Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beginners Bane: Part II: Flow

Warcraft has a long history of being a good game.  It has been around for a long time in terms of gaming and as such has a very expansive world which can be overwhelming for the new players.  This will be a series about the problems with warcraft from the perspective of the new player.

Part I: Abilities
Part II:  Flow

First I must address the great advancements for the new player in this area.  The reassignment of zones so the leveling works better from zone to zone in many places.  The lack of world hopping quests where you spend hours and maybe even days jumping from continent to continent on different sides of the world.  Flight points being given as you reach the level that could have found them anyway.  The call/command board telling people where their next zone should be and so much more.  Don't get me wrong, the game has done a great deal to help the new player find their way in the world but when they redesigned things to add many of these upgrades to help the new player they created another problem.

The redesign of the old world served to be a much bigger disservice to the new player than a boon.  Sure the questing moves more zone to zone but it seems that is offers people less of a choice now. 

All the questing is on rails and you feel as if can't jump off and explore.  Linear questing is bad design for a fantasy game, one that should embrace the concept of getting lost and exploring.  You should be allowed to say I don't want to do this quest but still do the others instead of being forced into having to do that one in order to do the other.

Now to mention the game now tries to push you into where you should quest giving you the feeling of even less choice.  If you are horde you will be funneled into org and if you are alliance you will be funneled into stormwind.  No matter what race you play, it doesn't make a difference, these two cities are the hubs and they make damn sure you can't avoid that.

For a player with some experience you can choose to go your own way and ignore the constant pushes from the quest lines to make those two places your home town but for someone new, that is where you are, like it or not.  They seem to even make an effort to keep you from realizing that there are other options.  The call/command board in both cities will very rarely offer you something on the other continent.  They want horde on one continent and alliance on the other and I think that takes something from the player.  It does not feel as if the world is as big as it should be because you find yourself locked into one half of it.

Having flight paths appear automatically when you reach the level that should have it has also taken something away from the game, the sense of exploration.  While it is a fantastic thing they added more flight points and it was something that was needed, taking away the need to find them took a key part of the game away from new players.  The need to explore. 

Some could argue that you do not actually need to explore but I am sure every single one of us remembers that first time walking into and area and trying to find the flight point and we might even have an interesting story about it.  I remember trying to find the alliance flight point in desolase and it taking me what seemed like forever because I thought I could climb up those rocks and did not realize that if I just walked around them some there would be a way to walk up.  Annoying, maybe, but it was also fun and it also made it feel like I found that, I earned that.  It was not just a case of, okay, I am that level I can fly directly there even if I do not know where there is.

We could debate all day long if the zone funneling, condensed questing, flight paths being given automatically, and other things on if it is good or bad for the flow of new players and we would both be right.  For some it is fantastic, for some it is bad. 

What really effected the flow for new players however was the updated old world content that came with cataclysm.

If 85 is end game it is present time if you will.  This also means that 1-60, 61-70, and 71-80 are all in the past.  Updating the old world has ruined the flow for new players.  They start a game in the present time now then get thrown into a past that makes no sense where they need to kill some people that are already dead because we just came from the present where they are dead instead of having quested in a pure flow where they where still alive when we where doing 1-60 as they should have been.  Then suddenly they are in the present time again once they hit 80 and move to cataclysm content.

It makes no sense and it ruined the flow for the new player.  If they really wanted to make the new player feel more comfortable they should have used the new phasing abilities they have to make the old world appear as if it was indeed the old world.  Bolvar in charge in stowmwind, onixya still being a level 60 raid, the original naxx there and ready for raiding, ZA still around and part of BC content, etc.

That would have made a lot more sense because in the level 1-60 world you would be in that stage in your life, which should mean that 1-60 content is current life for you when you are that level.  When you reach BC the 61-70 would flow better because you where coming from the 1-60 and the same goes for the 71-80 when its time came.  All those removed raids should be put back, even if people did not run them, because it fits better with the flow of the game and quite honestly it can confuse new people when there are little breadcrumbs here and there for things that don't exist and so many time issues now that the old world has been designed to be current time instead of the past, which is what is really is.

Now lets move from the feeling of level time wise, which they screwed up for the new player and the new player could very well find confusing and step into the actual moving from area to area when you get there.

How do you get to outlands?

No, seriously, how do you?  For a new player this is an interesting question.  They might get the quest to report there, they might even notice that it is in the blasted lands, but they will have no clue where the portals are.  This means traveling to the blasted lands whenever they want to go there if they do not set their hearth there.  For alliance it is not half bad, but if your home is org, getting there without the port might take a while.  The game is not all that friendly with teaching new players the fast route there.  Unless you got lucky enough to run across the port, which is unlikely unless you are a mage for alliance, you will have to travel to the dark portal on your own every time.

Northrend is not any better.  It is actually worse.  If you are horde you have at least heard someone yelling about going to the boren tundra a million times, so even the newest of new players can figure it out but if you are alliance there is absolutely nothing that suggests how you get to northrend.

When they added the next zone quests to the call/command boards I think it might have been a nice idea to tell people how to get to outlands and northrend as well.  New players can easily be overwhelmed, which comes next article, but they can also get frustrated.

You and I might just say look it up or we might have a clue where to find these things because we have been playing.  People that played games like this before might be able to figure it out because warcraft is not original and all games do the same sort of things so anyone that plays this type of game can figure it out, but to the pure new player they can get lost here.

When mists comes out things will get even worse for flow.  You will have to level 1-60 in the recent past, 61-70 in the furthest playable past, level 71-80 in the more mid past, and 81-85 in the recent past again.  Does this make any sense what so ever?  Or would have leaving 1-60 as the furthest past and you slowly advanced in time as you advanced in level made a lot more sense to the new player?  Heck, wouldn't it have made more sense to everyone?

Blizzard would have been better served to leave level 1-60 as was, heck, it would have been better off fixing it so it was really a true 1-60 and add the original 60 stuff back being they spent that much time on redesigning it anyway they might have made it so it worked for the game as a whole and not just one expansion.

The game just does not flow like it should and instead of making it flow better for the new players they did a complete redesign to make it flow worse.

This whole thing is based on opinion of course because I am not a new player and do not know completely 100% how a new player would feel now but I do know how I would feel if I where going through things now and I would feel like nothing makes sense.  I would feel like the flow of this game is horrible.  I would feel like I was being forced into questing in one area.  I would feel like I was being held back from exploring.  I would feel like I was being forced to level as fast as possible.  I would feel like the entire flow of the game was off and piecemealed together instead of thought out. I would feel like this game was not meant for new players and that is a beginners bane.


  1. "I would feel like the flow of this game is horrible. I would feel like I was being forced into questing in one area. I would feel like I was being held back from exploring. I would feel like I was being forced to level as fast as possible."

    I disagree. A few months ago, I met someone new to WoW in a LFD group for live Strat. He was asking questions and I helped him out and added him to RealID so we could keep talking.

    He was still trying to level in Duskwood. In his upper 30s. He had never found the command board and was wandering around exploring not having a clue as to how to level fast.

    Your perspective is skewed because you know about all of those.

    I've since helped him and he's hit 85, actually learned to sell stuff on the AH, get enchants/gems/etc, and is doing considerably well for a new person, but he was a babe in the woods at the start.

    1. As I mentioned, I can not know exactly how a new player would feel because I already know. I am just saying as how I might see it if I were new. But even that is skewed because I know already.

      I met a new hunter a few months back that saw me in good gear and started to ask me questions. I helped him out and told him to message me should he ever have any more questions.

      He leveled so quickly he had no idea what half his abilities were. He did not even visit 20% of the world. His spec was not even close to what we might consider usable. He did not know the best gear for him, rotation for him, about gems or enchants or anything else.

      He did have a wonderful time playing however and loved it. The real issue is that the game throws you all over the place, speeds you through everything, and never teaches you a damn thing.

      I helped him out and how he is a fine little hunter now but the game and the flow of it did nothing to help him get there. I did, me alone, with advice and passing along some websites for him to look at.

      The flow of the game is not fluid and too fast which ruins a new players experience. I will stick with that opinion, even if he liked it. He asked for help and was willing to listen. He is the 1%, the other 99% are still lost.

  2. While I would have tried it (for years I had a rather shitty dial-in connection and ditto computer), I would not have kept playing the game had it been the way it currently is. For a lack of a better term, it's 'wonderment' that grabs me, and I don't get that feeling if supposedly-dangerous monsters just keel over and everything is mapped out start to finish.

    Also, the replayvalue is morbidly low with all the railroading and lack of Class etc. quests. I can quite honestly say that a big reason I made (and make, in games in general) so many characters is that I want to see the differences between Classes and their Quests, and both those factors are gone now (mechanics because the content doesn't test you, Class quests etc. because they have been removed).

    Flight Points:
    personally I feel there are too many now in most places (EPL esp. is just rediculous) yet somehow the one that would actually make sense - near the Silverwing Quartermaster - still isn't there.

    In general, I would have preferred (far) more Mailboxes instead of more Flight Points, and are behind you with the auto-function. Note that there is something silly with that one: Alliance characters from +/- 8 onwards get the FP's in Moonglade and Felwood.

    Hero's Call Board

    100% with you, that feature could have been a lot more by providing more direction on how to actually get to outland and Northrend. While we're at it, they should make the boats to Northrend more frequent, the one at Menethil Harbor is positively glacial in its schedule.

    Doctor What?-levelling

    You're correct, the timeline is needlessly screwy, and it would have made much more sense if as a player you play in a straight line. That way you'd have a better connection with your charatcer as well.

    However, two things:

    - Blizzard primarily caters to veterans and only really cares about the current end game

    All content is new content to new players, the revamp was squarely aimed at keeping (a certain slice of) current subscribers happy. Of particular concern to Blizz are, in short, Raiders who can't fit old style Raiding into their schedule anymore yet only want to Raid and don't care about virtual worlds and all that 'PnP RPG veteran - crap', and answer the notion of 'I'd love to play naxx again' with '
    so move it to my current level, I cba to just use another of those 50 slots for a new toon'

    - by making the game unattractive to other player types, 'natural selection' will make it so that the few new players that do end up at cap at least will have the same kind of outlook (even though often woefully inadequate to actually pull it off - drumroll the 'need' for Dynamic Quest rewards, removal of Head Chants etc.)

    I now this sounds harsh, but the conclusion I have to draw is that 'Explorer' and RPG types are unwanted now.

    A big issue a lot of new players DO face (and Blizz does pretty much nada to curtail) you already made the subject of III

    Some reading:

    1. Thanks for the links, always love reading some stuff from others.

      There is a lot that was done to try and help the older player and it hurt the newer player in the process.

      Some like to say that the redesign of the old world was for new players and I disagree, it is like you mentioned. New players would not even notice it is updated, that was all for older players to try and keep them interested.

      Oddly enough, the sped up leveling hurts them more than it helps them. It is amazing no one in a company so large and with such an impressive track record could have figured out that would happen on their own.

  3. For newer Horde characters who are not familiar with the game, I can understand not knowing how to get to Outland.
    You can add to this post though.
    The port to get to the Badlands:
    Portal to the Blasted Lands in Horde capital cities:

    ■Cleft of Shadow, Orgrimmar
    ■Spirit Rise near Pools of Vision, Thunder Bluff
    ■Magic Quarter, The Undercity
    ■Sunfury Spire, Silvermoon City

    Thses take you to a spot that puts in front of the Dark Portal (with the Portal in the distance)

  4. I agree with everything but the outlands portal thing. The Hero's call board actually tells you exactly how to get there :P

    1. They could have changed the text over the course of Cata, they did make some (not mentioned in Patch notes) changes since launch.

      I noticed that they for example did make some adjustements to pickup points of Quest lines, at cata start you had to plow through the whole of Azashara to get to the 'Dragon Blues' (and vanity Hat), now you can pick up the Quest-line at Bilgewater Harbor as well.

    2. Perhaps I just have done it so often I never read it and forgot but I did not recall it telling me where it was.

    3. Wasn't there a breadcrumb that lead to the ship to Northrend too? It's been a while since I was at that stage but I vaguely remember something like that.

    4. @Imakulata, no that was cata that had a breadcrumb there for the docks for vash, not LK for northrend.