29 August, 2011

Guidelines 3

Avoid Grind
The amount of inspiration I took from Echo Bazaar is nearly embarrassing. While I had the idea with splitting up a story into Actions before I saw it there, the Stat/Item-abstraction I use is directly taken from their game, and I have taken liberty with quite a few other neat things from them. Yet there is one thing in EB which I hate. It's not just slightly grindy, the later stages of the game literally revolve around redoing the same actions dozens of times. Since you can only do 10 actions per hour, and only 40 per day, I've spent more than a real week on grinding one of my stats from 70 to 80, which was insanely boring, and made me quit the game despite its interesting writing. Of course, it makes sense for them from a business point of view, because you pay them real money to get more actions. It's the not-quite-so-old MMO problem that a drawn out game will just earn you more than something short and sweet like Portal 2.

Still, I cannot help but feel that this is their one big mistake, where they sacrificed a great game design for money. I find repetition boring. And I believe I am not quite the only one. This brings me to my engine and what kind of games I would like to see. There is nothing wrong with writing an Action called "Go to the Gym to train", but it should not be required to do it seven hundred times to continue with the story. I have tried to implement my engine in a way to prevent this from happening. Whenever you receive some exp through a reward, it will reduce it by a cumulative 20% for every time you have already seen this reward. You can manually deactivate this feature by setting @repeat="infinite" if you have to (such as an exchange of two values, where you don't want it to scale, but rather keep it perfectly identical).

At first, one might think that this increases the amount of grinding necessary, but that is not true. At a cumulative 20% decrease, the exp received drops to negligible amounts very quickly, which means anyone playtesting will quickly understand that this is not the way to do it. In essence, I try to highlight the designer's mistake so it can be fixed.


  1. So you avoid grinding by...reducing the experience people get for each action?

  2. I cannot avoid it fully without completely prohibiting repeating actions, which is not an option. The only thing I can do by means of mechanics is reduce its impact, which in turn should make it obvious to the writer that he should not plan for the player doing excessive grinding.

    A writer cannot think: "Well, if the player does not have enough yet, he can just go and grind a few points." Because the player realistically cannot. Instead of relying on a clutch, the problem is pushed to the surface very visibly.

    At the same time, one can write actions which give out big chunks of experience, because even if the player can repeat them a few time, it will fall off rather quickly.