On Valentine’s Day this year, Nekochan gave me Pokemon Y.* I’ve been pretty engrossed in it ever since, and yesterday I noticed something startling- I’ve spend 45 hours on the game so far.
Forty-five hours- almost two full days of time- and I was only on Route 10. I had spent all that time grinding around seventy pokemon to level twenty, and my “main party” of favourites to level 30.
Not bad for a guy who has repeated said he hates grinding. It stills boggles my mind.
So, I found grinding to be fun, and even fulfilling. How did this ever occur? I have a few thoughts, and I’d like to share them with you now.
Rule #1: Grinding Must Be Easy
With Pokeymans, especially in the newer versions, you’re generally earning a level every 2-3 battles against an enemy of equal level. This is nice and fast-paced, and you never feel like you’re wasting your time.
With the help of an item called the “Exp. Share” every players automatically gets around level seven, your whole party of pokeymans get half XP even when they don’t participate in the battle. Not only does this help a great deal with leveling that Magikarp, it also means that if you want to level a pokemon you don’t have to do anything more complicated than having them in your party.
Rule #2: Grinding Must Give You Something New
On top of getting the normal stat-ups associated with a level, every 4-5 levels a pokemon will learn a new move. Granted, you’re not going to be taking every every new move that comes along, but the important thing is that every twenty battles or so, you have to make a decision that could give you something new to play with. But even this can get out of control…
Rule #3: Grinding Must Be Simple
The one time I tried World of Warcraft, shit got out of hand pretty quickly. Not just because of grinding- I had friends to play with, and was prepared to deal with grinding if it meant I could roll with my peeps- but because once you level to a point where you finally saw a skill tree, it was just too complicated. On top of spells that must be bought from trainers, this new skill tree that starts at level ten, and recipes and skill levels for crafting, the grinding became too complicated.
When leveling up means having to tab out to consult a FAQ or figuring out how best to spend skill points so that your character doesn’t end up piss useless, that’s too much shit.
Rule #4: Grinding Must Have a Point (More Than Getting Stronger)
This is going to be the hard one for most games. In pokemon, you have the pokedex. By catching or evolving your pokeymans, you fill entries on the ‘dex. If you want to have caught them all, it’s your pokedex that will track your progress and let you know. So on top of getting something new every twenty levels or so when a pokeyman evolves, it all contributes to a greater purpose- filling out the pokedex.
And Pokemon is hardly the only game that uses this. Lost Odyssey made grinding fun because it was all about your immortals learning skills. Your immortals not only got stronger through level-ups, but from learning skills from mortal characters, who (in the process of grinding) would then level-up and learn more skills to teach to the immortals. Collecting those skills took a lot of the bite out of grinding, because it really felt like you were getting somewhere. And heck, if it matters, there are achievements to be had as well.
Final Fantasy X-2 did something similar with it’s job. system (and I can heard you snickering- yes, the game’s story is a complete shit sandwich but goddamn did Square ever hit one out of the park with the job system). However, because grinding in that game wasn’t easy, it is overall less attractive.
Now, obviously the individual tastes of people differ, and if millions of Warcraft players are any indication I think I’m in the minority of gamers who think grinding sucks. But these are just my findings that I thought I’d share with you.
*I got her the Play Arts P4 Arena Elizabeth and Grim Grimoire, in case you were wondering.