Looks at date.
Looks at datestamp for the last post here.
Yeah I know.
Anyhow, I’ve been super busy and in fact still am super busy. I’m off to Dreamhack tomorrow which will be fun in new and exhausting ways. Then I’m back in the office for a couple of days before gadding off again, this time to a field near Derby where I’ll be on holiday doing much the same thing that I do at work but with fewer creature comforts and without the whole ‘online’ thing.
Anyhow, I wanted to talk today about something I read in a magazine recently.
Some of you may have seen or heard about the review of WAR that was published in the June edition of PCGamer. They were fairly critical of the game which is their right and I’m not going to get into a long and involved post about the specific criticisms they levelled at the game – I think you can guess what my general editorial tone towards WAR would be. Instead I want to talk about a claim that was made at the start of the article.
I’m paraphrasing a little here because I left my copy at work and I’m writing this at home but essentially it went like this:
“The first ten minutes in an MMO is critical. If the game fails to grab you in that time then it has lost.”
Basically the first couple of paragraphs is expounding on the opinion that an MMO has ten minutes to hook you in.
Rubbish I say.
Unless the game is so horrible that it’s physically painful to play, the first ten minutes is not even a factor. Of course you want people’s first impressions to be full of shiny, but after they’ve futzed around in the character creation system, logged in and got an eyeful of your starter zone the next ten minutes is purely groundwork.
If anyone quits after ten minutes then your game is either so broken that even a killer new player experience won’t save it or that person was always just going to quit after ten minutes and you had no way to convince them to do otherwise.
The first MMO that I played properly was Dark Age of Camelot*. I really don’t remember my first ten minutes although I suspect it involved hitting frogs near Ardribard’s Retreat in an ineffective manner. My first ten minutes in EvE online was probably spent wondering how much longer the tutorial was going to go on for. In LotRO, my Tolkien fanboy rage was rising as I found that I had to rescue Elrond (Elrond!) from a couple of not-very menacing looking Goblins within seconds of logging in with my brand new Elf. In fact that’s pretty much the only MMO intro I remember with any clarity, even more recent forays like Pirates of the Burning Sea and Hellgate: London don’t especially grab my attention. I vaguely recall PotBS having a rather irritating scripted intro that went far too slowly but it wasn’t that which made me decide not to subscribe.
While the initial experience should be as awesome as possible, it’s rarely if ever any indication of what the game proper will be like. For the most part the first ten minutes are spent introducing you to the various parts of the UI and explaining the backstory to a greater or lesser extent. Here’s a huge generalisation for you because we like lazily pigeon-holing people around here:
There are two kinds of MMO gamers. You have the clickers and the readers. The clickers want to get going as fast as possible so they click on all the guys that look important and ‘accept’ on all the dialogue boxes as soon as they open. The reader wants to know why the Secret Goblin Cabal is trying to get the Sceptre of P’lotdev Ice and why them having it would be a bad thing. He (or more commonly she) reads the quest information, looks for the NPCs who give the backstory spiel and doesn’t do anything actually game related until the scene has been properly set and the main actors identified. Both of these people care about the new player experience in different ways, the clicker wants to get on with blowing the crap out of stuff without all that boring exposition and tutorial stuff, the reader wants to know that there’s more to the world than just random monsters to thump. What turns one of these players on will be a disappointment to the other.
There is however an important demographic for whom the first ten minutes is critical but it isn’t the MMO player.
It’s the MMO reviewer.
* I had previously tried to play UO but it was ugly and hard. I still gave it significantly more than ten minutes however.