Advancement

Commenter Naqaj asked me to check out a thread on experience point functions. I did not get very far before mentally classifying it as “discussing preferred ways to grind.” Right now, I am so over grinding. My reaction of the moment is that the genre has so thoroughly glutted itself on advancement that it has spilled over and infected nearby genres. Long-time readers will have repeatedly heard my rantings about “RPG elements” (read: character/ability leveling) in almost every game out there because people will play for longer and our meat-based brains will actually respond positively to unnecessary grinds as long as there are numeric and/or visual rewards attached. Video games really are better than real life at stimulating important parts of our brains, and now we are taking to improving how games stimulate us rather than improving real life.

I just don’t think I’m emotionally up to reading all 175 comments in that thread. I look at the grind in the genre and just shake my head. This is really what we have come to.

: Zubon

11 thoughts on “Advancement

  1. ArcherAvatar

    Developers have been, and are being, rewarded for bad behavior… so long as the majority of the player population continues to not only put up with inferior design but, actually eagerly support completely flawed design, then that is exactly what we will continue to get.

    Developers and Publishers are very simple creatures… They (like most living things) will always look for the greatest amount of gain in exchange for the least amount of effort. There are damn few exceptions (ArenaNet *appears* to be one still… if they hold to current course with GW2 then they will be the standout exemplar.)

    The “cookie-cutter” MMOs we’ve seen in particular are due to one simple fact; the majority of paying players have made it known that this specific type of game is the only one they will consistently support. I personally believe that will change with the release of GW2 but, I am, at heart, an optimist, and will likely be proven wrong as a huge flood of humanity descends on “WoW in Space” … err… I mean SWTOR. Demonstrating once again to all the developers and publishers out there that they needn’t bother trying to develop something new and original… just put your own stamp on the WoW mold and fleece the vast horde of sheep one more time… Oh… and ignore the occassional “bleets” from the few black-sheep who complain about it.

    (I swear… I’m not bitter about it… just waiting patiently for GW2…)

  2. distilled

    Hehe archer – my sentiments exactly. I avoided Rift because I believe I shouldn’t reward developers for lazy innovation. Sure they had DEs, but other than that there was nothing new. GW2 will be bandied around as the exemplar of true innovation right up until the day of its release when the true test of ANet’s creativity will begin (and I’m sure those who AREN’T waiting as eagerly as we are will be truly sick of it by the time it hits the shelves). I just hope they walk the walk as well as they talk the talk.

    1. Pardoz

      “GW2 will be bandied around as the exemplar of true innovation right up until the day of its release when the true test of ANet’s creativity will begin”

      Quite – that’s when we’ll see how the actual product compares to previous exemplars of MMO innovation like AoC and WAR (especially given that they’ve scrapped some of GW1′s actual innovations, like tossing levelling and gear grind onto the ash-heap of history).

  3. Naqaj

    The rather uncomfortable thought I got from that thread was “What if that’s truly what people want to play?”. You can’t blame developers for delivering what they’re asked for. Who are those people cropping up on all kinds of MMO message boards demanding that MMOs go back to what they “used to be”, endless, boring, grindy .. “challenging”?
    I suspect they are players who grew up with the old school grindfests, and simply have grown so accustomed to the mechanics of advancement that they are confused when games put things like story, context and fun in the way of their grind efficiency.
    What makes things really sad is when they regard other players as nothing more than tools to maximize xp gain. Worringly accurately described in the quote “I don’t grind to socialize”.
    Could you possibly play an MMO for worse reasons?

    1. Machination

      “What if that’s truly what people want to play?”

      I’m not certain, but I truly hope that this is not the case. I want to believe that it’s more along the lines of

      “What if that’s not what people want to play, but it’s the most polished version of the best thing they’ve seen so far. They just haven’t played anything else that was also polished”.

  4. bhagpuss

    I’m just going to make my usual observation, I’m afraid.

    What we now call “grind” is what was called “hunting” when I first started playing Everquest in 1999. There were no achievements or titles to be earned, no tracking of our characters’ exploits (unless we took screenshots and made our own journals). Even quests were a minor, optional, background factor.

    The only “numeric and/or visual reward” was a tiny, ungraduated colored line marking your progress through each level and the level number itself. Even the faction numbers you accrued from almost everything you killed were hidden, the only notification being the actual change in attitude of the faction concerned.

    We killed a lot of things, every day but mostly we did not think of it as a chore or even a means to an end. We thought of it as our characters living their lives. Or at least I did, and so did almost all the people I played with then.

    Every day was about exploring, traveling, adventuring. When we met parted we’d wish each other “safe travels” or “good hunting”. It could take years to follow a single character on his or her journey to its ending and not a day of that would feel like a grind.

    That is how I still play, and I still play with people who feel the same way. Every day is an adventure. If I ever feel that anything I’m doing in an MMO is even approaching a “grind” I stop and do something else instead. But hunting is NOT a grind. It’s pure, unadulterated pleasure.

    1. Zubon Post author

      Which is also how we did it in Asheron’s Call. And there is a large mental difference between playing your character/the game and “grinding.” If character advancement is your goal, you have probably already lost the game. If you are playing, and your character advances as a result, that is, you know, playing, which is the goal of a game.

      1. Arieltalia

        And I believe this is why roleplayers have “gotten it” right from the start. And why the current generation has taken these adventures and made them into mindless achievement grinds.

        Too many jocks in the pool now and we geeks are left shivering outside in a towel. And all they care about is winning.

        Face it, though. The lowest common denominator doesn’t give a fig about adventure. They’re jocks. Don’t believe me? Look at how popular professional sports are. This is our society, which rewards winning and makes fun of actually feeling emotions. And since that’s where the money’s at, that’s who game developers cater to.

        The gaming industry is a small barometer of our society. When society actually starts to fall because of this corruption due to worshipping only those things that can have a tangible value, the games will follow suit. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. :P

        No, I’m not bitter either. Heh. After sixteen years, I’m just about done with the industry for good, though.

    2. afk5min

      I agree Bhagpuss. I don’t mind the, “grind” as a function, but feel that it’s up to the player to make it into something else. Often times I feel like the multitude of quests and the linear story lines are worse. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had in mmo gaming has been with groups that were just out on the hunt. No quests. No specific reason to be grouped together except for a shared sense of adventure and exploration.

      1. Naqaj

        Obviously playing with a good group is the most beneficial factor to having fun in an MMO, but I can’t subscribe to the theory that group play in an old grinder is better then group play in a quest drive game. I played both, with the same group even, and the latter was definitely the better experience.
        What’s interesting though is that some players, the jocks, as mentioned above, just abandon the group once gaining XP becomes more efficient when soloing.
        To them the fun of playing with friends seems not as worthwhile as “playing to win”, even if it’s just a pretended win. Missed the point of a whole genre.

  5. Jabberwockist

    As a GW2 fanboi, I found myself nodding along with all of you about how leveling-addicted throwbacks were ruining the genre…and I think we might have fallen into the sin of pride. Or at least hipster-esque snobbery.

    I don’t enjoy grind, but I don’t think the people who enjoy grinding are “doing it wrong”. I don’t enjoy enduring long hours of punishing effort for nothing but a gold sticker and a nice view at the end. But a lot of people do, so much so an entire sub-industry has grown up around them. It’s called mountain climbing.

    I also don’t like hours of repetitive, formulaic activity with all the creativity of a paint-by-numbers, but I’m glad my wife does because otherwise she wouldn’t have knit me this nifty sweater.

    Not everyone is a social gamer, or a role player. Not everyone should be. The point of an MMO is that you can play with lots of people all at once. For the role player, this means lots of characters in their personal story; for the power gamer, it means lots of people to compete with. For the social gamer, it means lots of people to interact with; for the gear grinder, it means lots of people to show off loot to. I don’t enjoy their play style and I don’t enjoy the kind of content that fan base encourages, but I don’t see how I could dismiss grind-lovers out of hand any more than I dismiss mountain climbers.

    Let’s continue to enjoy social play, story, and mechanical innovation, and cheer on new products that offer us these things. But please, let’s not become MMO hipsters. I couldn’t live with myself if I thought I’d become a hipster.

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