New Kid on the Megaserver

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Starting a new MMO can be daunting. Sure, some things can and often are very similar across a number of games within the genre: class roles, the questing system, crafting, dungeons, etc. However each MMO does things slightly differently so that even MMO veterans may need time adjusting when delving into a new game. This is the place I currently find myself in with Guild Wars 2. I’ve been playing for a little over three months now and while I have certainly learned tons about the game in that time span, I realize that I still have heaps more to learn and figure out about the game. And for me, learning the game and discovering its intricacies and quirks can be very fun! Especially when I have other people to play the game and enjoy those discussions with.

However things get less fun and more frustrating when I start talking to friends and other acquaintances who have been playing the game much longer and have much much more experience with the game than I do. At first talking to them isn’t so bad – especially when I was first starting out and I really knew nothing about the game and was just flailing wildly. Now that I have a bit more knowledge under my belt and have gotten my feet wet, I’ve become more frustrated when talking with more experienced players. The problems I’ve come up against in Guild Wars 2 mirror issues I remember noticing years ago in LOTRO: often times without even realizing it, experienced players push newer players towards meta-gaming and end-game activities because it’s the kind of things that they are focused on in their own gameplay, despite the fact that these things are usually irrelevant to the new players’ interests and gameplay. In other words, people who have been playing a long time forget what it’s like to be a new player. This can cause a lot of confusion for the new players who are seeking certain information but get drowned in a torrent of meta-gaming knowledge that they didn’t even know was relevant. It’s this problem that always ends up driving me to make information available in new-player-friendly ways in every game community I wind up in (LOTRO, Minecraft and now Guild Wars 2).

One instance with a friend of mine really sticks out as a prime example of this phenomenon. He was looking to help me get some new armor or weapons for my mesmer. Seems fine enough, and I certainly appreciate his generosity! He started asking me what stats I needed more of. Not really knowing which stats I was lacking in that I ‘should’ have more of, I told him I didn’t even really know what stats I ‘need’ as a mesmer (I have a general idea but GW2 isn’t like LOTRO – there is no tool tip that says “As a mesmer, X is your most important stat”). I felt a bit patronized when his response was just to link me to the mesmer’s entry in the GW2 wiki.

After a little while, the conversation continued and he asked what kind of build I was interested in. Since I am interested in learning about my class and the game, I had already done a bit of research on this once I had hit level 80 and knew that illusions and phantasms are where it’s at for mesmers. I thought that would kind of just drop the matter. However he continued on and tried telling me which builds were best and how I should allocate my trait points. After awhile I just stopped responding because I just wanted to work on the Living Story and not worry about my traits and build – especially since to date I’ve only done 3 dungeon runs and 1 Fractals of the Mists run, all at the lowest level/difficulty/whatever.

It might seem like a small, insignificant conversation in the scheme of things but it’s conversations like this that crop up many times when I talk to experienced players. I’ve been lectured on how I ‘need’ to do crafting to get the best level 80 weapons. I’ve been told how I should really probably only just focus on the one character so I can get to cap faster to do Fractals. I’ve been dragged through dungeons with little to no explanation of what’s going on and not giving me time to watch the cutscenes, just steamrolled through to get the loot at the end. I always end up feeling flustered and frustrated. Just let me experience the game at my own pace and through the gameplay styles that I’m interested in! With all that in mind, there have been some very awesome experienced players who have been very good at answering my actual questions and not just steamrolling me with how they think I should play. People who have offered anecdotes about their experiences and given helpful tips that I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. These are the kind of people I aspire to be when writing and podcasting about games.

The moral of this post is – think of the newbies! It’s nice to know a lot about a game but when a new player comes to you asking questions, maybe let them guide the conversation. When you’re giving advice, make sure it’s relevant or tangible in the new player’s current game play or playstyle. Try and remember what it’s like to be new to an MMO – big wide eyes, floundering about in a sea of UI panels, class skills, and new systems to learn. Save the nitty-gritty meta-gaming and class builds for when they’re more familiar with the game (unless, of course, they’re really into that stuff anyway).

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