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Content Knowledge and Available Resources

March 24, 2014

Dear Reader,

Still on the topic of the content knowledge and its groupings, it struck me over the weekend, as my wife searched several times for druid leveling guides, that there’s a whole lot more published for the upper tiers of play than the lower tiers.  This, to me, is both intuitive AND counter-intuitive, depending on how you look at it.

I’ve leveled a lot of characters now.  Not as many as some, of course, but I have every class except monk at 85 or higher, and multiples of a few classes.  Each time, I wanted to try a different way of leveling, so I would go an look for resources on how to level whichever particular class I had chosen.

It was always pretty scant.  You can find some “beginners” guides to WoW, and even some leveling guides for each class – Icy Veins, for example, has them – but a VAST MAJORITY of the published material was in the forums, and, of course, a vast majority of the forum material was out of date.  The few published leveling sites often had piecemeal information, and not a lot of it.  It might only cover levels 85-90 (like Icy Veins), or only cover a single spec, or cover all specs without discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each one.

Contrast that with raiding guides, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Every class, every spec, has pages and pages devoted to them.  There are guide wholesalers, like Tankspot, or class-specific guides, like you’d find on Elitist Jerks, or even online programs that do the mental work for you, like Ask Mr. Robot (who remembers be.imba.hu?).  You can find far, far more information about how to play in the last three “knowledge tiers” than the first five.

At first glance, that makes no sense.  The people in the greatest need of help are the beginners.  WoW’s still got a terrible attrition rate over the first ten levels; my friend who I’d mentioned had started playing logged in twice and quit – and that was with me helping her (and doing a good job of not being an overwhelming jerk, I assure you).  If you come into WoW at this point and don’t have the first two knowledge tiers down (over-the-shoulder gameplay and basic MMO gameplay), then you’re probably going to just give up.

Of course, there’s “in-game” help, but if you’re so new to the genre that you don’t know the most basic elements, you might not realize that there’s both in-game help and Internet guides available.  Note this is different from the Dunning-Kruger effect, one of the most commonly frustrating behaviors we see in games, where the ignorant don’t know how bad they are and thus overestimate their capability.  Here, instead, the new players have so little knowledge that they don’t even know where to look for the knowledge they need.  They are, essentially, game illiterate.

On second glance, though, it may be precisely that problem that produces more guides for upper-tier players.  Since many people want to raid, and a subset of those want to raid knowingly, and many people who write know about that subset, writers who want to share their knowledge with a “like-minded” audience would naturally produce pieces targeted in that way.  Boss mechanics can be tricky, and, as Ferrel likes to say, raiding is a game of narrow margins (I don’t have the book here for an exact quote), so it makes sense that guides would be produced to maximize knowledge and efficiency of raiders.

Regardless of why, it’s clear that the early game needs more support than it’s getting.  Whether there’s a good reason for that or not, I feel we as a whole should consider not just our current audiences but our future audiences, those who will be reading our blogs after all of you dear readers have decided to pursue something new.  That, I think, may the key to our longevity.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and taxed, both mentally, physically, and financially)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2014 6:59 pm

    Another part is that by the time you’re good enough to write guides or strats, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a lower tier player, and how they differ from upper tier players.

    For example, whenever I make a raid strat, I try to minimize target-switching and make movement predictable. Lower tier guilds are disproportionately worse at target switching or free-form movement than upper-tier guilds are.

    • March 27, 2014 9:38 am

      Agreed, and as a corollary to that, the longer the pre-pull explanation, the less anyone will actually get out of it*. Short, consistent, repeatable instructions that you just tweak a bit from attempt to attempt, especially at lower competency levels. Know your audience.

      * True story… back in Wrath the RL of one of the raids I ran with occasionally was notoriously long-winded on new bosses… we had a separate healing chat channel and as the RL was about to launch into his explanation one of the healers mentioned that he was hungry and was going to order a pizza. “You can’t do that, it could show up during the attempt!” “No worries, they’re right next door, I’ll just go pick it up when I can… and I’ll probably be eating it before we pull.” He was eating it before we pulled and we wiped about 30 seconds into the pull.

    • March 27, 2014 9:45 am

      This I fully agree with. I think we’ve all had those long-winded raid leaders who want to explain everything instead of just giving a few super-important “DO NOT DO” tips and letting learning take place. I’ve always said the best way to learn is by doing. That’s my RL motto.

    • March 27, 2014 9:49 am

      That’s very true, and as R said, you really have to know your audience when you’re writing a guide. Again, here, and I realize this is part of your point, I think a lot of guides are written by upper-tier players for upper-tier players simply because if you’re in the lower tier, you’re probably just struggling to survive and don’t have enough useful knowledge to write a guide. I wonder, though, if there’s a way to get guide-writers to consider the lower tier audience more in their writing..

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. March 27, 2014 9:31 am

    I think the big part of it is that playing well isn’t a requirement at lower levels… if the mob is horizontal at the end of combat and you aren’t, you did well enough.

    Maybe it’s a bit different in dungeons but I can’t speak to those, I don’t group while I’m leveling, at least not until I get to the current content. Still, I’ve been able to solo some dungeons at-level (more or less, within the yellow difficulty range… monk and warlock so far…) so they can’t require more than basic abilities and skill in a full group.

    Things like boss guides can be found in-game via the dungeon journal, although it only includes vanilla dungeons, I think, not raids. That shouldn’t be an issue for a leveling player, though.

    I think there’s enough info available for the required level of competence. I also remember back when I started playing the game, how enjoyable it was to figure out how things worked… the synergies. I don’t even like reading boss and class guides for end-game content, I much prefer to figure it out on my own, it’s just that the current socialism doesn’t generally allow for it (“we’re going to take a 15m break while you all watch the video for this fight”… gah, I’d rather get 2 or 3 pulls in during that time instead and see it for myself, thanks). To me, it sounds like you’re trying to shift that paradigm down to low-level content that, frankly, doesn’t require it in the slightest.

    Is it possible that someone (or a few someones) would like to have a low level guide to tell them that it’s a good idea to toss a Rejuv on yourself before you start chain Wrathing something? I suppose it’s possible but I can’t imagine that the lack of such is a significant roadblock to enjoyment.

    Take yourself out of the MMO space for a sec… think of the multitude of single-player RPG games out there, many significantly more challenging while leveling than WoW… how many of those have guides available? How many people actually use those guides? I’d expect very few… I think it’s just the pervasive MMO-specific pressure to “be good” that drives that type of need. I just flip that switch off entirely (er, as much as possible, anyway) when I’m leveling…

    • March 27, 2014 9:44 am

      What you’re talking about it beyond the most basic skill sets. Being able to move a character around in an over-the-shoulder camera game is a skill that some new players don’t have. Manipulating the camera is another. You’re already talking about combat, but some people have trouble navigating to the first quest giver.

      I don’t disagree with most of your other points here, but you’ve overshot the beginning skills that I refer to; you’re already into the middle skills: combat knowledge, leveling knowledge, and so forth. Even knowing that there are dungeons that can be queued for is beyond some players. I had a couple of friends who played together and never realized dungeons were for five people; they just overleveled the areas, came back, and duo’d them.

      Everyone one of these knowledge groups that’s not perfectly and clearly explained represents a potential stop for players. It’d been a while for me, but I saw it again recently. It’s amazing how quickly we forget the first few hours, but they’re extremely tough to players new to the genre. Overwhelming, even, and so people leave.

      As for non MMOs, I’d argue that single-player RPGs are just a niche as they always were, there’s just a larger overall audience. A lot of single-player RPGs don’t advertise themselves to the entire gaming world, but MMOs do. Hell, just the fact that we call them MMOs instead of MMORPGs any more somewhat makes my case. They’ve gone beyond the “RPG” branding. Besides, how many of us played our first computer RPG to its fullest form? My first was Darkside of Xeen, and, having gone back years later to play it again, I was amazed how much I had been completely clueless about (of course I was like 12 or 13 the first time I tried, so I can forgive myself a bit).

      So while I agree with your points, I don’t think they really address my fundamental concerns. There’s a lot out there for veterans. There’s far less for the newest of the new players.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • March 31, 2014 12:28 pm

      Hm. It’s been a long time but I thought that WoW did a decent job of instructing brand new players on things like basic controls… if I think to do it I’ll try to simulate the brand new account experience tonight and see how it shakes out.

      It’s possible that it doesn’t get quite down to the “push W to move forward” level (although I think it might) but I don’t think most games do that, at least outside of MMOs, I can only speak to WoW in that space. Camera movement isn’t necessary for a new player, they can keyboard turn just fine so that it doesn’t matter.

      I dunno… the TV commercials that I’ve seen lately for video games aren’t MMOs, they’re things like Assassin’s Creed… not sure if that would be considered an RPG (not a series I’ve played) it seems to be in the general ballpark. Shooter games are getting the TV treatment, too, including some B-list famous names. Neither of those would be particularly broad in terms of market, I wouldn’t think. By pretty much any measure I’m a lifelong gamer (if I haven’t played 250 different games over the years I’d be shocked) but even I’m not in that market.

      You’re right, though, I wasn’t thinking down to quite that basic a level, someone who’s never played a video game and doesn’t know that the first thing you do when playing a new game is check out the basic keybinds… let me see if I can simulate how that actually plays out and I’ll follow up.

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