With some exceptions, MMO players eventually leave their “first” MMO for something newer or different. Experiencing a new game for the first time (and having it click) is an exhilarating experience, especially when you start to realize the depth that lies before you and the potential it holds. I’ve recently jumped around to several different games, going from LOTRO to Guild Wars 2 (where I successfully capped one character) to Skyrim and lately to Marvel Heroes 2015. Arguably three of my last four games have been MMO’s (the other a very deep RPG), and I’ve noticed a pattern to how I approach playing a new game, and I wonder how it affects/enhances my enjoyment of it. I’m also curious about how others approach a new game, and how their approach differs from mine.
Generally speaking, between blogging, podcasting and playing (plus other non-gaming endeavors), I don’t have a lot of leisure time left over to do outside research on games. I’ll occasionally stumble on the odd blog post that catches my attention, or I might go looking for an answer to a very specific question, but I can’t spend minutes upon hours poring over official forum threads.
I’ve also found podcasts to be a fairly poor resource for newbies to a game. Many times, game-specific podcasts are produced by folks who have a certain level of expertise (who are max-level, at the very least), and who spend time talking about high-level or end-game happenings that they’re involved in. They don’t stop to explain the beginning nuances of the game because in all likelihood they’ve coverered it previously, and don’t want to repeat themselves in every episode. This leaves the listener with no choice but to listen to the entire back-catalog of episodes, which may be entertaining but also very time consuming. The one case where podcast listening may behoove the newbie is if he/she’s able to find a podcast where the hosts are close to his/her level of expertise and everybody is able to learn the ropes “together” along the way. However, the chances of this are fairly slim, and in my case the hosts usually move faster than I do and eventually leave me in the dust.
So in lieu of up-front research, I’ll typically jump right into the game, trying to learn as much as I can from in-game hints and tips and figuring things out along the way. Sometimes, this results in me making stupid mistakes (which are often pointed out to me when I complain about them on Twitter). For example, I’ve been playing Marvel Heroes for almost a month. In this game, certain crafting items drop from random mobs – essences, orbs, globbity bloops etc. Also in this game, instead of leveling your individual character’s ability to craft, you donate items to the crafter NPC to level HIS crafting abilities. Seems a little strange at first, but it makes sense when you understand how the roster system works in MH. Anyway, I knew you could donate stuff to level the crafter, but I thought you could only donate the crafting specific items (the globbity bloops type stuff). These don’t drop all that often, so my crafter was leveling reeeeeealy slowly. My assumption stands the test of reason, right? Crafting guy needs crafting stuff. Leaning on my own logic, I never even attempted to donate anything else to him.
It wasn’t until just a few days ago that I came to the realization that you can donate basically anything to the crafting NPC (gear, runes, those letters from Shield that say “do not eat”) to level him. I’ve wasted an entire month’s worth of trash gear drops not leveling my crafter. A tough lesson, to be sure – but one that I won’t soon forget!
Another example from this week: Once I finally realized I could donate trash gear to the crafter, I decided to try and catch him up! I participated in Monday’s Midtown Madness event which was dropping extra reward boxes full of gear. So, after every two or three midtown boss defeats, I’d run back to the crafter NPC and drag each gear item from my inventory bag to the little NPC “donate” box. In Marvel Heroes, there’s no way to reposition either the inventory or the crafting window on the screen; one is on the left side and one is on the right side. So, I continued to drag each item, one by one, from the left side of the screen all the way over to the right. First world problem, right? Wow, you had to DRAG AN ICON FROM ONE SIDE OF THE SCREEN TO THE OTHER? You must be some kind of super hero (well, actually….I AM Iron Man)!
I did this for six levels worth of NPC craft leveling, and by the end of the night, my wrist was fatigued. Not only were the physical ailments apparent, but the time spent simply sitting in the hub dragging icons around was easily half of my play session for the night. In other words, it did nothing to enhance my gaming experience and it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t until the next day when ‘old man Brax’ was bemoaning the mechanic on Twitter when the response came back: “uhh, Brax – just hold alt and right click the item.” OK, it wasn’t phrased like that, but that’s how it sounded in my head :). Once again, I had been burned by hands-on learning. Once again, though, it’s something that I will always remember and be sure to pass on to other new players so they can learn from my mistakes.
In all, I think the trial and error method of learning a new game works pretty well for me. As long as I don’t mind looking dumb and doing a few stupid things along the way, it seems to be a quick, efficient way to jump into a game and learn it’s systems and pitfalls. It’s also good for balancing learning the game and enjoying the game, as the two don’t always go hand-in-hand. Sometimes learning a new game, especially an MMO, can be a bit of a chore, but I do my best to make sure that it doesn’t feel like one.
How do you approach learning to play a new game for the first time?
Surveys by the Bees on Fickr Creative Commons
İron man final by Cihan Unalan on flickr Creative Commons