Let’s take a hypothetical Harry Potter MMO. You roll your character, and start out in Hogwarts. Immediately upon creation, you are told the basics of control via tool-tips, or other floating or in-game textual means. Walking, camera angles, etc. Usually after what happens is the last tooltip guides you to an NPC. Some skip the tool-tips altogether and just guide you via map marker or big shiny effect. Lets say for our HPMMO its Mcgonigle.
She goes through whatever basic intro the game deems too complex to tell via tooltip. Let’s say its to send you to your magic trainer, another NPC. You get a quest, and go to him. Maybe it’s Snape. By yourself, you are lead through a daisy chain of NPCs and quests to understand the basics of the game. The final quest sets you out on your own, maybe setting yourself up to start or be in a wizarding party.
My question is why do we expect players to group the entire game, and yet make the first ten levels or even more a single player experience? Contrast this next example, which comes after the cut.
Lets say Harry Potter MMO again. You create your character, and enter hogwarts. This time though the only tooltip is a listing of classes, and the time they start. Basic magical defense starts in 5 minutes, and using your map or a nearby NPC, you go directly to it.
Inside, you find McGonigle lecturing, but to your amazement, other new people are there too. You sit down at a desk, and for a few minutes, you listen to the basics of combat. The lesson concludes quickly, and a door opens to a practice area outside. There are training dummies, and you can both practice on them, and also on each other as a group. You can’t get the hang of defending a certain spell, and another newbie offers to fire it at you until you do. When you finish, you are rewarded, and you go back, to attend the next class with the guy who helped you.
Tutorials really aren’t designed for group interaction. While sometimes you have to group to do a part of it, not many throw newbies together to learn as a group. I think it can bolster immersion and also shape bonds between new players if they learn the game collaboratively from the start.
Even something as simple as “make a new friend using the friend list” can help to pull newbies out of the solo tutorial cocoon and begin interacting with the larger community. Or say giving a high-level, one time buff spell and rewarding them for casting it on a player level 20 and up. For MMOs, we really do isolate early players a lot.
I know that many times players pick up the slack. I hear a lot about EVE university, for one, and I’m sure there are more examples. But Developers have greater control over the new player experience, and maybe starting group aspects of it would help. I also understand that as the game ages, group-based newbie content gets hard to carry out, but nothing is stopping revamping the new player experience either.