Korean Massively Multiplayer Online Games have a reputation for being excruciatingly ‘grindy’. What this means is that in order to progress in the game, you have to do a lot of repetitious, tedious actions, before you can get to a point in the game to be decently competitive vs human opponents, or simply versatile enough to do anything that isn’t farming Piglets in Newbie Island for 100 hours.
Now, any ‘free to play’ game is going to be somewhat grindy- if the game has a ‘free’ and ‘subscription’ model, they want to give people an incentive to pay money. The people who pay money are also going to expect a better experience over those who do not pay. But under the Korean free to play MMO model, this is thrown into the extremes:
NavyField is a simple yet addictive naval game. Its above view, and you use historical WWII era warships against other players, customizing the loadout and ship types. The game is technically free, but to get enough experience points/money to buy a ship bigger than a dinghy that gets 1-shotted 5 seconds into the battle takes a considerable amount of time. If you factor that losing a battle only gives you a pittance of exp/money its very long haul. You can pay a one-time subscription fee which considerably boosts this, though even after that its still a pretty long grind. Finally, you can pay a monthly subscription which multiplies it even further (I think it ends up being like 4x the exp rate vs free) which, combined with playing during Holiday/Promotional periods which offer further boosts actually make the game playable because you can level up and accumulate money at a decent rate, even if you die a lot.
Ragnarok Online and MapleStory are MMORPGs that had a pretty painful grind in my memory.
Contrast this with other MMOs: Even if they had a similar free to play model they had some element to offset the grind. In EVE Online if you were a good businessman/liked reading excel spreadsheets you could be financially self-sufficient enough in the game to play for free indefinitely and afford to replace ships destroyed by griefers. You built up your skills over real time passively, so you could research Engineering 5, log off, come back a week later and it would be researched, instead of grinding xp the whole time.
World of Warcraft had a variety of zones to explore at any given level range, and “Rest xp” which would give you +50% (or was it 100%? can’t remember) xp if you hadn’t played for a while.
Planetside 2 is free to play and a level 1 player has access to all of the vehicles and aircraft a level 100 player does. Grinding certification points really only improves a few skills or gives access to a few ‘flavor of the month’ guns. There are plenty of abilities that take hundreds of hours of playtime to earn but offer a negligible benefit (so its not mandatory you waste time to get them). They also do plenty of promotions- last xmas they had a massive discount on gift cards, giving you TRIPLE the ingame ‘money’, on top of a Wal-Mart sale effectively resulting in an 85% discount in all the purchasable things in game.