Everyone who plays MMOs will be familiar with the concept of "grind", possibly one of the most debated topics in the MMO industry. Grind is essentially where users are forced to repeat something over and over again to get what they want. An example would be killing a certain type of monster repeatedly to get a certain piece of rare loot they can drop. Some people, such as World of Warcraft
's Jeff Kaplan, suggest that grind and progression are essentially the same thing
. Jeff asserts that we call progression a "grind" when it's not a fun experience and that grinding can be properly tuned. Whether you love it or hate it, repetitive elements exist in all MMOs and are necessary to maintaining long-term playability.No grind in EVE Online?:EVE Online
is a game that's often lauded by players as having eliminated the grind present in other MMOs. However, it's clear that EVE
still has a large amount of repetitive gameplay that can be considered grind. While nothing is forcing you to run missions over and over again or mine for hours on end, those areas of gameplay where heavy grind exists are very heavily used. When given a universe in which they don't have to grind, why then do so many players actively seek out something repetitive to grind on?
Join me as I take a look at the industry obsession with grind and identify where the grind is (and isn't) in EVE Online
.The level / skill grind:
In the standard level treadmill system employed by games like World of Warcraft
, Warhammer Online
and Everquest 2
, a player's level progression is directly linked to the content they can access. A level 20 player wouldn't be able to use level 40 content because the monsters in the level 40 zones would be too strong for them. Players increase in level in order to move from one piece of content to another, stretching all of the game's content over a wide range of levels. It's a successful model that ensures players don't exhaust all of the game's content too quickly and always have something new to play with.
In stark contrast to the above, EVE Online
uses a passive skill training system
in which players accrue skills in real-time. Players needn't actually play to advance their skills, they can simply select which skills they want to train and wait for them to be completed. The advantage of this system is that the level grind is completely removed and casual players with very little time to actually play can still progress in skills. The converse of this is that players who play a lot aren't awarded with more skill points, preventing power levelling entirely. This can leave players feeling like they're being held back by their skills and unable to do anything until they complete.
While this system works well in EVE Online
, it certainly wouldn't work in level-based games like World of Warcraft
. The main reason it works in EVE
is that skills aren't the biggest measure of your ability in the game. As a complex sandbox game
, a player's level of competence and knowledge of the game are much greater factors than the skills their character has trained
. A player with only a few million skill points but a lot of practice under their belt will typically be a much more effective player than someone with a lot more skill points but little actual experience. In this way, getting more skilled at EVE
isn't something you can grind. It's primarily a matter of practicing and learning from your mistakes, a mechanism so natural to people that they often overlook it as real progression.