21 January, 2009
My WoW-playing friends have not been overly impressed with the expansion. So, after two of them bought the latest LotRO expansion, and one bought it as a gift for another friend, we’ve been playing that game a bit more than we’ve been playing WoW.
The twist in this story is that I got my better half, Kat, to try the game out using one of the buddy keys that came with the box I bought. Long story short: she was hooked. But, it’s given me a really interesting perspective on what a new player really experiences when playing a game.
Despite living with an online game developer for over 14 years, Kat never got into online games. I warned her away from text MUDs in college because she was already struggling with classes (but failed anyway). She never got into M59, either. I let her play with my WoW account, but that failed to capture her attention. She also played a bit on my Age of Conan account, but she seemed to enjoy the character creation more than the game itself, despite continuous complaints about how the crappy camera and lighting made it hard to really select good details for your character.
Now, keep in mind that we originally met playing D&D in college. She also has a fantasy book collection that shames our current local library, including a nice leather-bound version of The Lord of the Rings. So, it’s a bit surprising that she hasn’t gotten into a game before now.
It was interesting to see how she tackled the game. Despite having a bunch of experienced people willing and able to help her at her call, she stubbornly wanted to do things alone. Of course, when she ran into a group quest it was time for her to change tactics.
Once we started grouping she started to notice the inconsistency of how group quests are handled. In some cases, each person can pick up the same quest items. Other times, only one person can grab a quest item. In one case, there are quest where you have to run pies from one area to another; sometimes it takes a while for the pie to respawn after one person has taken it. She commented that it would be interesting to see that quest truly embrace the multiplayer aspect: instead of each person having to run a pie to the destination while avoiding characters that will end the quest, what if other people in the group could run interference?
She also interacted with the tutorial system as we fear most people do. She was quick to close the “information” boxes if she was doing something else at the time. She didn’t figure out some aspects of the game (such as using the Bard to assign your traits) until she heard us talking about it. This is one reason why I thought about last weekend’s design challenge, because she was not served by the existing system. It’s also interesting to note that she ignored the tutorial signal in WoW and never read the tutorial text there until I pointed it out, too. She did note that the WoW tutorial text tended to be brief and informative, whereas in LotRO it seems like the tutorial text is wordier and trying to be more “in character”.
It’s also been interesting to see what idioms she doesn’t understand but that the rest of us are already familiar with. Understanding that the game won’t always be consistent, for example, about how many people can pick up a quest object in a group. However, she does have some experience with RPGs and even computer RPG games, so she has some of the assumed knowledge the rest of us share. But, it has made me really take notice about how much of playing an online game we already know about from playing other games of this type. And, it’s been interesting to see the learning curve as she tries out different characters and has an easier time working up each subsequent character.
At any rate, I’m having fun playing with her in addition to the rest of my friends. She and I have characters we play with our friends, and some other characters we can play when our friends aren’t online. We’ve rolled a couple of Hobbits and done a lot of quests in the Shire. She really enjoyed most of the quests in the area, commenting about how they’re “very hobbity” and not entirely focused on just mass murder of anything in sight.
Have you ever watched a newbie play an online game over their shoulder? If so, what did you learn?