Before you downvote me and leave a thoughtless one-liner you think sounds really cool in the comments (… believe me, it really doesn't), I merely ask you to hear me out. Thank you.
Now. First of all: Note how I didn't say "obsession with grind". I said "obsession with mindlessness".
I am fully aware of how and why grind is necessary; MMOs are built on long-term play, and since developers can't churn out insane amounts of new content all the time to stay ahead of the curve, grind is needed.
That's not my problem here though – the part I don't understand is the genre's collective obsession with making the grind so mindless.
Procedural generation could be used for unpredictability. Harder, and thus more involving and engaging, difficulties could yield greater rewards for those who are very good at the given grind activity. Having all grind activities go towards a singular common goal (as to not make players be forced into a single one due to what they want to achieve at the time), while being different in the actual activity being performed, would do wonders for variety.
But we just don't see any of that for the most part, and I don't understand why.
Final Fantasy XIV is a good example for this. It has a pretty big variety of activities you can perform, yes – Chocobo racing, that game mode I forgot the name of, Triple Triad, raiding, dungeons, Eureka, deep dungeons, crafting, gathering… there's something here for everyone, from mindless to engaging, from combat to minigame – you're bound to find an activity that suits your current desire.
… but it doesn't do anything with that.
Unpredictability? Well, nothing. It doesn't even try. Unless you count the deep dungeons, which – yeah, no. Let's not get into that, this is not how you make use of procedural generation (if you can even call it that).
Engaging, involving content? Well, you can only do the relevant endgame raids that often due to lockout, and if you want to actually progress, then Triple Triad, that game mode I forgot the name of and Chocobo racing are entirely out of the question (they only feed into vanity rewards detached from progression).
And that leads us to the last one, variety – with the above in mind, all you're left with is to spam the highest-level available dungeon or deep dungeons for leveling, or otherwise spend your time grinding away at the absolute most basic elements of the game (mindless combat grinding in Eureka, or mindlessly following the same crafting and gathering routines ad nauseam).
And that's the part I don't understand.
The above is just ONE example of a myriad MMOs out there that would've served as an example just as well, or even far, far better. Even those such as Final Fantasy XIV, which have all the ingredients, fragment and splinter their progression design to ridiculous degrees and put an insane focus on making their players grind away at only the most mindless and basic elements of their game design, while practically intentionally making their least mindless activities be as irrelevant as possible.
I thought about this so much over the years, but have come no closer to understanding why. And, if anything, I feel this is the one unified problem with the MMO genre, the one that needs to finally be overcome – an obsession with mindlessness.
Just felt like sharing my thoughts in the form of this lil'… well, "rant", if you will. Ahdunno! Make of it what you will. xP
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