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Old 07-29-2007, 07:58 PM   #1
Aeran
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The Grind

I tried to find some good reference about it but few seem to write that much about the grind in mmrpgs. How I Came To Hate The Grind mentions some about it but the poster doesn't really suggest any solution. There is a definition of the concept at Grinding - Defined Lost In The Grind.

So is the grind an issue in MUDs/mmrpgs, and how could it be resolved? Does anyone have any examples of MUDs/mmrpgs with heavy/light/none grinding(please explain why)?
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Old 07-29-2007, 09:09 PM   #2
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Re: The Grind

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Originally Posted by Aeran View Post
So is the grind an issue in MUDs/mmrpgs, and how could it be resolved?
One of the solutions I'm working on is a wide selection of one-shot combat challenges that each player can perform only once, but which give really nice rewards. The plan is that eventually you'll be able to progress primarily through such activities - and while you'll still have to kill a lot of mobs, at least you won't have to kill the same ones over and over (i.e., it'll be a series of separate and different challenges, a bit like working your way through the various opponents in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat).
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Old 07-30-2007, 12:20 AM   #3
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Re: The Grind

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
One of the solutions I'm working on is a wide selection of one-shot combat challenges that each player can perform only once, but which give really nice rewards. The plan is that eventually you'll be able to progress primarily through such activities - and while you'll still have to kill a lot of mobs, at least you won't have to kill the same ones over and over (i.e., it'll be a series of separate and different challenges, a bit like working your way through the various opponents in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat).
One of the most impressive things about WoW is that that's basically what they did. You can get to level 70 in WoW without, I believe, ever repeating a quest (quests are almost entirely of the 'kill things' variety and you can progress entirely via quests). You'll be bashing plenty of monsters but you'll never have to bash exactly the same monsters twice I believe. The disclaimer there is that I'm told this by WoW fans. I've never gotten above about level 15 there so I'm not completely confident in that claim.

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Old 07-30-2007, 09:13 AM   #4
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Re: The Grind

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Originally Posted by Aeran View Post
So is the grind an issue in MUDs/mmrpgs, and how could it be resolved? Does anyone have any examples of MUDs/mmrpgs with heavy/light/none grinding(please explain why)?
We've tried to resolve the issue via three major efforts:

1) Establish reliable, meaningful means of advancement which have nothing to do with combat, and minimize repetition. Quests are one method used in many games, but we've also made strides into allowing advancement by commerce, exploration, observation, roleplaying, written works, ability development, and miscellaneous achievements. Start with your 'best' characters, try to figure out what makes them the 'best', and make sure your system can reward those behaviors by automatic methods (preferable where practical), or at least by manual oversight. Also, make sure the rewards are useful to all characters, and make sense for the activity. (For example, successful merchants in our game can automatically earn skills like Inspect Goods.) Verify that these activities, performed by an 'expert', offer comparable rates of advancement to traditional methods like combat and now the player is in control of how to spend their time.

2) Allow and encourage player-vs-player competition in some form. Even your most clueless players will provide more interesting competition in the long run, relative to AI. We allow some advancement for doing things like advancing your cabal's goals-- if you seize the Ebony Scepter away from the Scions of Eternal Night, that's worth rewarding. Many of our staff-run quests deliberately pit players against one another, vs. pitting players against NPCs.

3) Make sure combat encourages some level of risk. If fighting an NPC is trivial for your character, your character shouldn't advance much by winning. But if fighting a really tough NPC doesn't provide a lot more reward, people will just keep bashing down that same safe NPC, even if it's slow and boring. Make sure your advancement systems scale appropriately for risk.

If you're running a game where grinding is the best method, people will use it, even if it's boring.
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Old 07-30-2007, 11:39 AM   #5
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Wink Re: The Grind

This is an opinion from a player's perspective and I will refer to my own experience in the particular game I spent most of the time at, do not take it as advertising. I played Aardwolf actively for a number of years and in all that time I managed to build myself a reputation as an active player killer and somewhat knowledgeable in matters of exploration and competition. Now, there are a great number of activities that you can perform along the way (a key to prevent grinding from being the sole focus) that do not necessarily translate to getting more levels (the main form of grind in the game), and if you want to attain the full potential of your character you need to go through the grind too; the important thing is, that I never did more than 5-9% of the experience you can obtain in the game, but I dedicated my time at being competitive in player vs player combat. Now, intuition would say that by doing that I always had a disadvantage, but the mere fact that by just carefully planing my game and strategy I could still be competitive against people who had spent years just grinding, and the fact that someone could potentially get to the point where I was (in terms of character development) in relatively short time always struck me as fascinating.

One major tumbling block for many players who complain about grinding, I have noticed, is that they want things to be handed to them or just things to be easy to do/get. Yet when that happens, they just grow bored and move on to the next easy game. I think that is a reason for some sort of underlying grind (time consuming activity) to exist. Maybe with a much bigger staff base you can pull a WoW and make your game such that you do not have to kill the same MOB twice, but in a MUD, where character interaction is important and the number of available players is not boundless as it seems to be WoW's case, I suppose this is not practical. Grinding means you are forced to go to similar places other people have to go to, means that you will have to have character interaction (or competition) and in these types of games I find that to be very important.

To wrap up, here are some things that think are important in a game (on this subject):
- A grinding system that provides the player with slowly growing increase of power but that allows players to compete (if they devote some time to it) from early on, is the best I can think of.
- A number of alternate activities that a player can perform (and be competitive about) that require little to no participation on the main grinding system.
- A balanced game that allows for new and old grinders to share spaces and hence engage in character interaction while doing the grinding.

Them be my two gawld coin matey
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Old 07-30-2007, 12:11 PM   #6
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Re: The Grind

What we do is to offer alternate ways of advancing that doesn't involve killing mobs at all.

The main ones are Questing, Crafting and Trading, which all give direct exp for the completed transaction. The initial incitement is of course that the players also get Quest Tokens for questing and TradePoints for selling the crafted items and other stuff to certain Trader mobs.

Both Tokens and TradePoints can be used to buy various 'extras', (probably a similar system to what commercial Muds sell for real money). But they can also be converted to exp, and in this way a player who is really into trading can advance through the ranks without killing a single mob.

Trading and TradePoints are relatively new features in our Mud, and hadn't really been a success among the players, until one of our habitual jokers decided to make a demonstration. He spent about two weeks collecting TradePoints systematically, then sat down at Recall Point at a time when many players were on line, and then converted them all into exp, with the result that he remorted about 20 times in a few minutes, without ever leaving Recall.

This definitely made an impact, and for the next days we were spammed with complaints about 'massive bug cheating' from players who had never bothered to read up on TradePoints. Sure, he was slightly aided by a script that gave a somewhat too generous revenue for a couple of items, (and since then has been fixed). But he got most of it in a legit way, and it was a very effective demonstration - so suddenly all the players started collecting TP like crazy.

The effect was similar to when we opened the big Mine a couple of years ago, and all the otherwise lazy players grabbed their shovels and pickaxes and started to dig tunnels all over - or rather under - the Mud, mining for metal ore and precious stones. As long as something is new, and the incitement is big enough, they will do it. After the first novelty has worn off, they will start comparing what they get for the different ways of spending their time, and then settle for doing what 'pays' the most per effective hour. Players are very rational in that way, and if it turns out that grinding is what pays best, they are likely to return to grinding, however much they publicly say that they hate it.

I am not quite sure where it will land yet. We generally try to balance things so that the time spent is a equal as possible, (which isn't easy in the first place). But on the other hand, the players are only really happy when they think that they managed to 'cheat the system', and get more for some action than they really should have gotten. What is a 'bug' to the Admin, is a 'feature' to the players.

Last edited by Molly : 07-30-2007 at 12:25 PM. Reason: removing double paragraph
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Old 07-30-2007, 10:56 PM   #7
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Re: The Grind

One thing that is important to note is that there are a large number of players who either do not mind the grind or do not see it as a grind. Grind doesn't really have a definitive definition though, it differs from player to player. I would consider going on quest after quest to kill X number of creatures a grind, regardless of whether the creatures are goblins or boars, whether they are in cave or in a swamp, or whether they launch arrows or fireballs at me.

WoW is one example where grind is popular (for the most part.) Aardwolf is another example of this; they have one of the largest playerbases for MUDs, yet there is definitely a grind. So I am going to say that the grind is really not that big of an overall issue in MUDs/MMORPGs.

Personally, I hate the grind. I am finding this a very interesting thread already.
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Old 07-31-2007, 05:21 AM   #8
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Re: The Grind

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Grind doesn't really have a definitive definition though, it differs from player to player. I would consider going on quest after quest to kill X number of creatures a grind, regardless of whether the creatures are goblins or boars, whether they are in cave or in a swamp, or whether they launch arrows or fireballs at me.
There might not be an "official" definition of grinding, but its common usage refers to repetitive activities that require using the same strategy over and over.

If each quest requires a different strategy, and each quest can be completed only once, than that's not grinding.
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Old 07-31-2007, 07:00 AM   #9
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Re: The Grind

I have tried to write a very short summary of the different methods you all have suggested so far:

KaVir: progress through one-shot challenges - still kill a lot of mobs but not same ones
Valg: minimize repetition, pvp competition, quests, risk
Spoke: be able to compete early, alternative activities
Molly: alternative ways of advancing: quests, craft, and trading.

Most suggestions seem to have in common that they suggest alternative ways to play the game and not just through combat. Something I have pondered about is if grinding is related to the depth of the game. Is the probability that a game has serious grinding issues less if it has depth? It is also interesting to ponder on what depth in play actually is.

I found two polls at Mud Magic: Polls: What is the most important aspect in a mud? and Mud Magic: Polls: Why do you prefer MUDs to MMORPGs? that I think are interesting if depth and grinding is somehow related. Both polls have in common that players have voted depth as the winner. It is interesting to realize that interaction and role playing comes second - both which could be argued to be outside grinding.
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Old 07-31-2007, 08:54 AM   #10
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Re: The Grind

I have seen three ways that games have eliminated the grind by design:

1. Time-based advancement

This is where your skills advance in real time, no matter if you play or not. Eve Online (and the now defunct Seed) use this system. However, Eve does not altogether eliminate grinding, as money and reputation with NPC factions are still obtained by grinding.

A couple MUSHes and MUXes I know of use this system too. Chronicles of Amber and the upcoming Road to Amber use it that I know of.

This is my favorite method of advancement by far.

2. RP points

Many MUSHes and MUXes use a voting scheme where players nominate others for good RP, which translates into character points. This is typically the only way to advance, there being no concept of PvE in most of the games, so no XP system either. Windy City and LA: A House Divided use this system.

3. GM-awarded XP

I've also seen a MUSH where advancement comes by way of GM awarded XP (Into the Black). I'm not sure how they decide, but points were slow in coming (maybe up to 5 in a year).


I've listed these methods in order of my preference, any of which I would take over any bash-for-XP, or meaningless quest-for-XP system (to the point where I refuse to play an XP-based system anymore, MUD or MMOG). But then again, I only want to play an RP MUSH/MUX (not to leave out the MOO/MUCK fans, but I haven't tried one of those yet).
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Old 07-31-2007, 10:06 AM   #11
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Re: The Grind

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I have seen three ways that games have eliminated the grind by design:
I know Guild Wars was originally designed to remove grinding (although in practice it's more a case of greatly reducing the amount of grind necessary to reach the top level). However there's an interesting comment on the grind entry in wikipedia: Grind & - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"ArenaNet made a series of online RPG games called Guild Wars in which grind was initially removed. Indeed, the low level cap of 20 was easily achievable and meant not to be point of game, usually reached by 1/3 of the game and maxed equipment was easily achievable even for casual players. But because of criticism of players used to grinding model to provide challenge, grinding aspects were reintroduced in subsequent campaigns in form of Titles which offered ingame bonuses for grinding actions, elitist titles would require over thousand hours of playtime, making initial attempts to create a grind free game essentially called off."

I don't know if the above comment is actually true, but it's the sort of thing I could easily imagine players complaining about.
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Old 07-31-2007, 03:14 PM   #12
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Re: The Grind

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1. Time-based advancement

This is where your skills advance in real time, no matter if you play or not. Eve Online (and the now defunct Seed) use this system. However, Eve does not altogether eliminate grinding, as money and reputation with NPC factions are still obtained by grinding. A couple MUSHes and MUXes I know of use this system too. Chronicles of Amber and the upcoming Road to Amber use it that I know of.
One problem with this system is that the 'best' players are simply the ones that got there first, whether or not they've been playing. Too much time-based advancement, and down the road it's a turn-off to new players who feel like they'll never be able to compete. You need to mix it with something else (like Eve does) so it doesn't turn into Progress Quest.

A variant system I've seen used is RL-time-capped advancement. In other words, you can only gain X experience/coins/widgets/whatever per RL day. This is usually done to appeal to the casual player at the expense of the hardcore player who spends 8 hours/day. It needn't be a hard cap, either-- you could implement a diminishing returns system so that playing past a certain point isn't useless.

A variant on the variant is to cap the number of actions a player can make in a day, much like many turn-based games. You could structure a MUD so that a character 'wakes up', gets increasingly tired as gameplay proceeds, then has to 'rest' at an inn or tavern. Recuperation could scale linearly with RL time until the character was at full strength.

These kind of designs sidestep grind. You can't set up a game where smashing 5000 goblins gains you one measly level, because it might take 6 RL months to do it. Instead, the structure of the game forces the design towards providing a few intricate challenges.
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:09 PM   #13
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Re: The Grind

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Originally Posted by Valg View Post
One problem with this system is that the 'best' players are simply the ones that got there first, whether or not they've been playing. Too much time-based advancement, and down the road it's a turn-off to new players who feel like they'll never be able to compete. You need to mix it with something else (like Eve does) so it doesn't turn into Progress Quest.

A variant system I've seen used is RL-time-capped advancement. In other words, you can only gain X experience/coins/widgets/whatever per RL day. This is usually done to appeal to the casual player at the expense of the hardcore player who spends 8 hours/day. It needn't be a hard cap, either-- you could implement a diminishing returns system so that playing past a certain point isn't useless.
Interestingly, the Chinese government has mandated something like this for all MMOs in China. If you're under 18, the game has to slash your xp rate in half after 3 hours of play in a day, and cut it to 0 after 5 hours (no idea what they would do about an MMO without point-based progression like Habbo). I've got no idea if it's effective or how efficiently they've managed to corral teenagers into registering for games using their real identities though.

Anyway, not really done to eliminate the grind but more because the Chinese government believes it's simply unhealthy for children and teens to sit in front of a computer endlessly and wanted to create a disincentive (in fact, when you hit the 3 hour cut-off I have heard that you're told to go outside and exercise).

--matt
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Old 08-02-2007, 05:00 PM   #14
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Re: The Grind

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One of the most impressive things about WoW is that that's basically what they did. You can get to level 70 in WoW without, I believe, ever repeating a quest (quests are almost entirely of the 'kill things' variety and you can progress entirely via quests). You'll be bashing plenty of monsters but you'll never have to bash exactly the same monsters twice I believe. The disclaimer there is that I'm told this by WoW fans. I've never gotten above about level 15 there so I'm not completely confident in that claim.
I played WoW for an extended period of time, and honestly, their quest system was as much a grind as anything else. It was the best way to get XP, and thus, you were basically forced to quest if you wanted to level quickly. (And honestly, in a graphical MMO*, that's pretty much all I'm out to do. Content BESIDES the grind is usually severely lacking.)

Questing usually involves reading a spew of text from the character. Getting an item to take somewhere, kill some thing, or being asked for certain items. You go do your thing, find that quest character again or find some other random quest character, click all your buttons and voila! You get some XP. This, to me, is way more tedious than simply finding a camp and some friends, pulling the camps until you break it, and moving on to the next. At least then you're dealing with INTERESTING content, other players. When you're running all over the world doing random, dorky quests, you're so busy doing the quest that you barely interact with a lot of players except to hook up because you need to kill the same mobs, kill those mobs, and move on.

Granted, some people like this, but I've NEVER been a big fan of mandatory questing, which is concept that has been around in muds FAR longer than on WoW. True, you can still level by doing the traditional grind on WoW, but that choice is not the optimal way of leveling.

Honestly, I'm not sure that the grind is a bad thing if you have fast leveling and PLENTY of other content that are fun, provide advancement (even if it's not XP or coin), and promote player interaction in a PRODUCTIVE manner. I happen to enjoy the traditional grind because it gives me plenty of time to do other things with my character assuming the game is designed properly.
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Old 08-02-2007, 05:07 PM   #15
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Re: The Grind

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Originally Posted by Valg View Post
A variant system I've seen used is RL-time-capped advancement. In other words, you can only gain X experience/coins/widgets/whatever per RL day. This is usually done to appeal to the casual player at the expense of the hardcore player who spends 8 hours/day. It needn't be a hard cap, either-- you could implement a diminishing returns system so that playing past a certain point isn't useless.
LoTRO has this for several of their Deeds which give you improved class abilities. You could only progress on a particular deed for a set amount per day. I found it extremely annoying because I can only play in spurts. Some days, I was able to play a lot. Other days, I wouldn't be able to make it online for a week. It really ended up hurting me as a casual player who couldn't be online every day.

Thus, I honestly think that RL-time-capped advancement have to be done VERY carefully. There are probably countless ways to do it, but it could be a really big hinderance to people who AREN'T hardcore players.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valg View Post
A variant on the variant is to cap the number of actions a player can make in a day, much like many turn-based games. You could structure a MUD so that a character 'wakes up', gets increasingly tired as gameplay proceeds, then has to 'rest' at an inn or tavern. Recuperation could scale linearly with RL time until the character was at full strength.
(Kingdom of Loathing) does this, but I wonder how well it would work on a mud where human interaction would cause a "forced rest" to be unwelcomed. I don't mind the "turn restrictions" in KoL, but I don't really chat with many of the players there either, since it's a web-based game.

(Oops. Had to fix a link.)
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Old 08-02-2007, 09:05 PM   #16
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Re: The Grind

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(Kingdom of Loathing) does this, but I wonder how well it would work on a mud where human interaction would cause a "forced rest" to be unwelcomed. I don't mind the "turn restrictions" in KoL, but I don't really chat with many of the players there either, since it's a web-based game.

(Oops. Had to fix a link.)
Off topic here, but do you remember exactly what you entered to get the first broken link? Someone even sent me screenshots, and I just can't make it happen...
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Old 08-03-2007, 02:16 AM   #17
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Re: The Grind

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Off topic here, but do you remember exactly what you entered to get the first broken link? Someone even sent me screenshots, and I just can't make it happen...
Yes, what I did was I simply typed out a url without trying to make it a link. So, for example, I typed out the following (without the spaces):

Kingdom of Loathing (w w w . kingdom of loathing . com), and it changed it to the a link with TMS's full forum name as the words. Does that make sense?

It came out like this:

Kingdom of Loathing (Top Mud Sites - MUD and RPG Rankings - Mud Database, RPG & MUD Forums, MUD Articles, MUD Reviews)

The link will actually take you to KoL's site, but it inserted those words all by itself. Maybe it's haunted. EEK! o.O
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