But anyway, about hearts - yeah, they do require you to accept that there are infinite apples to pick and an infinite amount of bandits that attack. But precisely that act of accepting is part of what causes it to feel like grind. I'm not saying that "hearts should act like DEs" or that they should appear only periodically. Because that would just mean that they still are grindy but this time, not accessible all the time, which would mean that players would go to the places where they appear and wait until they do.
I am saying that:
- Hearts should be removed as they are now. As in, they should not give xp rewards and there should be no progress bar.
- The heart content, that which allows you do feed cows etc, could remain. That stuff gives a ton of extra flavor to the world.
- There could be some minor reward for doing certain things related to that content. However the reward should be so small as to it being a waste of time if you do it for the reward. Basically, you should do the content because you want to do it.
- There should be no pointer to any of this. That way, finding such content will be the reward for exploration. Since the content itself is not that rewarding, exploration itself will not be a grind either.
- Hearts can be enabled or disabled by success or failure in nearby DEs. For example, if a DE makes you "lose" a town, then the "hearts" (which would no longer be hearts, but their content would be there) would be inaccessible. Other content of the same type could appear instead.
ANYWAY. Yeah, I know, but my point was that games that are 100% sandbox are accepted by players if they are just handed to them as a sandbox. It has to be designed for it, though, which GW2 is not. it seemed to be, judging by what they said before the betas, but turns out it's not.
Also, I see what you mean... but running between hearts didn't make me see 10+ DEs.