The Newbie Experience, by Kami
Nov 28, 2006 02:31:20

[ed: Presenting the first piece of content posted by someone other than the prognosticator. Thanks to Kami for the submission]

Newb: Noun, Slang. An Internet term meaning someone who is new, and therefore unaware, of the inner workings of a game.

So you read the reviews, you created your account, you sent your credit card details down the wires to a company far far away and downloaded the client. But now what?

MMO developers are constantly searching for the new experience, the new story, the new lore. What is rarely talked about is the new BEGINNING. We all start off as newbs in these virtual worlds, looking at our newly created character and thinking "Ok, so where do I start?"

Well the answer is simple, with the tutorial... right? Well not according to some gamers. There is a misconception amongst the gaming community that we recognize the W-A-S-D controls and have no need for lengthy tutorials, and hence miss out in some of the amazing content that the game has to offer newbies. I can't even start to recall the amount of times people have told me they didn't like EVE-ONLINE after an hour of playing.

"An hour?" I reply, "but the tutorial should take longer than that!"

And it does. This may not equate to a FUN experience, but it means that once you've spent that time on the tutorial, you can instantly start ratting and mining like a pro.

So what can devs do about this? Surely they want to grab player's attention immediately with the amazing capabilities of their game, whilst educating in the basic control system.

Should they take an approach that locks you into a tutorial or newbie zone until you reach a certain level or do a certain quest, like Guild Wars pre-searing or the Age of Conan idea where you play the first 20 levels on the newbie isle? Or is it better to have an optional tutorial or zone and allow the player to learn by themselves, constantly unaware of what to do next, but steered gently in the right direction?

The best way to get the answer to this question is to look at World of Warcraft. Using some common sense and by looking at there numbers we can safely assume that there is a fairly large group of people for whom WOW was there first MMO. So what grabbed them so quickly into the game and kept them playing? Simplistic game play with an optional flashing tutorial.

The best approach to making the newbie experience quick, informative and, ultimately, set you up for the rest of the game is this; options. Players should be given the option to skip certain areas of the gameplay. For instance, players could be given the opportunity to start at a slightly higher level and therefore cut out the early grind which is ultimately there for learning. This would allow people making alts to get them right into the training required to craft, mine or farm for there main character. Perhaps it would be locked until you had a first character to a certain level, or an option you could charge to your credit card, but it would certainly reduce the frustration of hardcore fans of a game when starting an alt from scratch.

But until such times arise, I guess we're stuck with our flashing exclamation points, newbie islands and tutorials.

In any case, always do the newbie experience, its better to be a newb than a n00b...

Submitted by Kami on Nov 28, 2006 02:31:20 CST (comments: 3)


'tutorials' by Sente
Submitted on 2006-11-28 18:00:13 CST
I tink the tutorial should be a fairly quick one I think, giving you the basics needed to play the game. But there should also be some mechanism to highlight new features and elements as you play, without being too intrusive.

WoW in your example did a pretty good job here. I like the City of Villains tutorial also, fairly short and to the point and fits well into the regular environment and story line (you are breaking out of a prison during a riot). And you can skip the tutorial of course.

The newbie islands of Everquest 2 and Anarchy Online are pretty nice ideas, but I think those are too long really. You can't really skip it directly and have to gain a few levels at least.

One approach if you could not skip content entirely would perhaps be that you can get an xp boost for a certain amount of play time or a certain number of levels (in level based games) based on the number of alts one has above some certain play time or level minimum.

'Alt Characters' by Kanthalos
Submitted on 2006-12-05 12:56:09 CST
One thing I might add is that I believe Lineage 2 has done precisely what you've said, referring to "players should be given the option to skip certain areas of the gameplay. For instance, players could be given the opportunity to start at a slightly higher level and therefore cut out the early grind which is ultimately there for learning." I'm not sure EXACTLY how it works, but I know that once you hit a certain level, I believe around 60 or 65, you can then make a character that is level 40ish which you can switch out with when you are in a town. To me this is a brilliant idea and I wish more games would include a system like this, so that I wouldn't have to take my third alt in WoW from 1 to 60, its just tedious. On the other hand the grind is Lineage 2 is horribly outrageous and takes something like 10 times as long per level as WoW I think... Anyways, I hope this is helpful or insightful in some beneficial or interesting way :)

'L2' by Brent
Submitted on 2006-12-06 00:41:45 CST
I did not know Lineage had added something of this sort. That's very forward thinking of them especially considering the grind involved in that game. I sure wish EQ had done that.

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