Grinding vs. Quests

Aka the Old ways vs. The new era of mmorpg PvE leveling. My first real experience with a true questing model was World of Warcraft. Before WoW, quests were either inferior experience, inferior loot, a waste of time, or nonexistent. Since WoW’s success with questing many larger mmorpgs have adopted the system: Vanguard, LotRO, and PotBS for example. In each of these games the main focus of leveling has been centered squarely on questing. The system seems to focus on these key points:

  • Volume – If you’re going to offer quests you need to offer enough quests. Failure to do so will leave you open to scrutiny.
  • Simplicity – How easy or rather how involved are the quests? Quests can’t be too difficult, too wordy, or too time consuming.
  • Reward – Experience points, items, and the gameplay all must play their part. Players need to feel a drive for something.

I like quests. I like the purpose and direction that they give me. Then at the same time I like the freedom and adventure that grinding brings me. Grinding has become to polar opposite of questing. Grinding has been labeled as a more “traditional” approach and to many it’s outdated. For grinding to be done right or at least the opportunity to grind, there needs to exist the following:

  • Public Dungeons – I think these are crucial. Scatter dungeons all over and provide rare spawns and lots of monsters.
  • Outdoor mob volume – In order for grinding to work there has to be camps or large ranges where mobs spawn.
  • Legtimate exp gain – Sitting in one place for 6 hours killing the same mob over and over shouldn’t barely move your bar.

My ideal game has both systems. Questing would be very similar to the standard except the volume would be turned down. Having too many quests detracts from the freedom and adventure that make a world feel lived in. Too many quests can also be an excuse for lazy development. It’s far easier to create big quest hubs and then slack on the rest of the world because you know exactly where you’ll be funneling everyone (ala LotRO). Grinding would yield equal experience and loot. A happy medium can exist. Allowing players to roam through a forest and come upon a gorge filled with wolfmen should be a welcome site to players. Players should be able to find a nice spot and pull mobs to them all day and have that be productive if that is how they want to spend their time leveling. If players want to run quests they should be more involved than “Go here, kill this single mob and come back”. Quests should reward the player and also keep them immersed in the game.

I haven’t found a game that provides me with a choice of both. I’m not too sure why.

  • I’m not sure it’s valid to oppose grind vs. quests.

    The overall goal of RPGs is character development. Quests is just a game mechanical structuring of the leveling game. Whereas ‘grind’ is how the player experience this leveling game.

    I haven’t played any other MMORPGs than WoW, and even if it’s a huge step forward compared to older quest-scarce MMORPGs, after some time questing in WoW feels like grind.

    The thing is, leveling (in current MMORPGs) is simply not challenging enough. It lacks stimulating dynamics… and simple good old fun.

    I think the correct polar opposite of grind – is challenge.

  • Grind has multiple definitions. I’m using the term how I originally learned it back in the old EQ days. Newer MMOs, like WoW, that really offer no true “grind” concept have morphed the meaning into the definition you describe – and for all intents and purposes both definitions are valid.

    It’s not so much an action but rather a concept of structuring the leveling game – as is questing.

    You mentioned that leveling is not challenging enough and that it lacks stimulating dynamics. To me, the concept of going with a group and adventuring to some distant corner of the map away from anyone else and finding a dungeon or a ravine full of monsters and killing them is a lot more dynamic. In a game focused on allowing exploration and grinding the environment is developed to include surprises and strategy. Public dungeons are designed to be cruel mistress. You can get a lot of experience, loot, and fun in them but if you overextend yourself or make one wrong move you could be faced with imminent doom.

    Does that clarify it? I would agree that grinding by your definition is not justifiably comparable to questing. However, grinding by the definition I’ve known is the only other comparable leveling method I’ve seen.

  • hmm… ok, I understand the concept of what you’re describing, but I feel the term ‘grinding’ is not really precise enough. What you’re describing, I’d call: a leveling game lacking ingame direction (a semi-sandbox).

    Definition from Wikipedia:
    “Grinding is a pejorative term used in computer gaming to describe the process of engaging in repetitive and/or non-entertaining gameplay (more often than not, battles in RPGs) in order to gain access to other features within the game.”

    I DO like your idea of an ideal game with both systems – questing (directed leveling) & free exploring/adventuring (undirected leveling).

    But for these systems not to degrade into grind (repetitive gameplay), the ‘goal’ of MMORPGs HAS to focus more on the pure EXPERIENCE of acting in a virtual world – and less on getting to level cap (where often the true fun/challenge begins) as effective as possible.

    To me, in the current state of MMORPGs; the leveling game itself is a grind 🙂

  • I think you can grind in WoW. I got a Rogue all the way to 60 by grinding. When WoW first came out there wasn’t the optimal quest chain paths that there are now, and grinding was much faster.

  • WoW wasn’t designed for grinding though which is why many people who played WoW as their first MMO refer to grinding like Wikipedia – boring and repetitive.

    I’m referring more to a style of leveling that involves killing monsters but not as repetitively as WoW required. I really struggle to explain it because it’s so different. If you played EQ or oldschool DAOC you’ll know what I mean.

  • IMO, WoW set their game up so that you could progress primarily through quests, however, grinding was extremely accessible in the game as well.

    The most efficient way is to do a mix of both. Pick up quests and kill every single green mob in your path to and from your quest locations. If you had built up rest XP, it was even better.

    I grinded for hours and hours during my leveling from 1-60 because it also helped build faction. It wasn’t fun at all, but it helped me progress.

  • FFXI, now that was a grind. WoW uses quest chains to deliver a story (be it short or long) to a player to keep things interesting. It gives the player more options – grind mobs or do quests that have you grind mobs. FFXI had a few quest lines that were much richer than the WoW quests. Unfortunately, there were only a few of them so once you were done the only thing left was the slow, painful, bone breaking, eye straining, gut wrenching, thumb callusing grind, grind, grind. And even worse, you couldn’t grind by yourself, you had to do it in a party or a single, even leveled mob would kill you. EEEK. I loved playing FFXI but couldn’t stand the grind part of it. I eventually had to cancel my FFXI account after many years because WoW provided a better gaming experience. Because of FFXI I prefer the questing aspect of an MMO as a way to level and have fun.

    I have to agree with you that a MMO with both quest and grind elements (balanced) would be great as long as the quests were rich and plentiful and the grind was fun. Honestly, I would still be playing FFXI if the leveling/grinding hadn’t been so bad. I’m hoping WAR provides the happy balance. We shall see, right now I’m addicted to WoW and its fun delivery system.

  • Try Eve. Level 4 agent missions can be challenging enough to get you blown up (keep in mind that being killed actually hurts in Eve), but are so rewarding that the risk is worth it. That sounds like it meets your questing desires.

    Randomly spawning NPC in the asteroid belts in 0.0 space are equally rewarding but they come in groups of 2-6 in stead of waves of 20-40 at a time, so you can sit and farm them all day long to grind for money.

    Just depends whether you want to sit and play long enough to complete an agent mission that may take as long as 3 hours to do solo (for a slightly better end reward), or if you prefer to kill random spawns for a little while and then log off.