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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: MMO Intros

Posted by MikeB Sunday February 23 2014 at 9:46PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "My advice to future MMO developers: Throw out the intro narrative and just put me in the damn game!" by sludgebeard.

Im so sick of seeing these MMO's where you have to go through 10 fetch quests, and kill a bunch of pointless mobs just to get into the core game world. Watching the Angry Joe review of Wildstar where he spends the first 20 minutes of the game picking up books and talking to floating cambots, I just thought "enoughs enough", these are pointless narrative building quests that only slow down he intro to a hopeless crawl.

Just do it like WoW did, have a 15sec intro cinematic that also sprawls through the opener zone, and then bam! Release the character into the opener zone and let them travel openly to anywhere the player likes. 

Does anyone else find these modern MMO starter zones to be boring and shallow?

Does the community agree? Read on for some highlights from the thread!

Velocinox makes the case for intro experiences:

I think kindergarten is no longer needed, I mean who needs to learn how to share or their colors or basic counting? I don't know anyone that can't do that already. Just get rid of kindergarten and let us move straight to first grade.

My point being; there are new players coming along all the time. You assume everyone is a skilled MMO player, but the most important customer to an MMO is the player that is trying MMOs for the first time. And they are joining the genre everyday. If the devs turn those people off, they don't get a second chance.

Torvaldr doesn't feel intros should be removed completely:

Intros shouldn't go, but they've gone overboard. The original intent of the starter areas was to give players an opportunity to get a feel for the game before ramping up difficulty and throwing you out into the cold cruel world.

Lineage - This game had a great starter area. You could stay and level a bit, learn the ropes, and even get some great starter gear. Remember when you got great starter gear from the starter area and not the pre-order bonus? The key thing here is that you could skip it if you wanted, but people didn't because the xp bonus was sweet and it was a neat area.

Starter areas need to get back to their roots and be optional. Although I'll remind people that in the less brutal worlds we live in today this allows even easier fast tracking of new characters for gold spammers. Just a thought.

@Loktofeit - It does seem like devs create their games in a vacuum sometimes.

emperorwings feels starter zones are a waste of time:

Game doesn't need end game just infinite leveling. Starter zones are a waste of time I think unless it just puts you in the middle of it and expects you to figure it out for yourself which it doesn't. You could go anywhere in WoW since I remember on my human I somehow ended up in the night elf zone and followed the quests there instead of the human zone back before they made SW / Org the main hangout places and FPs bugged out.

Personally, I don't think we need to toss out the baby with the bathwater. As a number of other users explained, starter zones or experiences are important in helping to acclimate MMO newbies to what is often a fairly complicated genre of games. Overwhelming a newbie with a bunch of things to figure out can be as much of a turnoff for them as a plodding starter experience is for us MMO vets. I think the key is to allow people to skip the starter experience if they choose. Someone brought up City of Heroes, which had a great tutorial, but you could skip it entirely if you wanted to.

What's your take? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Asariasha writes:

You always have to keep in mind that starter areas are meant to guide new players. While a MMO veteran most likely does not need a guide to getting started, unexperienced players need it.


I think the problem comes with how most starter areas are designed. Many MMOs focus on a quick introduction. While entering the world as a hero, you are forced to run through simple quests showing basic UI navigation and then thats it. And this is where the trouble begins. MMO veterans will be bored to hell. Not so experienced players will run through the content and rate it as standard content that they already experienced in other games.


The best starter area I ever experienced was the one of Age of Conan. You start as castaway slave with only your underpants on. After equipping a branch as weapon, you find an enchained virgin that you finally help to escape from barbaric cannibals. You make your way through the jungle and enter the city of Tortage. You are introduced to a main plot, a exciting storyline about Tortage, the cannibals and the despots of the island. The island has a lot of content to explore and delving deeper into the secrets of the island simply makes fun. You actually play the game and experience a storyline and learn how to play while you play.


No one likes reading instruction books and so is it with MMOs. If the starter zone feels like an instruction book, it will earn dislikes. If it is well designed and drags the player into a compelling storyline it feels like what the player actually joined the game for - playing.

Mon Feb 24 2014 3:11AM Report
MurlockDance writes: Starter areas are pretty dull usually. I tend to make a decision if I like a game after I have left the first area and branched out in other areas in newer games. Older games had less of a tutorial and the start area was just a place with lower level mobs and you were on your own. There are good and bad sides to both styles. Overall I think that starter zones should be left in but balanced between handholding and figuring stuff out by yourself. I think they could explain game mechanics but leave the player to find his own path and get prompts as he encounters new situations. This is what games like Ryzome did and it worked well. The best teachers though are players who have gotten into the game. Mon Feb 24 2014 5:44AM Report
logan400k writes:

The problem with Age of Conan though was once you went through that starter area once or twice, you were kind of done with it. It is a great intro, but not for folks who like to have multiple characters. Same with STO. Once you played the intro Federation bit once, you never really want to go through that tediousness again.

IMO the easiest thing would be to institute a Level 0 and learn the game during character creation. You could impart lore, teach controls, and do some small quests that get you into Level 1 and into the full meat of the game.

Mon Feb 24 2014 7:32AM Report
Asariasha writes:


I agree. This is where features such as DAoCs /level 20 command come in handy. A combination of both would probably be good.

Mon Feb 24 2014 7:58AM Report
Telondariel writes:

Except /level20 and /level30 were eventually scrapped and seen as a bad idea as it emptied out the lowbie areas, leaving new players to the game leveling in emptied zones.


I am not opposed to starting areas.  It's like anything else in the game, really.  Some people like to raid, yet there is non-raid content available.  Some people like to PvP, but you can still purely PvE if you want.  And then there are those that don't like to PvE at all, and would rather just craft.  It's options, and not being locked into one area of the game and having to experience it. 


So, while I did enjoy the starter area, and generally do in games aside from ESO,  I think having the option to go to the mainland right away is a good thing. 

Mon Feb 24 2014 8:44AM Report
celee writes:

I think we need to be clear here. Some people are talking about starter zones and some about tutorials. They can be different things.

For instance I would not consider WoW's starter zones to be a tutorial. I also would say that as tedious as zones like WoW's can be you cant really get rid of them because its just a low level zone basically. Why get rid of this when that's basicallyt how you level for the rest of the game?

Now for tutorials, these should always be optional after the first time through.

Story driven starter zones that don't do anything for your character but drive the lore should be optional after the first time unless different classes have different things that are done prior to the end of the zone.

Mon Feb 24 2014 9:17AM Report writes:
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