I recently draw this image that points out a small challenge in game design:
Naturally this isn’t a problem if you happen to have tons of time and enjoy grinding and that sort of stuff.
But for me… this is bit of an issue. In Fallout, it was issue since I prefer to enjoy the story. Random encounters, even some really small sidequests where bit of grinding type of stuff for me that I didn’t like. All I wanted was to get to do a meaningful big scale decision that affects the outcome of the story, not shoot some monsters somewhere in a desert.
Don’t get me wrong – Fallout is great game, and I totally enjoyed the experience and almost everything it offers. But there were times when I stopped progressing main story or fun side quests, and did smaller stuff instead, just to level up.
Let’s take another game: Witcher. I played it briefly, but quickly it started to feel like I’m just getting better skills for the sake of getting better skills, and story for me wasn’t progressing in sane way. I liked the world, the cut-scenes, parts of story and unlock stuff… but it all was wrapped in a big box of repetitive play, which unfortunately I don’t have time to do. Sure, it was different (I wasn’t just killing spawning rats over and over in one place), but doing the same thing in every single side quest (go to place A, kill something, go place B, get reward – over and over) smells grindish to me.
Again, I’m not saying that Witcher is bad. I’m just saying that the gameplay is somewhat repetitive in such way that I perhaps didn’t like so much. It was the main story that kept me playing.
Combat and fighting can be fun. They can provide meaningful choices in them, but when combat is about 100% victory against a spawning enemy with some reward for the sake of leveling up… then we are approaching bad design.
Why bother with battles that players are certain to win and must repetitively do for the sake of leveling up?
It’s pretty much the same as if you’d give player button “click here to gain experience”.