Taking decisions before learning the game
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 June 2013, 4:17 am
My first character in Everquest ended up getting deleted and being replaced by another character of the same class. I don't know if the game still works like that, but at the time there were two factors here: Different races were not the same in stats, so certain races were better at certain classes than others. And on character creation you had to distribute some bonus stat points. So what happened was that the first character I created I wasn't aware of what the optimum race and stats for that class would be, leading me to create a sub-optimal character. And the only way to fix that was to roll a new character.

I was thinking about that in the context of yesterday's $20 purchase guide for Card Hunter. You can't really make a very wrong decision there forcing you to start over. But if you for example join the Card Hunter Club only after you played through the first few adventures that give out guaranteed epics, you missed out on the second epic the club membership would have given you. I did, and as you are short on items at the start of the game missing out on an extra epic is kind of annoying. There are also those very cheap "simple chests", which are a nice help at low levels. But if you are new to the game and want to save your gold and your pizza (which can be transformed into gold) until you know the game well enough to decide what to buy, it is quite possible that by that point you already got enough low-level items and don't find buying simple chests all that useful any more. In the worst case you might have quit the game out of frustration before, because running the campaign for the first time with few items in your collection can be quite challenging. A lot of people on the beta forums are complaining about the difficulty of the level 6-8 adventures, but if you get a bunch of extra items early those adventures become a lot easier.

The problem is that players are naturally reluctant to take decisions early in a game before they have fully grokked it. If you are forced to take a decision, e.g. on character creation, you might regret it later. If you get the option to postpone the decision you might find out that it would have been better to do something earlier in the game, but you weren't fully aware of your choices and implications thereof at the time.

Good game design can help. For example it is generally a good idea to have some form of reset option that at least enables a player to reverse some earlier decision instead of having to delete a gimped character. If, like in Card Hunter, the issue is that players don't know what to buy early in the game, the solution is to offer a "starter bundle" with the stuff that is essential early on at a discount. And having well designed tutorials to explain your choices and the consequences of those choices is always useful.
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