15/10/2012

Embracing the PvP grind

Grinding in MMOs has gotten a somewhat bad reputation as of late. I'm not sure why, considering that at its core, grinding simply means investing time and effort into the game to achieve an enjoyable result. Of course there are plenty of ways in which you can make a grind a bad thing: making the baseline activity extremely boring or tedious ("chores"), getting the balance wrong so that the reward doesn't feel worth the effort ("pointless grind"), constantly moving the goalposts so that the player isn't sure where they are going or if they are getting anywhere at all ("treadmill")... okay, maybe I can see why grinds have gained a bad reputation in the blogosphere.

The Old Republic is generally not very grindy. Levelling doesn't take very long, and PvE gear is easy to come by. However, there is one exception and that's high-end PvP. Initially, max level PvP is easy to get into because the game provides you with a full set of free gear the moment you ding fifty (which is quite handy for PvE as well by the way). Then it only takes a couple of weeks to upgrade that to Battlemaster, even if you only put in a moderate amount of effort by doing the warzone daily every other day. But then War Hero looms on the horizon as your next goal, and holy crap, that's grindy. Assuming you don't participate in any ranked play and only get ranked commendations from the daily and by trading them in at a great loss, you'll only get a single piece of gear every other week or so, even if you PvP every day. Harsh!

I started working on my own War Hero set back in May, and even mentioned at the time that the prospect of such a huge grind looked quite daunting - especially considering that this was before the server transfers, when it wasn't unusual for warzone queues on my server to take half an hour. However, five months later and with much shorter queues I've finally reached my goal. I decided to keep a couple of pieces of Battlemaster because the War Hero versions looked more like sidegrades than upgrades to me, but the bottom line is that I've got all the PvP gear I could possibly want right now.

It's a strange feeling. I almost forgot how satisfying it can be to complete a major in-game goal like that after a long time. The only downside is that I also feel a bit lost. I started spending excess commendations on what cosmetic goodies there are on the PvP vendor, but it feels a bit ridiculous. Who thought that it was a good idea to make vanity pets with a valor rank 70 requirement anyway? I do feel a bit sorry for anyone who wants to be a serious pet collector in this game.


However, I'm running out of things to buy and the PvP currencies are starting to build up. It won't be long until I hit the cap. And then what? I could of course continue to run warzones anyway, because it's fun, however I'm guessing that I'll eventually be drawn towards the lure of having both fun and rewards by playing on an alt instead. Or maybe I'll make a serious effort to get back into endgame PvE. It's about time anyway.

Either way I think it's all good. People like to complain about running out of content once they've completed what's there. In general I agree that new things to do should be added over time, but I've also found from experience that a game that keeps piling on the new content too quickly isn't fun for me either. It just frustrates me if I never get to complete anything before it gets changed or becomes obsolete. In my opinion there's nothing wrong with being given some time to complete your goals in an MMO. It's part of what makes a game satisfying. If it's been a pleasant experience, it will only encourage you to come up with new goals for yourself, because if it's been fun, you'll want to find reasons to keep playing. And if you didn't care about the game before, no amount of additions is going to make you love it.

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