Tuesday, 16 September 2014

MMO Design: Grinding vs Idleness

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

When designing repetitive, daily content for casual players, how much time do you assume that casual players actually have to play?

That's one of the questions I would like to ask many MMO developers. For Cryptic's Neverwinter Online, I have to assume they went with one hour based on their latest content. If you count all the traveling, waiting for the daily targeted dragon and soloing the daily instance solo it comes out to around that much. If you group up you can cut that down a fair bit though. All except the traveling, and the waiting for the dragon.

I asked on chat what people actually do while idly standing around waiting for the timer to tick down. The responses were: read a book, watch anime, check the auction house tab, use the profession tab, play a different game in another window, and the most frequent answer: watch porn. Fair enough. For me though I find it to be bad design if you -want- to play a particular part of the game but can't because of some stupid thing like a 20 minute timer in your way. Even worse if the design actively makes people do stuff OUT of game.

I would change it so that instead of the timer, people simply had to kill the mobs in the area (to the tune of hundreds, like the old Ultima Online Champion Spawn altars) until a particular quota was met then out comes the dragon. The reward would then be based on not just how much damage you dealt / healed (allies) while the dragon was out but throughout the whole process, thus the guy who killed the hundreds of mobs but didn't get to land a hit on the dragon still gets a pretty good reward. This system will probably spit dragons out faster than the timer, but it will be "grindy".

Which do you think is better? Having players actively "grind" to get a boss to spawn or simply having a timer and a lot of down time?


  1. Personally I prefer a timer. This way I can check if the special mob is up. If not I can decide to either go do something in the game or go AFK while waiting it to spawn.

    I had my share of grinding for the special mob to spawn in Everquest 2 and it always drove me mad that even after killing hundreds of placeholders there would still be no sign of the mob I had to kill for the quest I was trying to do. Fortunately they got rid of most of those placeholders or allowed the placeholder to update the quest too. But I think some of the old quests still has that problem.

  2. I like the concept of having to grind waiting for a boss to spawn, but in practice, I imagine seeing a LOT of people just waiting for the small handful of people to kill the mobs, and then jump in to kill the boss. Gamers are opportunists like that. Why go through the work themselves, when there will be some patsy willing to do it for you? The most efficient path is then not doing it and waiting.

    ... unless they grind and the boss were two separate events that gave equal rewards for completion. But even then, the boss would most likely take a shorter amount of time, and thus it would still be more efficient to just do the boss and then something else during the grind.

    Hate to say, even though the timer isn't immersive and doesn't make you want to stay in game, it is a lot more fair to all participants.

    1. Good point with the player behavior Ocho. Totally overlooked that. You are right that the grind and boss would need at least equal rewards but I would go one further and actually combine the performance of both sets so while a pure grinder and pure boss hunter gets "good level" reward the guys that grind AND combat the boss get "awesome level" reward. :P