[Column] General: Concerning Newbie-Friendliness

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 17,097MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

The utilization of precious resources in game development is always of grave concern to developers and to fans alike. Often, players complain about this feature or that thing being underdeveloped in a game. So, is making newbie friendly games a priority? Find out in today's Devil's Advocate and then lend your voice to the conversation in the comments.

The problem with this is that tutorials tend to be forced as a result of the static nature of beginnings in a game. You want everyone to learn how to play your game, so you add tutorial tips that can help some people but not the least skilled players who don't know how to move properly. As a result, you alienate people with little skill, and annoy veterans of MMOs with the same tutorial messages whenever they make a new character (much like the old Super Mario tutorial pictures from 2010). 

Read more of Victor Barreiro Jr.'s The Devil's Advocate: Concerning Newbie-Friendliness.


Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
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  • benit59benit59 Canton, GAPosts: 114Member Uncommon
    I prefer the games with no to little tutorial. Sometimes figuring out how the "world" works is part of the fun for me. People have to commit a certain amount of dedication to games like this and have to communicate with the other players to learn. After it is all said and done, you have a stronger game community because of it. 
  • ArglebargleArglebargle Austin, TXPosts: 1,443Member Uncommon

    Making required tutorials for the first time, but then having them skippable afterwards, is a very good idea.  You can focus on making the tutorial do its job without irritating veterans.   City of Heroes did this in their revised intro, and included facets like presenting the tutorial first, so you could be going through it while the rest of the game was downloading.  


    If your game has complexities that are going to confuse the beginning player, ignoring a clear explanation of them risks not setting the hook on your new players.   Having tutorials for complex systems that you can call up outside of the intro of the game seems like a good idea to me as well. 


    First impressions of 'no fun' aren't good advertisements for building your community.

    If you are holding out for the perfect game, the only game you play will be the waiting one.

  • ET3DET3D Posts: 234Member Uncommon

    I think that a different tutorial isn't all that's needed. Sure some people with interest in the game might be turned off if they can't easily get into the game, but for someone like your father the tutorial will probably do no good. Sure, he'll know how to move, attack, etc., but what incentive is there to play?

    The gameplay of many MMO's is the same: create a character, talk to NPC's to get missions, do those missions, which most involve defeating enemies by using some attack skills, grow more powerful and continue with the same, by moving to a new area, talking to other NPC's and killing new mobs. If this style of game doesn't appeal to a person, then it would do no good to provide a more detailed tutorial.

    In this respect I think that an MMO which will appeal to traditional MMO players will always have limited appeal. I can't think of a way to greatly expand the scope of people who will play MMO games.

  • RocknissRockniss Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,034Member
    Well for every nice person in the mmo community, there are 9 asshats, Yup 9 out of 10. So you might look into changing culture first and your games that are so complicated, well people will be more willing to work with others. If your looking to grow the mmo population, market some of the intangibles like building teamwork skills and leadership qualities in a risk free environment. Mmo's are perfect for that. Im not sure that the learning curve is were I would focus, I would focus more on the motivation to play any particular game. What demographic are you going after? Kids, working adults, elderly, yes you might consider some tutorial or learning curve for elderly, but kids do not need it and thus will lose interest quick, the working adult who is intersted in studying leadership and teamwork within a less than ideal group wants to pick up quick and thus won't need motivated to learn, the elderly is going to be like a deer in headlights with a pc at thier finger tips and thus will need the tutorial time over time.
  • GrumpyMel2GrumpyMel2 Catskills, NYPosts: 1,832Member

    I think you are barking up the wrong tree here. The best way to get people new to games introduced to a game is not with automated tutorials... it's with people...living breathing human beings that they can talk and interact with and how can get them started and teach them what they need to know about the game. Back when I was playing a commercial MUD, we used to have official mentors (and alot of unofficial ones too) who were experienced players who voluntered thier time to meet brand new players fresh out of the character generator and show them the ropes, introduce them to what the game was about and how to play, answer questions, even get them started on some initial play. It worked great.

    That's the vast untapped market out there for MMO's that isn't playing.....all those folks watching daytime TV or chatting/tweeting or posting on facebook. MMO's are a perfect venue for social interaction, it's really how they got thier birth...evolving from MUD's/MUSH's which were as much about social interaction and RP as they were about gameplay. Somewhere along the way they took a left turn and demphasized social interaction to the point where you'd think you were playing a single-player game. There is a very large audience out there who aren't traditional gamers but who would be perfectly happy to go into an online virtual environment filled with fantastical places and creatures and get away from thier daily lives. However, they aren't (mostly) interested in how much DPS they can do, or how many "mobs" you can kill, or grinding for "phat loot" or alot of the things many of todays MMO players seem to emphasize. They want drama, they want intrigue, they want the opportunity to interject thier own creativity and most of all they want real live human interaction. I'll tell you another thing, alot of them are female too...and they aren't going to have much interest in hanging out with a bunch of hyperactive 13 years olds pole dancing thier half-naked night elf characters while they talk about "boobies".  One of the first things an MMO is going to have to do to attract a new audience is work on building a dramaticaly different type of community then what dominates many of todays MMO's. YMMV.


  • victorbjrvictorbjr Quezon CityPosts: 188Member Uncommon

    Hey folks! Excellent points here, especially about putting some focus on socialization for fostering an expanded playerbase.

    Question to the readers/commenters based on above comments: Where would you allocate resources towards to allow for better socialization? Moderation of chat channels? A modified socializing mechanism (altering chatting or allowing for open-ended voice communication integration in games seems like two possible alternatives)? 

    Lemme know your ideas! 

    Depending on what comes up here, I'll try and collate interesting ideas or tangents for a future Devil's Advocate, but more to the point, I love to see what aspects of MMO games you might want to foster to expand the demographic, so to speak. :)

    A writer and gamer from the Philippines. Loves his mom dearly. :)

    Can also be found on http://www.gamesandgeekery.com

  • SimphanaticSimphanatic Marion, IAPosts: 92Member

    There's a common degree of hubris shared by many online gamers; that being "I've played checkers, so I already know everything necessary to play [insert name] MMORPG."


    These are the same people who haven't the time for game guides and detailed walk-thru's often available on official game forums and elsewhere.


    The "getting help from players in game" usually equates to pestering veteran players with endless mundane questions, the answers to which could have been found easily with a Google search. A pattern destined for perpetual repeat. Far from building community, this kind of activity builds resentment and disdain for all new players, which is unfortunate.


    So, I'm on the side of those games compelling players to follow tutorials as they enter a game. Even then it's not always successful because hubris will only tab through the tutorial.


    Let the maddening, mind-numbing newb questions continue.

  • JaedorJaedor Denver, COPosts: 1,145Member Uncommon

    I spent quite a lot of my time in WoW doing volunteer work on an RP server, helping folks get started with the game in the human newbie zone. It was really interesting what kinds of questions they had and where the challenges were.


    Right off the bat, the biggest hurdle was communication: they didn't know how to respond to a tell or whisper and they didn't know how else to communicate. There was a chat tutorial, but they either hadn't gotten to it yet or had already hit eyeglaze with all the new info popping up.


    The ones who progressed rapidly in my time with them had to really pay attention to the instructions I typed, and I had to slow down so they could read and digest it.


    Over the years, I found a lot of WoW players use the game as basically a fancy chat client, and there is an assumption that anyone who would jump into an mmo would already know how to chat. But that would be wrong, and it would leave out a lot of players.

  • GrumpyMel2GrumpyMel2 Catskills, NYPosts: 1,832Member

    @Victor - I think throwing money at "gadgets" or technical solutions to what is essentialy a human relations problem is going to end up in failure and wasted money. First, I think you've gotto decide to make a game that is conduscive to that sort of atmosphere. IMO, sandoxes are much more conduscive to this sort of thing then themeparks. There has to be something to socialize about. With a static world where nothing ever changes and ultimately nothing the player does has any effect on thier environment there isn't much to socialize about. You very quickly run out of stuff to socialize about, the 50th iteration of some run about a RAID boss isn't much of a compelling conversation starter...people will mostly resort to socializing about things outside of the game (e.g. hey did you catch the baseball game?) and INSPITE of it rather then because it. Ideally you want a "living and evolving" world,  you want dynamic events, you want the player to be able to interject thier own story into the greater narritive of events, you want storylines and live events (player AND GM created) running all over the place.  This helps create an environment where there are actualy things to "socialize" about.

    You have to be carefull though...because while PvP can be an important  element to interject drama and conflict...uncontrolled FFA PvP will absolutely kill such a game in it's crib for the social crowd...because ALL it tends to expose the negative aspects of human interaction while they mostly want to focus on the positive. It's ok to create an US vs Them environment...but there has to be an "US" for the player to be a part of.  Uncontroled FFA PvP tends to result into a much more dystopian ME vs the World.  I would go with something closer to a faction based Realm vs Realm setup with specific conflict zones and other areas that were peacefull in terms of PvP....maybe a dynamic similar to DAOC's approach. Although really you could probably get away with no direct conflict whatsoever...ala Tale in the Desert.

    Once you've decided to build a game that is actualy conduscive to that sort of socialization, where you thrown your money is into human resources. Hire staff to directly interact with the player base, to run storylines and live events...encourage your GM's to do so as well, rather then just act as glorified CSR's in robes.  Given the scale of MMO's you probably want to be able to multiply your abilities in this area by recuiting a staff of volunteer (assistant)GM's to run little mini events and story arcs of thier own...so that you can reach more of the playerbase with this sort of thing. The key here is close supervision of these voluteers and a gradual increase in powers. That prevents alot of abuse potential. You want to give them limited abilities....maybe initialy just the capability to generate a small number of low level mobs with low level treasure and "inhabit" one to interact with players. You can give them increased responsabilty slowly as the proove themselves.

    You also want to start slowly building the right community...rather then opening up the floodgates right away. It's critical to set the right tone about what sort of community you are expecting right from the get go. This includes press releases, interviews, Dev Blogs, Forum Posts and Moderation, everything has to be one consistant message. You also probably want to hire a top notch Community Manager right off the bat, to engage the community even before the game goes live. You essentialy want people to self-select in or out based on whether they are a good fit as much as possible. Finally you can't be afraid to wield the ban-hammer when neccesary. People who are bringing negativity to the community are doing alot more damage in the long term then the $15 they bring in. That's what I would throw my resources into....not anything technical at all. It's people who socialize...not gadgets. YMMV.

  • MadnessRealmMadnessRealm Montreal, QCPosts: 2,716Member Uncommon

    I learned playing video games by just jumping in and pressing buttons to see what they do and I did the same with MMORPGs, so I'd love to say that the best way to introduce non-gamers to gaming is to let them just jump in, but I know that's not how it works for most.

    Actually, perhaps that's how it should work. It's just that people have grown to become so impatient, that the moment they don't get something they quit. So my answer on how to get the more....video game-challenged(?) people to learn to play MMORPGs would be somehow to gradually teach them how to solve those issues by themselves. Not sure how that would work in an MMORPG setting however, but it'd be interesting to see.

    Both Portal games by Valve achieved this to some extent. You'd face fairly easy puzzles early on, learn new elements (portals, switchs, blocks, jumping platforms, bouncing glue, etc) and they'd slowly build up more complex puzzles by gradually introducing each of these elements. Even in the very beginning, the game didn't flat out tell you what to do with a glowing arrow. You'd have some direction and information, but they didn't put a "PLACE CUBE ON THIS SWITCH HERE!!!!!" icon over everything, and eventually they'd remove most if not all directions/informations.


    I can't really think of an MMO at the moment that does that however. They either have an extreme amount of hand-holding, or they just throw you out into the world and you have to pretty much figure out everything by yourself. Haven't found something in the middle so far.

    Your daily dose of common sense since 2009!

  • lostscout5lostscout5 patchogue, NYPosts: 57Member
     I think what would be a good idea is just ask the players during character gen, what they want. Give people a choice. Ask them if they need the basic tutorial, the advanced tutorial or none. If they pick the basic, have it cover the all the things a complete novice to gaming would need. Then have it lead into the advanced, which would cover everything specific to that game.  When the player finishes one, both or chooses to skip the tutorials they go into a beginer area with simple noob adventures, but no PvP. Even if the game has open world PvP the noob area MUST be safe from griefing. Let them get their feet on the ground and start wanting to do more. Then before they leave the begining area intoduce them to PvP. Maybe a noob vs noob arena to give them a taste for it. This way more advanced player can skip the tutorials, but beginers get the hand holding they need.
  • Pratt2112Pratt2112 Posts: 1,548Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Simphanatic

    There's a common degree of hubris shared by many online gamers; that being "I've played checkers, so I already know everything necessary to play [insert name] MMORPG."


    These are the same people who haven't the time for game guides and detailed walk-thru's often available on official game forums and elsewhere.


    The "getting help from players in game" usually equates to pestering veteran players with endless mundane questions, the answers to which could have been found easily with a Google search. A pattern destined for perpetual repeat. Far from building community, this kind of activity builds resentment and disdain for all new players, which is unfortunate.


    So, I'm on the side of those games compelling players to follow tutorials as they enter a game. Even then it's not always successful because hubris will only tab through the tutorial.


    Let the maddening, mind-numbing newb questions continue.

    Sure, there are people who "don't have the time to answer newbie questions". Many of them seem to forget that they were once those "newbies" as well and that, yes, some of them asked the very same questions they're now "getting annoyed" at being asked themselves. Being annoyed by someone for "comitting the crime" of being a new player is just ridiculous.


    A lot of gamers tend to have a short memory when it comes to things like that. They also never stop to think that while it's the 100th time they've been asked that question, it's the first time each person asking them has done so. It's not exactly fair to lash out at "newbie #33", because 32 people before them asked the same question.


    There are also people out there who actually enjoy helping new players out and don't consider it "being pestered" at all.


    Some games even have a way that players can volunteer to fill that role in some fashion. Final Fantasy XI had a system here you could toggle a flag on and off that would show up next to your name, indicating that you were someone willing to answer new player questions and/or help them get their bearings, etc.


    I believe Anarchy Online has a similar system. I've come across others as well.


    In every case there were people volunteering for those roles, and they actually carried them out.


    I see no reason why there can't be the opportunity for both.


    In a general sense, I'm fine with tutorials, as long as they actually end at some point. What gets me is when tutorials seem to just go on forever. 30 levels in, and there's still pop-ups telling you what to do. At some point it ceases to be helpful and becomes almost insulting. Take the training wheels off already and just let me play the game... I'll figure it out on my own. Promise!



  • MurlockDanceMurlockDance ParisPosts: 1,223Member

    Tutorials are just there to get people into the basic gameplay and use of the interface. They can't be used to foster social ties between players, and that is where MMOs really gain their longetivity from. I think the most recent batch of developers have forgotten this, even ANet , because there is no real need for players to socialize if they don't want to.

    The current batch of games really do cater to the achievement/killer archetypes and very little to socializers and explorers (outside of GW2 for the latter). This is a very big problem.

    I personally do not think that all MMOs can be for all audiences, and it is stupid to keep on trying to make mega bucks for what is essentially a genre based on personal tastes. Some people love raids that are incredibly challenging, others like free-for-all PvP and looting, yet others love intricate storylines, whereas others like building their own house, cities, etc. I think it is impossible to have supermassive appeal for all gamers of every walk of life, just like you can't have one movie, one book, one piece of artwork that appeals to everyone. I think there should be many games that fit niches and fit them well: with more polished systems in place, but smaller in scope in what they have to offer. The more features you offer and the lower your bar is for appealing to wider and wider audiences, the more watered down your game becomes, and that is the big problem of a game like WoW today. It has lost its character.

    WoW might have been the closest at Vanilla, but it was really lucky that it hit when it did, right on the cusp of when the industry was still pretty sleepy and right before other companies got themselves together enough to produce something as polished. The main appeal was that Blizzard polished so many of the functions that other MMOs had, and popped them in a bright, lively, colorful world. No other MMO previous had had the right bit of magic before that, because there was always some annoying bug or feature that made them seem amateurish in comparison. That is not to say the games out before WoW were bad, they weren't, but they appealed to fewer people because it was more experimental, I guess you could say.

    So how to hook people? I think the point of entry needs to be fairly low, easy to access, but mastery should be challenging to achieve. Again, Vanilla WoW, as DAoC, AO, and some other games, had that right equilibrium between ease of getting started but difficult to be really good at. The Vanilla Hunter is a good example of that. Lots of people played them because they were "easy", but to play one really well, where he was a really valuable member of a team took some more thought. But man, a really well-played Hunter was such a great asset for any group...

    Other things: social hubs... and I don't mean just hanging out in Ogrimmar or some other city. There have to be a few hubs in my opinion. A great case in point, SWG with its cantinas, which was very similar to old MUSHes were a very many people just hung out in taverns and chatted. There were always several. Once you get to know some players, it is easier to form groups, get good at teaming up with each other and hitting harder content.

    So yes, you do also need harder content, and also some reason to craft with interdependent tradeskills. Having player-specific merchants/brokers is also a good idea, one where you can clearly see the name of the person, and know where his house is, if the game has player housing. The automated AH is sure a time-saver, but it is also a community destroyer. I for one never pay attention to who made what crafted item anymore in WoW. In the past, games had reknowned player crafters who you knew you could trust to make you a good set of X stuff.

    These are all aspects that are despised by current MMO players, claiming they don't have time, and want to have access to all content now, not in a month's time, and it becomes a checklist of different steps that each character has to do in order to go from level 1 to leet uberness. No wonder we are getting burnt out as a general rule of thumb! And therefore we are all still at an impasse, feeling deeply dissatisfied with the current MMO genre, and yet we know what it is wrong and don't fix it.

    Playing MUDs and MMOs since 1994.

  • AkumawraithAkumawraith Fort wayne, INPosts: 341Member Uncommon

    Newbie friendliness? hrm thats a tough one considering that most of the games I have played recently have been dominated by trolls and gold goblins. Yes there are many players who will assist players and like FFix some even have flags you can toggle to let players know you are friendly.. hell even WOW had a mini program that allowed guilds to sign up with special tags to assist newbies.

    However that is not enough, there has to be a system from the very beginning that is set up by the devs that monitors player behaviors and moderates the community directly through GMs or Moderators. Unlike WoW which basically lets any player destroy the social aspect of the game there needs to be a system of reward and punishment.

    What I mean is this: If a newb comes into game and asks for assistance and a veteran player responds they can "party up" and recieve a buff thats unique. A simple reward that not only benefits the newbie but also benefits the veteran.  In the reverse there can also be a system that when a newbie asks for assistance and gets derogatory responses they can "punish" the aggressor. A simple stat reduction or something of the  type.

    Allowing the trolls to harrass the players is what is doing the most damage in many MMOs and is the biggest  Negative impact to many Newbies. I for one have helped numerous players in the games I play and have never forgotten all the players and guilds that carried my sorry little butt in my early days. Its a lack of respect in our society that has either overflowed into our gaming world or has stemmed from it.. hard to say, but its there and until someone figures out how to seperate the negative from the good it will continue to drive newbies and veterans alike away.


    Played: UO, LotR, WoW, SWG, DDO, AoC, EVE, Warhammer, TF2, EQ2, SWTOR, TSW, CSS, KF, L4D, AoW, WoT

    Playing: The Secret World until Citadel of Sorcery goes into Alpha testing.

    Tired of: Linear quest games, dailies, and dumbed down games

    Anticipating:Citadel of Sorcery

  • ScotScot UKPosts: 5,815Member Uncommon

    The OP was talking about a automated guide to introduce newbies to a game, not using players to do so. That's sad really, but shows where we are with MMO's now. Dont type in questions, expect a tutorial to guide you.

    Also I think people are far more gaming literate these days, the idea that the granny on a social networking site is not going to have any idea of what to do in a MMO is becoming more outdated. Even granny has played angry birds and farmville. I think gaming houses really need to think about taking this direction. If you are going to be making your game for players on social networks who are not 'gamers' in a developers eyes, then you are going to do one thing, dumb everything down. Thats what designers did before, are doing now and as it seems to be the only soloution they have, we will see more of it.

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  • DavisFlightDavisFlight Talahasee, FLPosts: 2,556Member Common

    When virtually every single AAA MMORPG plays IDENTICAL to one another (WoW clones) having a forced tutorial is more likely to get me to stop playing than not. 

    Whats that, more quest grinding? THIS is the part of the game you want to show off within the first 3 hours? <uninstall> 

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