Today Beau Hindman posted an article on Massively about grinding. The most interesting concept to me as that grinding is often used as a pejorative term by players–no one seems to like it.
Yet players in fact create the grind by demanding content and accomplishments, while the developers need to give them a hamster wheel to run, while at the same time managing how much rewards are given away.
Beau suggests that we need to leave grinding behind and outgrow it.
I don’t think we’ll ever outgrow it, as long as we have a significant number of players with an enormous thirst to play and play and play, then get bored and quit if there is nothing left to do, and as long as the game makers themselves have a reward system that involves keeping players playing as long as possible. I’m not seeing either of those situations going away any time soon with the usual subscription models.
Word on the street is that Guild Wars 2 will “not feature a grind”, among its other innovations, and it will be interesting to see how that turns out. (MMORPG article on GW2 progression.) If any game will be capable of bypassing the grind pit, it might actually be Guild Wars 2, which uses a different monetization and is not so entirely invested in keeping players on the monthly sub treadmill.
I like grinding, and see it as a way to achieve things and feel a little bit special in the game, and get something done on my own time. This is why I liked LotRO so much, and part of why I didn’t like them selling out every grind in every way. I have a lot of time. That’s my resource to use for achievement.
Other players have a lot more skill and fortitude in PvP than I do. Other players have a big guild and lots of friends to raid with. Ventrilo and the ilk, necessary for raiding, seriously hurt my immersion.
So what’s the deal with the Bingo in the above picture? It comes from a comment to the above-linked article at Massively. Borick unfurled a comment that startled me in its profundity. Crazy wisdom, or just crazy? Is the end game gear grind like a bingo game? You be the judge in the quote below, and tell me Borick isn’t taking a page from Dennis Miller at the end.
It took me a few minutes to understand “engineering arbitrary reward systems”. I take that to mean the situation of just dumping so much loot on the players that the loot becomes meaningless (“Monty Haul”), and the players run the game and get anything they want.
A grind is what happens when diminishing returns set in. When players feel rewarded, then the energy falls under ‘work ethics’. When the players do not feel rewarded, then the effort becomes a grind.
People can become disenfranchised because they lack skill or confidence in a competitive environment. They can become disenfranchised because they are competitive players held down in a noncompetitive environment.
Everyone becomes disenfranchised whenever developers start engineering arbitrary reward systems at the expense of giving freedom and power to the players.
One can say that the grind has remained constant or become more refined, but what about the rewards? Outside of a few ‘world firsts’ of dubious prestige, what leverage do players gain from the grind anymore?
“The Grind” was far more rewarding and exploitable in the early days — items with iconic effects or best-in-slot overpowered tweakiness. Nowadays we’re just filling in our Bingo card of ‘cheevs while waiting to consume the next scripted regurgitation from hackneyed developers.