Home > MMO Games > The re-education of returning players

The re-education of returning players

January 7, 2012

Many of you probably have at some point decided to return to an MMO you used to play, perhaps years ago. Perhaps in that case, you have also found yourself with a number of old characters which are full of skills/powers you are not quite sure what they do. Perhaps the game has also changed to the point that even if you remember a bit of the old skills, they have anyway revamped your classes/archetypes and skills, so you are not really sure how things work now, anyway?

More than once have I found myself in that situation, feeling that either I start from the beginning again or I do not bother. If the option is to start over, then there might be some memory of the old times or some of the early parts which you simply do not want to do yet again, even after a long time.

MMOs are relatively complex systems as far as games are concerned and constantly evolving. If you are playing a specific MMO regularly, that can be a good thing. But getting back into one of these MMOs can be quite a hurdle at times.

With a lot of games being converted from primary subscription-based to an F2P/subscription hybrid, there is a lot of opportunity for old players to return. But there seems in generel to be very limited efforts to make the transition back into a game smoother for returning old players, besides giving some extra features compared to a completely new player.

I would really like to see some middle ground for a returning player rather than choosing between jumping in head first with an old character and figure out everything at once, or start completely from scratch again. Perhaps some accelerated progression from start unlocking features of an old character, until the pointone feels comfortable to take on the old character completely.

Or perhaps a trial period deciding whether to use a character slot for a new character or to keep an old character there. After trial period ended, one would have to decide whether to go with the new character or the old character for that slot. In particular looking at some of the hybrid conversions where the non-[gold/VIP/subscriber/whatever] options have very few characters slots available to them and probably not any free slots unless you delete old characters.

Personally I have jumped into a couple of old MMOs, only to find myself asking “why should I bother going through all this to figure out this game again?”. This is in particular true for many level-oriented MMOs and even more so if they have been a bit grindy or a bit much too of the “kill ten rats” progression, even if only in some parts of the game.

A “welcome back, old-timer” system in a game which could get you re-introduced into a game in a fun way without giving up all of your old stuff would be a welcome feature, I think. There is no one-size-fits-all option here though, so there would need to be some flexibility in how this re-education is played. But so far I have not seen anything that I remember as a conscious effort to get returning players back into the game in terms of re-learning the game mechanics.

Categories: MMO Games
  1. January 7, 2012 at 17:10

    I completely agree, something is needed. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone back to an old game and been so befuddled by my old mid level character that I simply gave up and rolled a new alt. Not only do the dozens of hotbar buttons I don’t remember tend to baffle me, but very often I haven’t the foggiest idea what I was working on or how to get going in it again. And heaven forbid that something has changed so much that I have to redo an entire talent tree the moment I log. How on earth would I be qualified to do that when I don’t even remember what my primary abilities do i the first place?

    • January 8, 2012 at 01:04

      And in particular with some newer hybrid conversions, you do not really have much character slots to use, so you either need to buy more slots, delete one of the old characters and create a new one or try to figure out the old characters.

      I think it is a missed opportunity for some of these games to get back more players.

  2. January 9, 2012 at 11:02

    Sounds like a much needed courtesy and there must be a strong business case for getting ex-players back into the fold as smoothly as possible – they’re people who have been proven to have pay in the past afterall!

    Some sort of tutorial popup with a selectable list of past versions on it – pick the one you’re used to and it’ll cover the ‘What’s new’ highlights since that version.

    I quite liked how City of Heroes handled the character slots – an assignable global allocation you could apply to existing or new character slots to unlock them – seemed to cover all the bases, but interesting idea about putting a grace period on top of that as well; the permanency of the selection is a bit harsh when you don’t remember how old characters work in the first place!

    • January 9, 2012 at 20:27

      Exactly, you might not remember how they worked and they might have been revamped to the point that you do not like them any longer, or may need some time to figure out how to play as they are now.

      In the City of Heroes example you also have that some archetypes are now paid for content and you have to pay to play them at all – Age of Conan was better in that regard, since they let you play even the pay-to-play classes directly, if you had them before.

      It seems that it is generally assumed that people remember exactly where they left off and that as long as people are enticed with some new shiny that is enough.

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