Global Chat: When MMOs fail to communicate

    
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Roger over at Contains Moderate Peril addresses a point that I’ve been saying for years now: Many MMOs skew to information overload when it comes to stats and fail at communicating vital directions. It can be too much and too indecipherable to all but developers, highly experienced players, and theory crafters at times.

“Simply put, teaching a player the basics of a game is a big challenge,” Roger said. “Providing succinct information on more complex issues is even harder. Many gamer developers are still extremely bad at imparting knowledge and making viable tutorials.”

Our parade of thought-provoking and interesting MMO blog essays continues below with a look at FFXIV’s Blue Mage,

Good, no controversy.

Aywren Sojourner: BLU quick review

“I’m looking forward to continuing to level my BLU this week and clearing up the quests as I go. It’s been a nice change of pace overall. Some folks might still be grouchy about how BLU works, but I feel like it has a lot of room to grow as long as the devs continue to support it on down the line.”

Shards of Imagination: Blue Mage first impressions

“Personally, I am fine with the way it is. Yes, it is a bit annoying that we can’t use the Duty Finder to just get a group as a Blue Mage. However it is a unfair for a party to not only get a member whose abilities they don’t know anything about but also have spells that could completely trivialize the dungeon.”

Endgame Viable: Guild Wars 2’s All or Nothing completed

“Anyway I pretty much knew how it would end, so it was a chore and kind of a bore to play through the episode. The ending had no impact on me whatsoever. It was kind of huge letdown actually. (‘*That* was what everyone was talking about?? I forced-marched myself through this content for 11 days for *that*?’)”

Mailvatar: What makes MMO combat enjoyable?

“Combat is a main feature of most MMOs, and I’m fine with that because it can be tremendously fun. Action combat or tab targeting, I don’t care. What the game shouldn’t do is force me into a too tight design corset dictating the exact ‘right’ way to play. Give me some freedom in how I play my chosen class or build and enable me to feel that I’m in control of the situation rather than the game controlling me. Then I’m a happy camper.”

Material Middle Earth: Ward of the Mountains

“I must say that the new skins have amazed me. The statted skins within each armor class looked very similar to each other (heavy quest rewards versus heavy crafted gear, for example) except for a few subtle differences in texture and ornamentation. That’s something I’ve decided to explore with future outfits.”

JVT Workshop: Astroneer alpha

Astroneer is a cute but strange little game where you take the role of a titular Astroneer to land on lonely, randomly generated, decent sized planets and build bases on them. To do so, you (and your buddies if in co-op) will need to use your magical vacuum cleaner to collect various materials to research and construct things.”

Every week, One Shots shines a spotlight on the best community screenshots from your MMO adventures. If you have a great pic to share, email it to justin@massivelyop.com with the subject “One Shots.” Make sure that the picture is over 880px wide and comes with a description or story!
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IronSalamander8 .

Tutorials and explaining things to people can be a major pain, especially for those that have played certain types of games for years and are so used to the nomenclature that we don’t need it explained to us so we often forget that we do need to explain it to new people. MMOs are generally pretty bad at this, some more than others of course, CO is horrible at it for example, but it is pretty common to have poor tutorials in MMORPGs.

It’s not just MMOs though. In our monthly boardgame designer meetup known as Protospiel, we playtest each others games, read rules, and otherwise spend one Saturday a month to get our games out there and get some fresh eyes on things. It really helps to have someone that may know hobby boardgames well, but not wargames as much as I do, that I really need to define how Line of sight (LoS) works mechanically on a board of hexagons, something I’m so used to that I originally failed to define it very well in the rulebook. The approach of having fresh eyes on a game’s systems, especially novice or non-gamers that can help them critique things from an uninformed or lesser informed perspective can really be a boon to writing the tutorials for both absolute beginners and those that may know the type of game, but not the specific one they are playing.

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Sunken Visions

Developers over-complicate their systems and obfuscate information on purpose. They know that casual players aren’t going to make them the lions share of their profits, so they cater to the elitist ‘spreadsheet warriors’.

Whales love nothing more than to impress and dominate other players, which is why so many games focus on creating an environment for them to thrive in. So any time I see a developer flat-out ignoring the legitimate concerns of the average player, I know their games will be an unbalanced mess filled with toxic end-game content.

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Anstalt

I suggest speaking to some more developers in the industry, because you are 100% wrong.

Casual players actually make them the lions share of their profits. Elite / core / endgame focused players (whatever label u wanna give them) are such a small percentage of the total population that we’re usually ignored. We may spend more on average than casuals, but for every player like me there are 1000 casuals who combined spend way more than i do.

This is why MMOs have been dumbing themselves down and focusing on solo content and story for the last decade. Did u think that was to please people like me? No, it was developers trying to please the largest market segment. Also, most analysis has also shown that most whales are also casual (maybe not in time spent playing, but definitely in attitude).

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Anstalt

Tutorials in most games suck, I can agree on that.

But asking developers to spell out how complex mechanics work? No, to me that seems like a silly idea and defeats a large point of playing the game in the first place.

For me, the tutorial only needs to teach you enough about the game in order for you to start having fun and progressing on your own. Granted, most games are pretty bad at that but you do still learn enough to start playing.

The thing I think needs to change is the content. When I first started playing MMOs, content at lvl 1 was easy and it got progressively harder as you went through the game, not just in terms of numbers (more health/dps etc) but also in terms of mechanics and group size. In this way, as we leveled up, we learned our classes inside out and if we failed to learn something, we couldn’t progress or complete the content. By the time we reached the level cap, we knew how to play pretty well and then we just needed to perfect it for endgame. This method also gave us a great sense of achievement, reaching the level cap actually took some skill.

These days, content is trivial from level 1 all the way to the cap. Its nearly all solo content and its very easy. They give the illusion of progression by increasing the numbers on the screen, but you aren’t actually progressing as a player. Then you hit endgame and suddenly the content gets hard and the learning curve all of a sudden seems massive. Most people fail at this point, or find the task too daunting to even try. The situation is made more complicated by action combat. Action combat is extremely simple so developers have shifted the difficulty away from the moment to moment actions of the player and into the meta game. The meta game is usually the least well explained part of the game and so players who aren’t willing to either experiment themselves, or research other peoples work, are left behind.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

From the article:

Some games thrive on complexity, while others are notoriously simple.

And some try for the elusive ‘simple to learn, but hard to master’, which like any fusion of two popular styles tends to result in something not quite as good as either.

When dealing with persistent online worlds I don’t think oversimplification works. We have plenty of history with UI and tutorial methods and I think if the world is complex and engaging, the players will tend to show you what they need to streamline the information flow. Just give ’em a robust API and if you’ve made a world and systems worth anyone’s time the players will build the tools for themselves to streamline the process. Integrate the best of those solutions so the newbie doesn’t have to bother too much with external tools, and you’ve got yourself an engine for dealing with several complex and interrelated problems.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

The header has a graphic from EVE Online and the footer refers to the One Shots column. Were were in a hurry this morning?

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Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

GUILD WARS 2 had an entire MMO Manifesto to *tell* why the MMO Trinity of classes needed to change–two, one written, the other video–but failed to have an actual tutorial in-game to *show* how to play with the new game mechanic. Players with years of classic mmo trinity game mechanic kept trying to remake the classic tank, healer, dps trinity and kept failing spectacularly.

Also, it might have been nice when you reach max level of the game had an explicit quest that noted how in “other lands” once you reach max level you are forced into endless raids in dungeons but how in Tyria, your life of adventure that you’ve trained on since your first level continues onward without forcing you to learn an entirely new raid mechanic.

Instead, you have players, even mmo reporters who covered the development of GW2 including the MMO Manifesto, complaining about the lack of endgame raiding–despite ArenaNet explicitly championing that as a feature. Ultimately the studio’s … failure to communicate … led to misunderstandings because they failed to shape player expectations, disappointment and ultimately them backing down and relenting on the innovations that had initially championed.

P.S. First! That does not get old! ;-)