Good Grind / Bad Grind

Whenever I post on grinding, there are the inevitable comments from people who enjoy it. The note that seems to be missing is, “in some ways, in some contexts, at my option.”

Good grind gives you the choice in those things. Having played MMOs for years, I clearly must love me some mindless repetition for its own sake, and sometimes that is really what you want. Killing ten rats is reliable in its difficulty and reward, comforting in its consistency. There really are times when you just want to farm something. It lets you decompress after work, it gives you something to do while chatting, or it lets you gear up to or down from more intense activity.

There are many examples of good grind. The game might not kick you out after you beat it, so you can keep playing if you like. “Survival mode” is popular, in which you click the button for an endless stream of zombies. I love New Game Plus in all its forms. (My apologies again to Kingdom of Loathing for whining that it was feeling grindy on my 80th Ascension or so.) Or maybe you can do a bit of rat-killing on the side for a cosmetic reward or a small, non-essential buff.

Bad grind is required. Bad grind is when the NPC says, “Now go do that five more times!” before you get any new options. Bad grind is when no NPC says that but the next boss is balanced around your having farmed five more levels. Bad grind is when a game has 8 hours of content and makes you repeat it 5 times so that it feels like 40 hours of content before the big end scene. Bad is when “New Game Plus” is required to get to the “real” game (arguably: or all the trophies/badges/achievements). Bad grind is when the repetition is not the game itself but is keeping you from the rest of the game.

There is an intermediate case where the grind is the entire point. (Some might say that MMOs inherently fall into this category.) You know walking in that you are going to be doing the same thing for hours. That is why you are there. Either you classify the whole thing as “not fun” and skip it, or you wallow in it. The only problem is those poor souls who wandered in expecting something else.

: Zubon

13 thoughts on “Good Grind / Bad Grind”

  1. I think that about nails it. The “good grind” is, in fact, the game. The “bad grind” is what prevents or delays you from getting to the game.

  2. Guess it depends if you’re more motivated by the reward or the experience of the gameplay itself.

    If it’s the reward that floats your boat (as it does for problem gamblers on poker machines), then grinding is good. If it’s the experience of gameplay, then grinding is bad.

    Like, I (often) don’t consider City of Heroes grindy because the actual experience of fighting the same mobs over and over is intrinsically enjoyable – more-so in teams, because every 8-man team is different, meaning the combat experience is varied. Levelling is a bonus.

    But there are MMOs where the combat itself is numbing, and you’re just pushing for that next level/achievement/loot etc. That doesn’t mow my lawn, but it does for others.

    1. I capped 11 characters in my time there. When you have a good supergroup, there is always fun to be had, if you like the gameplay. Or the badges channel was usually good for finding some fun activity for an evening.

    1. Tetris? Blackjack? Bejeweled? Intrinsically, you’re doing the same thing for hours.

      Likewise, you could, at a stretch, classify any shooter like this: Doom was “Run through levels, shoot baddies, find keys, finish level. Repeat.” Quake was “Run through levels, shoot baddies, find keys, finish level. Repeat.” Half-life was, well, I think you get the picture.

        1. Republic Commando had a story and had some good characterisation and potentially engaging gameplay. By engaging, I mean fun. YMMV.

          However I felt that what let it down was that the grind was very noticeable. Apart from the environment, there was very little that was new on the final planet. It was the same mobs, weapons and strategies as the previous two worlds.

          Compare Half-Life 2 (which is still one of my all time faves) which breaks up the gameplay and not only with the vehicle sections. How different was the feel of Ravenholm to the rest of the game? The section called Sandtraps (iirc) where you have to cross the sand by using the metal panels and gravity gun is unique. (And that is followed by a section where you control an army of antlions with the bugbait ball!) Then in Nova Prospekt where you have to defend that position using the sentry guns against the combine. Back to City 17 and suddenly, you’ve got a small squad of people following you. And finally, in the citadel, the game changes the way your gravity gun works and it’s all different again. Yet it can be argued that, in essence, the gameplay is repetitive and the “grind” is still there: each level/section is simply “shoot bad guys, solve puzzles, get to the end of the level.”

  3. My kind of grind is in a non quest centric MMO where there are fewer loot tables. This way many of the mobs you can grind on have chances of dropping randomly generated items (usually weapons/armor/rare mats/etc) which you can either sell or use. Right now its SWGEmu, Pre-CU emulated SWG test center, I’m at the point where I need to save up 25 million credits so I’ve got to farm high level mobs (can only do with buffs which last 2 hours or so, minus 15 or so minutes for travel time) which can drop a 24 credit piece of junk or the 25 million credit item that I’m saving up for and everything in between. For some reason that is what I like, the random lottery grind.

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