Is repetition & grinding really that bad?


#1

Listening to the new Bunny hop podcast there were worry of Monster hunter, battle chef, and RPGs problems of repetitive with of gameplays and the grind of getting items and leveling. I question is it really that big of a problem?
I see the grind of Monster hunter as getting ready for a hunt so you need to get items to make traps, healing items, and more to fight monsters. Battle chef has to spend your day like if you were on your own so you need to do some side jobs.


I Hate Grinding, But I Can't Stop in 'Monster Hunter: World'
#2

I think grind and repetition only become bad once they outstrip the player’s learning curve/preparation needs. Like in your Monster Hunter example, all that grind is actively making you more prepared for the hunt. As a player, you can see that making a trap now will allow you to deploy it later.

Or, to give another example, Hollow Knight has you backtracking through the same areas over and over again as you criss-cross the map. While doing so, you engage the same enemies and platforming challenges, but this repetition makes the player more adept at overcoming them. You get enemy attack patterns and your character’s capabilities ingrained in you such that when a major challenge like a new boss appears, you have the skill necessary to defeat it. That’s good grind.

Now let’s contrast that with the grind in an RPG like Final Fantasy XII. You must spend hours in that game grinding the same enemies until you are sufficiently leveled up to tackle the next phase of the quest. However, outside of stat increases and better equipment, the game doesn’t change. The player need not learn how to process the game’s challenge better, and so the only thing improving are numbers. It’s telling that the remake has a fast-forward option, because the grind in FFXII is boring and you gain no valuable player experience from it. Hence, it is bad grind.


#3

If the process itself is engaging enough and/or reward at the end is worth it, then no.

Obviously, “engaging” and “worth” are subjective, but we can’t escape subjectivity.

@Navster Hm. Maybe that is a question of terminology, but I don’t consider that “grind” tho. For me “grind” is very close to, or sometimes is completely “mindless”. I just need this thing (XP, materials, whatever), how I get it is irrelevant and I don’t really learn anything. Like, it is still fun to press buttons, and see numbers go up, but I just kill those green two-tailed wolves, that in itself not going to teach me how to kill boss of the area. Am I wrong?


#4

That a really good explanation. Thinking back on Persona 5 there was a flow with it combat that allows it to not think about how good your number is but what moves you have at the moment to exploit enemies weakness to do a all-out attack.


#5

It really depends on whether I find a games core gameplay loop—and the grind as an extension of that—to be satisfying.

I’ve been playing a lot of Warframe lately and that game definitely has a grind in pursuit of new gear that I’ve seen plenty of people complain about. But I love the way that game feels to play and I’ll keep running missions just because it feels good and eventually the gear just kind of unlocks itself.

In contrast… I can’t stand classic jrpg grinds. I don’t find the combat in a lot of those games to be engaging enough to want to do it over and over in order to level up and progress.

So there’s a matter of personal preference here, obviously, but I do think a games mechanics play into how a person handles the grind.


#6

Another way to look at it, and, I think, why a lot of people complain about it, is: “grind” is something unrelated to the main appeal of a game.

I want to built a castle in “Minecraft”. Building is a reward, and castle itself is a reward, too. Gathering a bunch of stone is not, and kinda the opposite of building. So you suffer through, or find other enjoyment in a process.

But it is still subjective. Some would say that killing huge boss creatures is the main thing of “Monster Hunter”. But other would say that no, everything – gathering resources, crafting, cooking, etc., – is the main thing.


#7

I’d define grinding as doing extremely repetitive zero-risk low-reward tasks to put yourself ahead of the difficulty curve (or to get cosmetics/achievements in MMOs). It’s bad because anything that is zero risk and still offers consistent rewards is an optimal strategy, assuming unlimited time.

Obviously we don’t want to spend unlimited time on games, unless there’s some aspect of the repetition we find pleasant in itself. Even then I’d argue it’s a mistake of design to deliberately incorporate a grind, just because years of previous badly designed games have taught players to enjoy grinds as part of the experience.


#8

I’d call it a grind if it’s at a point where I’m doing something I really, really don’t enjoy just to get the satisfaction of the next number increase. A lot of Monster Hunter is like that (especially when you get to the second tier of difficulty), as well as the endgame of MMOs. I don’t find constant repetition of the same static content with little variation to be fun.

Other than those, most modern RPGs or games with RPG progression systems seem to have it down to a science of how often to drop new rewards on you so that you’re still engaged with the main gameplay loop. Persona 5 was already mentioned as a very good example of an RPG play loop. I’ve been replaying FFXV recently and (though the sidequests are fairly boring) the pace at which you get new levels or stuff is often enough that I feel satisfied.

Aside from some JRPG outliers, I believe we’ve moved past the PS2 era where some games expected you to spend hours and hours of mindless repetition to be high enough level to progress.


#9

And I get enough of that at work!!!


#10

I’m fine with grinding on my own terms and if I’m getting something out of it like items or leveling a character.

I can’t stand games like Destiny where repeating missions is part of the game’s intended progression though, it just feels so uninspired and disrespectful of the player’s time.


#11

A grindy game is a nice companion activity. Something to do with your hands while you listen to podcasts or ride the bus.

I also don’t mind a grindy game if the activity itself is enjoyable. It’s fun to titular hunt the titular monsters. It’s fun to shoot heads in Destiny. It’s fun to annihilate crowds of trash in Diablo 3.


#12

This is not true. And the fast-forward was added back in 2006 because they released the international version very close to the original japanese release and it became a fan-favorite option.

Is every Final Fantasy re-released a grind because they added a boost option ? Is the option to increase your HP to 9999 in FF7 telling of its complete failure to offer an interesting combat system ? I’m pretty sure none of them is indicating of anything other than offering accessibility options for players of all kinds.

You can’t ask for more options in your JRPG and then slam the same games for offering these options.


#13

Can you clarify what you mean by “This is not true”? Are you referring to my error about the remake having the fast forward option? Because while you are correct that an earlier re-release had the option, that doesn’t exactly negate my point. Introducing an option to speed up the grind indicates to me that even the developers thought it was a bit too rote to be enjoyed in real time. Alternatively, do you mean that FFXII did not require players to excessively grind? Because I’ll have to disagree with you there. I found long stretches of the game to be tedious, and that was simply to keep up with the level requirements of the dungeons and bosses.

Now that you mention it, I do consider every Final Fantasy game to have way too much grinding, and while we’re at it, I would argue that the JRPG genre as a whole has way too much grinding. And I say that as a fan of the genre! I come for the story and characters, for the insane boss battles and world changing events. I certainly don’t come to the genre for hours upon hours of killing slimes.

And just to be clear, I’m not slamming these games for having more options. I am slamming them because the need for these options was created due to bad game design that prioritizes hours played over hours actually enjoyed.


#14

I kind of blurred the concepts of grind and repetition in my first reply, to be honest. That said, I don’t necessarily think grind necessarily needs to be mindless. Like, for instance, in Call of Duty multiplayer, let’s say you wish to unlock a specific gun. But that gun requires you to achieve level 35. So you play a whole bunch of matches until you hit level 35. To me that feels like grinding, but each match requires you to be mentally present in order to do well and actually earn XP. So the grind in that case would actually be an engaging activity and, at least in the CoD4 era, was actually pretty fun.


#15

The depth of the battle system of FF12 is such that grinding only marginally helps over your understanding of the battle system. That is even more of a thing for any Final Fantasy that comes before it (and FF13 discourages grinding outright). We’re also talking about a game that ditches random encounters, so you don’t have to go through the repetition of battles at all.

I am very much bad with anything that involves holding a controller and I never felt forced to grind in this game. I only fought was was on my way and it was enough to get me by if my strategies were solid. Which is why the game is so great, it’s more about figuring out the gimmicks that the bosses have than out-damaging them. Most of them are elemental, some has specific weaknesses, others has specific weapons you have to equip against, these are smarter options that shows its FFT legacy.

It’s obvious high-speed mode was added because traversal is far longer than any FF in existence. Getting to the end of a dungeon takes under 5 minutes for any FF, but 10 to 15 for FF12. It’s a big game, and it’s a convenient option.

“We’ve added a high-speed mode for traveling between places. This is actually based on feedback from players, who made their voices heard about the fields being very vast and hard to get through. But it would be hard to play that same speed when you’re in high transfer mode and field, as opposed when you’re in a city or dungeon, it would be hard to maneuver at the same high speed, so, there’s actually two times and four times fast that you can switch between.” - USGamer

Sometimes I wonder if the complaint about grinding is more about what the system can offer or about what players feels they have to grind regardless of what the game system does. Final Fantasy has among the least amount of grinding in a JRPG series, and doing certain challenges like the FF5 Four Job Fiesta for charity made me realize how much I used to rely on grinding for things I could have managed to go through with a little amount of thinking.

It really opened my mind on what I would call voluntary grinding vs forced grinding. The grinding we impose on ourselves vs the grinding that is necessary to advance. The way we consume JRPGs on the internet and FAQs does change the way we approach them for what they actually are, imo.

EDIT : I should clarify that I don’t mean that you don’t have to grind at all or that your experiences with the game are wrong. I just wonder how much of the grind is colored by what we expect, how we consume a game, or how the JRPGs themselves fails to communicate the non-necessity of grinding. FF13 did so by offering a solid cap, but sometimes JRPGs doesn’t understand that those who poisons the well with grinding makes everyone wary of what’s to come even if you have a solid system.


#16

Yeah I get where you’re coming from with what we expect from the game when we hit the grind. FF games, from my views are these big worlds with many different areas and people and I want to see many of that. When I hit that grind it makes it hard for continue for a few of those games unless it has a feature that allows for those grinds to smooth out.


#17

In my mind, in JRPGs as long as you’re using the systems put in place for character progression strategically and tackling the majority of sidequests, you shouldn’t have to grind. Grinding should be an option for people who don’t quite grasp how to capitalize on all the systems, but if I’m on my second playthrough and know the game well and still need to grind in sections that seems like bad scaling on the dev’s part. If I want to ignore some menus and just brute force my way through the game like I did with FF8 as a kid, I think that should be an option too.

That’s just for JRPGs, though. As far as Tony Hawk games go, I find it to be one of the best parts. When it comes to R. Kelly’s discography, I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as it’s kept to a minimum, even if my conscience is telling me no. And personally, my grind is about family, never been about fame. (Keep in mind that while four and a half will get you in the game, anything less is just a goddamn shame)


#18

(It’s funny; I was listening to that podcast just last night.)

I have a problem with grinding in single player experiences. In multiplayer, there is often a balancing aspect there. The thing with grinding is, almost by definition, it is a process that takes up more time and effort than it is willing to merit. Games with grinding expect you to put time, effort, and work into something that does not ultimately “pay off.” Grinding is distinct from repetition; in deliberately difficult games, you repeat a level over and over again, but you are not grinding, because the challenge is never inflated in quantity. Grinding is a repetitive process where you repeat an action to increase a number’s value. This grinding is an inflation of time and work in order to accomplish a task that does not really merit it.

In other words, grinding is almost universally a waste of time. Grinding upscales the quantity of gameplay without scaling the quality of your actions. The game does not respect your time or effort. Again, I think this is more of a problem in single player games, but I think I don’t think it’s limited. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy grinding or playing grindy games, but grinding doesn’t actually improve your experience all that much. Especially now, when grinding is used as an incentive to get players to spend money on microtransactions (see: Shadow of War, Battlefront II, Overwatch, etc.)

I also think games like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing or what have you are worth discussing, as these games should technically be classified as grinds, but are usually played more as meditative, calming activities of repetition. I think this is because your actions are both somewhat self-driven and self-designed. It is also part of the expectation of the game. Also, clicker games are inherently designed as grinds, but by making this the actual point of the game, I think we become more comfortable with it.


#19

My most recent experience with a grind was Destiny 2. That is a game that screams “compromised design”. I’m not going to go into the details, but the main thing that game does is it time gates its best drops, which are in turn random rolls from a loot chest. You have a selection of weekly activities which give you a chance of getting good stuff – but unless you’re super good at PvP or have a group that raids regularly (which itself is a giant time sink), chances are you’re mainly doing event and XP grinds for the weekly drops. (Being in a clan helps too.)

In practice, that means that the game is asking you to commit significant chunks of time every week, just for the chance of a good item … which more often than not is a duplicate of something you already have. We can argue about how much time that actually entails – but the fact that it’s asking for a chunk of time at all is just stating facts. And it wants you to commit to doing this every week, but not necessarily for extended periods of time; once you get a weekly drop, you have to wait for a reset, which removes the incentive to keep playing.

There is a certain point at which, if you find yourself having to commit large chunks of time to barely get anywhere in a game, that you have to start asking if this isn’t just another weird form of unpaid labor. This is particularly true if said game is asking you to play it in weekly shifts. And as games become increasingly twisted into always online, casino-like experiences with microtransactions and loot boxes, it’s good to take a moment and think about how much time a game is asking you to spend, and who actually benefits from it.

I’m not saying that grind always existed for mercenary reasons. The idea that game design exists along an axis of skill-based or time-based progress has been around for decades. But you cannot have any discussion of that mechanic now without acknowledging how incredibly exploitative it’s become in the hands of publishers who want you to spend all your time and money in their game, at your own expense.

Also: the fact that you have to consider any of these things in the context of something that should be relaxing or fun fucking sucks.

Destiny 2 dropped an expansion a couple weeks ago. I haven’t touched it yet.


#20

My step-brother was the kind of player who would just camp next to the first save point in the PS1 Final Fantasy games, spending hours and hours getting as high level as he possibly could so that he could steamroll through the game.

By contrast, Final Fantasy speedruns illustrate how much leeway the difficulty curve gives you if you’re underleveled, particularly if you’re not trying to hoard consumable items. 6 in particular allows you to throw mage staves to do massive burst damage, if you’re willing to eat the cost.

One game that’s not good in this respect is the original Kingdom Hearts (the Final Mix version in particular). It didn’t yet have the action game flourishes of the sequels that allowed you to avoid damage completely, so the last boss is impassable if you haven’t gone out of your way to grind, because one of his attacks is impossible to dodge.