Tutorials are important in MMOs. No MMO has a great one, unfortunately. I don’t just mean in the cases where returning players could use tutorials to remember what the heck we were doing when we logged out that might explain why you have 1900 pieces of leather and 78 bones in our inventory as if we were planning something, although that would be nice. I mean that even the best MMO tutorials leave out some very important aspects of gameplay.
That’s not to say there aren’t good MMO tutorials out there; there absolutely are good ones that give you an overview of the controls, how various quest mechanics will work, the basic flow of gameplay, and so forth. I consider games like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, and Guild Wars 2 to all be standouts here. But even these games could dearly use some better tutorials about a few important but largely unaddressed topics, such that I feel the need to call them – and other games – out vis-a-vis topics that really need good tutorials.
1. What various currencies are for
If real life were like an MMO, I would need to continue working jobs for dollars, but I would also need to do at least three or four other regular tasks to earn cowries and company scrip and Pepsi Coins or whatever so that I could get everything I needed, which sounds like a nightmare, but so does most of life at this point so I don’t even know. But the point here is that every MMO has a lot of different currencies, and more often than not there’s only the vaguest implications of what those currencies are all for.
To that I say no thank you. I don’t care if I have four or 12 or 28 currencies to track. Include a tutorial telling me what each one is, what it is for, and whether I need to care about it at this point. If I see that something rewards me with 700 Bells, I might not immediately know whether that’s a lot or a little, but I should immediately know whether it is a currency I need or not and why.
2. How to figure out your rotation
Yes, yes, your game doesn’t follow a very strict rotation or whatever, good for you and we’re all impressed. If you have combat, you have buttons you want me to press. There is a best order to press these buttons in. You do not have to tell me which order to press them in, but do give me guidance about how to figure it out for myself. Ideally you should offer all of the above, letting people who want to figure it and letting those who just want the answers just get the answers, but at the bare minimum there should be guidance.
3. Which systems are now irrelevant
Don’t start telling me none of your systems is irrelevant because we both know you’re lying. It’s fine. It’s all right. This stuff happens. I am not asking for much here; it’s all right with me if Dragon Legacy Weapons were a big deal at one point but now they’re just shiny cosmetics that take too long to get. But telling me up-front that Dragon Legacy Weapons are no longer relevant content can save me a lot of time. Just tell me this stuff.
4. What daily stuff you shouldn’t miss
“We don’t want our players to feel like they’re just logging in to complete a series of chores.” Well, that’s super, but if your players are doing that, you can at least have the basic decency of saying which chores are the most important ones. Seriously, trying to maintain the illusion that these things aren’t true instead of just telling me what to expect is negligent design.
5. What you should start working toward
Other players are usually good about this. They’re happy to tell players where to start once they hit the level cap or even from an early level. And this is a good thing; it is something that gives new players guidance and gives veterans something to ignore because they already know it. If you’ve noticed there’s a throughline of giving players a degree of guidance through the game so they know what they’re doing, it isn’t by accident! This is actually a super important thing, and most tutorials for MMOs are kind of terrible about it.
6. Common terms and player slang
Player slang can be a beautiful thing, whether it is born of necessity (like how Elden Ring’s limited player messages result in everything vaguely friend-shaped being dubbed as a dog) or just player custom. But a new player isn’t necessarily going to know all of it. It’s helpful to give new players a quick heads-up about the most common terms that players use and can recognize.
Yes, these terms will change over time, and it will need to be actively updated to ensure that it doesn’t fall out of date over time. Yes, this requires a lot of effort. You are running an MMO. If you wanted an easy job, you’d be making cow clicker mobile games.
7. Usual player practices
This extends a bit from the prior point. There’s no tutorial explaining how the majority of Final Fantasy XIV dungeons are run, and while that in no way justifies the people who decide to be ceaseless jerks and insist on “correcting” tanks who don’t pull enough, it would help if there was an actual tutorial about that. What’s the correct procedure to follow when you see another player fighting something in the open world in Guild Wars 2? What’s considered polite or rude for certain events?
You can’t cover everything, but you can at least give new players a quick overview of what’s going on and what will allow them to be seen as fellow community members rather than clueless newbies.
8. Worthwhile guidance sites
Several MMOs are, in fact, very good about this. A hearty shout-out to the games that do a good job of telling you what sites to visit for important player guidance about otherwise obscure mechanics. But this is always good information to have and something that should be communicated and updated on a reliable basis. Let players know where to look up information! People who don’t want it don’t have to go, and the fact is that you know these sites exist.
9. Stuff you don’t want to waste
So as part of your New Player Welcome package you gave me an Outfit Bind Token. This does… something useful. I don’t know what and I don’t care. But getting another Outfit Bind Token is not an easy task, and so rather than using it on this new Chestpiece of the Not Totally Hopeless Lower that I got for finishing the tutorial, I should use it on something more valuable. That’s all fine.
But you should have a tutorial telling me that. You should have a warning label pop up. You should give me the basic information to say that hey, maybe this is kind of rare and you should hold on to it for a bit. Just a thought.
10. The play-to-preparing ratio
How much time am I going to spend actually playing your game and how much time will that require me to spend manually assembling groups, traveling to requisite locations, getting all of my armor repaired, and so forth? Ideally the focus is always on the the former, but some people really do like slower games where there is a lot more time spent putting a group together, getting the group to a certain point, and so forth. And that’s fine. But you can tell me that up front, too.