The first three minutes

I remember very clearly the first time I ever logged into a multi player game online.

It was a MUD that was running on one of the university computers. I’d seen single player text based adventures before, so I played it like one of those, but with other people chatting on text channels in the background. It was novel to see other characters wandering around, but they didn’t really impact on my game. (I know NOW that there was quite a lot of grouping and guilds and socialising also.)

I also remember very clearly the first time I ever logged into a multi player game online where someone else spoke to me.

This was also a text based game, and one of the other players whispered a greetings to me when I had just logged in for the first time. (I think a message went out to all players when a newbie logged in to encourage them to be friendly.) I was so freaked out and unsure how to react that I considered logging out and never coming back. Fortunately I didn’t do this and I’m still friends with that player to this day – we even went to each other’s weddings.

It’s very unlikely that new players these days would be so unnerved by online chat. But some might be unnerved by a game that immediately pulls you out of the single player mindset. If you’re used to as much time and space as you like to figure a game out, having to race other players for the newbie mobs is a layer of competition that just doesn’t exist in most single player games. Being asked to be social in an online game can be just as unnerving. You don’t expect to socialise in a single player game, so even having someone say ‘hello’ as they walk by can be anxiety inducing.

I mention this by way of pondering why so many WoW players don’t make it past the first five levels/ 30 minutes of play. (It’s under ‘Other Notes’.)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone who can’t figure out moving, questing, and fighting isn’t going to get past level 2, never mind level 5, and probably won’t last 5 minutes let alone 30.

I had two main trains of thought on reading that Blizzard plan to go for a more basic tutorial at the very early levels.

1/ Good. I don’t see any problems with trying to make the tutorial more intuitive. Anyone who complains about levels 1-5 being dumbed down is being silly. What were you expecting, HARD MODE level 1-5? Sure, the early adopters (like me, after I got over my great fear of other people) enjoyed jumping in blind with a manual to hand and figuring these things out, but it wouldn’t have hampered the whole jumping in blind thing if a popup with ASWD on it had been put up.

Text MUDs actually had really extensive help files and staffers were always trying to figure out better tutorials because we wanted newbies to stay and not be put off by the complexity. I remember one game where we even had two or three separate tutorials based on the player’s previous level of experience with that type of game.

Having said that, jumping in blind to a complex game does encourage people to ask for help, which encourages interaction. I don’t think this is a good reason to skip the tutorial but it’s one of the reasons communities used to be much tighter.

2/ Are we sure people are leaving before 30 mins because they couldn’t figure out the basics? Maybe they just didn’t like the game enough to play longer. I will not count the number of games in my Steam collection that have been played for less than 30 mins, but trust me it’s several. I don’t stress over this, most of them were bought very cheaply in sales and I knew there was a risk I either might not like the game or might not have a long attention span for it.

Still, if you claim they can’t figure the game out then it’s easy enough to work on a better tutorial. If they left because they either freaked out at encountering other people or just didn’t fancy it, then it’s more difficult to think of a quick fix. (OK, I lie, the other people thing can probably be fixed. I know the EVE tutorial used to suggest players say something on the newbie channel and WoW could certainly benefit from a brief channel using tutorial.)