new players

The Daily Grind: Have you ever tried to start fresh in a familiar MMO?

I have, on three occasions, tried to start Final Fantasy XI completely fresh. Ironically, this time it’s working out very well; the past two attempts didn’t work at all and ultimately led to me spending an extended time on the phone with Square-Enix customer support, unlocking my original account with the aid of a years-old expansion code. But it got me thinking about how I rarely head back to familiar games to start fresh.

That’s not to say I don’t head back to old games frequently, but in most of those games I stumble a bit and pick up where I left off. Coming back to my favorite characters is part of my motivation in the first place. Starting up Star Trek Online again meant jumping back on board with the captain I had at launch, or making alts that still get full support from my leveled mains.

So today, I’m wondering if that’s normal or an outlier. If you’ve returned to familiar MMOs, have you ever tried to start fresh? No help from old friends or max-level characters, just you playing with only knowledge as a bonus over any other new player?

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Shroud of the Avatar is running another free trial until September 27

Curious about Shroud of the Avatar but not curious enough to drop money on the title first? Now you can try it out and save your cash, as the game is holding another free trial event through September 27th. For the developers, it provides a valuable opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work in the current new player experience and how the servers handle stress. For you, it’s… well, it’s a chance to try out the game without buying it.

Naturally, your options are fairly limited in the free trial; you have no ability to own land, you can’t buy or sell items by player vendors, you can’t PvP, you can’t trade items, you can’t use the letter “j” in your name, and so forth. (All right, that last one isn’t true.) But if you’d like a taste for what the game is like, well, it’s still the most free option to find out that you’re likely to get. Jump on in before September 27th if you’re curious; just make an account, download the game, and get going.

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The Daily Grind: What MMO tutorial experience is your favorite?

The best way to learn how to play most MMOs is to already know how to play them. Heck, there are major parts of games you just can’t teach with tutorials. There’s no way for EVE Online to really explain its sprawling player-run conflicts to a new player, and it’s hard to really give players in Final Fantasy XI a clear picture of how the game will run to various different zones with a bunch of NPCs when all of this was communicated by players back in the day.

Still, there are games that try harder than others to offer useful tutorials. World of Warcraft, for all its faults, puts a lot of effort into making low-level play feel engaging and dynamic so that new players will stick around and understand the game. But what about you, dear readers? What MMO tutorial experience is your favorite? Is it one that gave you the best understanding of the game you were about to play, one that was doing its best to get out of your way, or just one that you feel particularly attached to?

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Revelation Online promotes mentoring with the Journeyman Alliance

We all know that playing a new MMO can be a challenge. Heck, sometimes it’s even a nigh-on impossible one; you have a lot of things to keep in mind all at once, and you get a lot more out of doing things and screwing up than just hearing about them. That seems to be part of the motivation behind establishing the new Journeyman Alliance in Revelation Online, a chance for players at level 49 and above to form a bond with a newer player and serve as a mentor and a guide.

Players will need to complete a quest chain to become a mentor, then find someone to be mentored, and clear challenges together as a team on a daily basis. Success improves your status with the faction, eventually allowing your mentored companion to become a mentor as well, proof that you have in fact taught someone what needs to be known. If you like in-game rewards for helping out new players, it seems like something you may very well enjoy.


EVE Online is adding smaller skill injectors for newer players

The changes to PLEX for EVE Online make it easier to buy small chunks, sell small chunks, and not have all of it get blown up when you stuff a cargo hold full of your money. Of course, part of what has made PLEX so vital is the need for newer players to be able to catch up with veterans, which ties into use of skill injectors… which are currently very expensive. So the game is introducing a cheaper way to get those, as well.

Existing skill injectors will be marked as large injectors, while the new smaller skill injectors will hold a maximum of 100,000 points and offer smaller and smaller rewards to players with more skill points. The hope is that newer players can buy the bite-sized injector and start to catch up before moving on to larger purchases, thus ensuring that everyone can more quickly take part in the sprawling wars of backstabbing that make the game tick along.


Shroud of the Avatar launches Release 40 and its next few update plans

It’s the end of the month, and that means that there’s another Shroud of the Avatar patch available right now. The bad news is that the patch has already required some hotfixes, but the good news is that there’s plenty of meaty stuff within the patch. New story scenes, an improved experience for new players, combat improvements, property management features to make moving far easier… the list goes on. It’s why there’s a whole set of notes about the patch, even. (You can also check out a video all about the new add-on store items just below.)

Players interested in the slightly more distant future can also feast their eyes upon the game’s plans for the next quarter of the year. As the game moves closer to a release-ish state, the next three patches will add and polish more story, further improve the new user experience, and improve performance. The story will finally be finished with Release 44 in July, so that’s the point when you can really play through, start to finish.

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EVE Evolved: Getting started with EVE’s free-to-play

Just under two weeks ago, EVE Online launched its new free to play account option with the introduction of clone states. Subscribers are now given the new Omega clone state that allows access to everything the game has to offer just as before, while free players get a new Alpha clone state with a limited set of skills available and reduced skill training speed. The people this helps the most are new players, who previously had to get a 14-day free trial to check the game out but can now just sign up and take their time with it. The Ascension expansion also delivered a brand new fully voiced tutorial that developers hope will retain more players.

Thousands of new players have poured into EVE Online over the past two weeks, so many that last week’s peak concurrent user numbers reached over 51,000 players for the first time since 2014. The Rookie Help channel is now regularly packed with 6,000 to 8,000 players every night, indicating that over 15% of the active playerbase is currently composed new players. I’ve been playing on a new alpha character this week to explore the new tutorial and see what I could do solo within the alpha clone restrictions, and it’s been an extremely interesting experience.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at what new free-to-play players will experience in EVE, give my impressions of the new tutorial and alpha clone limitations, and deliver some important tips that should help all new players make the most of their time in EVE.

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EVE Online previews its revamped new player experience

If you’ve tried to get into EVE Online in the past, maybe it’s time to give it another shot. Not just because the game’s business model is changing, but because the developers are making it easier for new players to get into the world and see what there is to like about the game. The latest development dispatch on the official site shows off the revamped new player experience, putting players front-and-center in a series of missions designed to introduce the main political factions and the conflicts around the galaxy.

Players will also be helped by a new onboard AI companion to help direct players and explain the various overlapping systems at play within EVE. It can’t introduce players to the metagame with ease, but it’s certainly a new chance for players who bounced off of the previous tutorials to get into the game from the ground level once more. The revamped experience will be live with the game’s next major update on November 8th.


The Daily Grind: How should long-running MMOs help new players catch up?

Expansions for MMOs are really made for the veteran player. A bump of the level cap from 60 to 70 seems reasonable if you’re already at level 60, especially if you’re already there with multiple characters and/or classes. But it also means that a new player is going to have to climb even further to get to the accepted endgame. That’s not even counting the fact that veteran players probably have a certain degree of familiarity with systems that new players won’t have; making the game more complex is going to come off very differently for veterans compared to new players.

In short, your game needs to offer ways for newer players to catch up to veterans. Some games do this by just wholly resetting the game with each expansion; with a free level boost to the cap in World of Warcraft‘s expansions, a new player can jump in fresh and get an idea of what the game is like right off of the bat. Others, like Final Fantasy XIV, use a multi-tiered approach to make sure that leveling content is still populated and there are resources to help direct newer players. Even games like EVE Online do their best to help new players know how to get into the game and figure out what’s going on. So how should long-running MMOs help new players catch up? Are level boosts the right answer? Keeping the leveling process relevant for everyone at all times? What’s the best way to make sure a new player feels capable of eventually reaching the top end?

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World of Warcraft’s latest patch aims to clean up low-level play

The lower levels of World of Warcraft are kind of a mess and a half. Once you get to Outland at 60 or so, the questing experience feels more balanced, but creating a new character means stepping into a world that was still never meant to account for talent changes, ability shifts, and a vast array of heirlooms. This has largely been ignored because it’s also over in half a minute, but the most recent patch to the live game is aimed at making these lower levels slightly more balanced and accommodating for players.

Low-level quest targets should respawn faster with high numbers of people in the area, specific quest targets now have multi-tap and scaling functionality, and damage at lower levels has been tuned down somewhat. While these changes won’t fix the experience entirely, they should provide a much more balanced experience for starting players, which is highly relevant for anyone picking up the game for the first time. It also seems to touch upon recent statements about the low-level game being something of a train wreck.


EVE Evolved: Fixing EVE’s New Player Experience (again)

It’s become almost a running joke in the comments of articles that EVE Online is a great game to read about but not nearly as fun to actually play. While those of us who have been playing for years can attest to EVE‘s depth and long-term gripping power, it has always been a difficult game for new players to get into. EVE sees an unmistakable spike in new players every time a story about a massive battle or political event hits the gaming media, but most don’t stay in the long term and activity levels always return to normal within a few months. CCP has tried to revamp the new player experience more times than probably any other part of the game to combat this, but EVE‘s infamous impenetrability remains stubbornly intact.

At EVE Fanfest 2016, we learned that a whopping 1.5 million people signed up to EVE last year, but that 51% of them quit within the first two hours. They’re obviously drawn in by something but are then turned off by things like the minute-to-minute gameplay or the complicated user interface. A new developer named CCP Ghost is now tasked with solving this most intractable of problems, armed with a fresh perspective and an investigator’s eye. Now it looks as if CCP may be fundamentally changing its approach to new players and is considering some options that few people expected a hardcore sandbox game like EVE would ever embrace.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look into the problems with EVE‘s new player experience, some interesting ideas discussed at Fanfest’s New Player Experience roundtable, and my thoughts on what the new game introduction could look like.

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WildStar invites players to test a new tutorial and get a hoverboard for their efforts

If you’re a WildStar fan, you want a new hoverboard. There’s no point in saying otherwise because of course you want a new hoverboard. Everyone wants new hoverboards. And you can earn one by logging into the game’s public test realm and making some new characters. Really, that’s all it takes!

All right, you will actually have to play those new characters, but the point remains.

See, WildStar is putting out a new tutorial for new players based on all of the lessons learned since the game launched, and that means that it needs lots of people trying out the tutorials, seeing what (if anything) breaks, and so forth. The only way to do that is to get lots of people involved in the testing. Ideally, participants will test out the Exile and the Dominion tutorials each, but the designers would be happy just to have more live bodies in there and seeing what breaks. So jump in on April 6th to test the new experience and get yourself a sweet new hoverboard for your efforts when the improved tutorial releases.


EVE Online offers new players a guide to resources and getting started

Being a new player in EVE Online is an intimidating experience, like learning to swim in the shark tank. The designers know it, too. That’s why there’s a new guide just to help new players ease their way into the world of EVE with the abundance of resources and guides already available to everyone. You might be running by yourself in the darkness of space, but you don’t have to be alone.

The new guide covers your first ship, handling the controls of your ship in motion, and getting in-game help from others in the rookie channels. It also helps advise new players to be on the lookout not just for other players who will destroy ships but those who will scam and otherwise deceive the player, considered part and parcel with the entire EVE experience. If you’re new to the game or thinking about jumping in, it’s well worth a thorough examination just to make yourself a bit less of a mark.


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