Grinding Mechanics in Games

Original thread (mostly):

Officially around our lecture on grinding in games.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32DCEzpcVEY

What do y’all think of our definition of “grinding” in games?

A game mechanic in which player success correlates directly with time spent.

There’s a correlation but “direct” is untrue. For example, the probabilistic misery of a gashapon. How about just a positive correlation? And you explicitly don’t want to include money or other resources as grind?

That part about not wanting random encounters in D&D game was odd to me.

If I play modern D&D, I definitely want to get in encounters as fast as possible, be they random or not. Just get out the battlemaps and let me test my fighter build against varying assortments of enemies and situations. I would even go so far as to claim that if that’s not your focus while playing D&D, you should be playing something else.

Is there grinding in D&D games? Maybe I’ve not played enough D&D in my life but I don’t feel like there was ever a point where I was grinding. It was usually limited encounters, which is even how a lot of those CRPG interpretations (your Baldur’s Gates and what have you) never had random encounters so you had to be kinda specific with your builds.

1 Like

Grinding:

Progress = Time spent (opposed to utilising a new skill)


Why would you want a play to repeat the same task/ skill/ routine over a period of time for a good reason?

Monotonous tasking can be therapeutic. I have no citations to back that up, but I’m sure it can be true.
Routine can encourage the sense of immersion. However that’s a matter of context and balance. (eg. Five NIghts at Freddy’s)
You want to hide something inside the game, and make it difficult to find, giving more value to the thing, for determined players. (eg. shiny Pokémon)


Bad reasons to incorporate grinding.

Your name is Peter Molyneux and you want to design a game that only requires 1 type of input, and loads of money output. (Lazy game design)

I don’t really agree with that as a definition of grinding when you could easily apply that to more or less anything. If you said it was monotonous tasks to achieve gains I would probably agree with that, but again, I don’t really see that happening in D&D.

Depends on the type of game for sure. If you’re playing WOW, and all you’re doing is killings pigs or whatever to level up, that’s most definitely a grind. Because of the amount of time you have to repeat the same task, and the amount of time it takes to complete each task, without break.

Doodling can be monotonous and therapeutic, but there’s no progress to that. Why not games like minesweeper. All you do is click and check numbers. You can retry games in a split second, the grind is there, but because it’s a short time frame it’s not a hard grind and can be enjoyable in small amounts. I’ve played minesweeper while programs are installing just to pass the time.

Could argue that, the ratio between time spent and amount of times a task is repeated will determine if it’s a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ grind.

I just dunno if I would call that stuff a grind. Like didn’t the term “grinding” really just come from the idiom “back to the grind?” Grind in that context is still making progress, usually through repetition since I think it was generally used for like blue collar work. Playing a game of Solitaire or Minesweeper you’re only making progress between individual games. I guess you’re ability to identify optimal moves could attribute to it being a grind, but there is no continued progress or “gain” through playing multiple games, other than maybe a number in a save file if it’s like a newer version or something.

The grind in minesweeper is, ok you’ve found 1 mine, now find the rest. Progress is finding every mine. The grind is repeating clicks, just in a different location. The strategy is the same no matter where you decide to click/ not click.


It’s repetition and time taken that’s important in describing the type of grind. The time taken to solve Minesweeper is short, you can missclick and fail, if you’re clicking like crazy. Which is fine, because you can have a game for 5 seconds or 5 minutes, there’s no stress involved in that time period.

Compare to an FPS for example, you’re clicking 99% of the time, but you’re also thinking about multiple strategies, utilising multiple skills. So the sense of grind is broken up. Or in other words, your concentration is divided amongst more tasks, therefore there’s a more complex path to progress.

Then compare to farming in WOW kill enemy gain XP, kill enemy gain XP, kill enemy gain XP, kill enemy gain XP…kill enemy gain XP, level up…

That was a long talk and I have quite a few thoughts. I probably ramble through some thoughts, with actual games as examples. On general, I think one of the main problems was how easily and quickly you passed the topic of skill being a component in a game with grind.

First I want to talk about Monster Hunter. Mainly because it’s not really a grind game as defined here, but still grind is brought up often with it. In Monster Hunter you kill monster for their parts to make better gear and often you need to kill monster multiple times to get the drops you need. However, player success does not correlate directly with time spent, no matter how much you grind the level of gear you can get is determined on how far you are in the game and even if you have best gear available to you, it takes significant amount of skill with the game to kill the monsters and move onward in the game. But there is interesting thing that the grind element does with the game. In Monster Hunter the difference between hunt taking 45 minutes and it taking under 10 minutes can be 100% skill, and when you are killing same monster time and time again, you don’t want to spend that 45 minutes every time. The game encourages you to cut down the time needed to grind, by getting good at it. And it’s not automatic thing, someone could be bad at the game and never reduce their hunt times to under 40 minutes. So a game of grind or game of skill, or both?

Let’s also talk about jrpgs that are not from the 80s. I talk about Shin Megami Tensei IV here, because I like it, but it applies to many other games of the genre too. In SMT IV, most of the time when I died at bossfight (or at random encounter, witch rarely happened), I didn’t think “I need to go grind more”, instead I though “What did I learn from that failed attempt that could help me to win next time”. Sometimes success is just using different skills, sometimes it’s switching party around a bit. I’m not saying it’s the most brain requiring tactical game, but it’s still more often about the skill of playing the game than just spending time grinding. Sure, sometimes you find out you are just too low level and grinding out some exp is what you need to do. But that’s still minor part over just making right choices.

Also little bit about mmos. I play Final Fantasy XIV, which is not WOW, but from what I know it’s close enough. And I can’t say there isn’t grinding in those, there definitely is. But again, it’s not some kind of 100% mindless grind the game out there. No matter how much time you put in any kind of grind in that game, if you don’t have skills as a player, you are not getting through the hardest of raids, that’s just not happening. Also PvP (which I personally don’t do) is these days basically always done with synced levels and gear, so only thing that gives you advantage are imbalances in the class system and player skill. And even with dungeon grind to get tokens to get better gear there is the Monster Hunter situation. Difference between 30 min dungeon run and 10 min dungeon run can be in player skill. And trying to optimize your performance in those games can be fun, and challenging and worthwhile.

I also though about writing about Ys Oath of Felghana, but this is already too long.

Maybe some players spend those 45 minutes killing a monster may be enjoyable for them. There may be no incentive there to encourage the player to change strategy or improve any particular skill. That’s down to game design.

The point is, in principle, if you’re playing optimally, and all you’re doing is repeating exact same thing, verbatim (to the point where play is indistinguishable from a macro/ bot) this is grinding.

Keeping a game interesting to play requires some element of disruption to that repetition that is also interesting.

In other words, for a game not to be a grind, time should not be an element of success. In fact, should be an element of failure. Take too long and you fail!

Imagine in CSGO diffusing the bomb actually required you to play a diffuse bomb minigame.

In Gears of War, you’re rewarded for a executing a ‘perfect’ reload, with extra fire power, and punished for missing the perfect with a longer reload time and weaker shots. When you’re playing against the hardest AI, or a difficult team, getting those perfect reloads everytime under stress is an actual physical skill. Also, when you’re on low health, you’re more desperate to need that perfect reload, to turn the tables.

Now reloading isn’t a grindy game mechanic. I don’t know any FPS that makes you manually insert every bullet into every weapon. However, the concept of taking a mundane and repetitive element of the game, and changing it to insert more skill into the game, as opposed to just waiting for something to complete.

As for Skill vs Time games, how would you describe Demon’s Souls/ Dark Souls? That game requires skill, time and patience. Are those games grinds? I think it very much depends if you enjoy playing that type of game. If permadeath isn’t your thing, it probably is a grind and you won’t play it. If it’s a skill challenge, then it’s just effort.


https://youtu.be/4XbJz9_jk0E

I, for one, 100% agree with the Scrym definition. In my mind, grind is orthogonal to skill. While skill can change the amount of grind that needs to take place, that doesn’t stop it being a grind. So I do think that the correlation is direct, it just varies from person to person.

[quote=“Dazzle369, post:12, topic:312”]
Maybe some players spend those 45 minutes killing a monster may be enjoyable for them. There may be no incentive there to encourage the player to change strategy or improve any particular skill. That’s down to game design.
[/quote]Sure if someone is content at being bad at the game, it’s fine. Ultimately what matters is individuals personal preference and experience.

[quote=“Dazzle369, post:12, topic:312”]
As for Skill vs Time games, how would you describe Demon’s Souls/ Dark Souls? That game requires skill, time and patience. Are those games grinds? I think it very much depends if you enjoy playing that type of game. If permadeath isn’t your thing, it probably is a grind and you won’t play it. If it’s a skill challenge, then it’s just effort.
[/quote]You can spend infinite time with Dark Souls grinding levels until you have every stat maxed and than extort absolute minimal amount of skill possible to walk through the game. So yes, if any amount of grind possible makes a game grind game, then Souls games apply.

There is also a though that came upon me about the definition. Is really really really easy game, grind? Game so easy that no matter what your skill level as player is, as long as you play the game to the end you finish it. Success correlates directly with time spent. Are visual novels grindy?

God damn those mics look so slick. One day I’ll be able to spend $500 on a mic for conventioning.

[quote=“SkeleRym, post:2, topic:312, full:true”]
What do y’all think of our definition of “grinding” in games?

A game mechanic in which player success correlates directly with time spent.
[/quote]That’s a terrible definition.

For example, it applies to games of skill, since your skill improves over time, and thus you will clearly see a correlation.

You need to amend it to something like
“A game mechanic in which player success correlates to time spent playing, independently of any change in player skill.”

Grinding is present if and only if you can have someone else play the game for you and have better gameplay results upon your return.

1 Like

The above is a far better description.

Essentially you should be able to pay for all your games and then for some party to play how many hours of grinding so that you can come back and enjoy it for the 4 hours of goodness that exists in the game.

Couldn’t find a better thread to stick this into.

https://youtu.be/xfqSKfVaBvY

The Grind panel at MAGFest 2017

I don’t think we need to separate change in player skill out. The key is the direct correlation. It has to apply to ALL players. Some people play CS forever and never get appreciably better at it, but they’re practically guaranteed to get “better” in a JRPG due to the sheer leveling that happens by default no matter how bad you are.

I agree. Skills do usually go up with practice, but not always. Also, to varying degrees. A pro gamer who practices a new game for a day will be better than I am after a week. Sometimes practice can even make you worse! Skill can go up and also down, and not just due to father time. I used to be better at Netrunner than I am now. I haven’t won a tournament in quite some time, but at one point I was winning most of them.

With grinding, you have a correlation between time spent and results. More time spent will always equal more success to some degree, although that degree may vary greatly, it will always be > 0.