The Daily Grind: What’s the single best way an MMO can keep a newbie playing?

    
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Venting prevents ex-plo-si-on.

A while back, MOP’s own Ben tweeted that during his recent foray into EVE Online, a gamemaster messaged him out of the blue. The GM apparently offered his aid and sent over some starter equipment. As Ben noted, it’s a rare thing in MMOs. I’ve seldom seen it from a studio’s staff before either; it’s usually left to motivated gamers and organized community efforts.

MMO blogger Wilhelm of TAGN noted that it’s likely part of a CCP Games campaign to get players to stick around. I don’t know whether it’ll work, but I have no reason to think it won’t – plus it’s smart as heck. Newbie retention in games like EVE is everything, and MMOs could certainly make it easier.

What would you say is the single best way an MMO can keep a newbie playing?

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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Ernost
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Ernost

Have the game be f2p. At the end of the day money is the biggest barrier to entry for any game.

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Utakata

A welcoming committee. I has to be player initiative and game supportive. And easy to reach. Assholes need not apply though.

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Utakata

Edit/Erratum: It* has to be player initiative and game supportive…proper.

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Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

Tutorials. Tutorials! TUTORIALS!

You never know if this is the first mmo someone has played. You need to show them the basics and how it differs from a single player game.

Also, if you have some truly unique, revolutionary feature not found in other mmos then you DEFINATELY need to do a tutorial about how to use that feature (GUILD WARS 2👀🤣).

Also, one of the best ways to show someone how to do something is to show them what NOT to do. Showing common counterexamples is a great way to avoid needless pain. Just tossing mmo players into a game with the MMO Trinity removed without a decent tutorial … yeah, we saw what a tragedy that was–and avoidable.

Also, please explain HOW features benefit me, from stats, to loot, to gear. Why spend time on crafting if I don’t know how I benefit from it? Thank you, STAR TREK ONLINE. Clear explanations, please.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Warframe, please do this. The new player experience in that game is dire. There’s layers on top of layers, and the layers have layers. The game has an in-game Codex, and it is bad. Nothing is filled in until you already own it, or have scanned it twenty five times. Even the text on mods is garbled and grayed out, which means if you don’t already own a Mod then you don’t even get a hint as to why you WOULD want to own that mod.

I think the worst offender is the Warframes themselves though. The methods for getting them are mostly “fight a boss and hope to get the four different blueprints as random drops.” But unless someone is willing to exit the game and look it up on the wiki, there’s no clue in-game *WHICH* boss. And it’s even worse for the non-standard Warframes that might come from Dojo research, or as quest rewards, or have to be purchased from the Reputation Store for any of several different factions.

If it were up to me, the Codex entry for any item you don’t own would at least *hint* at how to get it. Like for Valkyr, who you get via punching Alad V on Jupiter: “There are rumors that Alad V has captured a Warframe for his new research project in his lab on Jupiter.” It’s not massive, it’s not even a *tweet,* but now someone who wants to get that ‘frame has clue they can follow.

And that’s not even getting into all the other systems the game does such a poor job of explaining. One of the people I invited who then quit, later said it was because they couldn’t do any damage to enemies. “I wish I’d known, I could have given you a bunch of my spare upgrade mods for your weapons and Warframe to help.” “Wait, you can mod weapons in that game?” >n< And then there's all the rare resources, all the rare enemies, all the rare enemies that *drop* rare resources and/or mods… quite a lot of which lead back to the Codex, which only tells you where to find something and what it's weaknesses are after you've scanned it 15 times.

And that's before we even get to the multiple "optional" systems that combine into a daunting brick wall of "I don't know what ANY OF THIS IS!" for a new player. Exilus Slots. Operators. Helminth. The Syndicates. Railjack. Necramechs. Liches. This Sisters of Parvos. The game is currently set up so that a new player can encounter *all of these* well before they're needed, especially if they're teaming with more experienced players who have unlocked them. And besides the huge amount of unexplained complexity, it *also* creates a huge gap in power level. While it's a ton of fun for me to run around blipping from Warframe to Operator to Necramech and back, teleporting around the map and vaporizing entire squads of enemies in a single shot, it's pretty demoralizing if I'm doing that next to a new player who sees damage numbers of "120!" when mine are apparently "120,000!"

And before anyone says something, no, I do NOT think the existence of a player maintained wiki excuses the devs here. And it IS a problem. I've invited a dozen people to play Warframe, with the direct offer to explain as much as I could and help as often as I can. Every single one quit before getting anywhere near even unlocking a second Warframe. And of the ones who ever said why, it was *always* because the game was a confusing mess and they had no clue how to begin to untangle it.

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Bryan Correll

Punch and pie.

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Crafty_Youth5227

Just add simple fun content without grinding.

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Toy Clown

With many games having been out for years now, the most daunting aspect for a new player (at least in my case) is feeling dwarfed by everyone else playing. I’m happy to meet the challenge of catch-up, but some games aren’t developed in a way that new players can play well with veterans.

An example is recently getting into FO76. Many players are really high up in levels and gear, then comes along a new player to join in on group content, but unable to get any shots in because of the high-powered weapons used by veterans. I was pretty discouraged and stayed away from group content until I get better gear.

Some games handle integrating new players well, such as FFXIV. No one is more powered than you in content that you need for leveling as the system sort of normalizes everything to put players on a more-or-less even playing field. You also come across lots of players in the main hubs as content is used to keep bringing players back to those starter cities.

In a nutshell, better development to integrate new players in with veterans perhaps. It does make a difference. Veteran players taking care when newer players are present and not killing every mob in site and keeping others from getting experience. Also, down to development to keep new and veteran players in the same hubs.

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Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

If after years of playing an mmo, you’re no better than a wet-behind-the ears newbie, then something if fundamentally wrong with the game.

Of course a newbie is going to feel dwarfed by veterans who’ve played a game for years. There should be some advantage to having years of experience, skills and gear. It’s not insurmountable over time, but at the start, yes.

If I’m a newb to a game and expecting the game to be “balanced” so I’m on equal footing as players who’ve played for years, that’s more of a me problem than an mmo problem.

To be fair, I hate PvP (Kill it, kill it with fire), so I’m not starting a game looking to go up directly against players with years of experience. I expect to level up in PvE, learning the ropes from the game that way.

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Vanquesse V

For the first time in 5 years I don’t plan on showing up for the new league in PoE on launch night. I estimate that it would take me around 60 hours to get to the point where the game is really fun for me.
I don’t have enough confidence in their upcoming changes to risk that kind of commitment.

So ensuring that the early part of the game is not only fun, but also that you get at least an idea of how endgame functions while leveling is probably a good investment.
If the game has forced grouping as part of mandatory progression it would be nice if there was a fallback system if queues take too long.
Finally, having most or all of the knowledge you need to play the game at a decent level be available ingame is super helpful as well.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

If a new player has a question and the answer is “just google it,” the devs have failed them.

Demon of Razgriz
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Demon of Razgriz

Communication. As a newbie, you want information on all of the gameplay aspects, lore, etc. A good company makes sure that they have built a player base that’s helpful and not toxic. They also make sure that they themselves communicate to players as far as events, roadmaps, etc. In this day of social media and extensive access, there’s really no excuse as to why some companies eschew this simple concept.

Fisty
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Fisty

A GM messaging me with offers of help reeks of desperation. It feels like old MUDs or Minecraft servers where admins are so desperate to keep people around that their actions do anything but inspire confidence.

Have a good starter area, with a tutorial that not only tutors but is relevant to the greater story and propels you deep into the narrative. Extra game time, in-game rewards and an active community helps.

Regardless of what they do, we all bail eventually and usually come back. For me, it is always a cycle of games, never one game anymore.

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Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Neurotic

Free game time! When I got my first FFXIV character to level 30, Squeenix emailed me to say that they’d added 15 days free game time to my sub, to celebrate this event. I was blown away man, that was totes amazing. (And yes, I did re-sub after that!)