When does leveling become grind? Part 2 of 2

by manylaughs on October 8, 2012

The faster you reach your grind point, the sooner an MMO becomes boring. Avoiding your grind point is the challenge of every MMO developer, because when you get bored, you stop playing.

The solution, of course, is to make the questing interesting. That sounds simple enough, but what sounds simple in theory isn’t so easy to implement in practice. Part of the problem is there are only 3 basic quests that make up 90% (Just pulling that number out of my buttski.) of all MMO questing: kill things, get things and to go another place. Almost every quest in an MMO can be boiled down to one of those 3 basic types of quests.

The challenge becomes making those quests interesting. A good MMO dresses them up nice and pretty, and gives you lots of different variants of these basic core quests. You might get escort missions and delivery missions, for instance, instead of simple travel quests. The more variants on these themes you get, the less likely you’ll get bored.

The World of Warcraft (WoW) solution has been to keep giving you more and more content. With WoW, there’s always a new expansion coming with new races to play and new realms to explore, so you have lots of different places to quest and different mobs to kill. WoW has been around so long, it would probably take a new player 5 or 6 months to grind out most of the content; and that player would have to be playing a 4-6 hours a day.

So one solution, the WoW solution, is to keep giving players more and more content. This model works well for WoW, but woe to almost every MMO that copies WoW. An MMO that copies the WoW formula is almost always doomed for one simple reason: they can never have as much content at launch as WoW does after 8 years.

WoW also spices things up with PvP, special events and achievements. If you ever wonder why some people never seem to get tired of WoW, one of the reasons is there’s just so much to do.

But questing doesn’t have to be about those 3 core quests. WoW has shown the way and other games are starting to have their own ideas of how to keep players from reaching their grind point. There can be puzzles (One of the reasons some people loved The Secret World, in spite of its shortcomings.), personalized stories, events, achievements and variations of player-versus-player (PvP).

One reasonGuild Wars 2will almost certainly be successful and retain many of its players is there’s just so much to do. If you get bored questing, you can explore. If you get bored exploring, you can craft. If you bored crafting, you can try your hand at world-versus-world. Then maybe you’ll work on your story some or do a dungeon. Bored with that? Well, there’s an event coming this month.

And that’s just it: Guild Wars 2 gets it. Variety is the spice of life and the key to keeping players in an MMO. The key to making a successful MMO is not just content, but variety. In fact, variety is probably more important than content. Give players enough variety and they might never hit their grind point.

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