DDO Please play responsibly

Observations for veteran players

My time spent having fun playing DDO lately has improved considerably since joining The Unrepentant guild, and not just because it’s a very active guild that regularly runs a variety of content at all hours of the day.

The best aspect of running with these folks has been the terrific guild chat through the Mumble app, and all the engaging conversations that arise both in and out of game. Frequent topics include character builds, gear, playstyles and approach to the game, as well as a vigorous amount of banter and humor.

Because of the active nature of the guild, both in terms of questing and recruitment, there’s a fairly steady flow of applicants both veteran and fresh to DDO, and i’ve made a few observations to share that with any luck will provide a nice takeaway for both ends of the player spectrum. And since brevity is not my strong suit, i’ll cover vets here and new players in another post.

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All we need is just a little patience

To an old timey forum dweller like me, the topic of veteran attitudes towards new players is nothing new. It’s not my intention to admonish any long time players if i inadvertently describe traits that apply to anyone in particular. Based on what i’ve read over the years and my in-game experience in PUGs and guilds, the two extremes of vet player attitudes towards new players is either one of helpfulness or disregard.

The fulcrum upon which those two extremes rest is patience.

A patient vet, grouped up with a new player or even through the /advice channel in-game, takes the time to answer questions and offer tips and suggestions, realizing that the knowledge they’ve acquired is valuable and takes time to accumulate.

The impatient vet may very well take new player questions with disdain, feeling that they ought to take the time to find out the answers on their own through trial-and-error, the forum of the critically important wiki.

Whatever the approach though – either of these extremes or somewhere in the middle – the most important thing to keep in mind is the perspective of the new player. There’s a few recruits in the guild who are new to DDO in general, and i get the sense sometimes that even helpful advice can be overwhelming.

For example, one of the people i tend to play a lot with is new to DDO, but not games or specifically MMOs in general. So for him, learning the ropes is primarily just understanding the finer points of the game. A couple of times, i’ve detected a hint of frustration in his voice from vet players’ comments and tips regarding things like gear.

You need this!

After so many tips on suggested gear item (utility things like particular purpose named items for instance) i sensed that he maybe felt a bit stymied, noting that he only has so much bank space and has no room for all the things he “needs.” What helped more was that, in addition to tossing out suggestions for chase items, explanations were provided as to what/why/how these things could help. Most vet players have at least one toon that we’ve made some investment in, for practical things like increased bank and vault space. Even despite that, item management can get frustrating at times with all the loot that accumulates.

i’m not alone in having thrown out or sold more named items that a new player probably has in random lootgen clogging up their inventory space. Unless some random treasure is exceptionally amazing, more than likely it’s destined for the vendor. When it comes to gear i’m a snob and almost completely disregard stuff with less than a dark blue item border color.

By comparison, and especially until a new player understands just how much gear affects character performance, they might rarely ever swap anything out (Korthos gear in Gianthold?!) or hoard things that seem really useful and maybe not realize they’re doubling up on things or stacking unstackable bonuses and the like.

To sum up, it goes a long way to offer new players advice on useful gear that will benefit them at every level, or makes for great TR twink gear or would increase their build effectiveness. A motivated player might take time out of game to read up on things or research ways to improve. What a vet can do in-game though is invaluable, by explaining the reasoning behind their advice so that the new player doesn’t get overwhelmed or frustrated.

For the vet player there’s an upside, too. Helping new players acquire some of that useful, must-have gear provides an opportunity to maybe run some quests you might skip over or haven’t played in a long time. A lot of people skip over Tangleroot, which can net you a useful Visor of the Flesh Render Guards in addition to some pretty nice XP for the chain. Running it slower with a new player might be tedious, true, and that leads into the next topic.

Repetition is the mother of all learning

Another area where patience is a virtue is quest content. What i always try to keep in mind is that someone may be experiencing a quest for the first time. More than once, i’ve shared a laugh about how something like Water Works or STK used to be a huge undertaking back when we were new. To get through the entire WW chain in one session was a triumph.

Now, i rush through there by myself, under level, in about 30 minutes. Same with STK, Tangleroot, The Catacombs (hate you Crypt of Gerald Dryden) and several others. These can be tricky to run with new players, at least for me, because i certainly hope they get that sense of wonder and danger. When i first started playing DDO, we crept so cautiously along corridors, unsure of what lay ahead.

These days, with past lives and ship buffs that didn’t even exist then, plus knowledge from having run through these quests countless times, the fun comes more from seeing how the build responds to the content. Also, getting the drop on static mobs is a blast, often literally. In PnP it’s not uncommon to open a door, see a bunch of hobgoblins, roll for initiative and let the wizard toss a fireball and then clean up the mess; when you already know about the ambush around the corner you can fireball those sneaky monsters before they even know you’re there.

Thanks to patient vets, Experimenta went from unrefined first-lifer to contributing member of EE parties

Thanks to patient vets, Experimenta went from unrefined first-lifer to contributing member of EE parties

But imagine you’re playing that quest with someone on their very first run. More than likely, keeping up is their challenge and learning the layout or solving puzzles is going right over their heads. There’s still a lot of content i’ve rarely or never touched, and when i get the opportunity to with a group, i often find myself wondering what the heck is going on. But i have been fortunate to play a lot lately with very helpful folks who take the time to explain things to me. A big part of DDO that’s different from other MMOs in my experience is repeating content. So i know, the next time i’m in a quest i’m not familiar with, i’ll be that much more on the ball. This is a potential hurdle for a new player, who might not yet have grasped that they’ll likely find themselves running a particular quest again. And again. And again…

Take it easy, man!

Grinding for XP and loot is the way of the MMO, and in DDO that translates into repeating quests. Some players have a plan they follow, and some (like me) play catch-as-catch-can and jump into anything without regard to bravery streaks, XP per minute, sagas or prepping wilderness areas. In the end, the results are the same: you reach the level cap and either hang out there or TR and start a new life…and do it all over again.

By that point your TR toon (or brand new first-lifer in some cases) has past lives, epic past lives, twink gear and most importantly quest knowledge that makes the trip that much easier.

Now, put yourself in the shoes of a new player who may not be aware of all those mechanics yet. They’re in your group, thinking that since everyone is the same level, they’re going to be about equally effective.

Next thing they know, they see characters one-shotting mobs, tanking toe-to-toe with bosses, watching a character with a wizard icon bust out a greatsword and dish out more DPS than their barbarian. What’s happening?

Statsinger is a first-life bard spellsinger in a static group. Neglible DPS but keeps the party buffed

Statsinger is a first-life bard spellsinger in a static group. Neglible DPS but keeps the party buffed. Several suggestions to go swashbuckler route but i’m sticking with support – you guys will thank me later!

Left standing there watching in awe or dismay, a new player might get discouraged and think they’re doing something wrong. This isn’t to say the vet player is to blame – after all, we’re playing our best just as they are. But here again, i think a little explanation goes a long way for a new player. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple tidbit that can make a huge difference. For example, i mentioned stacking bonuses earlier. Sometimes this gets overlooked or goes unnoticed by new players who probably turned off the hints feature and missed load screen tip #179

Between quests, they switch out a few items and all of a sudden performance increases dramatically. The same can be said of feats and enhancements, the bread and butter of any build. You thought Skill Focus: Swim would come in handy? Maybe if you’re a swim cleric but other than that…sorry mate. Better go talk to Lockania and then hit up Fred to change that out. Oh, you didn’t know about Lockania?

DDO, widely touted for its deep character customization, can yield some amazing creations as well as gimp builds, and a little constructive criticism can go a long way to help a newer player. Personally, i’m a bit more open-minded when it comes to builds as far as deeming something gimp or not, but regardless of the gulf of opinions, it is always more beneficial to explain your reasoning more than “that sucks” or “it’s a gimp build – reroll.” Character success in DDO boils down a lot to playstyle and finding what works for the individual, so offering build advice to a new player with the thought behind it not only helps them, it can help you too.

Here’s an example: in guild the other night we discussed the toughness feat, once considered auto-include for every character. It provides additional HP and unlocked the toughness enhancements for even MOAR HP. Since the enhancement revamp that introduced trees, it’s fallen off in popularity, but there’s still people who squeeze it in their build for various reasons. One of our newer members shared his perspective on it, pointing out that as a paladin he got more benefit from the feat. A couple of vets questioned how this was, themselves learning about Tenacious Defense that grants a 20% bonus to maximum hit points. As regards toughness, i think that’s only 6 extra HP at cap from the feat (very likely i could be wrong) so to me, not really worth it. The point is, people took the time to explain and discuss the pros and cons in a constructive way, and everyone learned something.

TL;DR

For the veteran DDO player who zergs through reading like they do through quests, here’s a few pointers to summarize what you can do to help new players acclimate to the game, improve the community and with any luck make your own experiences more fun.

  • Exercise patience
    • Respond to the /advice channel
    • Steer people to the forums and the wiki
    • Give reasoned responses to questions
  • Explain yourself
    • What your suggestions mean
    • Why is this or that piece of equipment useful/necessary
    • Be willing to run quests outside of your leveling plan to help players snag that loot
  • Let players experience a sense of wonder
    • Let them take the lead
    • Give advice through hints but let them participate in puzzle-solving, quest mechanics, etc.
    • Death isn’t the end of the quest (10% base XP loss isn’t the end of the world) and can make memorable stories
  • Maintain perspective
    • DDO grind is a somewhat different animal than other MMOs
    • Constructive criticism can lead to a little tweak that makes a big difference
    • Keep an open mind and remember what it was like when you were new

Play responsibly

If there’s any takeaway from these observations, it’s only that i hope players across the spectrum play DDO responsibly. It shouldn’t be a chore, or a frustrating task and that’s certainly not what i mean to say. Above all else, it’s a game and the primary purpose is to have fun. But being an MMO imparts a social aspect of real people interacting with each other. All of us who love the game hope it continues for years to come, and a big part of that is building and maintaining a healthy community and robust playerbase. If a new player repeatedly has negative experiences in-game, and therefore less fun, they’re just going to move on and the playerbase will dwindle.

That isn’t to say DDO’s future relies on the players alone. Marketing and advertising, and providing a great game experience, is the duty of Turbine and the development team. But what veteran players can do is leverage the experience and knowledge they’ve gained to help a newer player have a better game experience, too.

As a side bonus, patience and a willingness to guide new players means you’ll get to be a part of their characters’ milestones. Everyone remembers their first time facing Velah, or stepping inside epic quests or a raid and total party wipes. It happens. What you can do as a vet is be a positive part of new players’ stories that they’ll carry with them on their own journey to becoming a vet for someone else.

Check back soon for some observations aimed at a newer player, and what they can do to make for a more enjoyable and successful game experience.

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