[MMOs] Your learning needs are not my problem

Stubborn has a great post up on the Epic Slant blog where he applies some of his teaching theories about collaboration to game design. You should read it, but I’m just riffing off the basic idea. He talks about how you design a collaborative task to give everyone in the group opportunities to learn.

I was intrigued because I feel increasingly that random group content in MMOs is an anti-learning environment. If people zone in with someone who is learning the fight, they’re likely to be disappointed because it will take longer. They don’t want to take ‘the hit’ of being part of someone else’s learning experience. It’s not surprising, if group content is designed to encourage group learning (I don’t actually think MMO devs have educators on board, sadly, because that would be awesome but let’s pretend) then the whole point is that the group learns together.

Even a lot of learning players would rather be boosted and not have to bother learning the fight than be thrown in with a group of similarly experienced players and all learn it together. That isn’t a function of noobiness, a lot of experienced players would do the same thing – just they’d probably actually bother to learn the fight at some point. Although possibly not to the same holistic level – if you learn a fight in a group where everyone else already performs their role well then you will only really learn your own role. You won’t learn how the fight fully works.

People are lazy. Only raid leaders are really motivated to fully understand fights. A lot of players are happy to just be told what to do. None of this is surprising. I also think it is most fun to learn a fight in a group of similarly skilled players who are also friends who are learning together; it’s harder than ever to get this type of group together except at the beginning of new content. Because people will head into LFR to learn what they can.

Your learning will slow us down

The other week we raided again with an old guildie who has just rejoined after spending the expansion in more hardcore raids. He’s a great guy, good player, geared to the gills, knows the fights backwards, and it was lovely having him back in raid chat. We got to one of the boss fights (Blackfuse) where some of the DPS have a slightly different role – he said he was happy to try it but it would be his first time as his old raid hadn’t let him do it before so he wasn’t really sure how it worked.

This gives an indication of how specialised and risk averse some raid groups can be. If you didn’t happen to be That Guy who took on that role when the raid first learned a fight, they will be reluctant to give you a chance to learn unless they have no choice because learning takes time and that would set them back. So do you make the whole raid wipe a couple of times while new guy learns the positioning or tell him to go practice in LFR/ go back to his usual role so you can make more progress?

Has learning got more scary in MMOs?

So what I am wondering is whether it has gotten scarier to learn new roles or fights. PUGs don’t care if it was the first time you saw the raid, they’ll have to judge you on what they see. Progression raids worship progression and will be frustrated if you take too long to learn.

I guess with a new WoW expansion coming up, we can say it’s easier to get into learning mode at the beginning of a new content patch when everyone (briefly) is learning together. And the goal isn’t just to learn, it’s to learn as quickly as you can do you don’t get booted from your raid later. That adds a certain extra stress that I suspect good educators would have tried to avoid. I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more people just avoid group content – it only takes one really stressful experience to kill someone’s confidence.

And I wonder if the genre (such as it is) would be more long lived if more design effort was put into making the learning experience less stressy.

6 thoughts on “[MMOs] Your learning needs are not my problem

  1. I wrote about this a while back, too. Though I framed it as discovery rather than learning, I think that you and Stubborn are closer to the truth by invoking learning. MMO communities today are very much anti-learning. Somehow it is more acceptable to make a mistake because you didn’t pay enough attention or were too slow to react, than to make that mistake because you are learning the fight. If you weren’t “committed” enough to learn the fights in beta, then you are expected to watch the guides put together by those who were.

    This instant pressure that is created by even one person being enthusiastic or impatient enough to “learn” the fights before the rest of the group, is a problem that I got sick of very quickly, and it led to my eventual disillusionment with raiding. The reality is that you are expected to know the fight before you’ve ever seen it, and it promotes a warped idea of learning.

    • “The reality is that you are expected to know the fight before you’ve ever seen it” This is what I think is wrong with the expectations of todays mmorpg players. Where has the wonder of discovery gone? Personally I am a fan of learning a fight together and playing to the strengths of the group rather than redoing something someone else saw on youtube. Sure that group on youtube got it done with their perfectly balanced raid comp but what if you have 5 ret paladins in your guild because you want to play with friends and those friends enjoy ret? In my mind Learning to down a boss with the tools you have is just that much more satisfying compared to doing it like every Tom, Dick and Harry. Glad to read you are still raiding and enjoying WoW!

  2. Speed is another issue with raiding. You’re under a time crunch (one week or less, unless you extend the raid), and if you’re on boss 10 of 12, you still have to work your way through the whole thing every week. Having a new person in the raid slows the team down, and especially on guilds of people in their 30s/40s the free time for raiding begins to shrink dramatically due to external pressures.

    It’s kind of a lose lose scenario.

    I’d like to see a bit more tolerance all the way around, because that would a) help people learn faster, and b) be an overall more enjoyable experience. But lacking that, I was considering the options for learning the raid. Raid Finder has turned out pretty miserable for that regard, since it has supplanted 5-man heroics as the place where all the drama happens. Perhaps, however, a version of Proving Grounds would work. You could group up with people learning fights and fight bosses that have similar mechanics. I’m thinking of how certain low level/intro quests teach a player some of the most basic mechanics in the game –such as in WoW’s Ghostlands, where the quests that take you through the Troll gravesite teach you to not stand in the bad– and then apply those ideas to the Proving Grounds for raid size mechanics with multiple learners.

  3. Part of the problem is the dehumanising view that MMOs seem to be encouraging of other players. Where you see the learning player as a person, most people will be willing and even eager to help teach them, because we are programmed as social animals to enjoy sharing our skills.
    However, if you view the other players in your group as bots, there to fulfil a role in completing the dungeon and getting you your loot, then you get frustrated when you are given a crappy, defective bot instead of one that does the job smoothly.
    So I guess the best advice when joining a PUG, if you’re new to the role or dungeon, is to get people chatting and put a human face on your current lack of skill 🙂

  4. Pingback: Link Dead Radio: Roles and Reason | Healing the masses

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