The Inquisition: Do You Mind The Leveling Grind?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor


We touched upon it in the last Free-To-Play Cast, and later Magicman and I discussed grinding in TERA. After I obliquely accused him of just taking advantage of that level 58 boost to speed along getting to max level, he said that he leveled one character naturally. His way of dealing with the leveling? “Turn on Netflix and zone, brother, lots of it.” Yes, you just read that in his voice, don't deny it!

I told him that I just couldn't do that, that I want a game to take up my full, or nearly full, attention when I play it. If it doesn't do that, why am I wasting my time (and perhaps money) with it? This isn't to say that I play my games in a sensory deprivation tank or the Cone of Silence or anything like that, but if I do have anything going in the background, it's something I don't feel like I have to concentrate on, like music or a sporting event, where I can just look up every other inning or during a big play. Watching a show on Netflix, or even on TV, that has a plot that I need to pay attention to just doesn't work for me when I'm trying to concentrate on a game.

picture-getsmart-conesilence (1)

Maybe Magicman just has a more compartmentalized brain than I do. Just further proof that he's really an alien.

I've often said that the only reason people accept the leveling grind in MMOs is because it's there, because we're rarely given another choice but to do it if we want to get to the “good stuff.” I've believed that if we could eliminate mindless grinding, we'd all be happier... but now I'm wondering if that's true. Is there a large number of gamers out there who are perfectly happy with “distracted gaming,” with doing some other task that requires your brain while you mindlessly skip quest text and watch your numbers go up?

On another show, with Magicman as co-host, I think, we discussed Final Fantasy XIV and its old-school tab-targeting and lengthy global cooldown. Someone said semi-jokingly, “that's what Asians want,” to have a game that they can play in their Internet cafes with one hand while they smoke a cigarette in another. (It also might explain a game like Scarlet Blade, where you can use your free hand for... other activities.) Considering that so many Asian-imported MMOs are mindless grindfests for the vast part of their early game – and sometimes later game – I'm inclined to believe it.

What's your take on things? If you could eliminate the leveling grind in your favorite MMO, the endless repetition of “kill 10 rats” quests, and get more quickly to the “good stuff,” would you? Do you tolerate it and find ways to distract yourself from the tedium? Or do you even like it, and are happy to do it while enjoying your "side activity?"

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

More Stories by Jason Winter

Discussion (21)

ExHuman 9 years ago
No, just no. If it manage to succeed only in wasting your time, than its defiantly not worth it.

SirLuke 9 years ago
The grind in mmorpgs is a complete turnoff, at least for me. I've not played deeply any of those in years and when a new title gets out I watch gameplays to see if there's something new or the same old boring kill me 10 rats 800 times until you get to the endgame and ask ¿Now what? ¿Time to show my shiny grinded armor?

We also could say that there is grind and grind, warframe is very grindy but you can already enjoy the gameplay from the start and soon you can be well equipped and enjoying it with the old gamers. The problem about mmorpg's grinding is that is neither enjoyable, as you said it's possible to see a movie while clicking ang getting levels and stats, neither serious. Oh, look at that rat, it dropped a longsword!

What about going for something similar to Mount & Blade leveling system, where you are more worried about surviving against those bandits and later about defending that hard earned castle than getting x levels. M&B Levelling is really clear and the combat simple and intuitivew the gameplay is really repetitive but it keeps you there because it's FUN, the f word that game developers are forgetting nowadays. And look, that bandit swordsman dropped a sword!! Dang, it's chipped...

itzteajay 9 years ago
If you've ever done a night of Wildstar raiding you'll know the real value in a mindless grind where you can watch youtube or netflix and just cruise for a while... Wildstar is EXHAUSTING... If you want an mmo where the needle is pinned full throttle the whole ride after a couple hours you're SPENT... Like truly exhausted go to bed... don't game the next day... games can't thrive on that... Wildstar tried it and it burnt out it's core fanbase in a month. You need the relax time in a game that still gives motivation to do it... You have to make your players want to relax for a while just as much as you want to make them work hard for the hard stuff. Giving players the ability to take a chill day in game is very important to a game's health.

HardHack 9 years ago
They really should get the idea that "The fun starts at level 1."

veicht 9 years ago
I actually do not have a problem with what most people consider grinding and its not because I occupy myself with something else (although I like the option to have gameplay that I can just relax with sometimes but not all the time). Depending on the game, I just don't find it boring in the same way many people do. In fact, I tend to hate games that require 100% attention at all times but still have you do repetitive tastks ( I find it to grate on my nerves having to focus that much attention on it for a long period of time).

Suffice to say, I think you are incorrect in your assumption that everyone would do away with grinds if they could.

Randyblythe 9 years ago
I always hear about people complaining about grinding, so here's my 2 cents.

Without grinding the game becomes an absolute bore. Have you ever used cheat codes or used a short cut in a game? Name one instance where you found it fun 1 week later - Yeah, that's what I thought.

I actually ruined Borderlands 2 because I used a save editor, even though I was only using it to go to level 30 and hit true vault hunter mode.

I standbyed in Halo 2 at a very high level, I got there legit (level 46) then started to get semi bored of the game, decided to see if standbying would make it fun, it didn't at all, quit the game 3 days later after 2 years.

Botted in world of warcraft - Did I get the full PvP set that I wanted? Yep, but something felt off about it, I didn't earn it with time.

I think there's a certain quality about putting work into something, pouring your heart and soul into something, that makes it great, without doing that you feel empty while playing your cheated character, money, or gear.

Grind is also required to enjoy a game for a long time, I played WoW for 10 years, why did I keep playing? The boss grind. Kill every boss in Kara so you can move on to Gruul, kill Gruul so you can move on to SSC/TK, finish that and do BT. That's what it's all about.

It's about the journey, not the destination. You might see high level characters running around and think "I want that" - but a lot of those people now have nothing left to do in the game, their journey is over for the time being.

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BullsI 9 years ago
Before saying grinding is good or bad in games, I think it's important to establish what exactly "grinding" is or means. My personal definition has it being synonymous with character progression. I put in time doing an activity in the game that changes the way I interact with the game after completing said activity. This could be anything from increasing power a la higher stats and better gear, or just opening new ways of playing a la weapon types and skills. With my definition, every game that involves character progression becomes a "grind" game. You basically end up with two different types of grinding, active and passive. Passive grinding is when you are leveling without specifically intending to. I throw stuff like WoT in this category (yes, you can actively grind the game but overall you play to play, not play to improve).Single play through story arc driven questing could also be passive. Active grinding is what you do specifically outside of "directed" play, this is stuff like daily quests, boss runs, mob farming, etc.

Of the two types of grinding, I actually find passive grinding to be worse. In general, the desire to improve is there but your heavily restricted by how you accomplish it. It starts bleeding into casual play and suddenly you are "feeling" the grind in every quest or every random battle. It's very draining to me. In my opinion, the world would indeed be a better place without this type of grinding.

Active grinding is the truly "boring" grinding, constantly repeating the same task in the same area for the same reason for hours on end with little or no real engagement. That said, a well implemented active grind can be almost therapeutic. It's basically a state of meditation and honestly after a stressful day, week, month, year, decade, century, mil.. you get the point, it can be relaxing. With that said though, most games fail to implement the active grind in such a way. This is when it gets boring. You are too engaged in the game to relax, but the activity is too repetitive to be interesting. Too many games try to follow the same formula without bothering to understand the how or the why of it working in successful games.

The biggest problem I see with grinding is actually in how the games are implemented. A lot of games are implemented with the grind being the only real activity in the game. There isn't a separation between grinding and gaming. Sure even pure PVE grind games have "something" to do other then pure grind, but they are afterthoughts. Not many games have been specifically designed to have that separation. A few more of the rare ones ruin that separation by making the grinding mandatory, and this more then anything is probably why many people feel grinding ruins a game.


Merkadis 9 years ago
For once we agree, i can't just skip levels it makes me uneasy and is first sign that the game is a piece of crap, instead of speeding things along they should make leveling actually fun - something nearly every single mmo inevitably fails to do again, and again, and again...

Some mmos at least supply you with a more or less nice atmosphere that includes (yes, really) actually interesting to read stories in quests, atmospheric music, nice and flexible ui, etc etc.
But there are many more mmos that don't bother even with this much, just whoosh.. get some exp orbs showed in your face and see you at max level.. where it is not guaranteed that anything will change for the better or become more fun... ugh. Those mmos make me wanna vomit.

You are correct that eliminating "grind" will do nothing, solve nothing, accomplish.. nothing.
Not because some just like mindless grind but because there must be road to power it is not simply granted to you out of nowhere, there must be a path to traverse filled with perils and joys.. It's just that all those mmo devs just unable to create a fun journey..
For the love of me, they should just pay some nice authors and build games using their books as a base if they lack any imagination and/or vision themselves.

Buggy 9 years ago
I like the game though the grinding may seem pointless your more open to more fun things of the game once reaching lvl 30 which can be attained in 2 days of gameplay or sooner if playing with a friend

Annonymouse 9 years ago
Can't stand the grind anymore. It's the single most important reason why I will barely try new MMORPGs. The leveling content is extremely dry and boring and it boggles my mind why they even bother including it anymore, it just seems like a ~30 hour tutorial at this point. So much emphasis is put on the end game which really puts into question the RPG in MMORPG. Take away the grind and it's basically just an action game with a gear progression system.

NobleNerd 9 years ago
Questing and level grinding would be much better if the content kept you engaged and was challenging. ESO did a few things better with most of their quests by making them more meaningful, having the world actually change around you for some of the bigger ones.
What MMO companies need to do is stop focusing on how quickly can we help the player get to "end game" so they can enjoy themselves and instead make the journey part of the "end game". What Blizzard and WoW has done is created a bunch of elitist that zerg to what they think is more meaningful content and to some extent is because that is the focus the developers have placed on it.
STOP the rat maze race! What happened to the story telling? What happened to allowing for players to fill in the gaps? Where has the adventure gone? Most MMOs just do not put adventure and creativity into their content and then they wonder why players are bouncing around game to game. Look at the huge zerg of players that rushed ArcheAge..... they were hungry for something more, unfortunately for many they didn't find it there either and many have moved on or went back to the previous game. Myself, I went to FFXIV to fill the gap for a bit... with a bit of ESO in between.

Freshundead 9 years ago
!st off love your articals, some of my favorite game memories were of finaly getting that gear or mount, with out the "grind" I don't believe there is still the same payoff, having to work towards something is what makes the reward worth grinding for.

no prob 9 years ago
Level grind wouldn't be such a problem if the quests were actually fun and engaging or at least very difficult.

Some games examples of systems that kind of worked would be Wizardry Online, which had really tough quests within dungeons full of puzzles to solve as well as monsters to kill, GW2, You probably tried this already, and Dungeons and Dragons. None of these got it perfectly but the quests were a lot more interesting than, say, Perfect World or pretty much any other MMO.

Ba1atu 9 years ago
Thats why i want to play action based MMOS, like Vindictus. Cause i dont want to have a free hand. The only games I play that require only a hand are some mobile games and racing games. Its ok to level up in action oriented games. For example, in Vindictus, if you are good, you can solo a dungeon on hard alone, and have all that exp for yourself. I dint want to kill thousands of the same mob just to gain one level. I can prove to you i can kill 5-10 without being killed, then im qualified to level up.

Terranova667 9 years ago
Doing the actual quest never bothers me what does is MMo's that have you going back and forth between quest givers and the quest themselves, having to go kill said number of mobs then go all the way back only to go and do the same thing with another group is just not fun any more, let me hand in quests out in the world.

Zhao Yun 9 years ago
I agree with Miki and also yes i did read that in MM's voice lol and as far as the question to be frank i dont like the "No point" questing system but i do like dungeons where theres a bit of a challenge ya know?like killing the last boss of a dungeon would be nice although other games put bosses in the maps and be like "kill this in order to continue" that would be a nice thing cause usually u cant do bosses alone which goes to my other though which is how companies can get people cause if someone can solo a boss would be like telling 2-3 friends to come over to start playing the game and help im ofc theres the thing that the person would quit lol but ye i am getting of track here i personally dont like questing so much i find it onl an obstacle till u get to the good stuff but in the other hand i like the fact some games put dungeons from lvl 10 till max lvl and in order to finish a quest u need to complete that dungeon i find that nice but other than that nope

miki 9 years ago
(It also might explain a game like Scarlet Blade, where you can use your free hand for… other activities.)
best line ever!

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ZMemme 9 years ago
So your username is Magicman but "Magicman and I discussed"

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