Anyone who has played an MMO can remember their first time logging in and being barraged by the huge persistant world and the complexities that comes with that. Anything from learning how to type in chat to character control to more extensive game mechanics; is part of learning a new game. I can only speak for myself but for me these are some of the most memorable experiences I have in the MMO universe. The child-like wonder involved in starting a new game, MMO or not, is an experience that is hard to recreate through out a games experience. What are the positives and negatives to being a newbie? How does this affect people migrating from one game to another without spending time mastering the endgame content? Simply, what is a newbie and what makes it enjoyable and not?
Before I dive in too deep about the ‘newbie experience’ I would like to define exactly what it is to be one. The webster online dictionary defines it as this:
noun, often attributive \ˈnü-bē, ˈnyü-\
: newcomer; especially : a newcomer to cyberspace
Now there is a difference between a newbie and a noob that I do not want to get confused here. To me a newbie is some who is new to the game and has not quite figured out all the basic systems of the game. A noob is someone whom is just bad at the game regardless of their account age or time played the game. You see, a newbie will eventually figure out the game and be good at it. While a noob will just be bad, regardless. To clear up any confusion this article is based more around the idea of a ‘newbie.’
If you have ever played eve, especially since they changed the beginning areas, you know the downfalls of being a newb. Eve has a very complex and steep learning curve that can take days, even weeks (read: months), to get a hang of. This brings me to the negatives of the ‘newbie experience.’ A quality game should be intuitive enough that you feel you can log into it and actually play. Maybe you don’t know the maps, or the skills you have, but the game introduces them to you in a way that is easy enough to understand and leaves you willing to explore and eager to learn. I don’t want to talk too poorly about eve but it took me many “attempts” at the game to even feel like I was having fun. Eventually I did but it was a long strenuous process that I only went through because of how many people said the game was amazing when you figure it out. It was not memorable for me at all, and I don’t think I could ever do something like that again.
The first time a logged into World of Warcraft I was playing an Undead Rogue. I remember I was only level 5 and my friends and I were running around trying to find a cave that had some spiders that needed to be evicted. It probably took us around a half hour to realize it was literally sitting right behind the quest giver. Maybe it was a waste of time, but that was over six years ago and I still look back on it fondly. I was dropped into a new world with only a single dagger at my disposal yet I had this sense of greater explorations in the future. Getting my first talent point, my first mount, hitting max level, all these experiences felt profound. Even at max level I felt like there was more to learn. Yet, I never felt burdened. The curve, at that point in the game, felt almost perfect. Eventually I would figure out the game, work my way up to High Warlord, expansions would pass, achieve Gladiator and finally just feel burnt out and bored.
The feeling of being bored brings me right into my next topic, modern day game migration. This has been talked about before, but it seems the modern MMO player has become some what of a game locust. They jump from game to game swarming the content and burning it out before new content can be released. I personally feel this has some connection with the lack of learning new things and making the world more explorable. If you get over this newbie experience too fast, you get burnt out and bored of the game. Eventually you end up looking for the next big thing.
In conclusion, how important is the newbie experience to you? Do you feel like an ever changing world with new places to adventure where you never quite can master the game mechanics is a positive or a negative factor in an MMO? What is your most memorable newb experience?