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Tutorials Not Good Enough?

Jon Wood Posted:
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Editor's Week in Review - Tutorials Not Good Enough?

While the average MMO has a tutorial that will teach MMO savvy people how to play, many of the currently released games don't take new players into account, new players who have never played an MMO before and who might find our worlds confusing.

Well, it's Saturday, which means that I'm supposed to sit down and spout off about some of the things that have happened this week. The problem is, this week, with the Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States, has been a little bit slow. Fortunately for me, I've been able to put some of that time to good use and I installed my copy of Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa.

There's a full review coming soon from Laura Genender, so I'm not even going to pretend that this is anything close to a review, as I've only played the game for a few hours. Still though, there are a couple of points that I'd like to make:

This first point isn't really Tabula Rasa specific and I often feel this way whenever I start a new MMO. WTF is up with tutorials these days? I mean, granted, they're perfectly adequate introductions to the games. In fact, in Tabula Rasa, I thought that the opening quests did a fantastic job of teaching you how to do all of the things in TR that are different from most MMOs. Heck, I was even entertained as I learned more about the post-apocalyptic universe that Sarah Morrison introduced us to in the opening cinematic (golden, by the way). The beef that I have with opening tutorials is that there's an assumed knowledge there of previous MMOs.

Let's play a game. Let's pretend that I'm totally new to the MMO genre. Let's pretend that I'm one of the millions of people out there who doesn't know what ganking or PvP are. Let's pretend I'm one of the many folks out there who thinks Carebears was an adorable cartoon that was on in the mornings and have no idea that it's actually a clever nickname for virtual pacifists.

Ok, now that I've set the stage... I head out to my local EB Games in search of a new game. I'm also a big fan of dead languages, so when I see a game on the shelves called Tabula Rasa, I just can't resist. I get the game home, and I get through the install. Great, I'm ready to play my game... No, not really, I still have an hour or so of patching to do.

I'm going to stop the little scenario right there to make a point. Someone who isn't familiar with online games isn't going to be too sure about this whole patching thing. Do I have to wait for this every time I want to play? But still, a lot of single player PC games are doing the whole patch thing, so we'll assume that this console-loving version of me has had some experience with how patches work, and I'll continue my story.

So I finally finish patching. I log into the game, and I make my character. It's not really that difficult a task to master. It's not until I actually enter the game that my head positively explodes.

Now, don't get me wrong, my head would have exploded whether it was Tabula Rasa, Lord of the Rings Online, or any other of the MMOs out there that don't fully explain to new players just what is going on on their screens.

Let's see, you've got a streaming chat going on in the left-hand side of your screen. Ok, cool, people are talking, I get that. Now, how do I talk in here? When I'm talking in here, what does that mean? Does everyone in the game see this? How do I talk to just one person. How do I make my character do all of those wacky dances I see other people doing (actually, I've seen absolutely zero of that in Tabula Rasa). The truth is, this stuff is rarely explained and I am certain that it turns a lot of players off of coming into the MMO genre. There are other areas where this happens as well (crafting, I find, is often hard for the new person to understand. Same goes for the whole concept of grouping), but the chat is an interesting place to start, because most people would tell someone who complained about not knowing what to do, to ask in chat. Unfortunately, even if the poor newbie figured out how to type in general, they would be likely to get answers like "shut up newb", "That's a pretty stoopod question", or just the ever-popular "N00b". Fortunately, as a person new to the MMO genre, I don't know what that word means so I'm not insulted so much as even further confused.

Why don't MMOs have a tutorial, even a short one, for people who are completely new to the MMO genre? Give them just a little bit more love and hold them by the hand for 10 minutes to show them what it's all about (it's not really that complicated once you've had someone explain it to you).

Now, again, for the record, the instruction manuals do give a little bit of explanation, and Tabula Rasa's is thicker than most, but really... who reads those things?

Well, that's it for me for this week. Hope everyone in the US had a great thanksgiving and hope everyone else had a good... couple of days where nothing extraordinary happened unless you do business in the United States, in which case it was a day off without family or turkey.



Jon Wood