Wednesday, 10 September 2014

[GW2] Why Your Opinion on the New Player Experience Doesn't Matter

I had a big long post detailing the problems I had with the new update - the fact that it appears to have removed more features than it added, the patronising way it treats new players, the frankly ridiculous gating of skills and gameplay features etc. Ultimately, I just encountered the one single sentence which encompasses it all and it comes from this comment from a new player on Reddit:

"It gave me freedom to play how I wanted, something sorely lacking in most MMOs, which force you to do things a certain way or unlock things in a certain order."

and later...

"What the hell is this! That constant drive for success, and the feeling of connection that the story and world quests combined to give has been skewed to all hell. I tried playing again today, but these changes changed the parts of the game I liked the most, the freedom of progression at your own pace."

And I think ultimately, thats what this update has all-but removed from the levelling process - the freedom to play how you want. Wasn't that central to the all-holy Manifesto? Play how you want! 

Now its: play how you want, as long as you don't want a second weapon set until level 15. 

Play how you want as long as you don't want to customise your stats or gain access to interesting traits before level 30!

Play how you want as long as that involves dying one way before level 5 and dying another way after level 5. 

You can no longer play the game your own way if you're levelling, that feature has gone out the window (its by the bins along with the personality system and the game's eSports ambitions). Play the game ANet's way, please - where skills are unlocked when ANet say you're ready - wouldn't want to overheat your likkle brain by challenging you in any way.

Unfortunately, ArenaNet hold the lion's share of the cards when it comes to this arguement: we've got only anecdotal evidence and experience, but ANet have, presumably, done user testing and those tests have shown that holding an item in your main hand takes up almost 100% of a new player's cognitive capacity, and providing them with an item to feebly grasp in the other is just far too psychologically taxing unless they've been playing the game for a good couple of hours.

I'm exaggerating for comic effect. But the truth is that ANet have already disregarded our opinions on this new experience. We are simply too experienced with the game to have a valid opinion on what a new player's experience with the game might be. Even when we were new players, we weren't really new players like the new players are now - we had watched all the videos, voraciously absorbed all the information ANet were willing to divulge about the game pre-release and then when the game finally dropped we rushed in alongside many thousands of other super-fans and experienced the whole thing together. How could we possibly know what its like to be a player coming in blind nowadays?

Well, a whole lot of us are what can legitimately be called "experts" when it comes to Guild Wars 2 (studies show that someone can be judged to be an "expert" after 7500 hours of interaction with a task or concept) but just because we are experts does not mean we don't know what it is like to be a new player, just like how not being an 8 year old doesn't mean you can't teach an 8 year old the alphabet. It really doesn't take an expert to know that hiding key features from new players so as to teach them how to play the game is just arse-backwards.

1 comment:

  1. " just like how not being an 8 year old doesn't mean you can't teach an 8 year old the alphabet."

    Your analogy is flawed but I get what you're trying to say.

    I also think you're wrong: teaching young children is surprisingly difficult, and requires a lot of understanding about how they think, how long their attention spans are, what their capabilities are. It is in no way trivial, and certainly not something you can just start doing successfully with no training.

    In most cases, by the time they're an expert, most players really don't know what it's like any more to be a new player. There's so much knowledge gained that's become second nature without them realising it, and it only becomes apparent when trying to explain a concept to a new person.

    Now, I'm not arguing that the NPE is perfect or whatever – I'm sure there are ways it could be improved, and I'm sure too that ANet are watching closely and making notes. Moreover, there are bound to be different grades of 'new' – someone coming from another MMO (like I did from WoW) will have a much greater general understanding of how this kind of game works, versus someone who's never played an MMO before (like me when I first played WoW), who'll need much more basic guidance, assuming they want it.



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