5 great ways for you to help new players

Blog Azerorth has a particularly challenging Shared Topic this week – it’s about helping new players.

Here are some other bloggers on the topic:

I do not spend a lot of my time  helping new players, if only because I don’t encounter very many. It also can be tricky to spot the new guys, often indistinguishable from experienced players who just act like newbies. So before I tackle the topic, here are a few pointers for newbie spotters. This is how you know you’ve got the Real Deal on your hands.

  • Player has not yet figured out how to use chat channels. They may use say or whisper instead, if they’ve worked those ones out.
  • Player does not know how to find the bank or auction house (or add any essential facility of your choice.)
  • Player is confused by need/greed conventions. Unfortunately this is easily mistaken for ninja behaviour. This could also just mean an experienced solo player who hasn’t grouped much.
  • Player can’t ask for help because they don’t really know what sort of help they need. If you are struggling with how to start combat, there’s no point asking for help with complex rotations.
  • Player went exploring and ended up in a totally inappropriate zone for their race/class/faction, and doesn’t know how to get back. (It’s the not knowing how to get back which scares newbies, more experienced explorers usually have A PLAN involving a bucket, 50’ of rope, and/or a hearthstone.)
  • Player got lost. (This does not hold for instances such as BRD where everybody gets lost.)
  • Player wants to improve or learn how to do something better. This is how you know you have a live inexperienced newbie and not an experienced zombie.

So, assuming that you’d like to help new players, how do you do it? Here are five things I try to do – and you will notice that I don’t go too far out of my way. I’m in game to play and have fun, not to act as teacher or big sister to the unwashed masses (err, excluding my actual sisters). I have also learned through experience that I won’t be helping anyone if I’m grumpy and out of sorts.

1. Answer (sensible) questions on global channels

A lot of people goof off in trade chat or the local equivalent, which is all well and good. But one easy way to help newer players is simply to answer questions on the chat channels. If someone has gotten as far as asking a question, it means that they’re taking the first steps towards helping themselves. And if you happen to be in the area covered by the channel and aren’t busy, why not answer?

I sometimes talk to people via whisper if they are asking warrior or tanking questions. For example, I spoke to a player last week who was asking how to gem gear for a protection paladin – it’s not a difficult question, and it’s also very little effort for me to give a basic informed answer, and offer signposting to decent tanking websites if the guy wants to read more.

2. Help new players to settle into your guild

If a new player joins your guild, you can help to smooth their experience. This doesn’t mean that you need to talk to them extensively every time they log on, especially if your guild isn’t chatty anyway. But you can help by making sure they know about guild activities, bulletin boards, addons, bank, or any other way in which your group usually communicates and organises.

It might mean as little as checking that someone has read the guild info tab (if your officers are organised and put useful information in there). Or asking if they want to join some regular guild activity if they are online and appropriate level.

3. Gold$$$

You can, if you choose, help new players by either giving them gold or sharing gold making tips. (Do lots of dailies to get gold for your epic mount, is a good one in WoW for example. Or start with two gathering skills.) A lot of players are ethically opposed to giving gold to beggars. Others may be amused enough by a good pitch to help an enterprising new player out with some starting cash.

I have been in guilds – and am sort of running one at the moment – where we aim to give people gold to buy their flying mounts at level 60 if they don’t already have the cash. The idea is that people can pay it back to the guild bank later and since we’re careful with invites, the facility won’t be abused.

If you’d rather give goods, then bags are always helpful to new players. So if you get chatting to someone after giving advice on a chat channel and would like to help them further, a gift of bags will not compromise your gold giving ethics but is a very helpful gesture. If you are a crafter, there may be other low level gear you can help players with. Glyphs and potions can be helpful too, if you don’t mind explaining how to use them.

In general, giving stuff to everyone who asks will make you feel like a sucker unless you just won the in game equivalent of the lottery or are a generous drunk. But giving stuff to ‘worthy’ newbies is a time honored way of helping new players.

4. Don’t bitch at people in low level instances

News flash. You will sometimes find new players in low level groups or instances. Do not expect these low level groups to function like well drilled raid groups in which every player has been studying their role for several years.

Instead, go in to have fun and be entertained. If the group upsets you, then you can always leave. But newer players can have an infectious enthusiasm and the better ones will take tips and advice if it’s offered in a generous way.

Low level instances are also often harder than higher level ones if you tackle them at the intended level and gearing. (I have come to the opinion that LBRS is the hardest instance in the game. It’s certainly the one I have seen completed least often lately.)

Give the lowbies a break. Assume they might be new. Give them a chance to take advice before you give up on them.

5. Don’t socialise if you are in a bad mood

This is the biggie. You cannot help anyone, newbie or otherwise, if you are burned out, stressed, bad tempered, or feeling anti-social. The kindest thing you can do for your fellow players in that case is to take yourself away from the social scene and either stay offline or maintain radio silence.

Never mind if you feel an obligation to help newbies. Never mind if you promised them an instance run. If you don’t feel up to it, make your excuse and back out. It’s allowed. And you need to put your own fun and welfare first.

It’s probably better if you don’t agree to do anything that you know you didn’t really want to do in the first place. People can take no for an answer. I know a lot of players who do have trouble with saying no, but it’s just one of those life skills that you need to learn for your own protection.

Why do people boost?

Boosting is the local term for when a high level character runs lower level characters through an instance so that they can get some free xp, quest rewards, and possibly other stuff like drops also. Certainly in WoW and presumably in other games too, if you stand around in a city you will hear people asking for boosts through instances. If you get really lucky some of them might whisper you personally to ask.

Now, I have no real idea why anyone would ever agree to do this. I guess it’s just possible that you wanted to go to that low-level instance anyway for nefarious reasons of your own and figure it’s no extra  hassle to take a random hanger on.

Or maybe if it’s a friend who is feeling down in real life or going through a rough levelling patch in game, I could see taking 30 mins out to run them through an instance to cheer them up and give them a boost (in the wider sense of the word.) But what I cannot figure is why anyone would do that for a random beggar.

Yet, I assume some people must answer those plaintive ‘will u boost me through zul’farrek’ (or the even more pathetic ‘will pay u 10g for boost through scholo, you can keep all the drops’) whispers with a cheery ‘Yes, let’s go!’ In fact, even me answering with a mild ‘Haha, nice try but no’ seems to be met with a bruised response, as if somehow that wasn’t what they were expecting.

All I can imagine is that some people are so bored that running a random instance to help a random beggar sounds like something interesting to do, they’re lonely and the random person is being friendly, or they just aren’t good at saying no.

I’d love to know more about the dynamics of boosting and why it happens. I can’t help feeling that somewhere in there lies the answer to getting experienced players to help out newbies, and that there’s a section of the player base who specifically enjoy taking their high level characters and helping (aka showing off to) lower level guys.

Why I boost

I generally get frustrated with running halfway around the world to low level instances to help people who could perfectly well just skip the instance, and who won’t really experience it in any meaningful way when I’m performing a perfectly executed one-woman zerg.

This weekend, I made an exception. I’m  busy working on my city reps (as per last Friday’s post) and I had a bunch of quests to do in Blackrock Depths. I knew that one of my friends and my husband both had an alt in the right sort of level range, and asking around in guild threw up another appropriate level alt also. So I told them that I was planning to zerg BRD and offered that they could bring their alts along. And that I’d like to take the runecloth (for rep) but everything else was fair game.

So we went off and did this, and it was good fun. We chatted on Teamspeak, the guys got good great xp for their alts (in WoW, you get more xp in instances if the group size is larger so it was actually good for all of them that we had a few alts with us), I picked up a load of city rep for quests and a few stacks of runecloth.

It just doesn’t really feel like boosting when you’re in a win-win situation like that. But it was definitely more fun for me to have people along with whom to chat than it would have been to go on my own (I know, social player etc). And I’m glad to be able to help my husband out from time to time with his alts, he does the same for me.

Also it turned out that one of the other guys collects runecloth as a hobby (!) and sent me about 10 stacks afterwards as a thank you. It’s by this kind of gesture that my guild ‘enforces’ a helpful culture.

The appeal of long distance travel

The other thing I’ve grown to appreciate over the weekend’s rep gathering is what long distance travel can add to a game. Zipping around the old world in search of various quests really made me think about working out the best routes, how long I had left on my hearthstone, where the nearest inter-continent zeppelin base was located, and so on.

It was an interesting (if time consuming) mini game of its own, and I enjoyed the minor added challenge. I think this is the appeal of the holiday quests WoW sometimes throws in that ask you to visit every town in the game. It’s a DIY travelling salesman problem.

I don’t want new games to let me just teleport straight to anywhere I want to go. I enjoyed working out my routes and using my world knowledge to plot out the best time savers.