By Louise Yang . May 10, 2009 . 7:00am
To grind or not to grind? Is there a time and place for level grinding? Or do you think it’s an artificial way of adding length to a game and it should be abolished altogether?
Ishaan: Oddly enough, I was just thinking of pulling out the old Diablo II battlechest when I saw this! Grinding is designed around the most basic concept of game design: reward and punishment. It’s great in a game like Diablo II where the grinding rewards you with all sorts of cool items and is your gateway to creating your own unique character and showing him/her off online. Tens of hours grinding in D2? No problem. I know I’ll have something to show for it.
Grinding 90 hours into Persona 3? Not so much fun. I generally tend to hate grinding in story-focused JRPGs because it feels like it gets in the way of plot advancement. Luckily, the battles in Persona 3 were entertaining because of the personae and the battle commentary but most turn-based RPGs don’t have that advantage and feel unnecessarily drawn out. Here’s an idea though: if Diablo II can make grinding fun by providing you with a sense of constant discovery, surely this sensation could be recreated for plot advancement or character development? How about an RPG where every major battle develops your character’s personality in some way?
Jenni: For me, it depends on the game. While Ishaan doesn’t like grinding in story-focused games, I find that’s where I enjoy it most. I try to play and get involved in free-to-play MMORPGs like Mabinogi, where the focus is on grinding and developing a strong character, but lose interest and get bored.
As for RPG grinding, I don’t mind level grinding in an RPG when it’s optional. I kind of enjoy mindless battling to get a jump start on upcoming enemies. This will probably sound crazy, but the monotonous and repetitive battles are almost soothing.
I do mind level grinding when the developers clearly designed the game in such a way where you have to grind if you want to progress through the game. It annoys me to no end, and I’ll usually end up abandoning the game halfway through or, if it’s a PS2 or DS game, searching for Action Replay or Codebreaker codes.
Louise: I fall more in line with Ishaan when it comes to grinding. If there’s some rare and super helpful loot to be had, I’ll happily grind for it. If I need a specific spell that comes with leveling up, I’ll grind for it. As long as there’s a tangible in-game goal or reward coming up soon, I don’t mind.
But if it’s to just gain levels so I can have enough HP to survive the boss? No thanks. That’s boring and implies that I got to the boss too quickly, so I have to walk around and get into random battles just so I can level up more. I don’t mind so much if leveling up means I can allocate specific points to individual stats, since that usually lets me control my character build better, but if it’s just to gain an extra level or two each time I face a hard enemy, I usually get bored of the game.
Spencer: I like the idea of optional rewards for grinding like a shiny new sword or maybe Xbox Achievement points. That strikes a good level of balance for players who want to grind and those that want to coast through a story. While it’s not an RPG, Muramasa: The Demon Blade sort of has this kind of setup where you can breeze through the game or play a mode where you have to level up.
Persona 3 has a creative approach to grinding. Instead of fighting slimes you develop character traits like courage and explore the storyline to obtain stronger avatars and spells. Other games can do something like this too! Lost Odyssey has players searching for memories and reading Kaim’s stories. Tracking shards of Kaim’s past could unlock spells or abilities opposed to the Final Fantasy IX like learn-an-ability-from-your-equipment-system.