Rift Away

First off, congratulations to all the beta holders for Rift. I hope you guys have a lot of fun and help make Rift a better game. Remember that even if the mob in beta forums does not respond to your beautiful, constructive feedback, it will have much more impact on the development team than some “lol fire is so OP, this game sucks”-flamebait. Sadly, I will not be joining many of you golden ticket holders.

I was definitely interested in their events-style system where rifts open in the core world. The invading army pushes through and generates this dynamic content for the heroes of the land. Depending on player response (or opposing rift NPC rift faction, as they case may be) the invasion is either repelled or fortifies. Sounds pretty neat, right?

And that’s the problem. They want a subscription for content. Their service is content, and I am neck deep in content requiring much less monthly upkeep. On paper, the content sure as heck looks fun; I don’t disagree with that. For many of you, paying a monthly fee for this content, the community you create, and the support the developer provides is enough to justify the cost and restrictions. I’d rather not even get started in the subscription-free beta zone to have the accounting light switch turned on at the end.

A subscription in this market feels extra restrictive. We have pay-once MMOs, like Guild Wars, we have freemium or “no cover charge” games like Lord of the Rings Online, and we have plenty of free-to-play games where content is very free, Vindictus is my favorite of those at the moment. I have plenty of enjoyable content without a subscription fee barring my way whenever I get the itch to pick up the MMO and play.

However, I don’t believe subscriptions create an MMO that’s dead on arrival. I just feel that for a successful MMO, the subscription has to provide for something more than just content. Ironically, the three MMOs that I feel most worthy of a subscription also have much less content than a standard MMO. EVE Online, A Tale in the Desert, and Darkfall all are the three I feel most deserving. They don’t just provide content to be subscribed to and updated whenever they feel like it; it feels like they provide a service.

All I have are empty speculations on where Rift falls, but it seems to me that players will be subscribing mainly to mere content. Sure, I think dynamic content, such as the Rift system, is much deeper than the vanilla MMO quest content, but I imagine it will get old. Just as I imagine that in Guild Wars 2, all the dynamic events I have played over and over will simply stop being fun or interesting. Except in Guild Wars 2, I won’t have to start making the ultra-subjective determination of whether I am having $15 worth of fun somewhere in the MMO.

Part of me is just mind-boggled. Three of the four upcoming, giant MMOs are all launching subscription based (SWTOR, Rift, and TERA), and Guild Wars 2 seems to be the only so-called “AAA MMO” to want to launch without a subscription. I can only surmise that it must be pretty profitable to launch a subscription MMO, milk the WoW tourists, then re-launch a year later as a new, fresh free-to-play. Or, are investors still shooting for WoW-heights? Going to be very interesting to see how the MMO market is viewed in 2012.

make no stay

45 thoughts on “Rift Away”

  1. I personally prefer the subscription MMO. All the MMOs I’ve paid a monthly fee for have been better games all around. EQ, EQ2, DAoC, WoW, WAR, CoH, and SWG. I haven’t found a great other type of MMO. Yeah, GW is good but not great. My personal experience with MMOs tells me pay to play = better MMO. I have more faith in Rift charging me $15 a month to deliver great content.

  2. My personal taste hasn’t changed so, all things considered, I still don’t mind subs.

    That said, Rift doesn’t look like something attractive to me, so I wouldn’t invest in it even if it was free. I might check it, play a trial when/if there is one, but it never clicked for me.

  3. When I played WoW in my time, I had GW as my side-game, and I’m not quite sure why I kept it as a side-game. I disagree on GW. Although you can’t jump and although you hit some walls, the content provided for the box feee is astronomical, deep, and very enjoyable. So I would agree with pay = better… except I find I’m enjoying GW more than my years in WoW… and then LotRO, a AAA MMO title, decided to go F2P, and I’ve still spent a little less than a sub fee on it, but the freedom that I don’t have to play to get my money’s worth keeps me coming back and keeps me staying away from WoW. I agree with the author… once GW2 drops… forget it… I’m not paying another subscription for as long as I game. Then, between GW2, GW1 (yes, I’ll still probably play 1), LotRO, and STO (life)… thats more than enough incentive to never pay a sub again.

  4. I grew up on subs (both the MMO kind and the foot-long Italian with mayo and oil kind). I have been slowly trying to warm up to the P2P model. I have to. Just about everything in the future is going to be under that model one way or the other.

    There is still a part of me that feels an MMO without a sub is…well…a little bit less of a game. Like they’re not legitimate. I’ve had little to no interest to go back to D&D and LOTRO since they changed to P2P.

    My time is limited. I just want to pay my $15, login and play. I don’t want to worry about getting stopped dead in my tracks to pay for additional content. I don’t want to browse online stores for things I may need or want. I don’t want to be excluded from playing with friends because I don’t have certain expansions.

    Paying $15 for a sub makes me commit to playing. I’m going to get my money’s worth. D&D and LOTRO are just sitting there because I know I can go back to them at any time.

    But all is not lost. The sub or P2P models are not game-breaking for me. I’m trying to warm up to P2P slowly. I haven’t written it off like a swarm of other critics have. And…as we’ve seen with D&D and a little bit with LOTRO…it’s been viable for them to switch their business models. I can’t fault them for that.

  5. @Scarybooster: the payment model doesn’t affect how fun a game will be. It’s utterly unrelated.

    The problem with subscription models is, for a game launching with a sub you’re in direct competition with other sub based games because the vast majority of gamers won’t maintain multiple monthly subs simultaneously. Also, the more sub-based games you play at the same time, the less value you get for your dollar. Say you’re playing 15 hours per week, 60 per month One 15$ sub is then a mere 0.25$/hour enjoyment. Throw in on more MMO? You dont magically get more gaming time, so now you’re paying $0.50/hr of gaming. On the other hand, FTP/microtrabsaction model games are not in direct competition with each other. You can play multiple games simultaneously. Play less? Pay less… Or nothing.

    1. Derrick said “@Scarybooster: the payment model doesn’t affect how fun a game will be. It’s utterly unrelated”

      But, it does affect the types of game mechanics they use. I have found that many, many subscription MMOs include many artificial time wasting mechanisms so you will sub longer. Travel time being the one off the top of my head. These mechanics added because it is a sub game are rarely fun.

      1. It’s true that subscription MMO’s often have mechanics that can be argued to only exist to keep you playing and subscribed month after month.

        On the other hand, F2P MMO’s always have mechanics that only exist to keep you paying.

        Ultimately, there’s pros and cons to each system and every game has their own twist. For me at least, as long as I’m having fun while I play I’m quite happy to have mechanics designed to keep me around for months and so I still generally favor subscription games.

        I’m open to F2P in theory, I don’t mind models which have you pay for quests/zones/content or cosmetic items so long as they’re balanced with the rest of the world. As soon as I see uber sword +10 for 5$ or exp potions or double dps potions or any variation of that though, I’m out.

  6. At the end of the day, the truth lying at the bottom of all this is that if your game has the content that people want to play, the business model doesn’t matter as long as you keep it within reason.

    One extreme: I don’t care how good the game is, comparatively few people would pay a $50/mo sub.

    The other extreme (much more common): Your game being F2P, No Cover Charge or whatever other fashionable moniker you want means exactly jack if I really have no desire to play it and I really wanna play other games.

    I completely agree that tying the intrinsic quality of a game (or lack of it) to it being free or sub-based is a fallacy. There is no correlation. But I also think it’d be nice to finally agree that pure economics is not the defining factor regarding which games people play.

    As long as great games that people like to play happen to have subs (notice I’m not implying correlation), then it’s silly to decree ‘the death of the sub model’.

    “But J”, you might say, “ultimately the sub model will die. How can it compete to free models?”. I’d tell you that your asking the wrong question. The competition is not between business models, it’s ultimately between content, quality and (ever increasingly lately) UX. The business model doesn’t even enter into it.

    Who in the heck wakes up one morning and says “Mabel, you know what? I’m gonna start playing $GAME because I wanna support that type of business model.”?

    1. Julian said: “But I also think it’d be nice to finally agree that pure economics is not the defining factor regarding which games people play.”

      Of course it is A “defining factor,” and for many I would guess it would be “the.” A subscription game has one of the highest bars to entry solely because of economics. That incredible hurdle in comparison to all other games cannot be ignored. It is a hurdle upon entry. It is a hurdle to re-enter. And, it is a hurdle every single month.

      However, I definitely don’t think the sub model is dying, but I do think that the service that the sub model was built on has been reduced in many cases to merely providing content. This is the problem I have with upcoming sub games. What do they provide beyond content because man, I have some great content with much less of a hurdle required all over?

      1. Well, let’s see.

        Hurdles: Yes, of course they are hurdles, but the clearing of those hurdles is driven by the content (or the ‘experience’, however we wanna call it) behind them.

        If we’re talking purely in economic terms, it’s hard to argue that a F2P/NCC game has a (potentially) infinite upper hand on a paid game. That’s simple math. But what I’m saying is that this doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So it’s ultimately a decision on the content behind the model, not the model itself. We don’t want to play “games”; we want to play particular examples of games which attract us for whatever reason.

        It’s a bit like the discussion regarding net neutrality. I don’t want access to the internet. That’s meaningless to me. I want access to Youtube, Distrowatch, Ars Technica, Rojadirecta and KTR. Translated: I don’t want “to play games”; I want to play LOTRO and WoW and Inuyasha Serial Boobage 110% World Online. So the fact that Company of War Buddies is F2P is irrelevant to me. I don’t want to play it.

        All this ties to your second point…

        Content: I know it’s bad form, but I have to reply with a question in turn? What else is a persistent online game supposed to provide other than the service itself and content for it?

        I think again we’re assuming that “content is content”, homogeneous, so let’s just toss it in a bag. Naturally under that assumption, content doesn’t matter. What matters is how cheap I can get it. But in reality it’s not the case. Some content doesn’t attract us, some other content does. Sometimes I feel like playing Horde. Does LOTRO have Horde? No? Well, I’ll have to play WoW for that then. Sometimes I want to fly a spaceship, does WoW have that? No, the only one they have crashed in the isles, so I’ll have to play EVE. And so on.

        Content is not equal, so to me it’s not about the hurdles, but the content I want to access and experience. Also about quality. If you’d tell me there are two versions of, say, WoW; one free and one sub-based. Same content, same everything, well, hell, paying doesn’t make sense. But we’re talking about different types of content here.

        It’s not about the business model, it’s about content and its quality. At least to me. Some people, well within their rights, might want to play whatever and all games are the same to them because they just wanna kill a couple of hours and it’s all the same if they’re controlling an orc or a pacman. Fair enough. But I’m not like that, and I imagine I can’t be the only one.

        1. Ok, well let’s also assume that “accessibility” otherwise known as service is homogeneous as well.

          IMHO, a worthwhile subscription would include growth in content, community management, bug updates, technology updates, and response to community. The three I mentioned, I feel are the only sub games I’m aware of that bang this out well above a B grade. Many simply fail on the content level to begin with.

          I don’t want to subscribe to a game merely to access content, which is how I see TERA, Rift, and SWTOR.

          I think that in the case of Rift and SWTOR, the content will be excellent, but I have other “less hurdled” content that is also excellent waiting in the wings. So already, they are fighting a losing battle in my book.

          If money is no issue, or you don’t care which business model you support, or you don’t care if you sit on an unplayed parking lot sub for months then this whole post is rather moot.

          1. Yeah, of course let’s assume service is homogeneous. To me, “service” might include all your examples except growth in content.

            I guess I’m not completely understanding your position. As I understand it, feel free to correct me, if you’re going to pay for a sub you want that sub to support more than periodic injections of content and the occasional bug fix. You want it also to support quality of service, community, etc.

            What I would ask then is… well, when -hasn’t- that been the case for games supported by subs? I imagine the proceeds from all those subs go to support all those things. If you think they should be doing a better job at all that, I’m right there with you, but I’m not going to peg their failures in those areas to their business model.

            “I think that in the case of Rift and SWTOR, the content will be excellent, but I have other “less hurdled” content that is also excellent waiting in the wings. So already, they are fighting a losing battle in my book.”

            Ah, I see how it is now.

            Could it be, I’m just throwing this out there, that 2010 (and 2009, for that matter) have been quite underwhelming all across the board and the “step up” that should be evident on sub-based games is not there? So the content quality gap is not that big?

            Or, a more evil question… would you still play GW2 if it was sub-based? ;)

            1. Very possible regarding your second to last paragraph, and I have pondered this myself with regard to the last paragraph. I know I would definitely not be as rabid about it.

              Maybe I do need to see a sub game that makes me feel good about subbing. Makes me feel like they care about my time. After Bhagy’s veiled comment below, I am going to try out Rift. We’ll see where it goes. :)

              Could be a born again subber after this is all over.

            2. This wasn’t directed at me, but:

              Could it be, I’m just throwing this out there, that 2010 (and 2009, for that matter) have been quite underwhelming all across the board and the “step up” that should be evident on sub-based games is not there? So the content quality gap is not that big?

              That has certainly been my experience, yes :).

              Or, a more evil question… would you still play GW2 if it was sub-based? ;)

              That’s a really hard question for me to answer: on the one hand, I would abhor ANet for its betrayal of values I ultimately agree with – on the other hand there is literally no comparison on the horizon for my gaming interest. I could grumble and pay, or feel good about myself and find another hobby.

              At this juncture, I think if GW2 went subscription-based, it would be high time I found another hobby.

  7. No comment on whether I am in beta or not, but as of tonight there is no doubt whatsoever that I will not just be paying my Sub come launch, but that I will be happy to do so!

  8. This has been bothering me not just for MMOs, but in general. Free content is competing with and causing problems for paid content. Magazines die because the web saturated the market with info for free. Movies struggle because low-cost streaming removes the desire to pay for things.

    Its nice you want to pay 15 once in awhile. Too bad that model can’t support the genre. Take away failed sub games and the market looks very bleak.

  9. I cannot say that sub-games have ever quite worked they way into my affections…

    Guild Wars was not my first MMMO, but I made some horrible uninformed picks at that time: Anarchy Online (never worked), FF XI (worst set-up process ever encountered) etc.
    Then of course I fell in love with Guild Wars, and it was a good long while before I was in the market for a new game – by the time I was, the fabled market leaders were simply too old & the next generation have been greatly disappointing.

    Classic games our like classic movies; there’s only a certain window where you can perceive them with awe – miss it, and by the time you arrive they just look antiquated & cheap.
    I’ve trialed/bought cheap every big name, but – to my fresh eyes – they look so very bad and play so very slow they’re not an option.

    The next generation of subscription games have been so comprehenisvely mediocre (or worse) they’ve not stood a chance of winning my affection. It’s not even that I’m immune to the charms of mediocre games (my collection certainly suggest otherwise), but for £96 a year on top of box price + loss of access to characters if I cease subscribing I demand so very much more than mediocrity.
    With my Steam bargain-hunting habit and continued Guild Wars fanaticism, £96 is more than I spend on actual games in a year; getting me to part with my coins would take a very special game, and I don’t even recall the last new MMO released that even claimed to be very special – the mantras of the moment seem to be “nothing new but we do X a little better” and “bear with us please, we have big updates planned.”

    I think I would be much more forgiving if box sale at least brought baseline access, and the subscription fee was for grouping, raids, elite areas etc. – might feel like I was buying a lasting product and not merely the right to send them a subscription fee.

  10. It’s my hope when GW2 releases that future developers are going to realize that subscriptions are not the best way to make money and designing content to keep a player subbing longer rather than designing fun content will be a hting of the past.

    1. Right – in the future devs will design content to require forking out for microtransactions in the company store, rather than keep players subscribing longer. SSDD.

      1. Is that really how you see ArenaNet’s future prospects, for example?

        I rather see it as a future where companies recognize that customer loyalty doesn’t have to manifest as months continuously subscribed, but “guaranteed day 1” purchases based on the quality of previous content. Hence, Guild Wars, Factions, Nightfall, Eye of the North, etc. It doesn’t *matter* so much whether players stay and pay every month rather than come and go, because if the content beckons, they will buy the next thing the company puts out.

        Even if the next thing is a wedding dress costume.

        1. To the extreme of requiring cash-shop purchases to make the game playable, as the majority of cash-shop games have*? Hopefully not. To the degree that new content is explicitly designed to push microtransactions in the company store? They’re already there.

          As much a fan as I was of the “buy the box, then buy the next box if you liked it” model, I have to suspect that if it had been as profitable as a subscription or cash-shop model (or a hybrid), then ANet would still be cranking out a box a year for GW, I wouldn’t see an ad for the Guild Wars Store on my login screen, and GW2 wouldn’t have had a cash-shop built in from the get-go.

          Games that make money from monthly subscriptions have to find ways to motivate players to keep their subscriptions current, or they go out of business; games that rely on RMT have to find ways to motivate players to spend money in the cash shop, or they go out of business. The important question isn’t “Will the business model impact the game design” (because the answer is almost certainly “Yes”) but “*How much* will the business model impact the design, and *how*.”

          * Cash-shop games as a whole, counting the myriad of indistinguishable games, mostly in the Asian market, that are essentially indistinguishable from video lottery terminals, not “failed or failing Western AAA subscription games that grabbed for the cash-shop lifebelt in an effort to stay afloat.”

          1. Games that make money from monthly subscriptions have to find ways to motivate players to keep their subscriptions current, or they go out of business

            I suppose I am still an advocate of the B2P model and baffled by the subscription one because I have yet to play a subscription game that I’d want to come back to, unlike the B2P game I still play. Different strokes and all that, but I’m not being willfully obtuse here.

            I keep hearing how much more incentive there is to play a subscription game, but I don’t see any of it, at all.

            1. Different strokes, as you say. For myself, I don’t see the appeal of MMO-as-Video-Lottery-Terminal (except without the possibility of winning real-world cash), but that doesn’t prevent huge numbers of people from playing ZT Online. Maybe we’re both outliers, and a given payment scheme is just never going to work for us, or maybe nobody’s yet hit upon the magic combination of content and business model that would appeal.

              For myself, I’m not particularly an advocate of any one model over another – much more an advocate of not screwing up the actual game by too-dogged pursuit of monetization, regardless of model.

  11. I frankly don’t see where this meme of “Subscriptions create grinding” comes from. Some legacy of how games used to be 5-10 years ago, I guess.

    It no longer applies today. Sub-based games are just as grindy as non sub-based games. The grind is endemic to legacy design ideas from the genre itself, not the business model.

    (now someone please argue that DDO, LOTRO and GW are not “grindy games” so we can reach 100 comments easily)

    1. No nibbles here; sir. ^_^
      I quite agree that the subscription “grind conspiracy!” meme doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

      But then I also propose that subscription grind “seal of quality!” meme doesn’t stand up any better; neither larger nor higher quality than other gaming environments, and the mystique of “other people online with you!” has long since faded.
      Heck; with Steam and the like, practically anything with a multiplayer mode allows team-ups with anyone, anywhere for no cost!
      It also didn’t help when devs – like Anet – come out and bluntly say the cost of running an online game is nowhere near what we imagine…

      I suppose my $1m question would be; would games like Lego Universe or Star Trek Online even think of proposing a subscription fee if there weren’t an established subscription model?
      There are surely exceptions – like TOR with it’s rumored budget of Godzilla proportions – but recent years have seen a rapid influx of quick & cheap fare purporting to be worthy of subscription.

      1. I also don’t subscribe (punnnnnn!) to the idea that a game having a sub is some sort of gold star or an accolade that automagically sets that game apart from the others, quality-wise.

        My personal predilection, all things being equal quality-wise, for subs is just that; a preference having to do with me not having to deal with tiers of things, content that may or may not be available, design that responds to the store and not the other way around, etc. Not that I think sub games are better because they have a sub. They might be better, they might be worse, but the sub has nothing to do with it.

        I do however healthily and happily concede that F2P games have an advantage in that it’s considerably easier (more or less) to check them out and try them long term. Sure there are trials and whathaveyou for (some) sub games, but that only goes so far.

        Of course the flipside of this is how limited you’re making that F2P experience for someone who wishes to take a look. It’s usually enough and the limits are far off, but it’s no guarantee of anything.

        In any case, we’re talking quality and how it has nothing to do with how you pay or not pay for it.

    2. Not to get overly Clintonian, but doesn’t that rather come down to what your definition of “grindy” is? I think there’s an excellent case to be made that GW isn’t grindy in the slightest.

      Yes, there are plenty of grinds to be had, but they’re entirely self-inflicted. No grind to speak of in getting to max level, gearing up with max-quality gear, or assembling the skills needed for pretty much any build. “Grind” to me has the flavour of “I need to kill another 1.783×10^9 rats to level up, then run $INSTANCE 57 times so I can accumulate enough $SHINYTOKENS to trade in for my first $FUGLYSPIKYARMOUR (or $YOUGOTTOBEKIDDINGMEHOWISADENTALFLOSSTHONGHEAVYARMOUR,as gender-appropriate)piece, then do $OHMYGODTHISPUGHURTSSHOOTMENOWPLEASEINSTANCE 67 times to get $SHINIERTOKENS to get…”

      1. Technically all grind is self-inflicted.

        I think GW is quite wonderful up until the point where you are “done” with the main campaigns progressions and you’ve done your comfortable level of alts and whathaveyou. Once you are “done” with that, and everyone I think has a different definition of when done is done, then it rather quickly degenerates into a grindfest wherever you look.

        Hunting for skills is the least painful of post “done” activities. But the rest… yikes.

        Titles, for instance, are at the end of Final Fantasyesque inhuman grinds. Prestige armor, if you wanna collect it, takes quite large grinds for either the mats or the money. Decking out your heroes with armor (and possibly skills too), large grinds. Then there’s Vanquishing. Or if you wanna PvP and help your Alliance in any meaningful way you’re looking at a constant PvP grind.

        So yes, I think GW is rather grindy. It’s a joy to play up until you get to the “done” plateau. Any meaningful progression after that, or any meaningful thing you might want to try after that it’s a collection of grinds which aren’t even disguised to at least make them taste better.

        Saying the grinds are self-inflicted doesn’t excuse the design for putting those grinds there when there comes a point that what you’ve enjoyed doing simply stops and all that’s left to do is placed on massively long tracks of repetition.

        1. I think for me what saves GW from grindiness is the existence of that “done” point, past which there really isn’t any meaningful progression* to be *had*; the insanely long troughs of repetition were a later addition to the design, and from what I can tell driven by popular demand for “something to do”, and so in that sense *doubly* self-inflicted. “We” asked for it, and “we” suffer through it, so “we” haven’t anybody to blame but “ourselves”. (Me personally? I got to the “done” point and stopped playing, barring the odd log-in to check out festivals or new content).

          I think there’s a qualitative difference between, say, grinding radiance gear in LotRO**, which is an absolute requirement for being able to access certain content, and grinding prestige armour in GW for a different look than you could get from the vendor/collector stuff.

          * Your definitions of “meaningful” and “progression” may vary. Voiding prohibited by law, or at least good manners.

          ** Yes, I’m thrilled they finally put down the crack pipe and decided to trash this hideously ill-advised mechanic; it may even be enough to get me to look at the game again.

          1. Interesting, so (since i barely played GW and don’t know any of this) you are saying people asked for more content, and the “free” content they were given was grinds?

            So the paid for content (the expansions etc) are not grindy, but then they added extra stuff for free that are grindy?

            That would be an interesting breakdown if accurate. I wonder what that says?

            1. “So the paid for content (the expansions etc) are not grindy, but then they added extra stuff for free that are grindy?”

              Essentially, yep. And grindy with no direct game-play payoff, purely cosmetics, titles, and achievements.

  12. “I think there’s a qualitative difference between, say, grinding radiance gear in LotRO**, which is an absolute requirement for being able to access certain content, and grinding prestige armour in GW for a different look than you could get from the vendor/collector stuff.”

    Yes there is, and this is a hugely important point. I’m glad you brought it up like that because I couldn’t think how to express it.

    There is grind you “need” to go through for your character(s) to end up somewhere in the vicinity of viable, and there’s cosmetic grind for titles and such. And this is where the “self-inflicted” part becomes a little bit fuzzy.

    A player that grinds day in and day out for, say, a “Cartographer” silly little title or this little cosmetic thing (my wife, without going any further), yeah that’s voluntarily submitting to the grind for no good reason other than the little piece of candy you want that’s been arbitrarily put past (n) hours of repetition. No sympathy there.

    But grinding to become viable, or just to keep up with the demands a game might put at the end as to what is “reasonably viable”? I don’t know if I’d call it self-inflicted. I think it’s a simple premise: Players play the game and it’s quite natural to expect that they’d want to be good at it, and one of the way to be good at it is for their characters to remain competent at any given level (and if we don’t agree with this then I don’t wanna hear a peep about dead weight or ebayers in pugs and things like that).

    In order to do that, what can the player do if the means to remain viable are put at the end of grinds? How’s that the player’s fault? That isn’t self inflicted at all.

  13. This distinction – between vanity and viability – is precisely what I was shooting for with my original “self-inflicted” comment, and why I’d categorize GW as a non-grindy game, despite the fact that it has some staggeringly mind-numbing grinds.

    1. Which begs the question then, after you’re “done”, what’s to do in GW that doesn’t involve a grind for vanity or viability?

      My personal answer would be: Not a damn thing, which is why I write it off as grindy.

      You stopped after being “done” (and quite honestly, in hindsight, I should’ve done the same) but I’m really not comfortable with telling players who are also “done” that there’s nothing else of note they can do that doesn’t involve a grind. They want to keep playing the game, they’ve enjoyed it, why be dicks to them like that?

      By the way, this is also extensive to most other MMOs out there. It’s not something GW introduced. However, GW’s grind rather struck me as in your face and rather unapologetic about it, which is why I brought it up. Other games also have grinds but found ways to disguise it much better (WoW comes to mind, and throw as much rotten fruit my way as you like. I don’t care. :) )

      1. Syp’s recent post about the MMO Wheel has me thinking what’s so wrong with being “done” with an MMO, anyway?

        (this raises the question again of subscriptions, though)

      2. “They want to keep playing the game, they’ve enjoyed it, why be dicks to them like that?”

        Well, ultimately ’cause they got what they paid for, I guess. I mean if I finish, say, Dragon Age, that’s it, done, no more, unless I want to play it again as a different class, and GW’s original business model was that of a single-player/non-massively multiplayer game like $GENERICFPS rather than an MMO…

        …which ultimately leads to the conclusion that grind is an intrinsic property of subscription-free games.

        1. Actually, I’d think grind is an intrinsic property of games that have no clear “The End” screen.

          As long as the game lives on, you’d want to do something in the game.

          And since content developers and game designers are humans, you’d hit a finite set of things to do and begin recognizing repetitive patterns as you get better at the game.

          Before you know it, the brain is no longer engaged in learning, you’ve hit mastery, all there’s left is repetition and muscle memory and you’re screaming grind as though someone is to blame for this.

          Why not just recognize you’re done and stop?

          Of all the MMOs, I think Guild Wars approaches a “The End” screen with the most clarity since there’s 3 + 1 chapters and an end boss to defeat with credits that scroll at the end of the story. Everything else is bonus, new game plus, and minigames. (Albeit highly repetitive, difficult bonus activities that would qualify as self-inflicted grind.)

  14. I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being “done” and to stop playing right there.

    But I also think there’s done and there’s done, and there’s a huge difference between a player, by himself, saying “you know what, I’ve had my fun, I’m not getting any anymore. This is stale, etc. I’m done. I’ll move on”…

    … and a player saying “This is great, this is wonderful. I’m done with the main source of fun or avenue of play this game has provided me. Is there more fun to be had doing other things? What? Oh, there’s grind. I guess I’m done then.”

    The question is why are we seemingly unable to, after 10+ years of designing these things, to avoid the grind? It is generally accepted as un-fun. It’s been a major player complaint since forever. Why are we still operating under the design assumption that grind is somehow “needed” or “part of the flavor of the genre”? Why are we unable to come up with something better?

    1. Because grind is in the eyes of the beholder.

      I may like street hunting mobs as it helps me immerse into a character and fight meditatively, and if someone rewards me xp for it or I get gold out of it or clock up another deed, great.

      Whereas to you, it may be the spawn of the devil to, oh no, fight 36 mobs in a pointless zone hunt of a time-wasting session when you could be safely ensconced in a mission or a quest with a purpose and a story.

      (And that was a mishmash of City of Heroes and LOTRO.)

      In the same way, someone could really freaking enjoy vanquishing in Guild Wars and not find it grindy, whereas I can only handle the hard mode in small bite-sized pieces because hunting for the last few mobs really gets my goat, and still other people will look at the task and decide, nah, not for me at all.

      Should we just remove the options of hard mode and additional challenges because there are people who will find it pointless and grindy? But there are also players who like the new game plus+ aspect or other such minigames and are happy to repeat the content at a higher difficulty. Should they be forced to stop?

      And is there really any difference between stale and grind?

      Stale seems to imply that the player is bored of the gameplay (which is likely to be repetitive, since if it is not, then it would still be novel and interesting and not be stale and boring. Either that, or it would end. Full stop. And all players will have no choice to continue further even if they wanted to.)

      Grind appears to imply that the player has looked ahead and found the impending gameplay to be too long, frustrating or difficult a repetitive loop to personally endure. So he calls it ‘grindy’ and uses it as a good excuse to stop. Nothing wrong with that, except different people have different stopping points.

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