There's nothing like the smell of combat between veteran MMO players and noobs; nothing like the sound of noobs charging toward the trenches, then flailing helplessly as veterans mow them down with their L2P cannons. Then there's the glory of walking through the battlefield, laughing as a noob grabs your ankle and weakly cries, "It was my first time." Then you put your boot in their face and move on, surveying the carnage with a little satisfaction .
What? You don't like trampling noobs? You think it's unfair? Mean? Cruel?
Well, maybe it is, a little. But if you go post in the forums and say that you've never once laughed at a noob, we will all know you're lying.
It's not like veterans go out of their way to make fun of new players, or that we've made it an official sport. In fact, the existence of noobs confuses us. All it takes to not be a noob is a little common sense. What baffles veterans, too, is how some people can be so out of touch with modern gaming society. Many of the concepts new players seem to struggle with in MMOs are concepts that really aren't foreign to gaming at all anymore, and we're left to wonder what era they magically stepped out of.
I often see noobs begging for clemency, usually with the age old "I didn't know!" excuse. Believe it or not, vets get it. We understand that you come into a new game and you don't know everything. There are some things, however, some rules of the road, that vets expect new players to follow. Do so, and you'll be able to move on into the community because your questions and lack of knowledge are, at least, educated. Don't, and you'll be labeled a noob.
So here are the things vets really expect out of new players: the guidelines for staying out of the noob zone.
This expression has been around for decades, before many of us were even born (including myself). It means (in more polite terms), "Read The Flippin' Manual," and is often ironically used because let's face it: how many gamers really do read the manual before playing these days? Heck, some of the MMOs we play don't even come with manuals, which makes this cryptic instruction even better to use against noobs.
When vets use it, though, what we mean is this: learn the basics. Classes, races, key bindings, system requirements - we shouldn't have to explain these to you when you step into a game. These things are all readily available on the game's website (with obvious exceptions, depending on how the website was designed) and should be scanned before playing, or at least before asking an obvious question. If you ask how to use walk mode, we're not going to fault you - that's an obscure command that most people don't use. But if you ask how to jump (did you even try the space bar?) we're going to laugh most likely.
This is an extension of RTFM. Of course the answers aren't all in the elusive "manual." This is, however, an online world full of a huge community of gamers who do have the answer. There are fan sites, forum threads, wikis and more. The Internet is full of more information than would ever be put in a manual. NPC locations, quest guides, class abilities, the best of anything for any particular class or build; all of these things and many, many more are all readily available on the internet.
Now of course, Googling what you're looking for doesn't always work; sometimes the answers are harder to find, or obscure, or a great fan site is buried away in the search engine basement. None of those are excuses not to try, however. Vets expect all players to look things up before asking, and that includes new players. You may not have all the game's fan sites bookmarked, but Google, indeed, is your friend, and the forums only bite when you post.
There's an added benefit to researching instead of asking in game first: you're more likely to get the right answer. The web has more of a 'permanence' to it, and people will be quick to correct mistakes that are made, especially on forums. In game, well, you might get six different answers from people: one of whom is right, while four of them wanted to answer you even though they don't know what they're talking about, and one just wanted to screw with your head.
So you get a little used to the game, and end up in a group. Groups are great! You learn a lot about the game from your fellow group members and from group encounters. There are few things worse than you can do as a new player, however, than rushing ahead of the group into the fray like a kamikaze pilot.
The simple truth is, as a new player, you do not know what you are doing, at least not well enough to go charging ahead of your fellow group members. Doing so not only makes you look stupid, but it makes people make very quick assumptions about you, your maturity, and your gaming skills. Trust someone else to lead, go when they go, do what they tell you to do. One day, you can lead, but as a neophyte, your role is to follow and learn.
This may seem like another silly, obvious statement, and it really is. Let me relate to you an actual occurrence I had while playing DDO this week:
New Player: What a crappy game. I can't cast spells because I don't have the reagents and the game doesn't sell them. Vet #1: Actually, they do . . . New Player: No they don't. Vet #2: Yes, they do. Did you visit the apothecary? New Player: Well that's good to know.
The critical error here isn't just that the player didn't do the research to find out if the reagents were sold by a vendor (for those who haven't played DDO, I'll give you a tip: this is an easy answer to find). It's that he then made the assumption, based on what knowledge he had, that he was right, and promptly and publicly asserted this false assumption in front of plenty of players who had more knowledge than he did.
As much as vets hate players asking questions they can find the answers for pretty easily on their own, it's still better to ask that question than to not ask it and assume you've come upon the answer on your own. Unless you enjoy looking like a fool in front of people.
Tell us you're new
I know, this screams against the instinct of avoiding being labeled as a noob in the first place. "If people know I'm new," you might be saying, "then they'll think I'm a noob!" The MMO playing community, however, is a pretty generous creature as a whole. If you tell someone that you're new to the game, they are bound to be more understanding of your mistakes, and more willing to help you learn. As long as you've shown yourself capable of learning, developing and growing with the game and it's community, people will be much more apt to accept you. That is, of course, assuming that you've followed the basic guidelines already laid out in this column.
If you're a new player to some MMO reading this, I hope that you can see that the easiest way to avoid being a noob is just to use some common sense. Sure, there will always be a risk when you ask a question, or do something in the public eye, that you come off as a noob. Those accidental occurrences can be forgotten and forgiven easily, however. Just don't stick your neck out too far, and make an effort to learn about the game you're playing.
And if you're a vet, well, I could give you the age old advice of "remember you were a new player once," but it's trite. Instead, I'll toss this out: always start out your punishment gentle, and throw in a bit of advice with it. Only light the fuse on the L2P cannon once you're sure you're dealing with a true noob.