by Garrett Fuller
MMOG game play has been around for more than ten years now. In the
early days game design was new, and players found different ways to
spec and build characters while developing different skills that worked
towards different goals. With many games now on the market and some
very different stories to tell the MMOG industry continues to move
Or has it come to a "grinding" halt?
It seems like we have remained trapped in certain styles of game play
and are only beginning to evolve out of the mix. Let’s take a
look at what works and what continues to drive players down the wrong
My first question is, how did grinding become such a staple, and what
player really enjoys it? Grinding is a technique put in by game
designers to make players stay online longer. Ok, so yes some players
will grind it out for the carrot at the end of the stick, but how long
can this style of play really last? Players always seem to be grinding
for the sake of something else. Whether it is loot, experience, or to
be called the best Rat Killer in the world, players are forced to
trudge through repetitive content. Why?
style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online is
using public quests to advance players in certain areas..
Making quests an intricate part of leveling a character or developing a
character is very important. Instead of having a player go out and kill
hundreds of spiders that surround a village, why not have him take part
in an NPC raid to rid the village of spiders? While you have a lot of
AI going on in the background, the player fights through the quest on
his own. When the raiding party returns to the village as heroes, the
player is rewarded. Not only with some loot, but also now as a brother
in arms to the warriors of the village. This type of story line does
not have to be a short one either; it could take a player all night to
Two games coming out in the next year are starting to drive this new
style of questing game play. Warhammer Online is using public quests to
allow players to advance in certain areas and get great loot out of the
deal. These quests are done on a cooperative level with other players.
Age of Conan has the first twenty levels of their game as a single
player story line. Looking at these two ideas begins to take us away
from the exclamation point/question mark quest system.
Hopefully players will eventually find their way out of the grind
within these systems or within a combination of the two.
Grinding out kills is always boring. Don’t get me wrong,
everyone enjoys a good fight. So why not give players experience for
training? Think of when Link always learns to use his Master Sword; or
a player picks up a new weapon. Warcraft simply had your skill level go
up as you used your weapon. Why not have players go through a training
curve that allows them to master a weapon or skill through an engaging
story? Have them journey to the Shaolin Temple and take part in the
harsh training of a monk as part of the story. I know it was definitely
a grind, but at its origin the practice dummy in Ultima Online was a
great idea. You got to buy one, put it in your house and build your
skills. With today’s advanced interface, you could really
create a training program that gives a player the sense of
accomplishment rather than just having them kill fifty warthogs in a
row to become proficient with a mace.
style="font-style: italic;">Many of the quests
and rewards in Tabula Rasa are based around intricate stories and do
not feel like grinding..
Guilds have become a major part of MMOGs. Players have now carried
guilds across games and are very well organized. Most players are part
of a guild; some lead while others follow. The guild system in most
games does not award players any type of advancement in the normal
leveling system. Okay, I know the first thing you are going to
say…people will grind guild faction. What if there was a way
to reward players in guilds as a whole for helping out the guild
itself? Whether you are the guild master or the lowly noob on the totem
pole, everyone gets rewards for working together. Games like City of
Heroes have done a great job with the side kick system. So how can we
take that style of reward system and make it work for the game and
community as a whole? Vanguard’s political system is also a
step in the right direction. Why not incorporate the different forms of
experience into one and have the player level up in general? I
don’t claim to have all the answers, but hopefully guilds
will start coming up with ways to ask game designers for some benefits.
Many games are starting to move forward in their efforts to cut down
the grind. However, we are not there yet. Designers should be asking
themselves what ways can players have more fun without repetition. Some
players are already calling for the death of MMOGs due to play styles
that have become stagnant. Storylines and fun work well, lets not
forget that as we level our enjoyment should too.