MAKING GRINDING FUN

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As a note, I will go on record and say that I don't think any game should require grinding. My ideal situation is always referred to Final Fantasy IV, where if you fight every enemy encounter, do most of the side quests, when you get to the final boss you are almost perfectly at the right level to kill them.

That being said, there is a lot to be had in the design of leveling up and gaining power, and I've seen a few games do this well enough that I didn't mind the fact that I was grinding, while acknowledging that yes, I was actually grinding. I'll mention two examples, maybe you guys have some of your own:

Shin Megami Tensei games, main-series at least: If you don't know, the SMT games have a system where most of your party is made up of enemies you recruit, and you can create higher level ones by fusing together ones in your stock to make new ones. What does this have to do with grinding? Well, you can't fuse a monster that has a higher level than you. You can still see what you would make though, and that alone is enticing. There were numerous times in Nocturne (SMT3) where I was at the fusion station and saw a demon one level higher than me that I could fuse...so did a little grinding to get that extra level...and then saw another one just one more level higher...having the incentives and power actually viewable and enticing to players certainly helped me not mind the grinding.

Pokemon: Pokemon is ostensibly a game about grinding until you win, since you can grind past literally every boss fight if you want to and not care about tactics. Obviously if you play smart you can get by with less, but you can always grind more to win. How does the game make this better? By making each level feel important because if you are not spoiled (read: looked up when it happens), you don't know when you're going to get that next move, or when they will evolve. I tend to play pokemon unspoiled just to keep that anticipation fresh, and that helps a lot in leveling up my team. It also helps that fights are rather fast, with most leveling up you do ending a fight in one or two moves.

Any other ideas for keeping grinding fresh?
Generally speaking, grinding means you have a goal and in order to reach that goal, you perform an activity you otherwise would not have performed. Since grinding is as a rule an activity you don't perform for the sake of the activity itself, it's not something you can bet on being fun. However, the closer you are to the goal, the less frustrating the grinding will seem. Also, the more fun the grinding activity is, the more time it takes for that activity to get boring once you have to overdose on it.

The most obvious example is running around in circles to grind exp. If you're just half an exp bar away from getting the desired level, you will feel less demotivated than if you're three level ups away. Likewise, if fighting battles were fun, it takes longer for them to reach the boring status than it would have been if they were rather bland to begin with. Combine the two mitigating circumstances and you get a grinding that's still decently fun, but for most players not as fun as playing "normally".

You can try different tricks. Kingdom Hearts 1 has the 99 Dalmatians and a lot of trinities + other hidden stuff to find. After a certain point, all worlds get updated enemies. If you're going for the optional bosses and need extra levels, chance is you also need synthesis materials as well. So, you can grind both exp and materials while hunting down all collectibles you want. This has a decent chance of working out, players who want to kill all optional bosses are more likely to care about collectibles such as the 99 Dalmatians than players who don't. However, this is far from always so and players who want to kill the optional bosses, but don't care about cleaning the worlds out, can look forward to the good old running around in circles.

Suikoden series scales experience to your level. If you take a level 1 character into a battle against, say, three level 30-equivalent monsters, at the end of the battle, if said character lived through it (by hiding in the back row and pretending to be a rock or something) then they'll shoot up to about level 20 or so - one battle, many levels.

I think that makes it a lot of fun because there's just something about seeing a low level character get a shit ton of levels that takes you to a happy place. XD It's never a hassle to get a character up - take them to the latest place and fight a couple of battles and done - they're only a few levels behind the main party.


One way to keep the grind fresh is to give bonuses for chaining battles - so that it's less of a hassle. FFXII made it a sort-of competition to fight the same kind of monsters and affected the drop rate of items by grinding on them. It wasn't exactly fun, but you did get something out of it and that battle system was nice and fast.

Make the battles fast - faster is better and the faster you can blow through monsters the better when it comes to grinding.

I don't remember which game it was but I do remember one where you could call up a monster group and challenge yourself by adding more monsters or higher level versions - this way you could increase the amount of experience output you got by grinding on a bigger group of monsters. It also let you see how hard the battle was going to be before you began, so you could create a custom battle quickly by adding area enemies and increasing levels to meet your own.

I also liked Earthbound's way of instantly defeating monsters if you were above a certain level and just getting their experience straight out. Just skip the fight and hand out the exp.

Optional multi-playable boss rushes with good loot and gimmicks are neat - like an arena where you can aim to win a prize and get to keep all the exp and gold you get in the battles.

I think you touched on something important with your SMT3 example: knowing exactly what the reward for grinding is and having that reward be optional.

Willfully picking a goal, working towards it, and accomplishing it can be a fun and rewarding experience. Being forced to grind a few levels in order to beat a story boss and continue the game? Not so much.
Super Mario RPG has a few Starman power ups on the overworld. Pick one up and you can instantly beat the on-map encounters by running them over. After the carnage, you get all exp for these battles at once.

author=Liberty
I don't remember which game it was but I do remember one where you could call up a monster group and challenge yourself by adding more monsters or higher level versions - this way you could increase the amount of experience output you got by grinding on a bigger group of monsters. It also let you see how hard the battle was going to be before you began, so you could create a custom battle quickly by adding area enemies and increasing levels to meet your own.


Sounds like Knights of Pen & Paper to me.
I also think your SMT 3 example is the best way to go about it. The same applies to -Souls games, where you might have already purchased/found new gear or magic but cannot use them before you get a level or two.

One of the most simple ways to motivate grinding is also found in pokemon. It's the meter that shows exactly how close you are to level up. Honestly, after every fight you'd see the meter grow along with the audio cue to go with it made me grind way more than I usually do in RPGs.
InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4368
Not sure if it has already been mentioned but adding quests alongside grinding I think makes it feel more fluid and rewarding.
On top of the gold or exp gain you're also actively doing something for something else.
Adding in repeatable quests that tie in with monster grinding can break up the monotony somewhat.
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18722
The number one factor is to make the experience worth the time.

1. Attacks, animations should come out fast and be rewarding.
2.Enemies while challenging should not take a long time to kill. Trading hits for five rounds with an enemy is boring.
3. Killing enemies should feel satisfying. Use sound and graphical effects to make sure killing an enemy feels like a rewarding experience.
4. Levels should come relatively quickly. Old games made gaining levels take forever to try to drag the game out. Don't do that. your game is probably 4 or 5 hours long. Why waste the player's time? Try to scale experience so that the player gains levels often.

Respect your player's time. Do not waste it.
author=InfectionFiles
Not sure if it has already been mentioned but adding quests alongside grinding I think makes it feel more fluid and rewarding.
On top of the gold or exp gain you're also actively doing something for something else.
Adding in repeatable quests that tie in with monster grinding can break up the monotony somewhat.

The question is, what rewards do you give to the players for beating the quests besides the exp and gold they get for extra monster fighting? The more rewards you give, be it story, lore or a mechanical advantage, the greater the chance that players who don't want to grind end up doing the quests anyway and over level. The less rewards, the less you make the player feel they are doing something worthwhile.

Your idea should work if the level of rewards is set correctly and you can communicate to the players what to expect. However, mess this up and you create a problem rather than mitigating one.
I actually just remembered another one, and while it didn't make the grinding in the game any more tolerable (it was -very- grindy), if implemented with a less grindy game it could make the random fights a bit more incentivized.

In Sailor Moon: Another Story, every random encounter in the game has a chance to drop a puzzle piece for a puzzle you are slowly filling in. I don't know what reward it gives you, but having universal random drops that can be used for side things could be cool, that way no matter what, you're always getting fun things for side quests. Perhaps alternate currency for a town you're creating, or things you can craft together to get bonus loot.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
13391
author=Solitayre
The number one factor is to make the experience worth the time.

1. Attacks, animations should come out fast and be rewarding.
2.Enemies while challenging should not take a long time to kill. Trading hits for five rounds with an enemy is boring.
3. Killing enemies should feel satisfying. Use sound and graphical effects to make sure killing an enemy feels like a rewarding experience.
4. Levels should come relatively quickly. Old games made gaining levels take forever to try to drag the game out. Don't do that. your game is probably 4 or 5 hours long. Why waste the player's time? Try to scale experience so that the player gains levels often.

Respect your player's time. Do not waste it.

I don't really agree with any of these points, because it kind of feels like it puts a band-aid on a symptom of a design problem rather than address the core problem.

The stigma that comes with grinding is repetition: doing the same thing over and over again in attempt to find a long-reaching reward.

Most RPGs, especially amatuer-level RM games, misuse grinding by making you go through the same 2-3 sets of 1-trick pony monsters that don't bring any interesting challenges over and over again, and it gets horrifically boring after a while.

How to alleviate this? Make your encounters interesting. Pokemon is a grindy game that doesn't entirely alleviate the feelings of repetition, but it actually has great ideas that make the whole process feel less like a chore. Every enemy you encounter is different, both in terms of their elemental typing and in their movesets. You can't use the same strategy you used to beat a Rattata on Geodude, whose typing and high physical defenses make the use of certain moves, and even certain Pokemon impractical. These kind of mechanics encourage players to explore the tools they have available, and the result is that they are actually doing more in their battles then just the same repetitive actions.

Going further with Pokemon, capturing a Pokemon requires a change in strategy from fighting them. It's a situation where using your weaker moves are actually ideal so that you can weaken a 'mon for capture without fainting them and missing out on the chance. It's also a moment where using your strongest team member isn't ideal, because their strong moves would almost completely ruin the chance you have a capturing a 'mon you want, so it encourages switching. Another example of doing things with encounters.

Outside of that, I don't know why most people don't try "metal slime" or "gold golem" type of enemies that the Dragon Quest series introduced? It actually gives random encounters an exciting promise of getting bonus gold/exp that feels pretty satisfying. I also like the idea of randomized drops, as Rine suggested. It's a good example of using a random element to create variation in your game.
I actually have enjoyed grinding in some RPG's, usually to see what skills lie around the next level up, or to get ready for a challenging boss so I have a leg up. I do enjoy it, no lie.

Thing is, most RPG Maker games I've played don't exactly do it well. One game I played recently, though it was well done (yet a bit older), had all of these random battles (of which I am an advocate of, but that's another topic), but every single enemy was the same kind per area. Plus, the best course of action for these enemies is simply to auto-attack the first one that comes up. So you trade hits for three, maybe four rounds, lose some health, and the enemies are dead. Then you need to factor in a couple other things: are you losing more health than it's worth? Will you grind enough currency to stay at an inn? Is the XP worth it, or should you just press on to the next boss? There's a lot of things to balance around it and it doesn't seem like one situation or another presents an easy way out.

One of the things I do in my main game, however, is kill-order priority. Yeah, some of the combat is rather straight forward (other than bosses), but you have to choose which enemies to kill first, and there are different enemies in every troop. One may have a fast enemy that will guarantee a character takes damage at the start of the round if not dealt with. Then there's the high health but weak dude that will eventually make a dent in your health if not dealt with. Then there's the guy who casts darkness who, obviously, should be a priority.

So it forces the player to make a decision on which enemies to deal with first: do you kill the two fast guys so you remove their guaranteed damage at the start of the round but risk losing accuracy over the course of the fight, or do you deal with the enemy inflicting darkness so you don't lose accuracy over the course of the battle? Things like that.

In my approach, it's about trying to strike a balance between tactics and simplicity. I'm not sure I'm there yet but I'm trying.
Yes, I also think the problem that grinding is considered boring is just a side effect of a greater issue, which is that battles in general are boring.

This is a problem I cannot understand - my test project in RPG Maker has a boss with weakness changing, a telegraphed power attack and consistent threat of being silenced - I spent a total of about 30 minutes working on that boss, from design to actual implementation. Why do people have such a hard time thinking of anything at all?
That was probably one of the major things that helped SMT3 be not boring, is that for most of the game you can't just muscle through enemies. So naturally, in an area you memorize the best spell combinations to take down enemies and hit weaknesses without getting reflects/nulls. So LL2 is probably right, a non-boring system helps a great deal.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5236
One of the best things you can do to make grinding stay interesting, though this might sound counterintuitive, is to prevent the player from being able to do it.

It sounds odd, but the psychology behind it is simple - people don't desire things they already have. They desire what you dangle just out of their reach.

When the player is grinding, if you want them to keep doing so, it's important to make them feel like they are making progress towards multiple goals, but that they have limitations on how much they can play that are preventing them from reaching their goal. One excellent example is the extremely limited inventory space of games like Dragon Warrior and Etrian Odyssey - the player can only stay out in a dungeon for so long before they run out of supplies and have to return. Another very common method is the stamina system that is so common in mobile phone games - the player's time spent playing is limited. MP systems served this purpose in very old RPGs, before games all started giving the player ways to easily recover MP. Other methods are possible too: Breath of Fire 5 uses a corruption meter that limits the total time you're allowed to spend playing the game, Darkest Dungeon forces you to leave a dungeon when you can't pick up any more loot, and World of Warcraft has daily quests that give you bonus rewards once per day so you feel like you're missing out if you keep grinding beyond that.

All of these systems serve the same purpose: interrupt the player's grinding before they are ready to quit, so that they feel anticipation for their next grinding excursion. That anticipation is super important - it's exactly what you want people to feel about playing your game if you want them to keep coming back to it.

Like anything else, grinding is more fun when it involves overcoming an obstacle. But that obstacle isn't enemies. Keep the enemies as challenging as you can, obviously, but if the enemies were really a fun obstacle to overcome each time, it wouldn't be considered grinding in the first place. The obstacle is whatever gameplay system you create to limit the player's grinding.
Vendor Trash and similar items are also great for making grinding fun, as they widen the distance between rewards (since VT usually has no value until you go back and sell it), but also means you get bigger amounts of reward once you cash in. Getting 5000 Gold feels more rewarding than getting 50 Gold one hundred times, even if the same amount of effort was spent to get either.
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