Sequence, and why I Hate Grinding

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I recently bought Sequence during the Steam Winter Sale. It seemed like it had a good concept behind it, a multitasking rhythm RPG, essentially. And so I played it for a little while. The tutorial was okay at best, and then I got into the actual game. The first couple battles were enjoyable, I’ll give it that, but shortly after, I got a little irritated. I was playing the same things over and over and over again.

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I had fallen into the trap I hate so, grinding.

Grinding is one of the reasons why I can’t get myself into many JRPGs, as it seems a great majority of them fall into this trap. It seems like even since Dragon Quest came out, and hordes of Japanese game game makers were blown away by it, it was praised as the prime example of “amazing” RPG design. And while it was pretty good in the infancy of the genre, it doesn’t stand up to the test of time, and it never will stand up.

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Why is grinding so bad, then? Why is still employed in modern game design even though you seem to hate it so much?

I hate grinding because of one point. It’s boring as all hell. So let’s break that down into several points that coagulate into the previous conjecture.

  • There’s no sense of progression whatsoever. You don’t learn new things, new ways to tackle the objective, or anything. 
  • After a while, you don’t even engage in the game. Your muscles start memorizing patterns, and BAM, you gloss over everything.
  • Any stimuli you might be receiving doesn’t change, and it just becomes numbing.

So then why do developers keep doing this?

Because it’s easy to do. Why would you want to bother making new enemies, new environments  and new scenarios to lengthen a game when you can just recycle those that you have? Grinding is essentially that, a cheap, lazy extension of a game. Making a game is hard business, but I can’t really see how people so invested in these projects are willing to inject such poor design into their baby. Maybe it’s has to do something with Japanese ideals and work ethics or something.

But it cant be that since western developers do this as well! The only reasons I can think of why developers would do this is because…

A) As mentioned above, it’s a lazy tactic to lengthen games, so that a bigger number can be used on the back of the box or…

B) They grew up with grinding, and since they knew no better, they accepted it into their personal doctrine of what makes a good game.

“Okay, okay, we get it!” You plea.

SILENCE YOU FOOLS! Just kidding. I’ve probably berated the idea enough, anyway. How ’bout we talk about how to avoid this problem?

The number one easiest way to avoid relying on grinding is to not even consider it an option. Out of mind, out of sight. Remember that you should only make the game as long as it needs to be. There is no “time requirement” you have to fulfill or some length standards that you have to meet, but I’ll touch on that in another post.

Secondly, try to make things varied with what you have. This may not apply to what you might be doing, but there may be more than one way to introduce a monster. Play around with things, and try to make a scenario that feels at least a little different than the last.

That’s all for today, I think. Thanks for reading!

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  1. #1 by Sam Hale on January 25, 2013 - 5:36 pm

    I admit that even great games feature grinding, I did quite a bit of grinding in Final Fantasy 9 (a JRPG, also a personal fave). There’s another reason why grinding exists in video games though that you didn’t mention. Sometimes a JRPG will have a sudden ramp up in difficulty, the player will kill easy enemies until they have a statistical advantage large enough to kill a tough enemy. Sometimes it’s not a matter of strength but tactics. A game can fail to tell a player that they are doing something wrong, the player ends up thinking that grinding is the best option.
    I don’t think grinding is limited to Japanese games however, look at the multiplayer of games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, which can be as equally repetitive as any JRPG. The multiplayer for these games is the main selling point, so Western developers do this as well.

    • #2 by SuperSN on January 25, 2013 - 6:31 pm

      Should you have an unexplainable difficulty spike in your game, no matter what it is, you’re doing it wrong. Difficulty throughout a game should be a smooth curve upwards but devoid of any jaggedy lines.
      And as for CoD and Battlefield, you may be performing the same actions, running, shooting, turning all over the place, but you’re facing different enemies who behave vastly different from one each other, thus making a fresh experiences almost every time.

      Oh, and thanks for commenting, Sam. I really appreciate people coming here and sharing how they feel about what I write. It makes me think about what I said, and often times widens my view on the situation, and this comment was no different.

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