The Daily Grind

September 20, 2007 at 8:50 am (Game Design, Warcraft, World of Warcraft)

I just read this article on wowinsider and had to comment on a few disagreements. All quotes are from the article.

The reason I don’t accept it is because I don’t believe Jonathan is looking at the entire game here, merely the part of it he doesn’t like, and is acting as if the entire game is grinding.

There are other rewards to be had in playing WoW which elevate it beyond mindless button mashing for the Sword of a Thousand Truths.

Now I obviously play WoW. I like playing Wow. I have played since open beta. This is the truth:

All of WoW is a grind.

  • Kill 8 boars – grind.
  • Bring me 5 heads – grind.
  • Escort the Marshal out of BRD – how many wipes did that take you?
  • Obtain teir X – grind bosses.
  • Get epic flier – grind gold.
  • Obtain Netherwing mount – grind faction.

There is nothing to do in WoW other than grind. He suggests

Quite frankly, I think Jonathan Blow is giving the artistry of the game and the immersive quality of the gameplay, the storylines one experiences, the game’s stance on redemption and corruption, and much more short shrift in order to focus on a gameplay aspect he doesn’t like and use it as a means to dismiss the entire genre of games as ‘exploitation’.

So basically, he’s saying there’s also graphics (erm artistry) and story. His example for artistry is that he went to the Deadmines and just walked around looking at all the cool little details. Now there’s TONS of cool little details all over WoW and they are really cool to find, but is that a game? No. Get a WoW model viewer and you can do the same thing. It’s just wrapping. There is no substance there that actually constitutes being part of the game.

The second aspect is story. How many times is “lorelol” posted on the forums? The example he gives of immersive gameplay/storylines is the Marshal Winsor event in SW. I have to admit it’s pretty cool. Unmasking the traitor right under the king’s nose is awesome to watch, and doing it myself was a landmark for my character. But wait… you unmasked the traitor too? What’s she still doing there after how many millions of people have exposed her. Talk about a grind: only x million more people need to unmask onyxia before they actually throw her out of SW. How many times has Rag died? Or Kael? Or Illidan?

There is no story in WoW. In a few months, we will have a new set of bosses and instances, and a new set of players will never even get a chance of killing the current round of raid bosses. Will it mater that you never defeated Kael and stopped him from destroying Outland? No. The story is only there in as much as it will support the grind. If you don’t grind there is no story, and that will be true for any MMO, because there’s no point in making a real story for just one person.

Compare that to Fable for example. Are there grinds there? Yep. Is there more? Oh yeah. Towns people react differently as your character changes. The world changes. You kill the Bandit king and suddenly every path is an ambush waiting to happen. Clear the tollway and never pay again.

Character development, growth, change are all essential parts to a story. What WoW has is very, very pretty wrapping paper for your grinding pleasure.

I guess the other aspect he didn’t mention is the social area. But honestly, install your favorite IM and you’re good to go. No game needed.

In short, you can either grind in WoW or

You can spend hours in the game doing nothing at all.



  1. Danilo said,

    The only game I am aware of that actaully had a moving story whe something happened only once per world was and is Asheron’s Call (still going after 8 years).

    They have a monthly story arc that has parts that never repeat and certain players can get unique items for the events that occur as part of the story.

    Now if they could really update the graphic engine that game would rock again.

  2. Game Dame said,

    A wonderful post. You bring up some excellent points. I think what you described is the next level of gaming, where you can immerse yourself in a “persistent” world that really is persistent. I have a friend how is playing the beta of Tabula Rasa. Although she says it’s quite buggy right now, I am intrigued by the idea that battles come and go around you, while you’re offline, and the world changes as NPC factions take over various planets and zones around you. I believe that the rising popularity of games where you can play others outside of your home (Xbox Live, etc.) is the result of trying in a primitive way to address the concerns you bring up. The human element will always provide surprise and challenge, unlike quests that grind and then respawn.

    I guess the next logical question is that, if WoW is a grind (and I too play, a Horde Shammy, and enjoy the heck out of it), what is the massive appeal of the game? Is it the social aspect? I don’t play on a PvP server so it can’t be that. Is it the silly content, like Hallow’s End? Is it the storylines? But as you said, a story is not a game. My theory is that WoW is like crack because of leveling. There’s always a carrot in front of you to keep you grinding. You get to 10 because you want to use talent points. You get to 20 to do your Shaman quest. Hell if I can remember why you want to get to 30. At 40, duh, it’s a mount… etc. It’s all just variable positive reinforcement.

    Would love to know your thoughts.

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