Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Silent Revolution of the Willing Mentors

In all secrecy there’s an ongoing revolution on the official EU forums. It started in July at an initiative from the player Leilana at Emerald Dream. She put together a list of friendly players on each realm who are willing to offer advice to new players.

Enthusiastic reception
In just a few weeks this list has grown considerably and now there are willing tutors on the alliance as well as the horde side on quite a number of realms.

Many of those volunteers don’t only sign up for giving services, they also write touching and enthusiastic testimonies about how glad they are to help out. This is just a couple of examples among many:

“I know it sounds quite sad but I do actually like it when I meet a new player who asks me questions when they are completely unsure how something works, because they are new to the game. I would even cancel a raid signup if someone needs help, or would like me to show them around, and I think seeing someone happy and having fun is always way more rewarding than any epic loot that drops.”

“I too get very depressed and sometimes even furious when I see some of the drivel that pops up in the Chat Channels: you may be uber-epic in your purply raid items, guys (and you KNOW who you are) but typing "Learn 2 play nub" and suchlike does NOT make you big or clever. Rest assured you can ask me anything at all without the slightest fear that I will laugh or think it is a dumb question; in the four years I've been playing I've learned most of what I know by trial and error, and as a result have done spectacularly dumb things myself!”
Will the newcomers find it?
This is indeed a beautiful thought. Does it work in reality?

A question that crosses my mind is if the newcomers to the game really frequent the official forums at any greater extent. This post is marked with a blue sticky, but is that enough to make them find it?

Speaking for myself, it took me quite a while before I realized that I could learn much more from the gaming community than I could from the quite poor manual which came with vanilla WoW (which mainly seemed to deal with the glorious history of different races, and fell apart into single pages if you as much as looked at it.)

Will they respect the rules?
Another question is: will the newcomers stick to asking questions, or will they be temped to beg or ask for boosts?

A few thumb rules are given in the thread:

* Don't beg for gold or keep asking people for money or items.
It's taken a long time for high levels to get to that level and earn their money, and at low levels you certainly don't need large amounts. You can save money by not buying items from the Auction House - you will get sufficient armor while questing, and if you do any dungeons. It's much more rewarding buying things with money you have earned yourself too.

*Don't beg for boosts in instances
Instances are areas where a group of similarly-levelled players fight stronger monsters than you would usually find around the world. It is possible for high level players to 'boost' you in lower level instances, but it is always better to find a group of people your own level. It's much more fun and you will learn a lot more. If you can't find a group, then you could ask politely if your helper would mind helping you out when they have free time, but if they are busy then respect that :)

*Most of all, be polite to people and largely, they will be polite back to you.
You will always find unpleasant people who like to call people noobs or other names, but it's best just to ignore them. Everyone was new once, we all did silly things, we all got stuck in caves and had to hearthstone out way out (or maybe that was just me!) People who call you names aren't worthy of any replies, just ignore them.

I can only hope that the newcomers will read and respect those guidelines.

Will it last?
My third question is: for how long can it last? We all know that there’s a constant flow of players, people having breaks or even leaving the game, not the least among the veteran category of players, which I suspect that most teachers belong to.

Will they notify Leilana if they’re not longer available? How long will Leilana herself be around to maintain this list? It’s definitely a weakness that the existence and updating of the list is so heavily depending on one single player.

Maybe a better solution would have been to follow a suggestion I saw somewhere: to make it possible to flag yourself, just as you flag for PvP, if you’re willing to answer questions from newcomers. I believe that you need to build this sort of activities into the game, rather than keeping it in a out-of-game forum, if you want it to work in the long run.

The Silent Revolution
But now I want to put my doubts aside for a moment and just let out the warm, fuzzy feeling I get in my stomach when I read this kind of posts.

So far there hasn’t been a single trolling reply. There’s no one claiming that the beginners suck, should learn to play, are plain lazy or that carebears are pathetic. Everyone is all kindness and willingness to share.

Azeroth isn’t yet completely overtaken by douchebags.

The Silent Revolution of the Willing Mentors is here. And it makes me smile.

18 comments:

Hulan said...

I like your idea of a flag. Another simple way to get like-minded people together might be an official information channel, where newbies could ask questions without being mocked and more experienced players who wanted to participate could hang out and answer them.

Klepsacovic said...

Now I'm smiling too, and glad to see that others have discovered the warm fuzzies which come from helping people out a bit. I'd not go so far as to cancel a raid signup (not that I'd need to), but I've never felt bad losing half an hour of questing time to answer questions. It's amazing how once someone knows someone will help, they almost seem to try to get everything answered, before the helped vanishes.

This is the ideal cure for the noob: curing them rather than the usual method of just excluding and mocking them. Thanks for posting the fuzzies.

Anonymous said...

SWG has always had a Helper tag you could display next to your name indicating your willingness to help new players find their way. It was a wonderful idea.

Dan said...

This is certainly a wonderful idea along with a wonderful suggestion.

Magma said...

Final Fantasy 11 had a system for this. You could choose to flag yourself and an "M" Icon appeared next to your name, also next to your name when you searched. M stood for mentor, of course.

nugget said...

*waves hullo!*

A long time ago, I wrote a newbie-helping guide for MUD players interested in helping newbies on their MUDs.

While, obviously, some of the 'how-tos' are MUD specific (how to move, etc), there's a lot of stuff that touches on general newbie helping *in multiplayer online games*.

Direct link to the article is here:
http://www.nuggetart.com/articles/nph_guide.htm

Hope it's sort of useful/relevant! =)

(I wrote this article after getting tired of telling every Newbie Helper I recruited the same things...)

thedoctor said...

"The Silent Revolution of the Willing Mentors is here. And it makes me smile."

=D right back at you. Good read!

Gevlon said...

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade but it won't work. Simply because those who need the information don't ask, exactly because they have no idea how much they need it.

If anyone is aware of being noob, he can learn fast from sites, from asking people and simply by figuring out things by themselves. It's not rocket science after all.

Larísa said...

@Hulan: I like the idea of a special channel for it, although I'm afraid that it would risk to be turned into just another general with people begging for boosts and others telling them to stfu... It would maybe need some sort of moderation and who would do that? It's a shame that it's so hard to create a decent climate in the publich channels. Speaking for myself I would never ever consider asking a question there about something I wondered about.

@Klepsacovic: fuzz on!

@Anonymous & Magma: so it's been done in other games and working fine? cool! I didn't know. Only MMO I've ever played is WoW.

@Dan: :)

@Nugget: that guide was great! I think you're absolutely right: the mentors need some mentoring as well. There are things that you should consider if you really want to become a good newbie guide. I reccommend everyone reading this to check out the link of Nugget. Even if it's not directly related to WoW, the situation is quite similar, so it's indeed relevant.

@Thedoctor: thanks!

@Gevlon: I don't deny that there's already a lot of out-of-game information available. Maybe even too much - it can be a bit hard to determine what is relevant and what is outdated. Learning can be done in many ways. For some people discussing a matter, being interactive, will be a much quicker and more efficent way to learn than to read a long written guide. Besides: I think that it's not only the pupil who will benefit from the mentor-disciple situation. It can also be enjoyable for the mentor. You know... the concept of human interaction...friendship... (SO ungoblinish, I know).
But yeah: you're right in one aspect: the ones that most of all need the help will never realize it. Not everyone is insightful enough to understand their shortcomings and ignorence.

nugget said...

@Larisa

Aw... thanks for the plugs. =)

With regards to the newbie channel - it's something I was personally against in MUDs, because of their (generally) inherently small communities. I felt that it would segregate new players unfairly, and have most of the MUD players totally ignore them, rather than integrate them into the community, because 'oh they can go there and ask instead of bugging me'.

However, in MMOs, I think it could work, because the communities are so much vaster.

Additionally, a channel like that would allow newbies (not n00bs! - I take n00b as a derogatory term for someone who plays badly but doesn't know it, and is snotty to boot) to actually talk among each other, and do newbie level things.

Plus, it means that the more 'forward' newbies could ask questions that other newbies might be too frightened to ask, and everyone could benefit from seeing the answers! =)

...the sad part for me is that no MMO has captured my heart the way my old MUD home did. Enough for me to say yes! I want to newbie mentor because I freaking LOVE this world, and this is my home!

I'm very, very fond of Guild Wars... but not to that extent. For you people who love WoW that much though, that you want to put your caring into it in this way - well, I salute your spirit and wish you well indeed. =)

Fitz said...

While I agree with Gevlon that the people who need the most help generally do not ask for it, or look on the forums, there is something to be said for kindness in the game.

And for the record, it's creepy how much bloggers can be on the same wavelength on the same day. I wrote about the Spirit of Kindness in Azeroth today, which is basically the same thing. Let's hope it continues.

Asara Dragoness said...

I have to say that a while back I had an idea that I just didn't have the time or energy to see through. It would be nice if someone actually did work it out.

What I wanted to do was create a forum community for people new to WoW called WoW 101. There could be forums set up for each realm, as well as a central hub of basic tips and tricks, like how to quest, helpful addons (and how to install them!), everything a budding new WoW player might need!

There is so much information out there, but the names don't always give away their true purpose. Like Thottbot or Allakhazam... who would think that a site called that might have anything to do with WoW?

Larísa said...

@Nugget: oh, the more I hear about MUDs, the more I wish I had ever been around to try it out. I don't know much about them, but my impression is that they left more to the imagination of the players than the MMOs do, where everything is readily served and pictured. Like the difference between reading a book and seeing a movie. Or am I totally rambling out in the blue now perhaps?

@Fitz: kindess in Azeroth is a topic that pops up in the blogs every now and then. For a good reason. It gives us fuzzy feelings in our stomachs.

@Asara Dragoness: well, there's wowwiki as well... and the wiki http://www.raider101.com. PlusHeals and many other places. I'm not sure if yet another webpage of this kind is the best solution. The problem is rather to help the newbies find those places and not feel stupid and intimidated for asking questions.

nugget said...

@Larisa

Lol. Well, MUDs are still around. =)

All you need to log on to a MUD (at the very most *basic* level), is a telnet connection (which all windoze and mac systems should have).

Guesstimate as of now there's still about 1,500 of them out there more or less. Of course how many are active, populated, and maintained is a different story altogether.

A good source/hub for MUDs is the Mud Connector:
http://www.mudconnect.com/

I'm not associated with the MUD connector in any way, shape, or form. >.> I've just found it useful over the years. And it's still the first place I go back to when I want to jump back into MUDs.

(I've played, at some point, at least half the MUDs on mud connector.)

NOW comes the shameless plug. ;)

I mentioned my MUD 'home' while I still played there. I don't anymore, I haven't for at least 6 years. But if you only, ever, play one MUD, make it LegendMUD:
http://www.legendmud.org/

Leilana said...

Hey there :)

I'm the person who started the thread on the newcomer forums, and I'd like to thank you for your lovely comments. I agree 100% with you that there should be an ingame method of doing this. I've had a couple of new players come to me on my realm so far, and I hope I've helped them at least a little, but there must be many more people who haven't yet discovered the forums or that thread who are feeling totally lost.
For now, I'm determined to keep updating the thread, it's had such a postive response, more than I imagined, and the fact that there hasn't been one unpleasant post really makes me appreciate that there are some great people who play this game!
There is a ton of information out there for new players, but when I started it was the simple things I struggled with most - how to repair, what did I do with talent points etc, stuff that is often overlooked in favour of slightly more advanced stuff.
At the end of the day, I tell myself that it costs me nothing but a little time to keep it updated, and if it helps even a handful of people, then it's well worth it for me :)
Let's hope your suggestion of a flagging system is taken up, I think it would be a great credit to the game.
Leilana,
Emerald Dream

Larísa said...

@Leilana: oh, you find your way to this little inn somehow! just as I stumbled upon your blogpost. Awesome! Maybe this community isn't as vast and impossible to overview as you may believe at first sight.

Anyway! great to hear from you! Thanks for this initative. I hope more people will find their way to it - if we keep spreading the word I guess they will, eventually. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

This is nice. Hopefully Leilana will come back and see me. I can't seem to get on the EU forums. I can help beginning Death Knights and hunters - Deathwasp (DK), US Vek'Nilash, Horde. Sigrdrífa (H)(note that is not an "I", but alt+0237 "í") same server, horde.

Carra said...

I'm reminded of one of Tobold posts. Other games seem to have s mentor system. The trick is to give the mentor rewards. Extra xp for having a student or something like that.

I remember the first few weeks of playing. A fellow player helped me a lot. He guided me around. Made me a few bags and a few cloth items. It felt great.

Personally, I'm always ready to give some advice. I actually enjoy doing it. As long as you don't come asking "1g please" or "can you boost me". In these cases, you'll get a "fuck of". If you however ask for some hints on how to play your DK or gear issues, best levelling practices or simply some advice, I'll gladly help. I've helped some low level players with advice and I have given a few players 20g or so to help them get started.