Only when I started slaughtering a bunch of goats for their fur did the stupidity of the situation catch up with me. This is exactly what common MMO parodies make fun of: mindless grinding. And to be honest, up to a certain degree – the degree of how much I enjoy a bit of mindlessness in the evening – this was fun. Fun in a grindy, uplevelly sort of way. But as soon as you think about it, it’s ruined: Most of the damn goats wouldn’t give their fur to me upon death, making me feel as if I’d unwittingly killed an already sheared animal. Of course, for some never explained reason, the game cannot allow me to just take the dagger another goat left me (interesting, that) and skin the damn beast myself – no, for I need the “dagger use” skill, something a priest doesn’t have. Naturally. At the same time I’m doing this, there are of course 6 other players doing the same start-up excercises, and nobody questions the sanity of the NPC who complains to everyone he meets about the same problem, all the time.
So here’s me, very city-dwelling college student, who never in her life had to battle a goat to the death, and even I think I could, should the going get rough, be able to pick up a kitchen knive and learn how to kill and skin a goat. Not a thing I’d look forward to, but I’m sure even as un-outdoorsy as I am I’d figure it out. Then there’s my priestess, who all other NPCs refer to as “soldier”, and she cannot wear chain mail and carry a sword if she wished because she never learnt? Considering, the dress she’s wearing actually looks like it needs special wearing-dress-skills to stay in place.
Yes, it’s all been said before; and yet I only just realised how I never actually played a grind-heavy MMO. My only real gaming experiences in the genre come from Guild Wars – by far not a stereotypical MMO (even though youtube commenters would tell you otherwise.) Even though I knew most other, more mainstream MMOs were going to be like this, and even my fellow guild members told me as much beforehand, I still expected this to keep me entertained – and it did. Again, Guild Wars wasn’t perfect either, it had grinding in a different way, but it was still grinding. Don’t we all just tend to follow those map markers, click the people with glowing question marks/christmas lights/kittens above their heads and wait for the jingle of a quest well done?
At any rate, I will continue to play around with Aion for fun and see how it continues. I am actually pretty confident it will get more complex, I’m just that kind of optimist. Also, I like to oggle at pretty, colourful landscapes. However, this reminded me again just how much I am looking forward to Guild Wars 2, if only to see whether they can stick to the high expectations they’ve raised and tackle these typical MMO issues. The Secret World is also something to keep an eye out for, since they also specifically plan to deal with the issue of heroics in a world full of player-heroes. Until then, I’m off to slaughter helpless forest dwellers.