[long read, sorry but I thought context was important]
The last time I hard-core gamed was EverQuest in its very first couple years (one of the first MMRPGs, circa 1999). I remember an epiphany I had after a week of playing and having suffered a very unfortunate event common to many noobs at the time. Having worked really hard to develop a warrior to a meager level but just high enough to feel (overly) confident to start to explore, I ventured very, very far out in the icy maze of “Halas” to see what there was to see. Inevitably and eventually I got one-shotted out of no where. Re-spawning naked back in town with the realization that my corpse, along with all the gear I had worked so hard for was now lost, who knows where, and possibly forever! I hadn’t yet learned about /loc function so had no idea where mmy stuff was - devastating! There I was wandering around along for hours naked in a blinding snow storm at night while calling out asking for help via chat like a momma fox that just lost her pup. In that moment I not only realized I had a new quest but this was personal.
I recall this quest unfolded over many, many in-game hours perhaps even actual days but was urgent because my corpse would eventually “expire” and everything would be gone. Eventually other players tried to help and died themselves in the process. I felt terrible as this was a huge sacrifice they had made but much appreciated (i.e. bonds formed). Eventually, a friendly “necro” took pity and helped get my stuff back but was shocked at how far I had actually gotten.
Through that experience I realized this game was special. I had become truly invested in that character, the game and most importantly the community in a way I never had been before. This despite all the broken game mechanics and quest-lines expected of an early game especially one as groundbreaking as EQ. The world was awesome, the community was awesome and we all had our share of triumphs and tragedies to share working through the grind.
After a couple years I stopped playing completely due to demands of work/life. Then, some 10 years later I was surprised to discover the game still existed so I checked it. I was hugely disappointed to find they had, IMO at the time, completely ruined the game by removing the grind (no hate please, just my opinion). Things were too easy now and there was very little actual risk. I had a hunch this was due to the accumulated effect of accommodating player ideas/requests over time of “improving” things like traveling from here to there, MOB difficulty, skill increases, getting your loot back, etc, etc, etc. After a few hours of playing I lost interest because it was just too comfortable. I was no longer invested because they had removed most of the grind and there was less of a sense of “us vs the world” in the community.
I’ll close with my point and some unsolicited advice to you designers and devs: don’t underestimate the value of the grind. You really have something potentially very special here. Myself included, we will all ask for little things to simplify our in-game experience not realizing that some of those requests might be chip away at one of the very things that makes the game so challenging and great. It will be a balancing act for certain but I think if you keep this in mind you’ll have a game that will keep us engaged for a very long time to come.
Keep up the great work!