Perfect Ten: What makes me feel welcome when trying out your MMO

    
19
Perfect Ten: What makes me feel welcome when trying out your MMO

While it’s not “standing in front of your high school in your underpants and reciting a difficult Shakespeare passage” level of anxiety, there is a certain amount of trepidation that I feel whenever I try out an unfamiliar MMORPG. These are complex games with their own distinct culture, rules, and systems, and more than once I’ve shied away from progressing further in a game because I feel lost and floundering in ignorance.

Persistence and friends have done a lot to overcome this barrier, but in my opinion, there are a lot of things that MMO designers can do to make new players feel more at home and welcome when coming to a game for the first time. So many things, in fact, that this calls for a list!

Simplify the set up process

Recently going through the nightmare that was the registration and installation process for Phantasy Star Online 2 made me yearn for times when MMOs would just take a bare minimum of registration information, get an automated launcher going, and usher me into the game with little fuss. I don’t want to feel like I’m filling out tax forms or applying for a very picky guild; I just want to get into your game as soon as possible.

Be excited to see me

OK, this is going to sound very silly, but one of the best ways to overcome anxiety and shyness in new situations is to feel as if everyone’s genuinely excited that you’re there. It flips that newness from a bad state to a good one, if that makes sense. And I don’t think it hurts MMO registration and installation screens to express some enthusiasm behind me being there. Little wording tweaks here and there can make my presence feel appreciated and build anticipation for the moments ahead.

Offer optional information during character creation

If I’m coming to your game for the first time, you have to assume that I am pretty ignorant about your game world and what each of your classes entail. I do like it when MMOs offer bonus information via tooltips or even the optional video showing off animations and spells. This may be one of the areas where eastern MMOs are consistently better than western ones.

Strike a good tutorial balance

I know I’ve harped on this before, but I think it’s absolutely critical for MMOs to get the balance right for tutorial portions. Games that throw waaaay too much information (usually in the form of pop-ups) tend to overload new players and waste that info. Then there are games that are too hands-on controlling with new players, denying them any opportunity to just breathe, take in the world, and do some personal experimentation. I think that self-contained small starter zones with just the essential information delivered to players is the way to go at the beginning — and drip-feed them more instruction as they go along.

Use the tutorial to tell a good story

The first hour of an MMO experience is one you’ll never get back again, and it really shouldn’t be wasted. I’ve been in far too many MMOs where the devs put me in a sort of foam-padded nursery with a generically pleasant setting and no loud noises to startle me. It may be a starter area, but that’s no reason you can’t start laying the foundation of your game’s narrative and draw players into the story. Conversely, don’t go so huge in your tutorial that you have players one-shotting raid bosses just to make them feel “epic”… and then toss them into the wider world to grind out rabbits for a while.

Give me fun choices out of the gate

We all know that the first dozen or so hours in an MMO offer the fastest leveling you’ll ever experience outside of a level boost. During that breezy ride, it doesn’t hurt if the game delivers some fun choices to help me get invested in that character. I don’t want to feel as though my character is the same carbon-copy class as everyone around me, so the sooner I can start to differentiate myself through builds and looks, the better.

The gang's all there.

Get me plugged into the community

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The number one way to get me to stick around in your MMO is for me to get connected with a great in-game community (usually a guild). So don’t leave me to the fates of general chat recruitment messages when it comes to this; make sure that your MMO has a robust guild finder that offers a bit more than a mere two sentences of meaningless description. It also wouldn’t hurt to offer guilds incentives to recruit and support fledgling members.

Offer a newbie advice channel

In addition to the above, I have always loved games that automatically put new and returning players in an advice channel. Not only does that offer a level of community out of the gate, but often the same questions I have are being asked and answered without me feeling awkward for bringing them up. I am shameless in how I take advantage of such channels, and I usually keep an eye on the attitude of the veteran advisors as a way to take the temperature of the larger community.

Make events for everyone

Nothing is more off-putting to a new player (especially in a long-established MMO) to see level requirements or other gatekeeping attached to the big, exciting events that the studio is hosting in the game. Events should not be an endgame thing; make them accessible to everyone across all level ranges and use them as a way to draw your larger community closer together.

Never forget that I’m always learning

Probably my biggest pet peeve for developers is how most of them seem to assume that any player over a certain level range automatically knows how the game works as well as the devs and should never be offered any further instruction or guidance. New systems and endgame features that are unlocked at certain levels should be treated the same way as what happens in newbie zones, and “we just assume that the players will go to the wiki” is not a good excuse.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

No posts to display

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Sleepy

/petpeeve

Don’t lock all the UI buttons except the one you’re asking me to press.

Reader
losludvig

Same here. It makes me angry enough that hot steam pipes out my ears every single time I try a mobile game.

Reader
Bryan Correll

Ugh, I hate that sooooo much…

Reader
EmberStar

But… you could press the wrong one! You could open a menu, or close the game! We’d have to error test every single button and hotkey to make sure none of them wig out and break the game! It’s so haaaaarrrrrdddd! Better for everyone if we just lock it down. And as a bonus, it makes the tutorial foolproof! You can finish it just by slapping the phone against your face. There’s only one input, so there’s no chance you’ll hit the wrong one.

Wait, what do you mean not all games are played on phones?

Reader
Bryan Correll

You could open a menu

That’s what I usually want to do so I can turn down/off the awful ‘music’ that is typical of such games.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

Good list. That first one has put me off more than one MMO. If they can’t get an easy to use, streamlined signup going, what’s the rest of the game going to be like? This happens to me whenever I go back to FFXIV. Mog Station vs. account vs. game log in. I’ve got more passwords for Square and FFXIV in my password keeper than I do fingers and toes. Usually takes me 15 minutes to give figure out how to give them my money. If you buy an expansion, oh, don’t bother trying to use it on the site you bought it, you’ve got to log in yet one more time somewhere else to enter the key.

It’s makes Blizzard and ESO look positively snappy.

Reader
kjempff

I am not a game hopper or a journalist, so I don’t “try out mmos” – I play a mmo /#snarkycomment
:D

Reader
Nate

A intense tutorial with an exciting but easy boss battle at the end. I think it is Skyrim where you end up fighting the dragon right off the bat. That was pretty cool imo. Im more of a learn on the fly throw me to the wolves and let me fight kinda guy.

Bereman
Reader
Bereman

Skyrim? That has you running from a dragon with your hands literally tied, and the first things you get to actually fight are some generic human soldiers, some spiders, and a bear if you decide not to sneak past it.

Fighting a dragon doesn’t come until after you’ve done the quest to go into the Barrow and retrieve the Dragonstone thing (and if you don’t do this, you can play for hours without actually dealing with any dragons at all).

Reader
Nate

I knew it was close to the beginning. or at least i thought so thats why i said I think it is skyrim. Thanks for correcting me though I appreciate it.

Reader
Bryan Correll

IMO other than the unexpected appearance of the dragon Skyrim has one of the worst openings for an RPG I’ve ever seen. Before you even get to character creation you have to go through a wagon ride that seems to last forever while listening to bad Nordic accents talking about stuff you’ve been given no reason to care about. Then off to be beheaded (creating your character while you’re waiting in line for execution) for reasons you never learn. And when the dragon does appear the only choice you have is which group you want to run away with: the bunch that were about to kill you or your fellow prisoners. With your hands still tied. And then the tutorial actually starts.

There are times I’ve thought about giving the game another go, but remembering the length of time it takes before you actually get to do anything always kills the impulse.

Mordyjuice
Reader
Mordyjuice

Well if you were going to try ESO today I’d like to point out the excellent job they do in their weekly maintenance like today for example.

images (2).jpg
Reader
HawkeWar

I felt that all these boxes were ticked when I started playing FFXIV…these days not so much, diametrically I’m shocked at how friendly the SWTOR community has become lately…that use to be a cancerous hellhole.

Reader
IronSalamander8 .

I feel this is a good list overall. Make new people feel welcome and get them used to your core systems and world early. I had a hard time getting people into EQ back when some CoH friends tried it for the first time (this was before that tutorial with the prison they added later, no idea if they’ve changed this again), due to how overwhelmed they felt.

In a way, it can apply to tabletop games too, and especially in the wargame hobby in particular. People feel ignored, or even ridiculed for being new and then some older grognards lament that the hobby is dying in the same breath…

I see that Sky Saga screenshot! I really enjoyed that one when I played the alpha. It’s shame what happened to it.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

I so wish SkySaga had launched. :/

Reader
IronSalamander8 .

Yes! I really enjoyed it, even how early it was in development. It needed some work but that’s what alpha/beta is for! I loved being able to take stuff from the adventure zones and use them in my home zone. It’s so depressing it never went anywhere.

Reader
Robert Mann

I’m both for and against the first point in specific way. Some of the rest is good advice, some of it is too much pickiness for me… but everyone has their own tastes, needs, desires, etc.

Anyway, the first point I think IS important, but at the same time ensuring you get enough information is equally important. We’ve been playing games for a long time now, and we all know there are people who’s online glee is to watch other’s worlds burn. That doesn’t mean that just taking action to protect against DDOS and similar attacks in needed. It means that there’s a legitimate need to split out certain players from everyone else, because their goal is to: A. Ruin the fun of all other players. B. In doing so, cause your game harm, possibly even destroying it’s future.

Doing this is tricky. It’s something that needs a lot of careful attention, a system for dealing with identity fraud issues, and possibly chances to prove that a person isn’t who they once were. It is, however, something that becomes a building block to keeping the people who are actually interested in playing happier.

So the process should be fairly simple, but it needs something that really ties into who is playing/accessing the game. Simply put, without addressing that need more people will continue the trend to go to small custom server games with set friends instead of chancing whether they meet jerks or decent people in an MMO. Some will do so either way, but since the current nature of the internet is that you get more trolls than cute cat/dog videos… well, the internet kinda sucks right now.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Dean Greenhoe

For starters, I need to learn to walk before I am willing to talk. I feel embarrassed asking how to perform the basics in the game. So, a good starter tutorial is highly important to me.

Second and one of the most important to me is a decent UI. If I have to install a bunch of add on’s to get basic UI elements, I am inclined to just quit. If a UI is to “clicky”, again I am inclined to quit. The UI will make or break the game for me.

If the game halts my character progression via uncomfortable gating mechanics I tend to quit sooner that those that do not have these gates.

So a good tutorial, functional UI and non-obnoxious gating mechanics is all I need to feel welcome.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

The need so many games have to rush you through an overloaded tutorial and then dump you in a madly busy hub is just nuts. I long for the days when I entered a game in a quiet corner of the world and spent the first 20 minutes clicking all the buttons, looking at the skill trees, inventory, character sheet, etc., to get oriented so I knew what to expect before I ventured out.