IF and grinding

This comes from the “Getting Stinking Rich by Designing IF” thread, which turned partly into a discussion of getting people to pay for free games in order to skip grinding.

I disagree that this is a general requirement of good game design. A game that was nothing but challenge after challenge could well be overwhelming and exhausting. Stretches of non-challenging or not-so-challenging bits can be a good pacing device. To quote some esteemed music critics:

And this means that some grinding can be a good pacing device.

BUT: The sort of grinding that you would pay to skip is by definition not good pacing. And counting on players to be so annoyed with the grinding that they pay to skip it is abusive.

I’m pretty sure that was me, and I certainly don’t advocate it. I was responding to zarf, who was saying that grinding was incompatible with IF, by pointing out that it was possible.

As I said, I think Fallen London has probably moved somewhat away from the pay-to-skip-grinding model; at least the doubling of actions suggests to me that they’ve moved away from the pay-to-keep-playing model. And I think that a design that only lets you play a bit at a time and then forces you to quit for a while is probably less abusive than a design that encourages you to click mindlessly for hours at a time. Also, it doesn’t have the “avoidance” model that the most abusive video games do to hook you, where you have to go back periodically or things go to hell; I’ve abandoned it for months at a time with no ill in-game consequences.

On the other hand the grinding is definitely too much, over the line of good pacing. And I think it does partake of some evil game design practices. Since overall I like it more than not, I’m not sure if I think of some of the practices as necessary evils – if it didn’t make money it wouldn’t exist. And I think it would be less evil if not for the lag which means the more grindier bits take more time than they have to.

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I would simply say that, if you need grinding to pace it out, your game should be shorter. (There are better ways to alternate intense and less intense play than inserting crappy bits.) In general, I feel that games would be better to be shorter and more challenging. I feel like I’m wasting my time if I don’t fail a lot, and if that failure isn’t due to a skill that I can perceive I need to improve. I guess I don’t fall into the group of players who say things like “That was a nice time-waster,” so possibly we’re just talking incompatible tastes here.

Fallen London may now be less grindy for the non-paying player, but (as you point out) it’s still all about grinding, and I still find it utterly awful. It might make money–different strokes for different folks–but this is an interactive story whose core mechanic is wasting the player’s time (clicks).

I can’t see any way to say that a game where grinding is a key mechanic is “well-designed” unless the goal of the design is shifted away from the goals that I think are valuable to things like “making money” or “making the hours pass”.

I place a little bit more money on passing time – at least if the game is something soundless that I can do while listening to my music. Those can basically serve the function that solitaire used to serve for me before I had the internet.

There are some grindy games that I’ve found fulfilling and that you might too; I’ve certainly found myself occasionally grinding in nethack. (Where the grinding might be a bit more involved – either grinding for a level boost or for some sort of item that I need before I go to the next branch.) That’s easier to defend because the nature of the game means that there isn’t any part where the designers said “now the player’s going to have to grind”; it’s perhaps more that some time goes without the RNG throwing up something particularly challenging. Though on the other hand one of the things I like about Brogue is that it forces you to progress through levels without hanging around.

I wonder whether the gameplay in Osmos counts as grindy; in many levels you spend a lot of time trying to pick off little spheres (and waiting to get into position to do so) until you’re in a position to take on the bigger ones.

I do feel as though games should be shorter but not necessarily more challenging; I’m not always in the mood for lots of failure. But then the ones that aren’t that challenging hopefully don’t get there through grind (NightSky, one of my favorites, has a lot of unchallenging screens – many of which you literally just have to hold down the right arrow – and is I think a masterpiece of pacing, but it’s not at all grindy.)

I can see mindless games being a useful way to effectively do something else better. I prefer to cook when I’m listening to music, though.

I bought Osmos but really couldn’t stand it. I didn’t get far in Night Sky either, actually for the same reason you liked it: often the player just has to show up to succeed. I’m not sure whether I’d say either actually qualifies as grinding though…

You’re right, though–I do enjoy Nethack and Brogue (the latter more than the former). But both of those actually have a key anti-grind mechanism: hunger. And their designers also understand that elements of the games are too time-wastey, hence the auto-explore buttons they both feature. Still, I do think both games could be better than they are: 868-Hack and Hoplite, not to mentioned Kerkerkruip, are recent games that show how much better the experience can be when boiled down.

The other thing I appreciate about Fallen London in this respect is it can be a good “switch over to play for five minutes while taking a writing break” game. If I haven’t already taken a writing break recently. (You might think that this would encourage me to take shorter breaks or less often, but that’s not how it works at all, alas.)

I seem to be confused about 868-HACK which I had thought was already out for computers… ah, I see, it’s 86856527. Somehow I never downloaded that. Anyhow supposing the experience is like that of Zaga-33 (actually I can almost never play Zaga-33 because as far as I can tell I can’t turn the sound off. You know what would be absolutely great? If the OS allowed you to control the volume on individual applications. Maybe it already does, I don’t know), I appreciate it but it doesn’t feel the same as getting stuck into a full-length roguelike to me. That feeling of awe I got the first time I opened up a new kind of map… Anyway, I think the hunger/food ratio is amazingly well balanced in Brogue to discourage grinding without forcing you to dive for victory, but in Nethack food is so easy to come by that I found it didn’t constrain me at all once I had got a clue.

NightSky definitely doesn’t qualify as grinding as I understand it (you aren’t increasing some stat by getting through the easy parts, you’re just getting through the easy parts), but I can see how it wouldn’t appeal.

868-HACK really isn’t anything like Zaga (which I don’t really care much for); 868 has more, and more interesting, kinds of decisions. But the maps are even smaller, so if the huge maps and illusion of exploration are what you like about roguelikes, it won’t appeal that much.

I don’t really play Nethack since discovering POWDER and Brogue, but I recall dying often to hunger, and never hanging around to look for weak monsters to kill. Different playstyles, I guess!

Did you eat corpses?

:laughing: Slight tangent – that reminds me of Final Fantasy Legends II for gameboy. That was a good grindy game. It had a ‘monster’ class that would change form depending on which monsters you defeated and ‘ate’.

Actually – I would say that most JRPGs are a grind to get through, and its the core of most of their gameplay. Maybe even western RPGs would fall into this category, but usually, not as much, because they offer more exploration, and don’t trap you in a certain location for hours at a time while you ‘level up’.

I agree, Western RPG’s tend to be less grindy than JRPG’s. Classic series like Ultima and Might and Magic had almost no grinding. The overrated Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, etc. had more grinding though, but less than most JRPG’s anyway.

But the epitome of grindfests are not so much JRPG’s as their darker cousins, KRPG’s. For example, have you tried any of the Inotia or Zenonia games for Android? Don’t. It’s all fetch quest after fetch quest. “I need you to bring me 20 raccoon hides”. “Now I need 20 red mushrooms dropped by forest goblins”.

It’s a pity because some of them have a really good story, and would be very good games to finish in 10 hours or so, but they extend them to 100 hours with these endless and monotonous fetch quests and they ruin the fun IMHO. I guess it’s a cultural thing.

Baldur’s Gate overrated? It’s the best RPG ever. How can it considered overrated?

Your comment is a good example of why it’s overrated :slight_smile:

It’s a rather repetitive game. It has, as I mentioned, its share of grinding. The strategic depth of combat is almost zero, it mainly boils down to mindless clicking. The storyline is nothing special.

Not saying it’s a bad game at all, but I’d much rather have the ethical nuances of Ultima IV, the polished diversity of Chrono Trigger, the living world full of backstories of Ultima VII, the sheer vastness of Daggerfall (or newer Elder Scrolls if you’re not into bugginess), the puzzles of Hero’s Quest/Quest for Glory, the original storyline of Planetscape: Torment, the claustrophobia of Ultima Underworld, the tactical combat of Tactics Ogre…

Baldur’s is a fun game but it doesn’t really leave a lasting impression, it has nothing really very unique. I think the fact that it came out in a time where there had been a dearth of western RPG’s, together with using the popular D&D ruleset, made it hugely overrated, yes.

Are we talking part one or pat two here? Because Baldur’s Gate 2 especially is all about tactical combat – and about trying fights a dozen times before you get it right.

Part 1. I didn’t play Part 2 enough to have an opinion.

Any game with David Warner as the bad guy ROCKS.

There’s a lot of tactical combat with Baldur’s Gate 1 from what I remember of it (and I have the enhanced edition on my hard drive which I really need to get around to playing one day). The big fight with Sarevok at the end of the game? I’d like to see someone charge in madly to that and walk away unscathed. Even at maximum level and kitted out with the best weapons and armour in the game, beating him is one tactical nightmare because of how much more powerful he and his allies are compared to you.

But for me Baldur’s Gate was never about the combat anyway. It was about the storyline, which I thought was great, and exploring the vast world, and the largely open-ended gameplay. Overrated? Not at all. It deserves every bit of praise heaped upon it.

I guess it’s a matter of taste. I honestly found the game rather easy, you only had to use the characters in a sane way (obviously a ranged character wouldn’t just charge in madly). Know your best buffs, use them, drink potions from time to time. Once you had gotten the hang of the basics, you could basically face every fight in more or less the same way. MMO-style tactics, I’d say. And the storyline was rather clichéd IMHO, not that I don’t actually like clichés as one of my favorite CRPG series is Might & Magic which is brimming with them, but a sequence of clichés doesn’t make a game the best ever in my book with storylines like that of Chrono Trigger, Ultima VII, Planetscape: Torment, or even Mass Effect around.

Anyway this boils down to a matter of taste, it’s probably not very productive discussion especially when the point was about grinding.

I would disagree with that, as game-play and story is the mechanics behind IF. If you were talking about how fancy the graphics were, and what resolution monitor you had, I would argue that you were going off-topic :smiley:

Anyway, I’m digging this conversation, because I like breakdowns of games into their mechanics and storyline. And, I just bought Baldur’s Gate I and II, enhanced, at the Steam sale. (In fact, I bought so many games, I put myself in the poor house for a few weeks, :smiling_imp: ) I opened up BGI, and couldn’t get into it. I’ve been playing BGII, though. I love where the story begins, and how it throws you into the action right away.

Also, the fact that BGII basically spoils the story of BGI in the intro, makes me especially not want to go back.

By the way, I’ve heard Planescape: Torment mentioned in virtually every discussion about best game storyline. Does this really live up to the hype? It’s a somewhat hard to find game. I was happy to see I have no mouth and I must scream available on Steam, but haven’t picked that up, yet. That’s another one people mention when it comes to great storylines. I also spent about 25 hours locked to my computer playing Deus Ex: HR, over Christmas. That had an amazing storyline, IMO. And, no grinding. (Especially if you’re sneaky.) :smiley:

I don’t know why I always make the typo of writing Planetscape instead of Planescape.

Its setting, storyline and characters are very original. You can love it or hate it, I suppose. But it’s totally different from any other RPG. If you are looking for RPG’s with good storylines you should give it a go.

I don’t think you can get it on Steam but it’s on GOG, and they often have sales just like Steam.

I never played “I have no mouth…” but the short story in which it’s based was awesome. And has one of the best villains ever.

I’ve played Planescape and really liked it, but I only ever played it through the once, unlike Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 which I must have played through half a dozen times or more.