Grumpy Gamer: Grind Strategies
Star Wars: the Old Republic has me completely spoiled now. I think all games need to take a lesson from their pre-expansion rapid-leveling boost, because I've been enjoying the hell out of that "12x XP for class missions" event. You can start a new character and rip it all the way through the class story, from Tython to Oricon, skip out on all the boring grindy, unpleasant middle bits and wind up with a viable level-capped character in a couple of days.
I have level-capped characters in a few different games. Okay, to be honest, it's only two games - SWTOR and the Lord of the Rings Online. I had a level-capped Federation captain in Star Trek Online, but they went and raised the level cap there, so now my Klingon Vice-Admiral has some catching up to do if he can get past the "wall" of old level 50 content that requires better gear than I left him off with.
And to be even more honest, since LotRO raised the level cap to 100, my main character has fallen a bit behind as well, and is still 2 levels shy of level cap. But at one time (pre-Rise of Isengard) I had five or so characters all level capped and raid-ready there. Each expansion narrowed that number down, and now I have just the one Hobbit Hunter within spitting distance of endgame.
When LotRO's Update 15 launched this past week, my goal was to roll a new Beorning, play the hell out of it and throw together a quick guide for the class. It was naively optimistic of me, because I forgot about the super-high level cap, and how long it takes to reach it in LotRO. That guide will be coming in the near future, but when you roll a new character in LotRO, you're staring down the barrel of 100 levels, and they don't have no fancy 12x XP boost. You gotta get there the hard way, and that involves a whole lotta grind.
After that short new introductory instance, it's all content I've run literally a dozen times before. I can't get through Bree-land quickly enough. I don't bother reading quest text, and won't until I get to the newer half of Rohan, because there are some newer quests there that I've only run once. Everything before that is running around killing the same 10 bears I've killed a dozen times before. It's basically work at this point, a long and kind of boring lesson in the mechanics of the class you're playing.
This is not specific to LotRO, don't get me wrong. Before they installed the 12x Slip and Slide, SWTOR was the same way. You get to Taris, utter a dismayed sigh, and buckle down for a long thrill ride without the thrills. The road doesn't vary, and the only difference is the vehicle you're driving on it.
It's not just the leveling process that is grindy, either. In LotRO, you have deeds - killing hundreds of the same mob type, finding remote points of interest, completing dozens of quests within a region, etc., all for incremental increases to equippable Virtues. In SWTOR (and many other games), you have daily missions in endgame areas. None of this requires any real concentration or thought - you can establish a pattern and do the job more or less by rote without thinking about it.
Over the years, I have developed ways to cope with the tedium of MMO grind.
At first, I used music. I made up a playlist in iTunes specifically for deed-grinding in LotRO, and it ended up being mostly Queens of the Stone Age and the Melvins. For leveling, it was Amon Amarth, Behemoth, Mastodon and bands of that ilk. I had a different playlist for SWTOR, chiefly dubstep and the angrier sub-genres of electronic music. For some reason, my "grind" music in Perfect World games tends to be metal from the 80s and 90s. Slayer shouldn't fit with slow, graceful starship maneuvering while fighting Romulans, but for whatever reason, it totally does.
After a while, I needed something more distracting than music, so I started watching DVDs. I have 2 monitors, so I run my game in windowed full-screen on the main monitor and VLC Media Player on the second. That worked well - watch Star Wars while playing SWTOR, watch Lord of the Rings while playing LotRO, watch Wrath of Khan while playing STO. It's like full immersion, really.
Lately, though, my thing has been watching TV series. I'll watch a whole season at a time while barreling through mid-level crap missions and barely notice how grindy it all is. When Elder Scrolls Online first came out, I was playing it while watching Doctor Who, which also has cat-people and lizard people, if not quite so many elves. I was watching Breaking Bad while playing DC Universe Online - my character started out with Batman as his mentor, and ended up on Lex Luthor's team. HA, just kidding, I rolled a Team Joker villain from the start. Game of Thrones works well with nearly any fantasy-type MMO, provided you don't get too distracted by boobs. The Walking Dead is a natural companion to State of Decay - that's a no-brainer. And yeah, I went there.
If you want a really surreal experience that leaves you feeling unclean, try watching some Star Trek: the Next Generation while playing SWTOR. It's a wrong thing that just feels so right.
So that's my grind strategy: distract myself so I don't notice it as much. Sometimes it actually works. Let's hope the strategy holds, because Gunkybear has about 80 levels to go.
How do you cope with MMO grind? Share your strategy in our comments!
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