What if you like grinds in MMOs?

So grinds in MMOs are out at the moment. Out is immersion and player engagement. It’s all about slick story based gameplay and/or lobby-based PvP/ PvE. It’s all about the casual F2P crowd who will drop a tenner on a cosmetic cloak because it’s shiny and it’s less than going out to tMcDonalds. (This incidentally is why Gevlon isn’t quite right about money as a measure for player engagement – some people demonstrably spend loads of cash on things they don’t care about.)

In many ways, playing LOTRO is the antithesis of all these things, which is why I find it so delightfully old school. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t find it very alt friendly, there are so many different things to do with your character that it tends to foster fewer, deeper alts rather than lots of shallow ones.

But their attitude to reputation grinds is very interesting. My new warden has just levelled high enough to have access to a zone/ dungeon called Goblintown. This is quite an interesting piece of design, it was brought in via a patch before Moria was released along with other rep dungeons, so it’s been in the game for several years now.

  • 1. The main purpose of Goblintown is to let players grind reputation (with Rivendell in this case). It’s full of goblins. They drop reputation items. If you like grinding, you can go there either alone or in groups and kill goblins for your rep items until you get bored. It isn’t the only way to get reputation with the Rivendell elves, but I think it is the only way to max it out (I could be wrong on that though.)
  • 2. It’s tied deeply into the lore. Goblintown is the goblin stronghold under the Misty Mountains where Bilbo met Gollum in The Hobbit. In fact, one of the introductory quests is from Bilbo himself, who sends the character off to scout out the secret entrance so that he can make sure he remembers the details correctly for his book. You can also explore and find the cave where Gollum used to live, it’s quite an interesting and well detailed dungeon.
  • 3. Rivendell rep is purely optional. Unless you desperately want the reputation-based mount, there’s no special need to grind this rep at all. It is definitely a grind, but no one is forcing anyone to go there.
  • 4. The reputation items are not bound. So people who like grinding can always sell them on the AH to people who want the rep and don’t like grinding.
  • 5. Because it can be done solo or in a group, it makes for quite a chilled out kinship activity if people just want to hang out together and kill stuff in a social way (a sentence you won’t really see anywhere outside gaming.)
  • 6. At this point in the game, it’s a mid level instance. So a high level character can just mow their way through very easily. If collecting reps is your thing, it can be a relaxing goal to work through for an endgame character.

I am sure I will get bored of Goblintown long, long before I have ground out Kindred rep (the highest level), but as a MMO player, I love that it’s there as an option. And I do want to explore and find Gollum’s cave sometime. (The player doesn’t actually get to meet him until Mirkwood though, I think.)

How do you feel about the idea of rep grinds, particularly as opposed to daily quests (which are a kind of grind I guess but seem more rigid in terms of how much you can/ should do per day.)

37 thoughts on “What if you like grinds in MMOs?

  1. I just got my first reputation to high enough to warrant an achievement in Rift and it came out just by exploring, doing a few rift/invasion based dailies and going through quests. In short, doing what you are supposed to do in a MMO. I know for sure, that I’m a bit more exploratory than most of the current players and thus the killing/grinding comes pretty much as a side reward for wanting to see the nooks and crannies of the world.

    However, I hate the rep grind just for the sake of the rep rewards. Especially when the grind only begins after you meet a certain NPC who ‘activates’ the counter. This is the point why I just cannot stomach the Firelands reputation dailies: it has no ‘substance’ to it except to do mindless dailies just for the sake of it.

    You can take the quests off my games, as long as you reward my exploration, exploitation and general misbehavior in similar amounts!

    C out

  2. I’d take this kind of grind over daily quests any time.

    If I don’t see another daily quest in my life, it won’t be too soon.

    • Couldn’t agree more.

      Dailies (and, in particular, dailies as the ONLY source of a particular thing) epitomise a lot of things that are bad in MMO design in this era.

  3. The grindy method is not so bad when you compare it to the contemporary alternative: The daily quest for reputation.

    Also a daily limiter. And if you don’t do it every day, it’s even more limiting…
    Being able to grind as much as you want and don’t forget you can also buy the rep items on the auction house isn’t bad, isn’t it?

    • Well yeah. And the rep dungeons aren’t hated by the player base. Arb will probably have more to say about this, but IIRC she has fond memories of hanging out in them with friends.

      Oh and the other thing is that it’s actually a really good levelling spot if you’re at that level (45-50) if you enjoy grinding. As I said, there’s plenty to explore also.

      • The reason why many players don’t go in too deep is that it is a huge underground city and you can get lost in it. Some people still have not found all of Bilbo’s buttons after years. 🙂

  4. The problem with “grind” is it’s a pejorative word. If you like killing orc after orc in the open fields of Azeroth that isn’t actually a grind, it’s just play. It only becomes a grind once you get bored and start trying to alleviate that grind by counting them off. 99 orcs till ding, 98 orcs till ding.

    I think there’s also an inverse correlation with social play. In the 98 orcs to go situation you can alleviate the tedium considerably by chatting with other people. In the omg I don’t dare put a foot wrong style you don’t want to not concentrate because you might screw up, and even if you won’t screw up you might distract someone else or might be seen as not taking it seriously.

    Like many elements of MMOs it’s neither good nor bad but a kind of slider where at one end good things and bad things happen (it makes you talk, it’s boring when there’s no one to talk to) and at the other end different good things and bad things happen (it’s engaging gameplay, everyone’s so damn serious).

    • Grind isn’t a design feature, it’s a state of mind. If you’re doing something that you don’t enjoy but solely with the reward in mind, it’s a grind. This means players are mostly likely to think something is a grind if it’s not particularly fun to start with, or goes on long after it stops being fun – and also if the reward for it is something they feel they MUST have, so they force themselves to continue.

      LotRO’s reputation system mostly escapes feeling like a grind because few of the rep rewards are must haves, so all but the most OCD players can leave off farming rep if they’re getting bored without feeling that they’re gimping themselves by doing so.

  5. I’ve done grind with Sarnur, though getting kindred with the dwarves actually gives a ‘useful’ reward, it’s possible to get a fast goat mount before entering Moria rather than well after you’ve left if depending on the iron garrison miners. Then again it’s lack of fast travel that makes the reward worthwhile, if there were more routes and not deed locked, then a goat wouldn’t be as valuable and then I’d happily not bother with that grind.

    On the other hand exploring Goblintown is more interesting, I’ve tried it at various times, and not found all the areas and not gollum’s cave yet, which is one of the reasons I keep returning, thinking one day I’ll get far enough and find that cave. The goal makes a difference, and I don’t really care about rivendell rep because they don’t have a instant travel reward, which may or may not change my mind. On a sidenote, more games should adopt the guild wars mode of travel.

  6. Interestingly enough, my runekeeper just hit Goblintown as well last night. I haven’t explored much more than the way from the front entrance to the hidden one and back though. (Being lvl 46 makes killing lvl 49 Goblins a bit of a pain. Inventors of resist mechanics be damned.)

    I love me a mindless “grind” from time to time to keep my hands busy while watching a show or some e-sports. It also goes quite well with listening to audio books. I can absolutely agree to what was said about daily quests above: Give me a stupid mob grind of my choice at my terms any time. Logging in for daily quests is one of the things I really really regret in my MMO “career”.

  7. Rift rep seems odd. It almost seems insurmountable because most of the rep areas appear aimed at the level range the zone is designed for however you’ll easily level past the range if you simply do the quests in the zone. I don’t see a lot of motivation to go back and get the highest rep rank because the rewards are lower level. So on one hand, you’re rewarded if you get the rep for that area if do, but you’ll likely be beyond the level where you would value that reward.

    I’m talking zone specific reputations – there are some that are a little more sweeping.

    WoW rep is fairly easy since Wrath and the introduction of the rep tabard. The exception being (some old world and TBC areas) Firelands. Progression with rep slows greatly after Honored due to a limited number of mobs actually rewarding it.

  8. I hate daily quests because of the limiting factor. It correlates to Facebook games where you feel *compelled* to log in to get that “daily bonus” or whatever. I don’t want to have to log in every day and allocate a set amount of time to specific tasks in order to maximize my points or reputation. Let the power-gamers do what power-gamers are going to do (burn through all the rep at once), and let the rest of us have the option. If I miss a day or two, it’d be nice to spend extra time “grinding rep” if I want.

  9. Lotro has so many different rep systems, there isn’t a MMO on the market that could compare to them. If you like grinding then that’s the game for you because you’ll never run out of things to grind for. For me it was one of the main reasons I quit Lotro.

  10. I would say if you like it, it isn’t really a grind. As Stabs said above, grind is almost always used as a negative. Grind is in the eye of the beholder. I have had more fun at times in a good group just pulling and killing mobs just for experience than I have had doing some story focused, non-slaying quests.

    Goblintown is actually a really nice zone. In my quest for Moria I ended up spending very little time there with my main. But our regular group is headed that way eventually, so I hope we will be able to explore it thoroughly soon.

  11. I’ll take an unmeasured rep grind over daily quests a thousand to one.

    Not to say I’ve hated every daily quest in the world. I thought in TBC in WoW they were pretty cool, and Rift has a decent way of handling them. (Let me say, I’m actually pretty cool with stuff like, say, Crafting dailies in games.)

    But Dailies as they are now in WoW vs. a good old rep grind? Dear god give me the rep grind. It’s so much *less* stressful. Even if it takes longer, I know I can do it however much or little I want during the week. I don’t know why WoW insists on holding everyone’s hand with how much they should grind, but it’s getting really annoying, IMO.

    LotRO’s sounds pretty awesome I must say.

  12. Daily quests and the reputation things were one of the reasons I left WoW. If you missed out on a day you then fell behind in your acquisition of shinies and after a while I was just not having fun with it, so, I left.

  13. The player actually first encounters Gollum in the Trollshaws (the “new” zone down by Tal Bruinen). Can’t recall if he shows up in a standalone quest or as part of the epic book, but I suspect the latter

    • It’s a stand alone quest as I recall – there’s a quest chain based around the fisherman’s cottage down by the river that results in you trying to catch the sneaking shadow. It’s one of those lore moments that LotRO excels at – we had some pretty excited people in my kin when Tal Bruinen was added and we actually got to see Gollum.

  14. I like grinds much more than dailies. A grind can be sufficiently mindless and repetitive to be relaxing and very chill. In contrast, dailies are day-to-day repetitive, but still do a lot of ordering around and require ever so slightly too much thought.

    This post may have been the most convincing to get me to give lotro another look.

  15. In my opinion, dailies are the new grind so I wouldn’t say grind was out. This might be caused by the fact that after those years I’m a bit harder to please. With grind people felt compelled staying a bit more in order to get at least a bit more of the experience, reputation or whatever, with dailies the compulsion is for doing the daily every day.

    I think being optional makes both grinding and dailies much more acceptable – gating content, on the other hand, has quite an opposite effect.

    • “I think being optional makes both grinding and dailies much more acceptable”

      Aye, that’s the crux of the matter for me. Gating grinds are on my personal “Bad Designer, No Twinkie” List, but if there’s plenty to just go and *do* that rewards my natural Exploration bent, as Copra noted above, I may well just sort of “zone out” into a “flow” state and wander around in what might be called a grind. If the activity itself is fun, and totally optional, I think it’s healthy as a part of the game.

      • I think the being optional is a really key point for me too, but I also think this is partly a state of mind. If you have convinced yourself that you’re letting yourself and your friends down by not grinding X hours for that 0.00001% improvement in performance, then you’re going to be stuck in a state where you genuinely think that everything is mandatory. I don’t think that’s healthy and I find the choice of which optional content to do is one of those meaningful choices in games that people make so much fuss about. I don’t want to minmax performance, I want to minmax my fun (which will include a balance of what I want to do and what I need to get to do it.)

        I also think a bit of gating can be quite fun; it’s only when players feel forced to do something they really don’t want to do that it is a pain. For example, in LOTRO I noticed that I could get a fast travel to Forochel once I got a certain rep with the faction there. But it was doable through quests and drops, and I could see that it would be doable just from hanging out there. So I decided that it would be worth the effort and went ahead and did it. I think that’s a neat example of a meaningful decision and a reasonable piece of gating. But obv others may vary 🙂

      • Spinks, I agree that few people would see 0.00001% or even 0.001% improvement as mandatory. But what about 1%? 10%? 100%? I agree that neither of them is mandatory “de iure” but it eventually stops being excessive min-maxing.

      • You’re right and there does come a point where the player decides ‘is this amount of work worthwhile for the bonus I would get’. But some groups of players push very very hard for even a marginal improvement and I think it skews what the devs see.

        There are definitely people in WoW for example who would grind 100 hours for a 1% bonus.

      • I think I understand what you mean but it is not what I meant. Similar to the proverb “everyone can be bribed, it’s just a matter of offering the right reward”, I believe that most of the people can be convinced to grind, it’s just a matter of offering the right reward.

        There indeed are people who would grind for a small reward but that was not my point. Just because WoW doesn’t have any grind that would offer a big reward, it doesn’t mean other games don’t or didn’t.

  16. I think that a good reason for get kindred faction with the Elves of Rivendell is to have access to the teleport to Rivendell skill.

  17. I enjoy mindless grinds, but more-so if I can grind multiple things at a time. Lotro is perfect for that sort of thing. One can occasionally be killing mobs in a single area that are providing experience, rep items, crafting recipes, crafting mats, and progress towards a virtue achievement — all simultaneously.

    Lotro does have a daily-grind when it comes to working towards crafting guild reputation. I don’t mind it as much as daily grinds in wow because it only takes about 21 days (I believe) to grind guild reputation up to kindred. Still, I’d greatly prefer a system where it took 21 hours of in-game time with no restrictions on when I chose to do that 21 hours of grind.

  18. I agree with Wilhelm and others above. If you like it, it’s not a grind. And since I am extremely good at stopping as soon as I notice I am beginning not to enjoy something, both in MMOs and in real life, I very rarely find myself grinding.

    In LotRO I found the rep system (pre-goblintown, which I have never seen) pretty tedious, so I barely touched it. In Everquest, though, I often killed things for hour upon hour to gain faction and had a pretty entertaining time of it. In Rift I dip in and out. As mentioned above, it’s hardly required there.

    As for daily quests, I utterly loathe them. Except when I don’t. Posted about it recently on my own blog, as it happens.

  19. I think Daily quests were actually an attempt to reduce the time spent grinding.

    Let’s say you have a 10 hour grind. Switching it to a daily quest that took 10 minutes, but you had to complete 30 times is a net time savings.

    Pure Grind = 10 hours
    Daily Quest = 10 min/day x 30 days = 300 min = 5 hours

    But the difference is that where some people would cap the first grind out in 2 days of play, the daily quest route spread it out to 30 days. It brought the extreme edge of the playerbase back down closer to the medium.

    I think overall, that effect is better for the game as a whole. Otherwise time sinks become insanely large as they target the hardcore, and stay out of reach of less-hardcore players.

    • I think you’re right, and people were pretty positive about daily quests when they first came in (my first experience was in TBC). But I think also from reactions here that players may not want the all daily quests all of the time model either.

      There is a big question mark about whether it’s wise or sensible for an MMO to target content automatically at the most hardcore, like grinds. If the hardcore are unable to manage their work/ life balance and feel the need to grind for two days solid just because they can, is that really either the devs fault or the more responsible players fault? I don’t mind dailies as much as some and I quite liked the molten front one, but maybe it would have been nice to have had the option of gathering a guild group and AEing mobs down for a couple of hours as an alternative. Who cares if the hardcore blast through the rep grind quickly, they were always going to get ahead of the rest?

      But tbh I felt the same about the changes to raid lockouts in Cataclysm. Who cares if the hardcore felt the need to burn themselves out by running 4 raids a week on each alt just because they could? Maybe that’s what they need to teach them to look after themselves better, and the major win was that less hardcore players had a lot more choice about how to play. This way, no one wins.

    • I remember daily quests coming in and I’m pretty sure they were billed at the time as an alternative way to make gold. Which as people mainly made gold by repetitively killing high value farmable mobs solo was, as you say Rohan, a way of reducing grind.

  20. Pingback: Random Musings: The UI, Guild Updates, Grinding & /wave « Jaded Alt

  21. I don’t mind grinds like this, as long as they’re not too easy to get burned out on or take too long. I would much rather deal with grinds where you know you’ll eventually get rewarded even if it seems like it’ll take forever…as opposed to RNG rewards. I hate really rare drop things. Anything less than a 5-10% drop rate for anything should just be tacked onto a really long grind to obtain.

    Grinds are easier to swallow if they’re optional, and you don’t feel you have to rush to get it done to make your character more powerful. That’s why I prefer reps to have things like mounts or companions or other vanity items, instead of endgame gear. Granted it’s a good way to get endgame gear without having to raid, but if you want to jump into raiding it’s annoying to have to grind out those reps for gear enhancements. Blizzard has hit AND missed on reputation grinds.

    They’ve done well in the area of reducing the “grindy” feeling of the grinds. Winterspring and Timbermaw used to be really annoying, but are so much more manageable now. Adding tabards that give you rep while you run dungeons was a brilliant idea, and is something they should have added for every faction in the game, even the old ones. Having multiple ways of gaining rep I think is key. Mob kills, item turn-ins, daily quests…having several ways to increase your standing keeps the process from getting boring too quickly.

    Blizzard has done terrible with reps in other aspects, however. One thing that comes to mind is the new Therazane rep. This rep is required to get the only shoulder enchants in the game for all classes and specs (unless you’re a scribe). And while each of the other Cataclysm reputations have a helm enchant, they are also Account-Bound. So if you have one main character that got all your reps maxed out, you can buy the enchant on that toon and mail it to your alts. There is no such luck with the shoulder enchants. You have to drag each one of your alts through almost all of the quests in Deepholm to access them. This is a huge mistake on Blizzard’s part. Quite frankly, I think anything that can be purchased from a reputation quartermaster should be Account-Bound. Having to do those grinds on one character is enough, but if you want your alts to benefit at all, it becomes even more of a grind.

    Another of Blizzard’s failure with reputation grinds is the ones they put in the game that have only one way to gain rep (such as Ravenholdt) or have no rewards attached to them (several worthless reps that only offer a title, “The Insane”…they should have at least added some mounts to these reps).

  22. I dislike daily quests because I don’t have time to play EVERY day, but when I do play it could be for anything from three to eight hours as that’s my “free time”. Where I would have previously spent time killing mobs and getting rep while chatting to people, I went to doing all the daily quests and chatting, and then standing around in town with nothing really to do.

    At least, that’s what I recollect when I look back towards the end of WoTLK and the start of Cataclysm which is when I stopped playing. I started an alt because even getting to the next “ding” by grinding mobs felt more rewarding than not doing anything substantial as a casual player.

    To be honest, looking back it doesn’t really feel like there was much to do other than daily quests once you’d capped all the other relevant things (like dungeon reputation or whatever) and you didn’t have regular playtime to commit to raids. I’m sure there were, but I can’t remember them.

  23. I like rep grinds. The thing about them is that there is a measure of where you are in your progress. There is a designated end. And in some cases there are little bonuses you get for reaching that end.

    Also, being reputation grinds are often things you can do solo it makes for the perfect type of game play for solo players or players that are waiting for their group time to come.

    Rep grinding also seems to be an “at your own pace” sort of thing. I can go and grind 10K rep in one day whereas someone else does 500 or 600 each time they are on and slowly peck away at it. There is no advantage to be doing it quicker and no drawback to them doing it slower and even for those that never do it at all there is nothing they would miss. Grinds like that fit all styles of play.

  24. I don’t know whether it has changed, but at least back when I played, Goblin Town, with the exception of the Throne Room, was not an instance – it was part of the world. And it’s an absolutely awesome place, an example of something that does not exist in modern MMOs and something I miss direly: a zone where atmosphere (great) and size (huge) exceed function (almost none) by a large factor.

    Interestingly, before Moria, and before Forochel, and before The Angmar Revamp, when you’d run out of quests in the Misty Mountains around level 48, your best option to get to the cap would be to grab some friends and travel to Goblin Town to slaughter goblins. I have a screenshot somewhere of my character in GT with “8 XP to level 50”. I loved every minute of it, the frantic killing on – and often enough beyond – the verge of getting lost.

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