Today is the big, day, the day I start playing my awesome new online game! So I’ve found a great game, I’ve created my account, I’ve made a great avatar – now it’s time to play! Time to log into the game world and be transported into an incredible mystical realm where you -[singlepic id=3348 w=320 h=240 float=right]
“You have been defeated by a plague rat. Return to bind spot?”
Hey wait a minute! I wasn’t ready! I don’t even have a sword or a wand or anything! That doesn’t make any sense – why is there a killer rat in the tutorial anyway? Well, in any case, I’m back in the game, I’ve returned to the bind spot, and I see my trainer, so I walk up and talk to him.
“To move your character, use the mouse or the W, A, S, and D keys.”
Seems simple enough, so it’s W, A –
“You have been utterly humiliated by desert scorpion. Return to bind spot?”
What the…? Where did that scorpion come from? Okay this game is obviously tougher than I thought; I guess I need to learn how to fight. Let me pick up this rusty sword here on the floor. Doesn’t look like much, but it’s better than nothing, right?
As I was saying, your first foray into a new game is usually full of wonder and amazement, but there is often a lot to learn. There are some fairly universal basics, like how to move, and there are some ideas that are very game-specific: setting up your user interface, where to find your trainer, or how to engage in combat.
“You hit Lumbering Troll for eleven points of damage.”
Ha ha! Take that, you –
“Lumbering troll steps on you. You lose so many hit points you’re bounced back to character creation. Return to bind spot?”
[singlepic id=3349 w=320 h=240 float=left]Oh now that’s just overdoing it. I thought this was a family game? So where was I? Ah yes, most online games, especially MMOs, will start with a simple tutorial level that is meant to guide the new player through the basics of the game- from equipping items, to training skills, to simple, staged combat. It is often in the form of a guided narrative that has the dual purpose of teaching the user about the mechanics of the game while simultaneously investing them in the game’s back story and giving them – through their character – a connection to the game’s world and their character’s place in it.
One key thing to understand in the earliest stages of the game is training – how do I grow my characters? There are a number of ways this can happen, via the classic trainers, skill purchase, or even the more rare (but very exciting) systems based on skill use – the more you swing your sword the better you’ll get at using it, for example.
“Goblin Chicken Herder parries your blow and attacks, doing 49 damage.”
Yay, one health left, I’m still alive! Now how do I use a healing potion?
“Goblin Chicken pecks you for two points damage. Return to bind spot?”
Goblin Chicken? Seriously? This is a very hard game! So anyway, about training – I also try to learn as much as I can about secondary training systems, like additional skill points that might augment your core skills, or special traits or abilities that can be unlocked or otherwise utilized to enhance or compliment your main skill-set. I’ve found that if you take the time in the first few levels of a game to understand all of the mechanics of leveling and training it saves time later and helps you to build a better character overall.
“Tavern Waitress winks at you.”
Okay now, this is more like it. I’ll use W, A, S, and D to walk over to the Tavern Waitress – maybe she has a quest for me?
“Dashing Bandit clubs you from behind and steals your copper. Return to bind spot?”
Of course one of the big parts of online and social games and especially MMO games is meeting new people in game, to chat and quest with. Generally the tutorial will go over the basics of in-game chat- whether it’s menu-based, open text chat, voice chat, direct messaging, or some combination of several different methods. As always, be careful with what you say in chat and what kind of information you’re giving people, but in many games chatting in open chat or specific advice-related chat channels can really help you learn the ropes early in a game. There are often a few experienced players who also like helping out new players with tips and hints they’ve learned along the way. [singlepic id=3347 w=320 h=240 float=right]
Game developers and designers actually put a lot of effort into the new player tutorial levels; naturally they want people to get the most enjoyment out of their game, and you can’t really do that if you have no idea how to play. Of course no tutorial is perfect, but by paying attention to the game guides and getting tips and pointers from a helpful community, I’ve rarely had a question or problem in a game that wasn’t answered or resolved quickly.
“You have been eaten by a giant snake. Return to bind spot?”
I really need to find a different game…