Ah yes, Grinding. The very thing that many people complain about when it comes to JRPGs, particularly the harder Japanese ones. This topic came to mind as I've recently been playing 7th Saga (SNES), a game that is rather infamous for its forced level grinding. I'm not going to say that this does not exist in that game (it very much does), but I wanted to talk a bit about the concept of grinding enemies for XP to get levelups in JRPGs. First, I want to say that I don't think level grinding is bad design, or that it doesn't have a place in games. On the contrary, I think it can do good things for a game and it has its place and function. However, it can by overdone, and it's sad when that happens, because it can turn people off on the game. Here are some points I would like to mention: 1). Difficulty Slider. Level grinding can be used as a difficulty slider in most JRPGs: Every time you gain an XP level, you are effectively reducing the difficulty of battles from then on. If you want to make the game easier, you simply grind more levels. If you want more of a challenge run, you grind less levels. Many JRPG games make it so that there's a baseline challenge if you kill most enemies you encounter during the natural progression of the game, and if you feel this makes the game too easy, most games will give you some way of skipping combat; avoiding enemies, running from battle, or killing enemies in a way that does not give XP. Or, if you think the game is a little too hard, you can stop and grind a little. 2). Content Padding. Let's face it, another major part of Level Grinding, is to make the game artificially longer. I know this is the argument that many people will make about games that feature a good bit of grinding and I'm not going to deny it, though I would have to ask, if there was no level grinding, and no need to grind levels, would you really rather have a short game? You might say "oh they could just add more content!" Well, yes....and no. Many of the more grindy JRPGs were released on early consoles, particularly the SNES has a large JRPG library. SNES cartridges had a finite amount of memory on them that you could store your game. Adding content meant that you were trying to squeeze more data onto the cartridge, and if you wanted to make the game a bit longer, you would add things that the player would need to grind for, optional equipment, or perhaps make the game's bosses challenging to slow the player down now and then or at least encourage them to fight all of those enemies in their way instead of skipping past them. I don't see as much Level Grinding in today's RPGs, though it does/can happen especially if the developer wants to make a game that feels "oldschool". 3). Progression of Character Power. You know what feels good as a player? My characters getting stronger. A game that lets you level grind and see your character's growth as you start out by struggling with a particular set of enemies, and then over the course of an hour or so, turn them from a struggle into an even fight, and them being pushovers is a fun and rewarding feeling. I like seeing numbers go up, I like starting off with reasonably difficult enemies, only to smooth them into curbstomp battles, pointing and laughing at the enemies that gave me trouble an hour or two ago. Not all games do this well, but I can think of a few where you can start to feel the difference after a level or two. 4). Using Abilities You Wouldn't Normally. Grinding for levelups gives you the ability to use certain spells that usually don't work on bosses, and spells you would not use on the way to a boss because of MP Conservation in the many JRPGs that have limited MP systems. Instant Death spells, multi-target spells and abilities, status effect attacks, a lot of these things can be fun to actually use, but impractical if you're on your way to the next boss as you will want to save your MP for the boss whenever possible, and the bosses are oftentimes immune to such things, as mentioned previously. It can be fun to grind near a town and just go wild with your character(s)' attacks and then go rest at the Inn only to do it some more. So these are a few ways in which I think XP/Level Grinding are good for a game, and now I'm going to present a few tips on how to make your XP/Level Grinding experience more palatable: 1). Work Smarter, not Harder. Hey I get it, you want to get done with this and move on as soon as possible. Hey this happens to me too, so don't feel like I'm judging you for not liking the Grind. One thing one should realize is XP/hr and smoothness of combat. Picture two scenarios -- you fight a tough enemy that gives you 500XP when killed. You only need 3,000 for a levelup so that's great! Five more of those and you've got your level. Well, what if I told you that you could go back to the previous area you had already passed, and kill three 200XP enemies in the same amount of time and it would be a lot easier and there'd be far less danger? You would be making better XP/hr and thus get done faster. Always consider things like this. Also, You might run into a 900XP enemy that comes out every so often in a particular spot, but it only appears in 1 out of 10 random battles and the rest of the battles only give you 100XP per. That's not really worth it either; the place where you get 200XP per battle is far better, because it's more consistent. 2). Do It In Segments. One mistake some players make, is burn out. If you think you need, say, 5 levelups and each level takes an hour, that seems so daunting in the more grindy games, doesn't it? Break it up into segments! Set a time for yourself and say "I'm going to grind for (insert amount of time here)." Maybe take 30, 45 minutes and get as much XP as you can in that time, save the game, and do something else for awhile. Maybe later on in the same day, come back for another 30 or 45 minutes. You'd be surprised how short the grinding sessions feel when you split them up like this. Set goals, stick to them, and don't overdo it. 3). Distract Yourself. Use a tablet, a phone, or alt-tab if you're using emulation software. Do other things while level grinding. This is another reason why you want to do your grinding on easy enemies that pose little threat; you can take your mind off of what you're doing, and do something else. Chat away on IM, get into a voice conversation with friends while you grind away. If you're sitting there doing the grinding and nothing but the grinding, it will get boring because very little of your mental acuity is devoted to the grinding and the rest of your brain is getting bored. Doing something else in the background, such as talking to friends helps with this immensely. Or even browsing the internet, art sites, reading forums, etc between battles or turns or what-not can help a lot too. So, hopefully this post softened your mood towards Level Grinding in JRPGs; it does have its place in a game's design. It's not something that should be overdone if you're designing a game, but yet none at all is even more detrimental in my opinion. Thoughts/comments, feel free to share!