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As most of you probably know a lot, if not all, MMO RPG games have some element of "tediousness" in them.

By "tediousness" I mean elements in the gameplay that feel both unpleasant and needlessly complicated or long (note that grinding is simply unpleasant and therefore I do not include it in this question).

For example - introductory quests.
I don't mean the idea of introductory quests, which I think good. I mean their implementation.

For example in some games, where you can have several characters per account, each time you create a new character you have to go though the same introduction. You are not offered the option to skip it, regardless that you might already have a high leveled character. Surely there must a point to this?

For another example in some games the introduction is needlessly long. It could take an average player a few days to get past it, it doesn't add anything storywise and the game concepts have long been explained by the time the player reaches even half.

What is the rationale behind putting the player through all this, instead of giving him the option to skip the intro and/or making it only as long as it needs to be, etc.?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking because you're making your own MMO and are considering whether to implement these types of features yourself? If so, edit your question to detail the design of your game and the design decisions you're weighing, and it should be on-topic to answer here. If you're wondering about the why of existing games, the best thing to do is ask the developers of those games directly — most of us weren't involved in making those features and can't tell you why they were done they way they were. Do watch out for what our help center calls "rant in disguise" questions, of the form "X sucks, right?" \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory May 25 '18 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ The grind in MMOs is necessary because creating content is expensive and time-consuming, and players burn through it way faster than you can make it. I know that wasn't in your question, but there is definitely a reason for that one. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Almo May 25 '18 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory, actually I am asking because things that tend to appear in multiple games aren't "just a design choice" they are (usually) put with a purpose that is shared between all such games. Gosh, it's really hard to explain something mind-boggingly basic and obvious without trying to point out it's mind-boggingly basic and obvious. I mean it's like you telling me you don't know why companies have HR departments and "I should ask those firms directly" like there possibly couldn't be any general reasoning behind it, right? btw thanks to Almo for his contribution. :) \$\endgroup\$ – J. Doe May 25 '18 at 15:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @J.Doe: "actually I am asking because things that tend to appear in multiple games aren't "just a design choice" they are (usually) put with a purpose that is shared between all such games." If only that were true. Sometimes, people do things because a popular thing did the same thing and they want to be like the popular thing too. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas May 25 '18 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NicolBolas, you are completely right. Still, most patterns found in MMOs have a purpose behind them. Usually associated with earning the game more money. \$\endgroup\$ – J. Doe May 25 '18 at 19:10
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MMORPGs are designed to be played for a very long time. While most games aim for a total playtime somewhere in the magnitude of 10-40 hours, MMORPGs aim for several 100 to several 1000 hours until the player has seen all the content the game has to offer.

Why is that?

  • Traditionally, MMOs were often monetized with a subscription model. The player pays a monthly subscription fee. In order to make the most money out of this, you need to keep the player engaged for several months. If the player can explore the whole game in under a month, then this model won't be profitable.
  • Nowadays, more and more MMOs switch from subscriptions to microtransactions. But most players will only start buying stuff after playing a game for a very long time. You need to keep the players engaged until they become willing to invest money.
  • MMOs live from their community. Nobody likes playing in an abandoned area. That's not what MMOs are about. You play them to interact with other players. But it usually takes a quite long time until players get the courage to interact with other players and form a community. The more hours you get out of a player, the more engaged they will become in the community-building aspects of your game (Extra Credits made a series of video about this).

    By the way: This is one reason why the free-to-play model is becoming so much more popular than the subscription model: The large amount of freeloaders make the game more populated and offer more interaction opportunities for the paying customers.

But how do you provide hundreds to thousands of hours of content with a limited budget?

You do what you can to slow down the player and make sure they don't progress too fast through your content.

That's where grinding comes into play. Before you allow the player to explore further content, you force them to spend as much time as bearable on leveling their character with the content they have already seen.

Grinding is also a useful way to get players to invest into microtransactions. When the grind becomes tedious, they will look for ways to optimize their play in order to get through it as fast as possible. When they reached the maximum optimization possible with ideal play, then microtransactions will often be the only way to optimize further. This makes them very tempting.

But you can't just start the full amount of grind immediately, or the player will see what you are up to and quit. You need to carefully ramp it up to get the player used to it. This "getting used to grinding" process should start early. So why not already introduce the player to grinding in the tutorial?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's brilliant! \$\endgroup\$ – J. Doe May 25 '18 at 19:22

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