Sunday, February 20, 2011

Good advice don't have to cost much

I've been doing a couple of posts regarding the interaction between players overall, and especially in the ever random random pugs (yes that should be two "random" there). It is a subject I love to discuss, and fortunately I'm far from alone about that! I wrote one post on individualism in WoW and how it has taken its toll on the random groups. One of the issues discussed was how new players are being treated and how they learn to act in random groups from us "oldies". I also wrote a post on the problem of lack of practice opportunities for tanks and healers (and cc too for that matter) outside of instances, a problem I think contributes alot to the frustration and fear many seem to feel (me included) when joining random groups. I got a mail from Florian as an answer to my post on indiviualism, but it touches on both the subjects of "newbie reception" and how new players really have to go about learning the things in the game that aren't much practiced outside instances. After writing my post on healers and tanks needing dummies, I set upon a sort of personal quest to try to help people that seem to have these kind of problems. Florians mail only convinced me further that there probably are loads of people out there that don't know exactly how to do things, and who, if done the right way, would love to get some input.

Let's start with the mail, and thanks to Florian for letting me use it! I've decided to post it in its entirety because it really is a great story.
"I've been playing the Blizzard games since Warcraft 2, so that would probably be around 1996. Have played Diablo and Starcraft too, loved every inch of it. Never got to like Diablo II though because I chose a hunter and died repeatedly because arrows were not infinite like in Diablo I. I found that stupid and stopped playing.

I've known about WOW since Warcraft III cause they had this teaser video in it, but in 2004 when the game came out, I had started dating my future wife, and decided not to spend my time playing video games because I pretty much knew from experience how time consuming that could be, and feared myself when it came to playing a character in a MMORPG.

So during 5 years, I knew that there was this great game out there, that I would really like to play, but probably never would...

But during the summer of 2009, I find myself alone at home for 3 weeks, and I have this "World of Warcraft trial" standing around preinstalled on my PC that's been curiously looking at me since I bought the damn thing. So I thought, "the girls are not here for 3 weeks", I guess I can always give it a try and I'll stop playing when they'll come back. So I started playing...

At first I did not know anything about guilds and dungeons. So I leveled to around lvl 10 pretty much questing on my own. I got invited in a group in the Ban'ethil barrow den (bear nest in Teldrassil) and thought that being in a group was the best thing ever! I was on a trial account back then, and could not invite anyone, so I quickly decided to go crazy, spend the money and unlock it.

I still knew nothing about guilds and dungeons, but I found myself inviting people as often as I could: killing stuff is just so much quicker when there's 2 or 3 of us, and I really did not know much about my class (Warrior), so I pretty much sucked. I found the friends list, and started adding the people I had grouped with in it (well those that were either good or nice or funny).

When they came online, I started greeting them, and found myself playing more and more with the same 3-4 players. One of them probably had to be in a guild, cause he had invited other people in the group, and started saying "Hey, let's do deadmines!". I thought, WTF is that??? But I got along and loved the dungeon experience. We sucked so badly and wiped so much, I had no idea at all that we were supposed to have a healer and a tank, so we were pretty much 5 players trying to dps, and that did not go very smoothly as you can imagine. We did not finish the instance that day after several hours of trying... I went out of the experience thinking that it was awesome but very hard! If only someone could have told us that one of us was supposed to tank and one other to heal!

But I did not really had any other opportunity to retry deadmines, or any other dungeon for that matter, we never got to find 5 people willing to travel there and spend hours wiping.

So I quested, sometimes alone, sometimes with people on my friends list. Someone had invited me in a guild sometime and I had accepted, but it was a very little guild that never had anyone in it playing, so I did not understand the purpose of being part of a guild. The end of the summer vacation came, and I decided to stop playing and give my money to my friends. That was supposed to be the end for me, I had leveled my characted up to somewhere around 40.

During the Halloween vacation, my wife and daughter went to my step-parents again. I had just one week. Should I spend 15$ (I used to play on an american server "Fizzcrank", because my preinstalled trial was configured to play on US realms) for just a week time of game? Well I could afford it, so here is my character come to life again!

Patch 3.3.0 was out by then, and with it the "dungeon finder" tool. WTH is that? Nice!!!! Now I can enter dungeons (which is my favourite activity in wow) without having to know anyone and wait for hours! Hey, that's funny, they let you choose if you want to tank/dps/heal, why would they do that? Ok, I'm a warrior, I suppose I can both tank or dps! And here starts my first real dungeon experience, as I enter Dire Maul West (as a tank of course with the penury of tanks)... Gee how much I knew nothing about tanking, it's amazing how Blizzard makes absolutely nothing to prepare you for what you're going to have to do in a dungeon! It does not change "that" much from questing for a DPS (ie: nuke stuff), but if you're a tank and don't know what a tank is supposed to do (which is pretty much the default for a new player), you don't know anything about aggro, you know even less about having to keep, you don't even know you're supposed to avoid the others from getting attacked, and you have even less of a clue on how to do that.

I've been laughed at for not wearing a shield for a start! I used to wear a two-handed weapon before. (I was sensible enough to wear plate though, but it was pretty obvious that more armour was always a good thing) I used to click on the buttons and did not play with the keyboard! I did not know that I had to choose items with Stamina/Strength/Agility/Crit/
Dodge/Block. I did not use Shouts (it looked complicated and I did not know which one to use)! I used Rend a lot, I thought it was cool to bleed those pigs to death! Luckily for me I thunder-clapped a lot, which gave me "good enough" aggro and made me a passable tank. I had no knowledge about the existence of glyphs!

We did not finish Dire Maul West this time either, I probably still sucked too much and no one gave much advice.

Of course after trying again dungeon after dungeon, I was able to get advice, someone would more often than not criticize my tanking, and I'd say, "Well sure I'm a noob! What do you suggest?". The more instances I did, the best I knew that I had to use "high-threat" and "AOE" attacks to keep aggro, and quickly I started finishing instances. When I got to lvl 60 and BC content, with the dungeons much straight forward, I had the hang of it (not perfectly, but good enough to finish any instance without a wipe).

I can say a couple things about the "Dungeon finder" tool. Without it, I would have probably not made 5% of all the instances I did at that time. And I would not have learned how to play my class. And I would have missed a whole lot of my favourite part of the game. I would probably not have led to so many wipes, but that's how you learn, right? Did it reduce my "interaction" with other players? Probably, as I did not have to spend countless hours to try and assemble groups, and a dungeon is not really the place to socialize.

But did it allow me to spend more time playing with others in dungeons? YES, YES and YES!!! And that's really what MMORPGs are about no? Playing with other players? If you play solo, you can buy any standalone adventure game. If you just wanna fight someone else, you can most certainly play a "Quake-like" game or Starcraft. If you want to play WITH other people, then dungeons and raids are the thing.

So yes I think the lfd system probably led to the diminution of some kind of interaction. But in the end, it most certainly tremendously increased the time where a player got to PLAY WITH other players. And I believe this to be so much more important.

That was my "new player in 2009" story. It's interesting because I really was a noob by the time the lfd arrived, and boy I can tell you that the game sucked without it. I know some people are going to call me a heretic for what I'm about to suggest, but there should really be a "raid-finder" working along the same lines (probably with gear and/or accomplishments restrictions)."
It fascinates me to read about how new players are thrown into a playstyle without any explanation at all. The worst thing about it is that so much of a group success relies on the healer and tank performance, and yet it is the thing that Blizzard have decided to tell new players the least about. I hadn't even thought about the fact that the lfd-tool doesn't explain in any way what the different roles will demand of the player! Florians mail explains alot of the behaviors I have seen in random pugs where I have thought things like "how can they just not know that they have to use a shield?". But where does it say that a tank needs to use a shield really? Or that he has to use a certain stance? Or the concept of threat? Maybe in addition to class trainers, there should be role trainers in each starting zone as well? "So, you want to tank. Well then you will have to know about the following things;". We might think that these things are fairly obvious, but clearly they're not since people are having trouble with them.

I recognize myself in alot of this. I had even less computer gaming experience than Florian when I started playing WoW, and next to no experience about mmo:s. Like I've told you about, I really did try to get to know more about this intriguing genre, but was constantly set back due to lack of proper gaming equipment. I don't remember how I got into tanking however, and I don't remember how I went about learning to do all the stuff I know in the game right now. To me it was a very long process, I had plenty of time. And if I ever decide to play another mmo, I can take all the knowledge I have from WoW to understand that mmo faster. But what if WoW is the first mmo you ever play? To many new players today, the process of learning has been shortened significantly. Everything is supposed to go faster now, and people spend alot less time leveling their characters, and in length learning their characters, before they hit max level than they did a couple of years ago. I don't know if people were more patient with new players back in the days, I don't think so. But people definitely had more time to learn.

One thing I really think has changed alot is that everyone seems to know something about everything. Back in the day I could play my healer somewhat haphazardly, because the people I joined with didn't know if I did something wrong or right. When I join a dungeon today, everyone is an expert on how I should do my job. This could be a really good thing, if only these "experts" really did know what they were talking about. Unfortunately that is rarely the case. People who actually do know what they are talking about, also often know how to explain something without the use of caps, words like "noob" and "l2p". Because the "l2p"-people are so common, the people who actually have something worthwhile to say might avoid it, so that they don't come off as asshats. And that is a real shame, because good advice is really the best way for a new player to learn. Good advice shouldn't only have to come from friends, anyone should be able to give them.

So back to my quest of spreading good advice - how did it go? Quite good actually!
At first I was nervous about it, because there really is no easy way to tell someone "you're doing it wrong". It's not always necessary either. So I made a list of reasons to why I would want to tell someone that I've got a better idea of how they should do something.
  • I like to flaunt my awesomeness.
  • I like the feeling I get when I've turned a nervous healing wreck into a confident healer.
  • I like it when my healer knows what to do because that means I won't die as often.
  • I love to get pointers myself when I do stuff wrong (if given in a sensible manner) and like to return the favor.
I don't think any of these reasons are bad reasons, you just have to choose the right reason for the right moment. Flaunting our awesomeness is a huge part of this game and not automatically a bad thing. It's just very tricky to use when trying to give advice. You usually have to put some authority to your advice, like "I main this class" otherwise it is difficult for the recipient to know why you think you know stuff better. But saying "I killed LK" probably won't help you much. So although epeening should be kept to a minimum, I think it is difficult to deny that it is still some small part of why we care at all. I know some people can't be bothered, "he's not in my guild, why should I care", but although epeen might be part of it, there is alot in it for me as well, beside the general "yeah I know shit!" feeling.

You might remember how things went
down on my first try. Not so good. Of course you will never know what kind of person it is you are trying to help out. Some people are very sure of themselves and they won't accept any advice from anyone not currently in Paragon. But my biggest mistake was probably to talk to the guy in party chat. Big no no. By doing that he will focus more on me trying to show off (see above) than the actual advice that might be hidden in my big talk. By whispering, I will have eliminated the possibility that I am just saying this to show everyone that "I know shit. Yeah!".

So the second time around, I yet again ended up with a priest who played things the old way. Which usually means they use nothing but Flash Heals. I don't care much about how people heal until they either oom all the time or let people die all the time. It's not until something turns into a problem that you might want to step in. I've seen plenty of bloggers who tell about a perfect run that still ended with someone saying "you suck". When a problem arises I will check if it is a gear issue or a "misinformed" healer issue. In this case it was the latter. Flash Heals at 60-70% total healing done is a good sign someone is just trying this out but hasn't read anything about the massive changes that have taken place to healing in Cataclysm. If they are serious about healing, they must know about these changes asap, or there will be tears.
I wanted to explain why the guy went oom all the time. He had started out by saying that he (it was a male character) was badly geared and that he would leave if he couldn't handle things. Turns out he oomed half way through each trash pack (in sfk hc) and he was about to leave when I whispered him. "You'll do fine" I told him. "Just try this instead". He was disc so I gave him the standard rotation - keep shield up, use Heal, Penance and Pom. Use Greater Heal when shit hits the fan and avoid Flash Heals as much as possible. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but his response wasn't it. He was thrilled! And thanked me throughout the instance. Suddenly healing had become so much simpler (hallelujah).

And the other day I did a normal BRC. This instance is overall really easy, and you can go through healing it any way you like. This time we had a holy priest who did well, no one died. But she (it was a female character) too oomed alot and I decided to give it another go, boosted by the success I had with the other healer. Otherwise she might be scared away from healing from failing later on. So again I whispered, telling her that what she did was good enough since no one had died, and my suggestion was really just a suggestion. Keep Renew up, use Heal, PoM and Holy Word: Serenity, use Flash Heal only when absolutely necessary. She too was grateful.

Did their healing change? In the first case yes, amazingly enough. I don't usually expect people to just wambam change their healing style because I say so. "Omg Zinn, you are my savior, suddenly I can heal!". But maybe he did so out of necessity. He couldn't keep on healing that instance on Flash Heals, it's just impossible. Brc normal on the other can be healed on Flash Heals, and the second priest kept at it. But she took my advice and even thanked me for it, I can ask for no more!

The reason for this rather lengthy post is to give some encouragement to "good" interaction between players. I really do recommend everyone to give eachother advice. These are just two examples, but I try to give advice whenever it is needed (and I think I've actually got something worthwhile to say, which usually is limited to priest healing). So far it's always worked well. Just do it humbly, try to point out the things they do right too, try not to get into "you should know this noob" arguments, but rather "yeah Blizz change stuff all the time, who can keep up?". Because there are tons of reasons they are doing it wrong, and the least likely one is that they simply are stupid. It might just be their 5th alt, or they were on a break, or they are new to the game and as I said, there is no good way to practice healing/tanking but to go into an instance and hopefully not fail all too much. The game does in fact not provide many tools for new players to learn, it is almost as if Blizzard expect us to go into instances and fail as part of our learning process. It is how they have designed the game. Back in the day this made sense because leveling was so slow that you spent alot of time being a lowbie. Now new players get to max level in a jiffy, not getting much time to do their trial and errors on low levels. By giving advice you've hopefully saved them alot of trouble by giving them the crash course without all the trial and error and yelling that failing in pugs usually include. If you see me out there and I'm just not doing it right, tell me.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post!
    It's just the same thing I'm trying to do recently but in heroics.
    For example players new to tanking (sometimes saying they're new sometimes not) often suck at things. And a lot of the pugs just blame him like "wtf are you doing?!" or just remain silent and leave because of unpatience.
    So I decided to help others out with explaining tactics for the boss, and after that they seem to get the point of it. They're mostly grateful like the guys you helped out how to play with their characters.
    To sum it up, two things are missing from WoW at the moment:
    First is patience from players and helping new ones to play with their character or to know a dungeon.
    And the second is the lack of knowledge base from Blizzard on how to play a character (as players make their own blogs about their experiences, make theories on EJ forums, etc.) Blizz should focus now on not just introducing how use the UI (because mainly thats the "tutorial" now). That's fine, just not enough to deal with the impatient, harsh and rude players who think "everyone knows how to play and the tactics" - they just blame and scare new players away.
    Phew, thats a lot to read, but at least now I see I'm not the only one who tries to help fellow, new players around :)