP elite were the ones who had the coolest looking gear on, so they must have done a ton of PvE!

I think the model works pretty well. There are also titles (=achievements/badges) and flashy emotes to work toward, and I'm sure this could be built upon in the future... anything that's not related to the power of the character is fair game.

Melf_Himself said...

Oh and I agree about the instancing thallian/mbp, that's my only gripe with Guild Wars really.

I hope they work out a good balance in GW2, and I very much hope that their persistent world is one that is actually effected by the actions of the players (ie not just a couple of defense points changing state like in WAR, not a player-dependent point of view like WotLK's phasing, but real persistent changes).

Probably a lot of work and probably too much to hope for in GW2. But fingers crossed... it will truly be a next gen MMO if it has such a feature.

Tesh said...

A couple of things...

Storytelling is much stronger in GW than WoW. That's largely thanks to the instancing. It makes me wonder where Bioware is going with their Star Wars MMO.

I see grind as both an artifact of previous RPG designs (a way to pad out playing time and pace a story) and, more nefariously, as a way to bolster a subscription model game. Players who get sucked into the grind are willing to maintain subscriptions to just get that "one more level" they have been working at.

I don't think it's coincidence that GW has a different take on the business model as well as the grind mentality. The "grind+subscription" may be a bit of a chicken and egg phenomena, or an unholy marriage of bloodletting, but it is limited in its appeal to the populace at large.