A couple of different articles have brought me to thinking about grind in MMORPGs. Shintar writes at Going Commando an update on the Command XP system that was introduced to Star Wars the Old Republic this year. The system allows you to obtain new gear (and other rewards) by grinding repeatable content, very flexible in its way but a grind nonetheless. The system never motivated me to play the game more, but then that’s not a fault of the system per-se, but rather that I’m just not motivated by gear drops, never have been.
At the same time in dipping back into Neverwinter, by necessity I’ve been reacquanting myself with the upgrade and refinement systems in that MMO. In a word it is very grindy, but somehow I’ve never found it that objectionable. I suspect that this is mainly because it doesn’t block my progress through the various story campaigns, and because I do not focus on gear-progression that much. That is not to say I ignore gear stats and enchantments, I do actually like reading up on character builds and passing items between alts to keep them as well geared as possible; but min-maxing enchantments by jumping through the many stages of refinement upgrades is not a motivator for me. If I manage to get one artifact a character to purple quality then I’m happy – having all orange gear (the quality grade above purple) is an unimaginable level of grind for me.
When I was playing Tera last month I was again reminded of grind on two counts. The game has a similar enchantment-style grind to Neverwinter in the crystal system. More harshly these can get destroyed if you die, I’ve rarely experienced this but wasn’t impressed with that aspect of the game’s design. The game has a different form of grind as well now – the Vanguard quest system. This is a set of level-appropriate auto-granted quests to ‘slay X creatures’. If you bother to engage with it, you can basically grind experience by fighting lots of specified monsters as you pass through zones. It works well as top-up experience alongside quests as there is invariably Vanguard quests in the same areas you are exploring for your main or side quest objectives. I imagine you could even forgo traditional questing entirely and just grind Vanguard quests ad infinitum to level alt characters, though I’ve not tried this personally.
I suppose I’ll tolerate a certain level of grind as I level a character, but at the level-cap I become much less tolerant of this. If there’s story to help bouy the grind along then that helps a lot, but if it’s just grind for gear’s sake then I’ll quickly get bored. Running dailies for a few days in a row to progress a stage of a campaign in Neverwinter never bothered me because the goals and rewards are clearly layed out. Endlessly running dungeons in WoW (or any other MMO) for the smallest chance of a super item upgrade doesn’t motivate me at all.
What kinds of gear grind are a motivator for you?