D20: What is the appeal of loot grinding and repeatable bosses, anyway?

Borderlands 2

By on November 5, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I’ve played what could politely be referred to as an “obscene” amount of Borderlands 2 since I first got sent it for review. According to Steam, I’ve put in 152 hours so far. That’s more time than I put into most games before moving on to the next thing. I only played Diablo III for about 40 hours before I got sick of the grind, and only made it to 149 hours in Skyrim after a year, three different playthroughs, and some DLC all combined. What is it then about Borderlands 2 that is keeping me playing long after I’ve hit level cap with two characters?

It’s not going to have an appeal to everyone, but Gearbox have capitalised on a few traits commonly found in MMOs designed to keep people playing after reaching level cap and “completing” all the questing content in the game. I’m speaking, of course, of repeatable bosses and the gear grind. Those words are anathema to some people, and it’s understandable why they don’t like the idea of doing something over and over again for the eventual promise of incremental reward, but to me there is an all but irresistible draw for two reasons.

if you tell me that once you finish your second playthrough and reach level cap that some bosses in the world have a small chance to drop level 50 unique items, I’ll be there

For one, I’m a completionist. I like to explore everything, open every chest and unlock every door, so if you tell me that once you finish your second playthrough and reach level cap that some bosses in the world have a small chance to drop level 50 unique items, I’ll be there to collect them all.

Once I have those items, the other part of the game begins.

Years ago when I used to be a regular on the RPG convention circuit, occasionally I would partake in what was known as a “Roulette”. These games were essentially RPG gladiatorial combat. Each of the players is given the rules, usually D&D slightly modified so that every piece of equipment, spell and stat point has a points value. Players are then given a set amount of points to put together the most powerful character they can conceive, and the characters are then pitted against each other to see which is the most powerful.

A lot of that time the power comes from cleverly exploiting the rules. One year a player worked out that the Polymorph Other spell could be the deadliest in the game – all you needed was a bag of mice. Throw a mouse at the enemy, Polymorph it into a massive creature like a whale and roll a ton of dice for the ensuing falling object damage.

When I’ve “finished” a game, I like to do that. I don’t exploit or play with the rules when they still matter, but once I’m done with a narrative I take a lot of pleasure from gaming the system, finding ways to use the rules to do things that were not necessarily intended. I haven’t managed to solo Terramorphous yet, as I don’t want to use any terrain based cheats — but these repeatable bosses afford me the opportunity to keep playing with the rules to see what I can do with some overpowered gear and just the right skill trees. I might bang on about narrative and character all the time, but sometimes a pile of loot and some big red numbers can be just as satisfying.

13 comments (Leave your own)

The dreaded whale mouse. What ingenious bastardry.

I understand what you mean about the looting. It is horribly additctive. Personally though, I find myself slowing down in my Borderlands 2 playthrough and returning to Skyrim – I’ve put around 180 hours into Skyrim, on just one playthrough. Its a done playthrough (my word is it done) and I don’t think I can make my character any tougher… but yet I keep going back to it. I’m currently turning my sword and board character into a two handed monster, and tweaking the hell out of different suits of gear to make it work. Its actually rather satisfying, and I don’t know why.

 

It’s a sense of competition and reward in the way of gambling (kill mob, random loot comes out)

I use to be like that until i realised, i really have nothing to show for it and don’t remember it. These days I usually play a game once for the fun and experience and that’s it

 

I fail to see any resemblances between Borderlands 1/2 and Skyrim. Time spent in a game boils down to how well you like a game.

Generally speaking, things that are dead in Skyrim stay dead so there is no repetitive boss looting. It’s static gameplay, and people are less likely to put more hours into it than they are a game like Borderlands, or any other MMO game for that matter.

Games like borderlands, on the other hand, are crafted to be played over and over again to get the better loot. It’s almost the same formula that kept people playing Diablo 2 over the years.

It still also boils down to personal preference though. You may have only put 40 hours into D3 yourself, but there are many others who have put thousands of hours into it. I myself only put maybe 45 hours into the first Borderlands before finding it too repetitive to continue, and have chosen not to buy into Borderlands 2 because it’s just more of the same thing. Having said that, I still play games like Guild Wars and Diablo 2, even though they are arguably more repetitive.

 

My bro and I went through both playthroughs as all 4 classes (two each) with the first Borderlands but we couldn’t really get into the DLC (granted we haven’t tried the General Knoxx one yet).

So far, we’ve put very little time together into BL2 but that’s only because we live apart these days and we only game when I make the trip to his place for some cou. He’s put a bit more time in playing solo as the Mechromancer.

I’ve put about 60hrs give or take into each class in Diablo 3. While the launch, the regular server downtime, and lag aren’t great, I’m still enjoying D3 all these months later. And, while I hate how time consuming the auction house has been, it’s solved my need to hack items in Diablo 2 (which IMHO wasn’t at all generous with the loot drops).

Then there’s Torchlight 1 and 2 which has the right amount of loot drops to not require an AH.

Loot grinding games… one of my two gaming Achilles heels… the other being open world games built for exploration.

 
Ralph Wiggum

Grinding is great for building up cash for your character. A run with Terramorphous on Borderlands 2 nets about 300 – 500k easily. Getting a better weapon/item is uncommon but the lure is still there.

 
hunterkiller

If you think Terramorphous is hard then try Imperpheous The Invincible (i think thats his name) in TVHM man its damn hard and i went from 800K down to 8K, lol and still didnt get half way in the life bar with 2 other maxed players.

If anyone has done it then please pass on the wisdom.

Oh this is unlocked once you complete the DLC.

 

The thing that cracks me up is that many of the same people who criticize a game like World of Warcraft for being “repetitive and grindy” are the same ones who I see every night in my steam friends list (or the GoN community list) playing Borderlands 2 or GW2 (which is a dressup Barbie grinding simulator).

 

“What is the appeal of loot grinding and repeatable bosses, anyway?”

It adds some sort of sense of accomplishment to people’s otherwise meaningless lives.
Lets them feel like they’ve gained something.

If you want to get to the root psychology of it, then there it is.

 
psychofruiterer

Hunterkiller, go get a babymaker and one for each of your friends.
Get all 3 of you to hold down fire and spam reload key.
Boss = dead in about 10 seconds.

 

i just cant really get into it , usually love grinding stuff and looting , my zero is level 25 but tbh i cant see myself making 50 , rarely see decent weapons , and always get stuck dying continually trying to get through an area which makes missions go for over an hour , get bored by myself then join some ppl and they take all the loot lol wtf

 

Psychofruiterer: Iss it hypocritical of me to call the baby-maker method a cop-out when I regularly farm Terramorphous using the Bee/Conference Call method? ;)

Bishopoz: I understand how you feel. The game feels a LOT less enjoyable playing on your own, and is best played with other people who know how to share the loot. I’d offer to join you but I only have a Lvl 50 Zero (too overpowered for your games) or you’d have to join one of my weaker lvl 8 ish characters.

 
psychofruiterer

Bishopoz, i feel ya, had the same experience with my siren till i done some side missions and got a couple of levels higher than the baddies i was fighting in the storyline missions.It didn’t get easier to the point of not being a challenge, but it was less frustrating for sure.
I won’t even mention how playthrough 2 is BRUTAL compared to 1st playthrough, oh wait… i just did :D

Ralphwiggum, maybe a little…but i hear ya… reminds me of the time in world of warcraft when i suggested to my guild that we should go in blind on purpose to a new raid and see if we could work it all out with only us and no outside info….
You can guess how long that lasted before we looked up how to kill the 1st boss, lol

 

Am I the only person who manages to have fun with these sort of games without feeling the need to grind loot and bosses?

The original borderlands I didn’t like because I just didn’t enjoy the combat, But games like Diablo 2/3, Guild Wars 1/2, Star Wars The Old Republic I’ve never once sat there grinding away at the same dungeons/bosses except for Diablo 2 which I would pretty much be completely over the game after 20-30 baal runs and then only return to it with a new character, eventually accumilating the required gear over the course of multiple toons or through trading.

Guild Wars I played for over 4 years and never sat there doing dungeon runs, hell I never even went to the Underworld just because I knew it was purely a farming area and almost everyone there were just looking for farming roles.

I just enjoy running multiple characters in these games (12 in guild wars, 8 in swtor, about 50 different characters across the course of D2), playing through the game for the gameplay itself, enjoying the diversity in environments and objectives rather than just hammering one thing repeatedly for a shiny.

 
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