…and in the darkness grind them.November 11, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
Tags: bad hawley, choice, game design
With Azeroth on the verge of being cataclysmed: with Post-Apocalyptic Hawley and Wol still being part of the Sector 1 population in Fallen Earth: with Eve Online looking at me and recommending I log in again, I’m mindful of the fact that with games, comes the big, bad Grind.
*Grind*. Just the word has connotations. Getting sucked up, *ground* up, and then spat out at the other side, bruised, battered and bloody.
There’s a reason the Gaming lexicon adopted the use of the word *Grind* for what is deemed to be long, uninteresting and repetitive game-play, and it’s not because players enjoy it. It’s the big bad bogeyman of negative fun, an accusation of shoddy game design on the part of the developer, and poor choice of gaming on the part of the player.
I’m not above railing about evil grind myself; one of the reasons I stopped playing Aion was because it was (even at low levels) a bit of a grind, and only looked like it was going to get worse.
I stopped crafting as a rule (Fallen Earth is the notable exception) because in most MMOs crafting seems to be a long, fruitless time- and money-sink.
And various MMOs of various genres have… yes, the known term is “Reputation Grind”.
Of course, one person’s grind is another’s compelling game-play.
Now, I’m not crazy enough (yet) to try and throw up a definition for the term “Grind”. For a start, it’s one of those jargon-y buzzwords that means many things, to too many people. And lastly, this is the internet, and the internet loves arguing what the exact meaning of a word is, down to it’s most minute detail.
That sort of discussion gives me the fear.
Instead, I shall carry on blithely, letting you use your own meaning of the term “Grind”, whilst I ramble on about a few things I’ve noticed over the years.
Let us start with: “The game only begins at maximum level”. This perennial little nugget of Ultimate Truth is one of my pet peeves. It doesn’t. The game begins when we log in for the first time. That whole levelling thing isn’t an extended tutorial, it’s a game. *The* game is *all* of the game. Not just when the levelling ends.
It makes me wonder if it’s just a coded way of saying: “Levelling is a grindy-nasty thing that I don’t like. It’s wrrrrrrubbish!” Yet at the same time, buying an account off ebay, or using a power-levelling service is Bad And Wrong™.
Levelling is seen by many as a learning experience. It’s all about learning how to play that chosen, specific class to its maximum potential, and anyone who bypasses that experience by crossing a third party’s palm with filthy lucre is putting group and guild-mates at risk by not being able to turn up and play their “A” game.
Now, there is a part of me that understands the desire to pay for levels. I have, after all, publicly stated that at times I wished there was a big fat Level Me Now button, that I can press to level my alts rather than repeating content.
And sometimes, when presented with the full and awesome firepower of that most unholy of things, the Hell Level, I’d have loved to just reach out and press that big ol’ red button. Even in a regular but slow level, there is the urge to just nuke it and move on with the fun. Witnessing constant advancement and experiencing the gain in power it brings is one of the fun bits of levelling characters; don’t remove that with a grind, Mr Developer.
Of course, when it’s through a sweet spot, levelling is a joy to behold. All classes, in all games, get a sweet spot. Where the stars conjoin, and a class is just that bit more powerful than the mobs and quests it’s facing against. It’s still levelling, but it feels so easy that it’s not a chore, it’s a carnival of carnage, and you’re swinging with the best of them.
Now, I decided to lead off with levelling, because it’s a grind just like any other, but it’s usually the one best disguised. I say usually; sometimes they fail. But it’s still a grind.
It’s after the levelling that I tend to be most aware of the grinds on offer. This is natural, as I’m usually too distracted by gaining new stuff and awesome powarz! to care about having to kill a few meeeellions of piggies to get them.
It’s when the levelling is gone that I look about me, and try and find something fun to do. Why? Well, I’m not ready to finish playing the game, but I’m not about to sit around and do nothing but twiddle my thumbs (or re-organise my bank space aaaaaaagain) whilst waiting for the next expansion to come out.
All grinds offer a bribe. “Partake of my grind, good player, and I shall reward you with this fine trez, of which you will find it the finest of good game tat! Strike me down as a liar if it is not so!” For me, it’s a case of finding a grind that is fun to do, with a reward/bribe that is good enough to warrant spending all that time doing it.
Sometimes, they are thoroughly, fantastically and utterly hypnotically boring. Of course, that can be a good thing; something that’s mindlessly comforting is nice after a bad day at work, or when life has been getting a little hectic. Taking a few hours out to repeat the same actions again, and again, and again can be good for giving the soul a little break.
At the same time, the grind can be the spawn of evil. I stopped grinding reputation in MMOs as part of my general gameplay because they all seemed to be the same, and none of them seemed to offer any fun game-play. They’re all about the bribe, and usually the bribe just isn’t good enough. Kill certain mobs long enough that you become part of their folk-lore (Be good and eat your roasted sentient creature, or Nasty Hawley will come and get you, little goblin!) or mug stuff for badges, rings, or whatever the item is. Hand them in, get a tabard. Or a piece of equipment that you’ll replace all too soon. Or that isn’t as good as stuff you picked up whilst on the killing spree.
I can feel my toes curl up in remembered pain. That’s because I said I’d *stopped* grinding reputation, not that I’d *never* ground reputation. I’ll also say that for other players, collecting factions is a fun part of the game, but for me, it’s a no-no. They like me, or they don’t.
Being definately older and at the very least slightly wiser than I used to be, I like to think I’m capable of seeing what is on offer, gauging what I’m liable to be doing to complete it, and deciding whether or not the grind on offer is something that will make me love playing a particular game more, or make me decide that I’ll never log in again.
Yet again, it’s all about the skill of the developers at creating an engaging, engrossing game to spend our time in. A well-crafted grind is just as repetetive, takes just as long to complete as a badly crafted grind. Yet it’s never boring, never soul-destroying.
It’s good game goo.