I haven’t seriously played an MMO for years. There have been times that I’ve tried one out, where I’ve played a freebie, just to see if it is fun and without exception, I drop it again within a week or two because it just isn’t entertaining to me. I think I’ve lost all interest in MMOs and MMO gameplay, they’re just not for me.
However, a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve seen this before, but there was an ad on Syfy for their games section of their website so I went and took a look and started playing a browser-based MMO called Dino Storm. It’s all about cowboys riding dinosaurs, certainly it’s nothing all that special but it is different and I started playing. I don’t know how much longer I’ll stick around though because it’s the same grind as everywhere else and grinding sucks.
It’s not necessarily because Dino Storm is a bad game. It’s not. It is a browser game so it is, by necessity, pretty shallow, but the gameplay is generally fun and bashing on dinosaurs is, at least to me, more fun than killing fantasy critters. I hate fantasy. However, I realized recently that what really drives me away from these games is the grind. Grinding is having to do the same, or similar, activities over and over again to get XP or gold or skill points so you can advance in the game. It’s how developers keep you playing the game without having to actually come up with any unique or interesting content.
See, in the game, you have to keep upgrading your dino and your weapon as you level up yourself. To do so, you have to turn in various drops from various critters in the game. Now I had to upgrade my weapon from level 10 to level 11 and to do this, I needed three kinds of drops. I had two of them, the third, of which I needed 4, came only from bandits riding brachiosaurs. There’s only one other kind of bandit at that level, those riding coelophysis and I also needed what they dropped to upgrade my dino, so any bandit along the track of level 10 mobs was fine with me. I figured this would be easy, mobs in the game travel in packs, usually of 8-10 individuals so, assuming each group I encounter might drop 1-2 of this particular item each, I could do it quick. Yeah, right!
In the first 2.5 hours that I played that particular day, I didn’t see one bandit. Period. There were tons of other things to kill, of course, and you pretty much had to because the bandits couldn’t spawn until you wiped out the mobs that were already there. I probably wiped out several hundred dinosaurs over those hours but no bandits at all to be seen. In fact, it took me 4 days, playing at least 2-3 hours each day, just to get those four measly drops that I needed. That’s ridiculous.
But remember those bandits on coelophysis that I was talking about? To upgrade my dino, I need 11 of what they drop, but to make matters worse, I have 5 dinosaurs, all of them need 11 each to upgrade and their appearance is no more common than the other bandits. That means that, assuming the same amount of time required, it will take me almost 2 months to gather the required parts to upgrade all of my dinosaurs from level 10 to 11, then I have to start all over with a different set of requirements to upgrade them from level 11 to 12. It’s insane.
The problem is, I really have no fun grinding whatsoever. It’s just a way for developers to keep you playing the game without giving you anything better to do. You don’t see it in single player games. Master Chief doesn’t have to grind parts before he can swap his MA5C ICWS Assault Rifle for a M90A CAWS Shotgun. It’s just there. Pick it up and use it. Go shoot stuff. Have fun! There’s little fun in wandering around, following a pattern, killing the same stuff over and over and over again, just hoping to get that one rare drop so you can upgrade something and they do it all over again. Or maybe, you can level up enough so that you can go somewhere else and grind over there for a while! Whoopie!
The other part that drives me a little crazy about Dino Storm is the PvP system. You cannot just opt out of PvP, except in DinoVille, the central town where no PvP is allowed. No, you have to buy PvP protection, which lasts 3 hours, every time you leave town. Now while I don’t really care, at least I don’t have to be continually ganked by a bunch of assholes who get off on shooting people 20 levels below them, it really is annoying that it costs you money, or in this case, fame points, just to stop being bothered by dicks. And they are dicks, the place is packed solid with them, idiots who will shoot anyone not bearing guardian protection, then camp their corpse to kill them again when they come back to pick up things they dropped. Or they will camp spawn sites so they can kill anyone not protected every time they respawn. Since you can’t get protection unless you visit a guardian outpost, you’re just dead meat time and time again. It’s just annoying, that’s why I never leave DinoVille without protection and never log off out in the wilds of PvP-permitted gamespace. PvPers are just dicks.
I’m not trying to pick on Dino Storm, it actually is kind of a fun game, at least for a little while, but the whole grind mechanic is nearly universal in MMOs and it is universally unfun. I don’t want to run around and earn upgrades by repeating the same content over and over. I want to have a good time all the time, from the moment I log in to the moment I log out. MMOs, and this goes for any MMO out there, old-school or new-school, operates the same way. That’s why I’m sticking to single-player shooters these days, at least they give me the experience I really crave.