Archive for the ‘Guild Wars 2’ Tag
When I was a kid, I was totally into Halloween. I’d dress up in some costume, and my parents would take me and my sister out trick or treating, and, like any other kids, we’d go from door to door and collect a big haul of bite-sized candy. And life was good. But then I grew up…
In college, Halloween took on a whole new meaning, it went from being about dressing up and candy, to getting hammered and hooking up with cuties in costume. There was one time, the student house I was living in, which was affectionately called the Love Shack, had a Halloween party so big that it not only encompassed our house, but our neighbors house as well and although we weren’t in any fraternities, we had many offers to join some that night. We turned them down, of course. Our parties at the Shack were more legendary than anything they could muster up. But then I grew up again…
These days I spend my days working, and my nights in hobbies and hanging out with my wife. When Halloween comes around, we generally grab a drink, have some traditional White Castle, put on a movie, and kick back and wait for trick-or-treaters to come to the door. Our tastes have changed over the years.
So what does this have to do with MMO’s? Well, you see, my gaming tastes have also changed since I was a kid, too. Now, I could be playing World of Warcraft, and go trick or treating. Or I could go play Guild Wars 2 and get dressed up in costume and brawl. And this is fun! It takes me back to those times when I was a kid, and dressed up, and went from house to house trick-or-treating.
But as an adult, I want more. I want something that doesn’t feel like it’s aimed at a much younger demographic. I mean, these are MMO’s, they not only take a time investment, but they also take a significant monetary investment, too, and so MMOs naturally have more adults playing them. According to this site, and this doesn’t sound that off, the average age of MMO players is 26 with a third of players married, and half working full-time. We’re not kids anymore.
I played the Guild Wars 2 Halloween content. I zerged and attacked giant monsters made from candycorn, because that made sense. I climbed the clocktower, and helped smack down the whiny Prince Edrick. I even opened trick-or-treat bag after trick-or-treat bag. I carved pumpkins. It was pretty much everything one would expect for Halloween… and yet it didn’t really scratch that Halloween itch.
Then I played The Secret World, and my Halloween itch has been thoroughly scratched. Finally, here is a game that doesn’t just treat us like kids. The Cat God mission, the main event of the holiday, is a tough investigative mission involving possessed cats, family crypts, creating pungent incense, performing ancient rituals, and defeating none other than Baron Samedi himself at the home of Halloween, Stonehenge, as he attempts to rend the veil between worlds.
Then this year, they topped it by adding the amazing Stories of Soloman Island, a collection of horror short stories, penned by Joel Bylos and Joshua Doetsch, that are pretty amazing reads. Here’s a quick sample:
So, the winner of Halloween 2013, in my own humble opinion, of course, is easily The Secret World. Instead of playing with the commercial versions of Halloween, of costumes, candy, and decorations, it shows the more mature meaning behind Halloween: that we enjoy exploring our disturbing side. We like the macabre, we enjoy the chills down our spine. We celebrate the unknown and embrace the supernatural. But you can already tell that Funcom gets this, the supernatural runs through the very blood and fabric of The Secret World.
So, MMOs take note: the bar has been raised. We’ll see what they come out with to top themselves next year.
I get it, Guild Wars 2, you want me to be max level before participating in any events. But then why did you give your game a really high max level? Something happened between Guild Wars 1 and Guild Wars 2 that changed, and I’m not talking about mechanics. I’m talking about the overall philosophy. In Guild Wars 1, max level was truly the beginning of the game, and getting there was really just an extended introduction. 90% of the content happened at level 20, which was reached in a few days. Progression was based on acquiring new abilities, finding item synergies with your playstyle, learning tactics, and just becoming a better player. In Guild Wars 2, levels actually mean something. However, the grind to get there is long, and the gear is significantly more important. Up-Leveling to max doesn’t make you strong enough to do the content, and Down-Leveling makes you still overpowered. In a game that feels like it doesn’t need levels AT ALL, why is max level the only acceptable place to be? And why is it such a grind to get there?!
I thought I was wrong, I thought not all content had to be at max level, and sure, the Super Adventure Box is a good example of GW2 content that doesn’t need to have levels attached, but that’s the only one I’ve seen so far, including the Halloween content. “But, Ocho”, I hear you say, “When you’re in the Halloween instances, you’re up-leveled to max level, you noob!” Up-Leveling, however, did nothing to make the content anything more than an exercise in futility. I did finally finish off Bloody Prince Edrick, but not before downing him on my fifth attempt, which took about 25 minutes each, with all my armor broken.
Faced 1-on-1 with a level 80 mob, with myself up-leveled from level 60, with decent level 60 gear, caused every single mob to be a crap-shoot at survival. 1 mob, no problem, depending on it’s strength. 2? Almost certain death. With Edrick, the battle was just futile. If he got within arms reach, I’d be dead. The mobs he spawned at different stages, spawning 4 or 5 at a time, where a fight with more than 1 was certain death, caused me to become very familiar with the corpse run. His healing to full in between each stage? Ridiculous. My only real attack, since Elementalists can’t switch weapons mid-fight, was an earth spell that reflected projectiles. By essentially hitting him with his own attack, once every 30 seconds, and running away, I was finally able to defeat him.
I’ve heard the fight is NOT supposed to be this tough, though. So what did up-leveling do? It certainly didn’t level the playing field. In fact, it made the fight about the most un-fun it could be. It wasn’t a challenge, it was a chore of throwing myself up against a wall. Up-leveling essentially did not do what it was intended to.
Down-leveling, though, doesn’t work as intended, either. At level 60, if I head to the beginning zones, I’m able to faceroll content and make dynamic events trivial. There is no challenge. Why do you think these champion farming events are going on in the starting areas? The ability to completely wipe-out low level content is ridiculously easy at max-level, even with down-leveling.
Not all of the Halloween content is bad, though. The Mad King’s Clocktower? Awesome. Tough, doable, and everyone can do it with enough practice. Costume brawl and Mad Inquisition? Also awesome! These are fantastic diversions, but they’re not the Halloween main courses on offer.
So, again, Guild Wars 2, why even bother with levels? Why put in this level-gate at all when artificially moving up and down is pointless? Sorry, ANet, your Halloween events in the past even made WoW’s look weak, but this is not the quality I remember from Guild Wars 1. I completed it, but it gets a solid “meh”.
And because of this, next time you have an event in a week or so, I’ll be less likely to join in.
P.S. – But now I’m off to see what The Secret World has to offer, and my expectations are really high. I hope it can deliver…
This is why Free-To-Play is my model of choice. It’s not because I can’t afford to pay a subscription, it’s simply because, when not confined by a subscription, the onus of quality and pulling players in falls onto the developers. This leads to events, and lots of them.
For the past month I’ve been ping-ponging between The Secret World, Guild Wars 2, and Star Trek Online because of these events. Guild Wars 2, of course, has it’s content flowing continuously with something new every 2 weeks. However, not being max level, most of the new content is not aimed at me. So Guild Wars 2 has fallen by the wayside to make way for the following:
- The Secret World’s Whispering Tide – The path to Issue #8, The Venetian Agenda, and the prelude to the opening of the new Tokyo region. It looks like Phase 3 is ramping up TODAY as per tweets from Richard Sonnac seem to imply.
- Star Trek Online’s Crystalline Cataclysm Event – Our favorite giant, destructive snowflake is back and asking for a beating. In this 10-man instance, the Tholians have suddenly showed an interest in the Crystalline Entity, possibly being due to their species being of similar composition. The Tholians, though, are bad news, and as such, they all need a good whooping. Until October 21st (according to the game launcher), a daily beating of the entity gives a metric ton of Tholian marks, and a 50,000 dilithium pot.
- StarbaseUGC’s Purity Foundry Series – Part Two of the Purity Series, Purity: Of Thought by Bazag, has already been released, and it adds a decent amount of back-story to the Obani, Federation, and Sajan people.
And then you know what’s coming up, don’t you? The Superbowl of MMO Events: Halloween.
Guild Wars 2 is looking like it’s kicking it’s usual Halloween event up a notch, which seems impossible as it was already at 11. This year, instead of the event simply focused around the Mad King, instead we will be seeing Prince Edrick take center stage in the “Blood and Madness” event. I’m seriously excited to try the Clocktower jumping puzzle, and even if you’re not max level, it sounds like there will still be plenty to do.
The Secret World is also kicking their Halloween celebration up a notch by bringing back the Cat God event from last year, which is going to be new to me, but then adding on something that sounds amazing: Stories from Soloman Island. Soloman Island is one of my favorite MMO locations ever, competing with LotRO’s The Shire for top spot, so I CAN NOT WAIT to check this out.
I like to try new games, but I don’t think I’ll be able to leave the grasp of these events for quite a while.
This is for you, Syl… and you as well, Jeromai.
For your reading pleasure, here is a collection of MMO haiku, made up on the spot. Random, creative, MMO-based poetry goodness. If you’re feeling creative as well, how about starting up your own site, or joining up with other writers? It’s not as hard as you might think. Enjoy.
Fiction or Real Life?
Friends we meet in game are real.
I level crafting,
but can’t make good leveled gear!
Why is this useless?!
Knights, Templars, Castles.
The sword was overpowered.
Still true to this day.
“Hey! Big bad boss guy!
Look at my big armored butt!
… Whoops… I lost aggro.”
“Captain, it’s the Borg!”
“My tribble is in the bank.”
The Bad-Ass Templars,
I love Guild Wars 2.
It’s like walking through fine art,
with mass violence.
One more special mark,
until I’m finally done!
Wait… there is more grind?!
Over the weekend, the skies opened up and the gods of casual MMO players smiled down upon me.
In Guild Wars 2, I have recently joined a new guild called Fight Together, Die Alone on Fort Aspenwood that is significantly more active than my own. Thanks to the GW2 mechanic of allowing players to join multiple guilds, and thus still retaining guilds with friends, joining a second guild that had more than 1 person on at a time was easy and no mental strain. Killer feature.
Anyway, one of my new guildmates piped up to see if anyone wanted to join in on an Ascalon Catacombs run. Being as how I’m now level 50, technically my second level 50 in the game, and still have not run a single dungeon once, I said sure. Once grouped and near the entrance, I did as any good group member would and revealed that this was my first time, that I had not read up on anything ahead of time, and it was all new to me. To my astonishment, every other person in the group said the exact same thing.
Could this be? Was this real? I had to pinch myself. I thought I was the only one at this point! How is it, more than a year after the game’s release, that there isn’t only 1, but 5 people, randomly together, that have all never stepped foot into the game’s first dungeon?! The odds must be staggeringly high. Long story short, we wiped once, but for all intents and purposes we cleared it no problem, and had a blast doing so.
But it made me think of how rare a situation this was. Was it really rare? Was this just random happenstance or are there many many players who have just skipped over Guild Wars 2 dungeons? If that’s the case, a mere half-assed Looking For Group tool isn’t going to cut it, ArenaNet. Here is a simple suggestion to making dungeons a lot better, not just for Guild Wars 2, but for any game that has them:
Offer a Solo Version of Every Instance.
Now, straight up, this is the “casual gamer” in me talking. But I am truly sick and tired of having mob mentality dictate who should and shouldn’t be allowed to run group dungeons. Deny it if you want, but I’ve been deemed not worthy to run instances by a great number of other gamers. Why? Inexperience. It has happened in every single MMO that I’ve ever played. Every. Single. One.
It’s a Catch-22 if ever I’ve heard one. Haven’t run a dungeon? Then we don’t want you running it. I don’t always have the time to run instances, and the way I play MMO’s, it’s to experience the content first, then possibly look up if I’ve missed anything later. It’s this part, the experiencing it first part, that seems to be the trouble. The truth is, other players don’t want to waste their time in an instance with someone who hasn’t run it already, doesn’t know the dance moves, and doesn’t know the puzzles. They don’t want to hold their hand. And you know what? I fully understand that.
After the first couple of times, hand-holding others in every single instance I enter would get frustrating quick. Also, players want to maximize their gaming time, and failure in a dungeon, even once, is cutting into that efficiency. Suddenly, someone like me, who likes to experience the content first, someone who considers videos, build sites, wikis, etc. just a form of cheating and really taking away from the overall experience, is considered rude.
So here’s the solution: Offer every instance as a solo instance. Now, of course, rewards shouldn’t be offered in solo versions. None. The story and practice would be it’s own reward. It would give players that crucial experience that is demanded by the playing-majority and give those who want it the ability to see the storyline that is otherwise blocked by a grouping gate.
After running it solo a time or two, grouping up to achieve the phat lootz and rewards would be much easier. Gaining experience could be done on one’s own, without bothering anyone else. Now if someone says “Hey, I’ve never played this before, what does this boss do?”, they are the truly lazy ones, and have no excuse as to why they don’t know the dungeons already. I feel like this would make everyone more comfortable in running group content and the amount of people who would run dungeon content would increase dramatically.
After successfully running Ascalon Catacombs with members of FTDA, and everyone else having to log, I decided to give the new Looking For Group tool a try and joined a group for the next instance, Caudecus’s Manor. Once in a group, I was once more the good group member and told them that I had not run the instance before and it was my first time.
… I was quickly booted from the group.
So it goes.
I have quickly realized that, if you’re not a high level in Guild Wars 2, all this Living World stuff just does not relate to you. At all. Right now, that’s where I stand. I created my current character not that long ago and I’ve made it to the Level 42 mark in, for me, record time, but I’m still a long ways off from actually participating in the current incarnation of the Living World, Tequatl Rising.
So, even at the half-way mark of the leveling curve, I have so far done every Tequatl Rising event at my level I could to earn credit towards the event and this is where I stand:
Impressive, right? No? Hmmm.
Guild Wars 2′s content creators seem to have seen fit to stay along the Guild Wars 1 course of content development. That is, develop the content for high-level characters. In Guild Wars 1, this made a lot of sense, as achieving level 20 took you the equivalent of a couple play sessions. In Guild Wars 2, where levels are a real thing (kinda), the Living World is nothing more than a giant impetus to push you to level cap, and to get there as fast as humanly possible.
It just sits there, on the right-hand side of the screen, informing you of events going on in areas of the game you’re too low level to enter and that you’re too low level to participate in. A beacon of “Look what you could be doing”, but knowing you won’t be able to really join in this time. Next Living Story, maybe, if you can get there in time.
Now, true, not EVERY incarnation I’ve experienced has been like this. The Super Adventure Box is designed for characters of all levels, and if they didn’t add stuff for max level characters to do, boredom would drive them elsewhere (and I’m sure the majority of players are sitting on cap, too). So, I get it, I just need to put my nose to the grindstone and grind away.
Still, though, this is where the Living World concept comes up a little short. I wasn’t able to participate in the Clockwork Chaos event, and I’m not able to participate in Tequatl Rising, either. Compare it to, say, The Secret World’s Issues. The Issues are mission packs and extra story tacked on for a nominal price, that are designed for the level cap. When they released Issue #6, The Last Train to Cairo, I was far from the end-game and still in the Soloman Islands. However, it was still there, waiting for me when I finally did reach level cap. And LTTC? That is some amazing gameplay right there.
To again be fair, though, Tequatl Rising is not something that I would deem really important. It’s not a new storyline, they just buffed up the world boss fights to make them more of a challenge. All I’m missing out on is a pair of wings. I can live with that.
So, fine. I’ll get there. And get there faster thanks to that ever-pushing Living World reminder. Maybe the addition of the pseudo Looking-For-Group tool will speed me up, too. With the LFG tool in place, maybe I’ll actually run some group content for once! Shocking, right? It’s about time GW2 added this, and I’m not going to lie, the LFG tool is one of the main reasons I decided to give GW2 another shot.
So, Tequila the Sunrise, I’m coming for you and I will down you yet! Just not this time.
P.S. – So what are all of you fine folks playing? I like this whole Friday, letting you know what I’m playing posts, but what is keeping YOU occupied?
We have experienced the MMO sphere from Ultima Online (or even before) all the way up to games that haven’t even been released yet. We’ve seen payment models ranging from open to all free to play cash shops, can’t subscribe if you wanted to (Neverwinter), to a paid box plus recurring subscription and a cash shop thrown on top of it (WoW). But which is the best? I hope, in this article, to expound on the positives and negatives of each kind of payment model and then using those traits come up with a new payment model to appease everyone. Impossible? Of course it is. But why not try?
First off, lets look at the three most widely used structures of payment models: Free-To-Play with a Cash Shop, Buy to Play with a Cash Shop, and Subscription.
Free-To-Play with Cash Shop
This is the model used by games such as Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and many, many others.
Where it goes right:
- The ability to draw in a very large player base.
- Ways to earn store credits through playing the game. A currency exchange, a static reward for completing larger accomplishments, etc.
- Easy to return to after an extended absence.
Where it goes wrong:
- Nickel and diming of items that would be used to show progress. Larger bag capacity, More bag slots, cosmetic changes, retrain tokens.
- Largely transient community. With no vested interest, the draw to stay with the one title isn’t that high.
- Game pushes you to use the store as that it their primary source of income.
Personally, I don’t mind games that are Free-To-Play. With some games even having a way to earn store credit by playing (STO, LotRO, NW), it turns the payment model into a game itself. However, the “payment model” game… is not that fun. I guess it would be if you are an auction-house tycoon and enjoy the manipulation of markets, but these F2P games usually put failsafes in to prevent it. Also, the earning of store credit feels like a separate game, and not part of the game itself.
The sheer number of players that Free-To-Play generates are an asset all unto themselves, though. If 80% of your income comes from 20% of your players, you’ll want to increase the base amount of players as much as possible. And then having more players around at all times gives more people to group with, more guild or fleet members, and makes a game feel “full”. Also, you’ll generally have more fun in F2P titles if you are capable of showing restraint and maturity. If you understand that you don’t need everything, that some items are just frivolous, and keep yourself from splurging, you’ll be just fine.
Buy-To-Play with Cash Shop
This is the model used for games like Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World where you pay for the game’s client and content and then have a cash shop included for more non-essentials, cosmetics and boosters.
Where it goes right:
- Has a very large playerbase
- Easy to Return to after an extended absence
- Gameplay and content is the main focus
Where it goes wrong:
- Community is not as transient as F2P, but people still take long breaks in between major content updates.
- Similar to single-player games. Once story is completed, the want to stay around reduces.
- Cash Shop still a focus in the game, though not as bad as F2P.
As elitist gamers are fond of saying, a payment wall tends to keep out the “riff-raff”. These “riff-raff” are, of course, present in every game, but having the wall throws a stigma to those that are just looking to be pains and cause trouble. This leads to friendlier communities, in a game that still has a very large playerbase. I’ve been playing a lot of GW2 and TSW lately, and both games feel ridiculously full. Players are still EVERYWHERE. Even if the majority are off fighting in the endgame, the starting levels are far from empty. In fact, a Buy-To-Play model even makes the timespan of when players join the game more spread out. It’s not all at once at launch, it’s over time as more reviews and sales causes players to jump in when it’s more convenient for them.
The cash shop, of course, is still there, and is still an eyesore, but it’s not at front-and-center. Finding the Cash Shop in The Secret World took me ages, as it’s hidden in the menu and there isn’t an on-screen big flashing button. The more hidden it is, the more gameplay doesn’t revolve around it. This is a good thing.
This is the domain of the lucky World of Warcraft, EvE Online, and upcoming titles Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar (until they maybe change their mind soon after release, that is).
Where it goes right:
- Very faithful, but smaller community with long-time, experienced players.
- All content can be earned while playing the game.
- High payment walls keep out non-serious players, and remaining players are more passionate about the game.
Where it goes wrong:
- Cash shop still exists, but not by name and only for items like server transfers, name changes, expansions, and is outside of the game’s client.
- Starting new feels like a ghost town. Players are usually clustered in the highest levels and the starting zones feel “dead”.
- Content you don’t engage in and don’t want you still end up paying for, and is usually unavoidable.
I could keep going, but it’s not all bad. For the really serious gamer, it truly creates the most even playing field there is, one of time only. A comment on a previous article posits that the distinguishing character of subscriptions is that effort = reward, and only effort. You can’t buy your way to the top, you follow the same path as everyone else. If they have a fantastic piece of armor, you can get it too with enough effort. In subscription, then, is the only true PvP found, that of social standing. Dominance is by sheer effort.
In a perfect world, yes, that would be the case. However, as long as gold sellers exist and people keep using them, the playing field will never be even. In fact, due to the pure effort = reward system, the value attained from using gold sellers is more dramatic than it would be in a F2P title. So even in these games, RMT’s still occur, whether the players and developers like it or not.
The Best Payment Model Ever!!
So, combining all of these together, what do we have?
What we want:
- Lots of players. And the more faithful and spread out, the better.
- Easy to Return after an extended absence. New games happen, and we like to play them. Breaks are inevitable.
- All Content Earned Through Gameplay
- Effort being the primary source of Reward
What do we NOT want:
- An invasive cash shop that nickel’s and dimes us.
- Transient and immature players.
So?! WHAT IS IT ALREADY?!
Looking at all of the reasons and managing the negatives, the best payment model we could have is this:
A Buy-To-Play model base, with the ability to earn all content through gameplay. A store that would have to be around, since it’s BTP, but very non-invasive and optional.
This system sounds a lot like Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World, doesn’t it? Well, I agree that their payment structure is very well done, but both can be better. If we combine them together, we may have something. How about this?
- Instead of the gold/gems exchange we have in GW2, why not have gems be a drop in the game, too. Random drops. Kill a mob, find a few gems. Complete a quest, get a few gems. In TSW, this would translate the same way, kill mobs, earn a couple points. Nothing drastic, of course, just here and there. Make it random, like a slot machine. If you play for a long time, put in the effort, they will add up.
- Have an optional subscription, like TSW, that also gives store points. Then the store won’t be invasive, it’ll be a destination for people to spend. If they want the items sooner, they can spend and get it.
- Content should be good enough to necessitate a fee. I like that GW2 is pumping out content left and right, but it feels overwhelming and insufficient at the same time. Why not release it in overall-story-progressing content packs? The whole Queen Jennah conflict with the crazy plant woman could be a featured paid top level story arc, for instance.
So what do you think? Think I’m on to something, or did I miss something entirely? Would this cause runaway inflation the likes of which has never been seen? Or will it help to be a stabilizing effect for in-game economies? Think this post is too long and want me to stop ranting?! Let me know!
And as always, thank you for reading.
This week I’ve gone off my, up to this point, normal routine of playing a different game every night and instead found myself sucked into Guild Wars 2. I’ll allow it, though, for two reasons: 1) I’m making the rules, and 2) If I didn’t periodically allow the chance to become immersed in a single game, I’d be taking away a great reason why we play them.
Anyway, on coming back to GW2, I found the game almost completely unrecognizable. Instead of straight dailies, now there is a list of dailies, and the ability to pick and choose! It still feels balanced as far as time spent, but now I’m not always cursing trying to find all different types of mobs to kill. This is a good thing. Also, on starting as an elementalist, arguably one of the more complex classes, my fighting style could be described as simply “random”. This is not the Guild Wars 2 I remember from launch.
There’s a “Living World”, too! “Living” being a loose term, but it’s cool to have. Having story wrapped in a serialized format is sweet. I don’t mind being drawn back in if the story is worth it, but I’m not expecting Pulitzer Prize winning stuff. However, where this falls is entering half-way through the story. When I started with Mabsy Mabs, it was in the middle of the Queen’s Jubilee. The first thing I was told was to go attend the closing ceremonies, and… well… now I have a LOT more questions. Mostly, who the hell are all these people, and why do they keep following me?!
So, the past couple nights, I’ve been exploring Moto’s SUPER ADVENTURE BOX!!! And I have just one word to describe it: AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH! 8-Bit Awesome, but AAAAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!! To say it’s tricky is an understatement. It really has that patented Guild Wars difficulty about it, and then on top of that, THERE’S AN EVEN MORE DIFFICULT SETTING NOW! Cripes. Really?! Come on!!!
The zones in World 1 weren’t so bad, but I still found myself yelling at the screen, calling the game a cheater, wanting to throw my keyboard across the room. So… really, well done ANet! As an obvious Nintendo homage (Moto… trying to rescue Princess Miya. Miya. Moto… get it?!), that’s exactly how I remember old-school platformers to be! However, being older and having a lot more options… I think I’ll hit my skill wall and then stop. Even “Infantile Mode” of World 2 is frustrating. I could only imagine how maddening World 3 or World 4 are going to be when they make those zones.
Well, good luck to those that attempt it. If you can complete World 2, I salute you.
There ain’t no shame in this screenshot. Nope, no shame. None. Whatsoever.
P.S. – See how fast I change my mind? Instead of just posting screenshots, instead I’ve decided to just try to keep a consistent Friday post on what gaming I’ve been up to! Makes sense, right? Afterall, no matter what I post will still be chock-full of screenshots.
P.P.S. – Y U NO HAV FIRST-PERSON VIEW, GW2?! WHY?!
Ugh. Grind. Just saying the word conjures up images of boredom, slogging through the same content over and over again, just for the same small reward. There are many different names we gamers use for grind; the gear treadmill and farming are two general ones that come to mind. But does anyone really enjoy farming, or running those same dungeons and same bosses until you’re blue in the face? Anyone?!
Actually, the answer may (or may not) surprise you. In doing research for this post, I’ve uncovered lots of research that suggests that, yes, we as humans and gamers really do love to grind.
But why do we do it? Isn’t “the grind” what we encounter on a day-to-day basis by going to work in the first place? We “grind” at our jobs, usually performing the same tasks over and over to get that paycheck. You’d think we’d be sick of it.
Maybe not. Imagine you just won a nice fat $10 million lottery. Sweet. Would you go back to work? According to a Gallup poll performed last month, 68% of people would continue to work. 68%! And a poll of 34 national lottery winners showed that 48% of winners stayed in their current job. If you take the financial stress completely off the table, half of them would return to work the next day and continue the work grind. In fact, according to that same poll, 68% of lottery winners still played the lottery on a weekly basis!
So to those who enjoy the treadmill, or enjoy the piles and piles of centaurs left in your wake, here are five reasons showing why we enjoy the grind, despite our frequent objections to it:
Grinding Levels The Playing Field
Lets face it, anyone can get to the top levels in the MMO’s that we play simply by putting in the effort to get there. Even with very little time, anyone potentially can acquire, through purchase or play, the gear necessary to hit the next level. Grinding is the key to leveling the playing field for everyone, and is the one big part of making a game “fair”. If that Giganto Sword costs 50 tokens, but you only get 1 token per hour-long run, is it worth it? Certainly not to everyone, but there will be players that will get it, because they can. But you are not excluded from getting it, too. It’s not a Superbowl ring, where ones 5’6″, 175 lb frame (for example, of course ) isn’t humanly capable of competing to get one. Anyone can work toward that Giganto Sword. The more grind a game has, arguably the more fair it is.
This would explain why you constantly see a demand for more sandbox-oriented subscription-only MMOs. In the minds of some people, the more grind a game has and the less items you can exchange for real money, the more overall “fair” the game becomes. In this scenario, though, I personally think that most people misattribute the payment model as the source of “unfair” gameplay, when really it comes down to the amount of grind.
Repetition is Relaxing
According to Everyday Health, repetition is one of the best ways to help with stress. We spend all day in stressful situations, all of our responsibilities and activities, when crammed together, can cause us to want to shout at the world. I know that’s how it is for me. Being more an introvert, even being around people for too long can trigger such stress that I just need to be alone to recharge.
Sitting back, playing a game, listening to music or podcasts, and just farming the same mobs over and over again to help progress towards that Giganto Sword is actually, in a sense, therapeutic. I’m no doctor, of course, and the method of stress relief that works for you may be different, but for me, gaming is my relaxation. Although I say I’m not a fan of grinding, maybe I secretly am a fan. It would help explain why I am drawn to MMOs over any other genre.
Cognitive Efficiency Enables a Path of Least Resistance
This is the bane of game design, and why I feel empathy toward game designers. You give too many options on how to build your character and someone will theorycraft the absolute best builds. Playing anything else, then, is sub-optimal. We, as humans, always seek the path of least resistance and so will play with the most optimal equipment and builds, and take the path that’ll lead us most quickly to our goal.
If getting that Armor of Awesomeness takes either running the same dungeon 10 times or slaughtering 10,000 Borgfish, most will pick the dungeon as it’ll take less time and effort. Taking the long way is not the most efficient, and is more the path of most resistance, but I am glad it’s still there as an option. Options are good.
The Practice from Grinding Makes Us Better Players
What better way to become better at running a tricky dungeon than to run it time and time again. We run it again as we are really looking to get the “phat lootz”, but the practice gained from doing so is a side-effect that is tangible and substantial.
I consider myself a terrible player, sometimes. I tend to shy away from group dungeons and group activities as they cause me some stress and playing games is how I reduce my stress in the first place. But there’s the rub. If I ran dungeons more, got over the dungeons learning curve, and fell into a steady routine, the stress that comes with running them in the first place would drop. It’s getting over that activation energy in the first place that is the hard part.
The Endowed Progress Effect
Finally, this point I’ve spent the most research on, but seems to be the biggest factor as to why we are addicted to the grind. In a nutshell, Endowed Progress is the idea that when people make progress towards a goal, that they will become more committed toward continued effort of achieving that goal.
If you get 15 tokens toward that Giganto Sword, the likelihood of you continuing on to finish getting the other 35 tokens towards it are more likely. If you have 3 out of 4 pieces of a set, the odds of you giving up are slim. There is usually nothing that will stop you from attaining the 4th piece.
Here is an example of Endowed Progress in action: In Study 1 of the Nunes and Dreze paper, they hand out loyalty cards to a car wash. Half of the cards (A) require 8 washes to earn a free wash, the other half (B) require 10 washes, but the first two washes have already been supplied. So, both cards need 8 washes to get the free wash, but (B) appears to have a head start. Of the 300 cards given out, 80 were redeemed. The redemption rate for those that needed 10 washes, but were endowed with 2 washes (B) was 34% over a 19% redemption for the control cards (A). Furthermore, the amount of time it took to redeem the cards was 2.9 days less, on average, for those using the endowed cards.
The more invested you are to your goals, the more likely you are to see it through.
My guess, though, is that you’re not that surprised by all of these reasons. Look at all the games we have around us today, MMO and non-MMO. Is there a single one that doesn’t have SOME form of grind associated with it? “Facebook” style games like Farmville, cell-phone games like Candy Crush are literally nothing BUT grind. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that the games are designed to be an addiction 1st and a game 2nd.
Overall, In writing this post, I’ve learned a lot about my own habits any playstyles. I, usually, am not a fan of grinding. When faced with a grind, I usually go play another game that doesn’t have one. Or so I think. Am what I really doing is just replacing one grind for another grind that I like better? A rose by any other name…
I really like the leveling in games and MMOs, I like that feeling of improvement with each session, the big improvements over the marginal ones. But a leveling grind, even if it has varied content, is still a grind.
So next time, don’t just dismiss a game you’re playing for being too “grindy”. The grind may be the reason you’re playing in the first place.
P.S. - So the Super Adventure Box in Guild Wars 2… is that really just a Skinner Box INSIDE a Skinner Box?! Woah… Skinnerception… #mindblown