The Daily Grind: What should MMOs do to facilitate your return?

Over the past weekend, I picked up Hearthstone after a year or two away from the game. I certainly didn’t remember where I left off or had been following the game’s development too closely, so I expected to have to wade through a mess when I returned.

However, upon start the game acknowledged that I had been gone a while and eased me back into the swing of things with a trio of PvE matches and a handful of free card boosters. By the time I had finished those matches and opened my packs, I felt like I had some momentum and found my footing. That’s a good feeling when you’re making a comeback!

It made me ponder what MMOs should do to help facilitate players’ returns after extended absences. I think that there should be some sort of catch-up informational post covering the highlights, and throwing goodies at returning vets is never a bad thing. What do you think? What should MMOs do to ease you back into their game worlds after a long break?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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23 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What should MMOs do to facilitate your return?"

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socontrariwise

I agree with the notion of a follow up tutorial so to say. Haven’t played EQ2 in years for example and I think it is probably by now so foreign a game … The game is too complex and layered to entice me come back and spin free without a clue. Of course add the level restrictions … I think ESO will have a much more graceful aging and pulling player back in with the One Tamriel approach. If you don’t get stuck in a deserted level range and have no equipment or get a boost and gifted equipment with the new gimmicks you don’t understand then easing back in looks to me a lot more likely and attractive.

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Robert Mann

Stop trying to cater to everyone. Be different from the crowd, and not just in polish. Focus some attention on things other than combat. Treat your customers decently, and enforce rules on behavior relatively strictly. Don’t balance around min/max, make combat less about numbers and more about different abilities, control, and thoughtful responses (for example, maybe the ‘best’ spell a mage has doesn’t work well against certain foes, or maybe a warrior’s sword slashes will be far less effective than thrusts against another opponent, and maybe just maybe foes will sometimes do things that surprise us like use an ability from another foe’s toolbox to throw us off!) Knock off the silly pop culture stuff for me, and focus more on writing that actually proves of interest.

Simply put, less of all this MMO stuff that we have had for so long. Just less of all of that. I can handle a lot of the little things, but something has got to change to draw my attention here, and the most important things are a mix of customer relations and a more involved world design (aka, not JUST combat focused.)

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NeoWolf

Stop trying to force me to play how you want and let me play how I want.. I’M paying for the game experience, not you. No forced grouping, no forced pvp, no pushing how you want people to play on others. CHOICE is key to mmos, and developers should respect their customers rights to choose for themselves. (This one is for EA and Square Enix)

Stop employing morally bankrupt, minimum wage, no education morons and using them as customer support where they proceeed to offend, alienate and infuriate your customers by being anything BUT customers support on any level. (this ones for NCSoft specifically).

Stop lying, be honest its not that hard and stop putting 90%+ of all new purchaseable content in am RNG gambling lockbox (Cryptic that ones for you)

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Alex Malone

Make the games better!

I always left MMOs because they had either been dumbed down / destroyed with expansions or patches, or because the games just simply were not fun enough to begin with. I’ve yet to play an MMO that got better with age, without fail the first 3-6 months have always been the absolute pinnacle and all have gone downhill from there.

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A Dad Supreme

Kept the core of the game that I loved before the same, while adding new content that didn’t require me to “re-learn” wholescale classes, jobs and playstyles all over again, which inevitably happens 9/10 times I return to old MMOs, and results in me re-quitting.

I personally feel that returning to an old MMO after an absence should feel like returning home to an old friend or family, but inevitably it feels more like returning to your 15-year High School reunion and seeing how everyone turned into weirdos you hardly know instead.

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Michael18

They should present those parts of the lore and the quests’ background story that I had unlocked in an accessible way that makes it easy to jump back in and pick up the story exactly where I left. Something like TES Morrowind’s journal.

And this applies to single player games, too.

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McGuffn

All I ask is a little rest xp and a star to steer by. And a refresher on control schemes for games that rely on combos and whatever.

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mistressbrazen

Having just returned to SWTOR recently after being away for three years or so, I could have used some kind of update on what has changed. I know there was some controversial re-balancing but have no idea how it impacted my character. If I was further along in the story line, I suppose some kind of “this what happened while you were away,” would be good. As it is, I’m still in the original story so what has happened since doesn’t really matter for me.

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Ukrutor

Exactly his. And when we are at it, some sort of “homecoming tutorial” would be nice.
Not only to learn the new skills, but to ease back into old ones, and the entire movement model as well.
Whenever I come back to an old game, I always spend first few hours or days dying to low level mobs and falling off cliffs, because my muscle memory is gone.

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Utakata

You know, anecdotally…I come back to games because I want to come back. I don’t expect games to roll out any red carpets catered precisely to my whims and wants. It’s nice that I come back to where there has been some significant improvements, but I don’t actually expect it.

As it is most games I leave for awhile is not because they’ve done anything really bad or awful. If they did, I would never come back. But because I get involved with other games that take my time, focus and energy away from it.

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

For me its significant solo play and progression.

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MesaSage

An up-to-date Wiki is the best source I’ve found. The Lotro Wiki has saved me many hours of frustration. A big thanks to you maintainers.

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donvweel

Wiki are really great, podcasters and youtube is another good source. DDOcast is one I watch regularly, a lot of good info for charcter building and leveling.

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Kichwas Selassie

So we’re presuming here that I already made the choice to return. Which is another way of saying the game finally gave me fashion choices without buttflaps, skirts, or trench-coats being mandatory. Something that is getting rarer and rarer as it seems the shape of the human butt is now considered X-rated by MMO devs… or whatever…

So… I’m back…

I guess I just need some catchup mechanics. Like… don’t make me do every single last quest that was released while I was away in order to just start the expansion that came out before the one that is out now because I have to complete that earlier one as well to even enter the current one…
– Or if I must do this, at least make progress in it account bound…

I agree on the idea of putting me in a less than current LFG queue… LFG queues in general should have some splitting up based on player experience… or alternatively… if you must place me with the ‘zerg fast know it alls’ because the community is too small to split us all up… give THEM a bonus for slowing down and for keeping me to run completion. Similar to FFXIV where people get a bonus if the group has a noob in it.

Speaking of FFXIV for the third time… create a mentor / mentee system – give players who volunteer to be mentors some perk or even just title for doing it… make a chat channel for mentors and mentees… a special LFG for only these people… and place all new players into it, along with anyone who’s in their first “X amount of game time” since returning after “Y amount of time away”.

– In other words, the best system out there for returning players is probably FFXIV, except for the nightmare of quests it shoves at them… which is also the worst thing out there for handling ‘access to content that came out while you were away’.

Oh and ps: FFXIV is one of the few MMOs that lets me not have a buttflap… it’s also the #2 MMO. The #1 MMO also lets me not have a buttflap (WoW)… maybe these two are on to something here…

verhaa
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verhaa

I think an area just for returning player where NPC can explain what changed in the world, new area, new gear lvls, skills..etc is a great way to do it. I think Aion did that and it was really helpful to get back in.

I just got back to GW2 after 2 years of not playing. I start running around and filled my xp bar. Since i’m lvl 80 already it starts blinking and telling me I have a mastery point to use but since I didn’t finish “Story X with a weird name” I can’t use it yet. Then it keeps showing that same message over and over an dI have no way of dismissing it.

I looked at the wiki and there wasn’t anything to tell me where to go or what to do to get rid of it. All it said was, once you meet the requirement and complete the required stories, you’ll be able to use the mastery system… Not very useful to a new / returning player.

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Armsbend

A catch up is nice. In WoW’s buying the newest expac with a level up token is instrumental in keeping me around long enough to see the next one. Updating art and engines on old games is a key factor.

I could type more things but pretty much what Blizzard does for their games.

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Zen Dadaist

A catch-up guide that’s not just a list of patchnotes. Maybe a 6 month summary roundup with links to more detailed guides within, put out every 6 months or so. When you log into an account that hasn’t been logged in in over 6 months, a popup to that roundup appears as you load in game. If it’s been over a year then you get the last two 6month roundups, and so on. As for literal catch up play – well hopefully the game designers have been adding short cuts for returnees as they go… I mean if a new expac has dropped and there’s a new gear tier then there should be no need for a returning player to try to farm the old previous top tier dungeons any more, just go from quest gear into the new expac.

On a more esoteric level, well that’d depend on the reason for leaving in the first place. Maybe too much changed and it wasn’t for the better. Maybe nothing changed at all and it stagnated. Maybe they broke a favourite character. Maybe the business model changed to something unpalateable. Those things are rather harder to entice a player back from, short of undoing those decisions…

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TheDonDude

Make it clear wtf I’m supposed to go and wtf I’m supposed to do.

STO was always real bad at that for me. Whether I wanted to jump to the latest-endgame-thingy-for-gear, or progress-through-the-story-chronologically, the game never made it clear where to go after being away for years.

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Schmidt.Capela

A few things that could help:

– Ways to postpone delving into my inventory or, better yet, make it unnecessary. Having to manage the inventory just after I get back, and before I even start having fun, is a sure way to smother my enthusiasm.

– Concise descriptions of what has changed, that I can summon or dismiss at will. Out of game patch notes can work for this, but there is often a snag; patch notes are often written for players that never stopped playing, and as such they are written to be read one at a time and can be cumbersome to read if you have to go through a dozen of them.

– Keeping a record of what I had been doing before I stopped, and while at it allowing me to read the quest text for quests I had done just before I left. A few single-player games do that, and it’s a great help in getting me up to speed after staying away for a few weeks (or months, or years).

quark1020
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quark1020

Depends on what I liked on the MMO in the first place.

For story heavy MMO’s, they need to continue or add more to their story. In the case of WoW, I wait for a couple of patches to get added so I can experience the story without having to grind whatever nonsense that has me do 10 heroics per day. After that, unsub for another few months till the next patch.

For everything else, they don’t really have to do much. I bounce around MMO’s, so when I get tired of one style of gameplay, I just go to another. I used to play City of Heroes every so often without any new content added, just because I enjoyed its visuals and character creator. Always had an itch for it after watching a super hero movie. Then there was star wars galaxies which, despite the NGE, still had a good sandbox system that I would dabble in for a bit.

As for Eve online….I try to suppress the urge. I like the concept of the game, but I know only pain awaits me there.

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Modrain

Honestly, just preventing me from queuing with any rushing l33t player who played non-stop for years and will feel obligated to “comment” on every single thing I do would already be great.

As someone who mostly tanks/heals, my main issue when starting or coming back to MMOs is to begin doing group content knowing that I’ll be rusty performing a vital role, whatever I experience solo. In such cases, it’s amazing how different players can make it either a great time anchoring me in the game or an awful experience driving me away from it.
Having players marking themselves as beginner/returnee and beginner/returnee-friendly could be enough to create a proper matchmaking.

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BalsBigBrother

Hmm when I go back to an mmo I generally just go look at patch notes and get back into the saddle so to speak. Then if I am struggling I will start a new alt to re-familiarise myself with the mechanics again. Not sure what could be added to ease that process from within the game.

If they want to shower me with shiny stuff, well that is nice and I won’t ever turn down free stuff but it can often be a double edged sword at least as far as mmos go.

Take for instance my recent return to lotro. I created a new high elf champion but before I could get started I spent 20 minutes or so sorting through and mostly throwing away 8 years worth of birthday gifts, cosmetic, titles and pet gift boxes that are tied to my account from various expansions. A bit tedious when you just want to get on and see the new stuffs /shurgs

tldr: I don’t really have an answer to the question, sorry

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Schmidt.Capela

That is where free gifts work better in Heartstone: no inventory limit, and thus no required inventory management. You can get right to playing if you want and leave the sorting through what you had or gained for later.

BTW, having a bottomless inventory, by itself, is already a great help for returning players even if no freebies are involved. You don’t need to try to figure out right away what should be kept and what can be discarded when your inventory gets filled with vendor trash, and thus you can get right back to having fun with the game.

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