This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Player onboarding can be a tricky business regardless of genre, but games in the MMO space have it particularly hard.
How do you ease players into a system that has years of iteration and layers upon layers of new systems being stacked on top of each other? Do you explain everything upfront and risk overwhelming players, or throw them in with the bare minimum and hope the reason they're checking out your game is because they'll be playing with friends anyways? Do you do a soft story re-introduction at each expansion in case it's someone's first, or keep the narrative moving forward and bar an easy entrance for new players? We discuss the differences in approach between Final Fantasy XIV and Destiny 2, and more on this episode of Waypoint Radio. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.
Cado: So when you boost, the first screen [you see when you log in] is like "hey, we see you used a boost, go to the Smith and there's like all of your basic training that you need to know how to play the game. They're a bunch of just single arena tutorials that are like "this is how you plan an MMO," basically. Very simple. The annoying part was that for some reason it de-levels you? I think the instance–
Austin: Yeah, instances sync you down to whatever like the top level for that instance is. Which means you can lose parts of your kit. I did a dungeon or something, maybe it was a story quest as Red Mage and I'm over-level for it, and I was like "well, I now don't have access to this important thing that is part of my main rotation. I can live without it, It's just not as strong basically."
Cado: And when you're when you're boosted [that can be confusing.] I was trying to get a sense of what the whole kit does, but then I would go in and be like "oh, all of these things are greyed out. What do you mean I haven't learned that? What's happening?" And it didn't clearly say that, but eventually I figured out that I was being a de-leveled for that instance. So that was kind of annoying, but at least those tutorials are there. It's Interesting, the way Shadowbringers' story begins is kind of a clean, not real clean break, but a big enough break where, as someone who is coming in without any prior knowledge of what had been going on, I could really easily follow it.
Austin: Really? Awesome.
Cado: Yeah, there's like a thing with parallel universes going on it seems, and so you're basically being thrust into this new world as a new, you know...
Austin: Right, you're a new arrival to a new place anyways. Are there other characters with you from your old place that you're expected to know, or is it a kind of like "Eh, I get it?"
Cado: There are definitely [characters from your original world.] They make reference to the Scions, and I was like "I guess that's the group I'm a part of, eh, sure." But I haven't talked to any of them yet, they just keep being mentioned like "Yeah, they're over here too," and there's somebody here, the person who pulled you over, is showing you around this town. It very much feels like oh, this is the beginning of a [new story]. It's the way that you think of the beginning of sequels where they're like "we're going to leave space for people who are coming in on this entry, but we will make reference to other things but it's not as important."
Austin: It's the Destiny conversation we had to some degree.
Cado: Yeah, I think Destiny didn't do this very well, actually.
Austin: You think this is better than Destiny's onboarding?
Austin: That's so fucking funny to me.
Cado: Especially Shadowkeep, but even [base] Destiny 2. Destiny 2 threw you in in a way that's like "Ah shit, your home is being invaded!" But you didn't have any connection to that home, like who are these characters, none of that ever gets [fleshed out].
Austin: Yeah, you didn't spend time in the Tower before it got destroyed.
Cado: Now [Shadowbringers] feels very much like this is the beginning of some completely new adventure. Obviously, you've had adventures in the past, but this has a lot of very, kind of slow actually, [quests where you] go talk to this person for a bit and then they're going to tell you that they sell things, and then you go talk to that person, they're going to tell you that they have books, you know, like standard MMO "here's the town" stuff. But I would almost rather that than the "fuck it, go."
Austin: "Here's all the content. Do missions, I guess. This is a whatever, a dark zone." I'm very curious to see how you like it, if you keep with it.
Discussed: Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE Encore 7:51, Watchmen 13:52, Final Fantasy XIV 21:29, Valfaris 43:39, Question Bucket 46:47, Michael Pachter 1:10:15, Question Bucket 2 1:18:05
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